Can I ruin a dog? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 34 (permalink) Old 11-17-2008, 04:04 AM Thread Starter
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Can I ruin a dog?

I know this will sound pretty odd to most of you, but I had my first ever training session yesterday with my dog (first with my dog and first of my life). Just a little background--the dog is 2 years old and is way better trained than I am. While I've been around dogs for years and years, I've not done obedience with them. This dog is my first dog as an adult and I wanted to do everything right and well with him.

Between figuring out which foot to step off on, how to hold the lead, where to put the reward treats, and when to encourage, how to pet, etc..., I think I was just awful. I don't just think it. The trainer indeed said as much. I feel like a real idiot, and for as much as I'm trying to get everything straight in my head about what to do and when to do it, my biggest concern is that I'm going to ruin a fantastic dog. Sadly, I didn't even master the walk today. What on earth is going to happen when I have to do something truly challenging?

Those of you with much, much experience (and frankly, if you've had more than one official training session you've got heaps more experience than I), can you tell me anything that will make me stop being such a slow learner and whether I can truly ruin my dog? If so, I don't know what I'll do!
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post #2 of 34 (permalink) Old 11-17-2008, 04:47 AM
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Re: Can I ruin a dog?

can you ruin a dog, yes.
will YOU ruin your dog, NO!

you're here, you're asking and you're willing. dogs that are "ruined" come from homes that don't care or aren't wise enough to ask for help.

a dutchie isnt going to be an easy dog for a first time dog owner, but its definitely possible with work, dedication and patience with him and most importantly <u>yourself</u>!

thats all, just felt the need to say that before i went to bed

oh, and uh, if your nervous chew speariment gum. i dont know how or if it really works, but supposedly its some dog show trick and makes your nerves less detectable to the dog

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post #3 of 34 (permalink) Old 11-17-2008, 04:51 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Can I ruin a dog?

Thanks so much for the wisdom. I think I started off with a Dutchie because, temperament-wise, he's not the typical Dutchie. He's super sweet and calm. I had terrible dreams all night that involved fires, burglars, and wolves that I wasn't able to protect my dog from!

Have any of you ever worked with brand-spanking-new dog owners in obedience? Were they complete knuckle-heads at first? I just kept thinking, "Sheesh, you have a Ph.D.; why the heck can't you walk a dog the right way? Or pet him the right way, for that matter?!"
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post #4 of 34 (permalink) Old 11-17-2008, 08:07 AM
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Re: Can I ruin a dog?

I've worked with those kind of handlers and in 90% of the cases is disheartening, not because the can't learn, but because the CAN and stop trying at the third class and leave the classes for the husband/wife/son etc.

Remember that training is supposed to be a dance, you can put all your brain on the task, but for doing the movements properly you need to develop "muscular memory" like any dancer and you get that not only understanding the exercise, but repeating, repeating and repeating it. It can take a good month before you see it start coming naturally.

Also divide training in small steps you can manage, it is not only valid for the dog, but also for handlers. By example, if you are working with food reward in that moment (and you are in a safe environment) drop the leash, leave both of your hands free to properly reward the dog. If you are working leash corrections use your voice to reward and only give treats after releasing the dog, when you no longer need the perfect tension (or lack of it) in the leash. To learn how to manage a leash attached to a large dog and a bag full of slimy treats that insist on keep glued to each other and to fall to the floor without loosing one or two fingers thanks to the said large dog is too much at first for somebody with only two hands. Toy reward is even more difficult, I'd leave that for later.

Malleable pups survive being trained from zero by dumb owners, your 2 years already trained good dog will be perfectly OK.

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post #5 of 34 (permalink) Old 11-17-2008, 08:25 AM
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Re: Can I ruin a dog?

Originally Posted By: LicanAntai

Malleable pups survive being trained from zero by dumb owners, your 2 years already trained good dog will be perfectly OK.
My Lucy can testify to that!
Keep it up, you'll be fine.

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post #6 of 34 (permalink) Old 11-17-2008, 08:39 AM
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Re: Can I ruin a dog?

