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post #1 of 46 (permalink) Old 11-09-2008, 04:41 PM Thread Starter
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Equipment-dependent (long)

How many of us are mostly or completely dependent on physical means to control our dogs? I'm definitely in that group. From Day One (though we got him at around a year of age), we used a prong with Renji because he is very reactive and pretty hard when it comes to corrections. We do go to training and we do lots of motivational methods to convince Renji that staying with us and maintaining a loose lead is a good thing. When dealing with a stubborn dog, this can be good but he also decides he can have it both ways as the correction for pulling/losing track is not a big deal. We then moved to the Gentle Leader and now I basically have a pissed-off tarpon on the end of my leash, not nearly pulling as much but bucking, rolling, shaking, at times you'd think I was trying to control a green stallion. It certainly didn't add to his reactivity like the prong did in hot situations but his comfort level was lowered and I was still stuck with relying on the leash and the tool. We cannot get anywhere in any trials unless we can break free of this reliance. In short, I have a well managed dog as opposed to a well trained dog. Management doesn't cut it in trials nor should it be acceptable in daily life save for extreme circumstances or unusual situations; the norm should be a well trained dog that obeys because it is more pleasant, it gets what it wants, and it allows for a harmonious partnership.

Many people fail to fully utilize the tools that no store can purchase: body and voice. Our dogs pay very close attention to how we say things rather than what exactly we say. Volume, tone, long and drawn out versus staccato and sharp can make all the difference in the world. Physically, when communicating with a dog all we usually use are our hands. We often forget about the rest of our bodies, pushing away a dog with our hands instead of moving our entire body in front of the dog in a clear signal of "not your concern." Today we went to the park, about a 20 minute walk, using Renji's Gentle Leader rather than our mainstay prong. After a heavy game of fetch, I didn't want to put his GL back on to restrict his panting in any way but I had nothing else left but his flat buckle collar, a pouch of boiled chicken, and myself. Renji does enjoy pulling and will test on a prong or a GL and we tried all manners of training to get him to reduce pulling, but he is a work in progress. I knew that my tone of voice while giving commands does make a big difference and I knew that I could use my body to go a long way with him, so off we went with the buckle collar.

Renji has a tendency to walk faster than I do, a tendency I think most dogs share. It takes a good amount of self-control to settle in at a human's pokey pace. It's also been proven that the pressure from pulling on a collar actually encourages further pulling. Despite a prong, Renji will gladly pull; though not nearly as much, I still do not want a taut leash and it does nothing to teach him not to pull. It is the same with the Gentle Leader though the pressure points differ. He is still used to pulling, but now his discomfort is greater and so is his reaction to the collar. Renji was calmer around other dogs because the prong corrections fire him up (something that happens in quite a few dogs) but he still hit the end of the leash frequently, fought the collar, and I also relied upon the collar and leash way too much. Now that he was on the buckle collar, I radically changed my approach. As much as I could, I pretended that there was no leash connecting me to my dog. Much to my amazement, the results were the best 20 minute walk we have ever had.

I gave the command to walk by my side quietly and calmly, nearly a whisper and in a low, soothing voice. He did not have to walk shoulder-to-leg but he did have to stay reasonably close. If I was beginning to have a lovely view of his rear half, that was outside the zone I decided upon. Once he started to get a little ahead of the zone, I gave a corrective vocal marker. Renji responds well to "hey" and "ah-ah-ah." When giving these negative markers, I made sure to adjust my voice to the infraction. Slightly off, and it would be quiet but firm, a little sharp. If he was quickly exiting the zone, the correction escalated in volume and sharpness but never to an anxious shout or exclamation and as much as possible kept it short rather than "hey hey hey no no no," a trap into which many fall. Sometimes I had to stop and pat my leg to call him back or stop and walk backwards or even turn around, but that is part of using my body. We did walk by two people with dogs but at a distance, and a man, but these distractions would have set him off on a prong or GL. I believe my determination to not communicate through the leash helped him to stay calmer as well. Throughout the walk, I found that I did indeed have a throttle-like control of Renji just with my voice.

That's our story thus far. If we continue on this path, I will soon have a well trained dog and will be able to leave the management to occasional events rather than daily life. Hopefully we will be able to become less reliant on tools like leashes and collars and more reliant on ourselves alone, save for goodies like treats and toys. Dogs still need a paycheck, after all.

Any stories of breaking through the dependencies, bumps in the road, tips and tricks?

Renji - 6 y/o M GSD x chow rescue


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post #2 of 46 (permalink) Old 11-09-2008, 05:17 PM
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Re: Equipment-dependent (long)

Interesting thread, Diana! I just got done posting in another area on teaching a dog to walk on a loose leash, and one of the points I made was that the tools we use should only be to initially give us the behavior so that we can TRAIN. Unfortunately, most people teach their dogs to become dependent on collars, leashes, etc. We find a collar/harness/whatever that makes our dogs walk calmly and we continue to use it without doing anything to reach the goal of not needing the collar/harness/whatever. And then the dogs become accustomed to it and we run into the problem of being unable to wean the dog from the tool.

