10 month old disengaged pup - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 05-11-2016, 12:42 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Sep 2015
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10 month old disengaged pup

I'm ashamed to say I'm going back to basics with my pup. She's a rescue I got at 4 months and I'm guilty of not being consistent enough and to be honest I was never able to get her to fully engage with me. She's a very intelligent GSD with 1/4 lab in her. I've owned numerous GSDs and I feel like I've never had a dog so "disinterested", although I know this can be a difficult age as well. I'd love to get her in training but honestly I can't afford it right now. When I adopted her I sustained am injury that prevents me from working, but I should be able to return within the next few months. I'm with her 24-7 and my recovery and subsequent depression made it difficult to get the solid training foundation I so badly wanted. So any tips or free resources would be highly appreciated. I fear I will fail her or get too frustrated and end up doing more harm than good. Here are some of our issues:

1) I cannot get her to engage and she's very good at tuning me out. I try leading her with treats to get her to "look", and she may do this a couple times in which I reward her, but then she ends up looking out the window or staring off into space. Even with a favorite toy it is hit or miss when it comes to paying attention. I have been confining it to indoor training since she is way too distracted outdoors. She ends up looking for something else to do like looking for the cat. She'll sit if she feels like it, the same goes for laying down or giving a paw. Very frustrating when I can't find a happy medium; she's either completely disengaged or so high energy that she's not focused.

2) Loose leash walking/pulling. She gets a lot of exercise, I take her hiking 20-30 miles a week. She was pretty good up until a couple months ago. I use a slip lead and sometimes she will walk with a loose leash but many times she's calling the shots...pulling to sniff a good spot, pulling to get up the trail, pulling to try to greet another hiker (must be the lab in her because she loves people so much), or stopping to sniff and refusing to budge. If it's just us two, she will walk decently at times, but if we go hiking with a friend, she gets so excited she just wants to pull ahead, dragging me behind. I'm honestly embarrassed because I feel like a failure. I want her to get the exercise and to be able to spend my hikes with her, but at this point she is practically walking me.

3) Recall. She has always been skeptical to "come". My family jokes that she sometimes acts like an abused dog. I try to lead her to come with a good treat but often times she keeps her distance and just stares at me. I honestly don't get it because all of my previous dogs have come to me very easily for praise.

4) She gets out of control around people. As I mentioned, she LOVES people. To the point I need to bring her outside to greet someone because she might tinkle a little bit out of excitement. She'll jump,although she had gotten better with the jumping. It's nerve racking around small children, and their energy doesn't help. I don't have kids but in public venues she sometimes comes across children who don't ask permission to pet her and jump all over her. (I wish their parents would tell them this is a bad idea! ) I had a friend come over the other day who just had surgery on her shoulder, and I had to hold her down so the dog wouldn't hurt my friend. Not an ideal situation. I've been bringing her to Rugby games since she was little and she wants to approach every single person on the side of the field. I will say, she has gotten much better to the point she can lay down next to me and just hang out at times. People are often so excited to see her it just reinforces bad behavior. I don't want her jumping up every time I greet a friend with a hug.

So these are my main concerns...I try not to get too discouraged because I have seen progress. She used to freak out near traffic and she's getting better. We are sometimes able to walk passed people without her going nuts and choking herself to greet them. All in all, she is a wonderful dog but we need to mind our manners and go back to basics. I've been reading tips and watching online videos but I'm so overwhelmed. Help!
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 05-11-2016, 01:21 PM
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My first thought is that the dog needs time "put away".. It is like she is with you way too much of the time. A bit of separation so that you are "special" and time with you is valued.

Get your crate in operation so that when you need to restrain her from going nuts with a friend, you can put her up. (see crate games for training the crate as a marvelous place )

Let her be happy with people who are happy with a happy, nutso dog.

To get sanity on leash walks (for me walks are for the dog - they get to sniff, they get to explore a bit) you might try the suitcase technique (look it up - it uses your standard collar and leash, looped behind the front legs in the first step of a half hitch, so that if the dog pulls there is pressure around the mid section.) Further, realize that she is best with you rather than with company on the walks. Walk with company when you can let her rip around off lead a bit to start.

On recalls, make it part of your formal training session. Have one of your friends that she's nutso for hold her in a sit stay. You run away and about 30 feet out your friend release your dog (whom you have been calling excitedly) when she is about 10 feet from you, you turn around. (if you call excitedly enough, act silly enough, your dog should be very interested in coming) This is enhanced, of course, if you happen to fall down and curse loudly.

