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Hello.

I'm an inexperienced dog owner. I have an 9 month old male mini-poodle I take to obedience class. He knows the commands and obeys very well at home, but at his recent dog classes, he refuses to sit or lie down. Treats won't work. If I fold up his back legs to make him sit, he will stand up again. He obeys for other commands like heel. Any ideas on what I am doing wrong? The instructor said she would help me, but did not. He is the only small dog in the class. Should I accept that he obeys at home. He attended puppy school at this same facility. He is friendly toward people, but dog school and the groomers is his only opportunity to be around other dogs.

Thanks.
 

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Welcome!

Hard to say without seeing him or knowing more about his life experiences, but it sounds to me like he’s anxious. Is your trainer CPDT certified or similar? They should be helping you to assess his emotional state and adapt the lessons/learning environment accordingly.

Same is true if he’s just over-excited or over-stimulated. Your trainer should be helping you to keep him under threshold so he can listen to you and learn. This can mean putting up physical barriers or even having you work at a distance from the rest of the class.

If he’s not stressed and simply enjoying watching all the action, that’s okay in moderation, but then your trainer should be helping you to be the most exciting thing in the room.

All of these scenarios would require you to practice at home and in other locations, ideally with “homework” that’s tailored to where you and your pup are at.
 

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Mia, Christmas in June 2010
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One of my earlier dogs would get anxious in class, so I built in a 5 minute break to settle him down. I would simply walk out of the building, allowing him a chance to sniff and pee and most importantly, a break from other dogs.
 

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It sounds to me as if class is just too exciting and different and a bit bothersome for him to be able to concentrate on you, and he has not yet learned to generalise the cues for Sit etc. "Sit!" means sit down on the rug in the nice safe sitting room at home - it does not yet mean sit wherever you are, and whatever is happening around you. To teach that you have to teach it in lots of places and circumstances, gradually working up from the only very slightly distracting to the full blown overwhelming stimulation of a first training class.

I would forget about trying to force him to sit, and just get down on the floor beside him in class and play Look at That! for a while (search on here for how to play the game). When he is able to relax around all the other dogs and people he will be able to give some of his mind to learning cues. Meanwhile work on generalising the cues he already "knows", starting in your own yard, then on rather boring walks, and in gradually increasingly distracting circumstances.

You will hear dog trainers talk of the 3Ds - Distance, Duration and Distraction - each needing to be worked on separately and then together. I found Jean Donaldson's book and dvd "Train your dog like a pro" a helpful step-by-step guide to what this means - many of the videos are online, but the book has detailed "recipes" that you may find useful.
 

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It does sound like your pup is in the throws of adolescence. During this time training needs to be redoubled to restore and reinforce behaviors that your pup seems to think he never learned. Without seeing a good video of what is happening I would not characterize this as anxiety (more like over excitement) nor would I think you need a specialized trainer such as a CPDT-KA (and I am one, BTW the website for CCPDT is ccpdt.org). You need a good experienced trainer working in class with you to help you to keep your pup from getting too excited, short outdoor breaks for potty, even if not needed per say, should break the excited state. Also as suggested LAT would likely help your pup to be able to see exciting things without getting super over excited by them. A good trainer will recognize an overexcited as opposed to anxiety ridden dog and will allow and encourage you doing things other than what the rest of the class is doing to help reorganize your pup's thinking and focus.

Also I really second the thoughts on not physically forcing your pup to sit or down. I also can't say enough to recommend you to read up on the 3 Ds as described by fjm. Your understanding of this concept will help you enormously! I wish you well.
 

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The instructor said she would help me, but did not.
This is the part that concerns me. Our trainer’s certification demonstrates to me her commitment to her students and her commitment to continuing education, and seeking those trainers in your community can be a good way to narrow down your options.

Of course, this is assuming this is an ongoing issue and not just a single class where you were struggling with your pup and struggling to get help. You did say “dog classes” plural. If I had multiple classes where I couldn’t get help from the instructor, I’d be considering a move.
 

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I think your dog is intimidated by the other dogs. Maybe only one of the dogs, but that is enough for him to be resistant to taking a submissive position. Sit and down are both submissive to standing. Try finding out which dog(s) he feels dominated by and get as far away as possible from that dog.
 

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At this stage one of the benefits of training classes is simply the exposure to a lot of distractions. Your real goal isn't to teach sit, down, or anything else in class. You can do all that at home. Your real goal is to teach your dog to focus on you in chaotic situations.

You said he's willing to heel. Are you having an easier time with activities that require motion (heel, touch) and a more difficult time with activities that require stillness (sit, down)? If so, then I would work on ways to focus your dog's attention.

First, I practiced all our commands outside the house while on walks and errands. Every walk was an excuse to practice our training homework. We would just amble down the sidewalk while nothing exciting was going on, and I would ask my pup Galen to sit for no real reason. I might do this 10 or 15 times on a walk. I also threw in down, touch, and spin. I slowly worked him up to more challenging situations like the bank lobby and crosswalks with other pedestrians around us. He therefore got used to the idea that sit meant sit no matter where he was.

I also taught my Galen both verbal commands and hand signals for most actions. This made it possible for me to quietly give him commands without attracting a lot of attention. When I wanted him to heel I simply patted the side of my leg. When I wanted him to leave whatever he was doing and touch me I simply extended my hand, palm outwards.

