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Discussion Starter #1
Does anyone use a special toy to build toy drive in a puppy? I was thinking about getting a leather tug and hopefully fading out treats and using that as a reward. Do you think this would work even though the dogs have free access to other toys?

How would you go about building toy drive?
 

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Susan Garrett has an article. Elrohwen recommended Denise Fenzi's third book, Play!. I have it, but haven't started reading yet.

I started a thread about tugging a month or so ago and received lots of good advice; you might search for that.
 

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I wouldn't really use a toy as a reward until there were some rules established (out, bringing it right back, etc) because otherwise you lose the gist of what you were trying to train as your dog runs around with the toy. But once you have the toy drive and an understanding of the game, you can definitely use it as a reward. Some dogs prefer it. I don't know much about beaucerons, but if they are anything like working line GSDs then I think he'll take well to using a toy as a reward. Generally, I wouldn't put rules on play until the dog has a lot of drive. So a super high drive puppy might get rules right away, but with a lower drive dog who isn't that into the toy, working too much on "outs" or self-control around the toy can make them say "ehh, this toys isn't that much fun anyway".

Most people use toys they can drag around to build drive. So a chamois cloth, something fluffy and soft on a rope, etc. Basically something that moves a lot and is easy for a puppy to grab. Then you can work up to harder tougher smaller tugs depending on the dog.

You should check out Denise Fenzi's new Play book. The sections on building tug drive are fantastic. One thing that I hadn't thought of before is how you hold a dog back. You can either physically hold a dog back, or ask them to hold themselves back (impulse control). For building drive, you want to be holding the dog back. Impulse control exercises are great, but don't really build toy drive in a dog who needs more toy drive. Physically holding a dog back will make him frustrated and want to get the toy more.

I'm no expert, but here are some games we do:
- Hold the puppy back, wiggle the toy around on the floor (I generally do figure 8s), when the puppy is flailing and excited, let them go
- Throw the toy and race the puppy for it
- Flirt pole (you can walk in and tug with the puppy after they get the toy)

I would really avoid using any food with toy play (don't treat for bringing it back, etc). For some dogs that's the only way to go, but if you can avoid it you should. Teach them that bringing the toy back makes tugging happen, or means you throw it again, and that becomes the reward. I made this mistake with Watson and I think giving him a treat for retrieving did nothing to build his drive to retrieve - he just does it for the treat.

As far as access to other toys, I think it depends on the dog. Some dogs are only into toys if their owner is holding it. Some dogs are really into toys for their own sake, and in that case I wouldn't allow free access to a lot of toys. Some dogs have such high toy drive that it doesn't really matter what you do, that dog's drive won't be diminished. Personally, I leave out boring toys, and I save fun toys for times we play together. My dogs never have free access to training toys.
 

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IPO people are all about drive, you can find some good information about building toy drive from trainers like Michael Ellis, who has lots of videos available.

I agree though, that despite having a dog who has toy drive for basically any object that will fit in his mouth, I don't keep my training toys lying around either. There are everyday toys and there are training toys and it does make a difference even with Toast. It puts him in a completely different mindset.
 

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Mine would also just destroy training toys. Something soft and fluffy, or made of fleece? Perfect for ripping apart!!

Michael Ellis is also a good suggestion. His toy play video had a lot of really good stuff and covers a lot of the mechanics. My problem with a lot of the IPO material is that it often assumes some reasonably high starting level of toy drive. Probably totally fine for Panzer, and even for Hazel, but not enough detail for working with Watson. I like Denise's book so much because she's trained IPO dogs and understands drive building, but she's built toy drive in a low drive terrier x chi, so she is able to detail the very basic steps for dogs like that.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Susan Garrett has an article. Elrohwen recommended Denise Fenzi's third book, Play!. I have it, but haven't started reading yet.

I started a thread about tugging a month or so ago and received lots of good advice; you might search for that.
Oh I must have missed that thread, I'll check it out!

I wouldn't really use a toy as a reward until there were some rules established (out, bringing it right back, etc) because otherwise you lose the gist of what you were trying to train as your dog runs around with the toy. But once you have the toy drive and an understanding of the game, you can definitely use it as a reward. Some dogs prefer it. I don't know much about beaucerons, but if they are anything like working line GSDs then I think he'll take well to using a toy as a reward. Generally, I wouldn't put rules on play until the dog has a lot of drive. So a super high drive puppy might get rules right away, but with a lower drive dog who isn't that into the toy, working too much on "outs" or self-control around the toy can make them say "ehh, this toys isn't that much fun anyway".

