Obedience Class techniques undoing all my work - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 30 (permalink) Old 05-14-2019, 11:37 PM Thread Starter
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Obedience Class techniques undoing all my work

So I have a stupid dilemma because I did not do enough research on my obedience class/ school (epic fail.)

I have had my rescue puppy for 2 months and I started teaching him basic obedience because you know...he is a 7 month old Shepherd and NEEDS it! Both for the boundaries/ manners and for the engagement and mental stimulation.

There were 2 decent looking training schools near me that both seemed to offer positive reinforcement classes (I do correct my dogs when necessary) but I am looking for a place to teach my puppy in a class setting etc.

He is highly toy and food motivated and as I like Michael Ellis I have worked hard on engagement training with both of these. The results? Beautiful. My out of control, counter surfing 5 month demon is now an energetic, feet on the floor (kinda), 7 month menace that asks politely for dinner and to be released through doorways.

My problem, and here is where I need some advice. I just attended my first obedience class and I am very disappointed.

Their techniques seem to be completely opposite to everything I have been teaching. I use a "yes" as my marker and either a toy or food when teaching new behaviors or in new settings. This school is asking me to use dried liver in my fingers, as a lure (they can nibble/lick) into a sit, down etc then when they are in position say "good dog!" all happy. and thats it. They do not actually give them the liver. Later I believe we will be using a squeaky ball as the marker (yes a SQUEAKY BALL!) my poor boy, he is going to lose his mind. His squeaky ball is one of his favorites and he will do almost anything to get it. I was told that this squeaky ball is not a toy and the head trainer does not want to ever see it in my dog's mouth

Long story short. I tried to go in with an open mind (I did pay $300 no refunds after all.) They told us to forget any training we have done before. Sure I get that. 5 minutes at home trying to practice the new techniques and I felt sick. Watching my poor puppy's absolute confusion and frustration was actually painful. I felt like I was just teasing him with the liver. He was trying SO HARD. But all he got was a YES! from me like usual. after 3 times he actually bit me out of frustration (not hard/ aggressive just pent up.)

Now I don't believe I should always have food or a toy. I absolutely backup any command that he already knows. But as far as training and engagement I found this soul crushing. I am thinking of just totally dropping out and finding another school/ trainer that is more in line with how I want to train or cheating at home and trying to wing it in class on the day. Am I being crazy? Is this type of technique normal? I am by no means a dog trainer and it has been ages since I have had a dog too so maybe I am just being stuck up
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post #2 of 30 (permalink) Old 05-15-2019, 12:56 AM
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If I were in the exact same situation this is what I would do. Since there is no chance of a refund, I would not bring my boy to class again but I wouldn't drop the class either. I would just show up without my dog. I would be too curious to see how that trainer and the group progressed and how effective/ineffective the methods are. Since I paid for it, I sure as heck would not give up my spot. And sure as heck would not bring my dog. I would have an excuse ready. This would also allow me more time to observe without Causing more stress and confusion to my boy and giving me time to make a more informed decision. and if after the second or third week was told I had to bring the dog in or drop out, I would insist that either I stay in class with or without my dog or receive a partial refund equal to the classes that are left.

But that's just me.

Don't undo what you have accomplished and what works for you both. It isn't fair to either of you, especially with a method that you have never seen or heard of before. I haven't heard of it either.

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Last edited by Heartandsoul; 05-15-2019 at 01:03 AM.
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post #3 of 30 (permalink) Old 05-15-2019, 02:15 AM
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I agree with Heartandsoul. I can speak from personal experience that changing up a successful training routine just because you've paid to be there or because it's other people telling you to do it, doesn't mean it's best for your dog. If you can see the confusion and issues, then it's happening and you will possibly end up undoing all of the hard work you've put in already. Ryka is two and JUST starting to heel like she did as a puppy, because I finally threw some other things out the window and decided I was going to train the dog in front of me with what worked best between us. Sometimes there's just too many chefs in the kitchen and it ruins the end product.

