Bitework is a tremendous exercise for teaching dogs to play disc. Bite, Drop, Give, Drive Management, Patience, Position, and catching can all be taught and reinforced using a thoughtful game of Bitework. Ron & Wham! work some Bitework and demonstrate some of the basic functions of the game.
Bite Criteria = Removal From the Hand
The criteria for a cued Bite is NOT “teeth on”. Teeth on as a criteria will create a perforating bite where the teeth clamp down and immediately open up to get the “cookie” or the next Bite.
Teeth on as a criteria leads to the dog not wanting to bite or not understanding the bite and frustration for dog and handler around the Bite behavior. This cannot be stressed enough. “My dog doesn’t like to tug,” is almost always a problem of the “teeth on” criteria.
The criteria you want is “Take It” or removal from the hand. This criteria creates a desire to possess the disc and an understanding that the disc must be taken from the handler. This criteria leads to a vigorous tug and a strong, confident Bite.
Removal from the Hand as the criteria is a backchain of the tugging behavior. Once the dog gets this, tugging is confident and vigorous. This criteria and backchain is critical to shaping a weak bite into a vigorous tug.
Marking and the Regrab for a Reason to Hold
Marking the removal from the hand often creates an immediate drop. This expected behavior is easily countered with a Regrab and is easily sidestepped if the the dog already has a vigorous bite by not marking.
If the dog does not yet have a vigorous bite or needs more understanding of the cued Bite, simply do both, and use the Regrab of the disc as the cookie for successful Biting.
A Regrab can be thought of as a Re-Bite and can be used to create a very high rate of reinforcement (CPM – Cookies Per Minute) and will reinforce both the Bite and the Hold.
The Cued Drop
The Cued Drop always leads to a Bite or the Next action. If you always cue the Drop and always reinforce it, the cued Drop quickly becomes a secondary reinforcer.
Turning the cued Drop into a secondary reinforcer means that the dog will hold the disc in order to make Next or the next Bite happen. This is an extremely powerful backchain that dramatically simplifies the installation of the basic disc dog mechanics of Bite, Drop, and Give.
The only thing your dog will do more than Drop, if you are lucky is catch – and that only happens if you go dropless in your freestyle round or training session. Using the cued Drop as a secondary reinforcer and as a launching pad and requirement for Next gives both the dog and handler great power over successful play.
Employ the Regrab to set up a successful Cued Drop.
Reinforcing with Action
The Next movement, or the presentation of the disc as a lure can be used as a cookie to reinforce behaviors, especially the cued Drop. This non-discrete reinforcement is great for turning behaviors and the act of working into secondary reinforcers.
Just be sure that you are offering the Next thing as a cookie or opportunity and that you are not telling the dog to do something or asking for another behavior. This is a simple idea that has to do with the intent of the handler and the manner in which the Next behavior is cued or triggered. The video, I think, demonstrates this quite clearly.