Attention and Drop as Secondary Reinforcer

We’ve been talking about Unsolicited Eye Contact, aka Attention, over the last week. Most of the time we’re talking about it in the context of a game of disc, and this is what it looks like.


Eye contact in the presence of a disc earns the opportunity to bite the disc. It’s brutally simple and effective for keeping dogs off of the handler and for helping them understand when it’s acceptable to bite. Along with the much needed patience aspect of the Attention behavior, we also get to make looking at the handler a super cool experience, something that the dog looks forward to happening. This is a huge deal for many teams, as there are more than a few disc dogs out there who don’t even know their handler is there, much less look at them.

When the dog has a history of looking at the handler and having awesome things happen, the dog looks at the handler more frequently. If our dog is actively looking at us we’re in a better position to hook up as a team.


The second portion of this quick video is just a bit of Bitework with the focus placed on the Drop behavior. The dog is biting and dropping, over and over. The Cued Drop becomes valuable because of it’s prediction of Bite. Essentially what we want to do is to teach the dog that the cued Drop makes the Bite happen.

When the dog believes that the cued Drop makes the Bite happen, the dog will spit out the disc on cue.

Secondary Reinforcer

The really cool aspect of this drill is that these two behaviors, dropping a disc and looking at the handler, become Secondary Reinforcers because of their relationship to the Bite and the awesomeness of the Bitework game. The cued Drop allows the Bite and Tug to happen. Offered Eye Contact also makes good things happen.

Give it a shot. If you have Attention for Cookies, this is no different. Same drill. Treat your discs like cookies. If you don’t have Attention, here’s how:

  1. Wait for your dog to give you Eye Contact…
  2. Mark it and reward with a Bite, Roller or Throw.
  3. Repeat

Like I said, brutally simple.

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  1. Hey Ron
    I just watch the Abysmal Jam vid. I like the bit with Hops, wait to bite and the drop work. That segment really makes it clear. The wait-to-bite seems has added duration to the look at me-bite.
    The bite work adds flow to the drop-chit-bite. Am I on the right track? It show how important the drop on cue is.

    1. Yup you are on the right track.
      I actually have a “Creating a Wait with a Bite” piece that I’m looking to put out soon. Just got a bit sidetracked with all the content we’re generating for our online classes.

      I am uploading up an additional Drop video right now for those that are having issues with their dog holding the discs too long. Ought to be done in a day or so… lol.


  2. This was good. I can see the link to the bite and drop that is starting. I am really looking forward to the Creating a Wait with a Bite. Our Drop on Cue is so lacking, she just spits it out immediately and I’m spending so much time working on that right now, I feel like I’m taking a few steps back.

    1. Hey Olyn,
      Don’t worry about it. Don’t work on it at all.

      Just always predict and call the drop and make sure it’s marked and reinforced. If you always call it, she’ll always drop on cue – full stop. Make sure you are calling it. If you are, you’ll be adding value to the cued drop.

      You’ll need to prove that it’s the drop cue that makes the next cool thing happen. After you have proved that is the case, then you can start to test and work on it.

      If you happen to forget to call the drop here or there and she drops without a cue, it’s not a problem. Just consequently draw down the intensity of the game for a few moments… perhaps pick up some discs… then be sure to predict and call it the next time.

      Don’t focus on it. Avoid the situation entirely by making sure you call the drop.

      I’m posting another video on the drop right now, but it’s for a dog that drops late… 🙁


  3. Thanks for the advice about the eye contact. I can already see it paying off with Brick and its awesome to see him adjust now that his focus has shifted.

    The only problem I’ve run into is sometimes he gets cranked up about disc and when I send him around (or if I’m running the PVR), he starts that wretched cattle dog shriek/bark junk. I really don’t want him to do that. Should I not send the disc out if he does that then make him give me eye contact before I send him out again? Or is there another way to combat this? He tends to do the same thing with toys so I’ve withheld toys if he barks. Works somewhat but wanted to know if there was another method that I may be missing.