Like mentioned, don't be afraid to learn new methods or approaches. Take them in, see what you like or don't like. Apply what might benefit you. Learn about what you like or don't like to help you reflect on what your training philosophy might be. But definitely don't confuse your poor pup. Work with something until it doesn't work anymore and then adapt, but don't change it just because someone else tells you to even though it's clearly successful.
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post #4 of 30 (permalink) Old 05-15-2019, 07:30 AM
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I tend to use classed for exposure and distraction purposed more so than learning how to train my dog. I often ignore the trainer's instructions and do my own thing, and since my dog often already knows how to do whatever is being taught. Trainers tend to be busy with someone else and if your dog is doing what is being taught they don't care. Another option would be to contact the trainer and discuss that you use different methods and if they are okay with you doing your own thing in class. I have never had an issue with using a different technique, but if the trainer is not open to it then you need to decide if you feel up to standing your ground or else drop the class. I have never had a problem since my dogs have always been able to do whatever is doing taught.

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post #5 of 30 (permalink) Old 05-15-2019, 08:28 AM
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I did something similar to Bramble with my newest dog, Steel. I paid for a puppy class at a local AKC obedience club just for the experience of a different environment. I only took suggestions from the trainer there when they were useful to me and didn't completely undo what I've already taught Steel. I'd just bring him and train him my way, but the trainer there knew me from outside the club so there was leniency you might not get at your place.



If it were me, I'd drop the class if the trainer doesn't budge about the issue. It sucks, but I'd rather not confuse the dog because the trainer is "my way or the highway."
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post #6 of 30 (permalink) Old 05-15-2019, 09:48 AM Thread Starter
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Hey guys thanks so much for the responses! I have been stressing out about this all night.

The silly thing is that when I first taught Haku the sit/down/heel whatever, I did a similar lure technique. It's so nice and easy to shape them into the position that way to explain what you want. But the difference was I actually GAVE him the treat once he got it and I marked with a "yes." Of course he is super smart so 3 times of that and I could ask without the lure and he would actually use his brain and offer the position. Bingo. I thought that was how this was done... I just find using a lure and then not giving them anything is frustrating to the dog. The trainer called using food bribing the dog and said they don't do that your dog won't care about food in petsmart. She is right, but when shaping these initial behaviors I just don't see a need to not reward and not keep my dog engaged. Once he KNOWS the command that is a different story.

I am more concerned about that upcoming squeaky ball. I am sure their techniques work though, they have very high reviews, a ton of people trying to get a spot in class and I have seen Shepherds on their website. This seems to be a "family dog" kind of place. And I belatedly realized that I am looking for something a bit more than that. They offer agility so I am a bit surprised by their methods. I chose them because they do a lot of outside based classes in the future at HomeDepot, Markets etc. I am looking for that sort of help with distraction training. Haku can't do anything outside of the house right now he is too excited.

I am going to try some of your suggestions and reach out to the trainer and explain my frustration and see what they say. I have a feeling she will shoot me down. I really don't like the head trainer and I don't know why. She gives off a no-nonsense vibe which should be good but she irritates me already, which is a bad sign. She seems to have a "my way or the highway" and I feel if I want to tweak anything for my dog it will be an absolute no. As far as me going to class and being ignored that will be VERY hard. The training room is TINY and we all barely fit so I can't just stand off to the side and find a corner. I could only get maybe 5 feet away from any person. Her words exactly "we run a very tight ship here." If anyone saw my other thread and was curious this was the same place that offered Day Training where they board my dog two days a week and teach them what we are going through in class. I refused as I want to teach my own dog. I was very upset to see the first day at orientation they spent more than half the class explaining why I should let them board my dog.

