Nervy behavior in bitework, or something else? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-26-2009, 10:21 AM Thread Starter
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Nervy behavior in bitework, or something else?

I would greatly appreciate some input on possible reasons, and ideas to fix, a behavior in bitework. I know this is a forum, so anything said is just speculative .

My female, 2 years old, is a pretty sharp/reactive dog. Has a ton of prey drive, but it is difficult to bring it out in bitework. She strikes very fast, full and hard, but releases quickly.
So, we backed up a few steps and returned to back-tie with a pillow.
Things were going much better. She was holding it and tugging. The "tone" of her bark was less defensive. Transferred to a puppy sleeve (brave helper as he is getting bruises). Still doing well.

Until this week. She decided that she really does not need to bite that silly sleeve. Instead, multiple times, she was sneaking under the sleeve and going for a leg . We have never done any suit work with her.

Ideas?? Is this purely a nerve issue? Has anyone had a dog do this, and how did it turn out in the long run?
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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-26-2009, 10:41 AM
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Re: Nervy behavior in bitework, or something else?

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Quote: Instead, multiple times, she was sneaking under the sleeve and going for a leg .
What is the helper doing when she tries this? Standing there? Running by her?


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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-26-2009, 10:52 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Nervy behavior in bitework, or something else?

She is back-tied (for safety as I have problems being a "pole"), I am right beside her.
Helper is directly in front in a somewhat threatening demeanor (if helper just runs back and forth she stands there and stares and does nothing). Helper is moving back and forth (not running), but only 4-5 feet total.

As soon as the sleeve was presented, and he stepped in, she would strike low (and very fast).
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-26-2009, 11:14 AM
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Re: Nervy behavior in bitework, or something else?

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Quote:So, we backed up a few steps and returned to back-tie with a pillow. Things were going much better. She was holding it and tugging. The "tone" of her bark was less defensive. Transferred to a puppy sleeve (brave helper as he is getting bruises). Still doing well.
OK, now consider what has changed . Something did . Usually it is the helper’s demeanor. When it was working like what you said above, did he have that threatening demeanor? Obviously, I can’t see what your helper is doing but you can. You have to watch him or else video tape him and both of you watch it later. Video is very helpful when you want to try to figure out what has changed when it had worked well previously. I use that a lot to train helpers and it is also really helpful for me when I am handling because I don’t have someone coaching me, I have to do it myself.
The helpers have to learn when it is a good idea to use more of a threatening demeanor and when it is not. Many just have it on all the time and this creates insecurity in the dog. When nothing the dog does controls or diminishes the helper’s aggression, they will try something else…like say…biting him in the leg. Know what I am saying? Dogs will keep trying different behaviors in an attempt to get out of stress, so, when you ignore one behavior and keep going at the dog, expect to see them try something else.


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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-26-2009, 11:17 AM
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Re: Nervy behavior in bitework, or something else?

BTW, when your helper gets close enough to give a bite, some prey attractions with the sleeve will help relieve that stress she is feeling. Some dogs really need to see big movements with the sleeve and others you just have to shake it a little and it is enough of an attraction to get them to bite it full.


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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-26-2009, 11:31 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Nervy behavior in bitework, or something else?

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Originally Posted By: Vandal some prey attractions with the sleeve will help relieve that stress she is feeling.
Is that just movement of the sleeve?

What we have been doing is have a leash on the sleeve, so that he can slip it and back away a little to get her to tug. The idea being to lower the stress of having him so near, yet keeping her on the sleeve.
We know (or feel) that she needs to come down several notches in defensiveness. But have been unsuccessful in getting a "prey bite." The only way she will bite the sleeve is when there is threat from the helper.
Any suggestions?

I can take the sleeve, or pillow, or whatever, and she will play and bite it fully.
She will however, on rare occasions when fired up, grab MY leg. For example, doing obedience the other day and she was really up and in my face. Wanting to go, go, go. Gave her a leash pop and she grabbed my pants leg and proceeded to play tug. (this was the day after our last bitework session).
Thinking about it, she and I had this as an issue about a year ago. Had recently bought a house so she was not getting worked. She was frustrated and would really go after me in aggressive play. Usually targeting my legs.

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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-26-2009, 12:19 PM
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Re: Nervy behavior in bitework, or something else?

The impression that I get from the behavior you describe is that somehow she has associated

Aggression = Sleeve bite
Play drive/Frustration = Leg bite

It makes me think of a frustion behavior that Bison does. When he gets frustrated, he sits because he has learned that is what gets him what he wants at home. (I want cookie, I sit. I want outside, I sit. I want fed, I sit)

How have you re-acted in the past when she gives a leg bite? Could your reaction possibly have fulfilled the need that she had at the time? Play escalated? Threat removed? Attention received?

