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Teaching Self Control

TeriM
April 14th, 2010, 12:54 AM
So, I have been inspired recently to start working more on Riley's self control. He is a wonderful dog most of the time but he has stages where he just gets so excited that the front brain stops working and he moves into reacting instead of thinking. I have two main areas to work right now:

1) He is amazing on trails, excellent recall, super social etc. He is the same at our dog classes which he loves although much more hyper. Our instructor even likes to use us as a high level distraction for some other dogs :laughing:. Where I realize we need more work is when out and about in busy areas and also to settle/focus when we first drive to a walking/hiking area. A few weeks ago I stopped to go to a pet store and decided to take him and then walk across to Starbucks to grab a coffee and his head just about exploded he was so worked up. Also, the only time I ever have any issues with him and other dogs is when he is super worked up and his brain seems to stop working.

Thanks to some wonderful dvd's that an angel sent us (LP) I am working on having him re-orient to me. We started this past weekend by walking the mini-mall area by my vet. When we first got there he walked past a dog and had a bit of a bark/lunge towards it :frustrated:. I then proceeded to do a bunch of drills like walk a few step and then have him come to front, heels, downs etc with lots of rewards and praise. When I saw him start to settle we walked past the same dog and he was perfect. The other guy was wonderful when I said we were training :thumbs up and on the next pass by I gave the "go say hi" command and the dogs had a quick greet and then we moved on and had a fun game of tug.

I plan to find these areas of high distraction at least two times per week and continue until he is able to focus/settle much quicker.

2) The other area that makes me crazy with him is his ball obsession :yell:. The ball wins over everything ... I could wave a steak at him outside and if he was in the Riley obsession mode he would totally ignore the steak. A few weeks ago he lunged for a ball that I had taken from him (after he stole it from another dog) and I ended up with blood all over after he got my finger :frustrated:. He has improved and when I work him with two balls he can actually be not to bad. What I would really love though is for him to retrieve the ball and place it in my hand and then sit until I throw it again (might as well dream BIG right :D). I think this all goes back to developing more self control for him. Sooooo ....I have started with this:

I sat on the couch with super yummy treats, clicker and ball. The first night I used the less favourite ball and tonight I used the favourite ball. I just sat there and waited while he bounced around the room playing by himself and eventually he came towards me and dropped the ball closer and pounced which I ignored. FINALLY after about 15 min he came and dropped the ball next to the couch which I then gently encouraged to have him drop on the couch next to me. When he finally did I clicked and treated and then right away threw the ball. Didn't take to long after that before he figured out the system and started to drop it regularly on the couch :thumbs up.

Tonight I upped the criteria a bit by using the favourite ball and then only throwing the ball after he sat. I still am just sitting on the couch. He was pretty good although had a few barking hissy fits waiting for the ball to be thrown which I just ignored until he finally sat.

My plan is to very slowly up the criteria. Maybe a few more days with me on the couch and then move to another chair, standing etc. Then move to the backyard etc. I imagine that this is gonna take a while until we can be out and about but I am gonna work on patience while he works on self control :laughing:.

Not sure on a few things like when I should add a voice command and whether or not I should push to have him place the ball in my hand or not :shrug:.

Anyway .... sorry for the long post :o :D. I would appreciate any thoughts or suggestions.

Longblades
April 14th, 2010, 08:52 AM
Thanks to some wonderful dvd's that an angel sent us (LP) I am working on having him re-orient to me.Were they the "Control Unleashed" DVDs? I can't believe how well those "games" worked to teach my young Lab to focus on me.

How old is Riley? My boy is two and a half. Pleased as I am with his behaviour now I do think his hitting the magic age of two (for him, not for all) is at least equally responsible for his focus now. He just settled down.

Not sure on a few things like when I should add a voice commandMy trainer said add the voice in when you are so sure the hand signal will work that you will bet your neighbour $50 on it. For the give to hand I just guessed but when I decided he knew what fetch meant and was reliable at it I demanded a give to hand. We'd already been doing give to hand with the leash. You want to go for a walk? Put the leash in my hand.

hazelrunpack
April 14th, 2010, 10:37 AM
Teri, for sure you have to keep us updated on your progress!!! Sounds like Riley has made some pretty good strides already! :highfive:

Auntie LP to the rescue again! :angel: :D

Stinkycat
April 14th, 2010, 12:37 PM
I'm going through the same sorta deal with my pup. Over excited when she see's people and wants to jump all over them or strangle herself to death.

