Failing Obedience Class...HELP (long) - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 21 (permalink) Old 01-23-2009, 12:37 AM Thread Starter
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Failing Obedience Class...HELP (long)

Marley is 11 months old now. She attended puppy kindergarten when she was three months old. Before we even started class she knew sit, down, stay, heel, etc.

1st Class: She's frantic. Trying to run out the side door. Won't let anyone touch her. Runs from other dogs near her. Treats don't work. Barks if any other dog in facility barks. Ignores me completely when giving commands. Bad, Bad night.

2nd Class: I go 1/2 hour early to just sit and relax with her. Buy cold cuts for treats. SPAZZZZ....She is worse tonight. Drags me off my feet twice. Hands are rug burned from holding on to leash. When heeling around circle she darts for the door and knocks over the fence surrounding arena. I cry.

Specifics on class:

7 dogs. 4 are 6-8 mo old, 1 is 11 months old with Marley, 1 is 1 1/2 years old. All are smaller than her by far except for the Labradoodle who is same age as her.

Instructor seems knowledgeable. Insists I not push Marley and just let her get acclimated the first night. Keeps me after to ask specific questions.

1. Are these new behaviors? YES...usually so focused on me she excludes everything else.

2. Was she raised or socialized around other dogs? YES...we have two other dogs and she goes to my mom's and friends houses weekly for play dates.

3. Is she used to being out of the house with me? YES...usually leaves house with me 7 days a week till December when it went down to about 4 times a week.

4. Has she been around other people much? YES...Softball to Cheerleading, to Soccer, to Cheerleading again. She attends all events with me and has since she was brought home at 8 weeks. Practices and games. Walks around park with me. Goes to my friends houses with me.

I am at a loss. The instructor seems to think it is a fear period and says they are common in shepherds of this age. Should I keep going? How can I make this better for her?

Mom to 4 girls
Marley - 1 yr GSD
Sampson - Chesapeake Bay Retriever 11 yrs
Precious - Witch kitty 10 years
Nike- 1yr Pound Puppy
Tinkerbell- 9 mo kitty
Lucy - 6 mo GSD - At the bridge
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post #2 of 21 (permalink) Old 01-23-2009, 12:53 AM
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Re: Failing Obedience Class...HELP (long)

Yes!! Definitaly keep going!!! Odd behaviour I think for a pup that has had so much exposure and socialization. Could very much be a fear period.

Your instructor seems to be on the right track. Don't push Marley, give her time. My pup seemed shy and unsure of other dogs up until recently. Again, it was odd: solid working lines, came from a large litter, was held by the breeder until 9 weeks and was with other littermates and older dogs in the breeder's household. Plays very well with my older dog, and shows signs of already taking over the Alpha position, gets regular socialization with Schutzhund Club, pet shop visits, walks in town and other busy/new places. Loves everybody! Even loves vet visits, despite the needles and examinations - nothing seemed to faze him. Yet he avoided other dogs and showed signs of stress in his level one class. Would back away from other dogs that approached him. Just seemed out of character for him, and was confused.

I just started level 2 obedience with him at 8 months of age. We are in a class of about 14 dogs. It is like he is a different dog, no hesitation, perfect focus, friendly play invitations to other dogs, acts very confident and calm.

So who knows about Marley? Fear periods? Un-even mental maturation? Weird puppy developmental stages? I don't think your experience is that unique. Keep going, don't take it personally, and don't get upset or exasperated, because she will pick up on it, and it will feed her stress. I'm pretty sure things will get better for you too as it did for me!

Lucia


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post #3 of 21 (permalink) Old 01-23-2009, 01:03 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Failing Obedience Class...HELP (long)

I do think I screwed up last week. I was nervous before we got there and it got worse and worse. I was exasperated and in tears. Other people in class and instructor seem wonderful. No one approaches Marley from behind.

The instructor took time after class to have me go up and speak to each person in a circle while they held their dog. I was not to engage or give Marley any attention whatsoever. They held their pup tightly by their side and Marley had a loose leash. I just had to speak to the human and then pet and speak to the dog and ignore Marley.

She wants to use a prong collar next week. Is this something I should allow?

Mom to 4 girls
Marley - 1 yr GSD
Sampson - Chesapeake Bay Retriever 11 yrs
Precious - Witch kitty 10 years
Nike- 1yr Pound Puppy
Tinkerbell- 9 mo kitty
Lucy - 6 mo GSD - At the bridge
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post #4 of 21 (permalink) Old 01-23-2009, 01:07 AM
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Re: Failing Obedience Class...HELP (long)

My training days were much like yours... It usually always with me ending the day in tears. Don't give up though. The best advice that I have gotten from this site is that there are good days and then there are bad days. Sometimes more bad days than good but you learn from the good days and wow do you feel GREAT on the good days!!! so try to take it day by day. Dont have to high of expectations..for a while. Keep lots of patience in pocket... your dog is still a pup too. Most the time too its you that needs to be trained and not the dog. The dog getting trained is the easy part!! its getting insync that can be challenging at first especially with so many distractions.. but I say dont give up!!!

**Kristin**
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I love my babies, two GSDs Canyoncrest Kahn 5/22/06
and Canyoncrest Bella 8/1/08 , and My rescued girl Mika Husky Rott mix 9/1/05.
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post #5 of 21 (permalink) Old 01-23-2009, 01:11 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Failing Obedience Class...HELP (long)

Were you guys cheerleaders??? You are pumping me up. I will not fail.

