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Hi all! I'm new to the forum and new to GSDs!

I have a nearly six month old female GSD, smart as a whip and quick to pick up on tricks and obedience in general.....except for when she's just not feeling it.

On walks, everything around her, smells, sights, sounds are all far more interesting than me and even the tastiest most exciting treats I can muster which are usually more than enough as she's quite happy to work for food. Generally, I've just allowed her to explore as long as she's not pulling on the leash or otherwise practicing undesirable behavior like digging or eating random things like dead frogs...you know, the like :). My question is, knowing her age and that she is still exploring her world, should I really break her away from learning as much as she can about it when she isn't really misbehaving?

For a bit of background, she will walk at my side and basically heel in the house and in our yard on leash and off, though I haven't put it on cue as a heel yet. It's only outside the fence that her focus shifts from me to the world.

And if I should be working on getting that focus back...how can I build that engagement? Food doesn't consistently work, toys don't work at all....what can I, personally, be doing to make this more fun for her? :)

My intent is not to enter rally or any obedience competitions, but I would eventually like to get her CGC to open up the door for some recreational sports to keep her active and happy and entertained. I'm less worried about doing it all in a hurry than I am about doing it right and making sure she's having fun.

Our walks aren't usually too long around our neighborhood because we run the risk of coming across some pretty ill behaved dogs, so I don't think the duration is the issue, unless it's just that she's not getting enough exposure so it all seems novel?

Pictures of Briar as a reward for slogging through all that!
 

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Welcome to training with distractions! I went to my first group training with a pup who would sit/stay, down/stay, heel, sit/down during heel, had a really good recall, would follow hand signals at a distance for down/sit. He was a food maniac with good toy/prey drive and worked hard for those rewards. Needless to say I was excited and cocky to show off against a bunch of dog owners who couldn't even walk on a loose leash. In short, I had a real rockstar - in my backyard. The second we hit that new field with all these new people, dogs, chickens, cows everything went out the window and I was on the same playing field as the rest of the class. Also at 6 months old. Luckily he caught up at about the 3rd class because he got familiar with the environment and was back to being more interested in food than all the exciting stuff going on around him.

Ok so anecdotal story outta the way let's get to it. I figured out that for my dog to be solid and trustworthy in new situations I need to train him as many new places with as many distractions as possible. I'm a guy, so for me putting on this silly high pitched excitable voice, and being overly exciting telling this dog "good boy!!" As im walking thru a tractor supply training my dog to heel was embarrassing. But it did the trick for him and got his attention back on me and off the popcorn on the ground. Or the old lady sticking her hand out for him to sniff before attempting a pet, etc.

The point I'm attempting to make is if you want your dog to be as obedient in distractions as he is at home - you gotta go out and train in distractions. Also he's only 6 months old. It doesn't happen over night and takes a lot of commitment.
 

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Thegooseman90, thanks for taking the time to reply!

Yeah, distraction training is proving a tough one! Up until she hit five months she was doing wonderfully in her group class. Now she's hit her stride on the teen years early, but I did put your advice to work this morning while on our morning walk and it seemed to work fairly well! She looked at me more often, though she wasn't terribly interested in either treats or toys. I think with time it could definitely work. And like I said before, I'm not in any hurry!

Cloudpump, that is an amazing article and I've favorited it so I don't lose it. It's given me a good starting point for a plan going forward. I think part of my problem is that I just wasn't being exciting enough, so she's looking elsewhere. Who could blame her. Thanks for sharing!
 

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Oh oh oh, me me me me..... just did this.
I have the same dog, well no, but.... my dog has no real desire for a toy. He's trained to fetch for food. He isn't all that keen on food. He's pretty keen, very keen, on chasing me if I run, but I can't run that much. Etc....

Soooooo...I just took a 5 day Play with your food challenge, the Collared Scholar, Meagan Karnes (giving credit where credit is due), and I have notes I can share, just ask.

I've been doing this for about 2 weeks and big changes.

