Working in Drive - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 55 (permalink) Old 10-21-2019, 12:27 PM Thread Starter
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Working in Drive

Lately, meaning the last week or so, Archer has had zero interest in training. I can maaaybe get one or two tricks out of him before he wanders off in search of a toy. And forget trying to teach him anything new! He wants nothing to do with that. I have tried all kinds of treats, including all the ones that used to be high value to him. I make the sessions as fun as I can, keeping my voice upbeat and animated, having him do tricks he enjoys, throwing some play in with it. Nope. He just wants a toy and does not want to do any work. So I’ve been trying to use toys as the reward. However, he loses his mind when play or a toy is the prize. He whines, paces, won’t focus, and can’t even do commands he’s been doing without fail since he was 10 weeks old. The only two commands he can do when it comes to a toy are “out” and “stay.” That’s it. He often does a bunch of random things, hoping one of them is correct. It’s frustrating for both of us.

Can those much more experienced than I give me some tips on how to get him to work and focus in drive? I’m not sure how to teach him to calm down and think when in the face of a toy. If anyone can point me in the direction of some good books, I’d appreciate it!

Forrest 9/1/2016 - 5/14/2017 RIP
UFO vom Wildhaus "Archer" 4/30/19
Brooklyn - Golden retriever 1/30/11
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post #2 of 55 (permalink) Old 10-21-2019, 12:50 PM
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I had to switch to a back tie to use toys because mine just wanted to grab and run around with them. Before using a toy to train, teach a solid Out. When you say Out or Aus, he should spit out the toy. It sounds like you have the Out already. Never chase him with a toy. I looped a long line around a solid tree then attached the clip to his collar. I set up a Place marker (top of a plastic box) at the end of his reach. I was teaching a distance down. When I said Place which he knew, he lay down on the marker. He got a toy. The reason to back tie was so he could not reach me and so he stayed in one spot. If he ran anywhere else he couldn’t reach me or the toy. I only did it for ten minutes or less each time. Find a toy he loves. It’s best if he is obsessed about it. Gradually, I moved away so he could not reach me at all and said Place. He learned to lie down away from me. Before whenever I said Down, he crept toward me first.

To build drive when he is loose, you must have focus and a solid Out. I shake the toy and say Watch. When I have his full attention, he gets a quick tug on the toy, then and Out. In your case, train Watch for his full attention and quiet. From there, I train other things.
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post #3 of 55 (permalink) Old 10-21-2019, 01:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Pytheis View Post
Lately, meaning the last week or so, Archer has had zero interest in training. I can maaaybe get one or two tricks out of him before he wanders off in search of a toy. And forget trying to teach him anything new! He wants nothing to do with that. I have tried all kinds of treats, including all the ones that used to be high value to him. I make the sessions as fun as I can, keeping my voice upbeat and animated, having him do tricks he enjoys, throwing some play in with it. Nope. He just wants a toy and does not want to do any work. So Iíve been trying to use toys as the reward. However, he loses his mind when play or a toy is the prize. He whines, paces, wonít focus, and canít even do commands heís been doing without fail since he was 10 weeks old. The only two commands he can do when it comes to a toy are ďoutĒ and ďstay.Ē Thatís it. He often does a bunch of random things, hoping one of them is correct. Itís frustrating for both of us.

Can those much more experienced than I give me some tips on how to get him to work and focus in drive? Iím not sure how to teach him to calm down and think when in the face of a toy. If anyone can point me in the direction of some good books, Iíd appreciate it!

How old is he now? When wanting to train for treats, put all toys away, maybe skip a meal and if needed keep a line on him so he can't run off.

Now to address your actual question. When starting with toys, keep everything up and exciting. Usually when I start to introduce toys into my work it's to pick the drive up. I use food for precision, and toys for enthusiasm. First thing is teaching him how to think when the toy is present. So it may not be anything too exciting at first. A sit and eye contact with him quiet, then BAM reward. Then maybe a couple paces of heeling, then BAM reward. Make the toy should just be the vehicle for him to engage with you. So once he has it, play with him. When I first start toy sessions, they are fast paced, short and sweet.

Here is a short video of my first toy obedience session with Winston. For whatever reason, I couldn't get him on treats, so I just went for the toy to get something out of him.

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post #4 of 55 (permalink) Old 10-21-2019, 01:29 PM
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When you say toy, what are you using? If you want to learn to train your dog in drive, you need the right toy a leash, and a prong collar. A ball on a string is one of the more common toys used to train a dog in drive and there are many different types of tugs for the same purpose. Your problem will be learning how to use the toy and manage the dog on the leash. If a dog gets into too high of a state of drive, he can't learn very well. That is why it is best to start pups out with food and then go to a toy. There are many ways to use a toy, but the most common is to hold the leash in one hand and a ball on a string in another and hold the string and show the dog the ball and when he tries to strike it, pull it away to one side. It would kind of look like pulling the cord to start a lawn mower, but standing more upright. You can turn as you pull/tease the dog. Give a few misses and then give a quick command such as sit. When you say sit, quickly raise the ball above and behind the dog's head. If he doesn't sit and knows the command, give him a pop on the leash to help him sit and bring him down in drive some. As soon as his butt hits the ground, give the release command and hold the ball out by the string and let him strike and grip the ball. Dogs that don't have a lot of drive will have some trouble gripping the ball on the first try. Play a little tug with him and then him win it and let go, but hold on to the leash. The next goal is to get him to want to engage with you by bringing the toy back to you and play the game again. You will have to teach him to out/let go of the ball while holding the string and you reward an out by commanding him to bite the ball as soon as he lets go. So you need a command for bite. This is something that is not really learned by reading about it. You need to have someone help you or at least, watch a video of it being done because there will many other things going on with your dog that a more experienced person can help you with and each dog is different.
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post #5 of 55 (permalink) Old 10-21-2019, 01:31 PM
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I just saw mycobraracr's video after I posted and it is a good example of what I was trying to explain. He is using the ball on the string for focused heeling, but you can using for sits, downs, etc.

