I'm having major issues with the dumbbell. I think he's showing complete avoidance to it.
Here's some background:
2 year old male, training since he was 4 months for schutzhund.
My first dog (so you know my level of experience when it comes to solving problems)
Loves to fetch, tug, etc. He really does have lot of prey drive, loves to chase. The club TD calls him a "drivey" dog - I know every beginner thinks their first working line shepherd is high drive etc, but people with more experience with me said he was has medium to high drive.
Started dumbbell work about 1 year ago. First with the dowel and pvc pipe to teach the forced hold. Then added the dumbbell.
The transition went smoothly - he didn't chew or mouth the dumbbell but was excited to bring it because there was no negativity associated with it at all.
As far as the dumbbell rewards:
1. sometimes I would tug on the lanyard slightly to reinforce good hold
2. Sometimes I would have him out the dumbbell and then give the "OK" to bite it and used it as a tug toy
3. Sometimes to encourage a fast return I would give the OK as soon as he picked up the dumbbell and toss a toy between my legs, then he'd run over to the toy, drop the dumbbell, and bring the toy back to play
4. Sometimes I'd have him bring it back and then reward immediately
5. Sometimes I'd have him bring it back and hold while I praised him and pet him lightly, then out him and reward with toy.
Jump forward a few months - by now he's fully retrieving on the flat and really getting the hang of it.
Jump forward more to maybe a month ago - started to get into the habit of fiddling with the dumbbell a little bit before picking it up.
Where problems started:
I wanted to correct this so what I did was if he got to the dumbbell and didn't pick it up right away I gave a verbal "No" (not strong, not yelling, just a no) and broke position so he knows the exercise is over and he's not getting rewarded for the exercise. I really thought I could send him again and if he picks it up right away I can reward him immediately with an OK and a game of tug, if he didn't I would repeat the NO and break position again.
What happened instead is confusion. After the first no, he ran over to the dumbbell and laid in front of it. Look, we all made mistakes and I did too that night. I was getting more and more angry and instead of being patient I started correcting him for not bringing it back. The angrier I got the more he shut down. He eventually had three behaviors:
1. try to hide between my legs
2. run to the dumbbell and lay down
3. stand in place and not move.
Now, when I'm talking about correcting him, I don't want you to think I abused the dog. Nothing was harder than the usual collar correction, verbal NO, and if he'd lay down in front of the dumbbell I'd pick him up into a sit by the collar and then take him to start position again. By no means am I heavy handed with him.
Now, one of the mistakes I made with him was I never worked with him using pressure. So he never learned how to "turn pressure off". Now that I want to teach him he must bring it back even if he doesn't feel it, there's no way for me to do it. There's a certain amount of pressure involved and it shuts him down.
This all came seemingly out of the blue! One day he's retrieving it fine the next this happens. After that night, he just wants nothing to do with the dumbbell. No tugging, no play retrieving, nothing. I can drag it on the floor until **** freezes over and he won't budge.
I attached a video from today. I know this was long but I could really use some advice. I can't afford another dog and love the sport I really would hate to not be able to compete in it because of this. Not to be sappy, but right now this is the only good thing in my life.
I'm on a 3 month break from the club while I wrap up grad school (this is my first break since I got the dog) so I don't have access to the TD as much as I would want to.
Any advice in bringing motivation back would be much appreciated...
P.S. this isn't how I usually act with him, at that point I just wanted to get this on video...