Basic principle, turn food into a toy. All dogs have some food drive, or they would be dead. Under stress, a lot of dogs lose interest in toys before they refuse food. So by turning food into a game you have a powerful reward in more places and more situations.


I can now get his engagement under more circumstances.

Here's another game that might work if your dog has another significant person. Go out with that person, separate in space, call (cheerfully, not obedience) your dog back and forth between you. If no interest in a toy, have food, but do the 'play with your food' thing, make the food fast exciting & fun. String cheese separated into string and presented live & wriggling really turns my dog on, mind the fingers though.

I don't want to dump on your post. The technique I learned has 5 separate steps. Will share if interested, but it has really worked to build engagement with my dog who has extremely high prey drive (for wildlife), and unreliable toy drive, and moderate food drive.

Hope that helps.
PS. pretty normal to have dogs finding the wider world more compelling at times, don't beat yourself up over that.
 

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Exactly where I got my fabulous advice from. She runs online training groups (priced) but also a few times a year runs FREE challenges. I signed up for the 5 day FREE one, and found the wisdom to be priceless. The video's are only available during the challenges, though. I'll let everyone here know when the next FREE challenge runs. Paid classes come up on a continuous basis.
 

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This is purely for sake of discussion - not to knock on anyone's training- and because I'm trying to think this through, always trying to learn better ways of training.

My question is - do we always want to raise arousal in or dogs with the recall? Food raises arousal, toys raise arousal. Of course we train recall initially in motivational way- I like to use food in young pups, then phase that out and use food or toy very rarely. If at all.

My concern is, I usually call my dogs to get by something that is arousing to them- another dog, a car, a deer, a moose, a snowmobile. (yeah, they are pretty easily stimulated...). I want them to be happy to recall, but at the same time, I don't want to have the dogs come back and then "chase" me, or the food, or a toy every time. For one, it is impractical with toys for multiple dogs outside of a controlled setting. For another, when they see, well, anything unusual, their default is arousal. I want them to return to my side, and get into a calm, clear state of mind instead.

I've noticed in my own training that I often do use the pack-chase to get them off trail to pass stuff- I run off trail, they follow... I'm now thinking this is not really the best way to go about it and am working on a calmer way to do it. In fact, I'm thinking I need to phase this out so that we are all "calm".

Any thoughts?

This is specifically for off leash walks- this does not apply to sports where "training in drive" might make more sense (or not, open to discussion).
 

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This is purely for sake of discussion - not to knock on anyone's training- and because I'm trying to think this through, always trying to learn better ways of training.

My question is - do we always want to raise arousal in or dogs with the recall? Food raises arousal, toys raise arousal. Of course we train recall initially in motivational way- I like to use food in young pups, then phase that out and use food or toy very rarely. If at all.

My concern is, I usually call my dogs to get by something that is arousing to them- another dog, a car, a deer, a moose, a snowmobile. (yeah, they are pretty easily stimulated...). I want them to be happy to recall, but at the same time, I don't want to have the dogs come back and then "chase" me, or the food, or a toy every time. For one, it is impractical with toys for multiple dogs outside of a controlled setting. For another, when they see, well, anything unusual, their default is arousal. I want them to return to my side, and get into a calm, clear state of mind instead.

I've noticed in my own training that I often do use the pack-chase to get them off trail to pass stuff- I run off trail, they follow... I'm now thinking this is not really the best way to go about it and am working on a calmer way to do it. In fact, I'm thinking I need to phase this out so that we are all "calm".

Any thoughts?

This is specifically for off leash walks- this does not apply to sports where "training in drive" might make more sense (or not, open to discussion).
My thoughts are I think the same thing sometimes. I guess having my dog play, and getting him to play has huge value to me, so I'm pretty pumped about building engagement (mine's an ex-village dog, so play was not a thing he knew) and I'm a dog nerd into casual dog sports.

I do think there is a time for calm, or discipline. Food rewards can be delivered calmly when necessary, I'm not sure they compete well with squirrels.

