Everyone that reads this thing regularly, knows I do a lot of training through game play.
And, not in the surface “Create a reward event to make them work” sort if way.
But, in a profound way. Almost a spiritually fulfilling way. It impacts so many different levels.
Gives psychological fulfillment, as the activities let them express their natural drives.
And we’ve always said that it builds relationships. Builds the language we will use. Builds fluency in body language for both dog and handler. All that good stuff. I’ve always thought there was carry over into just living with your dog. Past just the “tired dog is a good dog” line.
Well, now we have a bit of proof!
In this study, they talk about how dogs develop, and LOSE, trust!
Once you read that, you will have a greater understanding of how your “Game” can effect your day to day relationship. When I coach people in play, I constantly use the common phrase “breaking trust” to tell them why not to do certain things. And, on the surface….. It could be about just the game. Like… Giving fair presentations of the toy so they can get it without clipping you. Like moving it enough that they have to “try” but not so much they feel like they “can’t”. Tugging hard enough that they are in the “fight”, and not “overwhelmed……. All that seems to be only Game related.
But this study shows that dogs can learn from how you play and do trivial activities what kind of trust you deserve.
Seems like the Clarity the dogs learn from your Game will effect them in all aspects of your relationship.
A lot of times when I work with a dog, I start with play. And I’ve always felt it wasn’t just “play”. But us really learning one another. Build trust and language, before trying to navigate sticky situations.
Kind of cool when science tells you you’re on the right train of thought!
Go play with your dog!
A person that I did a consult with, had this made for me. It was done by Brandon Steen. Amazing.
What do I do in a Blizzard?
Transition Jax to Spring Pole!
Lot of people tug. Not that many people use Spring Poles.
The way old school dogmen used them didn’t involve control. Let them at it….. Pry them off. All conditioning and gameness. No control.
But, I think they can be used as an obedience reward. Just like tug. Giving access to this type of activity to folks that can’t get in there and play The Game themselves. Plus it takes HUGE impulse control.
Jaxxy followed my typical process:
Tug. Ball On A String. Flirt Pole. Decoy Tug. Then Spring Pole.
Each progression requires more responsibility and control under higher and higher arousal, so there’s usually a little wobble in self control as they master that test.
The transition to the Spring Pole follows the same ramp up in responsibility.
The toy is kept low so the outs are easier, and I am fairly close, so it doesn’t challenge my area of influence too much.
As he gets cleaner & more crisp, I will raise the toy up, and myself away.
Eventually, He’ll be swinging like the old school pics.
But…. With solid obedience!
No collars. No food.
Only Social Drive and self control overriding Prey Drive.
Here’s Jaxxy’s first session.
And Here’s a follow up 2 days later. It’s his 3rd session:
This video has two purposes. Well, 3.
One is celebrating my little idiot. God dammit I love that dog.
Two, is showing progress to anyone following his little story.
And, last, but not least….. Showing training doesn’t have to feel like this piece of shit chore. There was only about a third more of these activities that weren’t on film. This really is indicative of the amount of time I “worked” him.
Embed the training throughout the day. Train through game play.
Make it fun for YOU. And then you may do it.
Anyway….. Here’s Jaxxy doing some work. Enjoy:
You walk up to the elevator.
Push the button…… Wait.
Push the button…… Wait.
Push the button…… Wait.
“One more fucking time, and I’m taking the stairs” you say.
Push the button…… PUSH THAT STUPID PIECE OF SHIT BUTTON 55 GOD DAMN TIMES!!!!!!
Quit, and take the stairs.
That’s the extinction burst.
It’s the burst or “trying” that happens just before the quit.
OK. So what’s this got to do with dogs.
When people are training, I watch an epic “Race To The Extinction Burst” play out.
Here’s the scene. They are teaching their dog to stay. The dog breaks once every 3 minutes. The person calmly replaces them. The dog starts to have his extinction burst AND STARTS BREAKING EVERY 5 SECONDS. The people mistake it for them being “dominant”, or “falling apart”. They get exasperated. And start sounding that way when they replace them. Goes from a real easy “no”, to “UUUGHH God Dammit…. NOOOO”.
Dog thinks…… “Hmmmm……. I think Mom/Dad’s about to quit”
And, they’re right. Mom/Dad quits.
And, they just taught their dog to really be persistent if they want a human to give up.
Son of a bitch.
I Think dogs still watch body language. And intention. So, they subconsciously understand what they’re seeing. They can tell you’re breaking.
But, even if you believe that dogs are just classical conditioning machines, you have to see that your frustration at their extinction burst preceded your quitting. That teaches them what your frustration means. THE QUIT IS COMING!
Understand that when your dog is going through that, you just have to hold on. If you don’t show your quitting “tell”, they will eventually give up and “take the stairs”.
