Dog is Okay, Handler Sucks (longish) - German Shepherd Dog Forums

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Old 03-29-2014, 12:11 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Dog is Okay, Handler Sucks (longish)

I know there was a similar thread of an experience like this. I used to think I was an okay dog handler. My last set of dogs were two well behaved Aussies, one of which was a nicely decorated agility dog. So then, I got the bright idea to get a Dutch Shepherd and train in SAR work. Tygo is good, no doubt about it, and took to SAR training well. He has an edge to him, easily aroused and has a stick possession issue that once resulted in a dog fight that injured the other dog. For SAR, I knew I needed to get this under control.

So I'm on my fourth trainer now. This guy has 2 malinois and 1 GSD as his personal dogs and is a level 3 (I don't know what that means) decoy and has done most of his training with Ivan Balabanov (Whitney and Titan, this guy is in Florida somewhere). So my trainer first did a 2 hour evaluation of Tygo and I, and a little my husband. Based on the report, Tygo is okay, the trainer is not worried about the dog fight, says Tygo, probably like most DS, arouses quickly and can get to the switch point at which time he externalizes stress. But he did not feel that this arousal is over the top but more like a high drive dog. I think my Aussies internalized their stress more. The other part, is that I am a poor handler and Tygo doesn't trust me and my style of play is encouraging an adversarial relationship rather than a cooperative play. Also, my directions were unclear... Trainer said I directed like I was running an agility course and Tygo, who is 10 months old, was not clear on the command distinction. We need to be clearer and slow it down in chunks so he can get it. Tygo also shows some noise sensitivity. The report hurt. Gulp... time to find that humble space inside.

So my first class (this is all one on one) was how to read the dog better. We went over all the signs of stress from mild to extreme. While I heard most of it before, it was good to get it at one shot and to think about Tygo having a stress sign here or there but to think of the whole picture too. Tygo does a lot of pileoerection, always has a high tail position, but I have to watch other signs as well and then act to remove him from the situation. Anyway that was a 3-4 hour "class".

Next we will focus on completely revamping my play. Turns out the way I was whipping the toy away was a problem. Tygo felt he had to get that toy no matter what and possess it. That is all I can say now... until I learn a bit more about it. I feel good that we will focus on play first. I kind of like that idea.

We will also be cleaning up obedience and doing lots of work with other dogs, humans and noise as distraction.

I'm after building confidence. He actually is doing really well. We are cruising through our obedience and agility signoffs in SAR and his recall is way impressive. I just want to know I can trust him... and clearly he needs to be able to trust me better.

So that is my humble journey so far.
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Old 03-29-2014, 12:24 PM   #2 (permalink)
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You don't suck. If you did you would not acknowledge it and work to fix it.

I have never worked a Dutchie. But Tygo sounds a bit like some Mals I have worked. They overstimulate quickly and get sloppy and rude.

The flicking if the toy is easily fixed. Sounds like it is making him too excitable. Use long moves, a couple of misses, but don't flick it everywhere. Give him a steady and calm target. Keep your voice even. He does not need the extra ramping up.

Good Luck. It sounds like you are in the right track.


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Old 03-29-2014, 12:30 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I already know where this is going. Sounds like you're in good hands.
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Old 03-29-2014, 01:23 PM   #4 (permalink)
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It sounds like you got a great trainer and you yourself are on the way to learning how to be a great handler for Tygo! I've learned the hard way that dogs can be really different and require personalized training styles.

Rafi is a mali and while his drive is very manageable he is typically sharp and has a low threshold for other dogs messing with him and his toys. He is extremely tolerant and sweet with people but gets excited very quickly around other dogs and small animals. When I first adopted him he got into a lot of altercations with other dogs and I had to really step back and start all over with him. I spent probably 4 or 5 months just observing his reactions to other dogs so that I would know when he was going to go off and could interrupt him and, more importantly, train behaviors that would keep him from getting to that point. Luckily all it takes is a quiet, "Leave it" now and he will immediately back off.

Good luck to you and Tygo! And kudos for being willing to admit your mistakes and learn from them!
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Old 03-29-2014, 01:44 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Well sounds like you are in great hands! The more I hear about people's one on one training experiences, the more "jealous" I get. I had a great one on one with my trainer, or I thought it was great, the only thing that I wish was different is that I could find a good trainer out here who has experience with GSDs and high drive dogs. The trainer I went to didn't have great experience with them just titled a ton with her BC and Golden, and she had great advice but we never talked or even demonstrated his drive at all. I'm definitely going to look up that trainer, just out of curiosity. Or maybe I should call the "trainer" that hit on me at the dog park

I think that the fact you recognized something was up, and took it seriously is awesome.. and that means you are actually a good handler int he sense the you give a hoot! I'm really interested to read about the rest of your journey like jocoyn's. It's so insightful, and give some of us hope (me ) that maybe we can get through some things. Good luck and I am sure you will do awesome! The hardest part is done, and that's acknowledging an issue.
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Old 03-29-2014, 03:41 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Pm me with the trainer name btw I'm curious if I've heard of them or not.
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Old 03-29-2014, 03:50 PM   #7 (permalink)
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You don't suck, you're doing well and you're learning... it means so much that you are trying to grow and making an effort to solve the issues. Good for you!

I feel like I am an ok handler, too. Nothing great, but I am learning and growing and that is what matters. Nothing shameful about being a novice handler.
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Old 03-29-2014, 04:06 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Well like we say after a rough training day "We really learned something today!"

Just be sure to enjoy the humble pie with a little ice cream! It sounds like you are on the road to being a great handler. I think this pushes us to places we have never been before! Glad you have the right help with your dog. A lot of folks don't get that and some trainers don't know their own limitations in working with the different breeds.
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Old 03-29-2014, 04:09 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I don't think you suck either

Ya know, we all probably have had dogs that confuse/frustrate/humble us at times

I kinda chuckled when you said you had aussie that were a breeze >> HA!..I defected from gsd's to an aussie many moons ago, to do agility with..My gsd's were soooooooooo easy , that dang aussie frustrated me to no end, to soft for me, and a whole nuther way of training than what I was used to with my gsd's..

So I kinda feel your pain, but I think it sounds like you've found a good trainer and will be on the road to succes
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Old 03-29-2014, 04:09 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I wouldn't call you a novice handler at all...you are just learning how to deal with this type personality. Tygo will definitely make you a better handler! Dutchies aren't for the faint of heart, for sure.
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