Deviated from Positive Training & Feeling Guilty... - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 52 (permalink) Old 12-14-2017, 04:05 PM Thread Starter
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Deviated from Positive Training & Feeling Guilty...

So our rescue dog (shepherd mix) is such a GOOD dog. A slightly stern "eh eh eh" will correct anything he's thinking about doing, but I haven't had to say "eh eh eh" since the first month. (For example, he taught himself to down-stay before I serve his food, because he noticed that made me happy. )

When I first started walking him, it seemed like he had rarely been walked. He would pull like crazy towards bushes, smells, deer, whatever, and zigzag all over the sidewalk and road. We started obedience class and I learned to give him praise & a treat for looking at me and walking beside me. And, when he pulled hard, I would "make like a tree." This quickly fixed the hard, rude pulling.

However, our walks are now like this:
He walks ahead at the very end of his leash, the leash is straight between us, and it's just enough where I feel a bit of tension but it's not really a pull. Every once in a while, whenever he feels like it, he will come back and walk beside me for a few steps, to get his praise/treat fix. Then a few more steps, and he'll go back to walking at the very front of the leash again. Did I mention he is smart... he figured out exactly the threshold that is just below a Pull!

Today after 20 minutes of this, I got annoyed. We reached a wider section of the trail and when he was at the very end of the leash, I gave him a pop on the collar and turned and walked the other way. He was confused at first, but after 5 or 6 repetitions, he stopped forging ahead. For the rest of our walk, he was watching me out of the corner of his eye and he kept the leash hanging in a curve. (Did I mention he is smart...)

However I am pretty sure our obedience teacher (positive) would not approve of leash corrections!
Her approach is to train loose leash walking with treats, but the problem is, he doesn't care enough about food to keep close to you...he will bother with food ONLY if it's a boring part of the walk?

But, I am feeling guilty ...
He wasn't his usual perky self after the corrections - his ears were down a bit, and his head too.
Usually he is walking with head up and ears pricked, he looks like a happy confident dog.

I wonder if there's some way to fix his "very end of the leash" walking habit without using "correction"...
But I also realized that the "correction" way seemed a lot more quick and effective than these weeks of endless tidbits of chicken...

So, feeling guilty and not sure if I should keep using the leash correction way?
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post #2 of 52 (permalink) Old 12-14-2017, 04:14 PM
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I don't think the problem here is so much the leash corrections, but allowing a behavior to go on so long and now wanting a quick fix. IMHO that is not fair to the dog.

Consistency is the key to training, no matter what school of thought you are using. You have not been consistent with him. He was not wrong in his confusion. You let him for the majority of the walk do X and then at the very end you made him do Z without really explaining to him exactly what Z is.

What is the problem with his end of leash walking? Why do you want to correct it?

Personally, if he is not pulling I would leave it be. I would also teach a formal "heel" command for when you went him by your side. Personally I like to use treats to lure to train the position, then I build up the 3Ds with positive methods, and finally use corrections once I KNOW the dog 100% knows the commands, has generalized to many areas, and can perform under distraction. Corrections only to proof behavior has worked well for me and ends up with a good 95% of the entire training to be positive only.
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post #3 of 52 (permalink) Old 12-14-2017, 04:17 PM
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I'm not a trainer or an expert, but I don't think you should feel guilty. A leash pop for pulling should be fine. Just praise or treat your dog afterward when he's walking correctly. I think my dogs should have fun with me when we're training; I use mostly positive techniques, but sometimes it's just not appropriate in my opinion, especially for powerful working breeds like GSDs. My opinion: don't worry about it. And find a new trainer (I'm mostly kidding about that last part.)
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post #4 of 52 (permalink) Old 12-14-2017, 04:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by voodoolamb View Post
I don't think the problem here is so much the leash corrections, but allowing a behavior to go on so long and now wanting a quick fix. IMHO that is not fair to the dog.

Consistency is the key to training, no matter what school of thought you are using. You have not been consistent with him. He was not wrong in his confusion. You let him for the majority of the walk do X and then at the very end you made him do Z without really explaining to him exactly what Z is.

What is the problem with his end of leash walking? Why do you want to correct it?

Personally, if he is not pulling I would leave it be. I would also teach a formal "heel" command for when you went him by your side. Personally I like to use treats to lure to train the position, then I build up the 3Ds with positive methods, and finally use corrections once I KNOW the dog 100% knows the commands, has generalized to many areas, and can perform under distraction. Corrections only to proof behavior has worked well for me and ends up with a good 95% of the entire training to be positive only.
So much of the benefit of a walk is allowing the dog to be a dog. I like for my dog to sniff around and have a lot to process and just be a dog. I think she gets better mental exercise and more fun out of that than being asked to heel for three straight miles. I do throw in some heeling, if only because we sometimes need to let somebody pass, but I don't make her do it the whole time.

