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Discussion Starter #1
I finally managed to get Annie in to a trainer, and get her assessed to start obedience classes. It will be both of our first official classes, and I'm not really sure what to choose. I'd love your guys' opinion.

Her obedience is great at home/on outings, but I really want her to practice controlling herself around other dogs. I didn't absolutely love the trainer, but she wasn't terrible and I figure at this point, any training class is better than no training class.

Annie did really well under challenging conditions : first time in a new place, new rules, I was nervous, the trainer's dog whining in a kennel, and first time doing a few things (heeling with other dogs, staying with other dogs around, stand for exam with me holding onto her stomach rather than just telling her to stand/stay, and having me start stays from standing next to her, rather than standing in front of her), and me forgetting her treats and relying on a random ball i found in the car, jumpy play, and three crumbs I found in my pocket as rewards.

The trainer says we can either consider ourselves to have "Passed' level 1, and move into Level 2, or stay in level 1, because that's where the most distractions are (crazy/aggressive etc dogs). She also said we could take a pre-agility or scent class (not currently being offered).

I'm leaning heavily towards Level 2... because:
  1. She already knows the Level 1 stuff (sit, down, stay, heel), and possibly most of the Level 2 stuff, just without the distraction of dogs. I'd rather be in the theoretical bottom of the Level 2 class than have her and I be bored. I actually was struggling, because criteria was less (me moving into heel position, rather than making the dog move into heel position, no autositting, and I thought her heel was awful since she wasn't heads up/close for a lot of it, just loose leash, and yet we got full marks - stuff like that). We actually do most of the Level 3 class stuff already (hand signals from a distance, off leash heeling, etc) - again - without the distraction of another dog.
  2. Money - this trainer seems to have a million prereqs to get into dog sport classes, like Rally O, Agility, etc... (needs Level 1-4 to get into any dog sport classes). It saves me the $220 for Level 1, and about 8 weeks.
  3. I saw the people leaving at the end of the 2nd class of Level 1 right before I came in... I'd rather be around owners who have a bit more control of their dogs. I don't WANT her hanging out with crazy barky pulling dogs, feeding off their energy, and picking up their habits (quietly whining is bad enough).
What do you think?
 

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"I saw the people leaving at the end of the 2nd class of Level 1 right before I came in... I'd rather be around owners who have a bit more control of their dogs. I don't WANT her hanging out with crazy barky pulling dogs, feeding off their energy, and picking up their habits (quietly whining is bad enough). "

Exactly. I hate beginner classes because all of the out of control dogs make it almost impossible for my dog to focus on me. I'd strongly recommend going on to level 2.
 

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I'd go for level 2 obedience and get her really good with that, (distractions and everything) then do a fundamental agility class to get her started with that. (if that's what you want to get into) Or another sports class. You just want to be sure she's quite reliable with her basics in all kinds of scenarios and dogs before diving into agility. I wouldn't do any class if there are aggressive dogs. If the trainer uses a lot of aversives and pushes you to also, I'd not do any class. I'd also want a smallish class...not much more than 6 or 7 dogs. Good luck.
 

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I tend to think teaching a dog to ignore uppity dogs is good proofing so for myself I might go to level one, but if those dogs are truly over the top then level two should be just fine. Our beginner (what you'd cll level one is the same dogs every week my novice classes are drop in. Sometimes I have as few as two or three dogs sometimes I have a dozen teams. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Today I had four dogs including my mom and her mpoo, a 30+ year colleague and her husband's GR (sadly her husband passed in August and she has been having a hard time with the dog), and two friends who I both have known since Lily was a youngling one with a Wheaten and the other with a spoo. Since I know all of the people and all of the dogs very well we got to do some fun variations of heeling and such!
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks PB, reraven - that's what I was leaning towards.

Lily cd re - I think if our biggest problem wasn't her focus around other dogs, I might agree... But I could hear the dogs in the class barking from where I parked, a block away. If i could proof her against that level of distraction, she'd be a perfect dog, but I doubt my skills and would rather practice at a lower level of distraction for now.

