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Old 02-17-2014, 04:34 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Avoidance behavior during protection/defense

My female shepherd is now 9 months old. She had a TON of drive to begin with, great lines with high drive dogs, etc. Showed a ton of promise on the field. Around 7.5-8 months she started acting a little strange. At home she acted normal at first, but on the field during protection she suddenly seemed as though she had no interest. This was after I had been away almost 2 weeks, but I've gone away before and this did not happen.

I'll split it up into weeks so you can see the progression.

Week 1 - was not interested in helper/decoy, hardly went after tug. Still interested in small reward tug during obedience at home and on the field. tracking unchanged.

Week 2 - continues not being interested in helper/decoy. Interested in small tug reward toy during obedience only at home, no longer on the field. Tracking unchanged.

Week 3 - Same as above, but no longer interested in small tug reward at home or on the field. Bought burlap sac and goes nuts over it at home.

Week 4 - Did not bother bringing small tug reward on the field during obedience, as she no longer cares for it. Asked helper/decoy to use burlap flirt pole instead of long tug as she has been enjoying it at home. Seemed slightly interested as we got on the field but after one semi bite, became completely avoidant, ignoring helper, and at one point even turned her back to him and just started looking around and sniffing the grass.

She has not gone into first heat yet, so a few of us thought that maybe she was hormonal, but her drive still seems to be decreasing with no signs of heat in sight. Breeders opinion was to crate her unless she was working, and this did not help. Her opinion now is to crate her for a few months and she if she improves in the future, I do not feel comfortable doing this. My dogs are not ONLY working dogs, they are family and I don't see how ignoring her for several months could improve anything?

Any suggestions for things I might still be able to try?
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Old 02-17-2014, 06:02 PM   #2 (permalink)
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this shows you that she is stressed , not ready for this -- too young , tone it down "Seemed slightly interested as we got on the field but after one semi bite, became completely avoidant, ignoring helper, and at one point even turned her back to him and just started looking around and sniffing the grass. "
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Old 02-17-2014, 07:06 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Sounds like carmen hit the nail on the head
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Old 02-17-2014, 07:08 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I agree, she is too young. Put her up for awhile in the protection phase. If she has it genetically, it'll be there when she's 18-24 months.
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Old 02-17-2014, 08:24 PM   #5 (permalink)
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so should the helper not even do bite work with a 9 month old? or does it depend on the dog?
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Old 02-17-2014, 08:50 PM   #6 (permalink)
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so should the helper not even do bite work with a 9 month old? or does it depend on the dog?

Depends on the dog, how the dog is worked, and what the end goal is.
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Old 02-17-2014, 09:14 PM   #7 (permalink)
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She is definitely showing stress about something. This is sort of an off the wall thought, but have you checked her mouth? Not wanting to engage the helper is most likely her age and being pushed too fast, but not wanting to play tug with you could be pain. If there is nothing physically wrong with her than I would give her some time off. Play, maybe track, play, let her be a dog for awhile until she comes into heat. After her heat cycle see how she is about engaging you in obedience again. I would hold off on bitework until she is engaging you at home and on the field in obedience. I do very little with my puppies and young dogs. Maybe some barking work with no bites or a single bite a month later. If they have it, they will have it when a bit more mature.

Wanted to add. While crating her the day of training or the night before might not be a bad idea, I do not believe in creating drive through deprivation. Leaving her crated for a month so she will develop the desire to work just isn't fair, IMO, to the dog. They are not equipment only to be pulled out when we want to play. If she has the drive to work she will work without doing so because she is desperate for attention and interaction.
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Old 02-17-2014, 09:42 PM   #8 (permalink)
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While crating her the day of training or the night before might not be a bad idea, I do not believe in creating drive through deprivation. Leaving her crated for a month so she will develop the desire to work just isn't fair, IMO, to the dog. They are not equipment only to be pulled out when we want to play. If she has the drive to work she will work without doing so because she is desperate for attention and interaction.
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Old 02-17-2014, 09:49 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Not much to add, just share my experience. I am currently working my young dog, hopefully he will do well in SchH. But I have, reluctantly, followed the advice of many people and not worked my dog at all in bitework. It's frustrating. I wanna get going. But I have happily seen a huge change in my boy over the last few months.

Sometimes it's okay to wait. No need to rush. Not all dogs are emotionally ready for bitework at a young age. My boy will not be "tested" on the helper until he is well over 15 months, probably not before 18 months. He is tracking, doing wonderful obedience, having a good time and growing up. He is not a dog with a high "functional" prey drive. He does not feel comfortable yet challenging a stranger. But it's coming. Honestly, the search work has helped. He is getting more confident, more engaged and I am seeing him really come in to himself.

But if I were you, I would not work her at all in bitework. Keep training, track, obedience, just fun play at home. And bring her out again in the fall.


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Old 02-18-2014, 01:52 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lhczth View Post
She is definitely showing stress about something. This is sort of an off the wall thought, but have you checked her mouth? Not wanting to engage the helper is most likely her age and being pushed too fast, but not wanting to play tug with you could be pain. If there is nothing physically wrong with her than I would give her some time off. Play, maybe track, play, let her be a dog for awhile until she comes into heat. After her heat cycle see how she is about engaging you in obedience again. I would hold off on bitework until she is engaging you at home and on the field in obedience. I do very little with my puppies and young dogs. Maybe some barking work with no bites or a single bite a month later. If they have it, they will have it when a bit more mature.

Wanted to add. While crating her the day of training or the night before might not be a bad idea, I do not believe in creating drive through deprivation. Leaving her crated for a month so she will develop the desire to work just isn't fair, IMO, to the dog. They are not equipment only to be pulled out when we want to play. If she has the drive to work she will work without doing so because she is desperate for attention and interaction.
That is exactly how I feel. I don't see the point in that and I 100% do not believe that would help her improve whatsoever.

Teeth-wise, with me she will play fine, it's only her one small reward tug that she use to love that she has no interest in so I don't think it's her teeth, she hasn't shown any discomfort or bleeding. She will still play with a ball, burlap sack, any toys from home, just not that ONE reward tug I've been using since she was 14 weeks. Guess I will try a new one and see if she just got bored with that one.

She does not bark during protection either, she never has. So bark work would be us standing there silently lol the breeder said her mother was also a "late barker" so I'm not too worried on that aspect, I just hope the drive in general comes back! But I will lay off the protection for awhile and just go back to more fun tug playing for now until she gets a bit older. She will be 1 year when we move to Kansas with a new club so maybe I will wait to see how she does there and just continue with obedience and tracking, she really loves tracking.
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