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Discussion Starter #1
Currently I play a lot with my dog engaging him with the ball on a rope when we train.

I want to up the ante a bit on engagement games so looking for suggestions and ideas in this area (links and so forth are fine).

Thanks.
 

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What's the end goal, or are you just looking for more ways of having fun...? The term "engagement" can have many different meanings depending on who you talk to.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I want my dog to believe that at any time during any training session I might have a ball or break into a fun game without a ball.

There is an issue most of us humans have of "being predictable." It is just what we do. I am pretty good at being unpredictable and keeping up the fun, but new ideas are welcome. I admit that at times I AM boring and predictable (and part of that is age related and having "those days" when moving quick is out of the question.. NOT that I am great at Moving Quick anyway). I have improved with Physical therapy and (soon) Yoga to help maintain my strength and flexibility. However, I am facing hip replacement at some point in spite of all this (and with the PT I am MUCH better).

My dog has a ton of energy and drive and when I am on my game boy oh boy is he ON his. I want more.. of this.. so new games are not a bad thing.

The other day he got hold of a stick out back. He was having a fine time amusing himself with the stick. I picked up a stick and started to play with it and (of course) now MY stick was better so he brought me HIS stick and offered to trade.. so I did but, again, I now had the other stick. So mine was better... we did this silly game for about 20 minutes at the end of which he was tired (mental games requiring focus can be). These things also help with focus in other areas. More of this is good.. more ideas on this type of thing is good.
 

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I want my dog to believe that at any time during any training session I might have a ball or break into a fun game without a ball.
From a comp perspective ... I think it's crucial that the dog believes this can happen not only during training, but during TRIALING as well.

It's like the old adage "trial the way you train". Not as though you're truly going to break out a stick in the midst of being judged, but you want the dog to believe that it's possible. All too often, and PREDICTABLY, handlers change their typical demeanor as soon as they step into the ring or onto the field. An air of absolute seriousness suddenly comes over the environment, and it can sometimes affect engagement. And therefore, quality of performance and scores.

Ie: when we do fun matches, I'll try my best to approach it as if it's an actual trial. Essentially formally. However, I might occasionally get down on my hands and knees for a very brief moment between exercises and PLAY with the proverbial stick, right in the middle of the ring. Because this is EXACTLY what we do during training. Embarrassment be damned. I want my dog to believe it can and MAY happen on trial day.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
From a comp perspective ... I think it's crucial that the dog believes this can happen not only during training, but during TRIALING as well.
Absolutely. Totally. My last dog "believed" and would punch me with her nose. We used "trial markers" (like a ball ALWAYS delivered after the second gun shot, a ball ALWAYS delivered when the other person on the field said "Platz" when they downed their dog for the long down, a ball ALWAYS delivered after the group (fuss! Thank you Group! BALL), Always at certain times a ball appears. We do train like we trial.

It's like the old adage "trial the way you train". Not as though you're truly going to break out a stick in the midst of being judged, but you want the dog to believe that it's possible. All too often, and PREDICTABLY, handlers change their typical demeanor as soon as they step into the ring or onto the field. An air of absolute seriousness suddenly comes over the environment, and it can sometimes affect engagement. And therefore, quality of performance and scores.
Trial nerves can kill you. No question about it. I see it. We actually DO practice for that silence and duration and stiffness. It happens. Humans are the weak link.

Ie: when we do fun matches, I'll try my best to approach it as if it's an actual trial. Essentially formally. However, I might occasionally get down on my hands and knees for a very brief moment between exercises and PLAY with the proverbial stick, right in the middle of the ring. Because this is EXACTLY what we do during training. Embarrassment be damned. I want my dog to believe it can and MAY happen on trial day.
I do go to AKC Ob matches and do this but that is VERY VERY different than an IGP obedience routine. Mostly I do the Ob matches so that we can be in a distracting environment. The criteria for Ob in AKC rings is very different than IGP (although I encourage people in AKC ob to work some IGP stuff because it really does "up the game" a LOT for their AKC routines).

One advantage (and also a disadvantage) is that in IGP we have the same heeling pattern every time. The advantage is using trial markers. The disadvantage is that it is always the same so we cannot be the same.

The AKC routine is called out and (once you hit CDX level) is not always the same sequence and has no send out until Utility (we do heeling, group, retrieves, send out in that order always). The advantage is the heeling routine is NOT always a J and the exercises are called out so it gives the IGP dog a lot different picture. I do the IGP about turn (always causes a tizzy in AKC matches and sho n go situations). Some things in AKC routines I will never do (drop on recall is one since fast recall is very important in IGP).

FWIW I love the idea of getting down on the ground but with a replaced knee and soon to be replaced hip I cannot do that quickly enough to make it effective (although I am sure it would be a crowd pleaser! Haha). I DO step off to the side suddenly if I lose attentiveness and then go right back into heeling and the instant I see perfection I reward it and really play to make the right thing important to the dog. Any time during the routine (and here is where working on NOT being predictable counts) when there is "brilliance" (the dog.. don't look at me for brilliance.. ha) I make it a party. This dog REALLY amps up very very nicely for those moments.

