Monday, March 8, 2010

Removing Tugs from Bully Jaws

I learned a new trick in Talladega last weekend.

First, a quick description of the issue. My borderstaffy Punk really loves his tug. So much that he won't give it back, ever. Which gets stressful during racing, especially since he has the bite force quotient of a Tasmanian devil. I can pretty much forget running him as start dog or re-running him if there's a flag (unless I manage to yank the tug out of reach of his snapping jaws when he's coming back...but then he might get my arm or something).

What I used to do:  Yelled "Drop it!" (haha) and held onto Punk's collar and one front leg at the same time while trying to wrestle the tug away (which he probably thought was all part of the fun game of flyball). I practically had to choke the dog off the tug after every heat, which, of course, is terrible.

What changed everything: Then, in Talladega, I look over at the Gamblers (who have about 34 borderstaffies -- okay, just kidding, they probably have 10) and they have this great method of dealing with it. They just pick the dogs up by their hips and suspend them in the air until they drop the tug. Here's what it looked like:

At first I thought, this will never work with Punk. Because 1) He's too heavy at 38 lbs for me to pick him up like that, and 2) He's still not going to drop it. I mean, what's a little mid-air suspension to Punk?

In fact, I was so sure it wouldn't work that I didn't even bother to try it all day on Saturday. Then, on Sunday, in a fit of frustration I lifted him up by his hips and hung him upside down in the air (he actually wasn't that heavy, although I didn't get him as high as you see in that pic) and PUH! He spit the tug out. I think it probably fell out of his mouth while he was re-gripping, actually. And from that point on, I did it every heat and he spit it every heat. Eureka!


Kate said...

Okay, so that's me in the picture, and I can say that this doesn't work with every dog. Vito, my BS (1 of 6 on the Gamblers, NOT 34! LOL), doesn't like to spit the tug, but this doesn't work on him. He just requires patience.
Dealer, another BS, this would NOT work on....he's just being silly and wants you to play with him, so in order to get him to spit the tug, I just be boring :)
But Moxie here is so tough to get it away from. It is nearly impossible to hold her and get the tug away at the same it works for her :)
Lisa, I am thrilled it worked for Punk!!

Kim said...

I wish that worked for my Border Staffy, Swiper. I finally just had to take the tug away from Flyball altogether. He was such a jerk about giving up the toy. Sometimes he wouldn't give it up, other times he'd drop it a re-run himself. We are both much happier now that he just gets to run back and slam into the mattress for a reward.

Lisa Pignetti Murnan said...

We've seriously thought about using the crib mattress! I saw Slammers doing that a few years ago and thought it was awesome - the dogs seemed to LOVE it. How did you go about training it (or is it just a borderstaffy's natural inclination to run back and slam into it :))?

Tracy said...

Love the blog, Lisa!

I use the head down, hold up method for my pit bulls at home. Our "baby" (ok, he's 2)loves to put things in his mouth and can tuck them back in the back and hide them. So I just started picking him up and eventually the stolen object would fall out.

Just remember to lift with your knees and not your back! ;-)

Kim said...

I am on Slammers. Some of the dogs just take to it naturally, slamming into the mattress. We initially started it because in some places we had so little runback that the dogs were close to smacking into the walls. I think most of us just use the toy to direct them to the mattress and they realize it's fun. A couple of Kristie's dogs live to hit the mattress!

Dawn said...

I had been warned prior to getting my BorderStaffy - NEVER play ball with them because you'll never get it back. Armed with that knowledge, one of the very first things I taught him was to retrieve. Retrieving is *fun*! AND you can combine it with on the floor 'chase me' recalls at any age.
Now, I don't have ball issues or tug issues. He has two commands, "hand" (please place whatever is in your mouth in my hand) and "out" (please drop whatever is in your mouth on the floor and you're not allowed to grab it again when I reach for it).
Worked like a charm. :)

Anonymous said...

Our team uses the mattress, and it is great for several reasons. we have all watched the dog come full tilt back and hit the tug and continue to fling the handler several feet. this is not good for the dog's neck or the handlers shoulders. the mattress is a way to soften the blow to both dog and hander, and also to help prevent sliding/crashing into a wall. i have also found that once a dog catches on to this, they will actually drive harder to and through the tug, never losing momentum as they approach the handler. they learn very quickly that the mattress is super fun, and it does not hurt. the mattress also gives a "target" point for the dog to drive to.
i have had dogs with spitting issues and have taught them to turn off the mattress with their ball, then get the tug. i have found that is easier than saying "yes" when they cross the line with their ball. the dog does not know the magic line they have to carry their ball over, but they do know to turn/bank off a mattress with a ball then onto a tug from me. easier to show then type:)
As far as giving the tug up...i tug with the dog all the way to my spot on the mat, then get into position, say "line up", then they drop the tug to run again. after the last race, i continue to tug all the way out of the ring and even let them hold the toy while we are on our cool down time. i did this all the time at home and practice to keep reinforcing the idea that if you want to run again, give up the toy when lined up. hope this may help:)

Kristie Pope said...

Lisa, you were very cute holding Punk up last weekend to get the tug drop. It sure does work well!

nickelsmum said...

My team's Borderstaffy comes back to a ball at this time and has no trouble giving back his ball. We need to transition him to his frisbee as a reward, though. He has a good give-back because he also trains in disc and got very early training on rapid exchanges. My project Borderjack does not let go of balls and I doubt will ever run for anything else, so it's going to take some tricky handling. This blog is a good source of ideas for dealing with that once he is in a lineup.


Jamey said...

Thank You! Why I never thought of this... I don't know. It works wonders on my (B)rat terrier, and on my Border Collie.

K-Koira said...

I realize this comment is late to the game, but I am wondering what people mean with a mattress in the runback. It must not be something we use in my region, as I have never seen it before. Anyone have any videos of what you do?

I too have a non-tug-releasing dog, but a 45 lb pit bull who is much harder to pick up. My normal method for getting the tug back is to trap her between my legs and push the tug into her mouth, forcing her to give it up. It was a tip I got from a bird dog trainer, and seems to work really well for us.

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