Fish = Catch & Release

dog leaps and catches disc and passes it back to the handler before hitting the ground.

This Skill has 5 Keys

  1. observe and choose your moment
  2. remember that it’s easy
  3. go classical
  4. get consequent
  5. drop the cue

Getting Started

observe your dog’s flip or movement and figure out where you are going to make the catch.

What we want to do is to take a look at how our dog flips. On almost all flips, the dog is going to be relatively close to us, the exception is a large back flip – where the dog really travels away from the handler. Gainer flips are great for working a Fish.

If you’ve been working on a flipping dog catch, the Fish is quite similar except that instead of grabbing and catching your dog, you’ll be grabbing and catching the disc.

Realize and Remember that It’s Easy

the disc is moving slowly. it’s right in front of your face. that is an easy catch. perhaps it’s a step away. but you know where it’s going to be. it’s easy.

People are often freaked out by the technical aspects of the Fish. “Oh, I could never do that!”

But if we take a good look at the video, particularly the slow motion video, we can see that it really isn’t that hard. The disc is moving relatively slow due to the dog turning over and it’s most often right there in front of us. It’s moving pretty slow too.

Go Classical | Make Grab = Roller

pair your regrabbing of the disc with a roller. this makes it very easy for your dog to release the disc even in mid-flight.

In the video, we can see that the next disc, the roller, is coming out before the dog drops. What we are doing here is getting and leveraging success by pairing the hand touching the disc (or resistance on the disc) with the opportunity of the Roller. This is classical conditioning and is super powerful stuff. When your dog believes that you sharing the disc means a Roller or Bite will happen in their face, it’s kind of a no brainer.

Apryl demonstrates an additional layer of splitting of the criteria with Kiva by not even grabbing the disc, she’s pairing the catch with the Roller – classically conditioning Kiva to expect another disc after a catch. We can see that initially, Kiva is not so hot on the roller, but this frees up rather quickly and he’s hitting on that roller in just a few reps. Now Apryl can successfully integrate the grabbing of the disc to the skill.

This is not necessary with all dogs but should be mentioned. For most dogs and handlers, grabbing the disc and firing out the roller will work fine.

When your dog is Giving the disc reliably go on and Get Consequent.

Get Consequent | Drop Makes Roller Happen

only when the dog is reliably spitting the disc out on your touch, should you make your roller (or bite) consequent. consequent reinforcement is proofing the skill.

Once the dog believes that Hand on the Disc = Roller and is readily leaving the disc in hand to chase the other, you can make the offered Drop of the first disc, a requirement for the roller to happen.

Once you get your hand on the disc, do nothing. Be as slack and as lame as you can. When the dog drops, fire out your roller. If the dog doesn’t Drop during the pause? You don’t have enough paired value – you need to Go Classical.

At this time you’re teaching the dog that the Drop makes the roller happen. You are not cuing it yet. Once you’re killing it and you know it is going to happen, go ahead and create your cue.

Drop the Cue | Use a Prompt Switch

Once the behavior is 100% and the dog knows that the Drop or Give makes the roller happen then you can add the cue.

It is likely that when adding the cue the dog will balk on the release of the first disc.

Go back through the process above inserting your verbal cue in Prompt Switch Fashion:

  • Go Classical

    to be safe and use a simple Prompt Switch (New Cue followed by Old Cue). About a half a second before you are going to put your hand on the disc (Old Cue), give your new verbal cue (mine is Fish!). Go Classical and pair the roller with your hand touching the disc to ensure success.

  • Leverage Success – Make it a Habit

    Don’t rush to test or proof the behavior. It will break. You can’t leverage Rollers you don’t throw. Be successful, over and over. Make succcess a habit and your dog will want to spit that disc out.

  • Get Consequent

    Once that’s reliable, then Get Consequent. The contrast between the boring waiting game result of holding on to the disc and the incredible Roller reinforcement and high energy play of giving it up is the lesson so don’t get frustrated if your dog is a bit sticky. Just be patient and shape and capture the Drop.

Dropping the cue this way allows you to get 100% compliance with your Fish from the very beginning in rapid fashion. If you find that your dog is not taking your verbal cue, that there is too much latency between cue and Drop, or if you get frustrated at all, go back to pairing.