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I thought I'd start a thread on this. I was working someone earlier on what they thought was a dog problem (actually a dog with a problem human... but that's normally the case). It tripped the trigger in my memory to something that happened years ago. I thought others might learn from it or gain something from it in their training/handling of their dogs. I hope so.

There's always something you can do with your dog but most often times the problem is on the human's end. We get so focused on getting the dog to sit we forget that there are many ways to achieve this. I trained the personal dog of a police officer. Nice enough fellow but like a lot of folks, not very creative minded. We were talking about various strategies to keep his dog focused. He said to me something like, "Yes, but what do I do once the obedience is done?" My husband started to answer & I shook my head. I asked him "Is the obedience ever done?" He said "I guess not but heel, sit, down, come could get old pretty quick." I nodded & asked him if he had a dollar bill on him or a bill of some kind. He fished around in his wallet & came out with a $20. I took it without preamble & said, "Good, even better because this one will matter more". He was kinda shocked. My husband shrugged, when the officer looked at him in question he told our customer, "your guess is as good as mine". I folded this bill as tightly & as many times as I could. The dog, seeing me so intent upon what's in my hand came up to see. I put my hand against her muzzle & gave a soft push. "now now... this is very important so don't fuddle with it." The dog was now riveted. I had something & wasn't letting her have free access to it so now she's really interested. (Readers should note: this is very different from teasing & taunting a dog.) She kept doing the whole "lemme see! Lemme see!" thing. I pulled it back & said "Not until it's time" & the dog sat very patiently, her tail wagging. Keep in mind my tone was light & full of fun & my interest was on the job at hand. No correction in my tone, no command either. This is very much how children train dogs so much easier than humans. They're focus is what gets the pup/dog interested.

So when I was satisfied with the job I'd done, I took the bill cube & tossed it near the dog & said, "find it" in sort of a question sort of tone. The dog lunged forward her nose snuffling loudly & of course right on target, all but pouncing on it but then looking at me with a question in her eyes. I said in a proud & praising tone, "GOOD FIND" & went to the dog. Picked up the bill-cube & petted the dog's muzzle & face. "Good find". I put her in a down (GOOD DOWN) & for a moment the dog & I just looked at one another. "Stay." I grinned. "Good stay". I let the dog watch me do this again. Toss cube but this time a little more than 6 inches from where she could easily reach. She started to lurch but remembered her down-stay. If she had forgotten, I would have halted, taken her back to the spot where she was to down/stay & started again. As soon as I could see she would hold her position but it was hard, I released her with, "FIND IT". She lurched forward & instantly bonked the cube with her nose. I came forward & praised, "GOOD FIND IT" slower to bend & pick it up & again, petting the muzzle with my hand with the cube in it. Next time a little further away... (sort of a rinse repeat). Again the dog held her spot until the find-it given, then she went to it to get her praise. The next time, since she'd done so well I waited until she got a little bored, probably thought this lesson might be at an end (you know human's, a dog can't trust them to focus for long). The moment she looked away I gave the bill-cube a toss a few inches from the last spot but she didn't see where it went. I again give the command "find it" & the dog, well she knows what this means now... but... but... but... I stepped forward & the dog lunged forward & instantly went to use her nose but...the cube was close enough that she didn't have to hunt far (most of the time they will return to that last spot which is why we don't go far from that point). I praise "GOOD FIND" & have her down/stay, praise for the down (good down) & then same for the stay once the stay is given. I pick up the cube & pet her again as before.

I turned to her owner & said, "Now, you have watched your dog use obedience, learn a new set of skills/commands to a task that while it is not new to her is new to doing it on command." I took the cube & tossed it behind me where the dog or I, or the man was not looking & handed him the lead & said, "use your dog to find your $20" Totally messed him up. He couldn't remember a command or what to do & was like 5 monkeys with 1 banana. This always makes me smile. The dog learns what we need so quickly. The human... not so much, LOL. He'd seen me repeat the lesson the same way the dog had. The dog learned.. the human fumbled. That's okay. It's to be expected. Dogs are, well... they're amazing & dogs. Humans are humans & we fumble & need to work more at learning some things. It's all good. The man made the first find but was very disturbed when he unfolded the bill & discovered it was a $1. Oh yes, it is good to be a clever human. I looked at him & said, "then perhaps you need to use your dog to FIND your bill" Again he is fumbling & so I got his attention & said very calmly. "Go to the point where you found the last bill. Stand as still as you can & tell your dog, 'find it'. You are to stand like a fence post & let her cast right & left & use her nose. Let her work. She will find the bill & surely you wouldn't want a civilian girl to have to do that for you." (LOL, oh well it was game on at that statement, as I knew it would be). It took less than five minutes for him to find his bill. He was proud as punch but still didn't understand what he had just done.

