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Hello all. Woody is 8 months old now and doing great. He’s completed 8 weeks of Puppy Class, 8 weeks of Beginner Obedience and we’re halfway through another 8 weeks of Beginners. He’ll start Advanced Novice in April, I think.

I’m having trouble lately getting him to focus in class. He’s quickly becoming the class clown, mouthing his leash, pretending to be hearing-impaired, and generally goofing off. He does better in our daily sessions at home but he’s giving a little attitude here too. Any tips for training a sassy teenager? Is he bored? Should we take a break? I welcome any suggestions.
 

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Maegan
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Agree with Kate and would like to add that this is a rough time, but it can be overcome. Personally, I would start correcting for bad behavior. If you just let him pull on his leash with no consequences, then he will continue doing it. If your trainers are just letting this happen in class, then you need new trainers. Sometimes a firm verbal correction is enough, but sometimes it needs to be a physical correction. I learned more about dog training in one session with some true Obedience people than I did in two six-week classes with some "Purely Positive" people. Just my opinion and food for thought.
 

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Become unpredictable. For example, if he starts chewing the leash, move away at a fast trot so he has to run to keep up with you (and reward him when he does). Do very fast sequences of commands - be upbeat, make it a lot of fun for him, so it becomes a game. Fast sequences will make him concentrate. In class, use very high-value treats that you don't use anywhere else: cooked chicken, cheese, etc. I would not stop training; this is the time he needs it most. At home you could break practice sessions down into short bursts - several sessions of one or two minutes. Teach him new stuff in the form of obedience disguised as games. For example, teach him to go "around" something: a cone, whatever, and when he's done so, roll or throw a tennis ball for him to retrieve and bring back to you, as his reward. Teach him tricks: weaving through your legs, spinning and turning, backing up, etc. Or, instead of moving onto another obedience class, do an agility foundation class instead, then go back to obedience later. Agility foundation exercises are mostly obedience, but in a different format: following hand signals, running alongside you, introduction to tunnels, going through jump wings with the bar on the ground, using a wobble board, using a contact box, etc.



Your pup is just being a teenage brat. Give him structure and make it fun, and he'll get through it!
 

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Logan & Lacey in R hearts
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Oh my, I had to laugh out loud at the "pretending to be hearing-impaired". When our previous boy, Logan, was that age - you could have been describing him. They do get past it, but there are times I would think to myself if people were watching him - "I am sure they are thinking I have never done a lick of training with this dog". HA! I love the suggestions above, and did many of them myself during those teenage months. Good luck!
 

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Kate
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He does better in our daily sessions at home but he’s giving a little attitude here too.
I was wider awake the second time reading this and this line stands out a bit different right now.

Typically people find their dogs are super GLUED IN at home and completely different dogs at class. This is primarily due to the owners never challenging their dogs while training. Except once a week when you go to class.

If it were just that, my further suggestion would be keep a big bubble around you and your dog and use high value treats to motivate with. A lot of people get "quiet" at class and it's difficult for them to motivate the same way in class that they do at home. Which my take is it means they are having to work too hard motivating at home with a dog who should be past that.

Can you describe a home training session?

How long are you training per session?

Are you using marker type stuff in your training (marking when your dog is right and instantly rewarding)?

I'm not an expert by any means, but I'll give an example of what I'm doing with my 8 month old.

We train every night after supper (including the dogs supper).

Things I'm working on are heeling (off leash), recalls, drops on recalls, position changes, stays (stand stay in particular, but sits and downs too). And stacking for conformation (I really want a nice free stack).

Heeling - problem areas are positioning, primarily. I want him glued to my left knee/thigh and heads up. We literally go from one side of our big rec room and back and work on focus and positioning while going straight, about turns, and halts. I will go up and down 1-3 times, that's it. We aren't attempting to heel for 10-15 minutes.

Recalls - I'm working on positioning and trying to get the focus on my face vs my hands (which will help positioning). We do 1-2 recalls that's it.

Drops - I primarily do one formal drop on recall, but the rest are treat tosses and getting my dog to drop wherever when he gets the call. Usually I time the drop calls after he's gone back to grab a treat and semi-before he's turned around to come back to me.

Stays - I'm working on him holding his position while a partner goes up and does the tap-tap-tap on his head, shoulders, and back. This is me hovering and going in to reward at the same time.

And basically the other things we do are either dumbbell hold/practice or go-out touches or position changes or stays.

