Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Letting Go

One of the aspects I love about training Piper Ann and Allister is that I can use a game of tug as a reward. Working with a toy often increases arousal, drive, and speed. I don't use it for duration behaviors like mat work, for example, but using a toy with Piper's heel work bought a whole new level of awesome to the game. Tug is a handy tool to have in the box. 

Rubi likes to tug. If I accidentally leave a toy lying around the house, she often brings it to me and tries to start up a game. I frequently use it as a reward when working on behaviors in the house. The root behavior and desire is there. The trouble comes when we try to take the game on the road. Her tugging outside the house is very hit or miss. Sometimes she'll tug, sometimes she won't tug, and sometimes she tugs a bit and then completely disengages to go do something else. I feel like tug would be a really good reward for B, but the consistency I need to be able to use it as a reward just isn't there. 

I know a reasonable bit about toy drive building, but when it became obvious to me that I didn't know enough, I signed B and I up for an online bitework class. And, well, her behavior did change. 

Now she blows me off in the house, too.

On the up side, I now know what I need to do to fix the problem. The class really helped me clean up my own handling skills. I need to go back to building up drive, then add in easy work for the opportunity to play, slowly increasing the difficulty of exercises. Then I need to generalize the drive building and work to new places until I can finally use tug as a reward the way I can with Piper Ann or Allister. It's quite the project. There's just one tiny, itty bitty, huge thing standing in my way. 

I'm not having fun anymore. 

That is a big obstacle. I enjoy dog training. I even enjoy working with reactive dogs; it's my niche in the dog training world. I've always believed that if you're not having fun, you're not doing it right. So I have to ask myself: is this something Rubi needs? Or is it something I want? How important is it really?

The answer is that it's not important enough. Rubi works very well for treats or the opportunity to play with her big, red ball. Her refusal to play tug isn't hindering our training program, nor is it negatively impacting her life or behavior. There's no real reason that we need to work through this issue now. So I am setting it aside. 

That's not to say that I'm giving up. I want to be able to play tug with B in the house again. That was fun, and it should be easy enough to bring back. Someday, when we've got fewer big projects on our plate, I'd like to go back and fix this issue. For now, though, I think we've got enough to work on. 

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