Mom to 4 girls
Marley - 1 yr GSD
Sampson - Chesapeake Bay Retriever 11 yrs
Precious - Witch kitty 10 years
Nike- 1yr Pound Puppy
Tinkerbell- 9 mo kitty
Lucy - 6 mo GSD - At the bridge
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post #6 of 21 (permalink) Old 01-23-2009, 02:33 AM
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Re: Failing Obedience Class...HELP (long)

Quote:
Originally Posted By: ShellyG
She wants to use a prong collar next week. Is this something I should allow?
My immediate reaction to this is no. Not yet.

Hope this is a fear period and short lived.

You mentioned that you were nervous before going to class.

How about trying going to the next class with a mindset just to observe and work on the sideline for the first part of class. Join in if you feel Marley is becoming a bit comfortable or just sit on the sideline for one class?

I won't repeat what Lucia and Kristin said. Just tell you to reread their posts a couple of times- and just before you head out to the next class. They are right on the money. You are not failing! Just facing another challenge. And those challenges go a long way to learning something else about you and your dog.

Samuel

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post #7 of 21 (permalink) Old 01-23-2009, 02:40 AM
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Re: Failing Obedience Class...HELP (long)

You'll be fine. So will Marley. Think of this as a progression & not a 'pass/fail' experience. Repeat the class if necessary. No big deal.

The 1st UKC class Djibouti & I attended was unbelievable. It was a very large class b/c it had been shut down for months following the floods last summer. Dogs were alllll ages. About 2/3 of the dogs lunged against their leads at every dog/person approaching while alllll of them with the exception of one angel*mutt barked frenetically. Ugh. Several weeks into the class most of the lunging had stopped as had the continuous barking. There were profound changes in most of those dogs in just a matter of weeks.
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post #8 of 21 (permalink) Old 01-23-2009, 04:40 AM
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Re: Failing Obedience Class...HELP (long)

My hit? Handler error. What do you have so invested in this class that YOU end up in tears because your dog acts up? It's an obedience class for pete's sake. These folks got something on you???

My eldest, as a young dog, was quite inattentive in her first class. A year later everyone had forgotten that and I had a reputation as having terrific dogs -- when we clicked it was great - until we started doing matches and trials. Our first match we got first place. I was more concerned about a sick dog at home than I was about Jr. at the match. Then we spent several entries blowing matches and trials in one way or another because I would be wired. On the ones where enough was out of whack before we got there, I figured it was too loused up, relaxed (figuring it was a lost cause) and we did fine.

I would not use a prong collar on the dog. I would settle down myself, remembering that my status as a human was not in jeapordy because my dog went wonky at an obedience class.
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post #9 of 21 (permalink) Old 01-23-2009, 07:17 AM
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Re: Failing Obedience Class...HELP (long)

Dogs go through training plateaus as well as possible fear periods, so when one of my dogs suddenly acts different in training I don't fret over it. It happens. I usually say something like "why are you being so darn silly today?" and then I laugh and move them away from whatever's making them reactive. Then we just work on really simple things like attention and maybe some fun tricks. I don't push new training or even newly-learned behaviors at that point .. I simply work on the very basic things that are really solid and I accept that my dog is going to be a bit dingy that day.

The more you stress and feed into this kind of behavior, the more important it becomes to the dog. Shrugging it off and thinking of it as a silly thing the dog is doing helps keep YOUR nervousness from making it worse.

I can remember my 3 year old GSD, who was trained clear through Utility (scent articles, signal exercise, directed retrieving and jumps) suddently deciding that he not only didn't KNOW any of those exercises, he was going to start growling at other dogs and people. That wasn't like him! I got kind of shook up (this was my first dog that I'd seriously trained) and all that did was make him worse. When I finally settled down and thought "maybe he's just having a bad time for a bit" and worked on simpler things for a while, everything fell back into place and he went back to being the sweet guy he always had been.

If this IS a fear period for your dog, adding in a prong collar won't help diminish the fear and it may very well increase it. I'd stay with a simple collar and maybe plan to come in and not actually take part in the class activities - pull up a chair in a quiet area and simply observe your dog, rewarding whenever she does something you like (looking at you, laying down calmly, being non-reactive when another dog goes by, etc.). If she's doing really well, you might join into some activities but stay out at the edge of everything. Keep calm and if she gets goofy again, simply walk her away from it with no reaction.

The GSD that I described above already had his CD and CDX before he went through this weird period. He was very well trained. But he got some sort of odd thought in his head and evidently had to work through it. Once he did, everything was great again, and I had learned a lot about how NOT to react to my dog.

Good luck - be calm - watch your dog and keep telling yourself that she's just being silly for a while - reward the good behaviors, ignore the ones you don't like - and your "old dog" will return!

Melanie and the gang in Alaska

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post #10 of 21 (permalink) Old 01-23-2009, 07:44 AM
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Re: Failing Obedience Class...HELP (long)

When we started training with Renji, we were on the complete opposite end of the training field. After about five sessions, we were able to be just a few feet from another dog. A few more sessions, my trainer and I were able to talk face to face and Renji and her intact male stare-happy border collie were just a couple feet away from each other, ignoring each other.

I don't know if anyone has mentioned it yet, but move away from the rest of the dogs! Right now yours is in sensory overload. Back away to a quieter distance and over the next several classes work your way back into the group SLOWLY. A good trainer will have no problem with this.

Quote:
Quote:If she's doing really well, you might join into some activities but stay out at the edge of everything. Keep calm and if she gets goofy again, simply walk her away from it with no reaction.
There we go! Sometimes Renji will become overstimulated and I actually walk INTO him when we move away from the group, but that's because he's also a bigtime stubborn butthead. I'd just turn around and walk away. Work at a distance, then move back in. It's like being at a huge social function and going to the restroom to collect yourself and take a few calming breaths before diving back in.

Renji - 6 y/o M GSD x chow rescue


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