It is a work in progress. Or rather, I am a work in progress. I am just looking for different things that might be valuable to our routine (which I try not to make a routine.. more like pieces of the trial picture thrown in here and there).

We also do NOT always train. Some days it is neither AKC matches, IGP field, tracking or protection (we do heel and do obedience for bites). One day next month we are signed up to do some beginner dock diving. Other times it is a walk in the woods. Sometimes it is retrieving in my pond (swimming is so good for the dog!). Sometimes we play with two jolly balls on the back lawn (and I incorporate those into training too).
 

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If I understand correctly, you are looking for games or rewards other than fetch with a ball?

You can use different balls or balls on ropes, discs, rope tugs... I think just switching up toys can keep things fresh. I also like to indulge my dog in keep-away at times (it does not ruin a proper retrieve). I also do a lot of personal play, like grabbing him and slapping him around, when it's appropriate.

If you are looking for rewards that are off your body due to your health (ie you want your dog to be rewarded without a toy), then treat toss games like "find it" can help. My dog loves food best if I 'tease' him with it a bit so it becomes like a toy. But there is nothing quite like an actual toy that gets my dog super excited.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks Canyx.
I need to keep the reward on me. We started having the reward off me and the result was his head dropped a bit in heeling and he started to kick his butt out. I have other toys. I can try those. These are engagement games which at times is what the "work" is (so I work and he has fun!). I can "find it" with toys of food inside
the house.

I hesitate to find it with food outside as that might make him air scent more in tracking (that is why it is a poor choice to do nose work or detection work with you IGP dog.. can louse up that footstep to footstep tracking which is really an obedience exercise with the dog obedient to the track).

Another idea is to hide if he gets disengaged when we are outside and make him find ME. I have lots of trees and a garage I can duck into and then have a party when he finds me. What do you think?
 

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If the problem is your dog disengaging when you don't have a tangible reward on your person... I would work on creating really meaningful release cues. For example, if I am in any open field or by water, Brae is almost annoyingly engaged with me since those are situations in which we play. In the woods, he listens to me but I have to cue him instead of him 'waiting on my command', so to speak. As a pet owner who will probably never find myself in a trial situation in the woods, it doesn't bother me. However, to keep up with the idea that he needs to be given permission to go be a dog, rather than jump out of my car and assume he can go off and start sniffing, I do like 5-30 seconds of training out of the car and release Brae when he's doing the perfect version of what I want. I think it should all be fair though. Like if you aren't ready to train or play, I don't think it's reasonable to expect total engagement all the time.

So it maybe be something as simple as... Heel 15' with me up the trail, "free", you get to go sniff and be a dog now. Sometimes I just wait for 2 seconds of eye contact before release. Sometimes he does 3 tricks. It doesn't matter. The point is, the habit I want is there: engage with me until given the release cue. The world can be a reward rather than a competing distraction, if you want it to be.
 

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Personal play.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
so kind of along the lines of what Cpt Jack said (and I will also work on what you are suggesting Canyx) last night after mowing and mowing and mowing (3rd time in less than 10 days.. I am thinking we live in a rain forest and soon will have Jaguars running thru the yard and Anacondas in the pond) we brought out the jolly ball (his favorite thing). Actually I brought out TWO.

If he went off to self amuse, I took the 2nd Jolly ball and left.. and that was just TOO much and back he came. Twice of that and all we played with was ONE ball because he found playing with me was much more fun. Then we tossed in some training stuff.. "helper" (look at the ball) "fuss" (look at me) (while sitting next to me in basic). Release sometimes for "helper" and sometimes for "fuss" so both were "valuable." We also started the Back transport (walking next to me in heel position but looking at the ball NOT forging). We only got one step (but that is a start) but again.. learning with drive is harder than learning with food.

We also did silly stuff.. he would bring it to me and "out" and then I would kick it (usually he pounced it so my kick and his pounce was at the same time but that is OK and fun for him). Other stuff like he would out it next to me and I would have him back up (he knows that) and then I would kick it but sometimes with the heel of my foot so it went behind me (until all 80 pounds dodged straight between my legs and, while it shows his confidence it could take me out.. haha).

He WANTS to engage (he has a ton of pack drive) so I do and he does. When he first is let out of the kennel he will body slam me and we do some things with that too. Carefully. Sometimes not so carefully..

One of the things that has been not so good is working full time and him spending quite a lot of time self entertaining in a dog kennel (outside or inside). Soon I will retire and I am gearing up for that with more play and less self entertainment which should improve the relationship and build a better partnership. I hope.

Along the lines of what Canyx said I know I need to play harder in the release during training. It is a thing that I have been told. I do it better training alone since at training I am often getting advice (we advise each other) and trying to play hard with my dog and listen does not work well. I need to address this.. next training session.

There are so MANY pieces to IGP and getting "that" performance and then putting all those pieces together into a sequence that looks smooth. The longer I do this the more I realize how many pieces there are and how pressure (not even corrective pressure.. ) and release of pressure manifests with many variations. The little things and all three phases and how they are scored takes a LOT to perfect... and NONE of it works without eager, driven engagement.
 
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