If you do that consistently in the beginning, the dog will have the clarity of knowing you don’t quit! And the whole game of “obedience chicken” will cease. Remember, It’s not the “structure” dogs need. It’s the Clarity.
This concept of consistency, and clarity in training, will make HUGE headway to that end.
Now, get your poker face on and show your dog you don’t quit!
Walking 2 of our dogs through the woods, and in the middle of a good conversation (aka not paying attention to the pups) we hear screaming and sounds of dog blowing up from around the corner on the trail. Yeah….. The same trail that Jax had just run down.
I have the dogs on remote collars for recall, but…. no matter what some people say, I’m not using them to break aggression! But that’s a rant for another time. Anyway…..
I go sprinting around the corner towards the sound of what I’m sure is gonna be the event that gets Jax put down. As I round the bend, I see a big ol Pit Bull. But he’s not blowing up. There’s still someone screaming. I have the split second fear that Jax is mauling this person. I want to puke.
I keep running, and that’s when I see Jax come back to this Pit at the end of the trail and they start……..
Playing. Nicely. Appropriately.
For another split second, I couldn’t process why this woman was still screaming. Or why there was still a dog blowing up. I get to the end of the trail. And there’s this woman with another dog on a leash, who’s just blowing up at Jax. And the woman is screaming at her own dog!
And, here’s the funny part. She starts apologizing to me!
I asked if she was ok, and she kept saying, “you’re dog is no problem. I’m so sorry. It’s my fault” etc….
I hooked Jax up and we left. His new buddy tried to come with us, but eventually went back to the screaming lady.
I literally cried a little.
My little man has come so far.
There may be something to this dog training shit.
Holy shit this discussion pisses me off.
I’ve written and deleted 4 different versions of this, just because they turn in to me ranting unintelligibly.
So…… I’ll try again.
1- Is there a breed called Pit Bull? Yes. Yes, there is a breed called Pit Bull. The UKC started registering the American Pit Bull Terrier in 1898. So. If you ever get into the discussion of “IS there a breed called Pit Bull?” then unequivocally….. The answer is yes. There is no debate. Yes.
2- Are the dogs people refer to as Pit Bulls actually UKC APBT’s? No. I’d kiss your entire asshole if we ran into a “Pit Bull” on the street that had UKC papers.
3- Does that matter at all? No. Not one bit. And there’s a lot of reasons why.
Pit Bulls were bred for function. That function determined their look. Same reason most Olympic Weightlifters look similar. And most NBA players look similar. And they tend not to look like each other. Function dictates form. The UKC was able to set a standard, because they looked true to type. But….. No pit ref ever asked for papers. And the dog men that pitted their dogs would’ve bred in gopher blood if they thought it would’ve made a better dog. Jesus Christ……. Its a fucking Bull & Terrier cross from day one!!!!!!!!
So…… Even though there IS a registered APBT “breed”. There really is no such thing as a “pure” Pit Bull. They’ve been mixing blood into that breed from jump.
If one more person asks me if my dog is “pure”, I’m gonna punch them in the throat.
4- You will be discriminated against because your dog is a “Pit Bull” whether you have papers saying it’s a French Bulldog/Boxer cross or not. All “bully” crosses are taking the brunt of the misinformation machine, and complicit shitty owners. So, arguing that there’s “no such breed” still ain’t gonna get you in that apartment.
5- That fucking “Pick The Pit Bull” chart they pull out to prove BSL wrong is so NOT helpful. Trying to convince people that they can’t “find” the Pit Bull, does nothing to change their minds about what they THINK about Pit Bulls. It’s like saying segregating a person based on race is not cool, because of the difficulty in properly identifying their race. NOT that that shit is just WRONG. Stop muddying the water. Want to help defend these dogs…… learn about them. Then defend them. Don’t play the red herring game and say “you can’t even find one….. nanny nanny boo boo”.
Summary: The UKC officially “recognized” the type of dog the pit dogmen created a long time ago. I can recognize that type of dog when I see them outside whether they have papers or not. The fact that your dog doesn’t have papers won’t save you from BSL. The fact that your dog isn’t even remotely that old pit type of dog won’t save you from BSL. The fact that prejudicial douchebags can’t pick a UKC papered Pit bull out of a “leading” line up won’t save you from BSL. Saying there’s no such breed won’t save you from BSL.
You need to understand the “breed” so you can defend it well.
We need to cut down on irresponsible breeders AND owners. (of ALL dogs, not just these)
We need to train our dogs to be ambassadors for this breed so we can start to make a difference.
Ok….. I suppose I’m all ranted out.
If you’re a dog trainer with an interest in rehabbing dog aggression……
Please. Throw the “Break Stick” away.
Look, I know why you have them. It’s a logical mistake to make.