Last edited by Chip Blasiole; 10-21-2019 at 01:34 PM.
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post #6 of 55 (permalink) Old 10-21-2019, 01:50 PM
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The above post and video should be seen and put into practice by the many pet dog owners here.How to teach a GSD 101.
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post #7 of 55 (permalink) Old 10-21-2019, 02:15 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mycobraracr View Post
How old is he now? When wanting to train for treats, put all toys away, maybe skip a meal and if needed keep a line on him so he can't run off.

Now to address your actual question. When starting with toys, keep everything up and exciting. Usually when I start to introduce toys into my work it's to pick the drive up. I use food for precision, and toys for enthusiasm. First thing is teaching him how to think when the toy is present. So it may not be anything too exciting at first. A sit and eye contact with him quiet, then BAM reward. Then maybe a couple paces of heeling, then BAM reward. Make the toy should just be the vehicle for him to engage with you. So once he has it, play with him. When I first start toy sessions, they are fast paced, short and sweet.

Here is a short video of my first toy obedience session with Winston. For whatever reason, I couldn't get him on treats, so I just went for the toy to get something out of him.
https://youtu.be/vKysLh8wmFI
He just turned 6 months old. I used to use his entire lunch (kibble) to work on training everyday, and he used to be enthusiastic and all about it. He's since stopped being willing to work enthusiastically for kibble, even when he's hungry, so I've switched over to other treats. When I start a training session, all toys get put away, but then all he does is look for a toy and act generally distracted, even on leash.

An example of how I've been attempting to get him to work for a toy is when we play fetch. I used to just let fetch be fetch, but since he stopped being interested in training sessions, I try to get him to sit, down, spin, touch, whatever before I throw the ball. IF he manages to realize that I want a sit, he'll go into a half sit, meaning he's basically hovering over the ground and isn't fully sitting. Same with down. If I move, say anything, practically even blink, he's instantly up out of the half sit or down because he expects me to throw the ball (which I NEVER do). I can't lure him into the position or give him a minor correction because then he just stands up, stares at me, and whines.

He is 100% solid with his "out" command and instantly lets go of things when I ask him to. He knows with fetch to grab the ball and bring it back to my hand before I throw it again. He just gets so excited for me to throw it that he can't listen. If I try to use a tug toy, he gets bored pretty quickly and just wants me to throw that. He has no interest in playing with toys without me and is constantly pushing into me to play, so that isn't an issue. Maybe I'm just going about it wrong and he's confused?

Forrest 9/1/2016 - 5/14/2017 RIP
UFO vom Wildhaus "Archer" 4/30/19
Brooklyn - Golden retriever 1/30/11
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post #8 of 55 (permalink) Old 10-21-2019, 02:18 PM Thread Starter
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Oh, I should mention that I have played with a flirt pole with him, and he's a little maniac! Definitely has great drive for that, but what's funny is that I can get a ton out of him (sit, down, stay, touch, spin, around, through, etc.) before releasing him to chase that, but he won't do the same thing for a ball or an actual tug. I just have to be really careful using a flirt pole with him because he goes after it so hard and I don't want him to hurt himself.

Forrest 9/1/2016 - 5/14/2017 RIP
UFO vom Wildhaus "Archer" 4/30/19
Brooklyn - Golden retriever 1/30/11
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post #9 of 55 (permalink) Old 10-21-2019, 02:27 PM
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Seems like you have something motivating to him. What's at the end of your flirt pole? Can you find something similar and use it as a tug and toss?
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post #10 of 55 (permalink) Old 10-21-2019, 02:36 PM
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Since you have conditioned him to expect to be rewarded by fetching a ball, a ball on a string would probably be better than using a tug. You would kind of be throwing the ball by teasing him with the ball on the string as in the video, yet he wouldn't get to bite (fetch) it until he displays the correct behavior. Only reward correct behavior. At first, you might just see if he will bite the ball without any obedience. Since the dog is from working lines, he should be able and is old enough to start raising the expectations with prong, but first I would get him very interested in the ball on a string. I would also stop throwing anything for him to fetch. You said all toys are put away when you start a training session. I would do the opposite and not let him have access to any toys except when training him on the ball on a string. If he starts to get bored and mouthy and destructive, pull out the ball on a string. Then try to be more structured with a prong and leash. If he knows how to bark on command, teach him to bark for the ball on the string to get the game started. For example, show him the ball, tell him to bark and if he barks, immediately make prey with the ball like in the video. Each dog is different. With some higher drive dogs, more misses build more drive. With dogs that don't have high prey drive, too many misses will lead to coming down in drive because he is not being reinforced enough. I would also do this in new, unfamiliar places. Dogs with good prey drive will not be affected by a new environment and dogs whose prey drive is not as high as you thought, will not play the game. Keep the sessions short and you can always end on teasing the dog up with misses and not letting him win the ball.
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