This is a training problem more than anything else. I decided a long long time ago that my goal, for all of my dogs, is to have a dog that is consistent and reliable without any leash or collar. I don't always hit that goal (Chows are not the easiest dogs to trust off-leash .. *L*) but that goal helps keep me from depending too much on any particular tool. I try to use collars that are the least invasive to the dog because it's much easier to transfer to off-leash when the DOG has not become too focused on what's around his neck.

I start off-leash work from the time I get a pup. Trick, Khana, Tazer - they were all doing off-leash recalls at 8-9 weeks of age. I taught them to follow me, to chase me, to anticipate reward and petting and praise and FUN when they came to me. I used the older dogs to help teach the younger dogs - my old male GSD, Dawson, helped teach Trick to come when she followed him to me on a recall, and years later Trick helped teach Khana and Tazer the same thing. I like starting with a non-dependence on leash or collar, because it is good for the dog as well as me.

Now, there are times when a collar and leash are necessary, and at those times I have to choose what is going to work for each particular dog. I like the Gentle Leader harness because it's so effective and easy for someone with sore hands to use (which is my main problem). I occasionally use a prong collar and occasionally use a shock collar if I feel I need some additional control off-leash (for play times mostly). But I also realize that every time I put something like these on my dogs, I'm bringing their focus to what's on their neck and taking it away from me.

Much of my philosophy came from the work I did with horses many years back. I started out with a horse who had little training - and I had little training (although at the time I THOUGHT I knew a lot! *L*). We were together for 17 years, Fireweed and I, and during that time we developed an absolutely amazing trust. It got to the point where I could ride him with NOTHING on him - no saddle, no bridle, no halter - not even a bit of twine. He responded to my voice and my body cues, and we even rode through the woods and along roads like that. I did demos with him at shows, where I rode out with just a halter and rope, then unbuckled the halter and pushed it off his head and went out into the arena and loped circles and showed how we communicated without the use of any tools at all. I had to trust him absolutely, and he trusted me too.

So when I moved to dogs, I carried some of that same philosophy with me. Learn to trust and show your dog that he can trust you. I went through some rough spots - times when I believed the trainers and used force instead of understanding - but finally I came back to the same philosophy of using the least to obtain the most. And for those who want the deepest and best relationship with their animals, it's a valuable philosophy to have.

Good topic!

Melanie and the gang in Alaska

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post #3 of 46 (permalink) Old 11-09-2008, 05:32 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Equipment-dependent (long)

Melanie, glad to see you have responded. You're actually a big inspiration for me; if I can achieve even a fraction of the control you have, that would be huge for me. You're right that there are times to have leashes and collars, and in today's world I don't think I would trust having Renji completely loose, without even an e-collar for backup, but that is only because no animal- not even humans- is 100% reliable. I feel it is fine to have these tools as backup in case of those unexpected moments as it could mean the difference between life or death or lawsuit, but just because the tools are there does not mean they should be used.

I made a mistake by not working with Renji from the start in this method so now we have to overcome a large obstacle. I need to refine my leashless communication with Renji and build my trust in him along with Renji having to trust me and listen to me. Not "listen" as "obey," but as in paying attention like two people having a conversation. We cannot have lecturer-student communication but rather a communication more along the lines of two people engrossed in back-and-forth conversation. As you said, this is something that is best begun in puppies; if they learn as much as possible without the leash, that is the world they know and understand and I think a stronger foundation is built. The "philosophy of using the least to obtain the most" says it best.

I always admire riders who ride their horses with as little equipment as possible. That is true teamwork.

Renji - 6 y/o M GSD x chow rescue


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post #4 of 46 (permalink) Old 11-10-2008, 05:08 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Equipment-dependent (long)

Since my initial post, we went outside several times with just the buckle collar and each time we were 100% successful. Today, his after-work potty break was met with the lab across the street and a bunch of teens running and taking jumps with bikes and of course, the buckle collar. Success again. I should note I am using a very powerful motivator- a can of squeez cheez. Okay, it's not the healthiest, but by golly does it EVER get the job done.

There is hope for Renji (and me) yet.

Renji - 6 y/o M GSD x chow rescue


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post #5 of 46 (permalink) Old 11-10-2008, 08:23 PM
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Re: Equipment-dependent (long)

Diana,

LOL, I can fall into the category as well.

When I go to the park, I use a prong, and he looks at other dogs, but he doesn't touch (no correction needed, just the collar on is enough for him). I am not a meet and great dog owner anymore, I just socialize him with the few dog friends I have, it's enough.

I haven't had to do a correction for about 1 year now.

On the walk at home, and on hikes, I have a 2 inch thick aggitation collar that I use (from Ray Allen K9), it's nice and thick.

Jasper doesn't pull alot, just more interested to say it nicely in other dogs (not aggressive, just wants to see closer

I walk him right next to me on walks at the park and at home.

On hikes and walks on paths, he gets the long line.

