Pet forum for dogs cats and humans -

Pet forum for dogs cats and humans - (
-   Dog training - dog behavior (
-   -   First Obedience Class with my dog. (

2ndchance March 20th, 2011 10:04 AM

First Obedience Class with my dog.
I've had Chloe for 3 months now. She is a great dog, learns quickly and is doing well in every way but one. She is terrible on leash around other dogs and since I live in the country we don't see many other dogs so have little opportunity to work on this. I decided to take her to doggie school and there is only one place locally (1/2 hour drive for me). He is a dominance type trainer who says he only uses a flat collar wtih a 6' and 20' leash and NO treats. He doesn't believe in dog parks of which there are none here anyway. My dog was a shelter dog but has been through a few homes and I think I've just found out why. She looks like a retreiver/ridgeback cross ???? and going to be 2 in June. I discovered she is aggresive when on leash towards other dogs and so I by taking her to class I'm hoping we can overcome this. The problem is she is a big dog and I'm having a hard time holding onto her when she decides to lunge at another dog. I already have a weakened shoulder from a previous injury years ago so have walked my dogs on my right side for the last 20 years. Now I have to switch to my weaker left arm and I'm slightly uncoordinated getting used to the dog on my left. I know it is easier to run the class with all dogs on the left. First class we were walking dogs on a 6' circle to the left and our goal was to teach heel and get them walking on a loose leash. The problem was this shepard next to us (Frank) and my dog took a dislike to each other. If Frank just looked at my dog Chloe responded with an all out run at the dog and I'm getting dragged across the arena (and so is Franks owner) for a ways before getting my dog under control. The instructor stood between the dogs with a lunge whip and gave Chloe a tap under chin when she tried to lunge which worked as long as he stood there. Today I'm in pain with my whole left arm and shoulder. I don't know how much damage I've done but it is going to take most of a week I'm sure then I get to go back to doggie school and repeat this mess. My husband doesn't want me to come home battered and in pain from dog obedience class. i have 4 horses to look after and I need to be able to use both arms not to mention we have a business to run. Normally I would use a halti if I felt I would be in a situation around other dogs. It just gives me more control in a much less painful way for both of us. It is hard to get Chloe to concentrate on much with the other dogs around. She gets excited and grabs the leash yanking and growling making it pretty difficult to watch and listen to the instructor. She did the same thing with the trainer but he is a bigger/stronger person than I and got her under control a bit quicker. I despise bad manners and I've worked with horses for years, I am not a pushover or afraid of this dog but in a flat collar I'm not abe to control her without injury to myself. I guess I'm going to have to call the trainer and talk to him but I doubt after the whole speil of no choke collars or treats he will allow me to bring my dog to class in a halti. I was really looking forward to these classes but now I'm not so sure. Would appreciate any insite others may have had with a similar situation. I know this is not an uncommon problem in dogs. Maybe obedience isn't the right class, maybe she needs individual work modifying her behaviour around other dogs with the trainer privately or on my own?

SamIam March 20th, 2011 01:45 PM

Your trainer is right to believe your dog "should" learn to be obedient on a flat collar. However, he is clearly not doing what is needed to get you to that point. It is very difficult in a group class to handle people using different equipment, as he would have to give individual instructions. It can be done, but is in fact rare to find a trainer who can swing it.

Shoulder injuries, back injuries, and people just too small to physically control their dog, however, are extremely common, and it's too bad he hasn't been handling the situation better.

As for your dog, leash aggression, again, very common problem. Some dogs grow out of it or are trained out of it; for others it is a life-long issue, but it does become manageable. Your instructor may or may not be willing to let you deal with the problem in your own way.

Frank and Chloe will be displaying very dominant signals to each other, ears up, tail up, lips forward, chest forward, maybe hackles. In order for these signals to take full affect, your dog needs to be standing. Lying down is a submissive posture, not what we want either. Sitting says, no I don't accept your shepherdy leadership of the world, but I don't want to fight today. It doesn't matter whether Frank's owner also gets their dog to sit; in fact when you've graduated and are out for a walk in the park, you have no control whatsoever over how other dogs out there are behaving. When the situation starts, shorten up your leash, step directly in front of and facing your dog, step towards her so that she has to take a couple steps backward and get her to sit. 1/10 second sit and praise her. With practice, it will become easier to get Chloe's attention, to get her to sit, to get a longer sit, and to get some eye contact between you. By eye contact I mean she is looking at you instead of Frank. You don't direct eye-to-eye contact more than momentarily, as she would not give it if properly submitting to your authority.

When you are at home practicing, you can use whatever tools you like. The Gentle Leader (or some of the newer contraptions) and pinch collar are both tools that are useful for people who can't offer the sharp quick tug that is needed for a flat collar or choke chain. Haltis are okay too, some dogs respond fairly well to them. I would work two ways with your dog: use your crutch tools AND flat collar when you are out for a walk, flat collar in the back yard. As you progress, work the flat collar in the front yard, two houses along, eventually around the block, etc. Work at your own and your dog's pace. On a bad day (yours or your dog's), err on the side of caution.