Most people use toys they can drag around to build drive. So a chamois cloth, something fluffy and soft on a rope, etc. Basically something that moves a lot and is easy for a puppy to grab. Then you can work up to harder tougher smaller tugs depending on the dog.

You should check out Denise Fenzi's new Play book. The sections on building tug drive are fantastic. One thing that I hadn't thought of before is how you hold a dog back. You can either physically hold a dog back, or ask them to hold themselves back (impulse control). For building drive, you want to be holding the dog back. Impulse control exercises are great, but don't really build toy drive in a dog who needs more toy drive. Physically holding a dog back will make him frustrated and want to get the toy more.

I'm no expert, but here are some games we do:
- Hold the puppy back, wiggle the toy around on the floor (I generally do figure 8s), when the puppy is flailing and excited, let them go
- Throw the toy and race the puppy for it
- Flirt pole (you can walk in and tug with the puppy after they get the toy)

I would really avoid using any food with toy play (don't treat for bringing it back, etc). For some dogs that's the only way to go, but if you can avoid it you should. Teach them that bringing the toy back makes tugging happen, or means you throw it again, and that becomes the reward. I made this mistake with Watson and I think giving him a treat for retrieving did nothing to build his drive to retrieve - he just does it for the treat.

As far as access to other toys, I think it depends on the dog. Some dogs are only into toys if their owner is holding it. Some dogs are really into toys for their own sake, and in that case I wouldn't allow free access to a lot of toys. Some dogs have such high toy drive that it doesn't really matter what you do, that dog's drive won't be diminished. Personally, I leave out boring toys, and I save fun toys for times we play together. My dogs never have free access to training toys.
Thanks! He's on the lower end of the spectrum for a beauceron as far as drive goes so I want to start now to build it. He always brings toys back to me. I didn't think not to use treats. He has food drive and it seems that distracts him from the toy or game. I'll check out that book.
 

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I agree though, that despite having a dog who has toy drive for basically any object that will fit in his mouth, I don't keep my training toys lying around either. There are everyday toys and there are training toys and it does make a difference even with Toast. It puts him in a completely different mindset.
Molly has limited access to any toys in the house, because she's a freaking nutball and will never stop trying to make me play with her with them and gets obsessive about them even when they're 'put away' inside the house. Inside, it's basically chew toys and the odd tug toy for tug amongst the dogs. The rest live outside or in my training bag.

That said, there are toys she can 'free play' with, outside. They're toys that don't have any real rules connected to them. Her jollyball, for instance, she can do whatever the heck she wants with. That's mostly batting it around, grabbing and running with it, and just generally being silly.

The other toys (balls, discs, tugs) have rules associated (she must bring the throwable toys all the way back, the ball must go in my hand, the disc can go on the ground, and she must immediately out the tug when told) but she doesn't always have to work for them. Most of our sessions of disc or tug or fetch will include a command or a dozen, but sometimes I just go out and throw the ball, and sometimes we just tug. And she certainly doesn't work for every single ball throw or tug session.

And she definitely responds better to them than food for a reward, but sometimes that 'better' isn't what I want, so I still use quite a bit of food. (Better here = faster, sharper, higher, more enthusiastic).

ETA: And yeah, I've never paired food and toys with her. It just confuses the issue. I also think a dog who has enough drive to really like tug or fetch the game quickly becomes something they'll work for. You put in a few rules and you're good to go, because the ball throw, for instance, is the reward for bringing the ball *back*. So throwing in using it as a reward for a sit, or a down, or whatever makes sense to them. It's just really self-reinforcing for dogs who are into it.

The only REAL thing I will caution against is letting the game go until the dog is done. Stop before the dog is done. Stop while the dog is still bouncing around and wanting that next throw or tug.
 

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Thanks! He's on the lower end of the spectrum for a beauceron as far as drive goes so I want to start now to build it. He always brings toys back to me. I didn't think not to use treats. He has food drive and it seems that distracts him from the toy or game. I'll check out that book.
Eventually you want the dog to work for what you present. It can be a challenge to get a dog to take a toy when you have food, or the other way around (depending on what they want more). So if you offer a toy and he says "No! Give me the food!" then don't give in. Either end the session, or try some other games with the toy, or get the food off of your body, or whatever, but don't teach him that if he holds out for food you'll give him food. You can also teach him to trade off toys, so you hold out one, he tugs it, you hold out another one and he should switch to that. The whole idea is that he will work for whatever you present, even if he wants something else a bit more. Eventually that will elevate his drive for all of those things.

