Is my trainer too harsh? Or do I need to man up? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-10-2014, 03:29 PM Thread Starter
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Is my trainer too harsh? Or do I need to man up?

So I have been working with this trainer for the past 8 weeks. Zelda is 11 months old, and before I started working with this new trainer, my training method was almost all positive reinforcement. I guess I was just surprised by his training methods. He doesn't use treats, just verbal praise and corrections with the prong collar. He seems to know what he is doing, and has been training for over 20 years, he is from Germany and has trained several and titled several schutzhund dogs.

We have been doing basic obedience, which I had already begun to teach Zelda, but she needed more work with distractions, so I wanted her to get into a group training class. But his basic obedience lessons are a prerequisite for taking his group class. Which is understandable. During our private lessons, I feel like Zelda doesn't respond well to the constant correction. She is fairly nervous, which is what I was trying to work on. He has other dogs on his property (they are kenneled) so she gets a little worked up. It seems like the more I correct her during the lesson, the more defiant she becomes. When I am home, walking to the bus stop, or out with her at tractor supply or home depot...she listens MOST of the time, shes definitely not perfect and the more stressful the situation, the less likely she is to listen.

The trainer is very strict. His big thing is she MUST do what you ask of her the first time you ask. No matter what. For example, this morning we were working on heeling, stopping, and putting her in a down. Which I do with her ALLLL the time, around kids, at the store, while were on walks. But today at his place, she was on edge because there was a guy working on the fence and she just would not relax. So when I stopped and she would go down, he told me to put my hand on her back, push her down with my hand, and pull down on the prong. Because she MUST do what I tell her to do. She got really aggressive and kept biting me when I tried to force her down. Now, just so you get a visual...I am a 95 pound female, trying to wrestle down my 70 pound puppy while she tries to bite the crap out of me . We did this same thing over and over and I will admit by the end, she went down with me only putting slight pressure on her back. I get it, she needs to listen to me, 100% of the time. That is what I am striving for, but is this really working? He told me that if I kept doing it that way for a week she would know that I mean business and she does not have an option. If that is the case, I don't even know how I would train like that. If anywhere else I go, she goes down, how am I supposed to keep forcing her down...unless we are at his house?

Sorry I am sure this is all completely scattered and random, I guess my question is...do you think this is going to help me achieve a more solid obedience foundation? Zelda is my baby, and I feel like I am probably softer with her than I should be. So maybe I just need to man up and be harsh so she will know I mean business?

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post #2 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-10-2014, 03:40 PM
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To answer your question: No, you won't get better obedience. What you will get is as dog that shuts down and does not trust you.

Her defiance is her shutting down, disengaging because she is stressed. She cannot learn and improve if she is in a contant state of stress and mental shutdown. There are some dogs that are very hard and resilliant, and success can be achieved with this trainer's methods, but the average dog, even the hard, resillient dogs, will respond better to positive methods.

For her age and temperament, a minor collar correction is probably all she needs for you to let her know that this is required. If in a stressful environment, even more important that you keep working her with positive methods so she can figure out that "Hey, this isn't so bad after all", and not shut down.

Don't let this trainer's status blind you to your dog's needs. If it were me, and Zelda was my dog, I would just walk away and find someone else.

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post #3 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-10-2014, 03:47 PM
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Also, I've always been of the mindset that forcing a dog to do something is NOT training, it is bullying. You will end up getting bitten, or someone will end up getting bitten if she gets into the frame of mind. This is putting you into a very unfair and unsafe situation.

Work on your relationship. Be fair and be firm, but that does NOT mean that you have to get physical with her. If you get to be physical with her, then you are giving the message that fighting YOU is okay, because, hey, YOU started it. Most of the time when people come on the forum with "my dog bit me" posts, it happened when the dog was not responding and they were trying to physically force the dog to: get in the crate, get off the bed, drop the bone, etc . . . . These are basics that should be matter of fact through day-to-day training and interaction. Getting a dog to listen means that they respect us as leaders, and our status of leader happens through a million little interactions and expectations throughout the day.

It doesn't happen because your dog was overwhelmed and shuttting down, and you assaulted her. (Hey look! I'm STRONGER than you are!). That is NOT being a leader, that is being abusive. NOT saying that you are, I know you were trying to work with the trainer and get the results he expected.

I would find another trainer, maybe a behaviourist to come to your house and observe your regular and normal interactions with Zelda and see if there is a leadership issue - might not be one. Could be that just continuing with positive training and letting her mature some more is all she needs.

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post #4 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-10-2014, 03:54 PM
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In the end if you're not comfortable with his methods then yes you need to find someone else. The end result should be the same though. Complete obedience is a must if you can't over power the dog in an emergency. If she's turning to bite you during a correction she doesn't respect you and you'll need a good trainer to help you get past that in a more positive way IMHO.
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post #5 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-10-2014, 04:10 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks, all I kept thinking this morning was "how can this POSSIBLY be helping her?" I could see the frustration in her eyes and it literally hurt my heart to keep pushing her. I shouldn't have done it, and I did feel like it could possibly be hurting our bond.