I find my dog goes into higher arousal if I do nothing, prey chasing, to the point where he's gone, if I don't use an e-collar, and I'm sure I could let it get past the point to where even an e-collar won't stop him. I lower his arousal by leashing him up and doing obedience, or just use a traffic lead. I still rather see him launch himself enthusiastically in my direction, though.

I think the 'building engagement' though is the front end, perhaps the 'calm return' is the back end. The difference between training a behaviour and proofing. The difference between we're doing this together because it's fun, and you are going to do this now because it's necessary. So then you're beyond the 'engagement' and need them to know 'sit stay' or 'heel until release' are the required obedience even when you are boring.

I do both because sometimes I'm boring and I have a right to be boring and have a decently behaved dog. <--reminding myself, I can't get way too dog-oriented in my training, sometimes it's okay for a human to be and not have to constantly up the game.
 

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Oh oh oh, me me me me..... just did this.
I have the same dog, well no, but.... my dog has no real desire for a toy. He's trained to fetch for food. He isn't all that keen on food. He's pretty keen, very keen, on chasing me if I run, but I can't run that much. Etc....

Soooooo...I just took a 5 day Play with your food challenge, the Collared Scholar, Meagan Karnes (giving credit where credit is due), and I have notes I can share, just ask.

I've been doing this for about 2 weeks and big changes.

Basic principle, turn food into a toy. All dogs have some food drive, or they would be dead. Under stress, a lot of dogs lose interest in toys before they refuse food. So by turning food into a game you have a powerful reward in more places and more situations.


I can now get his engagement under more circumstances.

Here's another game that might work if your dog has another significant person. Go out with that person, separate in space, call (cheerfully, not obedience) your dog back and forth between you. If no interest in a toy, have food, but do the 'play with your food' thing, make the food fast exciting & fun. String cheese separated into string and presented live & wriggling really turns my dog on, mind the fingers though.

I don't want to dump on your post. The technique I learned has 5 separate steps. Will share if interested, but it has really worked to build engagement with my dog who has extremely high prey drive (for wildlife), and unreliable toy drive, and moderate food drive.

Hope that helps.
PS. pretty normal to have dogs finding the wider world more compelling at times, don't beat yourself up over that.
Please, dump all over my post! That sounds like something that could really work for her! I'd absolutely love to hear more about what you learned, what you did, your notes, etc. Please, tell me everything!

I am here to learn to be a better trainer for my dog, and I think that making it FUN for her would be a really good way to do that to help her learn her manners in higher distraction areas.

I, too, have done the runny thingy, and she LOVES to chase me. But gosh is she fast and I just can't keep it up for over a few minutes yet lol.
 

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This is purely for sake of discussion - not to knock on anyone's training- and because I'm trying to think this through, always trying to learn better ways of training.

My question is - do we always want to raise arousal in or dogs with the recall? Food raises arousal, toys raise arousal. Of course we train recall initially in motivational way- I like to use food in young pups, then phase that out and use food or toy very rarely. If at all.

My concern is, I usually call my dogs to get by something that is arousing to them- another dog, a car, a deer, a moose, a snowmobile. (yeah, they are pretty easily stimulated...). I want them to be happy to recall, but at the same time, I don't want to have the dogs come back and then "chase" me, or the food, or a toy every time. For one, it is impractical with toys for multiple dogs outside of a controlled setting. For another, when they see, well, anything unusual, their default is arousal. I want them to return to my side, and get into a calm, clear state of mind instead.

I've noticed in my own training that I often do use the pack-chase to get them off trail to pass stuff- I run off trail, they follow... I'm now thinking this is not really the best way to go about it and am working on a calmer way to do it. In fact, I'm thinking I need to phase this out so that we are all "calm".

Any thoughts?

