Transferring from Treats to Toys

All of the drills in this weeks lessons need to be transferred from treats to toys. Here are a few concepts we can use to do this quickly and efficiently:

Playing with Cookies

Throughout this week we have been quite concerned with being very deliberate and clean in our foundational positioning movements so we can deliver the transferring of value from hand to hand and to ensure that we’re practicing perfectly.

The next step is to use our cookies a bit more loosely and to let things flow a little bit more. We can activate prey drive by moving faster, ease up on the matching and pass the value from hand to hand a bit more figuratively.

We’re going to start playing with cookies.

Hand Targeting

Hand targeting is a great skill to work with these Foundational Drills, and does a good job of proofing the skill. If you have hand targeting, go ahead and start working on transferring the value from hand to hand.

Playing with Toys

We are going to set things up exactly the same as playing with cookies flavor of our foundational position, Set Up Moves and Flatwork Foundation.

Reinforcement will be in the form of tossing the toy, when the handler wants some space, or a bite and tug on the toy when the dog needs to be closer to the handler. This is rewarding for position and is very important to be be mindful of in all training and play.

The value of the toy may need to scaled when we have dogs that are really high in drive or over aroused. It is possible that we’ll need to use a medium, or even low, value toy to help our dogs be successful to start.

Managing Drive

Using Attention, unsolicited eye contact for access to the toys and to play in general can be very helpful in managing drive. Rewarding with Action is a tactic that we can employ to help smooth out this issue.

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  1. Jeff Socha

    We might have our first drop out. Maddie does not chase toys yet I think Maddie feels too much pressure when I put a toy in front of her. She will do a take with a pup disc but only bites lightly once or twice then losses interest. I’ve made a flirt pole of sorts, used my wife dressage whip, and attached a line with a spiky ball on the end.
    Maddie will play at for longer but can be distracted. That (flirt pole) and the foals in the paddocks get her a little excited. So I’m not sure but I think there is some drive in her! I’ve noticed that after paying in the change position, then tossing a cookie out in front, Maddie goes after the tossed cookie. Is this a start in developing the chase and maybe drive. How can I increase the value in a toy
    when the treat has the highest value?

  2. Sara

    Hey Ron,

    For my dog there is no such thing as a low value toy, only high value and higher value. So if I use the lowest value toy she is still super high. I’m wondering if you have any ideas to lure with a toy that will not result in the dog biting the toy. For a toy, my dog speeds up so quickly that I do not have time to pass toys like food because she will beat me. In the past when teaching something with a toy, I have had to teach it perfectly on verbal cue before using a toy as a reward. I also make sure the toy comes out to reward the position or move and wait for the dog to offer it. Any other tips?


    1. Ron Watson Post author

      Hey Sara!
      Great question.
      You have a bite cue, right? and Eye Contact for a cookie?

        1. Ron Watson Post author

          OK… I think you know where I’m going…

          Just make sure you are cuing the bite.

          The mark means you have the opportunity to bite when cued.

          I’ve worked with people out there in California who are doing bitework and they have a “Free Bite“, essentially yes!=Bite!. Yeowtch! Scary!

          I think you can fix this by expecting that your dog only bite when cued.

          Does this make sense?
          oh, and do you have skype?

          1. Sara

            Yes=release/gain access to reward or I guess essentially bite the toy. Interesting that this is California thing, everyone I know does it this way but also all the people that I know live in the bay area too.

            So you would say “Yes” and then another cue for bite? What do you use?

            Since she has such a long reinforcement history with yes as a cue for bite do you think I can fix it anytime soon? Maybe I should tongue click for my +R marker and then use yes as my bite word since in reality I’ve already been using yes as my bite word.

            Also, I just tried training again with a Kong as reward with success, seems low enough value.

            I can see how having a cue for bite after you mark would help prevent getting bitten accidently.

            Yes, I have skype.


          2. Ron Watson Post author

            k9disc is my username, Sara… Give me a shout for sure…

            I worked with a few of those dogs, and it was friggin’ terrifying. lol Scared the bejeezes out of me.

