Lyra is pretty good at paying attention to me, especially if I’m holding food or toys. If I’m playing with her, I can usually get her to drive back to me with her toys for more interaction – she loves to tug and she understands that I’m a big part of that picture.
Now I’d like her to drive away from me with an equal degree of intensity To get that, I’m starting some simple opposition reflex games.
First, I held her in my lap and threw cookies. I’d talk it up a bit (ready, set, go!) and let her off my lap for the cookie.
Next, I threw the cookies and held her at my side.
Finally, I threw the cookies and held some combination of her collar and ruff. Lyra’s natural tendency is to turn back and look at me, or to avoid my hands. Unless you condition the dog to like it, most dogs will consider a collar grab a correction – it’s definitely worth taking the time to change this perception if you want to use opposition reflex to build drive in your performance dog.
Lyra is starting to understand that holding back by her collar/ruff is a reason to look AWAY from me. This is a major shift, since 95% of the training I do encourages Lyra to look AT me – my demeanor, food and toys all encourage handler focus. Opposition reflex games are the start of object/non handler focus.
I change my tone of voice to a “What’s gonna happen”, building up tone. I look where I want her to look (thrown food, toys, mark, etc.) I try to get her engaged in whatever object I’m using before I throw it – with varying levels of success. I release her when I feel her leaning forward (or at this point, when she is looking forward – leaning will come)
At this stage, I do not put any upwards pull on her collar or ruff – she is not showing enough forward drive, and that would be perceived as a correction. What I do instead is play tug and hold her collar at the same time – all movement comes from the toy. I will “shake” her ruff, but I’m not actually moving her. Someday she will love this game and I will be able to use a scruff shake as a drive building game, even without the toy.
The nose touch to the painter’s tape is the start of the go out for directed jumping. I will also teach a go out to a platform. Eventually, she will do go outs to platforms, walls, white poles and baby gate stanchions.
Here’s Lyra’s training today, unedited.