Stress thresh holds - can they be improved? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-06-2011, 12:44 AM Thread Starter
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Stress thresh holds - can they be improved?

I had a question about a the stress thresholds in dogs that are at the beginning stage of Schutzhund (working toward a BH). Can we do anything to improve a dogs stress thresh hold or is what mother nature given the dog all we have to work with - also can a dog with medium prey drive have its drive "improved"?

With my dog, using prong corrections to get her to focus while fussing, causes her to look down and her ears to go back. The minute she realises this is isn't all a game her enthusiasm withers away - she works really well for me without the prong corrections but when we need to fine tune her obedience sometimes a correction is required (according to my trainer) so that she understands what she needs to do - unfortunately my timing isn't the best, I'm stressing about her shutting down and she, as expected is shutting down (as she did when alpha rolled at herding - she no longer herds, but instead mingled and sniffed the sheep - her awesome herding drive has GONE after the instructor there corrected her so harshly she wants to leave as soon as we arrived - we no longer go anymore).

I feel like I can't communicate this to my instructors as all they say is that she needs clear and a hard correction so that she understands what I want from her, to me it seems like every time I correct her its just killing her drive. She has decent drive but she isn't over the top psycho, crazy, don't- care-if-I-take-my-owners-hand-off" for her tug like a lot of the other dogs.. she loves her tug, but she loves cheese and cabanossi more. The instructors are telling me its time to back off the food and bring on the drive with her tug which I have been working on.. but all her "tug love" fizzles away once I start using prong corrections to teach her where I want her.

She is fine with corrections when she has made a mistake that she can recognise as a mistake (not watching when I ask her to or not sitting square) but right now because she is learn how to fuss and then turn left by getting a correction at each left turn (she does turn with me, but the instructors have told me correcting at the turn will put her exactly where I want her in the fuss), I feel she thinks I'm correcting her for something she's not sure how to fix.

I know this is a whole bunch of questions rolled into one post which is a bit tedious. Would be grateful to anyone who has the energy to go get to the end of this and leave me with some advise.
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-06-2011, 01:15 AM
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Ideally you train through motivation and proof through reward and correction. From your post it seems like you are training through corrections without doing the leg work. Not good for the dog, looks like dog does not understand the meaning of the correction and can not figure out how to avoid the correction.

Thresholds are part of the dog's temperament, can not be changed. Through a lot of repetitions you can train a response but when the variables change (environment for example) the dog will fall back on temperament.

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Last edited by Packen; 10-06-2011 at 01:18 AM.
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-06-2011, 01:40 AM
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I don't think you can increase thresholds , but I do think you can decrease them , by creating an expectation of some anxiety producing event .
A dog that is prone to be stressed , stresses , is a worry wort .
Prey drive I believe can be enhanced by making it successful and fun . Chase and movement are exciting .

So by the very opening of your question , do you have a dog that is tentative , cautious , has lower stress coping ability and less prey drive than you wish.

I don't know anything about your trainer personally but from the sounds of the advice I would be giving them the pink slip. See you later .
Training devices do not replace training communication.
Instead of laying it on when the dog "needs fine tuning" why not encourage her into the right position. Be more inventive , creative , in your training which should not be a boring drill of repetititon. Not in the initial stages .
Just imagine a child learning to print. You wouldn't slap away the pencil and tear up the page if the first lines are wiggly and varied in size ? You would praise the effort , appreciate the steps .
The dog will understand what you want out of it if you recognize the positive attempt , praise it . (the attempt).
Same as you would praise the child attempting to master penmenship.
Your dog is learning helplessness . It can't figure out how not to get a correction , even getting corrections at left turns. This dog is going to hate left turns. What do you think will happen when the dog workds off lead ?
First left turn , (no correction possible) , dog runs off , relieved.
Alpha roll in herding ? Terrible . Alpha is not dominant - there is such a thing as an alpha leader . A leader inspires following , not by supression or dominance but by setting an example .

Reclaim your dog .

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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-06-2011, 01:54 AM
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Good advice above.

Training steps start with showing the dog what it is you want! Corrections come after the behavior is well understood. If taught well, correction needed is minimal. The type of training you describe has fallout that can create unwanted concern in your dog and mar the obedience performance.
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-06-2011, 02:20 AM
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I'm curious why you are using a pinch collar for corrections with this dog.

If your dog finds a correction on a solid collar to be negative, you don't necessarily have to move up to a pinch collar. It sounds like this dog might do better with milder corrections--for example, just use a fursaver that is back clipped so it is not a slip collar.

I also agree with backing up and making sure she understands what the correction is for--does it work to re-focus the dog when there are fewer or less powerful distractions? If not, a correction is not going to work when the distractions are more powerful.


