Drop is Not Give
It is important to have a distinction between Drop and Give, not just in disc dog freestyle, but in dog training in general.
Many people don’t see the need to distinguish between Drop and Give. “Why bother? The dog drops it all the same…” But it doesn’t go down like that. Drop means to drop it to the ground – wherever the dog may be. Drop is teeth off without regard to position or locale. Give is a highly localized skill that only happens on the handler, and into the handler’s hand, period. While their is a Drop component to a Give, Give is very different from Drop.
Hops as Crash Test Dummy
Some of you may know that I have had some serious trouble obtaining a Drop on cue while playing Frisbee with Hops for a long time now. He fully believes that all Drops need to happen on the handler.
He has easily sidestepped all of my training tricks. Over the last 4 months or so we’ve been working with reward placement with Oppositional Feeding using a prompt switch. It’s been pretty successful. We’ve been able to link some sequences together and do some flowing stuff, but it’s still not quite right, it doesn’t seem to hold.
I’m all about trying to communicate concepts and using oppositional behaviors and back-chaining to get what I want out of my dogs. I know that Give and Drop are different and I have worked both skills a ton with Hops, but until a couple days ago, I had not played them off of each other. I was afraid to work the Give because I thought it would reinforce the drop location,”He already drops there. He always drops there… He only drops there.”
Don’t Be Afraid
I think many of us wind up getting scared about this kind of thing. “I don’t want to practice and reinforce there. Reward placement is important!” It is important, but it’s not everything. None of the major principles of positive dog training is everything. Alternating between Drop and Give provide a strong contrast between the location of the Give and the lack of location on the Drop. I believe this distinction has helped Hops immensely in just the last 2 sessions. It’s also helped us a ton as a team.
Give It a Shot
Set up the Drop several times when and how it is likely to happen. Hops drops well on the flank and not so well when approaching from the front. This is a common problem with dogs who are highly focused on the Fetch part of Frisbee. Be sure to set up situations where it’s likely that your dog will drop and then get that ball rolling.
After a few successful reps of Drop then you set up the Give, on purpose, by just withholding the Drop cue. The dog will come in and put it right in your hand. Offer the Give cue and reinforce with a bite, flip or roller. Maybe one or 2 reps on Give then 5-10 Drops.
This rather quickly sets up a clear distinction between Drop and Give. Drop winds up well reinforced as does the Give. Drop happens anywhere and Give happens on the handler. Compliance with each cue is what allows the game to continue, wherever it may be. Working the Give allows you to capitalize on, and leverage, a likely behavior. It also doubles the rate of reinforcement.