It's quite hard to flow with a dog who doesn't drop on cue. This problem is greater if you treat action and interaction with the handler and disc as a cookie and expect the dog to Drop before offering the cookie. This is the way most of us like to install the Cued Drop as it affords the handler greater control over reinforcement of the Drop behavior.
If all goes well, the dog learns that the cued Drop, physical or verbal, makes next happen.
Cue Before Do, asking for the Drop before moving on to the next action, is an operant training technique. It can be very effective. Operant behavior requires that the dog do the behavior before getting the cookie. This allows the handler to reinforce the Cued Drop with a throw, an action, or interaction with the handler.
If the skill doesn't happen there is a breakdown of the game and the flow stops. Within this operant training method, the reduction in rate of reinforcement, Cookies Per Minute (CPM), is a punisher (-P - removing Next). Reduced CPM should make the latent drop less likely to happen. As soon as the teeth come off and the disc is dropped, Next is offered and the game is on.
If it always happens, this breakdown in flow, and the punishment process itself can become part of the game. The dog learns that the breakdown in flow is simply part of the game. And they will put up with it because they love to play.
It is important to avoid the "always" part of the process.
Offering a set up move or pulling a flank before the Drop cue on purpose is a terrific way to avoid the breakdown in flow on every rep.
If the dog is not going to drop in a timely fashion, don't ask. Just move on to some set up work or flatwork to prove that the game keeps moving and set up a situation where carrying the disc becomes a burden to the dog, a burden they are likely to give up to get on with the game.
The idea behind Do Then Cue is to make flow the expectation. Flow is how the game always works.
Turning sideways and pulling the dog around on the flank is a great way to smooth out the hook up between dog and handler on the retrieve. It breaks the linear retrieve idea and the antagonistic pressure of the retrieve and sets the team in motion together. When the team is in motion together for a moment, the idea that "I need to drop it at my handler's feet..." does not compute. "When are we going to do this thing. Hey, I can't do this thing with this disc in my mouth..."
This situation reinforces the cued Drop. The dog is far more likely to drop on cue in this situation than mid-retrieve, or even while standing in front of the handler. All that is left to do is for you to predict and cue when it is likely to happen. Because you are moving together, as a team, and you're leading the team, you have the power to continue flowing motion until that drop is likely to happen.
Most disc dogs know what Go Around means, and I'm not talking about running around your body. They know that it means a throw is coming. Offering the around behavior and letting it set up without the Drop cue sets up a pregnant pause of sorts. The dog knows that a throw should be coming. The holding on to the disc gets in the way.
This also reinforces the Cued Drop. Be careful to not set up a pattern of timing or position or to build in latency as I was doing with Polka in the attached video. If you notice, I was cuing Drop at the same time and same position on most every rep at roughly 3/4 of the way around. Pattern training is the enemy of stimulus control.
A Thru cue is kind of a stand in for other Set Up Moves. It is a somewhat challenging behavior to carry through, and it is not an Around. Using the Thru and other set up moves and interior tricks is about generalizing the Cued Drop and avoiding pattern training and contextual understanding of the Drop behavior.
For some dogs, multiple Set Up Moves or flatwork movements might be required to set up a situation where the dog is likely to drop on cue. A Go Around might not be enough time or require enough effort for the dog to see the carrying of the disc as an inconvenience or as an impediment to the next action. You might need Around>Twist>Thru... Drop or some other extended behavior chain to reinforce the Cued Drop without any latency.
For other dogs, compound Set Up Moves or multiple Set Up Moves in a row, or some chain of set up and flatwork can be a proofing exercise to challenge and test the understanding of the cued Drop.
While we are using Set Up Moves, the focus is on the Drop.
If the dog drops early for some reason, don't tell them to fetch it up. You may request a fetch it up one or two times, total, and then it becomes the dog's responsibility. Your waiting should prompt the dog to try to figure out what the problem is. "Oh, I don't have a disc in my mouth... Hang on a sec."
Then they go and get the disc in order to make the Cued Drop a possibility. This concept, in the dog's mind, is a key to understanding that the Cued Drop makes next happen.
As soon as the dog gets the disc, you may choose to cue the Drop immediately to further cement the idea that the Cued Drop makes next happen.
We are not doing this to teach the dog to carry past the handler, or to carry longer, or to perform an Around while carrying a disc. Of course that happens and is a nice side effect, but the point is to teach the dog that dropping on cue, immediately makes the world go round and is totally epic!
The Cued Drop is THE criteria. Be careful to not get too focused on the performance of Set Up Moves and flatwork. If you are marking each behavior or multiple behaviors, mark the Set Up Moves with a curt and simple "yes" and save the "YES!!!" for the Cued Drop.
Also don't get too focused on perfect performance of the set up or flatwork movements. Again, the criteria is the Cued Drop - teeth off after the cue. So when the dog picks up a disc after you wait out an unintentional drop, cuing the Drop immediately is a good idea. Keep the focus on the criteria at hand.
If you realize that a particular behavior works well, use it to your advantage. Do 3 or 4 reps in a row to help seat the idea into the dog's brain. Use those 3 or 4 reps as springboards for a more challenging behavior or as a set up to try a cued Drop before cuing anything else.
If you realize that a behavior doesn't work, save it for later, perhaps after the dog has kicked ass on a few reps of that more likely behavior.
Again, the criteria we're looking for is the Cued Drop. If the dog gets the idea that the cued Drop makes Next happen, they'll do it wherever you want.
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