Friday, June 7, 2013

ON TRAINING DOGS VS TRAINING PEOPLE

When I found out I we were having a new dog join our home, one thing I did not expect to encounter (but I am more than happy to do) is work with my friend on how to train Sophie. I guess I thought my friend had more experience than she does and it turns out that a lot of her methods are bit like old school dominance training which just does not work. Sophie showed up with little to no training. She acts like a puppy who was either never taught simple commands or was shown half-heartedly and never made to follow through. She's the type of dog that even when you tell her "sit" with a delicious treat in your hand, it could take 10 times to get it, if at all.


Sophie also comes with a person who loves her dog and knows what to tell her to do, but has no idea why she's not doing it and how to get her to do it. When she doesn't listen, my friend just kind of yells at her or repeats herself 8 million times with no response. The only way I've only see her get Sophie to lie down is to push her down. So I explained that I think we have to bring her back to basics and stop saying any commands to her when we are not almost 100% sure she will listen or else we are just setting her up to fail. She has become numb to commands, whether she knows them or not, and I think she just hears gibberish when we say them. I know it sounds simple, but it was actually really hard to bring up to my friend. I was so worried that she would feel like I think Sophie's a "bad dog" or that mine are in any way better, but I keep explaining that I've had them much longer and I've spent so much time working on the things they know. She was open and willing to do the training though to make it work for all of us, including Sophie!


So I showed her with the clicker and bite-size treats how to work on basic commands like sit, down, leave-it and watch in a room with no distractions. I showed her how to lure her into positions with treats if she's not getting it and to make a big party when she does it. I told her the best way to get Sophie to improve was to do several short sessions a day and always keep it fun and successful. The rest of the time while at home, we would have her on a tie down or leash to keep her from chasing flies or going after Gina.


I also showed her how to turn walks into training walks that she could still enjoy. I told her she's better off doing 2 blocks keeping her attention than a mile of her pulling you down the street. We worked on asking her to sit and watch at curbs and giving her a command to go sniff and another to come back to attention. Though she was way too distracted to get it, it's a start in the right direction.

All this training is exhausting!

So far the clicker training has gone well but Sophie still completely checks out if she sees a fly. We try to change positions or even rooms, but she remains fixated. Any advice on distractions, even in a small controlled space? She loses interest in even hot dogs, chicken and bacon and has no interest in toys. I am hoping the clicker training will start to help so she knows the second she takes her attention off it, she has done the right thing.


The walks are still difficult because she has no interest in treats and is very distracted by bugs, birds and cats. I'm finding it challenging to explain what I know I would do instinctively. Just like I didn't realize my dogs have learned as much as they have since I got them, I didn't realize how much I had figured out through the years of walking, sitting, fostering and owning dogs. Though I am no professional dog trainer, I think I know what she should do but can't always seem to find the words to explain it!


So far all of that has been the fun part. But the part that I'm finding difficult is that we started all this weeks ago and I haven't really seen my friend follow through. I see her doing maybe one training session or walk per day and she sometimes joins us for our off leash hikes in the afternoon. That is good exercise for Sophie and though she's not bad, if she was my dog I would not let her off leash before her basic listening skills are better. Even if your dog doesn't run away, off leash time is a huge reward and has to be earned in my opinion. I learned it the hard way taking Kaya to the dog park too much as a puppy and not working on her training!

Who me, naughty? No.....

Part of the problem is that my friend also seems to copy me on certain things that I wish she wouldn't. For example, parking at my apartment is street only but I'm usually parked less than a block away. I do not leash my dogs when we walk to the car. Not because I'm lazy or I don't care but because they know the drill. Without saying a word, they wait at the top of the stairs until I motion for them to join me by the open gate, then they sit, make eye contact, follow me out, sit beside me as I lock the gate and then stay by my side as we walk to the car. They do not stop to sniff, pee or say hi to any people or dogs. And they have no interest in things like cats, squirrels and even skunks that we have around the neighborhood. I could throw Kaya's precious ball across the street and she wouldn't think of going after it. And it's not because they just showed up and I trusted them and they figured it out. It's because we worked on it day after day after day for months until I knew it would be safe. So on the first day, my friend let Sophie do the same and of course, my mind flashes to a vision of her darting across the road after the neighbor's cat and possibly in front of a car. It didn't happen, but it easily could have. Then I felt like such a jerk telling my friend to leash her from now on.


She also told me months ago that she does not want Sophie on furniture and she is well trained to stay off of it. This proved to be true but after a couple nights, she asked Sophie to join her on her bed. Sophie obliged and several times since then has decided on her own merit to get on the bed. Then my friend started to get annoyed, saying I don't want her on my bed, why does she keep getting on it? So this evening, she tried to get Sophie to get on the couch. I had to jump in and ask, "What happened to no furniture?" Yes, it would be hypocritical of me to say she can't get on the couch if Kaya and Norman are on it, but the fact that she expects Sophie to stay off the furniture once she's told to go on it just makes no sense. She said, "Why does it matter if you are getting rid of that couch anyways?" Because it's not about the couch, it's about setting boundaries, besides the fact that Sophie did not even want to get on the couch. And I know this is all partly due to the fact that Sophie is in no way cuddly or affectionate and my friend seems to really want her to be that way, especially now that she's experiencing it with Kaya and Norman.

My friend is Kaya's new favorite cuddle partner:)

Though my friend has somewhat disappointed me in her efforts to work with Sophie, I also do not want to be a nag. I feel like I should do more to encourage her, like I should just wake up in the morning and suggest we work on some training together and go on a walk. It's hard though because I work from home and since my friend is not working yet, I'm trying to balance everything while my friend sits next to me bored all day. Phew! I don't mean to gripe but moving, work, 3 dogs, 2 people and a scaredy cat in a studio apartment is a bit stressful!


