If you have access to some PSA 3 handlers, you are in good hands. I don't think people unfamiliar with the sport realize how challenging it is for both the handler and the dog. In the nearly 20 years of the sport, there are less than 20 dogs that have obtained a PSA 3 title and I believe only one was a GSD. A leather rag is good, as opposed to burlap or some other type of cloth. When the very young puppies are worked on the small jug, they tend to pin it on the ground with their paws while gripping and the decoy will straddle the pup and massage and gently push in behind their ears at the top of the neck to encourage pushing. Another thing I learned is that when the young pups have had a few sessions on the jug on a whip, while they have the jug gripped and pinned down, the decoy will jerk the whip in a rhythmic pattern to simulate a heartbeat as if the pup has captured actual live prey. I don't how much that really helps, but it does make some sense. I didn't get my GSD until he was four months old because I imported him from Canada and he had to be 16 weeks old to get his rabies vaccine before he could come to the U.S., so he didn't get that type of early bite work and was started on a leather wedge. Also, the other pups are Mals mainly from non FCI Dutch lines, so I have to wonder if some of the pushing is partially genetic due to selecting in breeding. Regarding distractions, they are not added until the dog has developed some good focus and is showing good drive and they are all in the context of obedience and never in bite work until they are no longer distractions. So a dog with a fair amount of static and moving heeling will be introduced to a whip, clatter stick or bottle curtain while they are doing obedience and are corrected if they take their focus off the handler. The distractions usually start as the dog is increasingly learning to maintain focus on the handler at the static heel position for increasingly longer periods of time and the distractions will start with something less distracting like stomping or shuffling of feet by someone else on the field and become more intense as the dog improves. With that approach, by the time they see distractions in the bite work they are much less prone to be drawn to them. We are cautious about moving a dog to the suit, especially the bicep and especially if the dog has some aggression because more problems can be created than solved by going to the bicep bite too soon if the dog lacks the mental maturity to deal with actually biting the decoy rather than a prey object. I believe most PSA clubs use a competition suit that is thinner so the dog can feel the muscles and tendons of the decoy through the suit and gets more of a sense of biting a person rather than a giant sleeve as often happens with bulky, Michelin Man suits. Another thing that is different for me is the teaching of the in motion exercises. In schH/IPO/IGP, I taught the in motion exercises by pivoting into the dog to block in him and then commanding to sit or down. In PSA, I was shown to introduce them by holding a long line in my left hand and the ball cupped in my right hand placed in front of the dog's face while walking backwards and giving the come command. After several steps, for a sit, I sharply raise the ball up, and if the dog sits fast, I keep walking backwards a few steps and toss the ball to my dog's mouth and he releases and catches the ball. With the down, the ball in the cupped hand in quickly brought down toward the ground while you are backing up. Only reward fast sits or downs and this isn't started until you have down a ton of sits and downs and walked away at different angles from the dog while he is sitting or downing, and coming back to the dog and reinforcing with food, walking away again, etc.
Yep! There are 22 teams with a PSA3 and I believe Moses is the only GSD. I was actually fortunate to be at the Dallas K-9 trial where Derrick and Kasino finished out their 3. I photographed the trial and will be headed to the OKC trial to photograph that one, as well.
You can see the photos from Dallas here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?...1&l=034db4fa52
We are very fortunate in Dallas to have two clubs near by, each with PSA3 handlers. Stacey Beller is part of my club (I was hanging out with Tuco last night at club) as well as several other very experienced handlers (Khoi Pham is amazing and between him and Stacey I am learning a ton.) Darrick Rose is over on the other side of town with his club, and we have amazing decoys like Josh Kirby and Daniel Morris who I am learning a lot from in regards to decoying. Just surrounded by resources that I know are very scarce in others parts of the country.
I will definitely have to give the jug a try. The pup was pinning the rag to the ground last night during puppy bitework, and I can see his possession growing. I have really backed off of doing any rag work at home and want him to understand that club days are special.
I definitely think the pushing has a genetic component to it, and that some of the Mal lines pass it down. We have several Tuco pups at club (who are now on their PDCs and PSA1s) and you can see them pushing and holding decoys in similar manners. He produces some really super pups with nice grips and nerve. With my pup, being a GSD, I've just focused on only rewarding pushing with the rag and it seems to be working. He bites into the rag and has a nice full grip, holds on and is using his paws to hold down the rag.
Regarding the suits, I like a thinner suit and we tend to steer that way with our training decoys it seems. I'm going to order my own suit soon and it will be semi-comp. I like being able to feel the dog and for obvious reasons, the dog works harder when it can feel the muscle under the suit. I switched between two suit jackets last night on the same dog (one was comp and the other was semi-comp) and the difference is huge. I also like being able to move better in the semi.
I'm still working the touchpad with the pup right now, and he is doing really well for only being home for a little over a week. His obedience to the touchpad is solid, he won't be lured off, and he is turning in all directions to ensure he is always facing me. We are now working on the heel position and will start heeling off the touchpad in the next few sessions. I'm super impressed with how smart the little guy is. His obedience is going to be really solid. I'm only working with food right now (his food drive is excellent) but will transition to the ball once he's a bit bigger and we start motion exercises.