I taught my dog "left side" and "right side" - those commands are code for, "I want you to walk on X side of me, I don't care what you're doing as long as you're not lagging behind or pulling ahead, stay in range of the leash on that side of me so I don't trip on you and have fun." Then when I want her to heel, I ask for that.
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post #5 of 52 (permalink) Old 12-14-2017, 04:35 PM
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I find it mildly amusing when humans feel bad using the occasional leash pop and leash pressure. Our dogs do it to us without any guilt. They drag us around to make us go where they want (leash pressure) and lunge if they are very excited (leash pop). Rewards are very good for establishing new behavior and redirecting. To stop a behavior takes something the dog does NOT want, even if it is turning to go the opposite direction or not moving at all.
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post #6 of 52 (permalink) Old 12-14-2017, 05:18 PM Thread Starter
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Well, what gets annoying over time is, with his "edge of the leash" walking, I will often find myself thinking, "Hmmm, this is getting kind of hard. Should I allow this? Should I stop now and do the tree thing?"
And the minute I start thinking, "Yes, this is true pulling now! I should stop..." he will slow down for a few steps and the leash goes slack...YES my dog is smarter than I am.

And sometimes I will realize that I am walking with my arm stuck straight out in front of me like a zombie ... but no, he's actually not Pulling...
I can consciously make myself drop my arm back to my side, and that's fine too, but then later I'll find my arm stuck out in front of me again...

I am fine with sniffing and dog-things and of course I want him to enjoy our walks.
I would just like to be able to walk in a bit more relaxed way myself!

I am not really that interested in formal heeling but I casually trained it a bit in the house. "Follow Me" and I pat my leg, and I have a few treats, and he follows me everywhere in position - he has a smile on his face, his head is up, he is joyful. Right now that I try it on a walk, I'll say "Follow me" and he'll be busy sniffing and he'll be like, "Thanks, but don't want a treat right now. Busy right now. Maybe later." (He is a polite dog. I am a puzzled dog trainer!!)
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post #7 of 52 (permalink) Old 12-14-2017, 06:10 PM
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Originally Posted by GSDchoice View Post
Well, what gets annoying over time is, with his "edge of the leash" walking, I will often find myself thinking, "Hmmm, this is getting kind of hard. Should I allow this? Should I stop now and do the tree thing?"
And the minute I start thinking, "Yes, this is true pulling now! I should stop..." he will slow down for a few steps and the leash goes slack...YES my dog is smarter than I am.

And sometimes I will realize that I am walking with my arm stuck straight out in front of me like a zombie ... but no, he's actually not Pulling...
I can consciously make myself drop my arm back to my side, and that's fine too, but then later I'll find my arm stuck out in front of me again...

I am fine with sniffing and dog-things and of course I want him to enjoy our walks.
I would just like to be able to walk in a bit more relaxed way myself!
Have you considered a hands free leash? I have always found that more relaxing and comfortable for long walks.

It's a fixed length where as you holding your leash is not (because your arm changes position making the leash longer at times and shorter than others). This goes back to that consistency thing. Sometimes the dog has a 6 foot leash, sometimes an 8 foot leash. What has he actually been TAUGHT in regards to how much "freedom" he gets on walks? For example - my dog was taught to put slack in the line as soon as there is any tension on it. Other dogs are taught a fixed radius of where they can go.

Quote:
I am not really that interested in formal heeling but I casually trained it a bit in the house. "Follow Me" and I pat my leg, and I have a few treats, and he follows me everywhere in position - he has a smile on his face, his head is up, he is joyful. Right now that I try it on a walk, I'll say "Follow me" and he'll be busy sniffing and he'll be like, "Thanks, but don't want a treat right now. Busy right now. Maybe later." (He is a polite dog. I am a puzzled dog trainer!!)
This is a classic case of asking too much too soon. It is VERY important to train dogs in an variety of environments and under many different distractions. They don't tend to generalize well. Your dog was in no way ready to follow your command under that level of distraction. He has to be taught "follow me" outside too. Starting somewhere quiet with low distractions (maybe the backyard) and working your way up to walk-level distraction.

And BTW giving your dog a command in a situation where he isn't ready to follow it, especially if you do not immediately enforce it - is a good way to break commands and get a dog that only listens sometimes.

Everytime you say "follow me" he gives you that "I don't want a treat right now" look - you are basically teaching him that your commands are OPTIONAL.