            Giant Mals with Free Bites! That’s nuts… 😀

            I’d work on putting a cue on the bite with your kong, then scale it up. Multiple Disc bitework like in that video with Bitework with Indy is actually great for this skill, but it’s a bit scary. You have to have an honest dog.

            I knew when you talked about your issue that the Free Bite was the case. It’s a big part of the problem with Positive Training’s hit and miss success in Protection Sports.

          3. Sara

            >Maybe I should tongue click for my +R marker and then use yes as my bite word since in reality I’ve already been using yes as my bite word.

            I just tried this. Working good so far – making total sense. Still have all my fingers so that is a good sign 😉

          4. Ron Watson Post author

            Sara, I think you have to bite the bullet and prompt switch your bite cue.
            You can’t have your dog biting on yes. Positive Trainers would be in danger. I know I was when that happened to me. Lol…

            You use yes all over the rest of your training right? And there’s not a bite there, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble switching the cue for the bite.

            I’m not at all concerned with being an active bite kill behavior, which would make some trainers balk at trying to reframe it.

            Conflating the freedom to bite with a cookie is not a good idea. “Yes” is not Freedom. “Yes” is Opportunity. Opportunity to Work (by my rules)

            When yes is Opportunity the dog will make good choices. When yes is freedom, the choice has already been made and you have no control over that resource.

            Does that make sense? 😉

          5. Sara

            Makes sense. What’s your bite cue? Should I use a tongue click? Do you think this would be an issue since I sometimes use a clicker for training with food?

          6. Ron Watson Post author

            I use a tongue click of sorts – Tchk!.
            Probably wouldn’t… Just make it audibly different. Totally different kind of click. If they are the same click or similar odds are the meaning will be muddy and could wind up with the same kinds of issues that yes has.


        2. Sara

          Thanks. I’ll try this out and make a video and you can let me know how you think it’s working out.

  3. Marion Paulson

    Hi Ron,

    If I find a toy the girls will go for then do I toss it after every move? Like front – toss, heal – toss, side – toss and so on?

    No tugging?

    I have never used a toy brfore to train and use as a reward. When using treats for luring I just keep luring with them until I can verbally cue it. I have sometimes used the disc with Rayne but that is not always successful as she can ether be to drivey or just shuts me off because the disc may not be enough of a reward in her mind for what I want out of her.

    Petals rarely sees a disc as a reward for doing any work thing *laugh* but I may be able to find a toy she will work for.



    1. Ron Watson Post author

      From the Article: “Reinforcement will be in the form of tossing the toy, when the handler wants some space, or a bite and tug on the toy when the dog needs to be closer to the handler.”

      We will be using more biting and tugging than throwing. Wanted to have the video out already, but have to teach the new dog the foundational drills first…

    2. Ron Watson Post author

      Sorry Marion,
      Not a great response…
      Let me try again…
      For Foundational Position, we’ll use bite reinforcement, as the dog needs to be close to the handler.
      For the Set up Moves we can throw or bite, probably going to throw though to keep the dogs off of us and to promote movement.
      For Flatwork Foundation we’ll do a little of both depending on what the dog needs, but we’ll probably need to do a little more throwing as we, again, want movement and distance.
      Reward for Position

      Video coming soon…

  4. Ann

    Not sure what you’re looking for here. Are we supposed to do the exact same drills with a toy instead of cookies? Or are we doing stuff like the Indy bite work video. I’m having a real hard time trying to do the same drills with a toy. Chance just wants me to throw it and I can’t “set the hook”.


    1. Ron Watson Post author

      Yes, the drills should be similar.
      I’m sure you are having some difficulty with the toy.

      The reason that chance wants you to throw it is because that is what you do with toys, silly! 😉

      Try to spin around with the lure and toss if he chases a couple of times.

      Play around with the toy a bit, asking him to chase it with movement. Reward him for biting your setting of the hook with a bite on the toy, i think you have that, if not a short toss.

