Engagement Help - I am probably boring (and unfit!) - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 31 (permalink) Old 04-25-2019, 03:35 PM Thread Starter
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Engagement Help - I am probably boring (and unfit!)

Hello,

So I have another question, I hope people don't get sick of me! There is just too much to learn!

I have read through a ton of threads on engagement but I am still a bit unsure what approach I should take and stick with.

I have a 6 month adopted GSD puppy, have had him for 6 weeks. We spend a lot of time playing in the back yard. This started out as me just trying to get his energy out, but has now turned into me realizing how amazing engagement is and I want to make our sessions more fun. This was mainly triggered by his total disinterest in me with distractions when being outside the house.

I am obviously not being exciting enough but am having a hard time, he is not responding like other dogs I have had. Let me see if I can try explain quick.

He seems to enjoy chasing things, at first it was his tennis balls. He used to be obsessed but has recently gotten bored. I was sort of working on the retrieve during fetch but these days he chases the ball for maybe 3 throws then will lose interest, or he will chase it but get to it and leave it and go off to chew a stick.

I started 2 ball which helped but he has gotten bored again. I bought a squeaker kong ball he is WAY more into and if I keep the toy up and sessions short he will chase that pretty well, but still bored after a few throws.

My main goal was tug after seeing the Michael Ellis videos. I understand my dog does not have the same drive but I still need engagement for obedience outside the house/yard. He does like tug, unfortunately after getting sore gums with too hard a tug his grip got weak, I have gone back to a soft rag and reintroducing the game, letting him win lots it is going well. I have to keep the sessions really short though again he loses interest pretty quick. He seriously just wants to lie down and EAT sticks (that's another issue)

Okay. Now to my problem. I think he is having an okay time playing but it feels kind of forced. Like I can't find what makes him tick. Well actually, I KNOW what he really wants to do. It is play "keep away." He ADORES being chased. I have never seen him so happy/alive! I only did it about 3 times then realized it was causing way too many problems when he got a forbidden item or during tug and fetch.

He gets excited enough when I whip out the tug toy. I tease him a little with it and amp him up and then let him grab it. He gets into it enough that I have gotten bitten hard a few times by a miss, oh well. I will sometimes tug sometimes let him have it pretty fast, he is tugging decently hard again. He runs off with it when he wins and wants to play keep away. I read about playing tug with a leash, I tried but got frustrated so instead I would try encourage him back but not take a step towards him. Eventually he gets bored and brings me the tug back to restart play. I praise heavily and get all animated and tug with him again. But he never gets to the point that he is bringing it back with any energy and if I go for too long he loses interest in the game. I just want more energy It's like everything is in molasses lol. Sometimes when he just drops the ball or tug on the way back during a game I just go sit down on my lawn chair. He almost always sees this and immediately brings me a stick or ball or the tug. So I KNOW he wants to interact with me?! But if I stand up all happy with a toy and try initiate play he will often go for a few seconds then lie down and chew a stick. It's a bit frustrating to be honest. I must be doing something very wrong. If i didn't know any better I would think he just wants to lie on the lawn with me and get belly rubs (that would be no problem!) but he gnaws on my arm and gets riled up lol. Today When he seemed to lose interest I just went and sat on the lawn, he came and lay by me and chewed his stick, then after about 5 minutes he sniffed out his squeaky ball in my pocket and I laughed and threw it he was sort of excited again...I just can't figure him out lol.

Now I read a lot about me needing to be the most fun thing ever. But I have a problem. He does not get excited at all by any of my running around and away, happy squeaky voice, falling on the floor calling (I feel like a total moron in my yard where everyone can see me...) He just stares at me. I just wish I could find another game that he puts as much energy into as "keep away" oh the happy smile was priceless! There has to be something else we can try?

It might be worth mentioning, since he seems so obsessed with sticks, I try play with those. It's actually pretty successful but playing fetch/ tug with a stick is so irritating and sore! I am trying to turn the tables and get him to chase the stick I have instead of me chasing him. This is moderately successful.

Oh also, I have tried the flirt pole. He is so-so. loses interest after a few times whether I let him catch a lot or not. I am going to try make a custom one with a stick and a plastic bottle...

