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Assertiveness training

2862 Views 28 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  big_dog7777
I don't know if there's a real term for this, but basically I want/need to work on Kenya's assertiveness training. I've had her for a year now and we got 8 new titles/certificates and will be taking a break from formal training and competition. I want to work on her confidence and maximize her drives. We go to a GSD club every other Friday and this past Friday a couple came to tell us about ring sport and look at our dogs. They said Kenya was a good prospect even though I told them she is sometimes shy and lacks confidence or holds herself back when she's with new people. They said it didn't really matter and that we should start small.

I have no plans to actually DO ring sport, but I want to try this angle for training. They said the first goals are to teach the dog to bark on command, so the dog can engage a helper, and also to get the dog to jump and bite something. I can get Kenya to jump and bite her toy, but we will still work on this since I'm not sure it's a full bite.

I need some tips on the barking. Kenya never barked, not even once, until we got our second dog. Now, she will bark when someone comes to the door IF my other dog barks. The ring sport people said to start marking the dog, but they said we have to try to mark before the bark happens. That's the hard part, because they bark when I come home from work (mostly out of excitement) and they are already barking when I get out of the car. We don't have people at our house very often, so I can't think of a consistent way to mark her barking while I'm already inside. I've tried getting her excited and barking at her, but she looks at me like I'm nuts and walks away. She will bark if someone approaches her aggressively and then does real quick movements, but that is more of a defense bark and I don't want to encourage reactivity.

The other thing I need help with is the tugging. Like I said, I can hold toys and tugs horizontally and she will jump and bite, but she always releases the toy. She will also chase and fetch toys, but she either never brings them back, or brings them and drops them at my feet before I can grab it. If I start to tug, she lets go. Her breeder suggested putting raw meat in a sock and that does work sometimes, but it's so messy and I don't have an infinite number of socks. I can get her to chase and pound on things if I drag them along the ground, but doing this makes me dizzy really fast and she doesn't tug it anyway, just pounces on it, bites, and lets go. I know she CAN tug because she plays tug of war with my other dog!! I have tried stuffies, ropes, a kong wubba, and one of the tugs that has real thick fabric and a handle on each end. I don't know where to start. I try to get it in her mouth and she turns away. I try to turn it into a prey object and she will chase it down, but not bite, fetch, or tug on it.

Also if you have any other tips or games to try, let me know. Basically I want to work on motivation, assertiveness, and confidence. I want to teach the dog that she has more control over our training, she doesn't have to just sit there and stare at me, waiting for a command. When we did our herding test and the ATTS temperament test, the only critiques were that our "umbilical cord" is too short - she looks to me for everything, which is great for obedience and that sort of thing but we don't always have to be so formal all the time.
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I had the same type of problem with my old girl Neke. I had raised her to the point where she looked to me for ALL the decision making - and I squashed ANY form of defensive acitons on her part. A mistake I had to fix.

I started Neke in Schutzhund. They worked her in defense first - since it's all she would do. They "threatened" her and when she reacted I praised the HECK out of her.

The first time she went for the sleeve we were so thrilled!!

It didn't take her long to figure out it WAS a game and that she 'won' when she got the sleeve.

The day after the club trial the judge was evaluating our dogs and giving us pointers and such. Through the translator I explained what I was doing with Neke. The judge approached her and then got down on the ground and played with her. He said everything we were doing was spot on. She would never be a trial dog but her confidence grew by leaps and bounds!
On motivating her to bark, enlist a friend to come over and help with this. Just have them approach the door, maybe ring the doorbell. Have plenty of treats, and when the dogs bark, mark and reward. Soon, once she starts to get it you can do this with just Kenya.
Lauri, so do you think it's OK for her to be barking defensively? What I mean is, it *seems* that it's more of a fear thing. She's only done it once or twice because we wanted to see how she would react to certain movements from large men (she has had issues with men in the past) and what we got was her barking and lunging forward but as soon as the man stopped moving, she quit and came back to me on her own. She would go after the ankles too if I let her. Again, as soon as the man stops, she stops. I described it to my trainer (who is not specifically experienced with GSDs and no SchH experience) and she said it sounded like the dog's instinct is to STOP the man's behavior. I have not messed around with that since then because I didn't want to encourage any fear or reactivity, but I guess if I can use it to my advantage it might work, I'd just have to find someone I trust who has experience training that way.
about her falling off the tug...

keep it moving, don't hand it to her, make her catch it. play keep away until her drive is up, if she beats you and gets it, keep it "alive"

a jute rag on a string tied to a stick...go "fishin"

play, play, play! once she's into it, hold her, have another swish it in front of her, just outside her reach... when she can't reach it, she'll bark a high pitched "prey" bark... then, that bark makes it move, i.e. the rag is dead until just after that bark...that teaches her seh can make things happen barking.

after she barks a bit, let her get a bite, play some tug,that is the reward...when it goes still, she'll drop it.

keep sessions short, leaving her wanting more, end on a success, praise her up like no tomorrow.

make sense?

