Join Date: Jul 2016
Location: Tel Aviv, Israel
First session with trainer - Opinions?
For background (if you haven't read my million other questions here), our puppy, Klaus, just turned 11 weeks old yesterday, which was also the day we had our first session with a trainer. The trainer was highly recommended, has experience with GSDs and mals, and has been training for 25 years. That said, I wondered a bit about some of his techniques, and wanted to get some more experienced opinions.
First off, he said that Klaus has a very dominant personality, more so than the average gsd pup his age, but was very smart (we knew the smart part - he's figured out how to open the latches on his crate and x-pen). He said that his less than desirable behaviors like biting us, especially our ankles when we walk, unnecessary whining, and some other things, are ways for him to assert his dominance and raise his rank in our family. He didn't say the word "alpha", recommend alpha rolls or talk about "breaking" the puppy, but his training method definitely operates on this dominance theory.
I was more under the impression that puppies at this age are less concerned with dominance, and their jerk behaviors are just because they're puppies, but I could be completely wrong, hence why I'm asking.
He spent the first hour of the 2.5 hour lesson just talking to us about Klaus while we all sat together and we discussed methods to improve housebreaking and work on holding his bladder longer incrementally, which was great.
Some of the techniques I wanted input about:
-Using a mint spray in Klaus' mouth with the command "No" when he does undesirable behavior and ignoring is not working (e.g. biting and refusing to redirect on a toy, whining - for a reason other than needing to go out - for a prolonged period, jumping up on things after being told no) - it makes sense, but it's not something I've ever done with another dog.
-Using leash pops on a flat collar when he doesn't follow commands (that he knows well) - is he too young for this kind of correction?
-He used a different method of down than I taught Klaus, and this was what I wondered about most. When he stopped walking on the leash, he would give him the down command while pushing the leash near the collar to the floor with his hand (with the intention that next we will just use the command with a similar hand motion and eventually just the command. When Klaus wouldn't lay down, he would stand on the leash near where it attaches to the collar and wait until Klaus laid down on his own (when he would get a treat). Klaus hated this. He fought him the first several times and ended up growling and trying to bite his hand a couple times, which I've never seen him do outside of play. The trainer said this was due to his dominant/stubborn nature, with down being a submissive position when we are standing, and him being used to doing whatever he wants. Note that he did lay down much more easily for my husband and I using this method after the trainer did it the first 10 or so times and didn't fight us, so it seemed to work.
My question is, do these methods seem too harsh for an 11 week old (I'm sure there could be a range of opinions on this), or are they pretty standard? I do think training methods in this country often tend to be more dominance based/ "old fashioned" than in the US.
I have no doubt that the guy is an effective trainer (Klaus did what he was supposed to in the end), and he emphasized not overdoing it with rules since we don't want a robotic dog. He was a really nice guy, never hit Klaus or did anything that I thought actually hurt him, and never got frustrated or raised his voice. I'm just so nervous about making a training mistake that will encourage aggression down the line, and I don't want my dog to dislike training, so I'd like some input if possible before continuing these sessions.