Follow up 'eye contact' - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-17-2016, 09:52 AM Thread Starter
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Follow up 'eye contact'

So I started this thread a few weeks ago:

I got a lot of useful tips there, but many are far harder to incorporate than I thought. It seems fairly easy when reading, but that is only the case if my pup follows exectly what I expect, I simply don't have the knowledge to interpret what his behavior means if otherwise.

The eye contact is much better at this moment (pup is 4.5 months). I use 'kijk is' (pronounced kykis in English) and he can stare me in the eyes for a few seconds. He does so when I'm giving him food, before going outside (though I'm not consistently with this), and while walking outside. This part is the most important to me. I'm under a fair amount of stress lately and I really like my daily walks with him. The problem is I many times return much more stressed than when I left. I have a weak right shoulder at the moment and have injured it more because of his pulling force, especially when encountering other dogs. I use my left arm now, but still have to use my right one to correct his position.

This is my daily walking routine:
I only walk with him if he has gone potty in my back garden, I do that because I want to be sure he is not looking for a place to go potty on our walks. I want to focus on walking.
I walk 20 to 40 minutes with him, switching slow pace with fast pace (I incorporate a break when we're walking more than 30min).
I get his atention by saying 'kijk is', then saying 'naast' (next). If there is not too much going on around him he stays to my right side and walks while looking in my eyes. I hold a kibble in my right hand close to him and give him the treat when he walks around 10 seconds while not diverting his eyes from me (he stares at me automatically when in this position, but I still say 'kijk is'). After I give the kibble he immediately stops, pulls back, sits down (not always) and looks behind him and to the sides. Sometimes he starts to smell around him and look for something. I then have to pull him a bit and give the 'next' command again. It goes like this for the whole walk.
I cannot get his attention (without pulling) when: there are kids closeby, flying leaves, dogs, cats, unfamiliar sounds, or when we're in the woods. It's impossible to walk with him in those situations without dragging him along. When I drag him too much he starts to jump on me with a seemingly super happy face.

I started letting him go off leash three weeks ago so he could have his 'running around like crazy' moments, but he sadly injured himself. I can start letting him go off leash from this week on. I'm planning to do so at least twice a week.
I try and avoid other dogs while walking on a leash, but my aim is to be able to walk close to one while retaining my dogs attention (like user slamdunc explained in my other thread).

My question is: am I handling this correctly? Is what he does considered to be normal behavior for a pup his age? Is it too early to train him to completely focus on me while we walk? What can I do differently, and how?

My wishes: I want to be able to walk with him having his full attention when told to. I want to make our walks simply our walks, not the time for him to stop every few feet and smell everything, that he can do when off leash, or when going potty.

I am, as is evidently from this and my previous posts, a first time dog owner. Therefore I am open to suggestions and criticism, please be honest. I can only go up. The last thing I want is to get impatient with something that is hardly the time to correct/change.
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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-17-2016, 01:27 PM
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I think that you're expecting too much from him. concentrate on engaging him and having him walk with you on a loose leash. Heeling, especially if you want him to be focused on your face, would only be a few steps at this point. Even an older dog I wouldn't expect to do that for an entire walk.

what you're doing is the equivalent of expecting a 2 year old to set for an hour long lecture - just not going to happen
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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-17-2016, 01:55 PM
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All these things are easier if you go out with the intention of it being a training session, not just a casual walk where you try to train something. Distance makes it easier too. What I do is take them someplace in the car where I can use distance from people and dogs to work on the attention. It may be 50 feet or 50 yards, whatever allows them to be slightly aware of the others but still able to pay attention. With time, that distance can get smaller as they get better.

Have a clear beginning and a clear ending so he can understand when he has to listen and when he can do what he wants. Tell him its time to start and tell him, ok you're done. Remember too, a lot of things take time. Be patient and think in terms of him being correct in what your asking for, but don't expect him to be able to maintain it forever. You have to build up the duration and part of that has to do with his age. Don't forget to play and have fun with him too,but that doesn't necessarily mean him running loose right now.
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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-17-2016, 02:06 PM
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also, when you reward that means "good job. you're finished" it's the payday at the end of a task. So do a few steps of working and then reward and let him "be a dog" that should make up most of his walking at the moment.
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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-17-2016, 02:47 PM
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Are you expecting eye contact for 20 to 40 minutes at a time? Out in the world, with all those interesting sights, sounds, and smells? WAY too much. I wouldn't expect that from well trained adult dog, much less a 4-1/2 month old puppy.

What is your ultimate goal here? Will you be competing in obedience or IPO, where you need a formal focused heel? Even dogs that are capable of that during a competition are not expected to maintain that level of focus for a sustained period of time. Or are you aiming for polite leash walking without pulling? Those are two entirely different things.

My sport does not require a formal heel so my dogs don't have one. I do, however require that they walk nicely on leash, and I have criteria for a LLW that I've trained and reinforced. I've worked on it more with Halo from a much younger age than with Keefer, so she tends to offer up a lot more eye contact on walks than he does, which is completely fine with me.

My walks/hikes vary from 3 miles to nearly 10, and I would never expect my dogs to focus on me for that long. It would be extremely boring for the dog too!

