I don't pretend to be an expert. This is my first SAR dog and also one of the most complicated dogs I have ever owned.... complicated, head strong and sensitive all at the same time. But like your Taz, he shows an amazing work ethic and a nose for SAR. I too have been challenged by toys. My SAR folks told me that most puppies start with a great food drive and it is okay to use that and constantly be checking for toy drive. That it will develop with most dogs. A friend of mine had a Golden that didn't chase a ball until it was 18 months old and then became a fiend for the ball and a very good avalanche SAR dog.
For Tygo, we used food first. Oddly, I had to learn to play with Tygo with a trainer. This dog is so sensitive to cueing that I lost some of the fun of play and for him it became about possession. That training has been very successful. We are now able to use a chuck-it squirrel for a combination of tub and frisbee and that seems to be working well. It has been very important for me to only use his favorite toy in SAR work. It can't be used at other times or it loses its specialness to him.
I do, like you I think, wonder about the ability of a dogs work ethic to carry him through the work. Tygo has always had a very determined work ethic.
One other thing, I once has a Pyrenean shepherd that I got as a 3 year old with no toy drive. I was able to tap into it though with a rabbit pelt. She went nuts for that and I was able to transfer that to toys... then my brother's Berner ate the rabbit pelt. So beware if you go that route.
Dutch Shepherd - Ptygo (Tee-Go) de las Flores
Rescue GSD - Freyja (Husband's Dog)
Last edited by DutchKarin; 06-24-2014 at 06:07 PM.