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Discussion Starter #1
Hi,
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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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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Discussion Starter #3
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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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It does take a while for you to get it right. There are a lot of steps and the "correct" way to give a command.

I trained my first dog via classes many years ago (old methods of choke chains) and am now going to puppy classes. I'm relearning everything and there are a few differences. I've just handed the classes off to my 17 year old son who wants to learn how to train her and he is having difficulties with the "correct" way. The trainer is gently telling him the details. If the trainer made him feel poorly about himself I wouldn't continue with her.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Oh my gosh, thanks so much for the fantastic advice. I don't feel quite as much like a fool as I did yesterday. I'm not at all the sensitive type, but thinking that I was going to do something in ignorance to cause harm to my dog shook my confidence.

I don't mean to sound as though I'm blaming the trainer, although I was a little surprised by his tone with me. He's a smart, good guy, and I figured the problem lay with me instead of him. He, too, is a former k-9 trainer and I think it's been a long time (if ever) that he's trained someone with zero skills.

If I can trouble you with one more question, the handler said I needed to be more enthusiastic when I'm praising my dog. I'm really working hard on being more effusive and animated and downright silly when I praise him, and I thought I was getting it, but apparently I'm still missing the mark. Years of being influenced by Cesar's stressing CALM assertive energy, coupled with the fact that I work with some pretty explosive students who need someone who's calm and cool, have made me even less reactive than I thought I was. Does anyone happen to have any good advice for getting in touch with my inner extrovert (I draw the line at digging out my junior high cheerleader costume!)?

Again, a million thanks for your kindness.
 

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I have been doing competitive obedience for a long time nad I still step off wrong now and then.

It takes muscle memory for dogs to learn to get a straight sit and it takes muscle memory for the human to be comfortable moving with the dog.

If you are in SC have you thought about checking out Connie Cleveland? I do not know how close she is to you but you can google her.
 

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I dealt with several trainers that were quite abusive with people. If I stayed it was because they were nicer to the dogs.
 

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You won't ruin your dog by having to take time to learn all there is to this dog training. If it was easy everyone would have a perfectly trained dog and trust me, they do NOT.

You may have done better than you think you did. I know sometimes I feel like a total klutz doing some new dog thing and when I'm done someone will say I did well (and I'm all focused on what I know I did wrong). Thing is much of the time I was doing alot RIGHT too.

If you feel the trainer was putting you down for being new at this, that's something different. I'd either speak to them after class to see what's up or clarify any questions. Or just wait until the next week to see if maybe they were just having a bad day.

If you finish up the sessions and still aren't clicking, well, welcome to my dog training world! I've been to classes/instructors I loved! And been to others that just weren't a good fit for me. Whether philosophically, or just that we don't click, or I'm just at a level or have experience (or lack) that another instructor would be more beneficial right now.

Hey, I have to drive over an hour to where I now like because it's best for me and my dog. But I went to other classes/instructors before finding it.
 

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Again, this is surprising, enlightening, and encouraging. I am really surprised by how many people have said that they know trainers who are kind of jerks when dealing with people (I wouldn't think this would be a good way to keep business). Also, you've mentioned some points that have never crossed my mind. I think I felt more confident when I didn't know how much I didn't know! And finally, I truly appreciate your encouragement. This is something I want very much to do well, and the seed was definitely planted last week that perhaps I'm not as cut out to do this as I thought. I feel a lot better going back for round 2 (and 3, 4, 5, etc...) knowing that there are some really knowledgeable people who don't mind offering their advice, too.
 

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lucy34, you'll do just fine. And stick out the lessons, I'm thinking you were just overwhelmed (I know I was when I first started too). The fact the trainer got on you for not praising enough is a GOOD thing in my mind cause it shows he believes in how important praise is.

Sometimes old timey trainers are much more into the 'correct when they are wrong' and NOT the effusive praise when they are right. And real praise for the dogs, specially in the beginning do need to be a bit over the top. Super high voice, happy expression, joy joy happy happy love love love. I could care less if I seem/sound like a crazy person if it helps the dogs, but I know that for other people it's a bit out of the norm for them and they have to really push to remember to do the same.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Thanks so much, MaggieRoseLee for the advice on praise. And the trainer really is a good guy, I was just really overwhelmed by all that I needed to know and all that I obviously didn't know! I definitely don't mind making a fool of myself if it's going to benefit my pup. I'm just glad I do this training by myself because my family would think I'd turned into a crazy woman since my default mode is calm and introverted!
 

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Quote: I'm just glad I do this training by myself because my family would think I'd turned into a crazy woman since my default mode is calm and introverted!
That's too funny! And dog class should take you a bit out of your comfort zone for that!

I'll always remember doing 'attention' training downtown on busy Main Street. I was at the stage of trying to keep my pups head up and looking at me from a sit directly in front of me. There are tons of distractions with traffic and people so the location is ideal.

So I made my training plan for the day, got all the tons of teeny hotdogs cut up for the training session and drove downtown. I had just started up with Bretta sitting in front of me looking up adoringly (cause I keep spitting out hotdogs into her uplifted face) when it started to rain. So I readjusted my position on the sidewalk to go closer to the wall and under an awning, to continue spitting the hotdogs down to her as the rewards for the 'attention'.

A few minutes into it, I saw out of the corner of my eye that a woman had come striding out the store door with purpose and was headed my way (I'm still spitting out hotdogs to Bretta) and when she neared she kind of hesitated and then said 'excuse me'. I released Bretta and praised to see what was up and now the woman actually appeared to be a bit embarrassed.

Turns out the woman was the manager for the store I was training in front of. But it turned out it wasn't a store, it was a restaurant. And I wasn't really standing in front of a wall, it was wall about to my ribcage but window higher than that. The fact there were people trying to eat and sitting just on the other side of the window (inches away from me) and THEY couldn't see I had a dog. THEY just saw some 'crazy lady' looking down, talking to herself and spitting something onto the ground periodically. None of that was helping their mealtime and she walked out in a bit of a rage from all the complaining and to ask me to move.

Course when she rounded the corner after exiting and saw the dog, SHE knew what was happening and was actually pretty nice about asking if I minded moving just a bit down the sidewalk. And I didn't, but it was pretty funny that she thought I was some crazy homeless person talking to myself and dribbling food out of my mouth!!!!

So you can see how 'bad' this dog training can get!
 

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Oh my gosh, that is hilarious! And also a nightmare for me! I don't know how I ended up a teacher because if given a choice I'd be invisible and not mingling with large groups of people. I don't even know what I'd do if I realized I'd been inadvertently giving a restaurant full of people a free dinner show!


I guess I've grown used to pushing myself out of my comfort zone with humans each day, now I need to be as un-self-conscious when praising up my pup. Thanks again for the encouragement and the funny story.
 
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