Help w/ Hesitant "down"s - German Shepherd Dog Forums
 
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post #1 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-03-2009, 01:59 AM Thread Starter
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Help w/ Hesitant "down"s

i've noticed that Tilden does not like to be put into a down position when other dogs are present. At home with Gia he is fine, but with any other dogs it takes a bit of coaxing and sometimes i have to physically get him into a down. once down, he will stay but his focus is more on the other dogs, than with me. OR he looks straight ahead at me with quick glances out the corner of his eyes keeping watch of his surroundings. in a heel he almost never goes into a down, but if i walk in front of him, he'll do it gradually.

so far i understand that this is a submissive position and perhaps he feels vulnerable with the other dogs around...

so i'm wondering how to approach/understand the situation (mentally) in order to help him. is it a fear that i won't protect him? confidence that will come with time/practice? or is it all dog vs dog dynamics?

he is almost 2 and a half... male... neutered... general non dominant personality.

thanks!

TILDEN: Male: Blk/Red LHGSD: DOB: 12/24/06 65lbs of Love
KEYSTONE: Male: Sable: DOB: 2/11/13 55lbs of Go!!!!!
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post #2 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-03-2009, 02:35 AM
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Re: Help w/ Hesitant "down"s

The super slow thing could be a calming signal from Tilden to you. I'd say he doesn't feel safe (the fact that he's looking at the other dogs definitely suggests that) but he doesn't want to upset you.

Rafi was the same way. For him it was clearly a vulnerability issue. I never physically forced him and stopped asking for it in situations where it was clear he was uncomfortable. Instead I started asking for it when we were playing ball outside alone, then when we were playing ball and other dogs were in the vicinity, etc. etc. Now he'll do it but I only ask him for it when I know he feels safe. Otherwise I just ask for a sit.



From the sounds of it he and Tilden have very similar temperaments.

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post #3 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-03-2009, 02:52 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Help w/ Hesitant "down"s

thanks ruth - this makes me feel a little better. i suppose that since i know that he knows what down means and doesnt have a problem listening around other dogs in general, that i can relax and stop stressing the issue with him? i definitely don't want to make the situation worse, but i also wanted to be clearer on the reasoning behind it.

i've never actually forced him into a down position from standing or from a sit (any kind of force with him and he shuts down completely), but he has a halfway down that he'll try to pull where his legs are stretched forward but his chest doesnt quite touch the ground, so i'll just pull his paws the rest of the way forward to correct his positioning.

today we went to a far corner of the dog park and it took several attempts to get him to lay down... finally when he did, a young female dog came over and sniffed him over then stared at him trying to initiate play and he didnt break his stay the whole time - i was surprised and impressed, but i can still tell that he was unsure of himself so i gave him lots of praise and discontinued that exercise while in the park.

TILDEN: Male: Blk/Red LHGSD: DOB: 12/24/06 65lbs of Love
KEYSTONE: Male: Sable: DOB: 2/11/13 55lbs of Go!!!!!
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post #4 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-03-2009, 03:02 AM
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Re: Help w/ Hesitant "down"s

Rafi is a wonderful boy, much like Tilden. He figures out the rules and makes up his own. If I am too harsh with him (my voice) he starts to shake. I have had to train him differently than other dogs and some things that were important to me with other dogs I've dropped with him b/c it just doesn't work. I try to be flexible and figure out why something is happening rather than just forcing the issue.

I'm sure there will be people who will give you the whole alpha line but if he listens to you then I wouldn't worry about it. For whatever reason, he doesn't feel comfortable going down so I would ask for something else that you know you're going to get. Maybe in time it will come and maybe it won't.

Just one thought: are you standing over him when you ask for a down?

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post #5 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-03-2009, 03:22 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Help w/ Hesitant "down"s

i agree - tilden is one of the "softer" dogs that i've had, so a lot of the training that i've used in the past or has been recommended (especially the cesar type) just isnt necessary with him. its never a battle over dominance with him... its more of a "wrangling" his free spirit w/o breaking it, but even that is no longer a big issue with us. Rafi and Tilden are around the same age right? Tilden made 2 in dec.

Quote:
Originally Posted By: BowWowMeowJust one thought: are you standing over him when you ask for a down?
i have tried several ways with him... like i mentioned if he goes from a heel to an automatic sit and then i give him the command to lay down - he's the least likely to do it... but if i snap my fingers near his nose and guide him down, he goes 95% of the time. other times i am standing right in front of him (this way has the best results, but his ears go back and he seems to be doing it out of fear, so i've stopped)... i've also worked with him walking a few paces in front of him, turning, then giving the down command - he's about 65/70% inclined to do it this way.

away from other dogs his downs are around 95%

TILDEN: Male: Blk/Red LHGSD: DOB: 12/24/06 65lbs of Love
KEYSTONE: Male: Sable: DOB: 2/11/13 55lbs of Go!!!!!
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post #6 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-03-2009, 06:05 PM
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Re: Help w/ Hesitant "down"s

Logan has hesitant downs as well, he and Tilden are so similar in personality. Logan also is bad with verbal commands when distracted and needs his hand signals. Sometimes I will have to move out of position to tap the ground in front of him or make a drawing gesture as if I was bribing him down with a treat.