Also... you may need to re-evaluate if food is motivational enough to be a true reward for your dog. I use food as a lure because it's NOT exciting for my dog. It's interesting enough that in a LOW distraction environment he will work for it, but not a going to make him go cray cray with excitement so he can actually THINK about what I am teaching him sort of thing. Out in the "real world" treats are meh. I worked to build drive for the tug/ball and I use PLAY as my main reward. My dog loves engaging with me for fun stuff waaaaaaay more than all the sniffs out there so he works hard to get it regardless of all the sniffs, places to pee and things to eat.

Last edited by voodoolamb; 12-14-2017 at 06:13 PM.
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post #8 of 52 (permalink) Old 12-14-2017, 06:15 PM
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post #9 of 52 (permalink) Old 12-14-2017, 07:47 PM
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Originally Posted by GSDchoice View Post
However I am pretty sure our obedience teacher (positive) would not approve of leash corrections!
Her approach is to train loose leash walking with treats, but the problem is, he doesn't care enough about food to keep close to you...he will bother with food ONLY if it's a boring part of the walk?

But, I am feeling guilty ...
He wasn't his usual perky self after the corrections - his ears were down a bit, and his head too.
Usually he is walking with head up and ears pricked, he looks like a happy confident dog.

I wonder if there's some way to fix his "very end of the leash" walking habit without using "correction"...
But I also realized that the "correction" way seemed a lot more quick and effective than these weeks of endless tidbits of chicken...

So, feeling guilty and not sure if I should keep using the leash correction way?
Okay, first off. You did the correct thing. He wasn't obeying you, even though he knew the rules, and was testing his limits by "technically" not pulling--which is probably what you've inadvertently taught him. Your leash corrections merely made it clear that his slight pull is not loose leash walking. That's all you did, and given he's so receptive to you, it's unlikely you'll have to correct him too many more times (I'd predict a few when he sees a squirrel or dog or something really exciting that makes him forget the rules).

By the way, his ears being back and his head hanging a little low is submissive behavior showing he has recognized your leadership. He was also probably a little shocked and puzzled that he'd been corrected since you'd never done it before.

The only change I'd make is something that I think you'll actually like. Next time you have to correct him, do as you just did, but the second he's where he's supposed to be, give him his treat. That way, you're providing a stronger version of your "eh eh eh", and rewarding him for behaving just as you've always done. That will help make your corrections make more sense. He'll put two and two together very quickly. However, I would also start to phase out treats in favor of praise. I imagine that won't take very long since he's very attentive to you.

Last edited by Kyrielle; 12-14-2017 at 07:52 PM.
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post #10 of 52 (permalink) Old 12-14-2017, 08:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GSDchoice View Post
So our rescue dog (shepherd mix) is such a GOOD dog. A slightly stern "eh eh eh" will correct anything he's thinking about doing, but I haven't had to say "eh eh eh" since the first month. (For example, he taught himself to down-stay before I serve his food, because he noticed that made me happy. )

When I first started walking him, it seemed like he had rarely been walked. He would pull like crazy towards bushes, smells, deer, whatever, and zigzag all over the sidewalk and road. We started obedience class and I learned to give him praise & a treat for looking at me and walking beside me. And, when he pulled hard, I would "make like a tree." This quickly fixed the hard, rude pulling.

However, our walks are now like this:
He walks ahead at the very end of his leash, the leash is straight between us, and it's just enough where I feel a bit of tension but it's not really a pull. Every once in a while, whenever he feels like it, he will come back and walk beside me for a few steps, to get his praise/treat fix. Then a few more steps, and he'll go back to walking at the very front of the leash again. Did I mention he is smart... he figured out exactly the threshold that is just below a Pull!

Today after 20 minutes of this, I got annoyed. We reached a wider section of the trail and when he was at the very end of the leash, I gave him a pop on the collar and turned and walked the other way. He was confused at first, but after 5 or 6 repetitions, he stopped forging ahead. For the rest of our walk, he was watching me out of the corner of his eye and he kept the leash hanging in a curve. (Did I mention he is smart...)

However I am pretty sure our obedience teacher (positive) would not approve of leash corrections!
Her approach is to train loose leash walking with treats, but the problem is, he doesn't care enough about food to keep close to you...he will bother with food ONLY if it's a boring part of the walk?

But, I am feeling guilty ...
He wasn't his usual perky self after the corrections - his ears were down a bit, and his head too.
Usually he is walking with head up and ears pricked, he looks like a happy confident dog.

I wonder if there's some way to fix his "very end of the leash" walking habit without using "correction"...
But I also realized that the "correction" way seemed a lot more quick and effective than these weeks of endless tidbits of chicken...

So, feeling guilty and not sure if I should keep using the leash correction way?
Your dog has a right to know that his actions have consequences.

And now he does.
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