On a side note, the dogs are getting along great. You can see Sophie even cuddled up next to Kaya or maybe she just didn't bother to move when Kaya plopped down? But Gina remains very cautious and I feel so sad to see her in fear.  Though she comes back to eat a little, she doesn't stay long and I really miss my little mini-cat.

Has anyone ever had any challenges involving not only working with a dog but also their person?

Related Posts:
Do I Take You for Granted?
New Dog Woes
Sophie Girl

15 comments:

  1. Do you think it would help if you set a training goal and asked your friend if she wanted to participate, too? They don't have to be the same goal since the dogs are on different levels in terms of their training, but maybe that would help with her motivation? Plus, maybe that will help her get some results and feel encouraged that she can do it.

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    1. That's an excellent idea! I've been working with her one in one but didn't think of incorporating Kaya and Norman while setting goals. We'll have to work on that:)

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  2. I would start leashing your dogs on your way to the car - not because they need it, but to lead by example. Is Sophie doing turnarounds on walks yet? If Gambit and Eddie are REALLY interested in something, a treat won't distract them but turnarounds have helped them learn that if they are over-excited, they don't get to continue going towards the exciting thing. I've somehow taught Eddie "don't fixate" for things outside that he becomes obsessed with, but I'm not really sure how. I had tried letting him drag a leash I could use to guide him away from the window, but never managed to caught it. I also called him away where possible and petted as a reward. Somehow clapping and saying "don't fixate!" clicked.

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    1. Good advice. I think she definitely needs a don't fixate command! We do work on a lot of turnarounds on walks because she is definitely not there yet with verbal commands. There are so many darn distractions in this world!

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    2. Yes, I think that would be a good idea too. Just leash yours even though they don't need it.

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  3. It's hard when there are different dogs and owners around to be completely consistent in training. For example, Del is best friends with a chihuahua and their rules can be completely different because of their size. One example is that the little one is allowed on any furniture and sits on people's knees. Del doesn't see why he isn't allowed to do this, even though he's a big dog.

    I hope you and your friend can work something out which can be best for all doggies included.

    Your pics are fab by the way :)

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  4. You've provided some excellent information about dog training . Your comments about the secrets to training are on target. I have a blog that may provide additional insight to interested viewers. Visit at www.dogtrainingnow.publicniches.com

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  5. I don't know if Sophie is ready to learn this yet, but one thing mom taught me that helped a Lot with small, fast moving creatures, (plus exciting pups and scary people) is "look," which means she wants me to look at something. If she's sees something that will be exciting or scary for me, she points and tells me to "look" before I notice it on my own. As soon as I "look" she says "yes" (or clicks) and I look back at her for my treat. So I have gotten really good at breaking my focus on something that I used to be very intense about and now I am just calmer about these things in general because they have a different association in my mind now.

    One other thing that might be really helpful for Sophie is the Relaxation Protocal by Dr. Karen Overall (http://www.dogdaysnw.com/doc/OverallRelaxationProtocol.pdf). Mom says this is her most favorite set of exercises she ever did with me. And it might help your friend to build a closer bond and better training relationship with Sophie too :)

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    1. That's great advice Remy! We've been working on a watch command and she's not quite getting it with distractions around but I know it's one of the first things I taught Kaya & Norman and it is so helpful!

      I think I remember reading about the relaxation protocol on your blog at some point. I think it is great information. We are trying to find treats that Sophie really likes because she is not very food motivated or praise motivated:/

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    2. Maybe she is toy motivated? For treats, mom has heard green beef tripe is kind of irresistible, but also disgusting. And I really like smelly fish treats. Or maybe she just needs to be hungrier? Too bad you can't use flies as a reward!

      Also, "look" is actually different from "watch" (at least for me). Mom says "watch" when she wants me to give her eye contact, but she says "look" when she wants me to acknowledge some other thing by looking at it and then look back at her :)

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    3. Oh...gotcha. I never thought about telling her to look at something so it is my idea, not hers and then reward her for looking back, good idea! I'll have to look for some tripe at the pet store! There was a squeaky toy that she was into but it was no match for those flies!

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  6. My dog is obsessed with chasing a tennis all, or anything that someone throws. This may not sound like a problem, but it is super annoying when we hang out with friends and people want to play catch without my dog running back and forth like a nut.

    I have worked to try to decrease his obsession, and really that obsession is always going to be there. What has worked, though, is working on his overall obedience so that no matter what I can always get him to lie down and stay. He will still go after the ball the second I release him, but he will respect the stay command.

    With Sophie, I'm sure the obedience work you are doing with her will begin to help as far as her self-control skills. One trainer in my area suggests cutting back on the dog's meals when the dog is not interested in highly valued treats. Keep them hungry, and they will be more interested in treat-based training.

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    1. Thanks, I obviously think obedience work is important for any dog but I think a lot of people see it as "hey, if my dog's not getting into trouble, than why bother?" I've also taught Kaya to stay when I throw her ball so Norman can have a chance sometimes!

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  7. Excellent post. We somehow have trained our dog to know we don't allow her on the couch unless we are already on it and she is expressly invited. She tried to climb up once without permission and i immediately told her to leave. She has never tried to climb up again if we arent on it...and when we are she will lie down on the floor patiently until we ask her to come up. I think it has alot to do with the nonverbal energy and eye communication. About the fly obsession, not sure if I have any comments for you if food doesnt work...its tricky

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    1. You are so right about nonverbal energy and eye contact! I try to use as few vocal commands as possible with my dogs and I think it helps them connect with me so much more. It makes sense that in packs of dogs, they do not say sit, stay and leave it to each other!

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