Pawsitive Vybe S2E8 – Bite for Drive

your dog only needs to know 3 behaviors to play the game of disc:
Bite, Drop, and Give.

Bitework is a highly reinforcing game that teaches 3 powerful skills: Bite, Drop, & Give.

Bitework can be used as a cookie, as a training tool, as a focus exercise, and to teach patience and safety in drive.

Pawsitive Vybe is a weekly 1/2 hour dog training & lifestyle webseries on YouTube that is seeking wider distribution and production support. It is self produced by Ron Watson of Pawsitive Vybe.


teaching your dog to bite and tug targets on cue is an important aspect of dog sports and safety that exercises and clarifies the biting behavior.

Surf by Segment:

1:31 – Koulee Drive Eval
2:37 – Show Intro
3:33 – 3 Rules of Bitework
6:08 – Bitework for Drive – Plan B
7:42 – No Such Thing as a Suicide Rabbit
9:54 – Koulee Getting Engaged
13:00 – Bite Criteria and Intro to Vault
15:54 – Reinforcing with Energy Levels
18:21 – Questions Answered
23:48 – Carpe Cookie – Criteria Matters
26:11 – Bite for Vault
27:54 – Koulee Turns On!
31:08 – Show Close

Leveraging Concepts

A dog that doesn’t really like to play with toys can be maddening sometimes. There are many ways to go about enhancing toy drive. One way, the most elegant, is through simple Bitework (aka: Tugging).

Bitework uses two simple mutually exclusive concepts: Bite & Drop. The criteria for Bite = Teeth On and the criteria for Drop = Teeth Off, it really is that simple. But simple is not always easy.

In this game, handlers often get in trouble because the Bite criteria as teeth on, while totally proper and correct, leads to serious mechanical problems if the dog is more keen for training or cookies than they are for toys.

If you mark the Bite (teeth on), the dog immediately takes their teeth off to eat their cookie (or to take another bite). This leads to a sharp, momentary bite, making the tug part of this game seem impossible.

Shifting Criteria

Shift your criteria from Teeth On to “Removal from my hand”. This allows you to gradate the criteria to get a sustained bite and tug. When the removal from the hand is your criteria, all of a sudden you wind up in control over the criteria. You can make it super easy, dropping it as soon as the dog touches it with their teeth, or super challenging (and exciting) with a strong a vigorous tug, and everything in between. Upping the ante has never been so easy.

Drop, on the other hand, is going to remain the simple and definitional criteria of Teeth Off. Notice that teeth off is not qualified. It doesn’t matter why the dog drops or what they are dropping to do. If you are looking for the Drop and their teeth come off, Mark it and offer reinforcement.

Remember that you are not just offering a cookie bite, you are offering the opportunity for a cookie bite. Sometimes the most motivating cookies bites are the ones that are near misses.

Carpe Cookie! Don’t Be a Booty Call

Your dog should view the bite as a cookie – as an opportunity – treat it as such, and it will happen. Along with the bite itself, hanging out with you playing this game should be an opportunity as well. You can’t be an opportunity if you beg for interaction, look desperate, or thrust the toy into your dog’s face.

The only way to not look desperate is to not be desperate.” (hat tip: Bill Cammack) Watch your posture and watch the baby talk. Don’t be a booty call. A booty call only is made after all of the opportunity has dried up or the talent has left the building. Don’t be afraid to play hard to get.

That cute little cheerleading tone you use when you want to get your dog’s attention? Don’t do it! It’s the hallmark of a desperate handler, and your dog is most likely quite aware of that. Your leaning over clapping your hands like you did as a puppy? Same thing.

Dismiss early and often. When your dog who doesn’t really play with toys gets high and super excited during the game that’s the perfect time to tell them to Go Do Dog Stuff… Turning the game off when the dog is going bonkers from the toy creates a ton of value in the game itself. The look on their face will say it all,”Dude!? WTF!? I was jamming here!” The next time you try to engage they’ll leap at the opportunity.

3 Rules of Bitework

1. I ask you to bite

2. Drop when I ask (must be taught)

3. Never, ever touch me.

In this video here we are working on getting a dog to engage and are a bit lax on rule #3.

Dog Chooses the Toy, You Choose the Game

Hops Tugging a DiscWe don’t get to choose the motivators for our dog. They choose them. Koulee didn’t care for the first toy her handler selected, wool rings that nearly everyone finds super cool for some odd reason. Just because we think the toy is cool, doesn’t mean the dog will.

Once you have found a toy that your dog likes to play with, even if it is a clean scrubby sponge, use a few of them. You should have 2-5 toys that are pretty much the same – size, shape, color, degree of wear – if they are identical toys, that much better. This will help your dog avoid getting the opportunity to choose a favorite one which will drive you bonkers… trust me on this.

You will use the toys that your dog likes to construct the game. Once you have built an awesome game and turned it on and off for the dog, the game itself becomes the cookie – it transcends the toy. Once the game is the cookie you can leverage the value of the game to get the dog to play with whatever toy you choose.

Discussion in Comments Below

I’ll do my best to answer any and all questions on the show, Attention/Dismissal or Targeting, or the Threshold concept in the comments below. Don’t be shy, the only silly questions are the ones not asked.

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  1. Hi I have a rescue Staffordshire bull terrier that likes to rag everything and everyone. He loves his toys but will play tug/rag anything that takes his fancy. Please can you tell me whether this will help to control/confine his biting/ragging to the toy or is it likely to increase his fixation.

    We have had him a short time and any advice will be appreciated as we are desperate 🙂

    1. This totally can work extremely well for this kind of issue, but it must be done well for that to get fixed. Teaching them what, when, and how to appropriately bite is a great fix for this.

      Where do you live? Perhaps I can hook you up with someone to help you out.

      1. Thanks for getting back so quickly. We live in Grimsby in the UK

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