Here are a few things I’ve learned or changed in the past few weeks.
I’m using more food. What can I say…it works. When I call her into the house, she now gets a cookie about 1/3 of the time. That’s up quite a bit from what I had hoped for. On the 2/3’s when she does not get a cookie, she gets my enthusiastic gratitude. Apparently I’m too lazy to put a leash on her when she goes outside, so this is the solution. Her recall is becoming pretty good.
I’ve put the “play without toys” on hold for a couple of weeks. That doesn’t mean I dont’ play with her….that is what I do 90% of the time. But I’ve had too many clothes ripped and hands bloodied to continue without something in her mouth most of the time. I will continue trying, slowly weaning her off the toys and onto play without toys. At this point I do not think she is capable of controlling her biting for more than a few seconds at a time, so this is what I will ask of her.
In this video, I show my current strategy. She holds a toy and we have a few options:
1) play with the toy while Lyra holds the other end
2) Play with Lyra while Lyra holds the toy. This is my preference as much as possible. She chases me or comes into my space while I either pet her or push her away. Then I run off or call her close for more attention. Note that she consistently returns with the toy for more engagement. That is a very important foundation skill, and with it mastered the options increase dramatically for both play and training.
3) While Lyra holds a toy, ask her to drop it in order to work. In this scenario, I use an object like a dumbbell, so she has to drop the toy to get the dumbbell. She is then rewarded with a high energy toy game. This is another very important foundation skill; the route to getting me to play is to do what I ask, even it is appears counter-intuitive to your interests. I do not ask her to drop the toy; she has to figure that out for herself.
4) Play with Lyra without toy. Ask for heeling before she gets too high, and reward her with the opportunity to get the dumbbell (which is followed up by toy play or food). In this scenario, her reward for work is actually more work of a different type (retrieve). This is another example of blending elements of work. This particular combination also develops drive for both the dumbbell and for heeling.
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In regard to the dog returning a toy for play, I have had real trouble teaching this to my dogs. My dogs are terriers, and they want to shake and kill their toy, and rip it to pieces, and they can do this all by themselves. Do you have any suggestions on training the ‘return to play’ skill? I have a puppy coming up and would love to see if I could build this attitude into her.
Use hard toys without stuffing. They aren’t “killable”. If you don’t offer the stuffed, soft kinds that are self reinforcing for killing, then puppy won’t learn they exist. This is why Lyra has never played ball – she would like it too much and tug would have less value by comparison. It might take you longer getting her to play initially, but it’s important to get her chasing/playing with a harder toy at the point when you aren’t always holding the other end. Also, no squeakies. The only way the toy is fun is if you are attached. Think…stick.
Thanks for those suggestions. With my existing dogs, they have already learnt to kill non-stuffing toys – like rope toys and fleecy rope tugs. Will try to not allow puppy the opportunity for this kind of learning. Thanks!