I'd skip any defense until this is fun...there's plenty of time, AFTER she transitions from the rag to the sleeve and has developed a firm grip in prey to begin any defensive pressure.

My $.02
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Originally Posted By: LiesjeLauri, so do you think it's OK for her to be barking defensively? What I mean is, it *seems* that it's more of a fear thing.

I will submit my opinion on this for your review. It is just an opinion, and I am no expert on ring sport and know just enough in Schutzhund to be dangerous. Bark and click/click bark will work and get her to bark on command, which would be useful to you if you wanted to compete in ring. But it sounds like your main goal is to build confidence in Kenya and you don't care at all about competing in anything - which I think is a great attitude. If she can do it and enjoys it, great. If not, you have a great companion who enjoys agility and OB. My problem with what has been suggested is that you are not working on building her confidence, you're just teaching her to bark. What you want is to work her head so that she feels success when asserting herself. In my opinion the best way to work on that is by enlisting a good helper whether it be in ring or Schutzhund. She is about 5 years old, right? Getting a 5 year old to chase a rag purely in prey is not always easy. She's not a puppy. Puppies can be fooled to think that rag is alive quite easily. As an intelligent adult, that game is not always that alluring. Getting my Diesel started in protection work was very much this way, and he has over the top prey drive. He'll chase a ball till his pads fall off, but we had to start him in defense a bit, and then channel that into prey. A good helper that understands how to work a dog in defense will know how hard to push he so that she gains confidence from her actions, whether those actions include barking or not. Just a thought.
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Yes, John, you are right on (except she is 4). As a pup, she did not tug because the breeder didn't do that. She told me since then she has totally changed and now uses tug like any other breeder and trainer, but Kenya was a "no tug" dog as a pup and she was 3.5 years old when I got her. I've never discouraged tugging OR barking, but up until this point have not worked hard at these things either (I have worked at tug, but not as much as I want to now). The main goal is to work on her confidence and get her more assertive and more engaged - physically - in training. I don't really give a flip about competing in SchH or ring sport. I would like to get the BH but she is on track for that already since there is no biting or barking involved.

I *think* the goal with the bark is to use it as a way to show the dogs that THEY can make things happen. Right now, she looks to me and waits on me for everything. Speaking in more "positive" training terms, she's not a very "operant" dog, meaning she doesn't offer new behaviors a whole lot. For example, her breeder has this pup and I saw it when it was about 14 weeks old and the pup didn't really know any formal commands, but when the breeder set down a basket, the pup was trying things nonstop to earn her treat and her toy - jumping over, pawing, chewing, sitting in the basket, standing in the basket - none if it was trained or even lured, the dog had enough confidence to think she could make something happen on her own, make that toy drop to the floor. Our training director brought out his police dog with a ball under his arm and gave her a bark command and she lit up, got the ball. That's sort of what I'm looking for, I think. But I guess she has to know she CAN bark before we use it in training?

