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Just a curious question but do you use any special techniques as you engage with what is known as “tug”.
Many different opinions regarding “tug” when pup under 1 year.
I realize your pup is doing bite work so I suspect much different than a common game of “tug”...but I was just curious to your thoughts Artemis in the area of tug when pup is under 1 year of age. Tug is fun, so is there is there special way you play this game With your puppies?
 

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That's a good question!

In these pictures Elsa is using what we like to call the "rabbit". It's sort of the introductory element to a dog (usually puppy) just starting out in bitework. The first time Elsa saw this the rest of the litter was still around and we simply hooked it to a very long whip and dragged it on the ground, giving the puppies a chance to engage on their own. In that case the goal was mostly to gauge their level of interest and see if they had any prey drive (they all did).

The next times Elsa saw this, she was allowed to play freely (i.e. no leash) and was asked to chase it much the same way then once she'd caught it we wanted to see some tensions. Only one or two sessions of this was necessary because she showed a lot of interest and engagement... so now came the next step in the foundation.

Next step was to get her on a harness with a helper teasing her with the rabbit to rile her up. Then the helper would cease all movement, until she barked. If she barked, the rabbit moved. Once she caught it I would put tension on the leash behind her, the helper would put a bit of tension on the rabbit and the goal was to get her holding, and ideally pulling back.

Now in Elsa's case, she was the most suspicious of strangers in the litter and when the helper would make his way down and try to touch her she would often let go and engage him instead of the rabbit (not the goal at this stage). So I started taking the rabbit home with me and I would play with her, in a very similar way. I'd hold her harness with one hand make her bark then let her chase it until she caught it. At that point I started playing a more traditional tug... allowing her to pull back, and occasionally pulling her towards me to get her pulling back again. I would work my way down the strap/the tug and crouch down while looking away to not put too much pressure and I would gently start touching her muzzle/her face. Usually I come and put her right between the eyes. If need be I grab both ends of the rabbit for her to re-grip and adjust for a deeper or fuller bite. Eventually the helpers started being able to do the same. If she showed us what we wanted to see (a full bite, some pull back - in the beginning just holding firm etc.) then we allow her to "win" by letting go of the tug and letting her parade around with it.

In this training game, whether alone or with someone else, as soon as she would let go of the tug, we would restrain her once more, and pull the tug out of reach, the idea being that in doing so we'd build frustration and make her really want it, and once she'd get it, she'd not want to let go.

If she was not letting go of it, or if she tries to lie down to chew it, I would pick her up by the harness and lift her front off the ground. If she still doesn't let go then I slip my arm around her waist and pull her rear up higher in the air (so she's tilted forwards/downward) sometimes she hangs on for a while longer but she eventually always lets go. Those are great moments to improve the desire and drive to "bite the thing". In doing so she also learns that if she chews/shakes etc. she will lose the rabbit. If she lets go she loses the rabbit. If she is not gripping properly, she will lose the rabbit. They pick up very quickly that when they do those things they will lose the rabbit.

Assuming they do everything "right" and keep holding the rabbit, then we don't make her let go, instead we pick up the strap that's connected to the rabbit and start the pulling game again. The ultimate win when the session is over is to run back to the car with the goal being that she will want to hold and carry it all the way back to her crate. (In principle... lately she's understood that when she gets back to the crate the game ends... so often she hits the break halfway to the car and if I'm not holding the lunge she will try to abscond with the tug/rabbit/pillow in a different direction LOL. Which to me is encouraging because it means she really loves biting the thing and wants the game to continue longer).

In the pictures I posted, the game is slightly less ritualized, but the foundational principles are still the same... the photographer edited out the slip lead she was wearing in her 6 month pictures but I was alternating between holding her back and letting her run. The game remained the same: work hard to chase the thing, hang on to the thing properly and if you do good, you'll win the thing.

She has rope tugs at home, and that's a slightly different game because often times I will actually toss the rope and she'll chase it, parade it around, shake it etc. and I will let her. I will tug just enough to rile her up and make her deserve her "win" before letting go, or tossing it again. This game is fundamentally different because it creates arousal at a lower rate but it isn't designed to create frustration. But on the other hand those rope toys thus have much much lower value to her than the rabbit or now, the bite pillow. Since those two items she ONLY has access to during training and she has to work hard for it.

One of the key components with tugging in this context however has to do with their teething. Some people stop bitework all together. We stayed with the soft rabbit until recently as a good compromise, and all the while always being careful not to allow too much tension. And as a matter of principle the humans aren't the ones tugging/pulling, the dog is. So we never pull the puppy hard towards us or suddenly etc. Since the idea is to get the DOG pulling rather than just hanging there, it's important that the puppy be "in control" of the pulling in that sense. Because we are also trying to build confidence in the puppy so that it grows up believing it is the biggest, strongest, toughest dog in a 50 mile radius, part of the game is also us pretending that the puppy is stronger. So if the puppy is showing good pull back, we allow the puppy to "pull" our arm forward. Or if we are crouching, we allow the puppy to "pull" us forward... sometimes we pretend to fall to the ground. We act a little as well making little "ah - oh no- you're so strong!" type comments and sounds. And of course there's lots of praising and encouragement involved.