Doesn't sound like there is anything wrong with you at all, just typical new person learning something new.

The trainer, on the other hand . . . .

I'm sorry he made you feel so inadequate. There is a lot to learn and a lot to know as a handler. New handlers/trainers often don't realize how body-language oriented dogs are, and how self-aware people have to be about how they move and interact with their dogs. And hard to be natural and flowing once you DO become self-aware! So it is more tricky than people realize. But that is the trainer's job, to show you, but in a positive, encouraging, confidence building way!

Honestly, if you are not enjoying yourself with this trainer, and come away feeling like a failure, it is the trainer that is failing you!

There is nothing wrong is saying that you and your trainer are just not a good match, and moving on to find someone else. In the meantime, the best thing you can do with your new dog is just focus on having fun and building a relationship.

And as Camerafodder said, you already have a good dog, no worries of ruining him! He is there for you to help you learn!


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post #7 of 34 (permalink) Old 11-17-2008, 08:49 AM
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Re: Can I ruin a dog?

I did practice the complicated (for me) obedience moves without the dog first. When I got used to the exercise without the dog (being comfortable as to where my hands and legs were, etc) I started with the dog. Also I would practice small sections of a more complicated routine first and then put it together when the pieces were OK.
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post #8 of 34 (permalink) Old 11-17-2008, 10:17 AM
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Re: Can I ruin a dog?

Quote: Between figuring out which foot to step off on, how to hold the lead, where to put the reward treats, and when to encourage, how to pet, etc...,
This was a beginner class and the instructor was pushing ALL of that??

BAD instructor!!

When I taught beginner obedience classes the first day was spent mostly allowing the dogs to settle in and talking to the owners about leashes and collars and what to use as treats and asnwering questions and just making it a very relaxed, POSITIVE experience.

I'd say the instructor was the one who was awful - not you!
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post #9 of 34 (permalink) Old 11-17-2008, 10:28 AM
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Re: Can I ruin a dog?

i kind of had a harsh trainer for my storm. he was an ex canine cop and although the dogs listened, they listened through fear of him. my storm is a bit fear aggressive, so this guy i believe was going to make him worse. i stuck with the 6 week course, but although it was guaranteed for life i never went back. storm is now 16 months old and doing great with just him and i working quietly together. i took what he taught me and did a spin on it without the harshness. i do quite a bit of socialization, plenty of walks, i let my kids bring a lot of strangers over to the house for storm to build a trust that a stranger isn't always bad. he will bark and be wary of the stranger, but in a few minutes, once he knows the person is not a threat is fine. i'm still careful with whom i let into my home though. like the other night the domino's pizza guy put his hand on my screen door as if he was going to barge in the house. hey, i don't know this guy from a bag of beans. so storm goes instantly into protective mode. well, hey, that's what i expect from a gsd. but training, depending on the location, it's very hard to find a good one. one, that's in between harsh but gets the dog to listen. i find the best way is to get a referral from someone who has been through the class. i felt so inadequate at some of my classes i actually came home and cried. it was like he would embarass us if we didn't do it right!!! hang in there, finish up if you can, absorb what you have learned at class, then you can have the tools to try it between you and your dog.

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post #10 of 34 (permalink) Old 11-17-2008, 10:29 AM
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Re: Can I ruin a dog?

I tend to agree with everyone else, the instructor is expecting way too much of you. Does he know you haven't ever trained a dog?

Training should be fun for the dog, not a stress pit for your dog becuase his handler is stressed out.

Here's what I would do: practice 15 minutes a day with the dog, focusing on doing one thing perfect. Train when you're relaxed, I like to train after my kids are in bed and all the days mess is cleaned up.

Walking in perfect ring formation takes timing and practice. Not unlike jumping rope or step areobics, it's not something you can master immediately. It's rediculous that the trainer expects you to get this the first night.

Practice your left hand grip - pinky to the dog - when you're out taking an exercise walk. The slack doesn't matter much at first, just hold it in your right hand. Maybe it might confuse a dog of lesser intelligence but I never found the left foot right foot thing matters anytime other than when a judge is watching you!


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