He asked, "so how long did you work with her on finding objects?" My husband said, "What do you mean?" The guy looked at him, then at me. I was looking at my watch... "approximately 20 minutes". I had to explain it all to him again. The dog had not been worked in any form of tracking. It's not what she was brought to us for. I would sometimes use a client's dog to track with to give the dog some variety but I had not done so with this dog. He was astonished. I even showed him the training log where each day I logged in what commands were learned, what the dog struggled with, what she excelled at, etc... no tracking or nose work. He was floored. I further explained that not only had his dog learned this behavior in 20 minutes... she had sought out not 1 but 2 items... one she was accustomed to, the other she was not. He said, "but it had your scent on it"... I said "did it?" & showed him my hand. I pulled a plastic baggie out of my pants pocket that had once contained the $1. I'd had it in there from a previous lesson & it did not have my scent on it. One of the guys had lost a bet & paid in singles. But rather than take the money, I had him go through the exercise of folding them for me as instructed & place them in single baggies & seal them. Each time I used one, I never touched it. Unzip, secure in hand, toss using baggie as glove... wa-la unfamiliar scent. What's more if he never used this again & 5 years later he brought her back to me... she would quickly remember & do it again. (A fact that I would show him 2 years later in a park near where I worked.) He hadn't used part of her training & needed help. The dog had never forgotten, she simply didn't have to & so she didn't. I showed up & she's like "Ma'am, yes ma'am" & worked beside me with her tail waving like a flag in a high wind. He hadn't called for help because he was jealous for the way she was eager to work for me. I told him, "You don't realize how badly she wants to work for you like that. YOU are her human... but she can't until you're ready. So let's get with it."

I tell everyone the best thing you can do for your dog is to be interesting to your dog, be present, engage your dog, work on your communication & if you hit a roadblock in your training... change the conversation so that the dog sees the work from a different angle or a different way. Most of the time the problem isn't the dog but the communication isn't clear or consistent. Exaggerate to teach then grow more subtle as time goes on. My Giant is to be 10 years old this spring. I rarely have to tell her anymore. I constantly grow more subtle as the dog is ready for something new. Soon you'll have the dog everyone wishes their dog would behave like but that won't matter because when you have a dog who WANTS to work with you... no one else's opinion really matters anymore but your dog's opinion really is the one that counts. You & the dog are a team.
 

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Thanks for this post, dogsavvy.

Being more engaging than the rest of the world is 100% the most difficult part of dog training for me - my dog has very little food drive, she's very much a 'Here for the Party' kinda girl. Working out how to make myself and what I want more engaging for her than the alternatives is really most of my battle. Especially since dogs are so good at knowing when you are faking it!

I'll keep working on it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
Mine aren't trained with any food so I understand. Although when I give my Giant her allergy meds, all the dogs race to their treat spots. Mr. Layne gets in his crate. They get a cookie or green bean. It helps my Giant not to spit out the pills... & the moral support helps too (or so they would have you believe, lol).

Sometimes changing up the stuff you do. I might get a roll of light test fishing line. I go to the woods & simulate trip wires. (No, you'll never need this but it's fun to watch your dog locate & indicate on somethings that's hard for the eye to puck up ir to use that light line to go over & under) I take the dog & put them to work finding the fake wires or use the line & train the dog to over & under commands so the dog learns the difference. Tomorrow I might just take off running for no reason for the joy of watching my dogs Amp up & bounce beside me. The whole world is a training, handling experience waiting... mostly we don't see the forest for the trees.
 

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Thanks for this post, dogsavvy.

Being more engaging than the rest of the world is 100% the most difficult part of dog training for me - my dog has very little food drive, she's very much a 'Here for the Party' kinda girl. Working out how to make myself and what I want more engaging for her than the alternatives is really most of my battle. Especially since dogs are so good at knowing when you are faking it!

I'll keep working on it.
I have been getting so discouraged by this. We have tried two different puppy training programs, and we just finished the fourth week of the second one. And my smart puppy who knows ALL the tricks at home gets into that big arena with other DOGS and PEOPLE and promptly loses his mind with excitement. It feels as if I’m suddenly just dead weight to him on the end of the leash, and all that work we’ve done at home to build that connection just vanishes. I can’t get his attention for love or money (or treats or toys, for that matter.)

I’m hoping this will get better over time. Just discouraged that after ten classes, we don’t have a hope at passing that Puppy STAR program, even with all our diligent work at home.
 

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Thomazine - I realize this is can be really difficult in the current pandemic, but have you had the opportunity to go anywhere less crazy than a class to practice? Maybe a park, your front yard, the grocery store parking lot? With attention, one thing I have learned is sometimes you have to practice in a lower distraction environment, move onto a slightly more distracting environment, then master that.

I also find for Annie, I have better focus/engagement if I take her on a sniffy walk immediately before class to clear her brain.

