A few Days ago I wrote about Improving a Toss and Fetch Retrieve and said that I’d share two techniques that we use here at Pawsitive Vybe to increase our Retrieve speed in our dogs. Here’s is the first technique, Bitework.
These techniques will be covered in complete detail in pictures and video in our Disc Dog Foundation Class which starts Wednesday and added to the first update of the DiscDogger’s Toolkit.
Adding Value With Bitework
Adding value to the area around the handler is vital for getting a strong retrieve. This is nowhere more important than in the game of Toss and Fetch.
In Toss and Fetch, some dogs naturally perceive the area around the handler as extremely valuable because that is where throws come from so they haul butt back to the handler. But I would think dogs like this are a minority. The rest of the disc dogs our there perceive different degrees of value around the handler – from ho-hum to outright distrust. And why shouldn’t they? Not only do they have to give up the disc but they have to deal with an agitated handler who is pressured by the clock and a rabid frizbeast.
One of the ways to add value to the area around the handler is through bitework. A healthy dose of bitework let’s a dog know that the area around the handler is for both dropping and biting. Of course this understanding has not been generalized to the game of Toss and Fetch because the handler has more than one disc, but don’t write it off as useless. It creates value and habituates the dog to dropping a disc in front of the handler while in high drive. That is a big deal.
Having this kind of Bitework installed on a dog is invaluable to playing the game of disc.
Drop to Bite
Once a dog knows how to bite a disc in the hand, a cued Bite can be used as reinforcement in the game of disc at any time. In the case of Toss and Fetch training, the bite is offered as reinforcement for a cued Drop during the retrieve.
Take two discs and make a normal Toss and Fetch throw. After the dog catches and starts to return with the disc, call the Drop. When the Drop happens, mark it,”Yes!” and reinforce with a Bite on a disc in hand. Give a little tug and let the dog win. Ask for the Drop, mark it when it happens and reinforce by making another toss.
This works two critically important skills to Toss and Fetch and also gives you a bonus skill that is useful in Freestyle.
Drop on the Run=Bite
Let’s start with the bonus skill. The bonus skill I’m talking about here is a cued Drop on the run. When the dog is coming back with the disc, just call the drop where you think it is likely to happen. Having a good understanding of your dog and using that knowledge to predict when the drop is likely to happen allows you to, very simply, reinforce a Drop on the run. If this done enough, the dog will be classically conditioned to Drop on cue because Drop=Bite.
This works a fast retrieve by giving the dog a reason to bring the disc back quickly. The Bite is a great reason to run hard back to the handler,“I better hurry because when I get there there’s going to be some Bitin’ going on!” Enough of this work will classically condition a dog to run, hard, back to the handler because that’s where the Bite happens.
Where’s the Retrieve?
Some of you may be skeptical, as during this drill there’s no real Retrieve going on. This is where this game gets super cool. We are cuing the Drop, right? The cued Drop is making the bite happen, right? So what happens if we don’t cue the drop?
Because the cued Drop makes the bite happen, and the dog can’t Drop if he’s not carrying it, then he will be sure he is carrying that disc when you give that drop cue. It’s just beautiful!
An aggressive approach is cultivated because the dog knows the Bite is going to happen on the handler. If the Drop cue doesn’t happen and the dog is running hard back towards the handler then he will wind up arriving before he knows it will be chomping at the bit to Drop for the next throw.
Drop at the Handler
Working with two discs in Toss and Fetch creates a successful cued Drop at the handler while the dog is high on drive.
After the Cued Drop creates the opportunity to Bite and the dog takes wins the disc, cue the drop at the front of the handler, just as if the dog has arrived with the disc on a normal Toss and Fetch retrieve.
Cue the Drop and wait. Once the drop happens, mark it,”Yes!”, then slowly and deliberately pick up the disc and make the next toss. Whoa! That’s kind of like Toss and Fetch, isn’t it?
The handler must take ownership over the Drop. If the Drop is not cued, then the dog will believe that any Drop, at any time, will work to get the Bite or the next throw. That will not translate to single disc at all.
Start to call the drop later and later. Once the dog has some experience with this game, the Drop can be cued later and later, meaning that the cued Drop happens closer and closer to the handler. It doesn’t take long at all, think minutes, not weeks, to get the dog on top of the handler before the drop is cued. Reinforcement can be taken to an extreme with regrab and tug on the disc when the dog arrives at the handler and before cuing the Drop. It is kind of magical.
A Drop is different than a Give. If you want a dog to work Toss and Fetch with a Give then the Give skill needs it’s own cue.
So that’s about what I got here on Bitework for a Toss and Fetch retrieve. If you want to get detailed video instruction you’ll have to sign up for class or get a Discdogger’s Toolkit.
Feel free to call me out with questions and comments in the comment section below. And don’t hold back. Not everyone is going to buy into this right off the bat and the more we discuss it the more I can address the issues that people may have with it and deliver a better understanding.