There is another good reviewed school that is all clicker based training. Although I do need a slightly firmer hand with my puppy regarding outside issues reactivity, I think for training and class purposes that sort of approach may be way more up our alley. He LOVES training right now and lights up. I just don't want to break that. He is such a sweet thing.
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post #7 of 30 (permalink) Old 05-15-2019, 09:51 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bramble View Post
I tend to use classed for exposure and distraction purposed more so than learning how to train my dog. I often ignore the trainer's instructions and do my own thing, and since my dog often already knows how to do whatever is being taught. Trainers tend to be busy with someone else and if your dog is doing what is being taught they don't care. Another option would be to contact the trainer and discuss that you use different methods and if they are okay with you doing your own thing in class. I have never had an issue with using a different technique, but if the trainer is not open to it then you need to decide if you feel up to standing your ground or else drop the class. I have never had a problem since my dogs have always been able to do whatever is doing taught.
This is an approach I may try take Bramble. Haku already has a very solid sit, down, stay, stand. My problem is getting him to do them with distractions. I wonder if I could train with the lure and treats at home so he learns their specific hand signals and then go to the class and give it a try. I can always sneak some food in with the lure lol.....this is so stupid. As an introvert I feel I will need to cut the $300 loss and find a class that we can have some fun in.
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post #8 of 30 (permalink) Old 05-15-2019, 11:41 AM
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Well, if you went to work all week and at the end they waved a check at you as your pay, would you go back? You have to pay the dog. I think you should follow your instincts.




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post #9 of 30 (permalink) Old 05-15-2019, 12:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Moonshayde View Post
I am more concerned about that upcoming squeaky ball. I am sure their techniques work though, they have very high reviews, a ton of people trying to get a spot in class and I have seen Shepherds on their website. This seems to be a "family dog" kind of place. And I belatedly realized that I am looking for something a bit more than that. They offer agility so I am a bit surprised by their methods. I chose them because they do a lot of outside based classes in the future at HomeDepot, Markets etc. I am looking for that sort of help with distraction training. Haku can't do anything outside of the house right now he is too excited.
Regarding the squeaky ball. I'll just bring this point up to you. If you've ever seen a police K-9 handler with their dog, they ALWAYS give the tug or ball after a successful training session and they don't use the tug/ball as a lure to execute singular tasks and then not give it to them. So, just putting that out there. The toy is the ultimate reward for the full session. It's like getting a paycheck for your job. You already know this, because you've got a brain in your head.

Quote:
I am going to try some of your suggestions and reach out to the trainer and explain my frustration and see what they say. I have a feeling she will shoot me down. I really don't like the head trainer and I don't know why. She gives off a no-nonsense vibe which should be good but she irritates me already, which is a bad sign. She seems to have a "my way or the highway" and I feel if I want to tweak anything for my dog it will be an absolute no. As far as me going to class and being ignored that will be VERY hard. The training room is TINY and we all barely fit so I can't just stand off to the side and find a corner. I could only get maybe 5 feet away from any person. Her words exactly "we run a very tight ship here." If anyone saw my other thread and was curious this was the same place that offered Day Training where they board my dog two days a week and teach them what we are going through in class. I refused as I want to teach my own dog. I was very upset to see the first day at orientation they spent more than half the class explaining why I should let them board my dog.
So your first post told us they refuse to offer refunds (yellow flag to me). Now they're "my way or the highway" (red flag), and they spend a ton of time trying to sell you something expensive (double red flag). You know what. YOU ARE THE CUSTOMER. You paid them money, so you take the position that it's your dog, your work, and if they want to help you work with the dog in front of you, great. A good trainer should always do that and take your efforts into account. A good trainer offers additional methods and helps you tighten up what you're already doing and makes small adjustments that don't completely confuse the dog.

I'll say to you what my husband has said to me in times of doubt: "You're the one in control." Just remember that.

Tweak her training if you want. Tweak it all over the place. Use what's useful to you (surely there's something she's teaching that's useful). What's she gonna do? Yell at you? Kick you out? If she does, just laugh at her and say "Hey, it's my money. If you don't like it, give me my money back."
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post #10 of 30 (permalink) Old 05-15-2019, 12:53 PM
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I banned squeaky toys in my pet training classes as it turns most dogs crazy and me too. Hope everybody learned from the OP's posts; observe a class without your dog before entering in one.
OP, did you have to sign a contract which states that you cannot use treats? $300 sounds pretty spendy. But cutting your loss is worth it if it means protecting your and your dog's sanity.
I agree with HeartandSoul to finish the class and observe without the dog if you can stand the nonsense, just to see results. Keep us posted. In the meantime enjoy training your dog the way that works for you and him.
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