Positive reinforcement for distracted dog? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 09-08-2017, 07:55 PM Thread Starter
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Positive reinforcement for distracted dog?

Hi there!

My partner and I adopted a 2-3 year old GSD (Luna) last week. This is my first dog ever, and his first big dog. I have a cat who is more important to me than most people, so I'm borderline paranoid about making sure we properly train Luna to be sure she's safe around the cat.

We had our first private training session today and it left me feeling pretty uncomfortable. The results we got were good, but the methods relied pretty heavily on sharp leash corrections (with a choke collar) and few rewards besides praise. I'm a smallish female so I'm not confident in my ability to jerk my dog around, and even if I could, I don't feel comfortable with that approach.

I've spent the afternoon reading through training theories (corrections are bad! corrections are good!) and it seems like there's a lot of merit to a balanced approach - some leash corrections but also a lot of positive reinforcement with treats, toys, and attention.

The problem is, as a shelter dog, Luna hasn't yet come out of her shell and is pretty easily distracted. She doesn't make great eye contact, gets bored with treats, and unfortunately doesn't seem to know how to play with toys!

I really want to make training a fun experience for her, but it's hard to know how to reward her when she doesn't care about the rewards. Is there a way I can get her more interested in these treats so we can have a gentler, more positive training experience?
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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 09-08-2017, 09:37 PM
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Let her settle in for a few weeks.Get to know and bond with each other.Gsds are loyal and responsive to their families and she's just not feeling that yet.When you all get comfortable and relaxed with one another it will be obvious what motivates her.


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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 09-09-2017, 10:50 AM
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GSD's often struggle with rehoming. Their loyalty to their people makes it a struggle. As with bringing a puppy home I would spend these first few weeks focusing on manners, not training. Teach her what the rules of the house are, work on getting to know her.
I have found that this distraction is an avoidance technique in many cases. They are uncomfortable and unsure so they focus on things other then you. At this point her trust has been destroyed and she is unsure. Work on that. Rather then giving treats randomly drop them as you walk past her. Put your cat away and let Luna explore her surroundings without the potential for any issues. Keep her surroundings proofed for a while so there is no need to potentially give her any grief, and just let her settle in.
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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 09-09-2017, 12:13 PM
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I am not against corrections, but I would definitely keep them to an absolute minimum until she has bonded with you, and is feeling comfortable. I'd only correct her for really serious stuff, like chasing the cat, or other things that just can't be tolerated.

I'd make an effort to reward and praise her for anything she does correctly. LOTS of praise, pats, cuddles (if she's okay with that! Some dogs don't like being hugged, and may even snap.) Lots of enthusiasm to get her engaged in playing.

Toughest case I ever had was a labradoodle I was doing daycare for. This dog did NOT want to play. I took me MONTHS of having him out in the yard as I played ball with my GSDs for him to come out of his shell. He was submissive to the shepherds, so he would always let them take the ball first, even if I tried to throw it directly to him.

Finally, I was working with him alone one day in the kennel, and when I dropped the ball accidentally, he ran to pick it up. From there, we quickly moved to doing fetch with it.

So, you need to be patient with her.
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Last edited by Sunsilver; 09-09-2017 at 12:17 PM.
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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 09-09-2017, 07:10 PM
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I agree with what others have said... Don't worry about training yet. You need to bond with this dog first.

Keep the cat and dog separated for a while. Don't leave the dog unsupervised. Manage undesirable behaviors. There is plenty of time for training down the road.
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post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old 09-09-2017, 09:39 PM
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I agree also with what everyone else has said. I just added an 18 month old male GSD. I have an elderly inherited toy poodle and cats (amoung other dogs...) but the toy poodle and cats are always out in the house loose. I spent the first two weeks just spending time with him. He was in a crate in the room with me if I was busy, out of the crate supervised. At first he was confused and not sure where he was, or I'm sure, why he was here suddenly. Three weeks later he is my shadow. He's figured out how to open my bedroom door and how to jump on the french doors to spring them open enough to stick his nose in to open them enough to get into the bathroom with me. Is nothing sacred anymore? LOL But I didn't start any training for two weeks, until he and I had built a bond.
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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old 09-09-2017, 09:49 PM
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Aww well ... I'm not much a fan of "corrections first" but I'm also not much a fan of trying to "hide cats" in a Cat's first household?? Cat Annoyer and Cat Killers ... different protocols?? I have no idea which this dog is ... so I'll punt.:


If it's a Cat Annoyer then keep a leash on the Dog and "never allow the dog to take one forward" toward the cat, if it's a Cat Killer! Correct the dog hard and well don't allow the dog to take one step forward towards to the cat! I suppose ... I'm kinda anal?? But I have lived with dogs and multiple cats for well 17 years now and I have never had a single issue, so there is that.

If the dog/puppy is a Cat Annoyer ... train Place and call it day.
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