How to Entice Your Dog to Chase the Toy – Bad Dog Agility Academy

How to Entice Your Dog to Chase the Toy

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  • sharon says:

    Toby’s grip is getting stronger, but he still doesn’t pull back against me very well. In this video, he did get a couple of re-bites, but only because he let go himself before he wanted to. He still won’t bite if I just present the ball. He wants me to throw it first. I think my timing on the yes marker was a little slow. I wanted you to see how much string is on this ball. I tried a longer one and he wouldn’t fetch it. At least he is bringing this one back pretty well and seems to like the fight part of the process. What should I try to emphasize next, the re-bite? https://youtu.be/Y319JttI32Q

    • Esteban Fernandezlopez says:

      Re-bites can be tough with a ball because it’s not easy for dogs to grab the ball. Since he naturally drops the toy often, I would not focus on that right now. Instead, I’d work on being able to get my second hand on him as a distraction/motivator. If he does not tolerate it well, you may have to start with simply raising your hand or bringing it a foot away from him, but not touching him, and praising when he continues to tug with your hand in that position, then over a few sessions, bring it closer until you have a quick contact with his body, and praise.

      • sharon says:

        Yes he will let me touch his sides when he tugs. I did that earlier today. https://youtu.be/G7oPps2K5cQ I used to do it when he was learning to bring back his ball so I could get a hold of his ball because he wouldn’t give it to me. Now he will bring it to my hand, but likes to pull on it before giving it up, then I throw it again for him. Should I keep touching his back and sides, and maybe do more of that each time we tug? Do I need to try to get the string part longer? I have not tried holding his muzzle, but his grip is getting stronger anyway.

        • Esteban Fernandezlopez says:

          This looks fantastic! Yes, let’s go ahead and try some re-bites. You’ll get him tugging like this, then go quiet, stop moving your body and stop moving the toy and give your “release” cue (whatever word you want) and then wait. The moment he lets go, immediately say “Get it” again and restart the game as you normally would with the toy in your hand. If he isn’t willing to bite with it in your hand (which would be ideal) I think it’s ok to drop the toy the moment he releases, and he can bring it to you and re-start the game that way.

          • sharon says:

            Thank you for the suggestions. When he lets go he usually will watch for me to throw the toy again. In fact, he usually takes off running in anticipation of me throwing it. (I didn’t teach him to stay while I throw and then wait for me to tell him to “get it”. Oops) I will try dropping it quickly and see if he will re-bite. Seems like that might work, thanks.

  • Jerry says:

    I have been using a tennis ball on a rope with pretty good chase results. After three sessions still no bite, just nose the ball and come back to me. Advice on how to get a bite?

    • Esteban Fernandezlopez says:

      He chases but when you pause for a moment, he never picks up the toy in his mouth? Can you send me a video? Either post a link here or email it.

      If he chases but never picks it up, ever, then you can go back to the shaping route but swap in a wooden dowel or a bumper or even a chew stick (raw hide etc), and click and treat that, and then get some tugging on the stick, and then progressively build off that.

      • Jerry says:

        Here is a video. Ended with two tosses of a “real” ball. I ordered some bully sticks to try those.
        https://youtu.be/EvQPEdUbaF4

        • Esteban Fernandezlopez says:

          Great job! Ok I want you to try this: drop the ball without a rope like you did at the end, and when the dog picks it up in his mouth, mark it and then treat. Then do it again. Do not reward for nose touching, only mark for picking it up in the mouth. Then swap in the ball on the rope, dropping it the same way as the ball only, and reward the dog only for picking it up. Be prepared to wait for a minute and see what the dog offers if he doesn’t immediately pick it up. Have the second ball (on a string) ready to go nearby so you can transition quickly. Again, it’s #1 ball #2 ball #3 ball with line. If that works, you can do it again in a separate session and tape that session if you like and then we’ll go from there.