The only exception is that I will trade food for a toy at the end of a training session, especially with a dog like Watson who seems very upset when I take it away. He wants to possess the toy (not in a RG way, but in an "I don't want to bring it back to you" way) so I can't just wrestle it from him and put it away. Denise has some other good suggestions for getting the toy away at the end of a session. Hazel doesn't seem to have a problem with this. She'll just give me the toy and walk away from it happily when we're done (I think because she's more focused on our interaction than on the physical toy, while Watson just wants the toy)

I don't have a problem shaping a retrieve or using those food filled tugs who adult dogs who really aren't into toys, but Denise says (and I agree based on my experience) that I wouldn't start there. The tugging and retrieving should be its own reward, not a means to a treat. I do use these things with Watson, because his toy drive isn't that high (mostly because I didn't know how to build and maintain it), but I don't use them at all with Hazel since she's a puppy and happy to play with toys for their own sake, and I want to keep that attitude.
 

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Using two toys alternately puts a lot of value on toy in your hand too. Play hot toy with a couple similar toys, Get dog playing with one, drop it and pick up the other. Might even help with play rules a little as dog gets used to you directing the game. Keeps intensity high and it is pretty easy to tell when dog is done with the game although it is so intense I usually tire faster.
 

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I agree with pretty much everything said here. If you're a person that likes to listen to learn (like me!), Bad Dog Agility (I'm addicted!) has a good two part podcast on tugging with Michael Ellis. He also has some great youtube videos.

http://baddogagility.com/episode-39-interview-with-michael-ellis-on-tugging-part-1/
http://baddogagility.com/episode-40-interview-with-michael-ellis-on-tugging-part-2/
I have those downloaded but haven't listened to them yet. I'm really excited for them. Michael Ellis is great.
 

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My problem with a lot of the IPO material is that it often assumes some reasonably high starting level of toy drive. Probably totally fine for Panzer, and even for Hazel, but not enough detail for working with Watson. I like Denise's book so much because she's trained IPO dogs and understands drive building, but she's built toy drive in a low drive terrier x chi, so she is able to detail the very basic steps for dogs like that.
That's a really good point. I mean, I'm working with a dog who will work for plastic pop bottle caps. It's been a big challenge to even teach a retrieve to Squash because he doesn't care about stuff like that very much at all and only intermittently.
 

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That's a really good point. I mean, I'm working with a dog who will work for plastic pop bottle caps. It's been a big challenge to even teach a retrieve to Squash because he doesn't care about stuff like that very much at all and only intermittently.
I think fundamentally the techniques are the same, but there is a lot of detail and troubleshooting that needs to happen for dogs who really don't care about your toy, or care much more about the environment. The IPO guys usually leave out those details because they don't have those problems (or don't have them to the same extent). I worked with an IPO trainer with Watson and he kind of threw up his hands and said Watson was too low drive. He had lots of drive building techniques, but not ones to build starting from a lower level. Sure Watson is low drive compared to a malinois, but he's certainly not low drive compared to lots of other dogs we've done obedience and agility classes with. He's at least medium.

I train with a woman who owns huskies, and it took her 6 months to shape a retrieve with her current dog. Huskies just do not see why you would want them to pick something up and bring it back. Haha. And this dog is the most biddable handler focused husky I've ever seen (and she knows he's special - most of her other dogs just do confo and don't do obedience at all)
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Thanks for the input everyone. I'll check out Michael Ellis. Since Panzer isn't that high drive I'm worried about asking for too many 'outs' and impulse control. He already has really good impulse control so I don't feel like that's something I'm going to have to work too hard on.
 