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post #6 of 46 (permalink) Old 11-10-2008, 09:48 PM
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Re: Equipment-dependent (long)

I'm glad to say Diabla doesn't fall in that category. I had that problem with my Border and from minute one I started training with Diabla with no collar. to the point that when we competed in the novice category, wich is done on-leash Diabla was a little distracted, but when I took off the leash for the in motion exercises and recall she awoke, like she tought that before that we were walking around and "now" the real trial started.

I feel I can trust her as much as you can trust a teenager pup, which is of course not 100% of the time, but close enough to be functional. I started with her as a pup giving a huge importance to the focus, not only looking at my eyes as in the SchH fuss, but to be aware of me and what I'm doing all the time. From my SAR background I inherited an excersice in which, no matter what the dog is doing, if I say Platz she inmediately goes down, as you may have seen in the send away exercise, but done everywhere, under heavy distractions and without warning. We practiced this as soon as she learnt the down and it hasbecome a fun game for her, to the point that when she wants me to play with her she runs and lies-down spontaneously where I can see her, as if by doing so I'm going to throw the ball for her. She has learnt this way that every trekking is playtime and that I'll wait for her to be the more distracted to out of the blue I'll say Platz and if she's not quick enough she'll miss the reward. I prefer this than to be nagging the dog by calling them once and again to reward them and teach them the recall, as sooner or later the dog gets tired and becomes Velcro. Also from SAR I'm not a fan of Velcro dogs.

In on-leash walks she has a tendency to go ahead of me, which doesn't botter me as long as she doesn't pull (I don't buy the dominance - walking ahead CM thing) we still have problems in places with too many people, but its my fault because I don't train enough in that kind of places because I don't go there too frequently either, not I like them. as Diabla is with me most of the day I don't have the need to walk her around the block. In those cases I more likely use a prong

I think part is the early training, and part is a genetic factor since her drives and bidability are the best of any dog I've ever owned or worked with. I know I couldn't ever achieve with other dogs I work with (GSDs too) even if I raise them the exactly same way, what I've got with her. But to me the key is the bond I share with her, and I'm not talking she's in love with me and following with besotted eyes every movement I make, because she's not the kind of sweet girl that follows me around the house. It's more like a healthy balance between love, partnership and obedience. She only occasionally needs a second command and a single no is usually enough to stop any behaviour (not that she doesn't try again a few minutes later, just in case I'm not looking) but overall she's not only attentive, but eager to obey, without that I'd have to be relying in more and more tools. I'm not even using the e-collar I have because I've not felt the need to.

Diabla Boroluz, my Daemon; IPO-A1, RH-T A
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post #7 of 46 (permalink) Old 11-11-2008, 08:43 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Equipment-dependent (long)

Jack, it doesn't sound like you're equipment-dependent anymore! If you haven't had to use the leash to communicate corrections, that sounds pretty good. However, if you take off the prong and he realizes that he can do whatever he wants, that's a different story. But it sounds like you have everything under control as it is. Good job!

Catu, great post! Congrats on such success with Diabla.

Quote:
Quote:from minute one I started training with Diabla with no collar.
When I get a pup, I plan on doing this from the first moment as well. I think this really does make a difference not only for the dog but also for the handler. This would force the handler to be creative in keeping the dog's focus rather than nagging/redirecting with the leash.

Renji - 6 y/o M GSD x chow rescue


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post #8 of 46 (permalink) Old 11-11-2008, 10:36 AM
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Re: Equipment-dependent (long)

Quote:
Quote: Quote:
from minute one I started training with Diabla with no collar.


When I get a pup, I plan on doing this from the first moment as well. I think this really does make a difference not only for the dog but also for the handler. This would force the handler to be creative in keeping the dog's focus rather than nagging/redirecting with the leash.
Just something to think about.. And the only reason I'm commenting on this is because I have dogs of different bloodlines..

It depends on the dog.. Some are more apt to stay with you and really want to please, maybe because they have more pack drive..

Then there are those that are more independent and you have to work much harder at being more fun then what's going on in the environment.. And you really can't let them off leash because they will run off away from you


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post #9 of 46 (permalink) Old 11-11-2008, 12:02 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Equipment-dependent (long)

I'm not at all suggesting a dog be left off leash. I am suggesting the use of the leash more as a safety line as you say and less as the main mode of communication. I'm paranoid when it comes to oopsies in reliability so I don't think I'd ever advocate ditching the leash/e-collar backup.

So any new people reading this, please keep your dogs leashed for safety! There is a difference between relying on the leash for safety and relying on it to direct the dog's behavior.

Renji - 6 y/o M GSD x chow rescue


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post #10 of 46 (permalink) Old 11-11-2008, 12:57 PM
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Re: Equipment-dependent (long)

What I did at first was to work with a long leash (3 meters, no loop at the end), only the leash was not in my hand, but hanging behind. This way I could step over it if the pup got too distracted which was not only a safety tool in case of something, but also taught the pup that if we were working the fun was with me and not anywhere else and even if my hands were free she has no choice to go to hunt butterflies whenever she wanted.

Diabla Boroluz, my Daemon; IPO-A1, RH-T A
Akela de Poputchik, my Direwolf; IPO-2, Kkl1
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