Over the years, many people have heard that we shouldn't play tug with our dogs because it can lead to problems with aggression. This has been--and still is--the belief of many veterinarians, behaviorists, and even dog trainers. I have found, however, that by paying close attention to our dog's natural behavior, as well as its behavior in relation to our social environment, we can use play interaction to not only reward and teach our dogs various behaviors, but also give them a natural, safe outlet for these inherent drives.
Now, obviously our dogs are quite a bit different than wolves when it comes to dog/human play and interaction. The idea that the dog trusts us from a genetic perspective alone is huge. I believe that all traits, good and bad, are rooted in genetics. I also believe that the careful shaping of our environment has the power to enhance or dilute these preexisting genetic traits. So, if I have a puppy that is socially dominant, I can dilute this trait by creating strategic experiences for the puppy to work through, which recreates the puppy's idea of its role in a social environment. In the same way, if I have a puppy who is not very motivated to play, I can increase this level of motivation by way of carefully shaping the environment, thus creating more drive.
The real rub for us falls within the fact that we, as humans, are not dogs. And for the average dog/puppy, it's quite a bit more fun and rewarding to play with another dog or puppy than it is to play with their handler. Part of this is due to the fact that, from a social and practical perspective, we do not want our dogs playing with us with their mouths. This idea, I agree with wholeheartedly. If we play or wrestle with our dogs by using our hands and their mouths, the whole idea is gray and unclear for them. Normally in this situation, the dog is allowed to bite--but only so hard, and only in certain places. Exactly which places are allowed and how strong the dog can use its mouth is only taught by the dog making the mistake of biting too hard or in the wrong place--which usually results in a correction of some kind, so it can be understandably confusing in the dog's mind as to what is allowed and what isn't. Furthermore, it is extremely difficult to cultivate drive and power when the dog is unsure of its exact role in our play interaction. So, after taking into account the genetics of our dogs and the fact that all dogs are prey animals that play with their mouths, we choose to give them a outlet for these natural drives rather than squash them or use redirection-management techniques.
There is one element of playing with our dogs that supersedes the dog's desire to play with other dogs. Because we are using an interactive toy between us, the dog has the ability and potential to bite the toy with all of its might---a feeling that is very difficult to replicate without something or someone getting bit by the dog. This feeling of power the dog experiences through tugging is very natural to all dogs, regardless of breed or genetic predisposition. By using a series of techniques determined by the individual dog and handler, we can channel these drives into several practical applications, which I will go over in more detail, later in the course.
Learning to apply these concepts gives us the opportunity to build a stronger dog mentally and physically by carefully shaping our play, reinforcing natural behaviors, and even creating desirable behaviors that are not within the dog genetically. By using these techniques, we can teach dog who is genetically inclined to horde a toy, to return and share the toy for play. Ultimately, we want you to build as much drive as possible through your play interactions, and maintain clarity and control---and that, in a nutshell, is what this course is all about.
1 min 28 sec
Drive cultivation and channeling are two terms used to describe the act of manipulating and developing drive inherently present in the dog. They can be used to enhance a dog's performance based on its natural behavior and behaviors it has been taught---using a tug toy instead of food to give the dog more speed in the recall, for example.
1 min 38 sec
To cultivate drive, we first need to learn how our dog plays with us, and what assertive moves the dog exhibits. In other words, we need to reward the dog for overpowering us in play. If we let the dog win when it pulls or shakes, it cherishes the feeling of strength and power and is inclined to seek out that experience again. The beauty in this is that the dog needs us in order to have this experience again. By continuing to reinforce the power moves like shaking and yanking, the dog becomes stronger and more committed to its idea of play. Then, after we feel like we've built the maximum amount of drive, we then can begin to channel the drive.
We can channel drive by slowly incorporating obedience behaviors into the play interaction. This is done in order to build more power and intensity in the execution of the behavior itself. Here is an example: while playing tug with your dog, you would ask them to release the tug, then command a sit and reward them with the tug immediately upon execution of the sit. Normally, by following this protocol, we end up with an extremely fast sit behavior, thereby incorporating drive into the obedience behavior itself. This is what we refer to as channeling.
1 min 8 sec
In a way, playing tug is like putting the dog through a kung fu or karate course. One of the first things they teach you is: "Now that you have the power, you will never need it." The idea is that once you apply the rules of play and establish the rules within tug work, the dog fully understands that it is only allowed to bite this particular toy, at this particular moment, which is always dictated by the handler. Through consistency, repetition, and careful shaping of the environment, the dog learns that it is simply not allowed to play with whatever it wants, whenever it wants. By having an adequate outlet for these natural drives, we can ensure that the dog will not seek out its own solution to satisfy its prey and hunt drives.
1 min 56 sec
As I stated earlier, by using a method that reinforces the dog's natural drive, we are teaching them that the only way to feel this sense of satisfaction is through us--the handler--and in this manner, we can develop a dog that is reliant upon us for that feeling of joy. When manipulated correctly, this interaction can be more stimulating to the dog than almost all other existing stimuli. I think we've all seen the dog who is so intent on playing with its owner/handler that the outside world practically ceases to exist for them. While sometimes this is an easier process with certain dogs who are genetically wired this way, more often than not I find that these drives need to be manipulated. Additionally, learning to work with the dog this way also teaches us, as handlers, to be more aware of the dog and the information it is offering us. It also teaches us to differentiate between how dogs like to play, and how we like to play with dogs.
1 min 29 sec
Developing and channeling drive can be used in any, if not all, training applications, from exercising your family pet in an environment with heavy distractions to a person who hopes to make the IPO national team. Drive brings more intensity and enthusiasm to all kinds of work, including search and rescue, obedience, flyball, agility, and any number of other activities. Whether you are trying to teach one behavior or chain together an entire routine, playing tug offers a reward for a job well done, and playing tug games is always an appropriate reward of very high value.
I personally feel that when I am creating behaviors, such as sit/stay, heeling, or a send away, its a lot like giving a dog a job. I always pay them what I owe them for a job they have completed for me--and for the dog, that payday is a game of tug. Over time, I can gradually increase the number of behaviors the dog performs for the payday by withholding the reward until I eventually reach the point where the dog can perform its entire routine.