Lesson

Bite As Cookie

The bitework game is very valuable. A cued bite can be all a handler needs to work with dogs in dog sports, but to get the most out of bitework, the understanding that a cued bite is a cookie is essential.

“Yeah, whatever, I know that…”

But do you? Do you offer a bite on the disc for attention? Have you done tricks using a disc as a cookie? How does your dog perform? A little too high on drive I bet.

When your dog hears the word yes does she fly up and bite the disc or whatever she can get her teeth on, or does she wait for you to ask her to bite?

Could you imagine her mauling your treat sack or biting your hand while you were trying to deliver cookies during a training session with food? You would never stand for it. It just would not happen.

But for some reason it’s OK when playing disc, or bitework, or other dog sports. It’s not OK. Protect your discs as you would protect your treat bag or cookies in your hand. The disc is not available until you present it to the dog.

“Bite as cookie” helps to apply the principles of dog training to disc play. The behavior was marked. It can be a moment or two before reinforcement happens. There is no need to rush.

If you were training with cookies you would expect the dog to slow down and work at your pace, right?

Bite as a cookie adds value to the cued bite. It makes a bite something special. Something to work for. Something earned. This can be quite a powerful revelation for dogs who maybe don’t dig the bite so much.

Using a cued bite exactly as if it were a cookie can increase a dog’s patience, impulse control and general working state in the presence of toys.

A more sedate and low intensity bite cue with little to no resistance can be offered to bring down a dog’s classically conditioned state. Like using low value food and methodical and slow cookie delivery, low intensity bites easy wins will slow a dog down.

A notable pause between the positive marker and the cued bite, just like food cookies, can help reinforce a dog’s patience and impulse control and give you some much needed breathing room.

A 20 second tug is a 20 second cookie. 20 second cookies are inefficient and overkill. Crumbly or sticky cookies reduce the effective CPM and often get in the way of the lesson so do 20 second tugs.

Earned Opportunity

When a bite is offered as a cookie the dog has earned the opportunity to bite. It’s an empowering experience for both dog and handler.

The dog learns that she can make the bite happen by showing some patience, giving eye contact, offering a back up, or some other desirable behavior. All of those things lead to a cued bite? How awesome! The high drive dog says, “I can do that!”

For dogs that are not so keen on the bite, the earned opportunity adds value to the act of biting,”Hey, I earned that! Let me at it!”

An earned opportunity is always more valuable than a handout and a missed opportunity is always more memorable than a semi-successful second or third chance.

When a dog believes she earned a cookie she almost always eats it, whether she’s hungry or not.

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