I keep things brief and try to mix in little motivating bits and pieces to keep my dog really excited about training.

Treat toss drops or position changes (you can do treat toss sits) are useful down the road if you do stick to obedience with your dog (and you have a gorgeous pup and I guarantee you will get through this rough patch with him if you stick to it).

Treat toss drops and position changes are FUN for the dogs. They get really amped up and excited.

Go out touches - one of the things I do with my pup to make it more REWARDING, I use a vacuum hose attachment (a little one) that I duct tape to a door at the end of our upstairs hall, making sure it's loose enough for the dog to flip with just a nose touch. I put cereal in there, letting Jojo (held in a stay at the other end of the hall) see me load the attachment. <= I go back and do a "mark-READY" and send him as soon as I see him dip his head and lean forward pointing his nose at that attachment. The go-touch is rewarded remotely because he's rewarding himself as soon as he bumps that hose attachment. We do this every night - he LOVES it.

Dumbbell work - was the only area where I had to get serious and correct him. I'm soft handed generally and even with correcting him, I still was soft handed. My goals were getting him to solidly GRAB that dumbbell from my hands and want it in his mouth, getting him to sit on command with the dumbbell in his mouth, placing the dumbbell in his mouth (while he's doing a sit/wait) and having him come to me while carrying the dumbbell, then same thing with a sit at the end of the come, and then finally getting him to fetch a tossed dumbbell. <= He HATED THIS starting off - especially since I was determined to make a breakthrough in as few early sessions as possible. So 1-2 days we worked like 30-40 minute sessions and stopped when I reasonably felt the lightbulb was going on.

Currently dumbbell retrieves are what we do last because he LOVES it. I have 2 dogs competing with each other for turns at fetching the dumbbell.

Heeling you can mix in motivation/excitement by encouraging him to get amped up when heeling. With Jovi, we may do a couple minutes of just heeling starts where I'm taking 1-2 big steps and I want him just twitching and excited to go. I can bring that back down by the time we start competing, but currently I want to see him super EXCITED and amped up. This is motivated and reinforced by rewarding the behavior I want.

Other games to play would be scoot halt heeling, scoot fronts, pivots, front games (sideways scoot fronts - with the dog in front of you and moving laterally with you).

All of these things if you are training every day at a certain time (or when your dog wants the most attention - if you come home from work and that's when he's bopping around you the most, that can be training time) + high value rewards (don't just use kibble or other invisible treats) - will help build more focus and attachment from your dog while training.

In class - I'd try to build a big bubble around me while training.

With Jojo - I go to class early and let him sit and acclimate to our surroundings for at least 10-15 minutes before I begin working with him. There's no point in asking anything of a dog whose head is spinning. High value rewards in class will be a huge deal in building focus there at class - equal to what you get at home.

So I might use plain bread or croutons (my dogs love them) or cheezits at home while training.

At class I would use cheese or even cooked meat. <= I wouldn't use this every day with a dog because dairy or meat, it will upset their stomachs if they get too much too often.

And aside from training sessions - I would add in mini training opportunities whenever you can.

NILF (nothing in life is free) is something that a lot of people do. And it sounds "mean" but it actually is just doing something a little different with a dog. Before my guys get any treats or their breakfast or supper, they have to do something.

Most people just have their dogs do spins or other tricks. Which I do too. :) It doesn't have to be formal training - though some people do.

If I sent my dogs out for potty, and I'm going to give them treats anyway when they come back in the house - I will make them work for it. I hide the treats in the house, leaving a trail (touching the treats to the floor or shuffling my feet) and I turn them loose when they come in. They go nuts. <= This exercise builds into articles down the road. It's training the dogs to hunt using their nose.

Mixing it up and having fun training your dog - it will help make a huge difference.

In another thread I mentioned Janice Gunn and other people - they have videos on youtube where you can pick up training ideas.

A lot of basic obedience classes do not adequately use what our dogs have to offer. So I've seen people working on loose lead walking for basic obedience, but focus is not adequately reinforced and taught. This doesn't mean you are in the wrong place with your dog or should feel discouraged. I'm just saying you might want to do more stuff on your own while training along with class. It means your dog may instead of being the class clown, become the dog that is way ahead of everyone else.

I used to train with somebody who put us through 2 sessions of novice obedience before she let us walk more than 10 steps of heeling practice in class. Many weeks we just did heeling starts (1-3 steps). Or we worked 1-3 steps and turns. This was based on the fact that most people lose their dogs focus after only a couple steps. And it gets reinforced from there.

