Attention for Bite with the High Drive Dog

Lesson Progress:

Create Patience in Drive 


  1. Attention
  2. Quiet vs Loud
  3. Bite as Cookie 
  4. Attention = Look First and Act Later 

Attention is offered eye contact in the presence of something that is of interest to the dog or if there is no obvious opportunity.

You have a cookie in hand and the dog wants it. He gives eye contact and earns it.

You and your dog are hanging out. There’s nothing going on. He offers eye contact and earns a cookie or the opportunity to work.

It’s a remarkably powerful skill. It becomes something like asking permission, and it’s the main way that positive trainers can ensure that all good things come from the handler.

Once the dog understands that offered eye contact in the presence of a disc makes that disc activate and creates opportunity, he looks first and acts later.

The key here is that the dog is does this of his own accord. The dog offers the eye contact. If the handler makes him give eye contact or tells the dog to sit the handler becomes responsible for the performance of the dog’s behavior. When a dog offers attention to make discs happen he is demonstrating self discipline, and is responsible for creating his own opportunity.

Quiet vs Loud

A still disc or one held close to the body is referred to as quiet. A disc in motion or held away from the handler’s body is considered loud.

Loud discs attract attention. Every time a disc moves around the handler, the dog takes note of it. He’s interested. A high drive dog often pressures the handler for the disc. If the response to that pressure is moving the discs and making them loud, the handler has just reinforced a mugging.

Keep discs tight to the body and don’t move them around a bunch unless you want them to be bitten. Stack them up and put them in one hand and tuck that hand into your body below your ribs. If necessary use the other hand as a brace to keep the dog off of you. Just reach forward and block the dog’s access to the discs with your other hand.

But you shouldn’t need to do this. You’ve got attention right? Just keep the discs quiet and wait. Your dog should sit and give you eye contact.

Cued Bite as Cookie

This game moves fast. It’s a physical blur and a verbal mouthful of markers and cues. With a drivey and aggressive dog, the game can easily get away from any handler. It is quite easy to get pushed around during bitework with a drivey dog.

Treating the cued bite as a cookie is a powerful drive management tool. It not only helps to create patience in drive, but actually increases drive and focus too.

Your dog sits, mark it and reach into the cookie bag. Your dog leaps up and pounds your cookie bag and snatches the cookie out of your hand… Right?

That never happens. You would never allow that. It would be totally unacceptable. Well, then why do you allow it with a toy?

Most likely it’s because you don’t see the disc as a cookie. It’s a target, a resource, a criteria. It’s a cool thing, but not really a cookie.

This is also on display when dog trainers work bitework with drivey dogs. The presentation of the toy for the bite after a positive marker is reflexively and thoughtlessly whipped out to be bitten. If anyone presented cookies out of a treat bag like that it would look awful silly.

The positive marker creates time for delayed reinforcement. The correct behavior has been isolated, and drawn attention to leaving a reasonable amount of time to offer thoughtful and appropriate reinforcement. Take some time, make some drama, and your dog will wait because he knows his handler will make it worth his while.

Dig it? Show some love for Pawsitive Vybe on Patreon!