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Old 12-11-2013, 02:13 PM
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Linds Linds is offline
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Default Drive Building

So, in anticipation of getting my greyhound this spring I thought it wouldn't be a bad idea to get ideas, links, experiences of ways to build toy drive in a dog.

So, anyone have things they've done that's worked well for them? Links/books that you like? Anything else?

Any pitfalls to avoid? And those with sighthounds, please, overshare!
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Old 12-11-2013, 02:22 PM
iriskai iriskai is offline
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Mental note to respond to this after work.
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Old 12-11-2013, 03:11 PM
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This is what I did with Lugia... when I first got her as a 3-month old puppy, she wouldn't play with ANY of the toys I bought for her, wouldn't chase a ball, didn't want to mouth toys to play tug, and she didn't even want to interact with me because she'd much rather chase grasshoppers in the backyard. It took months (I'm talking 6-7 months) to get her to where she's at right now: ball crazy, disc crazy, tug crazy, and she's sort of an annoying pest because she's constantly seeking interaction from me! (I love her to death - I've managed to mold her into the perfect dog for myself)

The first thing I did to even get her interested in toys was make a flirtpole with a rodent-like thing at the end (she wouldn't be interested if it was just fleece or plastic, it had to be really prey-like). If I swung it around willy-nilly she just looked me like I was crazy; I had to swing it around so that it actually moved like a living creature. I'd make her "fight" it (tug) and she'd get excited killing it. I had to clicker train her to play tug with other toys. We'd have very short play sessions maybe 5-6 times daily. Eventually (it was literally months after regular clicker training tug sessions) she was bringing me tug toys on her own just because she wanted to play tug and then "kill" it (I should get video, she kills with such exuberance...)

For ball chasing, this was something I struggled with for a while, she just wasn't interested in chasing tennis balls. I clicker trained a retrieve, but she wasn't very excited about running after balls, she only did it for the treat. I took her on a playdate with another Silken who was going crazy chasing tennis balls, I think that lit up something inside of her, because throughout the next few weeks she started to enjoy chasing balls more and more and eventually I could phase out the treats. I had a male roommate at the time (anthropomorphizing here, but I'm convinced that Lugia had a crush on him) and I asked him to throw some balls for her whenever he took a smoke break outside, and she was just ON FIRE chasing balls for him (she wouldn't do that to me! NOW she intensely chases balls regardless of who's throwing, but before, she always seemed to have more of a spark when it was a male throwing the toy).

Disc was a challenge, she just wasn't interested at first, didn't even want to chase or LOOK at rollers. I clicker trained her to "take" them from my hand and would reward her for a retrieve. For a month daily, I was throwing discs for her, she'd let them land and then retrieve them for me. After a month of throwing, she FINALLY caught one. She was now catching them reliably but still didn't seem EXCITED about doing so. Again, I enlisted the help of my manly roommate and it was like a light switched on -- she FLEW after the discs, leaping in the air to catch them. I brought in another dog (who really liked disc) -- suddenly Lugia had competition! She was now doing everything in her power to make sure that she was the one catching the disc, not the other dog. Did this regularly for a few months, and Lugia eventually learned the thrill and joy of catching a disc on her own - she does not need another dog to compete with, she doesn't need a dude being the one to throw it for her.

Oh, and at this point (Lugia was probably 6-7 months old) she still wasn't too enamored of me, but she really, really liked men, grasshoppers, and tennis balls. How do I get her to focus on me? I knEw she liked playing outside, so I did this thing where I wouldn't take her outside till she walked up to me (about 5 feet away). Then she was regularly walking up to me and stopping, so I increased criteria so that I'd take her outside when she walked up right next to me. Then I'd wait for her to put a paw on me. We'd repeat this process maybe 6-7 times a day, it was pretty time consuming! Eventually she figured out that, "Hey, I guess that boring girl's kind of fun, I should interact with her more" and now she's a little velcro dog who follows me everywhere. I'm getting sort of teary-eyed writing this up.... didn't realize just how much work I put into her (but it's SSSOOOO worth it -- none of my breeder's other dogs are as fun as Lugia :P )
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Old 12-11-2013, 03:50 PM
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Most of this is in my blog in actual detail under Kili's tags.

