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Old 10-09-2019, 06:08 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Puppy has trouble paying attention in puppy class - any poodle specific advice?

Hello PF

My puppy is about 6 months old right now, we have done two puppy classes so far - puppy level 1 and puppy level 2 at a local positive reinforcement dog training school - each class was 6 weeks long. While Neo is very smart and can figure out and remember cues very easily when he wants to focus and pay attention, we have had issues with him actually paying attention to us in class! I am soon starting a 10 week long beginning obedience class with him at a training school that helps people train to compete in obedience, which is something I maybe want to dabble in in the future. I'm looking to really set us up for success for this class, so I wanted to see if any other poodle owners have any advice for me with the problems I have in classes.

Our problem is that during classes Neo gets quite overstimulated and has trouble ignoring the other dogs and people, as well as the sights and smells of the room, and food that anyone may have dropped on the floor. He will whine and pull on leash frantically trying to get to other dogs. We have worked a lot on having him ignore dogs on walks and he's doing pretty great at that, but it only works at a certain distance. The other dogs in class are way too close for him to focus! His attention span is super short. When he does decide to pay attention, it's often for 2.5 seconds, and when he has finished the cue and gotten his treat, he will immediately blow us off and start looking at the other dogs. This makes "Stay" in class truly impossible because if he doesn't get reinforcement very very quickly and very very often he will give up on paying attention to us and go back to his antics. He also does not settle well. I often found myself looking at the other puppies in our classes with envy while they chilled lying down at their owner's feet between exercises, while Neo was flipping out pulling and whining and pacing.

I have heard from a couple poodle owners on Facebook that I know that they experienced similar things with their puppies. Does anyone here have any advice for working through this challenge? Obviously he's still a puppy and we have a long way to go! I don't expect perfect anytime soon, but would just like to help him learn that he can't play with other pups during classes... and also that chilling for a second won't kill him



Thank you!
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Old 10-09-2019, 06:21 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I can very much relate! Peggy's by far the most active at our puppy classes, and although she often surprises us with how quickly she learns new things, her attention span at 4.5 months is equally quick!

Are the puppies in your class divided by barriers of some sort? If our trainer didn't use long babygate-type dividers to create clearly defined spaces for each pup, we'd be having much less success. Sure, she'll occasionally hop up on one to say hi to a neighbouring pal, but she can refocus fairly easily.
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Old 10-09-2019, 06:26 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I can very much relate! Peggy's by far the most active at our puppy classes, and although she often surprises us with how quickly she learns new things, her attention span at 4.5 months is equally quick!

Are the puppies in your class divided by barriers of some sort? If our trainer didn't use long babygate-type dividers to create clearly defined spaces for each pup, we'd be having much less success. Sure, she'll occasionally hop up on one to say hi to a neighbouring pal, but she can refocus fairly easily.
I meant to add that in my original post but I forgot! We actually did use barriers around our station for the last half of the classes we took which were great! Very helpful, although we quickly learned that Neo had no problem trying to A) jump over the barriers B) knock over the barriers, and C) trying to find a gap between the barriers and escaping through that. LOL! He is very determined to get what he wants. Unfortunately our new class will not have barriers, so much more focus will be needed. Eek! I'm very nervous and considered not taking the class for that reason but I figured maybe the challenge will be what it takes for us to actually progress.
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Old 10-09-2019, 06:42 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I can very much relate! Peggy's by far the most active at our puppy classes, and although she often surprises us with how quickly she learns new things, her attention span at 4.5 months is equally quick!

Are the puppies in your class divided by barriers of some sort? If our trainer didn't use long babygate-type dividers to create clearly defined spaces for each pup, we'd be having much less success. Sure, she'll occasionally hop up on one to say hi to a neighbouring pal, but she can refocus fairly easily.
I meant to add that in my original post but I forgot! We actually did use barriers around our station for the last half of the classes we took which were great! Very helpful, although we quickly learned that Neo had no problem trying to A) jump over the barriers B) knock over the barriers, and C) trying to find a gap between the barriers and escaping through that. LOL! He is very determined to get what he wants. Unfortunately our new class will not have barriers, so much more focus will be needed. Eek! I'm very nervous and considered not taking the class for that reason but I figured maybe the challenge will be what it takes for us to actually progress.
Oh Peggy finds those gaps, too! Ha! It's become a bit of a running joke in class. But honestly, I'd take her curious exuberance over some of the quieter pups any day. Sure they're laser focused on their owners, but (in our class at least) some of them are using that behaviour to avoid frightening stimuli. From a distance it looks desirable, but it represents a whole other challenge.

If upping the value of your treats doesn't work, and your trainer similarly can't get him to focus (ours works magic with Peggy - gives us something to aspire to!) then maybe he's not ready for the next challenge. I believe that everything does eventually click, but maybe not on our desired timeline.

Is there time set aside for free play? In our class, this is typically the last 15 minutes, but one time we did it at the beginning, which was AMAZING because Peggy could focus so much better after. But, as our trainer explained, you don't want to make that a habit. They should see other dogs and think "It's time to calm down, focus, and work" not "It's time to play."
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Old 10-09-2019, 07:37 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Don't be afraid to repeat the class you are in rather than moving up to a class he isn't ready for. If the barriers in the current class are helping, giving him more time doing something that is working for him will be more beneficial than moving up to something that will just blow his mind so that he is unable to learn anything.