      Sometimes when we ask our dogs to do new things they don’t know what to do. Scrap the rigid criteria of this drill. Reduce your criteria to going after the target. Reinforce with a bite or a short toss (probably more bite in your case, Ann).

      Once the dog is going after the toy, you can try this drill again.

      I will be cutting a video of this today, probably, and the dog I am using, a foster named Layla, has about zero skills, but is really keen to play. I will most likely have some issues with her that are similar.

  5. merlegang

    OK, yesterday we had a sunny day 🙂 No danger for camera so the results :

    Setup and positions (reloaded version 🙂 after a week )


    Treat to Toy Transfer it was about 29 min and I split it
    Part 1
    Part 2

    Ron, I’ll edit a short version of Treat to Toy Transfer, max 7 – 10 minutes

    We played with one and two toys, different types but no discs. For discs i need a better field. Overall, it can be seen that boys are focused and theirs response is great.
    (nice job recording myself, i found a lot of handling mistakes :/ )

    Bruno & The MerleGang

    1. Ron Watson Post author

      That’s great work, Bruno. What a great class!
      Big Issue!
      Pretty much everybody that has posted has had a Front Cross problem. The Rear Cross has been awesome from everyone.

      The Front cross takes place in front of the handler. The handler is in front of the dog, that’s why it’s called a Front Cross. Everyone seems to be sending their dog across their bodies way too far – from outstretched hand to outstretched hand – that puts the handler behind the dog. The Dog is out in front of the handler.

      Shrink your Front Cross movement from hip to hip, real tight close to your body. Don’t let your dog start to leave you, laterally and don’t get your hands too far from your body…

      Half way through the video…

        1. Ron Watson Post author

          Yes. Foundationally speaking, for learning, it should be 10 and 2 o-clock, max… but practically 3 o-clock max.

          Great job, Bruno!

  6. Ron Watson Post author

    Nice Stuff, Bruno!
    Very fun!
    You can use 2 toys and actually do some tossing of them, getting your dogs to experience driving away from you out of those foundational Set Up Moves. It’s foundation, you should also prepare for having your dog drive away from you. Need some value farther away – out there…

  7. Marion Paulson

    Hey Ron,

    After watching Bruno I am like so not even close to that! I am still way back in kindergarden. I am jealous Bruno!!! You make it all look so easy and you have your dogs working away pretty darn good.

    Anyways I am getting pretty frustrated with doing this toy thing and I think I am confusing myself and my dogs big time.

    When I try to lure Petals into front she just stares at me like what the heck…No matter what I do she will only move to about 2 feet towards me then sits and looks at me again…I try luring her closer with the toy and she just looks up at me like what???? and is acting like she hasn’t a clue what I am asking. Then it just gets worse she just does not want to follow the toy. I am ready to pull my hair out for sure. I do not have a lot of practice time this week because of work and -26 weather so I am frustrated for the moment.

    Rayne seems to be okay with things. I am luring her and I hope marking at the right time but after seeing that with Petals I was marking wrong I am now over thinking it but am trying to mark yes on time. I also think that I am still screwing that front cross up it is just to confusing for me and I can’t see why I am not getting it. I thought the idea was to lure the dog beside me to the front and have them do a u-turn towards me then we both turn..I am lost and do not want to keep doing this wrong because it will be hard to get rid of bad habits I am forming.

    I will rewatch and rewatch the last video you made on the crosses and hope it helps.


  8. Ron Watson Post author

    Are you still working in the house?
    Going to be hard to activate a sensible dog like Petals in the house like that. You’re going to need some space for that most likely.

  9. Marion Paulson

    Hi Ron,

    Sorry worked until 7 tonight no light to work outside in. The dog park has coyotes living close by and not much for light. When I am working from 9-5 there is no day light time for us. I can’t do outside work until Friday when we can see what we are doing. Petals is a rather controling dog and is sending me a little over with this course. If she is either trying to out think me by doing every trick she knows to get the reward or she is just not doing and stands staring at me.

