Back to the Future | Marty McFly Puppy Bitework

Going back in time can be very enlightening. In this segment we go back to 2017 to observe Apryl & Marty McFly doing some itsy bitsy puppy bitework. We are going to take a look at criteria, method, pace and tone. Hope you dig it.

The Puppy Always Wins!

Simple rule, the Puppy always wins. And always does not mean always, but we’re talking about a massive 80-90% win percentage most of the time. You don’t want to give it away but you want to reinforce the puppy taking it away – that is the goal. The criteria for a successful bite is removal from the hand and you want that to happen and to reinforce it for the future.

The hard part of this is making the criteria an achievable challenge to keep it fun and to build intensity and desire to be successful.

Take It Away

While the puppy always wins, taking it away from the puppy is a powerful motivator. Both while engaged on the bite and when the puppy is lining up or chasing the bite. This creates excitement and turns the game into a bit of a gamble. Not know what’s going to happen and being surprised by a challenging outcome is the essence of play.

Do not give your puppy the toy or push it at him. The toy is a prey object that is trying to get away.

The hard part of this is riding the line of taking it away and making it fun and challenging.

Shifting Criteria

There are a couple of criteria that Apryl is using in this session.

  1. Removal from the hand Bite criteria
  2. Drive it into the hand to shape a Give
  3. Line up or commit to the bite.
  4. Teeth off for the Drop
  5. Reorient to the handler

Removal from the hand creates a desire to take and own the toy and is a vicious backchain that leads to strong, sustained bites and tugs.

Driving it into the hand is the start of the Give behavior and is often reinforced with another tug and more play.

Targeting and lining up the bite and/or committing to the bite are key aspects of the predatory chain and are good criteria to mark, especially for sticky border collies.

Apryl is Freeshaping the Drop here, allowing Marty to decide when to take the teeth off, and (most of the time) presenting the other toy as a consequence of taking the teeth off reinforces the Drop, takes the pressure off the Drop cue, and keeps the game moving.


Take your time. Notice Apryl’s easy going, playful nature…

Tactile Reinforcement

Use this time with your mini-Frizbeast to reinforce and condition touching and handling while in an aroused state. This is not only reinforcing, but it creates the ability to reinforce with tactile in aroused states. It also conditions the dog to accept touching and tactile manipulation while aroused which reduces the likelihood of avoidance or redirection to the handler.

Push Back & Jam

Pushing the dog back off the toy plays off the oppositional reflex to set up a strong desire to come back and nail that sucker. It builds resilience and drive. It’s a great technique.

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