Is there any way you can get more distance from the other people in class? One place I went to encouraged people if they were struggling to walk out the door and practice outside so they could get their dog under control, then work on moving closer and upping the distractions. The trainer said she taught one class where she had to have someone out the arena door,around the corner, and halfway down the field, with an assistant running instructions back to them, in order for the dog to focus, then they slowly worked the dog closer so that by the last class it was working on the far side of the arena from the other dogs.

That being said - I once tried to enroll in beginners obedience. I ended up not going because I didn't like the trainer, and had a lot of misgivings about how nuts the class that was leaving before I got there to meet the trainer was. I could hear the barking from several buildings over down the street. There was no way that I could imagine taking the class would have improved Annie's obedience. It would all have been trying to get her to focus around the pandemonium of a bunch of barking lunging dogs and keeping her from joining in. I think she could handle it now, at 2 and keep her cool, but at 1 it would not have worked well. Our current class crates dogs when not working and I love it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thomazine, I'll do my best to give you some tips on how we did this at our facility to prepare dogs for group classes but I need my computer rather than my phone
 

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Thomazine,

I apologize but I wrote out this whole long thing only to realize I was thinking of someone else's question so had I posted it. Some might have enjoyed it but it would NOT have made any sense. So I apologize for my tardiness.

Some puppies do very well starting out in group classes. Some do not. All that over stimulation puts them over the top & they just go bonkers. It's awful for the handler & sometimes the trainer because the pup is like 10 monkeys all wanting 1 banana. I've assisted many times when I was shopping with these types of puppies are making a mess of a training class. Do not despair. There is hope & the pup & you can do it... you just need to flip how you train. Start out in a closed setting. If you have zero idea of how to train basic obedience, you can be like we were back in the dinosaur days (or some I'm told by some of the kids) & read a book to help you or you can use technology like youtube or the various types of online resources where you can watch others train dogs & can learn how to do this. IF that doesn't work for you, it's private sessions with the trainer time. Sometimes it's just necessary. Where I grew up, people did not want to go to a class they want you to train the dog for them then train them with the dog & that's what we did because the dogs are very easy to train... people are harder. Even the ones who want to learn have struggle points. Now we know you can do it & if you don't give up or quit, we know you WILL do it. However so many humans get discouraged quickly so set yourself up for success in whatever means of learning is best for you. ((Shhhh... don't tell but I've had stuffed toys, pillows, or towels stand in for the live dog & they get corrected, praised, trained just as if they were a live dog & for the really difficult cases, I've put the collar & leash on myself & stood in for the dog... good thing I've paid attention to the tricks dogs do to handlers so I can be helpful. If my clients could ever get past the giggles & feeling foolish, these exercises really help before the dog is added.)))

So now you have information on the how-to train the mechanics. I would work at home on heel, sit, down, sit-stay, down-stay, stand-stay (if you'll use that one), recall. I want the pup doing this well in a close setting where there are no distractions. Most folks do this in the livingroom or kitchen/dinning room, sometimes the garage. I would recommend doing this only in a place where there is no distractions so I would NOT do this outside. I want the pup doing this at a level that there's little to no corrections needed. So we'll call this the ON-LEASH phase with NO distractions. Then you'll start adding distractions. Remember to entice all the senses (sights, smells, sounds, touch). It's easy to think of using a toy or a ball to distract but you can use an inch sized piece of hot dog that the pup can see or smell but is not allowed to touch. If food is too much (& it often is at this stage) there are other things. As the pup advances & it's getting harder to distract him you could use a trash bag cut so that it lays flat on the floor & it's slippery (USE CAUTION because I don't want you falling during training) but I've even used a heating pad on the floor, removed it just before the pup walks over where it is. That change of temp, that bit of warmth (not too hot) distracts. Or an ice pack used the same way. I've used a fan. Having the dog to recall where he's got to walk through the wind column & that can bother some dogs so you start gentle & go with the dog through it then work up to having the dog recall from a stay & have them come through the wind. You're only limited by your imagination.

When you can do this in a closed, controlled setting. You can practice some exercises off leash by wrapping the leash around the dog's neck & tucking the tail in. You work on this at the beginning, no distractions, then a few distractions, then more. Next you can unsnap the leash & start from the beginning & work through the levels again (each time you change things... you go back to NO distractions... then add them once the dog is working better & harder to distract you add more).

Once you're able to do these things generally you should take the dog & start working outside but you go back ON the leash & you start at the beginning. YOU MAY find the dog is ready at this point for group classes. Many times by the point the dog has gone through all of this with you they've developed a sense of team & they begin to grow their focus & yes, they may have another moment where you go "OH NO" the frat-dog has made an appearance & wants to be the wild child in class again but they're not the same puppy as before. They have worked up to some simulated off leash (through the leash-wrap) & then some actual off leash work). So their mind is wired differently. At this point the pup would have enough hours of training that getting him/her back on track will be easier. All you need is that little edge to help you. Once you get over that little hump then you'll gain confidence. Once that happens, you can look back to my writing & use anything your imagination will come up with to be the most interesting to your pup.