With pet level classes - they do the opposite. They have people as a group going around and around and around and rewarding their dogs when they come back to heel. Which is fine, except some dogs never come back. And there is no motivation or foundation building going on.

I'd suggest working on extra things at home and carve our a little time before or after class to do a little extra.

Always - have fun with the dogs. Motivate.
 

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Maegan
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Always - have fun with the dogs. Motivate.
This entire reply is excellent advice! I do many many of these things with Rocket at least weekly, if not daily. He rarely gets anything for free - including meals. Sometimes it's just a quick handshake as I'm running out the door to work, but other times it's actual drills and the meal becomes his "jackpot."

Kate, I hope you come to Columbus for a show sometime, would love to meet you in person.
 

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Kate
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Kate, I hope you come to Columbus for a show sometime, would love to meet you in person.
I'm debating about the Sat show on 4/20 (GRCA specialty).

The judge on Fri is a european judge and basically have decided to never EVER show to somebody like that ever again. LOL.

Sat is Nancy Liebes who I swear I've shown to her before and she's a green light. Plus I'd show my pup in sweeps...

I just have to do more contemplation about doing either that show or the specialty in Hamilton a month later.

:)
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks to everyone for your thoughtful replies. Here's a little more detail on what we're currently doing with Woody. We train weekly with the local obedience club with members that are all involved in obedience, conformation, tracking, etc. Our trainer is also the co-owner of Woody's Mama, so Woody spent his first 8 weeks with her. She's terrific and loves to see him each week, but he gets super-excited around her. She uses him to demonstrate during class, which also gets him kind of wound up. I have to admit I'm not comfortable correcting him like I should in class and I need to get over that. He's not high energy and silly at home so his behavior in class is surprising to me. We'll have a different trainer when we start Advanced Novice this Spring and maybe that will help him to settle. We're discouraged from coming to class early because there's a puppy class immediately prior.

At home, I dedicate about 15 minutes to structured training each morning and then shorter sessions throughout the day. He has to sit and wait before his meals, sit and wait at all doors, give a down-stay if he wants to be in the kitchen while I'm cooking etc. He does fine with all of the impromptu training but he seems pouty during the structured sessions. I'm struggling to make it fun for him and keep him motivated. I was hoping to try obedience trials with him and I want it to be fun for both of us. I'm going find more training games to play, change up the treats, and try to be more interesting to him. I welcome all suggestions for making it fun and keeping him interested.

As I'm writing this I realize he seems over-stimulated in class and unmotivated/bored at home. Duh! How can I balance that out for him?
 

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Maegan
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For me, string cheese and blueberries solve all problems (and they offset each other as far intestinal concerns go LOL). In all seriousness, if you are having trouble engaging with him at home, maybe try warming him up with a tug or fetch session and make sure your voice sounds excited too. If you get excited, he will get excited. I have a two special tugs that Rocket only gets to use during training and warmups. I also like to use his dinner as jackpot, but I wouldn't go 10-15 minutes without letting him eat it. More like 2-5 minutes with no treats - verbal rewards only, and then he gets to eat his entire dinner.

Have they been teaching you "Get It" games in training? If not, watch how my trainer in Houston rewards her dog:
Basically "Get It" games involve the dog lifting/jumping to get a treat/toy (sorry if you already know this). It really helps with engagement, enthusiasm, and work ethic. You can use Get It games for rewarding just about anything. In the video, the trainer is working on the dog's accuracy in heel position.

Personally, I use high value treats (cheese, blueberries, bacon) when I want super focus, am in a new place, or teaching something new. I like to use toys and lower value treats for drilling skills that we already have.

Don't be afraid to offer a correction in class. It only took one or two corrections in class for Rocket to realize that pulling and lunging to meet people was absolutely not acceptable. The very first time I took him to Rally class, he wouldn't sit for me, he wouldn't listen, and was just generally awful. Acted like a 6 month old puppy (he was 2 years old...). I was absolutely mortified, and one of the trainers even asked if he knew how to sit. When I said yes, and that he already had his RN title, that's when she taught me a proper correction for when he is being a turd. Admittedly, he did not have a proper impulse control foundation because the puppy classes we attended did not teach it properly. And the R+ puppy trainers made it sound like even a verbal correction bordered on abuse. Seriously, they were awful... but I digress.