I'm finding the distractions to introducing them works, but it's slow. If you find any other useful things, let us know!

Sounds good so far!

TeriM
April 14th, 2010, 03:52 PM
Were they the "Control Unleashed" DVDs? I can't believe how well those "games" worked to teach my young Lab to focus on me.

How old is Riley? My boy is two and a half. Pleased as I am with his behaviour now I do think his hitting the magic age of two (for him, not for all) is at least equally responsible for his focus now. He just settled down.


Yes, they are the "Contol Unleashed" DVDs :thumbs up. We are working on her leave it exercises where the dog learns to look to you before he gets what he wants. I never realized how often he just focused on something he wanted prior to that :o. Now he is learning to look to what he wants and then turn back to me to be granted the reward :thumbs up. We are going to be working up to the "look at that" game.

Riley will be four in may. He was a super laid back puppy and a horrible teenager. I have definately noticed some mellowing in the last year or so which I am hoping to use to my advantage :D.

Longblades
April 14th, 2010, 04:24 PM
We are going to be working up to the "look at that" game.I do this one in our obedience class, a novice trial prep class. Everyone else walks in trying to get their dog to "look at me." And there I am saying, "Who'zat dog?" I'm telling you, I get some weird looks from the other owners but our trainer has commented several times on pup's focus. It works.

TeriM
April 14th, 2010, 05:18 PM
I do this one in our obedience class, a novice trial prep class. Everyone else walks in trying to get their dog to "look at me." And there I am saying, "Who'zat dog?" I'm telling you, I get some weird looks from the other owners but our trainer has commented several times on pup's focus. It works.

Very cool :thumbs up. I think that will actually be very helpful to us. It's funny how once you switch your thinking to that way how logical it seems :). There is a girl in our class that was having a really bad day a few weeks ago with her dog (very reactive to other dogs) and one of the other owners was saying she just needs to keep her dog from making any eye contact. I was thinking quietly that I disagreed and then the instructor said what she really needed was to work on getting her dog engaged more with her even if that meant all she did was work on her own close to the class but not in it until the dog learned that working around all that stuff was a good thing.

I mentioned earlier that Riley is great in our obedience classes but very hyper. He is able to work there though mostly due to his focus :thumbs up. He has figured out what the classes mean, he LOVES to work and he gets lots of fun rewards like treats and tug games. It lets me turn his over-the-top drive into some great focus. Now I just need to transfer that focus to other situations :).

I am actually thinking of trying a Rally-O prep class as well to give us something to work towards. I can't decide between that and/or working towards our tracking title. He loves tracking and it is very natural for him so I think the Rally-O will be better for his learning process.

TeriM
April 24th, 2010, 09:37 PM
We are seeing improvements :thumbs up.

He is fairly consistant with placing the ball directly into my hand (while I am on couch) when using the clicker. He is also much better even when we are not doing regular training with playing ball (much more polite).

He is now consistantly waiting in a down position until released when we open the patio door. He even held it when a squirrel was on the back fence :eek:.

The downside was that he bit my boob :yell: the other day when we were playing tug. He slipped and then lunged for it and got me instead (I definately need smaller boobs). The good side of that was when I screamed in pain he immediately dropped the tug and backed quietly into a sit.

Baby steps :).

hazelrunpack
April 24th, 2010, 11:40 PM
Oh. Ouch. Ya, that hurts. :o Been there, done that, try to avoid it.... :o

Despite the occasional booby booboo, it sounds like he's doing really well!!! The Pack is impressed with Riley's self-control in the face of a squirrel!!!! :eek: Way to go, Riley! :highfive:

This was a bad week for us--I was so busy that I couldn't do much clicker work at all. :( I'm holding out hopes that things settle back to a normal routine this coming week and we can get back to it! :fingerscr

14+kitties
April 25th, 2010, 12:08 AM
We are seeing improvements :thumbs up.

He is fairly consistant with placing the ball directly into my hand (while I am on couch) when using the clicker. He is also much better even when we are not doing regular training with playing ball (much more polite).

He is now consistantly waiting in a down position until released when we open the patio door. He even held it when a squirrel was on the back fence :eek:.

The downside was that he bit my boob :yell: the other day when we were playing tug. He slipped and then lunged for it and got me instead (I definately need smaller boobs). The good side of that was when I screamed in pain he immediately dropped the tug and backed quietly into a sit.

Baby steps :).