    1. Right on, Lindsay!

      As far as the barking goes, not sure what to tell you. Millions of ways to handle it, none of them very easy, when it comes to getting the quiet around the disc. Total pain in the rear, actually…

      Does he do the shriek in any other situations?

  4. Just when he’s cranked up and ready to play. He did it a lot at the competition Saturday. Its usually when he’s hopped up with excitement. Otherwise he’s pretty mellow and quiet.

    1. We’ll talk about this on the Call tonight, Lindsay. Alright? Kind of a tough one to handle in class.

  5. Sorry I missed the call last night! Agility class and then came home to a screaming aussie rescue was woke up traumatized from her spay! 🙁

    Had a couple of questions about the drop work.

    Do you ‘always’ use the drop cue? Initially I work to shape the drop of the disc…. just so I knew that they would drop it. So then added the ‘cue’ for the drop.

    Does the disc placement ever become a cue for the drop?

    Should there be a cue added to the release to disc? rather then use the mark as a release to disc? I try hard to not allow the dogs ESPECIALLY the deaf ACD to just grab the disc on a thumbs ups but he can on a clap release or a transfer(?? not sure if this would be proper term? But lets say doing a cross over? So presentation of next disc?) Do you use a ‘get it’ or ‘release cue’? I have given Jack a hand signal for the drop but he is FAR better with presentation of next disc 🙂 🙂 Single disc is the challange I guess! He races a single disc back but then sometimes rewards me with some good old leg slapping with it….

    1. Cued Drop=Opportunity

      If your Drop Cue is the next disc and the Drop happens when you cue it and only when you cue it, then all is fine.

      But, that requires that you have a valid target in your hand to get a Drop. Which is where your problem kicks in, Cindy. Better with the next disc than the empty hand.

      Here at Pawsitive Vybe we start by freeshaping the Drop. Drop Happens, we mark it and reinforce it with a bite or a throw. Then when it’s likely to happen we predict it, cue it, and reinforce it. This makes the Cued Drop the focus of the game. The Cued drop makes everything happen – the bite, the set up move, the flip, the throw. The Cued Drop = Opportunity.

      When the dog knows that the Cued Drop makes things happen he will carry the disc. Because you cannot Drop if you are not carrying and you don’t want to miss this opportunity.

      So the end result is that we always cue the Drop. Dropping without a cue will happen contextually during some sequences as the dog gets comfortable, and we, as handlers, might stop using the cue and rely on the context of those sequences. Which is totally fine… as long as there is not a dropping problem.

      It sounds like you are really close to having things together on this skill already. I would continue on the path you are on

      Clarify and Focus on the Drop

      Settle on a clear drop cue for your deaf dog, perhaps a twitch of the disc or hand towards the ground, something real subtle. It needs to be a cue that you can perform while doing something else.

      Have some play sessions where the Cued Drop is the Focus. Where you prove that Dropping on cue makes that awesome stuff happen. Like the video above. Real short… 30 seconds or so. High rate of reinforcement and success!

      When you start doing flatwork, base your throwing of the next disc upon the Cued Drop. Predict his Drop, Cue It and reinforce it well. Make him believe, just like in that little bite and tug or short toss game, that the Cued Drop creates Opportunity.

    2. No Free Biting!

      When we talk about Cued Drop = Opportunity, that does not mean freedom to bite or Cued Drop=Bite.

      Biting, as a skill, should always be Cued.

      In the case of reinforcing a Drop with a Bite, we are reinforcing the Drop with the Opportunity to Bite at the handler’s discretion, on cue.

      This time frame is most often going to be very, very short, but it most definitely is the handler’s discretion cue that the dog should be relying on to take their bite.

      Interesting that you should notice that. You’ll notice that Hops took a couple of early leaps at the target. He hit the target without having been cued.

      This session was about the Drop, nothing but the Drop really mattered when it came to the lesson I set up with hops. My focus was on Hops Dropping the disc, on Cue, at a high rate of reinforcement with high value reinforcement. It wasn’t that terrible an infraction.