You want to break up a fight that involves at least one committed dog. (a concern you NEED to address if you work in rehab). Well….. Who has the most experience in breaking the toughest dogs apart? Dog fighters.
If a dog gets fanged in a pit, the ref breaks them. If a dog in a roll (practice fight sparring match) starts to get hurt, you break them. Hell, if there’s a management failure in the yard and two dogs get going, you break them. These guys have hands down THE MOST EXPERIENCE breaking game dogs.
How do THEY do it?
Ergo….. You want to break game dogs fighting. You use a Break Stick, no?
Yes….. They are effective. IF……
You have 3 people to the 2 dogs.
One handler goes in for hind leg suspension (another pass down from the pit) on each dog. This kills their ability to punch back in and re-grip. That’s good. It means, All you have to deal with is the current grip. The 3rd, (and sometimes 4th) person, go in and use the break stick to mechanically separate the grips. And it works! Well. It breaks the dogs.
So…. Why should you NOT use it?
1- Most people didn’t know that above scenario. They just stick a break stick in their pocket and will somehow utilize it to make things OK. They don’t understand the 3 to 2 principle. They don’t know or practice that teamwork concept of “wheelbarrow” and split. If you aren’t in a yard with multiple trained, people all, of who have Break Sticks in their pockets. All of who, know the drill and can fluently assume one role or the other in rhythm with you…. It’s worthless. Trying to separate a game dog (let alone 2) by yourself with a Break Stick is futile, and dangerous for ALL involved.
2- Even IF you understand AND practice the above method with ALL your staff (shut the fuck up, no you don’t)…….
YOU STILL SHOULDN’T USE BREAK STICKS!!!!!!
When you use a Break Stick you are mechanically separating the dogs. Ever hear of “Restraint Frustration”? “Barrier Frustration”? Well, when a dog is in HIGH DRIVE, and wants to get at something and can’t, it’s drive goes UP!!!!!
Think about it. Leashes make dogs more reactive. Fences make dogs more reactive. On, and on. Those are things preventing them from accomplishing their goal. And it makes them want to go at it more.
Hell, that reaction is so strong, that trainers utilize it. We tease dogs with food to increase drive for it. We try to wrestle the tug out of their mouth to make them want to grip it harder the next time!
When you pry their mouth off that dog….. Guess what they want to do MORE now?!?!?!
And THAT’S why the Pit men used them. It’s the only way to reliably separate a game dog and NOT DIMINISH IT’S WANT TO FIGHT!
Hell, it increases their drive to fight through frustration. And for Pit men, that’s a good thing.
For you, in your home. Or daycare. Or rehab facility……. Not so much.
So unless you’re looking for a tool that takes more dogs than handlers acting in coordination, that INCREASES aggression after the fight…….
Throw the Break Sticks away.
(How TO break a fight is a tricky and dangerous subject that can’t really be done in an article. But check the services page for avenues of instruction.)
So….. Do you let the dog “win” while playing tug or not?
Do you EVER let the dog “TAKE” the toy?
That, is the question.
This is such a readily answered question in dog training, that even folks without dogs have an answer for it!
So….. Where do I stand on the issue?
There is no “winning” the toy!
I think the question itself shows a misunderstanding of tug!
It’s like playing Frisbee with your friend. If you suddenly “let them have it”, it’s not a reward. It’s a bummer. They don’t want the Frisbee. They want to play with YOU WITH the Frisbee!!!!
And THAT is the fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of tug. It is not truly competitive. It’s “cooperatively” competitive. And there is a huge difference.
For people that aren’t into contact/combat sports, this may be a difficult analogy…… But……
If you’re into wrestling, and you’re having fun and wrestling with your favorite team mate…… It may LOOK competitive, but it’s not. It has elements of competition. You’re pinning them. They’re throwing you. But, if your practice session was over the first time you scored a point…… You’d be bummed. Not excited.
Yes. In tug you will make them miss sometimes. And yes, you ARE trying to rip it away from them. And they ARE trying hard to keep possession of it.
But this is where perspective is important!
If you let them have it…… They should be bummed. They should punch it back into you! If you throw it they should grab it and bring it back. Not cause they know how to “fetch”. But, out of sheer frustration! They want “The Game”!!!! Not the toy!
It’s like looking at a kid playing a video game. From the outside it may look like they are playing with the joystick. But they aren’t. They are playing the video game WITH the joystick.
The tug toy is the joystick.
YOU ARE THE GAME!!!!!!!!
“Turning off” the game isn’t “winning”!
Look at your game as developing engagement with you, NOT the toy.
Test your theory by letting go! If they get frustrated and punch it back to you….. You’re engagement is solid! Your game is strong.
If they think they “won” and leave with their “prize”…..
Your game needs some work!
The only winning in tug is the handler grabbing that damn thing!
Now go make your dogs day and teach them to play tug with YOU!