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post #7 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-04-2009, 07:21 PM
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Re: Help w/ Hesitant "down"s

CF, what's your body language like when you're asking for a down? Are you bending over at the waist at all? Or standing up tall? Often, with dogs who are unsure of us, we need to make sure that WE project that we're in charge. If you're bending over even slightly, you're not conveying that. So watch your body language.

Also, it might help if you make a game out of it while you're in public around dogs. Play with him, so that you're doing fast sits and releases (or stands). Quickly reward the sits and release him. Over and over again. About 10-15 times. Fast fast fast. Then, when he's all caught up in the game, ask for a down. Probably, he'll plop into a down without even realizing it. Jackpot reward that. (Lots of itty bitty snacks all in a row.) Woo hoo! Make a big deal of it quickly and release him. Then start the game again. Do it a couple of times, then move away from that area, like "wow, that was a great game, wasn't it?" Don't stay there, like you were trying to sneak him into a down the whole time.

Eventually, you can work in more downs into your "fast sits" game, so it's 5 sits to a down. Then you can make it a fast downs game. The point is that it's a wonderful game. You're not leaving him in the down to feel vulnerable.

And of course, the more often and the more places you do this, the more comfortable he becomes lying down in public. (*At least* 15 places before a behavior is generalized). Then you can start with short duration downs (with lots of rewards during the down) and do that in your 15 places. Within about a month or two, he should feel better about lying down in public areas. But if a dog approaches him for the next several months, I'd give him a sit command and let him pop up. He doesn't need to "break" his down. You can anticipate and let him follow your command.

That will help him see you as a Safe leader, which is the whole point.
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post #8 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-04-2009, 07:30 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Help w/ Hesitant "down"s

thanks 3k9 - those are all great training tips, and i will start with him this evening.
i'm confident that with practice (especially with the fun factor) he'll catch on in no time.
BUT
just a little more info, because i didnt really explain it earlier... Tilden will lay down in a group setting and catch his breath if he's playing with other dogs and tires... he'll also lay down if other dogs in the immediate area are in a down. a couple times that stick out are when we've done the down-stays at our gsd meets. however, 1 - we do it at the end so the dogs are tired... 2 - gia is present... 3 - all (or most of) the other dogs are are also laying down.

does knowing that information change anything?

oh, and to answer your question - when i initially ask him, my body is erect. i only bend over when i have to guide him into a down like i mentioned with the finger snap.

thanks again!

TILDEN: Male: Blk/Red LHGSD: DOB: 12/24/06 65lbs of Love
KEYSTONE: Male: Sable: DOB: 2/11/13 55lbs of Go!!!!!
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post #9 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-04-2009, 07:54 PM
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Re: Help w/ Hesitant "down"s

How often do you take him out without Gia? I've found that younger kids often get a lot of confidence from older siblings. I work really hard to take the youngsters out on their own, work with them on their own; in other words, they learn to stand on their own four paws. Older siblings cast large shadows, and it's easy for us to forget that each kid needs his or her time in the sun (and quite a lot of it.)

So, his lying down when Gia is present doesn't surprise me one bit.

If he's lying down after he's been playing with other dogs, that makes sense because he knows those dogs now. They're not so intimidating. The fact that they're lying down too makes them even less of a threat.

So the info that you've shared just reinforces what Ruth has said and what I think. Tilden needs time and training to learn to be more confident. I *do* believe he can be trained to be more confident if he goes out without Gia more and if he's given opportunity to see that being places with other dogs around is fun; that they don't bother him, and in fact, there seems to be a correlation. When other dogs are around, good things happen: all he has to do is follow your command (whatever your command is); you DO keep him safe, and life is good.

I'd avoid finger-snapping, by the way. If you've only done finger-snapping in these situations where he doesn't feel secure, I'd toss that as a method for now. Stick with hand signals and your soothing voice. They're more neutral. For now, don't force him into downs in public. Just stick to the game. If he WON'T down at all, lure it *happily,* give the treat, then release quickly. Fun fun fun!

He has to feel safe. We can't force that. We lead him there gently and happily.
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post #10 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-04-2009, 08:11 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Help w/ Hesitant "down"s

hmm... don't want to interrupt the theory (because, i agree - he does need to increase his confidence) but he goes out without Gia every day and generally 9 times out of 10 if we're at a dog park or hike or play date, Gia isn't present. as of now, only their morning walks are together.

i don't really know how to explain my snapping - but i use it a lot and in various situations, but usually to correct positioning (i can see how the when/where association can be confusing) and for directions. since they both have an interchangeable heel, i give the command and snap to show which side i mean... if i tell him to go to his bed and he goes to a different then intended or to the rug, i snap in the direction of the bed i meant. so i guess snapping IS Tildens hand signal, where as Gia is trained with more formal signals.

we're getting outta here now... wish us luck!

TILDEN: Male: Blk/Red LHGSD: DOB: 12/24/06 65lbs of Love
KEYSTONE: Male: Sable: DOB: 2/11/13 55lbs of Go!!!!!
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