      Shifting gears at that moment, and holding him responsible for Bite Skill criteria and performance would have put an end to the Drop Lesson. It would quickly become a lesson on Self Control.

      I did note that, when it happened and planned to address it in another training session, where that could be the focus.

  6. Hey Ron,

    Not sure where to post this, but here is a short video on my bite work. The point of my bitework here is two fold:
    I. work Ella on holding the disc and waiting for the drop command during freestyle. She drops as soon as she sees my right hand holding a frisbee
    II. work on creating value on my left hand to help with rear cross on her weak side clockwise – lead right, turn the dog away with left. She’s not targeting my left hand because up until 3 weeks ago, it never threw a disc 😉
    Here are some specific questions:
    1. what are the commands I should be using and when? For example, ‘tchk’, ‘drop’, the ‘yes’ positive marker etc.
    2. if she drops without command, as she does here several times when I wave the frisbee in my right hand, the game can ‘die’ temporarily, but how do I re-initiate it?
    3. what should be the consequences if she drops not on command during bite work or should I be leaving the ‘drop’ command out?
    4. should I leave more of a break between the ‘yes’ and the offering of the disk with ‘tchk’. I think that the ‘tchk’ and the offering of the disk became one in her pea brain so drop became ‘make the disc’ appear and be thrown (or something like that…) ?

    1. You need a bit more space, Sue. I would probably have moved the dog bed as well.

      Focus on Cued Drop

      You want to let her win then call the drop. 1:38 in and you have not called the drop. @2:23 – when she pics up the disc, don’t take it from her, ask for the drop. Then mark and reinforce the Cued Drop to add value.

      The Cued Drop or the carry and regrab should be making everything happen in this game. You’ve got the carry and regrab all dialed in and she’s liable to hold it longer, but without the drop you are not getting the value added on the action of Dropping on Cue.

      It’s like the Release from a Duration behavior defining that duration behavior. You don’t have a Down Stay if the dog releases on their own. If this is happening to you, you don’t need more Duration, you need more value on the Cued Release.

      So, if we look at this problem as a duration behavior – She doesn’t carry discs well – and we look at the drop as the Release of the Carry duration behavior – the Drop is the Finish of the Carry – we can see that you just need a more valuable drop cue, not a longer carry.

      I hope that makes sense, Sue.

      Alright back to the video…

      Learning vs Proofing, Pattern Training and Rate of Reinforcement

      @2:28 – you tested her and she passed initially and then you gave one more flick of the disc and she blew it. Essentially you are testing her too much. Remember Learning vs Proofing… the ratio of Learning to Proofing is too low.

      You want to build a pattern of bite/yes… dog wins… cued drop/yes > bite (or roller, slider or throw), mixed in with a little bite/yes… dog wins … Regrab. You have to prove that your game is better. There is no contrast between doing it correctly and incorrectly because the pace of the game is too slow because the criteria is too high – every rep seems to be a proofing exercise.

      Get that high rate of reinforcement and 20 reps of Cued Drop=Bite or action. Then test her with the twitch of the disc. If she drops on the twitch, let her pick it back up, wait for a second or two of hold, then cue the Drop. Mark it and reinforce.

      There should be 40 drops per minute at least in this kind of space. And we’re 4 minutes in and you’ve just started to call the drop.

      Yes! C’est Magnifique!
      @3:45 Here we go, Sue! This is the kind of focus and rate of reinforcement that we are talking about. That is going to get a hold. Get it working multiple times then test it. Great work!
      @4:45 – lol – it is good that she’s holding the disc and didn’t drop from the standpoint of the lesson, but don’t reinforce her for refusing the cue. Reinforce yourself… that was good work. So funny, Sue…

      Seriously, that minute of work was great, Sue, that is what you need to replicate. It was so obviously about the Cued Drop. So cool! You should have quit at 5 minutes that was the perfect spot. Cue the drop, mark it, bite and drag her off the field of play.