I met a smallish Standard Poodle last year that was so over stimulated by seeing other dogs that he wanted struggled so hard to remain obedient but he was on the edge of loosing it. I used a clicking sound that the dog's ears picked up. Each time he would start to lose it, I would click & draw his focus toward me. Eventually he'd look at me like, "LADY!" So I switched to cat mewing sounds & that did it, he couldn't stand it anymore. He turned to me, sat on his rump & cocked his head. I said to him, "Oh hello there you beautiful focused Poodle!" He wagged his tail. His owner looked at me & said "HOW did you do that?" I responded that it would not have been possible if she hadn't done the prep work to get to that. He wasn't into the hysteria where the dog's mind is lost to us while they go into their crazy town because they're over stimulated or they have a habit of spinning out. This dog was on the edge, sort of the razor's edge. If I could keep drawing his focus BEFORE he went over the edge to crazy town... then we'd retain his mind & he would cease the whinning, pulling, tugging, etc... & he could be praised & discover how much better it is between him & his humans when he stopped the behavior his humans didn't want. Honestly it seems to come to me what sounds to make that will draw that dog to me instead of the crazy.

Most of the bad behaviors we don't want can be stopped if we can draw the dog to us & away from the bad stuff. I hope some of this clicks with you & will give you direction so that you can get out of the frustration & get into the fun. I don't mean to make it seem too easy. It takes a lot of practice. You may have a pup that is up to working off leash on Monday but Wednesday you can't trust the little bugger ON the leash much less off. ALWAYS keep some manner of check-line on the dog if you go outside. So you use your leash the same as you do inside but if you go outside & you don't have a secure fenced in yard, put a long line on the dog & let it drag or carry it but don't rely on it. It is nothing more than an emergency contact should the pup do the wrong thing or bolt. But EACH time you go to a new place or location (in the house, in the yard, then to the park, to training class, etc...) Each time you go to a new location you start at the beginning & go through the steps.

Honestly it sounds like the dog might be 10 years old before you get through all of this, especially when you're not someone who handles hundreds of dogs but... if you get stubborn & don't quit, the fun stuff is coming. But most of the times when a dog can't focus on the handler in a new situation, it's all about first getting the pup's focus grown enough that he or she can focus on you... then you develop your own tricks that work with your dog so that you are the most exciting person in any room. It also means you have to develop an eye for when the pup is about to go too far & the knowledge of how to draw that pup back to you when they're wanting to run naked down the streets hollering whoo-hoo! (naughty puppy, lol) My herding breeds were dogs who were eager, ready, willing, able to train for long periods of time. My Giant Schnauzer couldn't manage more than 5 minutes at a time. So just when she'd start to go off rails, I'd take off running or I'd just go fall down in the floor or on a chair & she'd fly to me to see what I was doing. As she's gotten older, she's wise to me but if she thinks i'm gonna go where she can't see me... nobody else matters. My Standard Poodle, well he's a showman. At home he's business but when he has a crowd to preform for he's full of flourish & flamboyance. We had company & my husband had him down/stay & he literally went airborne & did this little front paw flourish & landed in perfect position & looked over at me like, "I got this Mom". Everyone was chuckling. My husband wasn't certain what to do about what he'd seen & I said, "he's a show off, babe, it's okay." The folks loved it. Wow, he's fancy. I had him release this young guardian loose in this setting & he came to me, sat on his rump, turned so his back was against me as he sat up on his rump & leaned back to hug me until I kissed his nose then he went to his crate & waited for Dad to close the door.

I've been in your shoes & it's not fun. This is what I've developed with the help of many puppies & dogs who also did not do well in distraction helped me learn how to help them & their owners. There are others who do it different & I'm not saying their way doesn't work but just don't give up. I know you & your pup can do it, it's just a matter of finding that THING that will help you & your pup. Taking the pup & letting them spend time smelling & filling their minds with all the new smells, taking them for a little job. Not to exhaust but to let them wear down some of the whoo-hoo out of them helps a lot of pups. If you have a friend who might be your distraction or someone has a dog that can be your distraction helper.

Let me know if you try any of this, what works for you, what doesn't work for you, any questions, do not hesitate to ask me or get clarification.
 

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Thomazine,

I apologize but I wrote out this whole long thing only to realize I was thinking of someone else's question so had I posted it. Some might have enjoyed it but it would NOT have made any sense. So I apologize for my tardiness.