Wait - a brag! She broke her stay with the distraction of the other dogs but came to me, rather than going to the other dogs, even though I wasn't holding on to her leash. There is hope for us yet.
 

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I think that she'll still get a fair supply of distractions from the 2nd level...once she can handle that, she'll be able to go up a notch with a little more and a little more of other dogs and goings on etc. Baby steps. It's good that she came to you. But I'd make it easier for her to succeed if possible in the class situation so she isn't so apt to break the stay at all. So that means shortening up the duration or distance from you. Only ask for a short time to stay and reinforce that, then build on it. When they break the stay, that means you're asking too much too soon. And/or too much distraction. So if there's too much distraction, make the other parts (duration and distance from you) easier for her. And work up. You don't want her getting so she thinks it's okay to break the stay if she comes to you. It's a safety thing. If she's ever across the road from you and you see a car coming and you put your hand up and tell her to stay, you better hope you've trained in a rock solid stay... coming to you can not be an option. But you'll get there.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I'd tried really hard not to grumble about this - but since you brought it up PB...

The reason I'm not super enthusiastic about this trainer was the stay testing... She wanted to test not "can the dog do a stay" but "can the dog do a stay, the way she does stays, using her criteria for gestures/commands, for her criteria of time (3 min)". OK, fair, I was trying out for her class - but it confused Annie, and I really didn't like how she wanted me to "force" my dog into a position without communicating. She claims that's the worst aversive she uses.

Annie handled it better than I had any right to expect, and the experience definitely highlighted some holes in our proofing!
  1. Had to start the stay from beside Annie, not in front of her like we practice 95% of the time. And if I start a stay from beside her, it's while working on heel or place/side, so no long duration
  2. "no extra gestures/commands allowed" - after I reach the distance I plan to stop at for a long stay, I usually flash a hand signal.
  3. Had to hold her leash for the stay - she's pretty much only done a stay off leash or on a long line at 10'+ away
  4. When she (predictably) broke the stay, because we were trying a 3 min stay with new criteria + distractions, the trainer insisted instead of pointing her back to her spot, signalling a down and stay again from a distance (how I usually react if she ever breaks a stay), that I go with her, then pull her down into a down with her leash. She insisted I not use gestures/verbal commands to remind Annie what to do after putting her back in a down - so of course she immediately broke the "stay" that she didn't know she was in
Despite all the confusion, she still did a decent stay once I dropped the leash, walked to 10', and made a minute hand gesture. Who knew I'd have to practice stays at SHORTER distances?

If I go to class, I will have to practice us doing stays "her" way, so Annie's not confused. I've already started practicing tonight associating the cue of tugging lightly on her leash with the word down. Since I didn't teach down by pulling on a leash, it's not a cue that makes sense, and I refuse to drag my dog by her neck.
 

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I would drag a dog to a down either.

Here's the deal on practicing skills. Teach up close and for short duration and with no distractions. Once the dog knows the behavior add duration up close. Then add distance but shorten duration. Once further distance is solid add duration back. Once you have built really solid distance and duration add distractions (being prepared to have shorter duration and distance). Repeat as needed until you have all of the Ds in place.
 

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Is this the only training place and does this trainer teach all the classes? Do you have any other training facilities, perhaps one that is a dog training club where people train and compete in dog sports? Doesn’t have to be an AKC club.

I would have expected a trainer to help you move towards performing the exercises correctly and not jump you from where you are to immediately expect you to perform them the way she wants you too. I train as Catherine, slowly adding duration or distance building up to longer duration and distance. When I add in distractions I step down in duration and distance and build up slowly again.
 

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What Skylar said. IMO, the handlers first responsibility is as an advocate for their dog. Not necessarily following lock-step with an instructor’s system of training. I train at a club with volunteer member instructors, with varied knowledge/experience, and I have learned how to say no to methods I don’t agree with, to take my dog aside, or to leave the ring when needed.
 