Treats are an excellent training tool, but again a tool and you don't want to become dependent on them. They work best in association with a clicker, and unfortunately to get the best out a Gentle Leader or clicker, you need at least one session with a trainer who is familiar and comfortable with them. With treats, make sure you are only rewarding good behaviours, not using them as a lure or rewarding aggression. For instance, you may be tempted to wave a treat in front of Chloe's face to draw her attention away from Frank. Don't! What that would teach is growl and you get a reward, the exact opposite what you want to be doing!

If you have not done so already, go to your instructor and calmly and respectfully bring up your concerns. Choose a time when he isn't busy, as getting ready for your class or the following class he may be busy or preoccupied. You might need to ask him what would be a good time to talk. Focus on you and your dog, not on him or on Frank. "I am having trouble getting Chloe to listen to me. I am worried that we are falling behind in your class because she sometimes reacts badly to other dogs on leash, and we haven't been able to move past that issue yet. Would you be willing to give us a few minutes on our own, or with one other dog present, to help us make some major improvement in this area, so that we can continue to participate in this class?"

Also, you could try with Frank's owner. They have the same frustrating issue as you, and might be willing to meet with you between your lessons. Still, focus on your dog, and the fact you want to change her behaviour. Frank's owner may be under the impression that it is 100% yours and Chloe's fault, that doesn't matter. What does matter is that you would be able to trigger Chloe's bad bahaviour in a safe, controlled, and consented situation, so that you can practice, practice, practice refocusing her attention.

Don't give up on your class yet. Give yourself a chance to make it work for you.

TeriM March 20th, 2011 02:27 PM

I personally am not a fan of any trainer that doesn't adapt to the dog and owner that it trains. One solution DOES NOT fit all. I also believe that trainers who automatically don't believe in treats are wrong. I look at it as "paying" for services rendered. I don't work for free so why should my dog :shrug:. It helps to think of it as "why on earth should my dog choose to work with me when there is so much distraction and other stuff more interesting). By using treats or other rewards and playing fun training games with your dog you then become way more interesting then all the other stuff and the result is a wonderful working relationship with your dog. I use treats in training with my dog and have a happy dog that loves to work. The trick with using treats is to not use them as bribes but to use them as rewards. The use of other rewards such as tugging or balls etc is an excellent way to train. I also don't reward for every single thing I ask the dog to do. The rate of reinforcement for learning something new is high but after that the reinforcements drop to much more random schedule.

I'm also not all sweetness and light for training. I understand that dogs need rules and am not nieve enought to believe that we can be all positive all the time. I do not believe in using any "punishment" that frightens, stresses or even bullies. I am a big fan in using "NILF" training (do a web search for Nothing in Life is Free dog training).

If you need the halti then tell the instructor that is what you are going to use to complete the course. The halti can also be a very good tool for keeping your dog from engaging in bad looks with another dog. Any tool that can help prevent your dog from rehearsing a bad behaviour (ie lunging at another dog) is a good idea. If your dog is allowed (thru your own physical restrictions, not your fault) to lunge then that eventually becomes such an ingrained response that is becomes harder to retrain.

If you wish to abide by his rules and not use treats while taking his course then do so but there is nothing to stop you from using treats and rewards while working with your dog on your own time.

I also recommend spending some time studying dog body language. The key to preventing a lot of behaviours is to understand what is happening long before it gets to the point of lunging. It is possible the other dog is giving your dog the "stink eye" or other behaviours that is making your dog very uncomfortable. It is also possible that a lot of the behaviour you think is agressive is just over excitement. In any case the instructor should have split the two of you far enough away to reduce the tensions. A great resource on dog language is [url][/url] or [url][/url]. In fact that website is an excellent source of some very good training books that you could explore.

SamIam March 20th, 2011 03:19 PM

[QUOTE=TeriM;994680]I personally am not a fan of any trainer that doesn't adapt to the dog and owner that it trains.[/QUOTE]
Nor am I. But they will be around and common for another couple decades yet. They are also often less expensive and more readily available. They do generally have knowledge and skills that can help a person with a dog like this.

2nd chance lives in an area where this is the most viable option, and I really hope she can find a way to work with this instructor, even if it means participating in class his way and doing homework her own way.