Some puppies do very well starting out in group classes. Some do not. All that over stimulation puts them over the top & they just go bonkers. It's awful for the handler & sometimes the trainer because the pup is like 10 monkeys all wanting 1 banana. I've assisted many times when I was shopping with these types of puppies are making a mess of a training class. Do not despair. There is hope & the pup & you can do it... you just need to flip how you train. Start out in a closed setting. If you have zero idea of how to train basic obedience, you can be like we were back in the dinosaur days (or some I'm told by some of the kids) & read a book to help you or you can use technology like youtube or the various types of online resources where you can watch others train dogs & can learn how to do this. IF that doesn't work for you, it's private sessions with the trainer time. Sometimes it's just necessary. Where I grew up, people did not want to go to a class they want you to train the dog for them then train them with the dog & that's what we did because the dogs are very easy to train... people are harder. Even the ones who want to learn have struggle points. Now we know you can do it & if you don't give up or quit, we know you WILL do it. However so many humans get discouraged quickly so set yourself up for success in whatever means of learning is best for you. ((Shhhh... don't tell but I've had stuffed toys, pillows, or towels stand in for the live dog & they get corrected, praised, trained just as if they were a live dog & for the really difficult cases, I've put the collar & leash on myself & stood in for the dog... good thing I've paid attention to the tricks dogs do to handlers so I can be helpful. If my clients could ever get past the giggles & feeling foolish, these exercises really help before the dog is added.)))

So now you have information on the how-to train the mechanics. I would work at home on heel, sit, down, sit-stay, down-stay, stand-stay (if you'll use that one), recall. I want the pup doing this well in a close setting where there are no distractions. Most folks do this in the livingroom or kitchen/dinning room, sometimes the garage. I would recommend doing this only in a place where there is no distractions so I would NOT do this outside. I want the pup doing this at a level that there's little to no corrections needed. So we'll call this the ON-LEASH phase with NO distractions. Then you'll start adding distractions. Remember to entice all the senses (sights, smells, sounds, touch). It's easy to think of using a toy or a ball to distract but you can use an inch sized piece of hot dog that the pup can see or smell but is not allowed to touch. If food is too much (& it often is at this stage) there are other things. As the pup advances & it's getting harder to distract him you could use a trash bag cut so that it lays flat on the floor & it's slippery (USE CAUTION because I don't want you falling during training) but I've even used a heating pad on the floor, removed it just before the pup walks over where it is. That change of temp, that bit of warmth (not too hot) distracts. Or an ice pack used the same way. I've used a fan. Having the dog to recall where he's got to walk through the wind column & that can bother some dogs so you start gentle & go with the dog through it then work up to having the dog recall from a stay & have them come through the wind. You're only limited by your imagination.

When you can do this in a closed, controlled setting. You can practice some exercises off leash by wrapping the leash around the dog's neck & tucking the tail in. You work on this at the beginning, no distractions, then a few distractions, then more. Next you can unsnap the leash & start from the beginning & work through the levels again (each time you change things... you go back to NO distractions... then add them once the dog is working better & harder to distract you add more).

Once you're able to do these things generally you should take the dog & start working outside but you go back ON the leash & you start at the beginning. YOU MAY find the dog is ready at this point for group classes. Many times by the point the dog has gone through all of this with you they've developed a sense of team & they begin to grow their focus & yes, they may have another moment where you go "OH NO" the frat-dog has made an appearance & wants to be the wild child in class again but they're not the same puppy as before. They have worked up to some simulated off leash (through the leash-wrap) & then some actual off leash work). So their mind is wired differently. At this point the pup would have enough hours of training that getting him/her back on track will be easier. All you need is that little edge to help you. Once you get over that little hump then you'll gain confidence. Once that happens, you can look back to my writing & use anything your imagination will come up with to be the most interesting to your pup.

I met a smallish Standard Poodle last year that was so over stimulated by seeing other dogs that he wanted struggled so hard to remain obedient but he was on the edge of loosing it. I used a clicking sound that the dog's ears picked up. Each time he would start to lose it, I would click & draw his focus toward me. Eventually he'd look at me like, "LADY!" So I switched to cat mewing sounds & that did it, he couldn't stand it anymore. He turned to me, sat on his rump & cocked his head. I said to him, "Oh hello there you beautiful focused Poodle!" He wagged his tail. His owner looked at me & said "HOW did you do that?" I responded that it would not have been possible if she hadn't done the prep work to get to that. He wasn't into the hysteria where the dog's mind is lost to us while they go into their crazy town because they're over stimulated or they have a habit of spinning out. This dog was on the edge, sort of the razor's edge. If I could keep drawing his focus BEFORE he went over the edge to crazy town... then we'd retain his mind & he would cease the whinning, pulling, tugging, etc... & he could be praised & discover how much better it is between him & his humans when he stopped the behavior his humans didn't want. Honestly it seems to come to me what sounds to make that will draw that dog to me instead of the crazy.

