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Increasing/encouraging Toy Drive

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After years out of the games, we're going back to training, mostly agility but also some obedience work. My girl Su has enough food drive that I could stick with that as a reward but I'd love to also use toys in training. There are times when toys are just more convenient. However, Su has only a small amount toy drive & almost no tug at all. She does have just enough toy drive that I think it worth my effort to encourage it. Am looking for ideas at encouraging it. Tennis balls are things she'll notice when rolling along the floor but rarely goes for. Large stuffies seem to be of the most interest. Those are not things I want to carry with me when training but could be a good starting point.


My goal is to use a small tug toy or retrieval toy, things that are easy to carry, store out of sight on my body or nearby, and quick to use. The question is how to go about increasing her toy drive, starting with the large toys she already prefers, and transferring that to small items. Hopefully, I can get her to enjoy short tug games as well.


Venus, my first Grey, was trained only with food & at times it was a struggle finding things with high enough value to get her really excited. (Su is more energetic & excitable to begin with, thank heavens.) She wasn't interested in toys during training and I never tried to encourage her to train with toys. However, later I did teach her to retrieve dropped items for me. To my surprise, after learning that she started to enjoy a game of fetch. We could take a break during a work day for a few reps of short distance fetching with a little Beanie toy. It was quite a surprise and a joy to watch her enjoying a game during an ordinarily boring work day. The little Beanie was much more convenient to have around than food rewards. Am looking to do something similar with Su but was hoping for a route there that didn't require training a working retrieve first.


Don't really have much idea how to go about this. My first thought is to try shaping. Planning to keep the sessions very, very short. Will pick one toy just for this "game", bringing it out only when working on toy drive. That's what I did when trying to "add value" to specific toys, but that was for a dog who already had a lot of toy drive. There's even the funny sounding, but apparently sometimes successful approach of me playing with the toy by myself, pretending that I'm having the time of my life while the dog just watches. (That assumes she even watches.) That's not quite my style though so I've little confidence that would work.


Does anyone have other ideas?

Edited by kudzu
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Recruit another human to help you play with the stuffy?


Attach the stuffy to a lure pole? Most greyhounds seem to go wild for these.....

Clare with Tiger (Snapper Gar, b. 18/05/2015), and remembering Ken (Boomtown Ken, 01/05/2011-21/02/2020) and Doc (Barefoot Doctor, 20/08/2001-15/04/2015).

"It is also to be noted of every species, that the handsomest of each move best ... and beasts of the most elegant form, always excel in speed; of this, the horse and greyhound are beautiful examples."----Wiliam Hogarth, The Analysis of Beauty, 1753.

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Well putting a specific toy on a lure pole sounds like a good start. I did buy a tug toy made of strips of fleece with some braided in rabbit fur. My guy Sol goes nuts for it. Su is a bit interested but not enough to start a game. It's a logical choice for putting on a lure pole. Will try to find my old lunge whip. Can stop by the feed store today for a new one if necessary.

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It's all about making the toy as exciting as possible, and making it a valuable commodity. There are a number of ways to do this, but the most important thing is to always be enthusiastic about the toy. Don't train with a toy unless you are prepared to be 110% over the top crazy happy and energetic. I used to joke about running Kili at agility class being more of a work out for me than for her.


Here's an excerpt from a blog post I made when Kili was about 10 months old. Were taking a sports foundation class at the time and a big component was encouraging toy drive:

Drive: In this exercise you throw your toy and hold your dog back. Be sure to be pulling BACK on the collar and not UP. Your dog is not to sit politely and wait. You want her to be pulling towards the toy. You then release your dog with a command to "Get it!" and race her for the toy. If her motivation is poor and you get to the toy before her you should grab it and have a party for one. Make the toy seem like the most exciting thing you've ever had. This should get your dog interested in it, so continue your party for one until she is jumping for it. Grab her collar immediately and repeat the exercise. She should be much more motivated to get to the toy first. If she does then grab the other end and engage her in tug for a minute. Always try to stop this exercise with your dog still really wanting more. Put your toy away and only bring it out for this game.


Here's the video that goes along with it... drive is the last exercise, so you can fast forward a bit to see that. However, the other exercises are also helpful and you can also see a bit of what I mean by being enthusiastic and over the top excited about the toy.




I also followed this up awhile later with a post on motivation in agility. At this point we did have some tug drive, and what I was describing was using it to transfer the drive over to the agility run... however it still applies to developing toy drive and it shows you what I mean. So in the first part of the video I did a bit of play, and for a lot of dogs I would have been exciting enough to get a good run, but Kili was just kind of lukewarm about it. To really GET HER GOING I had to RUN, YELL, SQUEAL, and play KEEP AWAY... for several minutes. She loved it and she'd tug and chase and show her toy drive. But if I didn't give her 110% then she didn't even give me 50%.




Here's the full blog post if you want to read the details: http://apexagilitygreyhounds.blogspot.ca/2014/01/16-months-hard-to-motivate.html


Now is a completely different story. I try to run her before I head to a trial to take a bit out of her, and then I do some focus work before we head to the line, but I no longer try to rev her up (I'm actually trying to rev her DOWN usually). It becomes second nature, but you really have to mean it and give it in the beginning with a greyhound. Good luck and let me know how it goes! I'm looking forward to doing this all over again soon!


ETA: Also, don't forget the key rules for tug/toy training... 1. Moving prey is way more exciting than dead prey. Make sure the toy is moving lots. 2. Always move the toy AWAY from the dog's mouth, don't shove it in. As my trainer always used to say, "Squirrels don't jump into their mouths, they run away!". Some dogs get turned off by having things shoved into their faces, and most dogs have some level of chase drive that is engaged by something moving away from them

Edited by krissy

Kristie and the Apex Agility Greyhounds: Kili (ATChC AgMCh Lakilanni Where Eagles Fly RN IP MSCDC MTRDC ExS Bronze ExJ Bronze ) and Kenna (Lakilanni Kiss The Sky RN MADC MJDC AGDC AGEx AGExJ). Waiting at the Bridge: Retired racer Summit (Bbf Dropout) May 5, 2005-Jan 30, 2019

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And this gives you an idea of what toy motivation can develop into:




I basically just present a toy now and she gets super excited about it. We still mostly use food at trials and classes because that does still have a stronger value for her, but at home I train frequently with just toys.

Kristie and the Apex Agility Greyhounds: Kili (ATChC AgMCh Lakilanni Where Eagles Fly RN IP MSCDC MTRDC ExS Bronze ExJ Bronze ) and Kenna (Lakilanni Kiss The Sky RN MADC MJDC AGDC AGEx AGExJ). Waiting at the Bridge: Retired racer Summit (Bbf Dropout) May 5, 2005-Jan 30, 2019

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