Administrator & Alpha Bitch of the Wild Bunch
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Michigan, USA
Both videos mentioned demonstrate how to use a tug in training, but while the methods look similar on the surface they can have drastically different results and have different philosophies behind them.
With Balabanov's method, the dog is working for the toy. The toy is his motivator and his goal, and really what he is paying attention to.
With Ellis' method, the toy is a tool to increase engagement with the handler. It is not the end goal. The handler is the focus and the dog is working for the handler. The toy (and food and handlers jumping around like idiots making themselves tons of fun) is merely a part of making the handler the most fun and interesting thing out there.
Personally of the 2 popularized ways of toy training, I find Ellis' philosophy and method much better. Though I do think many take both way too far, working the dog in the wrong drive, wrong state of drive, and basically conditioning him to work for all the wrong reasons using toys. I use some toys, but sparingly as I want the dog to be working for me, not the toy. The toy is just the occasional bonus reward and most of that reward comes from us playing together and interacting together using the toy.
With both methods it is important to recognize the dog's optimum drive level (which with most dogs is quite different from maximum drive level) and make sure not to overload the dog in drive. And with both it is important to mark the desired behavior in some form, with clicker or verbal "yes" or whatever you want, before delivering the toy. Before even starting to reach for the toy. If the behavior is marked properly, when and how the toy is delivered doesn't matter as much. Though to prevent sign tracking I would not reward in the same location or manner every time. Though in heeling ideally more often than not one should deliver the reward in a way that when the dog gets it he is approximating the position for what he was rewarded for in the first place. Not in front or behind of well off to the side because before long the dog will start drifting in that direction even before release in anticipation of where the toy will be.
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