Most of the bad behaviors we don't want can be stopped if we can draw the dog to us & away from the bad stuff. I hope some of this clicks with you & will give you direction so that you can get out of the frustration & get into the fun. I don't mean to make it seem too easy. It takes a lot of practice. You may have a pup that is up to working off leash on Monday but Wednesday you can't trust the little bugger ON the leash much less off. ALWAYS keep some manner of check-line on the dog if you go outside. So you use your leash the same as you do inside but if you go outside & you don't have a secure fenced in yard, put a long line on the dog & let it drag or carry it but don't rely on it. It is nothing more than an emergency contact should the pup do the wrong thing or bolt. But EACH time you go to a new place or location (in the house, in the yard, then to the park, to training class, etc...) Each time you go to a new location you start at the beginning & go through the steps.

Honestly it sounds like the dog might be 10 years old before you get through all of this, especially when you're not someone who handles hundreds of dogs but... if you get stubborn & don't quit, the fun stuff is coming. But most of the times when a dog can't focus on the handler in a new situation, it's all about first getting the pup's focus grown enough that he or she can focus on you... then you develop your own tricks that work with your dog so that you are the most exciting person in any room. It also means you have to develop an eye for when the pup is about to go too far & the knowledge of how to draw that pup back to you when they're wanting to run naked down the streets hollering whoo-hoo! (naughty puppy, lol) My herding breeds were dogs who were eager, ready, willing, able to train for long periods of time. My Giant Schnauzer couldn't manage more than 5 minutes at a time. So just when she'd start to go off rails, I'd take off running or I'd just go fall down in the floor or on a chair & she'd fly to me to see what I was doing. As she's gotten older, she's wise to me but if she thinks i'm gonna go where she can't see me... nobody else matters. My Standard Poodle, well he's a showman. At home he's business but when he has a crowd to preform for he's full of flourish & flamboyance. We had company & my husband had him down/stay & he literally went airborne & did this little front paw flourish & landed in perfect position & looked over at me like, "I got this Mom". Everyone was chuckling. My husband wasn't certain what to do about what he'd seen & I said, "he's a show off, babe, it's okay." The folks loved it. Wow, he's fancy. I had him release this young guardian loose in this setting & he came to me, sat on his rump, turned so his back was against me as he sat up on his rump & leaned back to hug me until I kissed his nose then he went to his crate & waited for Dad to close the door.

I've been in your shoes & it's not fun. This is what I've developed with the help of many puppies & dogs who also did not do well in distraction helped me learn how to help them & their owners. There are others who do it different & I'm not saying their way doesn't work but just don't give up. I know you & your pup can do it, it's just a matter of finding that THING that will help you & your pup. Taking the pup & letting them spend time smelling & filling their minds with all the new smells, taking them for a little job. Not to exhaust but to let them wear down some of the whoo-hoo out of them helps a lot of pups. If you have a friend who might be your distraction or someone has a dog that can be your distraction helper.

Let me know if you try any of this, what works for you, what doesn't work for you, any questions, do not hesitate to ask me or get clarification.
Thank you so, so much. I've been doing so much reading, and your answer is by far the most helpful thing I've seen yet. My husband saw your analogy of ten monkeys after one banana, and just started laughing helplessly, saying "That's EXACTLY it!"

We do so much work at home inside, and he is the responsive, alert champion of his momma's kitchen. And then we get to puppy class... Last week, they brought out screens so we could shut him away from the other dogs and get him to work on the sit/stay and down/stay he mastered at home two and a half months ago, and he still spent half the session desperately whining and trying to peek around the screens at the other puppies playing musical sits. But at least I could get him to sit and down while in class, which is a huge improvement.

I'm going to take your advice and try to systematically go through our training games in the local parks as soon as they're no longer ice slicks on top of packed, dirty snow! The weather is not my friend right now.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thank you so, so much. I've been doing so much reading, and your answer is by far the most helpful thing I've seen yet. My husband saw your analogy of ten monkeys after one banana, and just started laughing helplessly, saying "That's EXACTLY it!"

We do so much work at home inside, and he is the responsive, alert champion of his momma's kitchen. And then we get to puppy class... Last week, they brought out screens so we could shut him away from the other dogs and get him to work on the sit/stay and down/stay he mastered at home two and a half months ago, and he still spent half the session desperately whining and trying to peek around the screens at the other puppies playing musical sits. But at least I could get him to sit and down while in class, which is a huge improvement.

I'm going to take your advice and try to systematically go through our training games in the local parks as soon as they're no longer ice slicks on top of packed, dirty snow! The weather is not my friend right now.