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That's where I am with Hazel. She has great natural impulse control and learned an out very quickly, so now I just worry about building drive and revving her up. I don't drill impulse control stuff related to toys. Watson sucks because his toy drive is low and he also lacks impulse control. So if I work too much on control he won't play, but if I rev him up he tackles me for the toy and bites me. Lol
 

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Thanks for the input everyone. I'll check out Michael Ellis. Since Panzer isn't that high drive I'm worried about asking for too many 'outs' and impulse control. He already has really good impulse control so I don't feel like that's something I'm going to have to work too hard on.
Listen to the Ellis podcasts, he talks a lot about how not to do 'outs' and 'impulse control' during tug. It's good stuff! He also talks about when food drive is higher than tug drive.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
That's where I am with Hazel. She has great natural impulse control and learned an out very quickly, so now I just worry about building drive and revving her up. I don't drill impulse control stuff related to toys. Watson sucks because his toy drive is low and he also lacks impulse control. So if I work too much on control he won't play, but if I rev him up he tackles me for the toy and bites me. Lol
Ryker is exactly the same as Watson!
Listen to the Ellis podcasts, he talks a lot about how not to do 'outs' and 'impulse control' during tug. It's good stuff! He also talks about when food drive is higher than tug drive.
I will! Panzer's food drive if definitely higher than his toy drive.
 

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The podcast is geared towards agility so a lot of talk is about how tug relate to agility vs protection sports. But there's a lot also about he difference between pp and agility and the dog types seen in both and how they may or may not be dogs that benefit from tug. Etc
 

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I listened to the podcast last night and it was really good! It was a good summary of a lot of the stuff he covers in more detail in his videos. They also focused on some things that people in agility tend to do/say about how to tug that he disagrees with (and I disagree with myself after my experience with Watson). Basically what Laurelin said about not focusing so much on impulse control and having to control the game. Rather, letting the dog feel in control and powerful to build their drive to play.
 

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That's a really good point. I mean, I'm working with a dog who will work for plastic pop bottle caps. It's been a big challenge to even teach a retrieve to Squash because he doesn't care about stuff like that very much at all and only intermittently.
Side question... What is Squash's favorite thing? Because he sounds like a super awesome, fun, energetic dog but I know you've mentioned he's not in love with things like skijor, rally, etc...


On point....

One thing I did that I think helped with Soro is with toys I allow zero inhibition, except basic commands do apply in case I need to stop the game. Basically, whereas for food there is a very clearly established list of rules (no jumping up for it, have to wait, not allowed to just take it, be gentle, etc...) if he wants the toy in my hand and there is no other command given, he is allowed to do whatever he can to get it. He can jump on me, crash into my body mid jump, snatch it from my hand as I'm walking past, etc. So the rules of engagement are 'engage unless otherwise noted.' He already had toy drive since I had him as a puppy, but I wanted a motivation for tug that was usable as an engagement or reward in distracting situations. And he's at the point where I have to be very careful because he will/has hurt himself getting at toys. He is still not the kind of dog that has super high innate toy drive though. Like if I just threw a random toy on the ground he will likely amble up to it and sniff it, maybe take it to his bed and dissect it if it's that kind of toy. And I still need to take a few seconds to turn him on to the game when he play. But he throws 100% of himself into it when he's on and that's what I want.

The other thing I did, and I know there might be some disagreement, is I somewhat paired food (his first/true love always :) ) with toys. More specifically with one toy, which is a tug with a pouch for treats. But he goes absolutely nuts for that one. I bring it out only on special occasion like for agility. But if anything, it showed me the level at which he was willing to go for something he REALLY REALLY wants and the intensity that he can tug with... And I realized there could be a way to put that energy into non-food toys.
Every now and then I will reward with food when he 'wins' and pulls a normal tug toy out of my hand. He no longer needs encouragement to tug hard, but it is that extra and spontaneous motivator that reinforces: When I GET the toy I get food! So he ALWAYS nails the toy and tugs hard. Again, with a dog... like Toast, perhaps, that's probably distracting and unnecessary. My dog already loves tug but I wanted more intensity, so this worked for us.
Other things.... I always end the game while it's still exciting. I sometimes ask for a few-seconds game of tug before he gets to be released to sniff the field, going into the house after a walk, or being fed. Basically, conditioning him to associate the game with all the other good things. And you know, I've seen him become so focused on the game that when I release him to go sniff a big new field (which is another high distraction), he will choose to try to start another game of tug instead. To give you an idea, if Soro is already released to go sniff around in a field, I can whip out a brand new tug toy of his favorite variety and I am 99% sure he would choose to continue sniffing. So field > game. And the fact that if I engage him before setting him loose, it makes game > field, tells me that once his head is in the game it has becoming something incredibly rewarding for him.
 
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