We don't really have obedience problems at home, she knows the rules and follows them for the most part. She does have her bratty moments, but she is still young. The problem is more when she is put in a more stressful situation, and doesn't want to listen. Like today, what SHOULD I have done when she wouldn't go down? Even if I had food, if she is on edge because of something, she doesn't care about food, or toys. She just stays focused on whatever it is she is concerned with. So if I told her to go down, and she didn't, am I reinforcing that she doesn't have to listen?

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Originally Posted by JoeyG View Post
If she's turning to bite you during a correction she doesn't respect you and you'll need a good trainer to help you get past that in a more positive way IMHO.
Is it really a respect issue if she tries to bite me when I am literally wrestling her to the ground? Or is that her canine nature? I'm not trying to be rude, I really want to know. If I am giving her a normal correction (verbal or prong collar) she doesn't ever snap at me, but when I was forcing her down to the ground WHILE pulling on the prong, that's when she bit me. Does that mean she doesn't respect me?

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post #6 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-10-2014, 04:18 PM
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Personally...if I say something to my dogs at this point and I know they know the command, I will correct for it. There is no blowing me off because you're focused on something else that according to me isn't the priority at the moment. So I would correct if I said down, and my dog was busy staring at something outside. He knows better, and if he needs a correction to remember what's more important at the moment I'll give him a reminder.
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post #7 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-10-2014, 04:24 PM
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In your first post you state that you are softer on her than you should be....I think this is a source of her resistance to obeying you. It really shouldn't matter what the situation is that she chooses not to obey because she should always obey. If you are being soft, IMO it is making her weak. Dogs need leaders, consistent and firm. If they do not have a leader as an owner, they can take that lead and you see it in misbehavior. You mention situations where she is nervous ...especially at training. If her being nervous makes you nervous, she knows this. She needs you to be confident and secure...she's actually feeding off your insecurity. She's not your baby and will not benefit by being treated that way. Just my 2 cents worth.

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post #8 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-10-2014, 04:28 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by martemchik View Post
Personally...if I say something to my dogs at this point and I know they know the command, I will correct for it. There is no blowing me off because you're focused on something else that according to me isn't the priority at the moment. So I would correct if I said down, and my dog was busy staring at something outside. He knows better, and if he needs a correction to remember what's more important at the moment I'll give him a reminder.
Yes, and that is where I guess I am conflicted. I know she KNOWS what the command is. So if I tell her down, and she refuses, I correct her with the prong. If she still doesn't go down, do I do a stronger correction and tell her again until she goes down? I want her to listen to me even when distracted, and I don't want her to get into the habit of ignoring me. I just need to find a balance between being a push over and wrestling her down to the ground lol.

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post #9 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-10-2014, 04:47 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Judahsmom View Post
In your first post you state that you are softer on her than you should be....I think this is a source of her resistance to obeying you. It really shouldn't matter what the situation is that she chooses not to obey because she should always obey. If you are being soft, IMO it is making her weak. Dogs need leaders, consistent and firm. If they do not have a leader as an owner, they can take that lead and you see it in misbehavior. You mention situations where she is nervous ...especially at training. If her being nervous makes you nervous, she knows this. She needs you to be confident and secure...she's actually feeding off your insecurity. She's not your baby and will not benefit by being treated that way. Just my 2 cents worth.
Thank you, this is all so true! The crazy thing is...my dad was an infantry drill sergeant, I was raised in a very strict household. My husband is currently a drill sergeant, and my parenting style has always been rather abrasive. I am probably more strict and stern than most mothers with my daughter, but she is a smart, respectful, and extremely resilient 7 year old. Because I know what she is capable of, and I expect nothing less. I have always said that I am not my daughters friend, and she may not think I'm the super fun mom now, but that doesn't matter as long as she respects me and I am helping her become a better person. Now, that said, if only I could apply all of that to my canine mothering...Why does that have to be so hard?? You're right though, I am not helping her by babying her.

Like I said, most of the time she listens. But if we are in a situation where she is hyper focused on a distraction and I tell her down, and she doesn't. I correct her, and she still doesn't listen, sometimes I cave. Huge mistake I know, so should I just keep correcting her? Or how should I reinforce the command in that situation.

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post #10 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-10-2014, 05:13 PM
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Had a trainer just like that. Praise but lots of force.

Politely fired him.

Fire yours.

The first response to your post is one you should read and reread several times. It's about a relationship.

Also, treats, especially high-value treats like small pieces of boiled beef liver are without any doubt the best way to train an animal to do what you want. It's a myth that in the future they won't do what you want without treats. Transition them from treats to toys after a while. They most certainly will obey without a treat once they understand what you want them to do.

Some also advocate marker training. Tried it but I'm a fumbling fool with too much to think about with treats, leashes and clickers. Still, without markers it worked out fine.

Repetition, Fun, Treats, Praise, Compassion, Justice, and Variety are the things that makes a dog, especially a GSD, loyal and obedient to you. It take time and commitment. But the bond will be unbreakable afterwards.

The only time I ever use force with my dog is if he becomes aggressive without being commanded to be aggressive. It's amazing now at only a few days from two years old how he looks me right in the eye for direction and how genuinely affectionate he is to me and my wife and how genuinely protective he is of us both.

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Last edited by Longfisher; 10-10-2014 at 05:19 PM.
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