Obedience is going down the toilet - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 5 (permalink) Old 08-21-2018, 07:01 AM Thread Starter
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Obedience is going down the toilet

Ok, so Pepper has been a very fast learner since we brought her home. She mastered sit, down, come and started mastering stay within the first week (only 9 weeks old). She would happily focus on me for 10-15 minutes at a stretch. Then we started going to puppy classes at 13 weeks. The first two weeks were awesome. She was at the head of her class, and quickly mastered watch, watch with a test, and touch. The problem started with heel. For whatever reason, she HATES heel. At first, she flat out refused to do it at all, even with meat as a lure. Eventually, she started to do it, and did it perfectly for about a week. My problem started a week ago. During our third puppy class, she was so horrendously distracted by the other puppies, that I couldn’t get her to do ANYTHING all class, not even sit. She didn’t do that during the first two classes. When I got her home, she started listening again, and I could get her to do all her tricks...except heel. She’ll do it....but she’ll lunge and bite at my hand while I’m leading her into position. Not nip, hard blood-drawing bites. And even then, she’ll only do it twice. After twice, she decides our training session is completely over and will not obey anything else. This is every day.

Has this happened to anyone else? Is she going through a rebellious stage? Does she just have a mental block with heel? If so, how do I fix it? Heel is important.
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post #2 of 5 (permalink) Old 08-21-2018, 08:44 AM
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this dog is still very young and doesn't understand what is really going on. Something might have spooked her. I'd back off from the heel right now. Work on relationship games. Do things that are fun together. When she comes to your side, praise and party! Don't go anywhere. Just enjoy being next to each other paying attention to each other. Later on you can praise, treat and party a step or two in the heel position.

Also, if you are luring with food it takes practice by both you and the pup on how to hold the treat so that she can push into your hand for it, not nipping as much. It is a learned skill, holding the treat so they can almost taste it and then releasing it at the right time. Where you put your hand is important, too. Make sure you put it where you want her nose to be. If you hold the treat up and show it to her she may think you want her to jump up and grab it.

Keep your lessons short. Group classes can get long and boring or overwhelming. I didn't do large group classes with my two until after a year old. They already knew their commands by then and we went to learn how to work near other dogs calmly. I also let the trainer know that so they wouldn't wonder why we were there when our dogs already knew sit, stay, etc.
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post #3 of 5 (permalink) Old 08-21-2018, 08:51 AM
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May I ask if you have or plan to bring this up to your trainer to see what they say?


Lunging after a high reward item (meat, cheese, ball/toy if ball./toy driven) doesn't surprise me, especially for a puppy. I've been chomped on by my girl quite a few times. I don't think it is intentional. Do you correct her when she bites you? Does she get to taste the treat while being led (do you hold it in a fist or an open hand with the food facing the dog)?


One suggestion I was given was to wear gloves. Another was use a wooden spoon with some peanut butter on it and reward the puppy by letting her lick the spoon. I'm not entirely sure how precise your heeling needs to be, if it's competition level, I don't know if the wooden spoon will work.


For not paying attention, I've always attempted to be more interesting than anything else in the room. Your puppy is just a puppy, she'll watch whatever looks interesting. It could be a phase. Puppy attention spans are really tiny. I'm impressed she could focus for 10-15 minutes.


Katsu couldn't do "down" on verbal for a good month of me having her. She refused to do the head position for heel (we start with sitting in a chair with the dog next to us to "train" the dog where we want them to look first). She refused to "take and hold" the PVC pipe we used to practice for IPO retrieval.


I don't think withholding food from a 13-14 week old puppy is a good idea, but that's how we trained (all meals are given while training). Maybe saying "oops" after a few tries and putting the food away for 5-10 minutes then trying again might work?


Work on things she does know while the instructor/trainer is talking and keep an ear out for the next lesson. I had Katsu doing sits, downs, spin, sit pretty and engagement (if you follow me, you get yummy food) while our instructor was talking. Now I can stand, watch and listen while she's laser focused on me. Occasionally, if another dog makes eye contact with her, she'll start wagging her tail and begin to play bow. I just pull her away gently and start engagement again.


I'm not sure if these are the "right" way but it's worked for me.

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post #4 of 5 (permalink) Old 08-21-2018, 11:23 AM
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Sounds like she has a burnout from too much training. You are expecting too much of this young pup. Let her be a puppy and focus on the relationship by play and puppy level obedience. If you have to work with lures too much, you will get a dog that will only work if there is food in the picture.
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post #5 of 5 (permalink) Old 08-21-2018, 12:43 PM
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Regression seems to be a natural step in progression with my pups. Sometimes you have to back up and hit some basics to go forward. I take my puppy out to the park to do training with distractions all around. Some days she is very good, some days I cannot get her to ignore all the things going on around her or she will start chomping on grass.


Even yesterday, despite being excellent at stay, I could not get her to do a stay when I went out of view. As soon as I would go out of view, she would come running which normally isn't an issue.


I just back the training up, go back to the very basics. For example with the stay, I had to give up the out of view stays and just do short duration, in view stays with treat rewards.


Remember, training should be short durations for puppies. 5 minutes usually. Obviously that's way shorter than a puppy class, but just do the best you can at class. A good trainer should be giving them breaks to relax, explore, then reengage with training. At least in my opinion.


Heel is a very tough skill. I personally think it's one of those skills that takes months to work on and get it to where it's good and reliable. My success with it has been doing baby steps with heel and spanning them over weeks before introducing new "phases" of heel.


Good luck, be patient and be consistent. And understand, at least in my experience, regression is a natural part of progression.
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