What you see here in this video is the basis of all of my training; engagement, requesting work, and operating within a few very basic rules.
First THE DOG starts the training session – this ensures that the dog recognizes that work is a privilege and neither a right nor an obligation.
Second, the game of switching/dropping toys/ignoring the options. This allows him to constantly opt back in to whatever we are doing together.
This doesn’t mean I don’t call him to work or away from other things he might want to do – I absolutely do. But I also make a mental note of it throughout the session. If I have to keep calling my dog back, why is that? Where am I creating stress in our training session that is causing that choice? And if he won’t let go of one toy and go for another, why is that? What weak link in our game of switch do I need to attend to? If I stand still and make myself available for work and after a minute or two of circling or chewing he still doesn’t acknowledge me? What do I need to do to raise my value, the package that I bring to the table, to change that dynamic?
What you see here – choosing to start and remain engaged in work and the basic game of letting go of objects voluntarily…that is everything I need for control within bite-work.
I didn’t do a classic drive building phase with Dice because he’s bred to bite and it should be hard-wired in. Control, on the other hand, is not wired in, and the last thing I want to do is build what is easy and natural while devaluing what is hard and artificial. That creates frustration which leads to overarousal, and for my dog overarousal leads to aggression, even if the intent is prey drive. In combination, those give frantic and reactive behavior whereas I want a clear and thinking head.
When Dice had the basic game of switching and starting work via offered behaviors, I added his first decoy, Ricky Rivera. Then Ricky played the games that he knew. And then we both played it together, keeping both of us in balance in terms of value to Dice.
Here is the first minute of our work today: