Author Topic: Withholding free access to toys for more focus during training and competition  (Read 841 times)


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I've been asking for and getting a lot of advice from people into schutzhund about how to raise and train Mukki.  Some of it's good advice but other things I am reluctant to do.  One thing I've completely dismissed is keeping my dogs separated and isolated from each other.  People are saying if the dogs play together too much they won't focus on me as much which makes sense, but I didn't just get Mukki for myself but to be a part of this pack, especially a playmate for Koda, they're absolutely in love and no way am I going to separate them.  Enjoying watching them play and joining in is one of my great joys in owning multiple Boxers.  It is very important to me that they get along very well, and without playing, snuggling, etc. together regularly I don't see how they could develop good, healthy bonds.  Schutzhund is just something I want to check out, not something I'm determined to compete in.  I do really want a focused dog for AKC competition too though, and fortunately have found at least several people who let their dogs have full roam of house and yard and access to each other while still being successful in various dog sports.  So separating and isolating my dogs is out, even if it means none of them ever get schutzhund titles.

Another thing that's being strongly encouraged by just about everyone I've discussed it with is the withholding of toys, except for when I am playing with and training them.  This will make the dogs associate more fun with me, and allow me to use toys/playing rewards as well as food.  I understand how this would work, but the thought of picking up all my dogs' toys and putting them out of reach just feels wrong to me.  Artax rarely touches any of them unless I play fetch with him, but Koda and Mukki play with toys A LOT and have so much fun.

Thoughts on this?  Does anyone here withhold toys to get better focus during any type of training or competition?  It seems like they could at least have some "every day" toys and then special, higher value ones for practicing and playing with me.
Artax, male Retriever mix, 11/1/99
Koda, CGC RN TT AD, male brindle, 10/10/08
Mukki, CGC, female fawn, 4/20/10


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I do have "special" toys that I only bring out during training - Xena has a rope tug and Dash has a Skineez chipmunk that he's mad for. With Xena, the tug is actually part of her training... and I've also found that if you leave rope tugs around, the dogs tend to chew, instead of tug, on their own.  With Dash, I wanted the chipmunk to really be something that grabbed his attention, rather than an "everyday" toy so it would be a higher reward.

I agree that I wouldn't be able to separate my dogs - we also got Dash to be a companion for Xena as well as us - and I couldn't withhold all toys.  I think it's really valuable to have a dog who can play by itself.  There are times when they need to keep occupied without me or without the other dog.
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Dash 07/06
Shady 07/05
In my heart: Xena 03/10/03 - 02/16/12


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I couldn't do the separation from each other or the toys...I have special ones for certain pups and only THEY can play with their special toy...and olny with me.
Claire-Mom to Ollie, Zoe, Phoebe, Willie & Snookie



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No, I don't withold toys or separate my dogs but yes, I have been to a lot of seminars that do recommend this approach. Honestly I still believe that one can do very well and get titles without doing this.

BUT the idea with this approach is that training becomes a truely special time for you and your dog - they get to spend time with someone playing and also having toys, which they don't normally have - so they want to work for you. So without doing this the challenge is how do you become more interesting to your dog and make training fun. If you can do that then I think you will be successful.

A lot depends on the personality of the dog though - because with Trigger he wants to be with me more than anything - and he always wants to play and he will play with anything - so there is no struggle at all to make training fun and interesting. With Skye it is a bit more of a challenge - she does have a special toy that she is crazy about and I do control this toy - sometimes she can have it in the house but mostly I reserve it for training.
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I think that with the personality of a boxer it would be almost mean to them to keep them separated from the others and to withhold all toys. What on earth would they be supposed to do all day?

I do think there should be high value toys or attention that really gets them going for training time and even training time could be singled out instead of working as a pack to keep the attention on you.

I am however speaking for a completely pet household where my two just do what ever they want all

April - mom of
Bones RIP big guy 11.04.10 :angel:
Macie 8 yrs brindle female
Chloe 11.19.09 fawn female
Love my rescue