          • Jerry says:

            I don’t think I did this as you suggested, but I did get a greatly improved chase. Also, I thought “Koli has a great catch, I should toss him the ball on the rope.” So maybe there is some was to transition this to picking up the ball on the rope.

            https://youtu.be/LdPR4OWgMsU

          • Esteban Fernandezlopez says:

            You have two choices.
            #1 you can ask for the catch and mark it when he catches it, and then start delaying the mark by one second, so he has to hold it longer and longer in his mouth before you mark and treat. If he drops it before you mark, no treat, and you try again. We want him to catch the ball, and hold it a few seconds while we put tension on the line so that we start the “tugging” feeling, but this will be a session or two away. First you have to get him on the ball and holding it for longer periods of time.
            #2 Drag the ball on the ground and be more patient, and don’t mark anything unless it’s him picking it up in his mouth.
            Either way, you are too “encouraging” during the chase” and not praising enough when the ball is actually in his mouth, which is what we want more than anything else. Your marks need to be more clear as well, a clear firm “yes!” when he has done what you want. There’s a little too much chatter and I don’t hear a clear mark when he catches the ball.

  • JamminCosmo says:

    Are you using verbal praise only as a reward? Here is a video of us playing with “bite it” as a cue to take the toy in his mouth, & also mixing in a sit with a release to the toy. You’ll see he goes for the T & T when released so I am waiting for him to get the toy & bring it to me before rewarding. This is something I’m playing around with & appreciate your feedback. https://youtu.be/X6qe6IIcqLg

    • Sarah Fernandezlopez says:

      In this video, we’re definitely training tugging as a BEHAVIOR rather than a REWARD. And that’s ok, you just need to realize that that’s what’s happening. If you haven’t had a chance yet, you can review the two videos we did teaching the tug as a behavior that is then rewarded with food.

      https://baddogagilityacademy.com/course/complete-guide-to-tugging/module-9/tugging-as-a-trick/

      https://baddogagilityacademy.com/course/complete-guide-to-tugging/module-9/tugging-as-part-of-a-behavior-chain/

      A few feedback points:
      1) Are you using a marker? I don’t hear the beep of the T&T, just the whirring. You can either use the beep or you can use a clicker or you can use a marker word. But you need to be precise in your marking. Then you can layer on verbal praise.
      2) With a dog you are trying to BUILD tug drive with, I would eliminate the control aspects of the exercise. Instead of having the dog hold a sit while you throw the toy, I would do a collar hold, a rev up, or even just have them free next to you. Holding position while you through takes some of the drive out of the exercise. It’s important with dogs that have a lot of drive, but unnecessary and perhaps harmful to dogs whose drive is lower and you’re trying to build it up. You can also throw and immediately release your dog to get it while it’s still moving so you get a little more of the chase drive from the dog. For example: https://baddogagilityacademy.com/course/complete-guide-to-tugging/module-7/transitioning-to-a-dead-toy/

      • JamminCosmo says:

        Great, thanks! I haven’t watched the videos yet but those are the next ones I plan to view. Cosmo has never liked collar grab or physical restraint so I’ll keep him free range. We also play a retrieve game with the T & T that he visibly enjoys more between start to finish. I am using a verbal marker (“yes”) for “bite it” and also use lots of verbal encouragement for the retrieve.

  • sharon says:

    Toby won’t grab the toy in my hand, so I tossed it to get him to grab it. I’m trying a different toy. He has played with it before, but it’s been a while. I guess he likes new toys. Am I still talking too much before he gets the toy? Is my session a good length? Should I take the toy away and put it up after I let him win? If so, how soon after? This link is 2 back to back sessions earlier today. (Don’t know if I attached it right.) https://youtu.be/k6U-ZKj1Ab8

    • Esteban Fernandezlopez says:

      You’re talking is ok–I prefer to say “ready, steady…” as part of my enticement, and saying “get it!” just once, maybe twice. Definitely change your “yes yes yes” to “good boy good boy” if you want “yes” to function as your “click” replacement word. Save the “yes” for marking what you want. No, you don’t have to take the toy unless he’s a dog that will run around with it for 10 minutes and make you crazy. You had some good tugging to build on, now we are looking to praise those moments and ignore the rest. Feedback here: https://youtu.be/WU1eARgByrg

      • sharon says:

        Thank you for the great feedback. Especially your voice-over on my video. That really helped me see exactly where I’m doing OK and where my mistakes are. It gives me a lot to work on. It’s good to know I am doing part of it right and good to know not to use my “clicker word” too much as I was doing. I’ll try to pay more attention to that.