Then, in class, I maintained his interest by rapid cycling through all the commands we had practiced at home. While the teacher was lecturing us about something I would dutifully watch her while silently asking Galen to touch my hand, spin, or anything else that would keep his attention focused on me. I didn't really care what command we practiced as long as he would do it without turning around to bark at the other dogs.
 

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Hello.

I'm an inexperienced dog owner. I have an 9 month old male mini-poodle I take to obedience class. He knows the commands and obeys very well at home, but at his recent dog classes, he refuses to sit or lie down. Treats won't work. If I fold up his back legs to make him sit, he will stand up again. He obeys for other commands like heel. Any ideas on what I am doing wrong? The instructor said she would help me, but did not. He is the only small dog in the class. Should I accept that he obeys at home. He attended puppy school at this same facility. He is friendly toward people, but dog school and the groomers is his only opportunity to be around other dogs.
I am an experienced dog owner having trained my older silver minipoo. I have an 8 month old male mini-poodle that I take to obedience class.

My dog was the best dog in class, we were used as the demo dog to show the other students what they were supposed to be training. That all crashed three weeks ago when my puppy first lifted his leg to pee, then started to pee mark (Outside in appropriate locations). Even worse he became highly distractable in class. His hormones are raging and he’s a wild teenager. I have to work 10 times harder and smarter to get him to work in class with me.

I did lay a strong foundation training things like sit, down, stand and loose leash walking in many locations as well as at home. I also reinforce these behaviors at home. My puppy has to sit before a gate or door or crate is opened. He has to lay down while I prepare food. We have been working on attention and getting him to stay seated or stay down because as a puppy he doesn’t stay down for very long. We’re working on duration. You can continue to work with your dog the same way at home.

We just started a small dog obedience class filled with the most friendly and excitable puppies that I‘ve ever seen. So many wiggling butts, tails wagging and clueless new dog owners. One chihuahua levitates with excitement. This is a huge distraction for my dog right now and I’m taking this class to help work him through this. If I can get him to be attentive to me in this class, I know he will work in the more typical situations.

My puppy is also in a second class training for his AKC Canine Good Citizen in a completely new training place he’s never been before (independent dog food and toy store, lots of temptations) with 6 large dogs that bark during class. In this class he is learning the skills we need to pass the test and working around large barking dogs.

It’s smart that you are taking him to class, like my puppy, yours needs to learn to work in other environments other than home. Keep taking him while you work through his issues.

I am making an assumption that it the distraction of the class that is the problem. Does he have fears of large dogs? Some of what I suggest will work for fear of large dogs but that’s a separate issue.

He knows the commands and obeys very well at home, but at his recent dog classes, he refuses to sit or lie down.
Unlike humans, dogs don’t generalize easily. You can teach a young child that her dress is blue in the kitchen, then later in her bedroom ask her what color is her blue book and expect the child to answer correctly. Not dogs. If you teach sit in the kitchen, they may not sit in the family room until you teach it there. Then they will sit on the floor in the family room but not understand if you ask them to sit on the couch. You need to practice sit in all kinds of places, outside on your driveway, in the park, on carpet and woods and grass. etc. It takes many repetitions in many different environments to get a dog that will consistently sit anywhere you ask, including in a very distracting class. This might be part of your problem. Most dogs are wonderful at home, but leave the home and things fall apart. Leave the home and add in distraction, distance and duration make sits and downs fall apart. Add in hormones of a teenager and things fall apart. Keep working these commands.

Treats won't work.
He’s beyond threshold, too many distractions and maybe fear of large dogs. Look to stand farther away from the other dogs, especially if you think he’s afraid of a particular dog or one that is very wiggly and wanting to play with your dog. Move 10 feet or farther if needed. If there’s gating stand on the other side of the gating. This is something your teacher should help you with. You’ll know you are far enough away when your dog will take treats and starts to pay attention to you. You will eventually be able to move close. When you can work 10’ away, try 9 next class.

If I fold up his back legs to make him sit, he will stand up again.
Dogs do not learn when you manhandle them into a position. How would you feel if someone told you to sit … you didn’t sit quickly enough so they pushed you down into a chair. What message are you sending to your dog? Will he be worried you will manhandle him again? If he won’t sit, move him father away, far enough that he feels comfortable sitting. Or work on keeping his attention, and ask for a sit later.

He obeys for other commands like heel
It could be because movement is easier for him to comply with? I find if my dog is getting distracted when we’re loose leash walking, if I walk faster I keep my dogs attention. Or it may be as suggested above, related to fear.

Should I accept that he obeys at home.
No , keep working through these problems, keep going to obedience classes and working at home. If you continue to work with him you will have an obedient dog that you can be proud to take anywhere. He will learn and mature with time. Work on keeping his attention.

As for your trainer, can you come 10 minutes early to class and ask for help on what to do in class? Or hang after class?

I’ve been taking my puppy to different classes in different venues and some trainers/classes. Some have been much better than others. Some have more knowledgeable trainers than others. If you are not getting the help you need, ask around to find another class that can better meet your needs.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thanks for all the good ideas. I don't think my dog is afraid of the other dogs, although I am and I will move away from them. This conduct has been for the last 2 classes. The teachers do address individual problems with dogs. I will study the resources suggested here and keep working with him.
 

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Michigan Gal is completely correct that if you are afraid of other dogs in the class your pup will know that and be nervous too. I don't think your nervousness may make your pup nervous. It is making your pup nervous. You should work on why you feel nervous with those other dogs and work at making yourself able to be truly relaxed around them. You cannot lie to a dog.
 
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