This is specifically for off leash walks- this does not apply to sports where "training in drive" might make more sense (or not, open to discussion).
For me, what I'd like to do, and what I've been unable to do as she isn't paying much attention to me outside, is use the Focus command. Basically she looks at me, nothing but me, that's her job until I release her. We've made good progress with that in the house and the yard, not so much in the real world...

Anyway, the idea is if I see something coming I know will arouse her beyond listening-right now that's strange dogs-I think having a good solid Focus would be a good way to keep the dog focused and give her a job to do rather than working herself into a tizzy to go say hi to the new dog.

Now... Someone might have a better way than that because there seem to be a LOT of knowledgeable people round here, and if so I'd love to hear it. (And step one of that will be building engagement for training) But that's my plan for a sort of stop gap measure to revving her up when I want to be calming her down.
 

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Here's step one, you may already know this, "focus". It's okay to skip steps, make adjustments or changes. The most important thing is that it must be fun for both you & your dog & the recommendation is no obedience for the time (week). For me, that was not possible as I have no fence, so I just made realistic adjustments & focused on fun. My dog didn't like this game much (he needs more revving up & less control) but there was much that I could apply in these notes--it's not just about focus.

Play with your food challenge, the collared scholar, meagan karnes #1 <--notes are a mix of my own silliness, stuff in my own words, verbatim text and my own errors, apologies for any 00psies.

#1 HAVE FUN, THAT MEANS YOU, HUMAN.

IDENTIFYING FUN KILLERS.
1. OVERTHINKING <--read notes, make a plan, get your ducks in a row
before you get your dog
2. INSECURITY* <--stay away from negative people, or imagine them in
diapers, whatever floats your boat
3. NEED FOR CONTROL <--chose a safe enclosed location, or use a long-line

#* CHOOSE YOUR REWARDS--RESPECT YOUR DOGS PREFERENCES
1.* easy to consume, smelly & soft.
2.* can be delivered quickly, not slimey
3.* easy to store in pocket


THE RULES OF FOOD

There is a time to be pushy and there are times to back off, think and focus.

Your hand will signal these changes.

CLOSED FIST, PALM TURNED TOWARDS YOUR DOG = PUSH AT, CHASE, LICK,
PUSHY BEHAVIOURS ARE GOOD
HAND OPENED TOWARD DOG = EAT
CLOSED FIST, KNUCKLES, BACK OF HAND TOWARD YOUR DOG = FOCUS, THINK

STEP 1. Have a high value smelly, oily treat in both hands
STEP 2.* Sit down with dog in front of you
STEP 3.* Show both hands (back of hand) so the dog can smell all that
yummy stuff, let him push, lick, but don't open hand until the moment
he backs off, then open hand, let him eat.* Repeat. When he stops
bothering your hands altogether, hold out & wait for longer eye
contact. Use markers if you like.* Tailor the exercise to your dogs
ability.

IF YOUR DOG LOSES INTEREST, OR FOCUS, RUN AWAY! Have fun, let him
catch you, treat!

IF YOUR DOG REALLY GETS IT, UP THE ANTI--MOVE YOUR HANDS (BACK OF HAND).

5 REPETITIONS PER SESSION 3 X PER DAY.
 

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CHALLENGE 2: HUMAN TREAT DISPENSER GAME

CHOOSE YOUR REWARDS PART II:
Respect your dogs preferences and RESPECT YOUR OWN.

CHOOSE GOOD FOOD REWARDS THAT YOUR DOG LIKES BUT LIMIT THEIR OPTIONS.
DON'T BE AFRAID TO PUT AWAY A REFUSED FOOD AND TRY AGAIN LATER.

NOTE TO STUPID HOOMAN:* don't give in to an urge to continuously up
the variety & value in order to keep up interest.
& be willing, with a picky eater, to hold out. Use mealtimes (just
before) for training, create scarcity through controlled feeding
times, if your treats are refused, put them away and try again later.
Don't use treats that make you squeamish or threaten your bank
account. Stay strong.


HUMAN TREAT DISPENSER GAME

STEP 1.* Choose a moderate value treat that you can use a lot of.