    She is a very strange dog she follows me everywhere around the house like I am going to slip away on her so I would expect her to be happy to do anything I ask but oh no that is not the way it goes. She is very funny playing disc as well and it’s hard to work with her because she has to understand why to do it..Like freaking people. Then I get all confused because I am clueless at what I am actually doing wrong and then I do all kinds of things more wrong.

    I will try and get some type of lighting going n the back yard tomorrow night and see if I can do something with her and Rayne. Our yard is small so can’t do a heck of a lot but will do what we can.

    I loved watching Bruno work with his dogs as if it took no thought *laugh* it looked that simple. With me you can see my thoughts within what I am doing. Like a robot *S*

    Must be my staff issues at work that are getting to me this week. Retail, Christmas and staff who think the world works around them…

    Is there a confrence call happening tomorrow? If so I am not home until 8 EST so will see if I can get on if you do have one.


    1. merlegang

      Hi Marion,

      I’m flattered 🙂
      I like to “work” with my boys very high, near arousal mode. Usually we are not trainings, we are just playing. I found this way is easier to insert new elements or to discover now behavior to be developed. Also I use variation of my tone voice, a lot!. If someone looks at our playtime certainly thinks i’m crazy – but who cares ! 😀 I’m a freak in my town. 😀 Loud high pitch very happy voice for positive marking, praise, low pitch for non reward marker or disapproval. I think this is the my *secret*. On videos you’ve seen i’m low on mood, because Blue has sprained a joint on late summer and must stay low until mid december.
      Make every moment spent together a special one, you are everything for your dogs, make your girls feel the same. Don’t worry about the drill just go out and have fun, you will see in notime a perfect front cross 🙂
      BTW for night time I bought 5 LED balls and 5 LED discuit from Nite Ize My boys are going crazy !!


    2. Ron Watson Post author

      Hey there, Marion.
      The Call is at 9 PM ET. Don’t rush.

      Spend more time working with Rayne. Get your feet under you, then move on to the challenge with a solid foundation.

      Also, don’t sweat your ‘problems’ with the transferring to toys. Just go out and play frisbee. You can call the set up moves just like you normally would. You’ve done the work, now play around with it. That’s kind of hard when you have a dog that is bursting at the seams in a small space.

      Give me a shout via skype when you get a chance.

  10. Parapente

    Hey Ron can you please explain how to do the scoot under the legs with a toy. We start with under the legs and then we try to scoot. If I let him bite the toy before I scoot then pushing him back is really difficult. If I dont let him bite he goes for it anyway because I cant hide it in my hands like a cookie. I use tennis balls and tug of war.

    1. Ron Watson Post author

      I can try…
      You need to get the scoot happening by removing the cookie – with actual cookies.

      So, there’s an intermittent step with cookies for the scoot… It’s just like luring a sit cue – you put the cookie down a bit then pull it up, in a J motion, and the dog sits, right?

      You will do a similar thing with the cookie for the scoot. You’ll get the 1/2 twist away from you, and start to push back, then as the dog starts backing up, you remove the cookie.

      You then fade the ‘putting the cookie down’, or you start to make removal of the cookie happen earlier and earlier so that the cue becomes lifting up the hands… I think I will have to make a video of this, but that’s how I’d explain it…

      Hope this helps…

  11. Georgios

    Oh yes totally. So I shouldn’t trasfer the scoot to toys, until I am able to do the push back just be touching air. This means that I have to wait until I can master the hand signal which is what you describe in your reply. Then I will not have to put my hand under his chin Ilimiting his access to the toy.
    Great thanks fot the reply Ron
    Have a nice Sunday

    PS: next year I’ll be in the Spooky Jam too. That’s a promise. This year I am still in Goofy Jam 🙂

    1. Ron Watson Post author

      Correct all the way around, Georgios. It will still be a bit rocky when starting it, and some simple consequence of “stop… wait… reset… go” should work. If it doesn’t go back to proofing the removal of the lure as cue for scoot.

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