2ndchance March 22nd, 2011 07:49 PM

I don't really have a problem with not using treats for training. Working with horses using treats can cause more problems then it is worth and I know of some people who have paid the price by losing a finger. There are probably dogs out there that can develop the tendancy to bite looking for treats. I pretty much always carry some in my pockets for really important rewards but quite often I put it on the ground even though she is polite in taking treats. I've been working every day on walking in circles, squares and figure 8's teaching her to heel better. I don't think I've been paying attention enough for one while walking on leash and need to be more consistant and firm in short sessions. Part of the problem has been winter, it was very hard to walk on the side of the road on ice and snow. Turning and walking in circles not so easy on ice. Now I have nice roadsides and it is light enough to go for longer walks after work. As soon as we see a cat or other dogs tied up and her attention wanders we do circles until she is doing it correctly. I'm sure the neighbours think I'm nuts. :) Her reward is a nice off leash run through the fields and woods and she is understanding the quicker she walks nicely the sooner we get to have a run back the farm lane. As for our next class I think we will try again only my sister is going to take her this week and I will watch. She came with me for the first class to watch and has offered to handle Chloe for the next class. I think we will try to not be next to Frank this time. I thought that the instuctor should not have put me next to a dog that had the same issues as mine. He told me to keep my distance because the dogs had the same problems. I'm not a small person by any means and am used to dealing with 1200lb horses but a 100lb dog can be as strong as a person 3 times that weight. So we will try another class and hope she settles down and we start to get the behaviour modification I've been working so hard on. I do feel I have gained some good tips and insight from the trainer and I have to repect his methods are what he believes in and will take the ideas that work for me and my dog and ignore what I'm uncomfortable with. He is a former police dog trainer. My neighbour raises border collies and has offered for me to come to her farm to work on both our dogs together since she has one the same age and with similiar reaction around other dogs. I may take her up on it - she doesn't care if I use a halti and we can work at our own pace without causing an issue in a class setting. I will keep you posted and appreciate the advice and comments - keep them coming!

SamIam March 22nd, 2011 08:43 PM

[QUOTE=2ndchance;995592]He is a former police dog trainer.[/QUOTE]

I rather suspected so, and as such he should have some good ideas how to help you - if you can get him involved a little more actively in your situation, that is! Two big dogs being, well, big rude dogs, should be something he's had a lot of experience with. I've seen sometimes trainers like you've described don't adapt well to small or sensitive dogs.

The drop-out rate in group obedience classes is very high. Complaints like yours are normal and common, and yet it is you who stand to gain the most from the class, not the guy across the ring whose dog is prancing perfectly beside him.

It sounds like you have some excellent plans on how to work this week. I'm looking forward to hearing how your next class goes, good or bad!

2ndchance March 22nd, 2011 09:20 PM

Thanks SamIam. There is a smaller black dog that is so timid it barks at everything...nobody can get within 10' of it and it barks loudly - makes it hard to hear the trainer. I came home thankful I didn't have that particular problem. :)

GalaxiesKuklos March 24th, 2011 02:29 PM

[QUOTE=2ndchance;995592]I don't really have a problem with not using treats for training. Working with horses using treats can cause more problems then it is worth and I know of some people who have paid the price by losing a finger. There are probably dogs out there that can develop the tendancy to bite looking for treats. [/QUOTE]

Using food reinforcement with horses is an excellent method to train horses, or lions, dogs, bears, birds..etc. Goes back to the idea of incompetent people blaming the technique for their own shortcomings. The first thing when using food, is getting respectful behavior around food and then training the animal the safe way to take food. The behavior you describe (looking for food) is called sign tracking and it is a by product of poor training protocols.

2ndchance March 25th, 2011 08:43 PM

[QUOTE=GalaxiesKuklos;996271]Using food reinforcement with horses is an excellent method to train horses, or lions, dogs, bears, birds..etc. Goes back to the idea of incompetent people blaming the technique for their own shortcomings. The first thing when using food, is getting respectful behavior around food and then training the animal the safe way to take food. The behavior you describe (looking for food) is called sign tracking and it is a by product of poor training protocols.[/QUOTE]

I only have experience with dogs and horses and I'm sure as you pointed out have many shortcomings in my techniques as well, every animal teachs me something about myself. Since my horses are pastured along the road and in a area prone to tourists I don't want them in the habit of looking for food from peoples. Even if they are respectful with me an unknowledgable person approaching a herd of horses that knows nothing about them with a handful of treats could get themselves in a great deal of trouble. If they don't understand herd dynamics they could get kicked, run over or bitten. It is the same reason I don't use a treat to catch a horse in a herd situation but if teaching a horse to bow a treat is helpful. I just look on treats as a tool like a leash or a prong collar (or any other collar) for example that people use depending on what you are working on at the time. Sounds like you could be right with my dog about sign tracking as I find if you have a handful of treats she gets over excited and can't concentrate on anything but the treats although she takes them very politely when offered. She trys to do every trick/command she can think of on her own to get you to dispense a treat though. Since I've only had her a short time I have no idea what her past history is with treats but for now I only use treats in certain situations. Sometimes it is all trial and error finding techniques and tools that work and accepting the facts we make mistakes along the way. I'm sure that there are many great trainers that use treats successfully and many that don't which is great that we have options!

mummummum March 25th, 2011 09:04 PM

A thought on your shoulder... I too have an permanently injured should and now have to use my non-dominant arm for pretty much everything. The type of leashes I use have a swivel snap hook and the lead itself has grommets pretty much it's entire length. This means I can snap the leash around my waist or loop and snap across my body and over a shoulder. Being able to do this leaves me hands-free more or less should I choose but, moreover what it does is give me two hands and the weight of my entire body to work with as a means of steadying and counter-balancing the weight of big dogs doing what big dogs do.

I bought mine but you could easily make one. I posted a thread about it here. [url][/url]

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 10:41 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.