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There's no other trainer available to you? I think you seem knowledgable enough that no trainer is actually better than a trainer you're not comfortable with.

With our trainer, it's non-stop "ah ha!" moments. We're not working on formal obedience like you are. But each session is still a series of clicks and forward progress. I'm skeptical by nature, but I've never once questioned her methods.
 

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I wouldn't use that trainer. Period. You're better off just practicing at home. I don't like using force and asking a dog for too much too soon. That's poor training. If your dog isn't up to her criteria to enter a certain level of class, then so be it. There is no necessity to drag your dog's neck down into a stay. That's ridiculous and very poor training. A dog should be encouraged to think and do things himself. He gets smarter that way. Forcing a dog teaches him nothing except training and spending time with his owner isn't very fun.

He needs reinforcement for baby steps and build up from there. Simple. Then he makes fewer mistakes and has vastly more successes. That's what you want. That's how dogs learn. You can start now practicing standing in different positions relative to him and ask for a stay. Just reduce the other parts of the stay. (duration, distance, distractions) Ask him to stay while he's in heel and step away one step, one second, come right back next to him. Try walking around him, hold a treat in front of his nose while you do so he'll stay. (at first) Then practice your regular way where you're in front of him. Another time when he's starting to get onto those two ways, try standing 5 ft from him and put your hand up and ask for a stay. Just remember when you throw a new thing at him, reduce or make more simple the other parts or criteria. Mix things up so he learns that stay means stay no matter where you're standing. (or sitting, or lying on the floor, standing obliquely to him, practice in different locations) Stay is always stay, no matter what. What happens if you only practice when you're standing in front of him, that body position, relative to him becomes part of the cue. You don't want that to be part of the cue. That's why it's important to mix things up right soon by standing a little differently, more distance little by little, maybe with you sitting or him standing and staying here and there. Mix things up. Stay means stay. Soon he'll get what the cue really is. Your verbal or your hand signal. (both?) Whatever you like to use. But that cue has to be singled out of all the other things he may associate and believe mistakenly are the cues. Otherwise he'll only learn to stay in one kind of scenario, one position or location, one distance etc. Work up, adding difficulty gradually and only when he's gotten the previous thing. But do mix things up a little bit...little by little. Once he gets onto the game, he'll learn much faster. And using only using reward will help him learn better too. Punishment is not necessary. A lack of reinforcement and/or a no reward marker is all the feed back he needs if he makes a boo boo when he's trained that way. Does that make sense? (and really, if he makes a boo boo it's because the trainer makes the mistake of asking too much too soon) If a dog doesn't comply it's either that or he's under motivated, an impoverished history of reinforcement. Make it worth his while...a good pay check when he succeeds. Don't count on he should do it because I'm the boss or because he loves me. Pay him. LOL.

I'd quit that class and either find someone else or just train him yourself. And find a dog or two he can play with if you're looking for socializing. The only classes I ever went to were for the purpose of socializing my Doberman and for agility because I didn't know squat about agility. If you want to compete, then later you might need some advice on the exact things you need to do. Maybe then you can find someone else. But I wouldn't use a trainer I couldn't work with...who would only accept one way of doing something.

The trainer I used when my Dobe and I were starting puppy agility several years ago and we took an obedience class for the fun of it was awesome. She was flexible and sweet to the dogs. She wasn't the very best trainer in the world but good enough and never harsh in any way shape or form. No pain, no scolding. And she had very nicely trained Aussies which she also bred. Anyhow, I had worked with my Dobe a lot already and Dobermans are all about working for you. He was about 4-5 months if I recall. So we had them all in a line to stay and we were to walk across the arena. Everyone else swept their hands with a flourish in front of their dogs and loudly said, "Stay." I just walked away...didn't tell him anything. He stayed beautifully because like I said, we had already worked a lot on this and that's Doberman's jobs...to do what you ask. (dream dogs to train) She said, "good job, but you didn't tell him to stay." (as if there were something wrong with that) haha. I just told her that he had already learned to stay wherever and however I left him if I walked off, leading with my right foot....by default, unless otherwise instructed. She just laughed and said, "show off!" So you see...she was flexible...didn't have to do everything her way. Just do it.