If those ring sport people come back I will ask if they can work with us. They have competed at the highest level and train dogs, plus they setup simulations for police dog training. They were honest but did not patronize. They mainly came to observe and evaluate dogs, so they did not really participate in the training session, and the training session on Friday was for the CGC so it did not involve any form of barking or tugging. The guy said he would "use her prey drive and then work into defense drive" if he was working on her, but that doesn't mean a whole lot to me at this point.
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Originally Posted By: LiesjeThe guy said he would "use her prey drive and then work into defense drive" if he was working on her, but that doesn't mean a whole lot to me at this point.
Actually, she's closer to five years old than four
! What the guy above said is exactly what I was getting at. I feel a combination of work with a helper and tug/ball playing that get her into drive and slowly working towards her just using her instincts and "pushing buttons" with behavior to get success will do her wonders. Play tug like you mean it, and praise the crap out of her when she bites and holds it.
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So how to we build the tug? I can praise her when she tugs, but she doesn't tug. Today she won't bite the toy at all. If I throw it, she chases it but the second it stops rolling or hits the ground she runs back to me or runs past it. My other dog got excited when he saw the tug, so I tugged with him for a while and then Kenya came over to see what was up. She will try to get toys away from other dogs, chase them down with other dogs, and tug with other dogs, but as soon as a human touches it she won't grab for it or hold on at all. That's whats so hard, I don't know HOW to start. I know she has prey drive because the ring sport people said her prey drive was good, the herding judge said it was there, and I have seen her chase down many many rabbits and other small animals, she even perks up at larger wildlife or other dogs being picked up and carried (I've heard this can trigger prey drive and I do see her get a little *too* interested in dogs being carried). It just doesn't seem to carry over to an inanimate object for her.
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Originally Posted By: Liesje It just doesn't seem to carry over to an inanimate object for her.
Which is why you need to make the object VERY animated! Only the most extreme of dogs at the beginning will focus and obsess about a tug or ball that is not moving without having their prey drive for that ball or tug built through drive building exercises. The end result you see on the field (a dog that will do ANYTHING for a tug or ball) is the product of LOTS of drive building and focus games. You need to put more prey-like movement into the tug, and you need to move your body more as well which can trigger her prey drive. Think rabbit. Quick, side to side erratic movement. You would think this would be easy, but it's not. Most new people are very awkward with this at first. You can clip the tug onto a leash, and use a leash to get more movement into the tug which may help by taking the tug out of your hands so she feels more comfortable biting it. The second she bites it mark it with your voice (I suppose you could use a clicker too, but it would be hard to later when she is biting and you want to tug with her while juggling a clicker) and provide resistance. No "suicide rabbits" - you will be tempted to "assist" her in chasing the tug by slowing down and almost hitting her with it or having it jump into her mouth. Don't, it will only lessen her desire to bite it. Better yet, go to Farm and Fleet and get a buggy whip and attach the tug to that. It's very easy to make prey movement with a buggy whip. You can also try a ball, she may like that better. Diesel will chase a tug, but takes a lot more to bite it and hold it as opposed to a ball which he will go nuts for. I like the medium sized orbee balls for this. My female Lowen on the other hand, is the opposite. She will chase a ball, retrieve a ball, but when it's in my hand she's not quite sure what to do with it whereas with a tug she's flying through the air immediately. If there is nobody at your new club that can show you this work maybe check out the Building Drive and Focus DVD that Leerburg sells with Bernhard Flinks. This work is described in detail and shown in the DVD. It's not a comprehensive training guide or anything and it's about 10% of a Flinks seminar (if you can ever get to one GO. He's very good.) but it will help you with this work. If you can get her working in drive, and then heeling in drive she will be much more animated in her work. Have patience, and if she progresses slowly start to reward her taking a step toward the tug and then chasing, and then almost biting and then finally biting. Remember, once she bites praise the crap out of her and keep the prey alive by tugging on the buggy whip or leash. Once you get to that point slowly start working your way up the leash or whip. Eventually she will understand that it's O.K. and she'll be biting it in your hands. Then you get the fun of bloody hands until she learns how to target
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I do have a stuffed rabbit, should I try that? We got it for Coke b/c he's obsessed with rabbit but we don't let him chase them off lead b/c he doesn't come back, so when he gets worked up over a rabbit, I sneak the stuffed one out in the yard and let him "get" it so he actually gets a rabbit every once in a while. Kenya is allowed to chase rabbits because she will come back or I can call her off (but I have to call her like I REALLY MEAN IT). I have always allowed her to chase prey and allowed her to tug with other dogs hoping it might help.

Last night at agility, Coke found a toy and Kenya immediately went over and took it. The toy had been sitting there for two hours and she never cared until Coke picked it up, then she HAD to have it so she stole it from him, he tried to take it back, and they played tug together with it until I took it away.

I don't care if she bites me, she has already a few times. Last week she lunged and got my face from the outside corner of my eye down to my jaw so I had a nice red line. I'd rather have that than no tugs at all!
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Originally Posted By: LiesjeI do have a stuffed rabbit, should I try that?
Maybe, but not if you cannot attach it to a leash or buggy whip and then tug with it. She'll get it, she has the genetic instinct. It's just been supressed up to this point. Make sure you are showing a picture of prey, and not dominance. Don't look her in the eyes, and stand sideways so as not to "square up" on her. Just the body language alone can discourage a bite with a dog that lacks confidence. You can even try it on your knees or laying down so as to present a less intimidating picture.

Also, once she does bite and tug with you watch for countering (pulling hard back against you in short bursts) and for rebites (readjusting her bite for a deeper "fuller" grip). These actions can be very suddle and small at first, but the second you see them take your praise to a whole other level so she understands that is exactly what you are looking for. Once she is countering on top of tugging her confidence goes way up.
If she bites for it should I let her take it or try to tug it?