Spending more time on the basics while he is maturing and gaining self control will set you up for success if you decide to compete in obedience, and also in anything else you do with him. Pushing him too fast will leave you with gaps in his understanding which will have to be fixed later on. Yes, poodles learn very fast, but it's not just a matter of learning, it's a matter of gaining understanding and self control, and building you and your dog into a team that can work together.
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Old 10-09-2019, 10:12 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by reraven123 View Post
Don't be afraid to repeat the class you are in rather than moving up to a class he isn't ready for. If the barriers in the current class are helping, giving him more time doing something that is working for him will be more beneficial than moving up to something that will just blow his mind so that he is unable to learn anything.

Spending more time on the basics while he is maturing and gaining self control will set you up for success if you decide to compete in obedience, and also in anything else you do with him. Pushing him too fast will leave you with gaps in his understanding which will have to be fixed later on. Yes, poodles learn very fast, but it's not just a matter of learning, it's a matter of gaining understanding and self control, and building you and your dog into a team that can work together.
This is very good advice but I've already paid for the new class and they don't give refunds, lol! However it's not really up a level, rather it's the first level but at a different training school which is a bit more geared towards people who may eventually want to compete with their dogs, versus my original place which was geared towards pet people. I'm actually hoping that it will do us good because it's a longer course - 10 weeks long as opposed to 6 weeks. The other classes I felt like we were just getting it by the last week!

Hopefully they will have solutions for me. I'm sure that he won't be the first hyperactive puppy they've seen so maybe they have some ideas up their sleeve that I don't know about yet.
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Old 10-09-2019, 10:18 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by PeggyTheParti View Post
Oh Peggy finds those gaps, too! Ha! It's become a bit of a running joke in class. But honestly, I'd take her curious exuberance over some of the quieter pups any day. Sure they're laser focused on their owners, but (in our class at least) some of them are using that behaviour to avoid frightening stimuli. From a distance it looks desirable, but it represents a whole other challenge.

If upping the value of your treats doesn't work, and your trainer similarly can't get him to focus (ours works magic with Peggy - gives us something to aspire to!) then maybe he's not ready for the next challenge. I believe that everything does eventually click, but maybe not on our desired timeline.

Is there time set aside for free play? In our class, this is typically the last 15 minutes, but one time we did it at the beginning, which was AMAZING because Peggy could focus so much better after. But, as our trainer explained, you don't want to make that a habit. They should see other dogs and think "It's time to calm down, focus, and work" not "It's time to play."
We have found that his highest value treat is fish. It works but it's very stinky lol! At least it forces us to stay on top of brushing his teeth

The trainer can always get a fantastic performance out of him! Mostly because he's just looking for attention from anyone in the room BUT us, lol.

There's no play in this class, there was in our other classes. But I'm hoping that that will be good so that he doesn't have the expectation of play distracting him the whole time!
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Old 10-09-2019, 11:31 PM   #8 (permalink)
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One owner in our class uses stinky salmon! Peggy ADORES her 😄
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Old 10-10-2019, 06:35 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
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I'm actually hoping that it will do us good because it's a longer course - 10 weeks long as opposed to 6 weeks. The other classes I felt like we were just getting it by the last week!
This is why it is often good to repeat classes, especially with young dogs. In the new class try to keep in mind that you are there not so much learning things as getting him to a place where he can learn. Once he's in that place he will learn incredibly fast, and in fact you will see that he already knows most of it but just wasn't able to perform yet.

Absolutely no play with the other dogs. Not in class, not in that building outside of class, not even outside of the building on the way in. He needs to learn that he is there to "play" with you, not the other dogs. He doesn't even get to sniff noses or meet the other dogs. Puppy classes include a lot of socialization, as they should, but this class is for building you and your dog into a team.

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Old 10-10-2019, 10:18 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by reraven123 View Post
This is why it is often good to repeat classes, especially with young dogs. In the new class try to keep in mind that you are there not so much learning things as getting him to a place where he can learn. Once he's in that place he will learn incredibly fast, and in fact you will see that he already knows most of it but just wasn't able to perform yet.

Absolutely no play with the other dogs. Not in class, not in that building outside of class, not even outside of the building on the way in. He needs to learn that he is there to "play" with you, not the other dogs. He doesn't even get to sniff noses or meet the other dogs. Puppy classes include a lot of socialization, as they should, but this class is for building you and your dog into a team.
Thank you for your advice! I am already prepared to retake this class if needed His brain seems to have clicked into place for a lot of things lately and he has been self-settling a lot more lately, so I'm hoping that maybe we will see a difference in classes already now that he has matured just a little more. I will make sure to take it slow and go at his pace!

Yes we already don't greet dogs on leash on walks so I will make sure I am firm about not allowing it in class or nearby the class either, so he doesn't have that expectation. I do think being allowed to play with other dogs for a portion of the other classes was confusing for him. While it was nice to get playtime, it held us back during the actual class time because he just wanted to play!
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