First session with trainer - Opinions? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-27-2016, 03:57 AM Thread Starter
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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.

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post #2 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-27-2016, 06:42 AM
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I would personally not use this trainer at this point. This is a puppy and I'm not fond of his dominance theory. If his theory is correct then every GSD puppy out there that do puppy things like bite, jump,etc would have dominance issues, because that is what they do. At 11 weeks old I would be in a positive group class that doesn't have the pups interacting with each other but around each other for socialization. Training should be fun and a good bonding experience. These pups can learn super fast, but require shorter more frequent lessons. There is no way that I would do training with a pup of that age for 1.5 hours, no way at all. That almost seems like torture IMO.

I would go in an orderly fashion with commands. For on sit for a couple days, then work on downs the next couple days, throwing sits in there, etc. So you teach new stuff every few days, but throw in stuff that is already learned in the sessions. I don't know if this makes sense trying to write it, do you understand what I'm trying to say?
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Last edited by llombardo; 07-27-2016 at 06:50 AM.
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post #3 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-27-2016, 08:53 AM Thread Starter
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I should clarify a couple things - the training session wasn't 1.5 hours, we talked for an hour or so, then worked on something, then took a long break to talk about it, then worked on something, took a long break for an hour. He also said it was longer because it was the first session. For practicing, we were told to do two 10 minute sessions a day, so five minutes of my husband, and five minutes of me, once in the morning, once in the evening.

I do agree with you about the dominance theory thing - every puppy I've seen coming from a good background behaves like this to some degree. I think the method of training you're talking about was more what I was doing with him before - we did sit first and then moved on to down, which is what I was always taught. I do want him to get over some of his stubbornness though, and I will say that during this session he paid much better attention than when I was doing it on my own.

I guess I'm conflicted because I liked the results, but I don't want my dog to hate me because of spraying stuff in his mouth and compelling him into a down using his leash (though maybe he totally wouldn't and I'm being ridiculous).

I would really like to do a puppy class like you mention, but unfortunately that's not really an option here, especially in English, which I would prefer. Basically my option is choosing a trainer who will do one on one with us in our home and eventually outside of the home in the park or somewhere else.
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post #4 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-27-2016, 09:13 AM
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I wouldn't worry about your puppy hating you. They want and need structure. It's very common for them to behave better when the trainer is around, whether it's one on one of in class, puppies are good at making us look like fools

I would do several 5 to 10 minute sessions a day. Throughout the day, have treats available and from various places in the house call your pup, when he comes, give him a treat, then tell him to go play. It's very simple and a great way to start teaching recall. Eventually the treats dwindle then go away. He will come because there is a chance for a treat.

Potty training issues? Are you ysing a crate? What is the schedule of a typical day like?

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post #5 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-27-2016, 09:26 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you for your answer, it makes me feel a lot better!

Potty training is going pretty well in my opinion. We've been doing crate training, though during the day, especially on the weekends, we allow him to be out of the crate more than we should. He has 1-2 accidents every other day, only pee, and sleeps through the night (if we take away water 2 hrs before bed) which in my experience is pretty good for only being with us 2 weeks. My husband has never had an inside dog, so he finds this amount of accidents very frustrating, though he is very patient with the puppy (he's never punished for going inside, just taken out immediately).

We talked with the trainer about methods for extending his time holding it, and how we could eventually get to a point where he could be lose in the house without us there.
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post #6 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-27-2016, 10:38 AM Thread Starter
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Annnddd right after I wrote that he decided to pee a bit in his crate at work with me. Because of course he did. That's unusual for him though, he's only peed in his properly sized crate one other time that I can remember.
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post #7 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-27-2016, 10:59 AM
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That trainer is very old school, dominance, theory. I would find another. Find one that is balanced with primarily motivational training rather than compulsion training.

And you are correct, your puppy is biting at your hands and feet simply because hes' a puppy and doesn't know any better. Follow your instincts.
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post #8 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-27-2016, 11:00 AM
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Watch the video on post #9 in the thread Pack Leader.It's in the Puppy Place forum,general puppy stuff.The video shows how you can play and train at the same time with a young puppy.This is what you should be doing in your daily training sessions.(Sorry I can't just post a link!)
I agree with the trainer that you need to be firm with him not biting you.But you do not need to bully and dominate your puppy.It's going to cause major problems if the puppy feels he needs to protect himself from you.
Please,watch the video.See how to engage and bond with your puppy.The pup is not an enemy,it's not a war!


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post #9 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-27-2016, 11:05 AM
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My GSD is 19 weeks tomorrow, and my first GSD pup, but 4th dog I've raised in my adult life.

I've seen what I believe to be dominance behaviors from my pup fairly early on so I would agree that it can present at a young age.

I think the compulsion technique is overkill especially for a puppy. I wouldn't use force on a dog unless I felt I had to for some reason. I taught my puppy "down" by luring her into a laying position with a treat. I've used techniques from this trainer, Stone Dennis, in Kentucky:
(In this video he is actually demonstrating with an 11 week old lab.) You'll see he just lures the pup into a series of sit, down, wave, stand commands easily using a treat. I like this method better for a puppy.
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post #10 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-27-2016, 11:18 AM
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Do you have access to something like this?

The fun of biting might dissipate if they're gross and bitter.

And it regards to "dominance"....I think 99% of the time it's just bratty puppy behavior. You're the source of all that is good in his world...remember that.
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