Developing your dogs drive
Many people will say there is no need to develop drive as their pup already has drive, but “develop” doesn’t mean create or increase, developing means teaching the pup what drive is, where is gets satisfied, communication, impulse control and reward history.
In my program it means that the puppy will learn a word or phrase will predict the game, this means we will not trigger the game with toys, food, animation, noise or excitement, but rather just a word or a phrase.
I also don’t permit the dog to strike the tug or eat the food as soon as it sees it, this can create all manner of problems.
In this development program we want to teach the puppy how to communicate with us through the game so that we can gain accuracy and control in the game which is released to extreme play. The difference between winding a dog up out of control and training in drive is communication from us and impulse control on the dogs side.
There is also the other side of training to consider, what to do with your puppy’s drive advances when you’re not training. This is an important point to discuss, because many people will punish, chastise or calm the puppy so that it doesn’t bite, mouth or get too excited around them. Then during training they expect the dog to go all out.
Putting pressure on the dog for going into drive or rewarding for being calm will do two things if done successfully.
- It will raise the threshold point at which the pup will go into drive which means drive will be harder to trigger.
- It will limit the dogs drive peak when close to you, therefore the value of each game of tug or food you play will come wrapped in hesitation as the pup feels that you could punish it any moment.
Puppies I breed are never punished for biting, pulling at clothes etc. This does not mean I want to encourage this behaviour, it means that I don’t want to discourage drive. What happens is that I manage the puppies with pens, toys, food etc so that they aren’t forever biting me. Ignoring it won’t work.
As training progresses my communication program takes effect and the puppy only goes into drive on my cue, will only strike food or tugs on my release cue, so my clothes and skin remain intact without the need to punish the puppy for experimenting in drive.
Finally we need to talk about the duration of drive sessions. If we play for very long periods of time, and by that I mean long enough for the pup to lose interest, become tired, fatigued, satisfied etc. then the puppy will be learning to release its drive over a longer period of time. Like an endurance runner does.
Ideally though we want powerful peak behaviours that last at full power for 3 – 5 minutes, rather than many hours. So this means keep your games short, very short. Maybe your pup could go for 5 minutes, so play for 3, but play 5 times per day.
Regular short sessions will build powerful drive, that has intensity, durability and duration. Short session = 90 seconds.
Getting started with the GAMES
Ideally we don’t want to show our pup food or toys to get the dog to engage, this is a rookie mistake that can take forever to fix.
These 6 following steps are the corner stone’s to my Training in Drive program.
Looking at the circle chart above we need to choose a trigger cue first, such as “Ready”. Now you can use any word or phrase you like but keep in mind you will be using it perhaps in some places where the word has got to make sense and not embarrass you.
SHOW INTEREST / DRIVE
The dog needs to take on the responsibility for this part, it isn’t helpful if you continue to animate the dog by getting excited yourself. You may not be able to bounce around in an obedience ring at start peg time so let’s understand it is the dogs role to get itself into drive simply off a spoken cue.
You can use a clicker for this too and whilst I am going to refer to it is a marker or a release, it is technically a “Terminal Bridge”. Marker will make more sense though to the less technical trainers.
I like the word yes, whilst you can use anything, it has to make sense and as this is the word I will gasp with enthusiasm when I want to mark something my dog did that is awesome, YES makes sense to me at that time.
The majority of my Training in Drive program has you reward the dog actively as opposed to “classically”. This means we will almost always reward outside of the position the dog is in when we mark yes.
This really helps get great value into the release marker (yes) and helps the dog lock down he was doing at the time he heard yes, and do it again when requested.
It helps the dog not to sign track the reward location, which simply means stare at the hand that carries the reward.
It helps elevate drive from the control section to peak.
THE REWARD EXPERIENCE
This is the reason the dog performs so well in this program. The Reward Experience is a combination of many things all rolled into one and conditioned hard into the dog.
It is the release from control
It is your celebration with the dog which includes praise, cheers and of course a toy or food.
It is the adrenalin increase followed by endorphins and dopamine
and some dogs would include quite a few other elements.
In the above everyone will at first grab the reward as they say yes. This is called “handler pressure”, but it is a mistake.
It will see your dog have no real value for what happens when the yes marker is given, but only what the dog was doing when it captured the reward.
It causes sign tracking and many other issues. So when you video yourself watch that when you say yes, there is a full second at least before you make a move for the reward.
In time when the dog is conditioned, you will be able to stretch this “bridge” out as long as 10 seconds which has incredible value when we use a remote reward system.
You want to run this pattern above for at least 15 – 20 repetitions a game, and this should be all you ask of your pup in the beginning.
No sits, downs or recalls, just trigger cue > READY > YES > REWARD EXPERIENCE.
You want your puppy to be all over this game so hard that it can hardly control itself…