With Nadia tug is a huge part of our playing and our training. Tug was great when she was growing up because it was a game that she actively played with me, and engaged with me to play. Which eventually also transferred to other people like my family members. She had little to no interest in balls (which anyway are not that great to train with unless you have a rope on the ball for tugging!) and when she was going through puberty her interest in food/treats wasn't high enough to override her "worst" behaviour. Tugging was also great because it helped teach her "leave it" and self control in a way that was really reinforcing to her. In terms of her training it's a perfect reward because of the high value reinforcer and because it creates an engagement and reinforcement with the handler, meaning even when you take it away the dog remains interested in you. I use it more than food for obedience with her now and I rotate between allowing her to just win it, tugging and pulling without letting go, giving her a marker and making her miss and then playing/pulling with her for a bit then letting her win/parade and return.

I think teaching puppies to play tug in a suitable manner even under a year old whether that's the purpose of training for bitework, reward-tugging or just playing at home is great. It builds a bond between you and your dog and creates engagement that is useful whether that's just every day house dog stuff or for training down the road. It's a great way to expend energy and play with your dog. With my pets before I would play tug often and alternate between winning and letting them win. It can also be a good opportunity to teach "leave it", "drop it" or learning to exchange for food/other items. In turn you create high value with not just the actual tug toy but yourself as well, which is mighty helpful when teaching a recall with distractions. If puppy knows they will have just as much fun playing tug with you when you call them at the park as they do playing with another dog, you will proof your recall and get a reliable recall a lot quicker. And since you're holding the tug they can't just grab it and run back to their friend without you lol!

Of course caution is important with the younger puppies in terms of teething as well as neck/head movements, but it's a great way to build muscling without risking OCD behaviours like a flirt pole might. Some people prefer the flirt pole

The only drawback with tug is the physical strength it requires from the handler to sustain a game or extended play session.
 
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Thank you, dobebug! Not only can she tug but she was showing some nice full grips... there were tooth holes in the bite pillow last Saturday.
Her sister that I placed in a novice working home in NC is doing great as well under the guidance of Leslie Carpenter (Treasure Seeker Dobermans) and Chris Rasmussen (v Moeller Hof).

She's my keeper from the Frozen litter so dam is my bitch Nadia ( who's breeding is MBIS CanGCH AmCH Tiburon Demolition Man x CanCh Fabert's Living in Sin) and she is by CH Ashtrick N Kettle Cove CA (AKC CH Trotyl de Black Shadow WAC x AKC GCH Mystikos N Kettle Cove Celtic Love CGC LC-11D)
She is linebred 2x4 on Trotyl.

There is a LOT of Lex Luthor if you factor in 8 generations. 9 times, if I'm not mistaken. So she is heavily South American bred. She's pretty much all showlines though aside from Dexter v Frankenhorst imported Mary Rodgers who shows up in the 6th, 7th and 8th and Gravin Onyx v Neerlands Stamm SchH3 in the 8th also through Marienburg breeding.
I like her breeding--but then I'm a fan of a lot of the South American breeding--and some of the SA dogs I like best (including a bunch back mostly behind the 7th generation on Elsa's pedigree) are some of my favorite breeders of American showline dogs--Marienburg, Ravenswood, Aquarius, Goldgrove) and then they show up in the SA dogs being bred back to the dogs now being bred by the same older good breeders.

You'll definitely be having a lot of fun with that girl.

dobebug
 

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I like her breeding--but then I'm a fan of a lot of the South American breeding--and some of the SA dogs I like best (including a bunch back mostly behind the 7th generation on Elsa's pedigree) are some of my favorite breeders of American showline dogs--Marienburg, Ravenswood, Aquarius, Goldgrove) and then they show up in the SA dogs being bred back to the dogs now being bred by the same older good breeders.

You'll definitely be having a lot of fun with that girl.

dobebug
Thank you :giggle: I think you'd like her a lot. Certainly most of the IGP, Ring and PSA people who've met her are charmed. She has that fire I was breeding for and boy she is spicy! They all have a certain sharpness to them, all seem to have high suspicion too. She's growing up beautifully as well. Need to get her practicing on the show lead over the winter.
I've also been getting updates on the others, including the blue bitch you liked so much, remind me to post some updated pictures sometime. They've definitely exceeded my expectations - and most importantly they are filling their owners with joy.
 
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Thank you :giggle: I think you'd like her a lot. Certainly most of the IGP, Ring and PSA people who've met her are charmed. She has that fire I was breeding for and boy she is spicy! They all have a certain sharpness to them, all seem to have high suspicion too. She's growing up beautifully as well. Need to get her practicing on the show lead over the winter.
I've also been getting updates on the others, including the blue bitch you liked so much, remind me to post some updated pictures sometime. They've definitely exceeded my expectations - and most importantly they are filling their owners with joy.
I'd be willing to bet that I would like her a lot--one of my own favorite dogs was a suspicious guy--not particularly friendly to people--but he was polite about it. I like that type of temperament. That was the dog I took to the door with me--he would sit at heel and look at the person outside the door, He had a truly black eye and evidently something about his whole attitude and the black eyed stare was very intimidating. <VBG> Worked for me...

Yes--do post updated pictures. I thought the litter was pretty impressive but you are right--I really liked that blue girl and would definitely like to see how she's growing up.

Thanks for the update on both temperament and training. I've been following your threads because I enjoy them so much, all the way from Nadia, the decision making of the sire and the precursors to the litter and how they grew. Thanks a bunch!

dobebug
 

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Thanks Artemis for your posts.
Just like Dobebug I have been following you since you were traveling through sleet and snow with Nadia.
Boy if anyone was ever wanting a detailed story of reputable breeder your threads are where its at!!!
 
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