shape better position using a Bite as a Cookie and clever Reward Placement
Getting a good solid Waiting on cue and situationally is extremely important for disc dog freestyle training. The competition field might not see too much waiting going on as everything is supposed to be happening in flow, but on the training field there probably is not a more important skill than a Wait. A Wait is critical for flipping and vaulting.... from your dog during disc dog training can be a difficult task sometimes. A common situation is a dog that drifts towards where he believes the disc is going to happen and a frustrated handler finagling the dog into an appropriate position.
A simple solution is to isolate the skill and reinforce the dog in a direction that is incompatible with or oppositional to the dog’s drift.
Bite as Cookie
Treating your cued Bite as a cookie is absolutely vital to this skill, and also to keeping your high drive dog off of you and your low drive dog engaged. It’s kind of a big deal.
What does it mean to treat the cued Bite as a A Cookie is traditionally thought of as a food treat given as positive reinforcement. In that definition, a cookie is a discrete piece of food reinforcement. In many dog training discussions, the idea of the Cookie is a bit less discrete and encompasses more types of reinforcers than food. The term Cookie is often verbal or metaphorical shorthand for dog...?
It’s kind of a mindset and intent kind of thing more than it is an actual technique. You can see people reinforcing with bites and tugs all the time but you don’t often see them treating them as cookies.
In the case of Looter here in the video, you can clearly see that the A Scoot is a Set Up Move where the dog scoots backwards between the handler’s legs. It’s a really clever Set Up Move, the image of your dog spinning around and shimmying backwards is really cool to see. It also Syncopates team movement, adding a some punctuation to the team’s flow.... is being marked and reinforced with proper The dog puts his face where the Cookie or the disc happens. Where you put the reward matters. Reward Placement is huge in disc dog freestyle. Your dog’s face will always wind up where you throw the disc. He will go where the disc happens. If a disc in thrown to a place, the dog will return from that place.... for the task at hand. Loot is totally engaged with the target, but is patient and only hits on the toy when it is offered. It’s not unlike how he works cookies. As a matter of fact, this is exactly how I work with cookies to fix this drift indoors in our studio.
It also helps to know what Bite as Cookie is a metaphor for reinforcement with a disc or a bite on a toy. Handler’s often do not treat the disc or the tug toy as a cookie, and focus on the disc or tug as criteria to be hit or a behavior to be performed. Give the Bite cue as you would a discrete, food cookie.... is not. Bite as Cookie is not flailing around after the target. That’s mayhem. You would never work that way with cookies. Just like you offer your dog a cookie, you offer the bite. Dog doesn’t bite it? A Take is a cued Bite that replicates the placement and timing of a throw. Usually used with overs, vaults, and flips, the Take is a powerful teaching tool for creating habitual leaping and commitment to flying targets. Takes allow the handler great latitude in placing discs. Just pop it out there sharply and hold it; it’s easy to place... it away, just like a cookie.
It’s not about the tug either. We just want to give them a taste, just like cookies, if you want to hundreds of reps, you have to move from cookie sized cookies to morsel sized ones. So the Bite is just a bite and a bit of resistance almost all the time. Save your vigorous Bitework is an activity or a game that consists of biting and dropping a toy on cue. Cued Bites and cued Drops (and Gives) can be used to teach and reinforce many behaviors. Bitework is the framework to use to create a high rate of reinforcement and the repetition necessary to teach and hone skills. There are 3 rules in... for jackpots and drive building exercises.
Bite as Cookie is not rushed. You have marked the behavior, right? There’s no rule that says you have to get that cookie to your dog immediately. You would never mark a behavior and then sprint over and fling your fingers into your dog’s face to deliver the cookie. You don’t need to get them the bite ASAP. Take your time… breathe.
Treating your discs and your Bite cues in general as cookies empowers both the dog and the handler and provides continuity between toys and treats at all drive levels.
Marking the Behavior
Be sure to mark the behavior you are working on and understand that you are doing so to be able to present the reinforcement where you want the dog to be. Don’t expect the dog to be there. 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... the skill and offer the bite where you want them. They’ll put their face where the bite happens.
Marking the behavior creates a pregnant pause in your game. Your dog will wait for the cookie to be presented. That is money. Use it to your advantage. Leverage the understanding and the drama that the mark creates to make your cued Bite a big time opportunity.
Preemptive Marking: Mark your Wait and your Positions a hair early. Rely on that built in Wait from the mark and your reward history to keep your dog in position. You can always adjust yourself a bit to make it perfect.
Pivoting and Pressure
In the video I turn in both directions after the Scoot. Loot is drifting clockwise. If I turn against his direction, Counter Clockwise, I am pushing him with the pressure of my shoulders to stop. This was not working for me, and it became quite evident while watching the video. Loot was backpedaling clockwise because he wanted to run in that direction – to play away from me – by turning against his movement while he was drifting out and back like that I just wound up pushing him further with my pressure.
Pretty much after the first bite, Loot was willing to stay near the center of my body and the drift had all but gone away, but I noticed that when I turned towards him that he was soft, and that he wound up on his heels a bit.
But when I turned the other way to meet him after the Scoot, spinning clockwise, I wound up stopping behind him which pulled him out of his drift and locked him on to me. It was super cool.
As always, questions and comments welcome below…