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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

You want a Frisbee dog

You want a Frisbee dog, you’re seen the way cool YouTube video with a Collie doing flips and grappling a Frisbee out of the air. Now you want your Chow or Pit Bull to catch a Frisbee. First, best of luck buddy, and second, bring a boat load of patience.
A dog has a natural instinct to chase squirrels and rabbits, we wish to mold this behavior to chase a ball or Frisbee. A puppy is easiest to train, roll the ball or Frisbee pass them, at about 3 months of age they will suddenly turn and jump on the ball/Frisbee, now you have them for the rest of their life. They will become devoted to the game and enjoy it without end; they will constantly pester you to play. Enjoy the game with your companion, the flips, leaps and cavorting will emerge from the dog’s natural personality. One note of caution, the dog will become so determined to snag this substitute flying squirrel that they might hurt themselves. I had a Blue Healer that blew out a knee cap catching the Frisbee; after he recuperated I had to keep the Frisbee throws at a low effort.
An adult dog that missed the opportunity to learn ball chasing as a pup will need a two step training process. The “Carry” command and the “Hand” command. I teach these commands to all my dogs as the two commands can be used as a foundation for many complex tricks. The Carry command teaches the dog to carry something, actually anything, in their mouth, while the Hand command teaches the dog to hand you whatever they have in their mouth. Once the command as been firming placed, you can stand back a few feet and say Carry while tossing the Frisbee, the dog will catch the Frisbee, now use the Hand command to have the dog return and give the Frisbee to you. Continue to increase the distance and eventually drop the verbal commands. Now you have a Frisbee dog.  
There are many websites detailing the many methods for instilling these two commands so I will just be general here. I teach the commands while I watch TV or cruise the internet, I use anything available, envelopes, remote control, pack of cigs, pencil, etc. The main point is repetition, since I’m not doing anything worthwhile online this exercise can continue for hours.
The truly major point is the carrot and stick training method, the stick never works while the carrot always works. I have observed dog owners that become flustered with a dog that runs away, when they finally catch the dog or the dog returns, they beat the dog for running away. The dog does not get the lesson. The dog does not remember the running away part, while the dog does remembers the coming back part and the getting beaten part, the last two are close enough in time for the dog to connect them. These dog masters are teaching their dog to not come to them.
I will give the dog a treat for getting close to the desired behavior, positive reinforcement works every time. There is no predicting the results of negative reinforcement, never use it.

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