This leads me into the part about Woody being overstimulated in class: When you are in between exercises, or the teacher is just talking, put him in a down-stay and every 30 seconds (or less to begin with) or so, give him a treat as long as he remains in the down-stay. Reward him for being good. If someone walks by while he's in the down-stay and he chooses to remain in the down-stay, then give him an extra good reward. Slowly, but surely, he will start showing control over his impulses to get really excited when it's not the right time to be excited and he may even start offering the down when he notices that you're not doing anything. If he stands up, mark it with a verbal negative marker (No, Uh uh, No sir, etc.) and put him back in the down-stay. Eventually, you'll be able to wean off the treats for good behavior. AND You can move right back into the Get It games when it's time to start doing drills again. The key with impulse control is that the dog has to be the one to choose control.
 

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Maegan
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I'm debating about the Sat show on 4/20 (GRCA specialty).

The judge on Fri is a european judge and basically have decided to never EVER show to somebody like that ever again. LOL.

Sat is Nancy Liebes who I swear I've shown to her before and she's a green light. Plus I'd show my pup in sweeps...

I just have to do more contemplation about doing either that show or the specialty in Hamilton a month later.

:)
I'm planning on being there, but also might be driving to Arkansas to pick up my puppy that weekend. I was hoping to go and get 6 Triple Q's for Rocket's RACH, but we'll see.
 

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Puddles
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OP I feel your pain... you are not alone. Love all the advice, thanks !! I know that the silly will go with maturity but do enjoy her enthusiasm. She does comply with the command to down but does a little happy dance 1st. Let's hope the judge has a sense of humor :)

LOL obviously I was talking about my pup but LOVED all the great advice! This has been a wonderful thread and will be using all the great ideas. Thanks!!!
 

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I literally just LOL’ed at “pretending to be hearing impaired.” Because I’ve asked my 7 month old that occasionally, but she hears the cookie jar being opened so...she’s all good there.

My life currently is dog training. 3x a week in class and then practicing at home. She starts her CGC classes after her one class stops in two weeks. Her recall was not the best (as in her style is to saunter to you at her speed and desire...not a sense of urgency) and ever since this winter dog training extravaganza...she’s barreling towards me in the house and in classes. Last night I had to crouch and step forward to mess her depth perception up because I would’ve probably gone flying.

Her KPT trainer recommended she be enrolled in Rally I. Walking into the first class I was mortified. She wanted to greet every dog, which is what she was used to from KPT. She started at 6 months. She’s done a complete 180 and the dogs are the dogs at Rally. No more pulling to them like the first class. I feel Rally has helped her tremendously. And it’s helped me.
 

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where the tails wag
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I am going to come from a different angle :)

Caveats : I am one of those dreaded R+ trainers when it comes to anything other than safety. 2. I have multiple dogs.

Your pup is acting normally but has not yet been taught that working with you is a priviledge and it is his responsibility to give you the engagement you deserve.

If I am home or anywhere I have another dog, and the dog I am trying to train disengages, I simply swap dogs. If I do not have another dog available, I go 'dead' and sit down. Believe it or not, this disengagement on my part helps build a huge desire on their part to keep me engaged!

The above may seem overly simplified but my dogs learn fairly quickly that it is their responsibility to offer engagement. They are heavily rewarded for their efforts through food, play, new tasks and frequent breaks when they engage.

You need to break down each exercise (which includes engagement) by distance, duration and distraction. Without your dogs' mind, no learning can take place so don't even attempt to train if you don't have attention...
 

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Maegan
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@Sunrise, you are not one of the "dreaded R+" trainers that I referred to in my post, so I sincerely hope I didn't offend you. I have great respect for you and what you do with your dogs. The ones I was talking about are the "I took a course online and got certified, so I know how to train dogs" trainers... The ones that prescribe gentle leaders (nose collars that do in fact hurt the dog) when dogs don't learn how to walk on a leash properly. The ones that might not have even owned a dog before and start teaching puppy classes...

Anyway, I do not lump mostly positive real obedience trainers in with the puppy class scammers. I just had a very bad experience and have spent well over a year undoing the damage with Rocket. In my ignorance, I picked the wrong place to do puppy training.
 

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where the tails wag
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No worries :)

I mentioned that caveat since there are many who doubt the effectiveness of R+ and so can simply keep scrolling if they have those doubts if they see that disclaimer.

