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Discussion Starter #1
I started this thread because I wonder if other people have so many issues with focus near other dogs like I do.

I have an intact male, 20 months old, and he's going through a highly social phase where playing with other dogs is much more valuable to him than working. He has gotten worse in group classes, especially when we have new dogs, he gets very distracted.

I've been doing a lot of focus exercises with him, even took him to a special class designed for focus, but he does not generalize that concept to other dogs or new dogs, he's only learned to ignore his classmates. Every new dog is a struggle, it's like I've hit the rocks with this issue, and his strong desire to socialize is much stronger than any reinforcement I have to offer, and I have REALLY good and stinky stuff like dehydrated meat and sharp cheese.

I've heard a couple of other poodle people who also have dog-obsessive dogs, so I wonder if this is a normal behavior for poodles? Do I have any hope of him growing out of this phase and working normally near other dogs, like he used to as a puppy? Should I consider neutering him before he's even 2 to help his focus?

I want to hear your (success?) stories to keep me going!
 

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I have a three year old intact male spoo. He can be dog reactive under certain circumstances, but he has never been dog obsessed as seems to be the case for your boy. At 20 months old he is probably on his lifetime peak testosterone levels and that is the root of your challenges with attention and focus. At the time Javelin was in that peak testosterone age range I made sure I spent time around other dogs with him where my only task was working on attention, not heeling, not stays, nothing other than attention. I periodically refresh this work when I see the need. Here is a video showing some recent work on this.


I would try doing just attention work without actually working in class. I would do that attention work sitting on your front lawn, at a park, outside the pet store and so forth. If you work consistently and hard on this and still see no improvement then you may really need to consider neutering him.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thank you lily_cd_re!

I've spent all summer doing focus work with him. I worked him through the control unleashed program where he gets put in lots of doggie environments and we help him gain his focus back on me, and we apply those same principles in the class, but results are minimal so far.

I've started taking him to local dog park for short sessions, where I just pay him for attention and we go back home. When we go to the class, I always try our focus routine, but he goes from brilliant to miserable when certain dogs are present. I am at a point where I'm not really sure if this is hormones or training anymore. But I'm scared to do the surgery since it's not reversible :afraid:
 

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Look up zeutering as a reversible nonsurgical option that might let you get a sense of whether neutering would really help you get the outcome you need.
 
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Discussion Starter #5
I am not at all familiar with zuetering, but it does not seem reversible according to my google searches?

However, it seems like a better choice than neutering since it only reduces the testosterone level by 50%. Beau is still a bit lanky and growing, so I really want to keep his hormones, at least some of it, as long as possible so he can fill up.
 

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I am not sure on reversibility for the zeutering. But yes, it still leaves some testosterone. At 20 months I would think Beau's growth plates are closed (that can be checked by x ray though). As long as the growth plates are closed the role of hormones in filling out is really very minor.


As I said Javelin (and our GSD Peeves, soon to be ten) is intact and will stay that way unless there is a distinctive reason (medical or behavioral) to do otherwise. I don't see so much clear cut benefit to health in neutering a male as is clearly there for spayed unbred females.
 

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Maybe in class you are expecting too much and not doing small enough 'steps'.
It may suck but you may have to forgo doing anything IN the class that they ask for, move as far away into the corner and take little little steps.
I'm working on focus right now with my dog. He's 2.5, and intact, and though he can get distracted with dogs he's a people lover so when the trainer comes over to watch us work he can really lose his focus. He can also choose to want to not be focused when being asked to work.
This was only Asher's 3rd focus session on strange places and pretty much have him on a settle (if your dog does better on a mat use that). And then wait. If you need to you can quietly walk around to be just a hair more interesting (but you want HIM to be the one responsible for giving attention, so you do not want to have to be exciting to get that attention). If your dog is wanting to jump up to say hi and such, you may want to just step on his leash to restrict his ability to do so.
Once he looks at you (and not just a glance in and look away but at least a few seconds) reward. You can at the beginning stages talk to the dog gently to encourage them to hold their attention on you. Once they are starting to give you focus and fix on you quite a bit, then you can add in releasing them up. With my dog when working in a new/distracting environment we are currently asking him for a single step of focus with a food lure then we reward him up and into me, then one more step, if focused, reward up and into me. If at any point he loses focus (and in distracting environment right now, if he glances away then immediately reconnects we are rewarding that) he goes back onto his settle and we work on focus on the settle before we try again to release him.
The first time we did this it was super hard to get any focus. Granted the environment ended up being SUPER distracting (they were blowing out the sprinkler lines in the park we were working in so every few mins new sprinklers would spurt off. There was also the odd person walking by and a few seagulls). We literally spent an entire hour just on having him in a settle and waiting for focus, We maybe released him 8 times total and some of those times weren't successful.
This environment wasn't quite THAT distracting but it still have people walking through and cars driving by and yet he definitely is showing a great deal more focus. I'm trying to take him out virtually every day (in as many new locations as possible) for short sessions.
This may all be old news from your focus class but I thought I would post it in case.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Mine is also a people lover, and a dog lover, he loves everyone and everything except working haha.

Maybe I'm rushing him in this class, I will talk to the instructor if we can take a step back and do our own focus work in this class for a few weeks instead of the class exercises. That may help us..

Do you think it's a stretch to neuter him only to improve his focus if he does not have any behavioral issues? He never humps, is always polite to other dogs, and he plays very nicely with dogs of all shapes and sizes.
 

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My boy is 2.75 years old and coming out of the distraction tunnel. It started at about 8 months, up until which he was a well-behaved pup. It's been challenging and, now that I see improvement, I'm more patient in dealing with it. My own reactions to his inattention create a feedback loop of even less attention. There were some very trying times. During this time I avoided group classes that were too challenging . . some of the others' recommendations to start small are sensible.

Patience and calm are essential.

I don't plan on neutering unless there are health indications.
 

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I think you have to have reasons for neutering above and beyond just wanting focus, but I think you may have some of those reasons in his deep inability to focus and his reactions to the presence of other dogs being refractory to your efforts to deal with them.

Javelin gets excited by other dogs outside of obedience training settings sometimes and today he was a jerk over seeing a squirrel (in fairness though two days ago a squirrel jumped out of a garbage can as we were passing by and unexpectedly landed pretty darn close to him, like almost on his head). However he is responsive to my training and orders to get back to work (so no neuter for him in the works).
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Replying to my own thread after this time in case anyone else has this struggle in the future and comes across my post.

We just kept training more and more, and as my trainers told me, the maturity is really helping. We just had a couple of great performances with placement in a crazy dog show environment and he had an amazing focus and worked beautifully.

So there is light at the end of the tunnel :)
 

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That is a nice update! Javelin's focus has become a more deeply ingrained behavior too, but he still has off the rails moments (they are becoming much rarer though). Tuesday he gave a reaction to an American Eskimo dog at my club during a friend's novice class. I can't say it was really his fault though. I had him on a settled down stay next to me waiting for our turn to do stand for exam. I was watching him and I really didn't see any intention moves until he just popped up and put on a show for the eskie who was at least 15 feet away from us. Her dogf responded to Javvy. Later I was outside the ring watching the rest of the class doing recalls and while the eskie's handler was waiting for her turn she paid absolutely zero attention to her dog who was continually staring at other dogs. I spoke to the woman about her and my dogs' reactions to each other and talked to her about developing focused attention while not working. She seemed to take in what I was saying, however I asked my friend about this team later (everybody else had left) and she tole me she has talked to this woman about watching her dog more than anything else for weeks and nothing has changed. I guess I will just treat it as an opportunity to make Javelin stay focused even when off duty.
 
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