      I am actually hesitant to even watch the last 1:43 seconds. I’ve seen this story before… 😉

      Drop and Give
      From 5:00 – 5:42 the game has become bite and tug, which is not a problem, but she’s not winning the disc, so you are really working a Give here. In the past here at Pawsitive Vybe, we did not distinguish between Drop and Give. We do now.

      For Ella, the Give is nothing at all like the drop on the run. Even this close work in here with Bitework is not close enough to the final product. You are going to need to play this game in a small garden somewhere, Sue. With short tosses, rollers, sliders and bites in order to generalize the Cued Drop.

      Don’t get me wrong, the Bitework with the Give is nice, but that’s working a Retrieve, not Drop. Does that make sense? I bet it does to Ella. 😉

      If you use this tugging with Give, to get the most out of it, you’ll want to cue the Give (Mine – thanks for that btw… ;-)). And you can work it exactly the same way that you are, except you will use Mine instead of Drop.

      I’ll hit your questions in another comment.

    2. Answers:

      1. The cues you are using are fine. Just make sure you use Mine for the Give. Some people like to use Get It! or Take It! As long as you are Cuing the Bite and Cuing the Drop you’re good.
      2. You can wait for her to pick it up and Cue her to Drop It. That is the ideal, actually, irrefutable proof that dropping the disc makes the game happen and that you can’t drop it without holding it.
      3. Waiting her out as you are doing is great, but you must be working at a high rate of reinforcement and high energy level for that to be the powerful that it can be. The middle section of that video is a good pace. A moment of stopping means a lot there. At the beginning or the end of the session… not so much…
      4. Randomizing the timing of the target appearing is good generally speaking. You might want to wait until you’ve got the Cued Drop concept installed in Ella. I’d like to see you prove to her that Dropping on Cue makes that happen before you start to generalize the timing of the cue. If you do that, it won’t be any kind of a problem.

      You could also work the Cued Drop with toys and cookies outside of the context of the game. A Cued Drop Game.

  7. Ron you are a God of dog training!!! OK, I get it. Your comments are wonderful. I so get that notion of working the give vs working the drop (e.g. close in shared disc release = “give” vs distance disc release = “drop”). I’ve struggled so much with her dropping off cue at distance that I’ve been reluctant to work it at distance. But I can see from your comments that it’s most likely that I was proofing way to much and that I have to really get the ‘drop’ as a cue for making things happen solid first, before proofing. Wow, there’s that criteria and rate of reinforcement thing again ;-).
    I think I’ve got it. Now to put it into action. I will see about developing another video showing ‘improvement’ 😉
    On a side note, that is not a ‘dog-bed’ that’s Fred’s FatBoy, or as we like to call it, FatBoy 1. Fatboy 2 we bought for Ella, a real dog bed, but she really prefers this one!
    Yes, space is an issue. So I can play outdoors and I guess I will have to switch to hard discs which sort of send her over the top. But Toulouse is so full of dog crap and/or mud (this season), that its not possible to play with those nice tuffie discs here outdoors. Which means also that I may have to get into a car and drive somewhere, which I hate doing. Sigh, the problem with living in centre ville in France. BTW dogs aren’t permitted off leash are even permitted in city parks where the nice grass can be found !!! Drag!! (like the US I imagine, but they actually have park guards here who enforce it).

  8. Hi Ron,
    Here are two updated videos showing, er, well, progress of course !
    Bite work session #2:–5T2jA
    working the drop through bite work:
    1. took it outdoors to simulate the real world better
    2. tried to get her out from me. Didn’t really succeed in pushing her away much, but tried to compensate by running away from her
    3. about 98% of the time, you can’t hear it always, but I’m calling the drop.
    4. one or two times I screwed up because I said ‘tchk’ instead of ‘drop’
    5. I notice that I still tend to say ‘yes’ and present the second disc, maybe too close together in time?

    Bite work session #3:
    Bite work session for working drops.
    – This time I incorporated sliders to try to get some distance on the game, and hopefully more time for frisbee in the mouth 😉

    Between dog poop dodging in the lovely gardens in Toulouse, eager to hear your comments/reactions!