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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-26-2009, 01:34 PM
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Re: Nervy behavior in bitework, or something else?

You are answering some of your own questions. Yes, a prey attractions is moving the sleeve. Lots of helpers hold the sleeve very still and then run around which makes their legs or the movement when they pop the whip the attraction. I have seen many dogs try to bite the whip hand because the helpers have accidentally made that arm the attraction because that is the only thing moving.
Making some distance between the helper and the dog relieves the stress and says to the dog, my bite is making this guy retreat. Serious dogs simply have to be worked by a helper who demonstrates to the dog thru his movements and body language that the behaviors the dog is showing are having an impact on him. If the helper advances on the dog and ignores the dog’s bark, he is telling the dog her bark is doing nothing to him. If he gives a bite and stays frontal, does not turn away and continues to show strong presence to the dog once she bites the sleeve, he is teaching the dog that biting the sleeve is not having an impact on him either. This is where you will start to see the dog trying different things and escalating her aggression because the helper is making her insecure. Some dogs might shift the grip or try to bite elsewhere because all the things they have tried did not have any impact on the helper.
From what you described, if I worked your dog I would first show some submission when she barked at me. As I got closer to give a grip I might not be as frontal or at least lean a bit backwards and I might turn my face away and maybe twitch a little when she barked. I would make more attractions with the sleeve .as I was getting ready to give a grip. I would give the grip and immediately turn away. If I had her on the sleeve I would have a leash tied to the sleeve and hold the leash with my hand inside the sleeve. When I slipped the sleeve I would move away with my back to the dog and hold onto the line and then once she pulled slip it. I would then make MORE space between the dog and myself so the dog could hold the sleeve without re-engaging me because I am standing too close . The helper has to determine how big the dog’s space is and move outside of it while she holds the sleeve. She needs to learn when she holds the sleeve, the helper stops challenging her and she can calm down.. He has to be far enough back to allow her to do this.
I use presence to trigger the aggression in the dog but once the dog engages, I turn it down so the dog understands that his/her aggression makes me less aggressive. That is how you build confidence and I will tell you what I do is VERY subtle. I see way too many helpers with their neck craned staring at the dog with a snarling expression on their face and they pop the whip what seems like hundreds of times. I get stressed watching it.. They do this when they are right in front of the dog and they get right in front of the dog by ignoring all the things the dog did before that. Like I said before, they never allow the dog to turn that off in them. The dog shows aggression and the helper then shows MORE aggression in response. This makes the dogs feel weak and creates insecurity in the dog. You will see the results in the tone of the bark and in the bite and also in how dirty the older dogs will be because they feel like they have to fight constantly. I hope this is easy to understand because it is the most common mistake made in SchH and is why people believe serious dogs don’t do well in SchH. They do great when they are trained right but most people don’t know how to train them. You also have to understand what you are dealing with genetically. Some dogs are really balanced and will tolerate bad work a bit better and then there are others who are not as balanced and the helper has to understand that and not keep using that side of the dog as the trigger. That gets really hard to describe but what I said above covers a lot of it. The helper has to learn to respect the dog’s power when she shows it. It can be as subtle as turning his head to the side when the dog barks at him with some dogs and others maybe need you to retreat….depends on the dog and that is why I say YOU have to look and decide what is going on there. You know the dog and you can see the helper. You have hit on a couple of things you are doing yourself. Keep those in mind and like I said, video tape it, it will become much clearer to you when you can sit and watch it.


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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-26-2009, 01:44 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Nervy behavior in bitework, or something else?

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Originally Posted By: Ruthie Could your reaction possibly have fulfilled the need that she had at the time?
If it fulfills her to see me jump and hear me screech.... then YES


As I "talk it out" on this thread, I think I have a few issues....

1. What are good ways/techniques to work a dog in protection that has a tendency to go over into serious defense?
We have a pretty good group of people here, but it is not like the previous club in which I was a member where you had 5-10 really experienced people.
Is there any good reference material that might help me (books, videos, etc)?
Anne, thank you for the idea of videoing. I bet we can get someone to do that.

2. How do you (or can you) make sure your dog is "sleeve-sure?"

3. In general, me being more clear and decisive with her.


---Anne, we posted at the same time! Thank you for the detailed response, let me read it through a few times.
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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-26-2009, 02:14 PM
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Re: Nervy behavior in bitework, or something else?

I think it would also benefit if the helper can also go work with other helpers that are experienced in this type of dog as well. Become more rounded.

Check with other clubs in the area (you can PM me) that are experienced that would help out.


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