Teaching a DiscDog Puppy to Catch | Bridging the Take

Teaching a disc dog puppy to catch is a rather simple task. All you have to do is set up a situation where a catch is likely and then allow the dog to make the catch. That said, setting up a situation where a catch is likely is not a simple, cut and dried operation. Bridging the Take relies on backchaining and shaping to solve this problem.

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Backchaining and Shaping For the Win!

Shaping and backchaining are the goto techniques for creating behaviors that are difficult or too complex to teach in a traditional manner.

Traditionally, people find out their dog is a disc dog when they throw a disc out there and the dog runs out and makes the catch. Boom! DiscDog!

Teaching a dog that doesn’t do this naturally or teaching a puppy who doesn’t have the mouth-eye coordination to track the disc or the physical skills to run a disc down with the above mentioned “traditional method” can lead to frustration.

The traditional method if it is taught is frontchaining, if it just happens it’s capturing. This is not an option for puppies and many dogs. When capturing and frontchaining fails, it’s time to move on to shaping and backchaining.

Backchaining is starting at the finish of the behavior and shaping is using successive approximation of the behavior to get closer and closer to the finished behavior.

Bridging the take relies on shaping and backchaining to create the catch.

Start with the Finished Behavior – the Bite

A cued Bite is essentially the final mechanic of the catch – teeth on and secure the target. Use this finished behavior as the starting point and work backwards to shape the mid-air catch.

Once the dog wants to bite and knows how to bite a disc, the disc can be moved away from the dog. This simulates and reinforces the catch and can be used to shape the full behavior.

Use Prey Drive to your Advantage

Once the dog is actively going after the bite on a moving target, ramp up the intensity by teasing and coaxing out more aggressive and challenging attempts at the Bite behavior.

Pulling the dog around your body as done in this video is a great way to get the dog interested in chasing the toy while maintaining control over where and when the bite happens. Use this to ramp up the dog’s intensity and desire to get the disc.

Taking it away from the dog will get you more than trying to give it to the dog. We all remember the one who got away – even if it was in 8th grade. 😉

Toss it To Yourself to Shape the Flying Target

Once we’ve got the finish of the behavior well reinforced and strongly desired, just start working backwards and shaping the full behavior. Toss the disc early and make the catch, letting the dog see the process and put a bite on the disc a bit later.

It won’t take long until both you and the dog start to catch on to this game and the dog starts to rush to the bite and you start to time your catch closer to the time the dog will meet the disc for the bite.

Continue to close the gap between bite-time™ and catch-time, reducing the gap between the two. In no time your dog will be close to snatching the target out of the air before you can make the catch.

Once you are in danger of having the disc snatched out of the air before you can catch it just let the dog finish up the skill. Don’t make the catch, let the dog make the move.

Make It Fun – Play With Your Dog

Having a fun game of “I can get it before you!” is a great way to entice the dog to take a chance on going faster and harder after the disc. It is OK and desirable for you to snatch it from the dog and to cultivate a playful game where you and your pup “battle” to steal the disc.

Be sure to make the game fun for both of you. If it is fun for both of you this skill will shape up right away and you’ll be able to mark and reinforce the catch and start to shape it into a more mature and challenging skill.

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