    1. Alright Video #2 – Good Job Sue! Looks like it’s coming along well.

      Your timing seems to be good, a little late on the Bite cue at times, but who isn’t… Sometimes you’re giving her a free bite, too… But, I see a dog who holds discs. That’s good.

      So in your warmup, the first one minute, the drop was only called 7 times if i counted correctly. That’s probably about 1/2 the amount of drops you need in terms of rate of reinforcement.

      The regrabbing seems to have done it’s job and is starting to look excessive. That was a good break in the middle there at about 2 minutes. I do think the sit may be a bit much, but it definitely made an impact. I’d use it on a situational basis.

      @3:10, that would have been a great place to as for a drop instead of the regrab. She retrieved a disc all the way to you, it should have ended in a drop – proving that it is the drop that is making stuff happen. There were a couple of other places where you could have asked for the drop and gotten reinforcement placed on that behavior. You are going back to the regrab too often when you could be reinforcing the drop.

      From 2:30-3:00 is really good stuff, Sue. High rate of reinforcement, moving around and approximating the the larger game, focusing on the Drop. It’s good stuff.

      All of this is all good work, Sue, but I’m just not seeing enough emphasis placed on the drop and too much attention on the regrab. I’m not sure if it’s going to translate too well.

  9. Hi Ron,

    Here’s one more video on bite work, drop sequence.

    It starts out with some ‘small’ throws and calling the drop. One or two successes, but seems like she’s dropping further out again, so switched to a bite work session with some sliders, with some success.

    Two side questions:
    1. should I be asking for eye contact and sit before play? I’m not giving the command. just waiting. Is it too much? It really brings the rhythm down between errors. Maybe it’s ok to start play, but afterwards, just accept eye contact to re-initiate play?
    2. How is my timing on the positive marker? Also, I wait slightly before the ‘tchk’ and presenting the disc (at least trying to). Is it any good?

    OK, looking forward to your feedback.

    Enjoy! 😉

  10. Hey Ron,
    Thanks. This feedback is perfect! (I’m pretty sure you were commenting on bite work session 3).
    I do see how the higher rate of reinforcement is needed like what I was doing at 2:30-3:00. I see her bringing it to me more than I really realized and I will work to emphasize the drop here, instead of going to so much regrab. Will work harder on the uncued biting etc.
    Great feedback as always. I’m going to nip out now for a quick session with her!
    Sue & Ella ^,^

    1. Hey! I thought I responded to this…
      Sorry, Bob…

      The Regrab allows us to capture the dog carrying the target and reinforce them on us. It allows us to make carrying the target valuable.

      Sue was overdoing it a bit, and was approaching Ella instead of backing up, which would be the preferred handler movement to help build a retrieve with multiple targets in play.

      We will talk about this quite a bit, I think, Bob…


  11. Hi Ron,
    I filmed another drop sequence.

    Trying to get the rate of reinforcement up.
    She’s actually holding in her mouth much longer, she seems to be waiting for the ‘drop’ command and less inclined to drop early.
    1. is this going to translate for distance?
    2. I know it looks like I marked early drops, without the command and perhaps I did, but I honestly didn’t think I was, but maybe so.
    3. is she holding or is it that this doesn’t really simulate play enough (meaning the throws are very short and compact and it will be totally different with distance from me).
    4. Once she dropped early and you see her going back for the disk, and picking it up again and then I call the drop. Question – is this a good strategy?
    Looking forward to your feedback..

    1. Great Job Sue! Go Ella!
      Looks like you got it!

      1. Yes, if you work it like this session it should be quite easy to get that out 5 yards, then 10, then 15, etc.
      2. It happens…
      3. I think it’s working well
      4. Yes it is a good strategy.


  12. Hey Ron – I worked the distance up a bit on the throw – maybe 4 yards max, but she was holding it and dropping on cue like a champ today!!! It TOTALLY made my day.

    We stopped after a session of about 2 mins max. She was high as a kite for the rest of our walk… As pleased with herself as I was…

    Thank you!!!

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