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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-07-2011, 12:00 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you so much you have re-affirmed everything my gut was telling me as I left from that training session that night. The trainer that I am being schooled under is currently learning how to do a BH on his own dog - he hasn't done this sport prior to his dog which is an 11 month old gsd with bucket loads of drive and great nerve. The main trainer is busy training everyone who is trialling for nationals at the moment. I wanted to do Schutzhund because I believe in training in drive, my last training session left me feeling like I was at a compulsion training class.

Schutzhund is a relatively new and small sport in Aus and our club is small with a lot of senior club members that are still working on their way to getting their first IPO2 or 3 themselves.

I should have spoken up but I was so panicked about Lila shutting down that I was just trying to get her through it by praising like crazy when she tried - she went thru bouts of shutting down and fuss prancing, trying to figure out what the **** was wanted of her but the corrections were just breaking her drive and eventually she was heeling but eyes down and averted and ears flat against her head.

As for the prong collar, I was told by the main trainer to swap her on to a pinch collar because she was not in favour of the check chain I was using when i first started.

I'm gonna wait till the nationals is over before i go back I think which is in a months time.. so I can have the more experienced trainer work with me.. she is only really experienced in training Mals though, which again has me very slightly worried as Lila does not have the drive of your typical Mal and if she is expected to get thru stress by riding on her drive to get her thru it, it just will not happen. I have noticed in yesterdays and todays sessions at home she no longer prances and gives me eye contact as readily and her drive is really much much lower. I have put her instead on a flat collar now to train her at home and when her eye contact flags I have been dropping my body and meeting her eyes and praising when she maintains her focus on me - she seems to hold her focus on me best this way and I'm thinking I'm going to slowly work on straightening up my posture.. maybe this will work? Honestly i know Schutzhund requires the dog to handle pressure- but we are just beginning and her drive isn't high enough yet to get her past the stress that she is being put under.

Also, I'll shamelessly say that I am too thin nerved to handle my dog in a heavy handed manner and have her yelping with each correction the way she was when he took her lead and tried to get her to comply. She is far more important to me than a perfect fuss turn and if that means we don't do Schutzhund because the clubs here believe that compulsion is the way perfection is achieved then I think that doesn't sits well with me.. we'll go do a confidence building sport like agility where I don't have to worry about the trainers misreading my dog and breaking her trust in me as her protector and leader because I'm being told to force her into complying.

Feels like history repeating aka herding style, why do all the "experts" take it upon themselves to dominate and use force on my dog to get her to behave?
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-07-2011, 12:27 AM
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The thing is to read the dog first, then set goals. There are dogs where force works wonders and there are dogs that crumble under it. A good trainer will first read the dog then suggest a training plan for that particular dog, the cookie cutter approach does not work in either extreme. You just need to know your dog and work with what you got while using the most efficient technique for that particular dog and set realistic goals.

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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-07-2011, 02:43 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks Packen, yes as in the case of my trainers young dog where he had great success when he turned the heat on with him, I guess he was expecting the same would happen with Lila. I really believe a lot has to do with my emotional state when I'm correcting as when the trainer corrected her she did keep trying (initially to figure out what was asked of her, but when the corrections weren't ending she gave up trying) because I"m so stressed about her shutting down, that my timing and pressure ends up off and Im not giving a sense of confidence as I correct, so the dog deflats and my frustration and anxiety increase and it becomes a vicious cycle ending with her just wanting out.
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-07-2011, 08:26 AM
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There are many dogs that can be trained to the level of Sch 3 and you never had to use a pinch collar. Especially dogs with medium drive and weaker nerves. The pinch on a dog has become like the whip in protection training...grossly overused.
We had a young helper last week that was working a SL Dobe that has medium drive but young (15 months) and just getting it. He kept cracking the whip to start off the session and then when the dog was on the bite. Afterwards, I took him aside and asked him, WHY are you cracking the whip when you work this dog???? What are you looking to acheive? He couldn't tell me except to get her started. I then explained to him that actions on the field should have a purpose and the purpose reviewed in the helpers mind as to effectiveness.
Same with pinch collar. The name of the game is administering a correction(if a correction is in order), that allows the dog to pick right up and continue to execute the command. With some dogs a collar correction is more than adequate, or fur saver. This mandate that a pinch must be used, especially by one that isn't skilled, for all dogs is crazy.JMO
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-07-2011, 09:09 AM
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OP - would you mind pm(ing) me the info of which club you are going to please. I live up the road (Sunny Coast) and have thought about joining. I think there are 2 in Bris? Thanks

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