Go find your sense of humor. You seem to have lost it regarding dog training and it is a vital component. Keep your spirit up. Sometimes I think dogs were put on earth to embarrass us. Isn't that why you got her?
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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 05-11-2016, 02:52 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Sep 2015
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Thank you for your suggestions. She's great with a crate, she spends several hours a day in the crate while I go to the gym or run errands. I guess I can stop feeling guilty about leaving her alone because she is fine with it.

Maybe I came off more serious than I intended, I'm just frustrated at times. I'm totally a goof ball with her and we do have a ton of fun together. She adores me and I love coming home to an ecstatic dog. I guess I'm having trouble integrating the obedience into the fun. I don't really know where to start without making it seem too regimented. I guess several short sessions is better than trying too hard and getting frustrated. And also keeping my fingers crossed she is in that phase making it seem more impossible.

Thank you again for the feedback
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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 05-11-2016, 03:55 PM
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I was happy to read your thread. I'm having several of the same issues with my pup (#1-3) plus a few others. I can just really relate to the "feeling like a failure" and I have also seen slow progress and don't want to get discouraged, but I do. It's stressful and frustrating.

I'm home all the time, too, so I was interested in middleofnowhere's response. Taking "away time" makes so much sense. I'm definitely going to do that.

I've raised 2 wonderful GSDs (and 2 other dogs) and this puppy (5 months) is so totally different from them, I feel like I'm in alien territory. Thanks for the thread and I hope for more responses.
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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 05-11-2016, 04:47 PM Thread Starter
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Good to know I'm not alone! I find the frustration has grown because I felt we were doing well until the teenage years seemed to compound everything.

Middleofnowhere, after a few hours I really took your advice to heart. I think I was going into this with the wrong attitude. I just got back from a 1 mile little walk with the pup and just changing my approach has done wonders. I often hike for several hours and I was more focused on MY walk and neglecting the fun part. So I switched gears and made the focus on making it short and sweet for the dog.

Anytime she started to pull, I walked backwards and enthusiastically patted my leg and called her to me. In return, she enthusiastically came. While walking with a loose leash I praised her and she held her head up high with a big doggy smile. I told her she was such a good girl! I even got her to make eye contact which seemed impossible before. Basically, I showed her how fun it is to be by my side and it made for a very fun, stress free walk. We did pass a couple people and she did pull but that's okay, Rome wasn't built in a day.I guess instead of focusing on what she is doing wrong, I need to keep the focus on keeping the right stuff fun. I played with her in the yard after and she normally doesn't pay much attention to her toys and just sniffs around. This time, I focused on having fun with her, and showing her just how darn fun I am to be around. She fetched and came to me when I called her. I threw her a praise party and it was a blast.
I really hope this will pay off and thanks for getting me started on the right foot. You're right, I got a dog to have fun, not to stress over.

Gladly accepting more input to keep this ball rolling.
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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 05-11-2016, 07:39 PM
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May the "quick fix" continue to work! The current pup (2 + yo now) has a purpose in life which is to teach me that I don't know squat - or to make me work. Basically that I am too full of myself. It took over a year to get her trained not to pee indoors! And I could have sworn that house training was no problem for my dogs.... My older dog took about 3 seconds to cue in to ringing a bell to go outside. This one --- Huh? Well that's a neat sound! But I don't get why you are ringing it...

At 2 yo she got her BH - something 6 months prior I was sure would never ever happen.

Someone suggested I trade the ball for the tug in obedience at one point. I said, well, she's not very hot for the tug but I'll try it. Took the tug out at home and it was "Oh yes! Great! Let me get the tug!" Her retrieve over the jump was close to perfect - then she decided to fly over the jump, pick up the dumbbell and look intently at the jump... OK quit the pattern and just throw in a jump once in a while. And knock down training to less often. Viola! Perfect retrieve again but no one was there to see it....

Her true goal is to make me look stupid.... She's doing good at it by the way....
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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 05-11-2016, 07:44 PM
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Another thing I might add, during the "teenage" years of a puppy, they seem to forget everything they've been taught previously. It passes, though.
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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 05-11-2016, 08:35 PM
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It sounds mostly like training consistency issues.

There are some rules to training that you might find useful:
1. Always start each session with something she can do well, so she has success and you can praise her and make the idea of training a positive one.