STEP 2.* Ask for an active, motion behaviour, like spin, touch, bark
on demand, then rapid fire deliver 2 to 3 treats in either hand, then
take a series of steps back and treat at each backward step.* For a
fast pushy dog, take big fast steps, for a reluctant dog take smaller
steps. Move as quickly as the dog will tolerate.
remember: 1 treat per step!
KEEP YOUR REWARD HAND AT THE DOGS LEVEL, LOW, NOT HIGH

DO 2 TO 5 REPS PER SESSION, HAVE FUN.
 

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Here`s day 3 of the play with your food challenge.

CHALLENGE 3: BUST A MOVE

STEP 1: Stock your pockets with moderate value & high value rewards

STEP 2: with your dog in front of you, toss one moderate value treat out in front of you & encourage your dog to get it. If your dog is reluctant, go with your dog & show it, or race them to the treat. Always let them win.

Encourage them back to you, and when they get all the way back, toss out another treat, repeat.

If they don't get all the way back to you, it's okay to 'help' by giving them a treat, but don't rely on that for the return.

If the dog doesn't recall, (no obedience, just encouragement) run away fast, be enticing through movement.

Repeat tosses 2 to 4 times.

After a few repetitions, play the human treat dispenser game with some high value treats.


Then go back to tossing your moderate value treats.

RULES OF THE GAME--always toss out a couple treats in a row. Toss the 2nd treat the instant the dog comes back to you (no obedience)

THIS GAME IS GREAT TO START UP A TRAINING SESSION OR TO BREAK UP DIFFICULT WORK OR TO RESTART ENTHUSIASM

REPEAT 5 TO 7 REPS PER SESSION OR, IF YOUR DOG GETS STICKY, END THE SESSION ON A GOOD NOTE.
 

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CRICKETS? I thought this was going to be one hot topic, I mean fun is fun, right, and engagement is all about fun... oh well.

Anyone trying these out? Anyone working on other engagement games, techniques to share?

Got video? Your own dog? Show off some fun stuff? Get pointers on some less fun stuff, you know, those time when you say, hey, lets go in that chirpy voice and your dog is staring off into the blue, as in why did that happen?
 

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I am working on the first challenge with our 9 week old golden retriever puppy. She is catching on pretty quickly although the first couple of times OUCH! those puppy teeth are sharp! LOL
 

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Well I copied, pasted and printed and am going to play. I do not have any food games, but I do play hard with toys.

One game we play is "Find it" we pick a toy, he sit/stay and I hide the toy then I release with "Ok Find It". I was so proud when the day came that he could hold a sit stay for me to walk out of sight with his toy! We have tennis balls everywhere people like to give them to us...we prefer chuck it balls, but when the ball might get lost tennis ball it is. Anyway what I find so interesting is each ball must have its own scent. I can hide a tennis ball in the house and he will find the exact ball we started the game with. I can hide 3 and he will find the one we started the game with. I love to watch him use his nose.
 

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CRICKETS? I thought this was going to be one hot topic, I mean fun is fun, right, and engagement is all about fun... oh well.

Anyone trying these out? Anyone working on other engagement games, techniques to share?

Got video? Your own dog? Show off some fun stuff? Get pointers on some less fun stuff, you know, those time when you say, hey, lets go in that chirpy voice and your dog is staring off into the blue, as in why did that happen?
I did the food challenge. It was fun. Can't wait for the tug challenge.
There are a few ways to build focus.
I like this way of playing and enthusiasm.
I also like Micheal Ellis and the power of tug.
 

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I did the tug challenge and then later the food challenge. They were great fun. If nothing else the challenges reminded me that when I have to insist that my dogs leave a distraction, it would be better if they have something good to come to afterwards. I find that tugs and toys don't always trump the crazy dog across the street or the lovely smell on the lamp post, but once I have insisted on getting their attention back it is time to run down the road and then reward...yes, keeping up with me is fun.
 
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