Anyhow, my point is that I agree with Peggytheparti in that you sound knowledgeable enough to work with your dog just fine and not have some substandard trainer dictate to you how to treat your dog...at least for what you're trying to achieve at this time.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Well - here I was feeling embarrassed about late night whining... Thanks for telling me my concerns aren't completely baseless.
PtP+ PB - thanks for the vote of confidence lol! And yes - PB, I think you're right. Flexibility is what i'm looking for...

I just don't see how I can train reliability around other dogs without a training class.

Re: other trainer options - I am quite jealous of you all, you all seem to have wonderful trainers locally!!! There are two major training schools (other than petsmart) in the area. They both practice "old fashioned" training (lots of collar pops/prong collars, no treats), based on their videos/flyers. The 2 local CKC clubs only does conformation classes. Other than that, there's a retriever and a schutzhund club within 45 min.

There is one semi-retired trainer here who I took one class with and quite liked, but she only offers one class a week that isn't during work hours. She's said I'm welcome to drop in to the class. It's at 8 am -11 am on the weekend and a 45 min drive away, and I take a weekly medication that knocks me out for pretty much all of the weekend. And then there's weather. Every time I decide to go (like this weekend), we end up with a huge snow storm/ice storm. She - maybe 15-20 years ago? trained some of the top ckc dogs in a bunch of dog sports, and since seems to have moved out of ckc events. One private class with her definitely improved my training skills and ability to watch what my body language is communicating to my dog.

The next set of classes doesn't start until mid -february, so I guess I have some time to think about it (and maybe see if I can drag myself to the 8 am class with the other trainer in the meantime). Assuming she really does only use pulling dogs into position as her only negative... it would be easy enough to teach Annie a new cue of gentle collar pressure = down.
 

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My dogs can pay attention to me around other dogs pretty well and they haven't been to classes except for Matisse when he was showing...he went to handling class, had to pay attention. But Maurice hasn't and he can watch me, come along and do fine with dogs around, although they're not perfect because I'm just not looking for that nowadays. But you have to do what you feel is best. I know I wouldn't let anyone tell me to force my dog by pulling his head down by his collar. That's punishing that simply is counter-productive. I'd tell that person, "no, I'm not going to do it that way." Actually, I wouldn't use that trainer, as I said. lol. I don't do classes anymore...just not into it. My dogs don't need anymore training unless it's something for fun or a little reviving of something. They are everything I want at this time in my life. Back in the day with my Dobe, I lived in a wilderness area and I drove through snow blizzards every Monday night to on training class that was an hour and 15 minutes away. And another place for something else 50 - 60 minutes away. I had to get him around other dogs as he didn't get enough of that at home. Socializing a Doberman is of paramount importance and loads of it. Where I live now, there are enough people and dogs around so they get ample socializing. Good luck to you. I hope something will work out for you.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Poodlebeguiled - I ... umm.... to put it mildly, I think as a behaviourist you probably have a bit more training experience than I do ?

Yeah - I hope I find something that works too. I've been trying to join a class for 6 months now (in two different cities), and between "closed for the summer" places, classes being cancelled/rescheduled, classes being full, not fitting my schedule, etc, etc... I'm quite frustrated.
 

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That really does sound frustrating. I'm sorry. If the presence of other dogs is your top priority, you could try training at a local park in between occasional sessions with that wonderful-but-inconvenient trainer. I find even a visit to a big box pet store useful. Amidst all the excitedly pulling dogs and intoxicating treat smells, Peggy actually does quite well running through the basics. Can do a short session in each aisle!

But I know what you mean. She meets so many dogs through our classes, and learns to work in the presence of a variety of breeds and energy levels. It's been invaluable to us. Maybe just focus on that aspect of the class and take the training methods with a grain of salt.
 