LOL, I understand completely as I've had so many of those little monkeys that I've trained. I know it's gonna sound a little crazy but try to enjoy & see the amusement in this where you can. I've seen pups who were so bad nobody would ever even think that pup would ever improve but if the handler sticks with it they over come the challenges & find the thing it takes to make the changes you need. If you do the work I outlined at home & go through the 3 stages at each location: in house: no distraction, add distractions, major distractions then you go to the leash wrapped around the neck & start over.... then you go totally off leash & start over & to through the stages. That's really something & some of those pups begin to like that freedom & that praise & look how proud the handler is of me... so the pup begins to see that as something to work for. Then next when you go out into your yard & start from scratch on leash & you work through the whole system again (except with a check line for the leash wrap & off lead portions... that's your safety net). Then you go to the park, then a parkinglot of a dog friendly business. Maybe you'll even go train in that dog friendly store (careful not to interrupt business) & so on until you go to class & your trainer wants to know what you did :)

Just don't get discouraged. Because that's easy to do. Get proud of that little monkey every time a step goes forward, the pup gets a half inch better you celebrate & enjoy the reward of your efforts together. When you take that attitude instead of "aw man, this goofy pup" you'll see big steps forward. Oh sure, there will be moments but just keep training.

Keep me posted. I can't wait until you have your first awesome class with less monkey & more puppy :)
 

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This is such a great conversation.

@Thomazine, with puppy Peggy, just making one simple change made a huge difference in class: We stopped doing more than 2-3 reps at a time. Sometimes we did no reps! We’d cycle through commands and give her ample time to just quietly watch the room rather than fighting her on it.

I think that as soon as I accepted she WASN’T like the GSDs or the Dobes or the rapt little cattle dogs—that her poodley brain was chattering away like a dozen excited squirrels (or like ten monkeys fighting over a banana lol)—I was able to adapt the learning process to better accommodate her strengths rather than obsessing over her weaknesses. And finally we started seeing results.

Giving up on the relentless reps also made us much more interesting to her. She had to watch to see what her crazy humans were going to come up with next!
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
This is such a great conversation.

@Thomazine, with puppy Peggy, just making one simple change made a huge difference in class: We stopped doing more than 2-3 reps at a time. Sometimes we did no reps! We’d cycle through commands and give her ample time to just quietly watch the room rather than fighting her on it.

I think that as soon as I accepted she WASN’T like the GSDs or the Dobes or the rapt little cattle dogs—that her poodley brain was chattering away like a dozen excited squirrels (or like ten monkeys fighting over a banana lol)—I was able to adapt the learning process to better accommodate her strengths rather than obsessing over her weaknesses. And finally we started seeing results.

Giving up on the relentless reps also made us much more interesting to her. She had to watch to see what her crazy humans were going to come up with next!

PeggythePoodle,

There are some dogs that their minds are so busy & others like my Giant just don't see a purpose for it. I admit rather sheepishly that I myself can resemble the mule or my Giant Schnauzer... read on. You'll enjoy this if you ever wonder the inner thinking of a trainer's mind when they meet a very unique or difficult dog.

My Giant Schnauzer. Repetition will put my Giant into her inner mule. With my back ground & handling experience, no one was more surprised than me when I went to work my pup & I got this: "Uhm... we just did that sit thing. My butt on floor... made you happy... & now you want to do that AGAIN? Look, I already did it... so you think you get this again? Did you forget, we did that over there" & I'm not kidding she would go back to the spot we did it before & sit in that spot. Uhm... okie dokie. So I thought the next session I would work her one sit... praise her then move on to the down. This was great, lasted all the way to the actual teaching of the down. "Nope, Giant's don't down... didn't you get the memo? I can physically down but I pop back up... got springs like Tigger the Tiger." And she would literally sort of do this boing-boing-boing which translates to down back up, down... back up! Okay, dog trainer goes back to the drawing board. After months of this I wrote to the breeder & lay out what we did, methods used, etc... I asked simply is this normal for breed & her age or is this a quirk to this individual or do we have a problem? My breeder approved of my methods & handling & it was in fact normal for the breed at that age. Okay... what in the world am I gonna do with this goon? My K9 handlers have a video clip of me standing in a field saying, "God, you got a minute here?" & I was NOT kidding... I was at my wit's end. They have another photograph of me with my back to the dog & I'm trying to hard not to crack up but darn it, that dog... it was either get mad or laugh &, drat it, it was funny but I knew better so I had to turn my back on her. I've trained with some peculiar critters but.. yeesh. A good & trusted friend watched one day & said, "You know she's looking at you like you are mental." I switched to another dog & started working with her & she flawlessly flew through her commands & looked eager for more. Same handler, same foundation, same everything except two different breeds (the Giant looked... unimpressed). Then I had a brain storm. What if I used some mule training techniques? Yeah, I know... sounds crazy but I'd been studying a horse training program that used techniques that were founded a mule training program. Hmmmm... she brays like a mule in her crate AND she was the most peculiar dog so why not. I do not train with food treats. But at meal time I am very strict on behavior. I will not be rushed, pushed, I won't have dogs snatching food or being rude in any way. She who controls the food has rules & I will be treated like the leader. So one day I looked at my mule/Giant & gave the down command while I had her food bowl in my hand. Plain & simple there will be no dinner until compliance happens. Because we had been through food training rituals (it's just how I train all my pups) she knew if she messed around I'd put the food up & it'd be 30 minutes before I revisited the idea. So when she went down & popped back up I started to put the food bowl on the counter, she flopped down so hard & stuck there. I nonchalantly regripped the bowl & started toward her crate... she stuck like glue (I praised GOOD DOWN) & I released her right before I knew she was about to break & she flew into the crate & then I fed her. Going through the same feeding ritual. I expanded that to her being in down/stay at various positions & now she thinks the answer to anything that's wrong or she doesn't understand is to down/stay :) But one does not train her in conventional heel, sit, down, recall scenarios. You have to set her up in situations & fit the training where it's organic. And yes, this is a bit of a nightmare for a professional dog trainer. And if she THINKS you're going to do that she sort of goes into slooooooow motion & will do the commands but it takes forever & everyone thinks she's got "problems" when in fact it's just the mule. When she's in mule-mode I go very quiet. When she wants my attention she comes out of mule & into Giant Schnauzer mode & then we can continue on.