1. Lure whip. It's all about the lure whip. Before I actually had one I just attached leashes to toys.

2. "Race you to the toy". Have a party with the toy. Hold puppy back. Throw the toy. Release and race to the toy. If puppy doesn't give it her all and you get there first then grab it and have a party for one. Maybe give her one more shot at it. Then just dance around with it before putting it away.

3. Impulse control (when old enough to have a control position). Ask for a sit. Place the toy on the ground. If puppy maintains control position release her for the toy. Work your way up to throwing the toy.

4. Alternate tugging with throwing the toy for puppy to chase.

5. When you fade out the lure whip and just use a tug toy keep it low to the ground (even dragging on the ground) and move it quickly away from the dog.

ETA: Pitfalls. These are not physical dogs. And these are not emotionally hardy dogs. They're sensitive physically and mentally. Kili does like to play rough but we've worked up to that. Let pup dictate that for you because they're easily overwhelmed and when that happens they generally shut right down. Being too physical with Kili makes her drop the toy and stop tugging and just look at you funny. She likes to pop her front feet up on my chest while we tug. She likes "smack the baby" (patting her ribs while she tugs). She likes if I gently grab her muzzle while she's tugging as if I'm going to pry the toy away. She does NOT like to be "kicked" during tugging (you know like you see people do with their BCs... sort of bumping them with a foot or lifting them off the ground and pushing them with a foot). She does not like to be grabbed or hugged during personal/naked play.
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Old 12-11-2013, 04:01 PM
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I'm certainly no expert, but I will say that I have the experience of accidentally killing my dog's toy drive, and having to bring it back up once I realized I want to do agility with him.

In order to keep Astro from swallowing chicken bones and rat poison on NYC walks, I started really hammering in "leave it" and "drop." I used toys to start the cues because they were always something he would have in his mouth at home. The problem is that he is freakishly motivated by even stale, familiar food, and what zest he had for toys dissipated. It got so bad that I couldn't even get him to take a toy if I held it out to him or threw it! He also became impossible to lure, and shut down for find-it nosework exercises. Trying to clicker train him to retrieve or chase was a losing battle because the food always, always, always won out over everything in an overwhelming manner; if he could see that I have food, that's where his attention would be. So to get him less obsessive about food, we did "watch me" exercises and rewarded for eye contact rather than staring at the treat bag, which killed the toy drive even further, because I would have something in hand and he would think he was being tested for self control, and stare at me without paying any attention to what was in my hand. It was a vicious cycle because food was the only thing that motivated him so that's what I felt I had to use to get anything done, but doing that only strengthened that food was the big reward every time.

I started to get the toy drive back back with sticks, a baggage-free item. I'd grab a stick and run away from him, sort of cradling it to me, saying "oh no, this stick is a precious stick, way too awesome for puppies to have!," holding it out to him and snatching it back, until he was running around like a lunatic beside me. Then I'd let him have the stick and immediately, immediately engage in a chase game. Only then, after we'd done a hard five minutes of play, would I ask for "drop it."

Other things that helped:

1) certain forms of space. A long, narrow hallway blocked at the end by a babygate was key. Within this I could use food in a specific manner: while he was in his crate, I'd take a toy, put it at the end of the hallway, and underneath it I'd hide a bit of kibble. When I let him out of his crate, I'd hang out with him as normal for a few minutes on the couch, then I'd open the babygate and be all "WHAT'S THAT AT THE END OF THE HALLWAY?!" and race him to it. If I won, I'd pick the toy and the food up and show him that he missed out on kibble, not letting him have any. Better believe that after a few times of that, he ran his furry butt off to get to the toy! And when he did, he'd find a little surprise jackpot. And because of the hallway's shape (basically like a doggy runway), the racing became more and more competitive, until he'd reach the toy at a dead run and slam into the door at the end - which wound up encouraging him to stop looking for food (which I stopped doing early, I only did it a few times to get him to really run his butt off toward the toy), and just grab the toy and haul ass back down the runway past me, because he'd bounced off the door and got sent on a zoomie-train.

2) randomly I would (in a different contained space, like an empty lobby) unclip his leash, wave it around over my head or in circles at my side, throw it away from him where he could easily see, and shout "GO GET IT!" and once again "race" him to it. Doing this with the leash and other random, non-toy objects made it so that I can throw basically anything at all now - including new/unfamiliar toys - and make him fall in love with it.