Ouch! I am glad he stopped the tug once he grabbed your boob!!! :eek:
Sounds like Riley is making wonderful strides. Fantastic!!! :thumbs up

TeriM
May 8th, 2010, 11:02 PM
Yesterday we moved to the backyard for our ball training. I sat on the edge of the deck with clicker and cheese and he bounced all over the yard with the ball like a fool but eventually came over and dropped the ball at my feet. I clicked/treated and he sat quietly and let me pick up the ball and throw it. That is an improvement on the days of drop the ball but then rush and grab it when I try to pick it up :thumbs up.

He had a few moments of stopping mid yard and barking at me to come get the ball but I just turned away and if he continued I picked up and walked into the house. When he came back onto the deck looking for me I came back out to play. After the third time no more barking :D.

Just did a short session yesterday and plan to continue this process over the next few weeks :).

luckypenny
May 8th, 2010, 11:07 PM
He had a few moments of stopping mid yard and barking at me to come get the ball ...

Wonder if Riley wishes he had a clicker to use too :laughing:.

Great update Teri! Are you videotaping any of this?

TeriM
May 8th, 2010, 11:14 PM
He probably does :laughing:. I can just see him thinking but I wanna train her to play the game my way :D.

No video. Can barely be coordinated enough to work the clicker, treats, ball and dog :rolleyes:.

Longblades
May 9th, 2010, 08:47 AM
Your boy's problem with the ball doesn't sound exactly the same as mine. Actually, your boy sounds better as mine would not bring it back at all. For what it's worth though, here are things I tried.

http://www.thegundogclub.co.uk/Reference/training/clickerretrieve.htm
This is like backchaining the retrieve. You start with the GIVE. The forum is defunct and I could not find anyone on a U.K. positive gundog training site who did this. Pardon me, I did find one who said it was too slow for his dog. As my results declined I decided that was the case with us as well and I completely abandoned it. One tip, it says to do this for 10 minutes. That's way too long. I shortened to 5 or less. Then none when I quit. :laughing: Not to say it won't work for someone else.

Here is what did work for us. North/South ball throwing. I got this from the U.K. site where it was a comment expressed to someone else. Lots of folks told me to throw multiple balls but no one said to throw them in opposite directions as you do with this. Throw N., soon as pup gets the ball and looks up, throw the second ball S. He'll come running back by you to get the second. In 10 throws my pup was dropping the ball at my feet and I was only throwing the same ball over and over. I like clickers but I did not use it here.

This taught my boy to return to me for another throw, a concept he just did not "get" before. I think this might work for your pup because, #1 it would be new to him (I'm guessing?) and #2 the reward for returning, which you say he does do, is immediate and perhaps he would not have a chance to grab the first ball. A thought, anyway. With my boy we are now working on a formal GIVE with him sitting to my left (as he will have to do for an HR or WC) and holding till I want the ball. We are also working on him sitting while I throw and not fetching till I say so. Talk about self control. Good luck. If you try this I'd love to know how it works for you.

TeriM
May 9th, 2010, 03:28 PM
Thanks Longblades for the suggestions :thumbs up.

I have tried similar techniques with Riley but what happens is that he keeps the original ball and chases the second one. The rotten bugger will actually work to stuff three balls in his mouth so his real issue is possession.

I have used the multiple balls with good success. Last year we took a beach camping holiday and I had three balls (one for Lucy) that I rotated. The rule was that he had to give up all the balls before he got another throw. Plus once he gave up the balls I would make him do a few commands like tricks or obedience. That helped to keep him in the front half of his brain and tone the excitement just a wee bit.

We have been doing the wait for a throw as well recently. I am actually quite leary of ball playing with him because of his size and enthusiasm. It kinda feels like a surgery waiting to happen ;). When I can make him wait until the ball stops rolling then he doesn't have the crazy slide/leap maneauvers that make me cringe. I am also happy to play ball with him in water as again that has lower risk of injury.

Balls are really the bestest ever thing in the world for Riley. He is forever bounding into bushes on our walks and coming out with someone elses lost ball or even just a tiny piece of a ball. I definately contributed to his possession problem with some of the things I did. When he was a puppy I should have enforced proper play techniques so they didn't develop into the brat stuff now. I now never take a ball away (if he finds one or steals one from someone else) without throwing it right back to him at least a few times so he doesn't think that everytime he gives me the ball the fun ends.

His love of balls makes them a very good tool to work on his self control issues. The drive can work in my favour, I just need to be patient enough to get there :laughing:.