Same dog after she was older. She wanted something & I decided to attempt something. It's normally something you'd do with an extremely advanced dog. I attempted to see just how subtle I could be in my communication of commands. So I was sitting on the couch. I would look from her fact to her left hip & just keep my eyes on one tiny spot on her hip. If she didn't catch on, I would slowly slide my eyes from her hip to her face & look her in the eyes, then slowly slide my eyes back to that spot on her hip. When she sat, I praised her. Soon I had only to look at that spot & plop the butt would hit the floor. I also worked the down out with a similar cue.
 

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This is such a great conversation.

@Thomazine, with puppy Peggy, just making one simple change made a huge difference in class: We stopped doing more than 2-3 reps at a time. Sometimes we did no reps! We’d cycle through commands and give her ample time to just quietly watch the room rather than fighting her on it.

I think that as soon as I accepted she WASN’T like the GSDs or the Dobes or the rapt little cattle dogs—that her poodley brain was chattering away like a dozen excited squirrels (or like ten monkeys fighting over a banana lol)—I was able to adapt the learning process to better accommodate her strengths rather than obsessing over her weaknesses.
You know, I remembered you saying this ages ago, and so I never make him repeat anything in class more than three times. He's definitely not interested in being drilled, and if I try, he will flop dramatically on his side and huff at me.

In the past couple of days, I took him out to an empty plowed carpark with some cones, and got him to sit at each cone. Today I took him into an independent pet shop which tolerates his antics, and got him to sit at every corner, although he kept losing it every time a new customer came in. Tonight we actually managed to do musical sits at puppy class instead of having to sit out due to crazed lunging and barking, and we were only the FOURTH puppy eliminated (because his butt popped up too soon). And then we sat out the rest of the game while he moaned at me like Chewbacca because he wasn't getting to play any more.

He still failed to sit nicely when the trainer came to pet him, and I'm 95% certain he's going to fail his Puppy STAR test next week. But this was the most participation in puppy class we have EVER managed. I actually brought two of his toys which have little velcro flaps which you can put around treats, and whenever he showed signs of forgetting I existed, I whipped one out and made him sit and undo the velcro. It's weird because he's not food-motivated in class at all, but I guess that if the food is in a puzzle it will get his interest..?!
 

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He did NOT fail his Puppy STAR. He was brilliantly focused for the six or seven minutes of the test, and then proceeded to let me know that he was very, very, very bored for the rest of the session while the other puppies were tested. (He's going to be the wildly leaping black blur in the group photo at the end, pink tongue hanging out.)

I spent the last week really trying to go through his basic training in different locations, and got a couple of masked-up friends to meet us at the end of their iced-up driveways so we could work on him NOT jumping up after greeting somebody. He did not manage that until tonight in the test when the trainer petted him, so I'm DEFINITELY going to have to keep working on that. But the trainer said that she'd seen truly marvelous progress over the past six weeks and that we'd clearly been working hard at home, which was nice to hear because I really wasn't sure that all that effort was actually showing much in class.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thomazine, I am SO happy for you!!! I knew you could do it! I am at my desk doing a happy dance that might resemble your pup when he's being pa-doodale-ee :) (This is my word for when Mr. Layne is bouncing & flouncing & showing off) WhooHoo! Take the time to enjoy your success then of course... back at it. LOL I'm so proud of you! Most folks don't progress that quickly & even your trainer noticed the effort you've put in. I know I've mentioned this but... yay you! It's just the beginning. The more you put into it now, the better things will be for everyone later & it's fun to have a dog that you can enjoy & count on.
 
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