I think I can attach that rabbit to something, I don't care if it gets ripped apart.
You want her to bite it, and then take it for a second to experience success and since you will have it attached to a leash or buggy whip you can then pull on it to keep it "alive". If she drops it, make it immediately come alive again.
I tried this for a few minutes before I had to leave, didn't have time to attach a leash and run outside, but I moved the tug around along side me (so she didn't have to look AT me) and she did go for it. She will bite it so I release it and let her carry it away. Usually she lays down and wants to chew it, so I praise her for getting it but pick it up again because I want her to learn this is a toy for us playing, not for her to chew by herself. She *almost* tugged back a few times but I'm still just letting her bite it and take it away because I want it in her mouth. I am using the tug toy the ring sport decoy people recommended, one of the softer ones that's like a big tube with a handle on each end. I sort of wave it and drag it along the ground to get her going. She does bite my hand a lot but that's OK. When I was done I hid the toy so she can't chew on it.
I am reading this with interest as Onyx is in the same situation as Kenya about tug/play vs tug/bite. I was also at the training Fri. and it was mentioned that they want the dogs to have a deep bite and hold it, not bite with just front teeth then let go. Does this type of play encourage that bite&hold? I guess you have to start somewhere, and getting a good bite is a good start!
Somebody has some PREY DRIVE
! I am sooo shocked that a dog that shares some of Diesels blood has prey drive.

You are stimulating prey drive, which is literally your dog's instinct to bark and flush, chase, catch, kill and carry prey back to their den. You really need the leash attached to the tug so that you can keep it alive so she stays engaged. Play with her a bit (hard, you should be breaking a sweat when you do this) and then take her into your arms. Cradle her while she holds the tug (put one hand under her chin supporting the tug - not her neck choking her and with your other hand use long slow strokes on her side down her leg). This exercise will allow you to catch your breath and Kenya a chance to relax and clear her head before you continue to play some more.
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Originally Posted By: onyx'girl I was also at the training Fri. and it was mentioned that they want the dogs to have a deep bite and hold it, not bite with just front teeth then let go. Does this type of play encourage that bite&hold?
When done properly, yes. The goal is to get her to understand she really has to work for the bite and unless she has a full bite she may lose the tug. Once she really understands this she will use a full bite, but you have to get past the bite inhibition stage.

I would recommend to NEVER do this in the house (with the possible exception of puppy rag work in the basement during the winter) and the tug or ball that you use only comes out in your hands for only this work. That way it is very black and white for the dog in regards to your expectations. Outside when training she can show power and play/train roughly with you with a ball or tug and inside things are different.
Yes he did mention a full bite. He said to start on softer toys to encourage a more full bite. The tug he showed us is what I'm using, except mine is shorter (his was a looooong tube, which he loops on his foot and holds vertically to train the dog to bite a leg).

She has always had VERY good bite inhibition. Right now I'm happy for ANY sort of mouthing on the toy, and thrilled if she will take it and hold it.

John does Diesel have high prey drive? I am told one of Kenya's sisters is obsessed with balls. I am jealous because she doesn't have much ball drive, just prey drive in general. A ball is no more valuable to her than any other toy or object, which only seem to have value if they are moving FAST, or if another dog has it. She will chase down a ball gladly, but has no interest in it once she stomps it and it stops moving.
Originally Posted By: LiesjeJohn does Diesel have high prey drive? I am told one of Kenya's sisters is obsessed with balls. I am jealous because she doesn't have much ball drive, just prey drive in general. A ball is no more valuable to her than any other toy or object, which only seem to have value if they are moving FAST, or if another dog has it. She will chase down a ball gladly, but has no interest in it once she stomps it and it stops moving.
Umm, does a bear crap in the woods? He has incredible ball drive. In order to really start training in earnest with him I had to make him understand it's MY ball, not his. Prior to achieving this mindset he literally ripped my carhart overalls off of my body (popped out all of the stitching holding the metal clasps) at club. Crazy drive, hard and civil - he is a dog I am learning a LOT while handling. He actually values a ball higher than a sleeve. Outing a sleeve has never been an issue, but outing a ball was at first. When you put movement into a ball and make him miss he will go flying by and you will hear the bite because his teeth are snapping loudly - he's not just trying a little he is biting HARD.

What you describe is very common with older dogs in that she just needs time to know that it's acceptable to bite and that it's what you want. She's also an intelligent female with a somewhat soft temperament (if I remember correctly, which is common in females) who has spent the last 4 years of her life NOT biting so it will take longer.
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