But thanks for the confidence ...btw I hate nose collars. I might feel differently if I was disabled or elderly and the choice was a nose collar or no dog, but luckily to date I don't have to make that choice :) If I remember correctly, it took close to 2 YEARS for my Tohee's muzzle to completely fill back in -- she was returned at 8 months from her original owners who used the thing and was at her breeders for several more months before she came to live with me.

@Sunrise , you are not one the R+ trainers that I referred to in my post, so I sincerely hope I didn't offend you. I have great respect for you and what you do with your dogs. The ones I was talking about are the "I took a course online and got certified, so I know how to train dogs" trainers... The ones that prescribe gentle leaders (nose collars that do in fact hurt the dog) when dogs don't learn how to walk on a leash properly. The ones that might not have even owned a dog before and start teaching puppy classes...
 

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That’s about the age that I start training collars. Simple chain or pinch. What I use really depends on the dog. No head halters, gentle leaders or harnesses.
 

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where the tails wag
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and just as a further comment on how I train :)


Generally, at around 8 months old pups will start exerting independence. Your choices are to win your dog over to seeing your view and want to work with you or to start correction to make your dog work with you.


I start at a young age teaching them interactive games which helps to lessen the effect of training time versus play time. I give my dogs plenty of dog time where they can sniff and dig and roll and generally get to know their environment (this is important throughout their life). When in new environments throughout their lives, they are allowed to explore but this is especially important between 8 months and 2 years.



So, when the 8 month 'I dont wanna' phase hits, I actually pull them from classes if they cannot focus and work on basics in slowly increasingly distracted environments. I give them the games and foundation I will need as they mature. Such as touches, spinning, jumping on me, tugging etc in ever increasing distraction. If my dog can choose me over his environment AND take treats, toys, play rough & tumble games etc in a variety of environments I will then restart classes. If they cannot handle that level of distraction, I work away from the group on simple focus games until they are ready ( distance, distraction, duration) to perform simple tasks and take treats & toys. Sometimes they simply sit on my lap and observe (I need to train to a mat but somehow I never seem to get around to it LOL) If your dog will take treats & toys at home but not in a class environment you need to make a choice -- choose distance / distraction parameters or use correction -- or work in quieter environments -- the refusal to take treats is especially indicative of high stress levels.


I am a cross-over trainer and can state that correction versus non-correction methods of training both have their strong (and weak) points. They take about equal amounts of time to train. I started training way back in the 80s so I do know both sides of the equation.


So in summary, your puppy is progressing in a perfectly normal way --- he has to get to know & feel safe in his environment. He needs to choose you over his environment but this is a learned skill. He needs the tools to let you know he is ready to engage (or a solid 'READY' command).
 

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Discussion Starter #19
A big thanks to all who have replied with suggestions and your stories of similar experiences. It's so embarrassing to be the one holding the leash as he acts up in class but his behavior is my responsibility so I've really had to examine my own behavior, both at home and in class. I admit I haven't been bringing much enthusiasm either and training has become boring.

Yesterday and this morning, I focused just on fun stuff like treat-toss recalls, hide and seek recalls, and using a tug toy to get him excited. I also ramped my enthusiasm way up. His response was great and he seemed to be having fun again. I'm going to talk to our trainer about what changes I can make in class that won't disrupt her teaching. I'm definitely the least interesting thing in class right now and I need to get his attention back on me. Super high-value, class-only treats are on the list.

We might have a few months off before the next class starts-there are 39 people on the waiting list for Advanced Novice so unless they add more classes I don't think we'll get in. Maybe a little break from classes while we fine-tune our relationship at home? I've re-read this thread multiple times and made notes on new things to try and videos to look at for more ideas. Thanks again for the support and encouragement.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Training Advice?-Update!

Thanks to all for the great suggestions. Woody is doing so much better with our training at home, and he’s doing better in class too. At home I’ve made training all fun and games, shortened the sessions, and started using a tug toy to reward in addition to treats. His response has been great. In class, his trainer (also his breeder) is not engaging with him as much and as a result he’s paying more attention to me.

We’re still struggling with the leash grabbing when he gets bored in class, but last week he didn’t start mouthing until about 45 minutes into class. Progress! I’m not sure how to effectively correct him when he starts mouthing his leash. He seems to think it’s a game. Any suggestions? Such a challenging age but so much fun to see him growing and progressing.
 

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