2. Keep training sessions short.

3. Do something 3 times, then move on.

4. Give commands 1 time. Give her an opportunity to get it right. Then help her to get into the position you want her in.

5. Do not give ANY command that you cannot immediately enforce -- this teaches her to ignore you -- a complaint you have. Do not command a COME, unless she is on lead. Ever. This one isn't optional. It is a lifeskill. If you need to, change the word you use to HERE. On lead, call her name, and then say, COME! if she comes, praise. If not, then a small tug and a lowered tone: NOW! If she comes, praise. If not, then walk to her, realing in the lead as you go, then walk her with her lead to where you wanted her to be, then say, "GOOD COME."

6. Always follow through.

7. Never, ever call your dog to you and then chew her out or punish her in any way. Coming to you is ALWAYS a good and positive thing.

8. For stationary exercises, do not use her name; for exercises where you want her to move, use her name:

Roxy, Come -- Yes.
Roxy, Heel -- Yes.
Stay! -- yes.
Roxy, Stand -- Yes.
Roxy, Sit -- Yes.
Roxy, Down -- Yes.
WAIT! -- Yes.
Roxy, STAY --No.

9. Her name should be associated with good stuff, praise, Good Girl! Good Roxie, Yes! What a good girl you are!

10. Negative markers should not have her name. Roxy, No! -- No. Just say, "No!" or "Eh!" This is not a psychological save her self-esteem thing, it is that you want to mark unwanted attention immediately if not sooner. It is easier for you to connect that No! or Eh! to the behavior you did not want if you do not wait to spit it out. There is simply no point in saying, "Bad Roxy."

11. Timing -- praise behavior you want, and correct behavior you don't want within seconds. I like YES! when I am training to let them know they got it right. Immediately, and then I follow that with "Good Sit" or whatever I was trying to teach. To reinforce the name that I am calling the command. For a negative, I will say "Eh!" and then I will start over completely with the command, a little quicker maybe to help the dog get into the desired position. And immediate praise when they get there.

12. End the session with something fun, that they will have success with. Jazz it up, end on an up-beat, when they still want more.

13. Pay attention to your body language and keep it consistent.

14. Phase treats out. Begin treating only every other time, or every third time, then for the quickest DOWN, and the best SIT, and then for a string of properly executed commands.

15. Break commands into parts, and train at first by staying close and managing distractions to be nil. As your dog gets it, start adding distance and time to stays, and then distractions -- build up to the 5 minute down with distractions, build up to the heel up and down the street, build up to a 20' recall, and a 10 foot stay.

More on come. Once you start the COME command, add a SIT. Every time you tell the dog to COME, have him sit in front of you, close enough for you to pet his head, and touch his collar -- then give him praise and a treat. When you are out walking next to a busy road, and you drop the lead, you want that COME to naturally be a COME FRONT, and petting the head and grabbing the collar.

When you do not have a lead on the dog, and it is time to come in, do not use COME or HERE. Save that for emergencies if the dog is not on a lead. Instead call the dog's name, ROXIE! Put your hand in your pocket as though you are going to get a treat. or run the other way. But do not use the COME command unless you can enforce it immediately. Do not chase your dog -- that is a very fun game to dogs, a very frustrating game for humans, a very dangerous game for dogs, and a heartbreaking game for humans.

It is all about discipline. The secret is, that it is about disciplining the human, so that the human makes sense to the dog, and the dog gains confidence and trust in the human because the human is consistent.

It is easier with classes and a good instructor. Classes provide instant distractions in the form of other dogs and people, and opportunities to learn from others' mistakes as well as your own. It also provides a bit of accountability -- if you are paying for it, if you sacrificed cable tv for dog classes, you are more likely to get out there and do the work every day. Some of us need this. And, classes with a good instructor can help because she can see the interaction between the dog and the person, and make suggestions individual to your dog and you. She can improve your timing, your body language, your consistency. And if something isn't working for your dog, she can suggest something else. If you can't, you can't, but it can make things easier.
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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 05-12-2016, 08:13 AM
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Originally Posted by selzer View Post
It sounds mostly like training consistency issues.
I think this is exactly the problem with my situation. Thank you so much for that post. I know most of that info, but needed the reminder.

Like 1fastRN, I had a back injury shortly after getting our puppy, followed by an illness, so the foundation of his training wasn't consistent and I really need to go back and get it right, so I can build on a solid foundation. I feel very hopeful this morning.
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