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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-17-2016, 02:51 PM
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The website's been giving me grief so I'll keep this short. (and maybe sharp - blame the website for making me cranky!_)

Reading the OP, I wonder why why why you are walking the dog? Dog walks should be fun for the dog. That means sniffing about, marking, pooping to give the human something to pick up, mucking about a bit. That's not to say small bits of focused heeling shouldn't be tossed in - but short bits with sits and downs and turns and all that. Then it's release to go on a dog's walk again. Then maybe back for a minute or two of the focus stuff. All of it, every last bit, should be fun for the dog.

So - give the focused heeling a rest! If I were your dog, under current conditions, I would think that walks with you were a real draggy chore!
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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-17-2016, 03:27 PM
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Baby steps. What you expect is the equivalent of expecting a dog to hold a down stay for 15 minutes his first time in a down stay.
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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-17-2016, 04:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Henricus View Post
I cannot get his attention (without pulling) when: there are kids closeby, flying leaves, dogs, cats, unfamiliar sounds, or when we're in the woods. It's impossible to walk with him in those situations without dragging him along. .
This caught my attention.....flying leaves. My dog keys on motion big time and a couple of years ago during the fall, I discovered I could make the leaves " fly " for my dog.....she would be incredibly engaging if I kicked the leaves and zone out the rest of the world as she would snap them out of the air. I associated "what's this" with my foot shuffle to kick the leaves or anything on the ground like snow etc.... If I give her the "what's this" I get her complete engagement probably more than anything else and she knows this reward will ultimately take place. Up until this, I didn't really know what engagement meant but finally understood....I had what the dog wanted ala Frawley. The dog relies on me to fulfill her desire to catch and kill the leaves, snow, water....etc. It's a powerful tool....and keeps her focused on me. It's a team effort just like a game of tug, frisbee or fetch. Finding a way to get your dog's engagement is huge and sometimes right in front of you.

4 1/2 months is still young...short and successful sessions with a dose of fun.


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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-17-2016, 04:51 PM Thread Starter
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First of all, thanks for all the answers!

I was afraid I was expecting to much indeed. But I think I gave the wrong impression in my post, or I just wasn't clear enough; but I do not expect him to walk at my heel while looking at me for the entire walk. But I hoped/thought I could have a casual walk with him, instead of him being all over the place (which happens if I don't ask him 'next').
Ok, that's actually very helpful. I will just do it in short bursts, and let him do his thing afterwards.

@Steve Strom
I don't own a car unfortunately, so I'm a bit tied to walking in the neighborhood, which has a few dog friendly places. I do have a busstop next to my house, that might work. I will look for a place close by where I can do what you recommended.

@Cassidy's Mom
Haha, no no no, off course not. I gave the wrong impression in my first post. Man, that would be terrible. I always reward him for a 10 second stare, which he does fine. I meant that my goal is to be able to have a casual walk with him, where, if necessary, I can ask his attention (if there are dog(s) close by, or playing children, or cats..). But in no way do I expect or intend him to stare at me for minutes.
I do not have clear intentions as of this moment yet. I will be starting a followup class with him next month. They also do IPO there and I've already spoken with somebody about it. They will firstly see if my dog is capable of doing IPO, then also if I am capable of doing. It takes a lot time, and I'm not so sure if I'm up for it. But I'll be seeing that in the next couple of months.
At this moment I'm just aiming for walking without pulling and also walking without a member of the bomb-sniffing squad.

Haha, I'm very happy you're not my dog then!
I just walked my dog, and I probably did 50% of the distance I normally do, because I just him take a bit more control. Which meant: walking? nah, I'll just inspect this inch of grass for the next two minutes. After that, I'll do the same for the next inches.
I'm a bit too impatient to just wait him finish. Plus, it seems most of the dog owners here don't clean up after their dog. So I have to keep close to my pup watching where he is sticking his nose in, and also scan the path in front of us to see if there is poop somewhere. Some places are literally full with it.
That's why I play with him off leash in the garden (throw balls etc), let him go potty in the garden (where I don't have to keep my eye so much on him).


@Super G
That's super helpful information! I thought a few times about what I could do with his desire to catch moving small objects (although I would appreciate him not trying to eat every flying thing, like bumblebees or wasps.. -_-').
I'll see how I can incorporate this. Seems fun.

When I was walking tonight with him I realized I need to make my longer walks separate from his. I need my walks to be constant to ease my mind a bit, which is impossible to do with him. So maybe it's an idea for me to walk an hour by myself in the morning, and then go with him afterwards, that way I probably get far less impatient with him having to inspect the ground for possible explosives.

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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-17-2016, 05:17 PM
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I remember when I first took Rosko to the trainer. I told her that during his walks he gets so distracted that he acts like he has ADD. Her reply was that he was experiencing a lot of these things for the first time. Everything is new to them. So she had me work on his heel on a familiar grounds. It worked wonders. We were then able to slowly incorporate heel and focus walks outside with distractions. Even though we weren't trying heel out in the big new world we still done plenty of loose leash walking, more like exploring daily. they have to experience these things for the first time eventually may as well both enjoy the exploration.
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