By Cory Dewberry
When performing foundation bitework (rag and tug play), preparing your dog for a good out is often overlooked for various
reasons. Most notably, the fear of a negative impact from forcing a young dog to out too soon. This is often manifested by
a dog that will release the grip with little or no pressure from the decoy.
two training techniques that have worked well for puppies and young dogs that will lay a good foundation that will lead to
a great out in an older dog.
-- Using the prey item (tug or rag), play the various bite games to which your puppy or young dog is accustomed. Once your
puppy has established a solid grip, (i.e. when you can let go of the prey item and your puppy still holds onto it) To avoid
the negative impact of taking the toy from the dog, we hold the puppy in the cradle position. (See photo 1.) Please notice
while the puppy is still gripping the prey item, one of my hands is used to support the upper portion of the puppy, bringing
her front feet off the ground. In this position, she is not able to fight the prey item anymore. The key to this position
is to maintain the front feet off the ground, prey item still gripped in mouth, while calmly praising and caressing the dog.
Some dogs may require using your free hand to prevent your puppy gripping the prey item in mouth and with front paws. (See
photo 2.) The goal is to calm the puppy, release tension, and suppress the play drive. Once the puppy has fully relaxed, she
releases the prey item. We then mark the behavior with the phase “good out.” Depending on age and level of training
will determine how long it takes to remain in this position to get the dog to drop the prey item. The key is to allow the
dog to make the decision to let go, and for you as the handler to mark the behavior with a command (“good out”)
Two Toys – While working with your puppy with one prey item (tug or rag), the goal is to then try to introduce
a second prey item to the game. When the dog drops the first prey item to get the second prey item, mark the behavior with
the words “good out.” Repeating this process will create a game where the dog happily switches between the two
prey items. Remember to mark the behavior (dropping the first item) with the words “good out.” The reward becomes
gripping the second item. This instills in the dog that releasing the grip is not a negative, but in fact allows the game
As the dog becomes more advanced, add a second handler to the scenario. Take up positions at opposite ends of your
training area. The goal is to have the dog travel between the two handlers, gripping, outing, and regripping. Again, always
mark the release with “good out” to establish a strong foundation for a great out.
As always, keep it fun and train safe.