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Rather than going to a so so class perhaps you should try doing what I did with Javelin when he was in his first year which was to go into Petco and PetSmart and train him there myself. I taught him everything he needed to pass a CGC by doing atuff in crazy parts of the stores, like sits and downs in front to the doggie daycare and near the groomers. He learned distance stays on a long line in stores. We started in the quietest parts of the stores up close and for short durations and eventually he would stay facing the dogs in the day care with me 30' away and people passing by. I never left him out there on a stay when there were pwoplw with poorly controlled dogs and people could only pet him if he held the position I left him in. This was all an extension of teaching Lily stand stay and stand for exam which she adored since she thought these were just random people who wanted to play with her) in the entrances of pet sotres.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Lily cd re - what do you do when there are out of control dogs at Petsmart/Petco? I have more luck at the smaller pet stores and Canadian tire, but the only two times I have taken Annie to Petsmart there were dogs lunging/snarling at her. I tried going to the other end of the store, but they end up following me around. The dogs we encounter in Canadian tire (which is like a walmart without food) are usually the politest dogs. Maybe I'll try home sense, or Bass pro shop...

We did go to Canadian tire today - she managed a 1.5 min sit-stay in an aisle and DID NOT jump on the counter (a bad habit that I am trying to break which she received a treat for once)
 

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Poodlebeguiled - I ... umm.... to put it mildly, I think as a behaviourist you probably have a bit more training experience than I do ?

Yeah - I hope I find something that works too. I've been trying to join a class for 6 months now (in two different cities), and between "closed for the summer" places, classes being cancelled/rescheduled, classes being full, not fitting my schedule, etc, etc... I'm quite frustrated.
Oh! lol. I'm not a behavior-ist. (education but no degree) I'm a behavior junkie and that's what I specialized in but am semi-retired. Experience, yes. But you sure sound like you're very capable of teaching your dog what you want, at least for starters. It sounds like things went super in the tire store. What a good team you make. I think the idea of practicing in Pet Smart or some such place when it's not too crowded...just a few dogs might be a good idea. Then, as she gets better, go when it's busier. Keep us posted. ?
 

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For Want of Poodle, I'm in a similar situation to you. I live in Ontario as well, so like you I'm often jealous of all the options some people have!
I've been training Raffi myself and he's doing very well. We just started training class because I wanted him to have practice working around more people and dogs (and I'm considering Rally or agility). I have been taking him to PetSmart, Canadian Tire, and Rona which have been very helpful, but I don't find them to be predictable enough to really advance his training.
The trainer I used for my previous dog, I found through my local SPCA. Their schedule doesn't work for me this time though. Another one that didn't work for me schedule wise but I liked the look of, I found by searching specific dog sports I'm interested in (barn hunt for one). These did not come up on my other searching.
The place I did go with, is my local non-profit dog obedience club. I don't necessarily agree with every thing they do, but once we got past the initial class they have been receptive if I say that I have been doing something in a different way. I do think it's good to have an open mind and get different view points- for example, in your case you may have learned it's a good idea to practice the stay from varying positions; and I do think it's also good to vary things like distance, whether you are holding be leash, and also to not necessarily be standing in one place when holding a long stay. I have worked with Raffi in going around a corner out of sight, and walking around him in a wide circle- for things like that you wouldn't/couldn't give the hand signal once you have walked away.
One the other hand, I would not be using leash/collar pressure to put Raffi in a down- I guarantee he would not respond well to that- and I would feel comfortable in my class saying that I use a different signal. As long as it works my instructors would be fine with that. The question is, would you be comfortable doing the same in this potential class? I can see that in an assessment it might be not the right time/place, but can you contact her before the new session starts to clarify whether that would be acceptable?
Really, the signals that you use to train your dog have to be fairly natural for each person, or it gets too difficult and confusing. For myself, I naturally add hand signals to my commands, and I would struggle not to. If a trainer told me I couldn't that would be a deal breaker for me.
 
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