Dogs that love to work and to play tug (bite!) can be a challenge in the world of personal play.  The might enjoy the contact but they find the delay between the start of training and an opportunity to win a favored toy to be frustrating.

This is no problem.  I still play with the dog but I give them a toy to hold. Then I play mostly with the dog and pull on the toy only enough to prevent frustration and to ensure that everyone is actually having a good time.  In this way we can slowly move to play without a toy.  There’s no timeline on this; if it takes a year that’s fine with me.  During that year I’m learning all about my dog – how he likes to play.  When. Where. For how long, etc.  It’s a good learning experience for everyone!

I also blend in a bit of work here.

This video is a good example of both Stage 3 and Stage 4 engagement. I start my training with basic engagement work; I want to know that my dog has, indeed, bought into the game and wants to do this “thing” with me.

If you’d like to learn more about engagement and how I’ve tweaked it to make it better, please join me for my webinar, Acclimation and Engagement 2.0: From Training to Competition Thursday at 3pm PT.  We’ll talk about acclimation, engagement, and the process of moving from engagement in training to competition readiness – when you have no more toys or food to reinforce behavior.