  • Jerry says:

    Koli is great chasing/retrieving tennis balls. Anything else, no interest. Here is a brief video to show you are baseline starting point.
    My goal would be to have him tug as a trick to have him be focused on me as we go to the start line.
    https://youtu.be/CGorVTVFb0Y

    • Esteban Fernandezlopez says:

      I enjoy watching your dog work. He’s interacting with the toy, so now we need to shape him to take it in his mouth rather than nosing it with his muzzle. Be patient.

      You can also take another route which is to start with a stick (like a 10″ dowel) and present that and see if he will bite that. Before that you can also get him a chew stick which most dogs will naturally try to bite. Same thing, let him take it and then click and treat and let him have the chew stick as well, then the next session, transition to a stick, then to the toy presenting it as you did.

      For a ball crazy dog, I like a ball on a tug as a transition step. You’re doing the right thing, now we just need to figure out how to get him to offer the bite.

      You can also try a third option, which is attach the toy with the ball on it to a leash or long line, and drag that around, and the moment he takes it into his mouth, click and treat.

    • Esteban Fernandezlopez says:

      One more note, presenting the toy with your “get it!” cue, whatever word you use, and then moving backward but holding the toy clearly in front of the dog, will also help the dog be more likely to follow it and try to latch on. Hold the toy lower then the dog’s head as well.

    • Sarah Fernandezlopez says:

      We added a new section on teaching tugging as a behavior rather than building it up as a reward.

      https://baddogagilityacademy.com/course/complete-guide-to-tugging/module-9/tugging-as-a-trick/

  • bobbie says:

    I’ll preface this question by stating that I haven’t gone past this lesson so my apologies if this is covered later.
    My question is how important is it for the dog to interact with the toy at this stage? I’m starting with an adult, non-tugging dog who so far will chase the toy but not pounce or grab at it. Will that come with time or should I be encouraging him to interact with it more? Thanks.

    • Esteban Fernandezlopez says:

      Chasing is great! That shows a lot of interest, so now you want to move the toy in a way that the dog feels confident enough to pounce or bite at it. After moving the toy away from the dog, pause for a while, several seconds at least, and when the dog moves toward the toy while it’s stopped, you can mark and praise and restart the chase.

      The picture is this: you drag the toy, the dog follows but doesn’t pick it up. You stop dragging the toy. The dog stops but does not pick it up. WAIT HERE FOR A MOMENT OR TWO. See what the dog does. If the dog lowers the head to get the toy, even if they don’t pick it up, you can start saying “good boy” and see if this helps them pick it up. If they lose interest, you can restart the chase. Praise should come when they do something you want, like interacting with the toy, not BEFORE they do what you want.

      Please let me know if this doesn’t make sense, and give it a session or two and report back.

      • bobbie says:

        Thanks Esteban. Your advice was great. A bit more patience on my part to wait for the interest and confidence worked. Once he was paying attention to the toy I added a little ‘you can’t have it it’s mine’ because he always wants what he can’t have :-). Then yesterday I put the tug into my grocery bag as I walked into the house since his interest in new things peaks at this time. He was so excited to get something from the bag he started to tug on it. Woohoo, we are on our way to tugging stardom.

  • CNelson says:

    1. For a (currently) reluctant tugger how often do you recommend tugging sessions?
    2. For the above dog (also young, less than a year)in the beginning stages of tug training do you recommend alternating tugging sessions with other agility training? For example: tug, jump chute, tug.

    • Esteban Fernandezlopez says:

      1. With our reluctant tuggers I’d shoot for one session a day maybe 5x/week, lasting less than 2 minutes, and often as short as 30 seconds. On days they felt very motivated, I’d do a second session.
      2. I would not use the tug as a reward in agility until the behavior has more value and the dog understands the “rules” of biting and releasing on cue. They don’t need to be mastered, but they should be able to release a toy on cue, and this can be taught to puppies.

  • Rudy says:

    You mentioned to reward the dog when he hits the tug hard. What is the reward?

    • Esteban Fernandezlopez says:

      The reward is tugging with the dog plus my verbal praise and encouragement. Save all of your encouraging chatter for when the dog is actually tugging, and not when they are chasing, or about to bite.

  • gacwofva@aol.com says:

    Thanks for the detailed discussion of how to encourage the dog to go after the toy. Reminds me of line fishing…make the bait look like an injured fish/prey


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