It was awesome. I'd always meant to videotape when I first outed Laev off a live helper, because I was pretty certain it would be a good example of how solid foundations and early installation of "thinking during arousal" would pay off in the long run, but I hadn't brought a camera when I decided to do it. But trust me, it was pretty.
Laev has been doing pretty well in her protection work. She has nice obedience for the bite (though her fronts should be straighter), she is clean in the blind, she doesn't cheat on the blind search. I need to be working on calling out or heeling out of the blind from a hold and bark -- tough, as she learned the hold and bark in exchange for a bite -- and on outs.
Laev has had lovely outs off a toy with me since baby puppyhood. Right from the very beginning, I trained her to know that "out" meant the faster you let go, the faster we get to restart the game. There was no conflict at all in it. (Because she'll be competing in protection sports, I also specifically trained that even if I stop playing, she is not to let go unless I verbally cue, a step unnecessary for most pets.)
But, no matter how wild Laev and I play, she'll never hit the same level of arousal with me as she will with a real helper. Laev and I are a team. The decoy, even though he's not a hated enemy, is an opponent. It's a game, yes, but it's a game Laev takes very seriously. She is playing with me; she is playing and fighting with the decoy. So that means there's a bunch of adrenalin and a cocktail of other goodies rushing through her brain while she's on that sleeve, all working together to make it as hard as possible for her to do a nice, clean, fast out.
So I've held off on even attempting an out off a live helper. Let's get everything else where it needs to be, and then I can worry about that. In the meantime, I can use winning the sleeve to reinforce all kinds of behaviors. I'll add the out later. But then, I realized, now that Laev is three, I should probably get around to it. ;-)
So last Monday suddenly I decided to try it, and we set up for success. I started Laev with a nice long blind search, so she had a chance to blow some steam and wasn't in her first flush of bitework thrills. She performed a nice clean hold and bark and was rewarded with a bite. The helper fought her, came out, and slipped the sleeve as instructed. I called Laev to bring me the sleeve and we played tug.
I paused in playing. "Out." Laev backed out immediately, and I cued to re-bite. Quick review of game. Yes, Mom, I get it. Same game with the toy and the sleeve. No brainer.
So, while playing, I passed the sleeve to the helper. Play, tug, tug. He paused. "Out," I cued. Laev never hesitated. This was the same picture she'd always seen, toy in her mouth and the human still, only this toy was bigger and the human wasn't me. Still, no problem.
Rebite. The helper played some more and then slipped his arm into the sleeve. Ah, better play! Laev got a bit excited, but when I cued, "Out," she came right off. Click, rebite.
Oh, right, I get it! Out for bite! Awesome!
Slip sleeve, out, tease, drag Laev away. Repeat blind search. Slip sleeve, helper plays and outs, Laev rebites on cue, he puts sleeve on, fights, outs. She was good for every repetition except where the sleeve was high and she had her feet on him; she wasn't quite sure she could do it from there and she responded slowly, with a bit of mouthing. But there was no click and we just waited a few seconds before cuing a bite again, and her next repetition was back to flawless.
So one mistake of perhaps 15 or so trials. I was happy with that.
Now, can she do it without running off that first thrill of coming on the field? Not yet. But this is a nice start.