3) using stuff that he loved the texture of, to build his acceptance of new and weird textures. He loves socks with a passion that never dies, so I took a sacrifice sock and taught him to "tug dirty" - sawing it back and forth until he had to fight it, wrestle backwards and thrash, and really grip it deeply. I added new, less inherently awesome things (like rubber, he hated rubber tug toys) into a rotation. If I got it away from him by my strength alone, things got boring quickly (as opposed to being asked to drop it, which is always rewarded), so he learned to really fight to hold on and care less about WHAT he was holding onto. It drastically upped the amount of time that he's motivated by tugging, as now he will hold onto a tug toy and be dragged around by it, literally, until I tell him to drop it.

4) Drive-by toy grabbing. I got a very long plush snake toy, and if he runs by me with it, I grab it and do impromptu tugging, making a big to-do over the whole thing. I let him win, and promptly turn into the Toy Loon, slapping his butt and encouraging him to do a victory lap with his prize.

Note, he doesn't actually inherently like butt slaps or shouting or any of the other stuff I do when I'm encouraging toy use. He's kind of a diva and doesn't really like roughousing with people. He only likes this stuff now that it's used as a ramp-up to toys, so I had to start by just walking around and saying (in a much quieter voice) "Oh look at this toy, this is a really great toy - maybe you want it? Oh wait better not sorry, didn't mean to just put it front of you and take it away like that...." I know it's a lot of talking but it helped ME get in that mode of "I'm making this deliriously tempting, this is the most fun thing that's ever happened" so that I could better convince him and display the right body language.

Apologies for the epic post length!
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Old 12-11-2013, 05:55 PM
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One thing that worked well for me was keeping as few toys out as possible. It seemed to help build more drive and obsession(healthy) with particular toys. When Rhys had a full toy box full of stuff he couldn't focus on playing with one toy. So I rotated all his toys and kept out 3-4 only at a time. Maybe an antler, tug, squeaky soft toy, and a ball.
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Old 12-11-2013, 05:56 PM
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Laurelin Laurelin is offline
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Honestly I think it just depends on the dog. None of these suggestions would have worked for summer. I often say she has negative toy drive. She doesn't get playing and is not a rough dog (it all scares her and she thinks people trying to play are being weird and probably angry at her). She will hide if I get toys out most the time. She also has minimal prey drive- will chase squirrels but mostly because Mia does and running with Mia is fun.

We pretty much just use food drive and have transferred hat food drive into some toys. I use food stuffed toys to throw to get her to drive out in front. For tug, well she doesn't really tug and probably won't because of her lack of teeth now haha. But she'll bat at it and follow it and bounce at it happily. I shaped all that with a clicker. Right now I'm shaping playing with the then is ball although she wants to lie on it still.

When I play food toy with her I keep the toy moving and reward a lot. I kind of force it inside out (hard to explain) soshe has to get her mouth on the material. I also ind she likes real fur better than other materials.

I think people underestimate the power of food drive. People have told me we can't train agility without dogs that tug... Well we are doing just fine! She's a fast and fun little sport dog.
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Old 12-11-2013, 06:08 PM
iriskai iriskai is offline
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Sighthounds in general are sensitive. They shut down easily and I've found don't take to pushy or repetitive work. Some of this may be repeating, but..

Mimi - I got her at 2 years old with negative toy/play drive outside of live animals (I also have video of her rolling around on the bed with my friend's pet rabbit if that tells you anything). As close as the breeder and I can figure (Mimi lived with a handler and small toy dogs), was the original owner discouraged any kind of play. She went back to the breeder at a year old. I've spent a LOT of time getting her comfortable with play. I've also spent a LOT of time with her getting her to lure course. Live bunny? Fuzzy squawker? Game on. Plastic strips, tennis ball, squeaky toy? Meh. She is NOT toy driven. She'll sometimes chase a thrown toy as long as it keeps moving, but has no desire to play, tug or retrieve it after it stops.

I'm not sure I believe that a dog NEEDS a toy drive in order to be successful and I honestly haven't worked on building a toy drive with her outside of the fur as she's so highly food/verbal praise driven. She shapes very well and would probably learn just as quickly with verbal praise as another dog would with a toy drive. Her absolute jackpot reward is leaping in to my arms and getting a handful of something edible. I'm happy with training her with food.

