So far we have been thinking of bitework in the context of a game.
Sometimes with that zoomed out view it is easy to miss the forest for the trees. The 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... More game, at base level, is reinforcement; the game itself is a cookie. Sure behaviors and skills are isolated, but the power is in the game.
Well, yes and no.
Skinner vs Pavlov
The Bitework game is very valuable, but to get the most out of bitework, it is immensely helpful if the dog has a clear understanding that the cued Bite is 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... More.
This is operant behavior – behavior affects consequence. Correct behaviors are reinforced with a Bite or the energy level of good bitework game while the handler limits the available choices to reinforce behavior. If a marker is used, this is simply standard Operant Conditioning, like BF Skinner. It’s just a little faster and more intense, but it’s Operant Conditioning is a training technique that teaches the learner that behavior affects consequence. A dog that is operant understands that her behavior affects her consequence. “I do this, and then that happens.” Operant Conditioning usually uses marker words or signals to indicate the behavior and follows those marker words with fitting consequences. Your dog learns that this exact behavior... More all the same.
If bitework is always done in a frenzy of Bite, Drop, and The Give is a retrieve to the hand. A cued Give is a foundational skill that is not super useful in the actual performance of disc dog freestyle, and has huge applications for training and skills development . A Give is distinctly different from a Drop because of the localized nature of the skill. Give only happens in the hand,... More and always involves the best toy on the planet wielded by a highly active handler, a dog can easily go over threshold at the mere presence of a tug toy. The physiological and emotional results of pairing an object or stimulus with awesome stuff — the tug toy with high energy, rapid fire, biting and dropping — is Classical Conditioning (aka – Pavlovian Conditioning).
Condition some thoughtful work with a cued Bite as reinforcement: Attention/”Yes!”…
Keep the energy levels low and turn the Bite and Drop into a somewhat ho-hum experience. The dog’s excitement level will drop and a more thoughtful and patient style of bitework can be cultivated. It will look and feel like clicker training. You can even shape!
When a Bite is offered as a cookie the dog has earned the right to attempt to Bite that object. It’s a very empowering experience. The dog learns that he can make the bite happen by showing some patience, giving Unsolicited eye contact or Attention is a great way to hook up with a dog. If you have something the dog wants he should give eye contact in order to get access to it. This quickly becomes akin to asking permission for things that the dog wants. If your dog offers Attention when they see something they want, most dog... More, offering a Back Up behavior, or whatever behavior is the likely path to the cue bite.
Not only does the earned opportunity add value to behaviors and the act of working, but it also adds value to the tug toy or the act of Biting.
An earned opportunity is always more valuable than a gimme and a missed opportunity is always more memorable than a semi-successful third chance.
Attention/Yes!… Cookie is very familiar to just almost all positive trainers when it comes working to settle an excited dog. Well, why isn’t Attention/Yes!… Bite part of every body’s training regiment?
It should be. Let’s get to it…
Start thinking of a cued Bite as a cookie instead of a target behavior.
Treat Biting as a cookie with some of the behaviors already installed on your dog. Attention and Targeting would be a great start.
Here are some behaviors you can try out:
- Back Up
Keep sessions short and successful, and treat the Bite Cue as a cookie.
Ask questions and talk about your sessions in the comments below.