At Pawsitive Vybe we train disc dogs. That’s what’s special about us. Our philosophy and training techniques work on dogs with drive ranges from low to high.
Almost all disc doggers start playing the game because they have a dog that just jams, right out of the blocks, the dog is jamming. Many of us don’t realize that there is a need for training until we have a need to train. I speak of this from personal experience.
Kimo was jamming at 12 weeks. He jumped over the back of the couch at 16 weeks. When we’d play disc in the yard he always wanted to play with the Ultimate Disc, a 175g monster that he tripped over on the retrieve. And speaking of a retrieve, I don’t remember ever having to teach him one.
Fast forward nearly 14 years and take Prima for example. She’s just now turning on at 3 years old – just starting to jam. Kiva? Same thing.
You might know 2009 Skyhoundz World Champions, Mark Muir and Gipper, but what you might not know is that Short for “Positive Marker”, a Mark is a word or signal given at the exact moment a desired behavior is performed. It’s like a clicker. Mark can also mean the act of marking behaviors. “Did you Mark that?” asks if the positive marker was given to tell the dog he was correct. When playing disc it is important to Mark... had a devil of a time getting Gipper to play. Mark told me that Gipper didn’t really turn on as a disc dog until he was 2.5 years old. If you’re a member of K9Disc.com, you can do a search on “Gipper” and get a good idea of how slow disc dog development can frustrate the best of handlers.
Some dogs come out of the whelping box jamming and some need to be taught. That’s the way it is. The point is that disc dog development is not a race and the sooner you stop looking at rapid development and comparing your pups development with that of another dog, the sooner you’ll be on the right page and working with your dog.
Instead of asking,”Why isn’t my 16 week old pup doing this?” Start doing other things with your 16 week old pup that your pup does well. This will lead to a quality disc game.
Learning vs Being Taught
Our first disc dog learns it all. They learn to catch our crappy throws – left, right, in the dirt, 30 feet in the air falling like a stone. They learn how to deal with the rudimentary communication that a new dog trainer gives. They learn how to read our cues, even though those cues are not constant, they’re developing. Our first dog is learning at the same time his or her handler is learning. The team learns together.
The second and third disc dog we train are taught. They are taught how to play the game. The handler knows (kind of…? 😉 )what we are doing. Disc placement is better because we know where to put it (for our first dog) and our throwing skills are better so we can put it there. Set up moves are taught quickly then used to play Frisbee.
Our skills as a handler on our second and third dog are much better so we’re able to muscle the learning process, to make things happen far more efficiently than our first dog. Our second and third dog may wind up surpassing our first dog’s capabilities in many ways, but there seems to be more frustration and roadblocks galore.
Why is this?
Because our first dog learned with us, they have a deep and wide understanding of the game. “Hups, he threw another crappy throw, better run it down.” “Oh, I know what she means here, it’s kind of like that go around thingy…” They wind up with a good foundation because they’ve literally seen it all.
Our second and third dogs wind up with a shallow foundation because we as handlers make so much of the game happen. They do so much more, so many more skills, so many more tricks, but the foundation is lacking. They can’t handle the crappy throws because they don’t have the experience handling them. They can’t decipher poor communication because our communication is so much more standardized. They literally do more with less.
Our second and third dogs are often not capable of learning as well because they expect to be taught. If we don’t have the training skills to effectively teach, we’re going to wind up with problems. Which is where much of the developmental roadblocks in puppies begin. The trainer does not have sufficient skill to teach the dog the complex behavior chains that are Dog Frisbee. If one link is weak or broken and the trainer doesn’t have the chops to break it down, isolate and strengthen or develop that particular piece of behavior, the whole game can break down.
Help, He’s 16 Weeks Old and Won’t Retrieve!
Someone recently contacted me with this problem. It reminds me of Mark “Oh, I don’t know about Gipper…” Muir… lol.
As Mark now knows, it doesn’t matter. There are many other things to work on in the game other than a retrieve.
I could play an entire game of freestyle with a dog that doesn’t retrieve. We can teach set up moves. We can build drive. We can work on socializing the pup to the rigors of disc dog competition and making them a good stable dog in public.
I contacted Mark and asked when Gipper started to really play. Here is part of his response:
[testimonial featured=”true” img=”http://profile.ak.fbcdn.net/hprofile-ak-snc4/hs346.snc4/41466_1476922826_6994118_q.jpg” company=”Georgia Irish Disc Dogs” url=”http://georgiairishdiscdogs.com”]It might have been when he was around 2 and half. I think Chuck Middleton told one of his dogs did not start until they were five. Once I quit putting pressure on Gipper is when he changed. I focused on his positive things and built off of that instead of stressing me and him out on the negatives. It is a lot more fun now training Irish and thunder now as I don’t stress out on the small things and I am content on small small, short fun and short successful steps now.[/testimonial]
Well if that doesn’t just about say it all…
If your 16 week old pup is catching but not retrieving, who cares!? Keep catching.
If your 16 week old pup is playing with discs but can’t catch, Who Cares!? Play with that disc.
If your 16 week old pup won’t bite and tug but is killing rollers, Who Cares!? Have fun with those rollers.
I had a monster swing as a pee-wee baseball player, but couldn’t hit. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I started to hit well. .450 is not a bad batting average. During my pee-wee years, I wasn’t a great hitter, but I could field like nobody’s business and was a heck of a pitcher. When I started playing baseball in College I could run, throw and hit. Funny how things work out that way, isn’t it?
As a ballplayer, I was allowed and encouraged to do the things that I did well and I kept playing the game. All of the tools came together in the end because I loved to play the game.
When we get all caught up in one small aspect of the game, especially when we’re talking about puppies – effectively toddlers or kindergarteners – we’re going to take a good deal of the fun out of the game and we might lose out on the love of the game helping to bring all the pieces together.
Foundation, Foundation, Foundation!
“That’s all well and good, but what do I do if my pup is not jamming?”
If your puppy doesn’t have the whole game of disc dialed in there are many things you can do.
Work on set up moves and flatwork. Set up moves and flatwork enable dog and handler to move as a team. Once your dog is jamming you (and possibly your dog) won’t want to take time out from full on play to work on set up moves. Count yourself blessed that you have the opportunity to teach these skills with a little learning machine.
You can acclimate your puppy to playing (any kind of game) in as many environments as possible. The back yard, the front yard, the park, around food, around people, on the beach. Knocking these distractions out of the way early can ensure that when your pup is ready to jam in a contest that he or she is not going to be distracted and check out during your jam. Socialization is key, a disc dog contest is only 5 minutes on the field and 8 hours around the field. If your dog is bulletproof around the field, odds are you’ll have a better performance in your 5 minutes on the field.
You can play the game of disc with tennis balls, tugs, squeaky toys, whatever your dog likes. So what if he’s not doing it with frisbees at 16 weeks. If you can build a love of biting, dropping and retrieving toys at a young age, it won’t be hard to adapt that game to discs as the dog is older.
You can work on rear end awareness and general kinesthetics. Cavaletti’s, ladderwork, and ballwork are all important foundation. These things can be worked at any time.
Teach your dog to learn. Taking time to shape behaviors and develop a strong communication method is an invaluable piece of any sport foundation. If your dog knows how to learn and you and your dog can communicate, then you can teach them anything.