Ezra is different. I got him at a year old without much of any training, and I'm not sure what sort of play or interaction he had between the time he left the breeder as a puppy and when she got him back at a year old. He's much higher play drive and much happier to do repetitive things. Verdict is still out on if he'll train easiest with food, toy or praise.


- Lunge whip with a piece of fur. Whippet racing has been Mimi's gateway in to starting to play and I've transitioned this to the fur on the whip (and eventually added white plastic strips to teach her to course, but that's a different story). It's fun, comes pretty naturally, and can be used to transition to other forms of play.

- Race games. I started this with Mimi in order to get her 'up'. When starting, two people required with some space between to run. One person holds the dog (by the waist with my guys) while the other is across the room with the lunge whip and fuzzy. The person with the whip can move the 'bunny' while the person with the dog 'false starts' a couple times before finally letting the dog go. I've found with my guys that this builds the energy as well as the desire to get the 'bunny'. I can also do this now with Mimi when I'm training. It was a huge help when I started teaching her weave poles to get her energy back up as she associated the "Ready...? Ready?! GO!" with excitement that has transferred to a more difficult obstacle. After they get the game of 'go', I've expanded it to include going after a toy I've thrown (now stationary) as "you see that thing over there? Go get it because it's awesome!"

- Transition toys. I'm not sure the technical name for what I'm going to try to describe, but I have two tennis balls that I've cut a hole in on either side. I then braided a piece of fur in with fleece and threaded/knotted it on either side of the tennis ball (so the ball has a furry 'tail'). This has worked particularly well for Ezra, as he's associated the tail to the tennis ball and will now retrieve just the tennis ball. I've also braided a strip of fur in to a fleece tug and started to transition my guys in to holding on (praise for taking it, extra praise and extra happy for holding on while I tug). Ezra's getting the game, Mimi I'm pretty sure is only offering the behavior because it gets her praise right now. It's a gradual thing with my two, but having a love of fuzz is definitely helpful. I'd like to get a food stuffable jackpot toy to help as well, but haven't gotten that far yet.


Are you getting an ex-racer or a puppy? If a puppy, I'd look at lots of drag/chase/toss games with different toys and materials. It's easier to build a drive in a puppy than build a drive in a dog who looks at you with a 'Why the heck would I chase a slobbery tennis ball' expression. If an ex-racer, it may be more of a Mimi situation where it has to look like a 'bunny' for it to be motivating enough to engage with on their own.

http://www.whippetracing.org/Informa...FinishLine.pdf This one includes start box, muzzle training etc. but has some good info on building a drive as a puppy and elaborates a bit on some of the games.

http://www.agilitynet.co.uk/training...rbachelor.html Good read on Greys in agility, the author uses mainly food rewards.

http://rubythewhippet.wordpress.com/...vas-toy-drive/ One of my favorite sighthound blogs, pulled the toy drive entry.


0.o Sorry so long.
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Old 12-11-2013, 06:12 PM
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I had to use food to teach Meg to play with toys as well, although I do wonder if it would have been different if I had her right from the time she was a puppy (assuming I'd had half a clue what I was doing then).

I'd 100% recommend and of the Agility-U drive/focus classes or the MaxPuppy or anything like that being offered around that time. I'm watching my friend work though that with her upcoming agility dog (a Cavalier, so not a lot of drive or toy interest built in) and have been really impressed.

I absolutely agree that you can do pretty much anything training wise with food that you can do with toys (at least for agility), but I also simply love to play with my dogs with toys. I was very relieved that Gusto likes playing so much.
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Old 12-11-2013, 06:22 PM
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Thanks for everything so far all! I'm going to read it in more depth later but there are quite a few things that stood out and will be helpful.

Keeping in mind that s/he will be more sensitive than the Koolies will be a big one too I think. I'm used to dogs I can beat up while playing and that come back harder for it. The racing to the toy thing worked wonders for Didgie's retrieve and drive so that will definitely be something to work on.

Wanted to add that I plan on trying to play Disc with future greyhound which is why building toy drive will be a big want.

And iriskai, s/he's going to be a puppy!

So keep any/all suggestions coming!

For those that used food to teach toy drive, how did you do that? I've never messed around with using food to shape a toy drive so any experiences with that would be awesome!6
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