Sorry for the long post, it's so hard to explain. Do I just keep it up? Should I try a more interesting toy? I so desperately need his focus more outside the home and lunch time plays are getting boring/ frustrating
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post #2 of 31 (permalink) Old 04-25-2019, 04:13 PM
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He is still young and the whole world is a new game. Shadow and I play tag. I chase her and when I get her she chases me. It is a fine game as long as you set the start and stop on it.
You need to keep things short, upbeat and interesting. When you see him starting to lose interest switch to something else. Young puppies have squat for attention spans and if no one has worked with him at all then he has no reason to believe that it's worth his time. Watch what he does left on his own and figure out what makes him tick.
So, I used to go into the yard and toss the frisbee for a few throws with no structure or goal. Let puppy sniff, sniff, sniff, go pee(because it's tough to focus when you have to pee). Then I would call her over and treat for the response. Play tug and let her win. Call her back and treat. Then no more than a few minutes of sit, down, heel. A look at me and treat. Throw the frisbee. A minute or two of chase, some belly rubs and maybe a treat. Then tug, let her win. Call her back and treat. Sit, stay, come, look at me and treat. Throw the frisbee. Heel for the length of the yard. Look at me, treat, throw the frisbee.
I might spend an hour or two with a pup in the yard but a total of 15 minutes of structured training in little 2-3 minute chunks. Through the day anytime the puppy seeks out my company or attention I make it worth their while. With attention, toys or treats. Whatever works for them but I make it clear that their company is important to me. Lex lived for praise, Sabi wanted food, Bud and Shadow where/are ball fiends.
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post #3 of 31 (permalink) Old 04-25-2019, 04:26 PM Thread Starter
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So, I used to go into the yard and toss the frisbee for a few throws with no structure or goal. Let puppy sniff, sniff, sniff, go pee(because it's tough to focus when you have to pee). Then I would call her over and treat for the response. Play tug and let her win. Call her back and treat. Then no more than a few minutes of sit, down, heel. A look at me and treat. Throw the frisbee. A minute or two of chase, some belly rubs and maybe a treat. Then tug, let her win. Call her back and treat. Sit, stay, come, look at me and treat. Throw the frisbee. Heel for the length of the yard. Look at me, treat, throw the frisbee.
Hi Sabis mom. Thanks for your response. This is great. I was just thinking today I need to mix it up WAY more. I am looking for that "what are we doing next?" look with him and staying with 1 thing too long he is obviously getting bored! I suppose my biggest frustration during play is when he runs off with the frisbee, ball or tug. Hard to keep things moving. I think I might try introduce food into the play session. I usually keep them separate. I will ask for a sit or hand touch then throw the frisbee. I will do a treat training session for new commands or a play training session or just play. He is pretty food motivated too so it might just work! Maybe this will help keep his attention better and help me with the toy return. I also was not too sure what to expect out of a 6 month puppy when I see how awesome other people's are at this age (I try not to compare, especially since I just got him! but it's hard.) but like you said he might not have had previous training which I think is the case. I can tell when I started he had no boundaries (he was owner surrender too much work) and had to learn how to learn.
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post #4 of 31 (permalink) Old 04-25-2019, 05:29 PM
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I have two totally opposite dogs. My male, Odin, loves and easily engaging with toys. Especially his ball! We didn’t even teach him fetch, he just picked it up on his own because he wanted us to play with him!

If you have a toy and want to play he will play with you and engage you until you stop.

Layla on the other hand has 0 interest in toys unless she decides. Even then it’s usually just to go in her little spot and chew on the toy. She will chase a ball then once she has it she just plops down and chews on it. Shes always been very hard to engage with toys as a puppy. She honestly just doesn’t like them that much unless their smothered in peanut butter.

I honestly just started to use food to engage her and get her to focus on me. She’s highly food motivated and I just stuck to giving her pieces of her dog food whenever I wanted to engage her or during training sessions.

She does love the flirt pole! Also try hide and seek! Both my dogs loved playing that game and engages them right away. I will just start running around my condo and then once I know they’re paying attention to me I will hide behind a door, In the shower or closet and then call them. This is the best way I engage both my dogs.

I think just trial and error till you find something their interested in and will lock in on and engage with you.

