What to expect? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 3 (permalink) Old 01-16-2014, 02:58 PM Thread Starter
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What to expect?

I have a 5 month old extremely low drive little guy. I want to do something with him. We are thinking obedience is the way to go for him. I trained my pug for about 4 years with agility with a club but never competed. This time I would like to set a goal on competing. I know nothing at all about obedience and titling and what not. My last 3 dogs (all pugs) have started at puppy obedience and went through to general obedience and that was enough.

Anyways I think we would like to work on obedience for now. I am not sure what to expect. We are in our 2nd set of puppy obedience classes right now though these classes are more for the people who haven't trained a dog before so they go really slow.

So far he has
  • a solid sit,
  • come is almost solid I would say probably about 85% of the time when he is distracted or playing with other dogs. 100% of the time at home or during training.
  • His heel work is ok I mean he heels but he isn't tight or anything yet, sits when we stop walking.
  • His down needs work. He can do it just doesn't always want to. We are working on it.
  • Right now we just started training sit stay and he is catching on fast though he does get bored fast and tries to lay down often. I would say I can get a 30 second stay out of him 60% of the time with a distance of 10 or so feet. Our trainer said not to have them sit stay for very long because its not comfortable for them at this age and actually can hurt them or something like that. I haven't really tried to get more then 30ish second out of him because of this.
  • He can stand on command. Though its something he needs work on too.
Anyways on to my question. Where do we go from here? Obviously we have a lot of training to do and we will continue with our training classes for years to come but as of right now they move so slow and I like to look ahead.

At what age do GS or dogs in general usually start competing?

What advice would you give some one just starting out?
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post #2 of 3 (permalink) Old 01-16-2014, 03:10 PM
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Those are some of the most important commands. I'd just work on training them in more and more distracting areas. .5 months is young. I don't know when dogs compete but its never too early to start some I am sure .

Maybe teach some scent games. At that age my dog wouldn't tug because of her teeth so she really enjoyed me hiding food and playing "find it"

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post #3 of 3 (permalink) Old 01-16-2014, 06:45 PM
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An extremely low drive dog may have trouble in competition obedience. The exercises are mostly pretty boring (unlike agility and bitework, which are inherently fun for a lot of dogs) and you have to put in some effort to make them interesting even to a dog that wants to work, so I dunno how much you should expect from a dog who really doesn't want to do anything.

I'm not saying don't try -- it never hurts to try! -- but if you do give it a solid shot and it turns out your dog just doesn't care for the sport, there's no shame in switching to something he likes better. In the meantime, though, I'd suggest spending a fair amount of time on building up the value of the work. You can do a lot to improve your dog's enthusiasm, if you want.

The other caution I'd make at the outset is that competition obedience, particularly AKC competition obedience, can be a demanding and occasionally unfriendly sport. This is (thankfully!) not universally true, but a lot of newbies do get turned off by the stringency of its requirements and the sometimes uninviting attitude of longtimers. Rally is often a lot friendlier and may be a better place to just start getting your feet wet in competition.

That said, where you start really depends on what your local club scene is like and what resources are available to you.

At this age, and given the background you've described, I would suggest focusing on basic fluencies and foundation work. The way that I prefer to teach obedience exercises is with a lot of clicker shaping, and the foundational fluencies I use most often are attention/eye contact, nose targeting, paw targeting, hind-end awareness (perch work/backwards movement exercises), platform work (for better precision in position changes), and loads upon loads of heeling games. I don't start training formal exercises until I feel like those underlying pieces are sufficiently strong and the dog enjoys working with me.

Hannah Branigan's Obedience FUNdamentals is a good DVD set to help get started. Fenzi Dog Sports Academy is another great resource if you don't have a good club in your area, prefer more interactive learning methods, and are able to follow along with online classes.

There are several books out there on teaching Rally and obedience, but personally I don't think they're super helpful for beginners; I think you need to actually see what the exercises look like when performed correctly so that you don't inadvertently train bad habits into your dog (speaking as someone who had to strip down several exercises and re-train them all over again because I did it wrong the first time). Once you know what you're aiming for, the books become more helpful, but IMO visuals are always better for this particular goal.

I wouldn't worry about when other people's dogs start competing. It's not a race. The rules allow you to start trialing when the puppy is 6 months old, but many dogs aren't ready that early, and many handlers prefer not to show their dogs until they're fairly polished. It's not uncommon for people to spend two or three solid years training the dog before entering their first trial, especially if they're gunning for high scores.

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