Sometimes I literally just say “Layla, snack” or “Layla, eat” and Layla will engage with me and once I’m done needing her attention I just give her a treat. An ice cube (they love ice cubes), a piece of banana, a piece of dog food someone dropped on the floor. Literally any food item works.
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post #5 of 31 (permalink) Old 04-25-2019, 06:37 PM
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Hi Moonshayde, we love you asking questions, and thank you for your use of paragraphs.

Does he like playing with the garden hose while you're watering the garden? Hose off (spray gun nozzle), sit, drop, etc command, dog complies, I start squirting again. Such fun!
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post #6 of 31 (permalink) Old 04-25-2019, 09:18 PM
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Flirt pole

Yana

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post #7 of 31 (permalink) Old 04-25-2019, 10:18 PM Thread Starter
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Does he like playing with the garden hose while you're watering the garden? Hose off (spray gun nozzle), sit, drop, etc command, dog complies, I start squirting again. Such fun!
I actually have not tried it yet! It just started getting nice enough in Michigan now...sort of. I can't wait to try it! He seems to love water and I will be getting him a backyard pool for the summer.
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post #8 of 31 (permalink) Old 04-25-2019, 10:29 PM Thread Starter
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I think just trial and error till you find something their interested in and will lock in on and engage with you.
Hi Nikka. So interesting to hear about your two different dogs. For me it is just weird having a dog that does not respond to squeaky voice and silly antics at all. I have never had that!

I think you are spot on with your comment about trial and error.

I am going to try harder to lighten up about all this, which of course makes so much sense we are trying to PLAY after all! It is easy to get discouraged when training goals come into the mix. Tonight after giving up trying to practice piano because Haku kept shoving his face onto my hands for attention (he did really good for a while before so I let it slide lol), I just lay on the floor with his squeaky ball and made it "come alive" by making it squeak and peak-a-boo around my legs and back etc (does that even make sense? :/). His face was priceless! He was concentrating so hard it was all wrinkled hahahaha.

I think I forget about these simple things in the desire to get stuff done a certain way. It's so silly. I need to bring back more of these random playful moments that have no agenda, just being silly and having fun together. With such a hectic day after work I find it is sometimes easy to forget this. Who knows, it may be useful for training later.
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post #9 of 31 (permalink) Old 04-26-2019, 06:37 AM
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When your dog is playing keep away, that is actually the opposite of engagement, so I would try to extinguish that behavior. Get a light line/leash about 15' long, ideally with no handle and let him drag it when you play tug. When he wins the tug and tries to run off, step on the leash and try to coax him back to you or reel him in with the leash and grab the tug. Ideally you want him bringing the toy back to you and putting his feet on you to play more. Dogs with very high prey drive are more likely to do this and dogs that are possessive often want to play keep away, but there are possessive dogs with very high prey drive that will naturally bring to toy back to you to reengage. How big is your tug and does it have just one handle? How do you tease him up and give misses to build frustration. You can also get a French linen "ball" on a string that is essentially a round tug on a string. The other thing is if the dog is not showing much interest after a few tries of engagement, put him up rather than begging him to engage. He will learn that if he wants to have some fun, he has to bring some engagement to the game.
Here is a link to a small French linen ball on a string and they also have large ones.
https://legacyk9gear.com/shop?olsPag...nch-linen-ball

Last edited by Chip Blasiole; 04-26-2019 at 06:44 AM.
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post #10 of 31 (permalink) Old 04-26-2019, 11:39 AM
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I'm too lazy to read all the responses so this maybe redundant.


first mistake was "to tire him out" stop before he is "tired out" stop well before then. stop while he still intensely wants whatever it is you are offering


now you may want to make playing with you a bit more rare (and back to a lot more rewarding)


he seems happy playing tug and winning - best to let them win a lot of the time - to get him to come back rather than keep away, at this age you may want to use a long line (15 to 30 feet). If your yard is big enough, you can also (with perhaps a helpful friend) do the "run away handler" trick. - someone holds the dog who is in a sit - handler runs maybe 30 to 40 paces away calling the dog - dog is released handler keeps running and calling until the dog gets close when the handler turns around - the intent is for the dog to slide to a stop in front of you. And the dog gets heaps of praise, a reward, a big party. Do not use a long line on this one.



and someone mentioned a flirt pole -- yes BUT stop while the dog still wants more.


No more "tire him out" stuff -- quit before he does.
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