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Hello,

So I have another question, I hope people don't get sick of me! There is just too much to learn!

I have read through a ton of threads on engagement but I am still a bit unsure what approach I should take and stick with.

I have a 6 month adopted GSD puppy, have had him for 6 weeks. We spend a lot of time playing in the back yard. This started out as me just trying to get his energy out, but has now turned into me realizing how amazing engagement is and I want to make our sessions more fun. This was mainly triggered by his total disinterest in me with distractions when being outside the house.

I am obviously not being exciting enough but am having a hard time, he is not responding like other dogs I have had. Let me see if I can try explain quick.

He seems to enjoy chasing things, at first it was his tennis balls. He used to be obsessed but has recently gotten bored. I was sort of working on the retrieve during fetch but these days he chases the ball for maybe 3 throws then will lose interest, or he will chase it but get to it and leave it and go off to chew a stick.

I started 2 ball which helped but he has gotten bored again. I bought a squeaker kong ball he is WAY more into and if I keep the toy up and sessions short he will chase that pretty well, but still bored after a few throws.

My main goal was tug after seeing the Michael Ellis videos. I understand my dog does not have the same drive but I still need engagement for obedience outside the house/yard. He does like tug, unfortunately after getting sore gums with too hard a tug his grip got weak, I have gone back to a soft rag and reintroducing the game, letting him win lots it is going well. I have to keep the sessions really short though again he loses interest pretty quick. He seriously just wants to lie down and EAT sticks (that's another issue)

Okay. Now to my problem. I think he is having an okay time playing but it feels kind of forced. Like I can't find what makes him tick. Well actually, I KNOW what he really wants to do. It is play "keep away." He ADORES being chased. I have never seen him so happy/alive! I only did it about 3 times then realized it was causing way too many problems when he got a forbidden item or during tug and fetch.

He gets excited enough when I whip out the tug toy. I tease him a little with it and amp him up and then let him grab it. He gets into it enough that I have gotten bitten hard a few times by a miss, oh well. I will sometimes tug sometimes let him have it pretty fast, he is tugging decently hard again. He runs off with it when he wins and wants to play keep away. I read about playing tug with a leash, I tried but got frustrated so instead I would try encourage him back but not take a step towards him. Eventually he gets bored and brings me the tug back to restart play. I praise heavily and get all animated and tug with him again. But he never gets to the point that he is bringing it back with any energy and if I go for too long he loses interest in the game. I just want more energy :( It's like everything is in molasses lol. Sometimes when he just drops the ball or tug on the way back during a game I just go sit down on my lawn chair. He almost always sees this and immediately brings me a stick or ball or the tug. So I KNOW he wants to interact with me?! But if I stand up all happy with a toy and try initiate play he will often go for a few seconds then lie down and chew a stick. It's a bit frustrating to be honest. I must be doing something very wrong. If i didn't know any better I would think he just wants to lie on the lawn with me and get belly rubs (that would be no problem!) but he gnaws on my arm and gets riled up lol. Today When he seemed to lose interest I just went and sat on the lawn, he came and lay by me and chewed his stick, then after about 5 minutes he sniffed out his squeaky ball in my pocket and I laughed and threw it he was sort of excited again...I just can't figure him out lol.

Now I read a lot about me needing to be the most fun thing ever. But I have a problem. He does not get excited at all by any of my running around and away, happy squeaky voice, falling on the floor calling (I feel like a total moron in my yard where everyone can see me...) He just stares at me. I just wish I could find another game that he puts as much energy into as "keep away" oh the happy smile was priceless! There has to be something else we can try?

It might be worth mentioning, since he seems so obsessed with sticks, I try play with those. It's actually pretty successful but playing fetch/ tug with a stick is so irritating and sore! I am trying to turn the tables and get him to chase the stick I have instead of me chasing him. This is moderately successful.

Oh also, I have tried the flirt pole. He is so-so. loses interest after a few times whether I let him catch a lot or not. I am going to try make a custom one with a stick and a plastic bottle...

Sorry for the long post, it's so hard to explain. Do I just keep it up? Should I try a more interesting toy? I so desperately need his focus more outside the home and lunch time plays are getting boring/ frustrating :(
 

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He is still young and the whole world is a new game. Shadow and I play tag. I chase her and when I get her she chases me. It is a fine game as long as you set the start and stop on it.
You need to keep things short, upbeat and interesting. When you see him starting to lose interest switch to something else. Young puppies have squat for attention spans and if no one has worked with him at all then he has no reason to believe that it's worth his time. Watch what he does left on his own and figure out what makes him tick.
So, I used to go into the yard and toss the frisbee for a few throws with no structure or goal. Let puppy sniff, sniff, sniff, go pee(because it's tough to focus when you have to pee). Then I would call her over and treat for the response. Play tug and let her win. Call her back and treat. Then no more than a few minutes of sit, down, heel. A look at me and treat. Throw the frisbee. A minute or two of chase, some belly rubs and maybe a treat. Then tug, let her win. Call her back and treat. Sit, stay, come, look at me and treat. Throw the frisbee. Heel for the length of the yard. Look at me, treat, throw the frisbee.
I might spend an hour or two with a pup in the yard but a total of 15 minutes of structured training in little 2-3 minute chunks. Through the day anytime the puppy seeks out my company or attention I make it worth their while. With attention, toys or treats. Whatever works for them but I make it clear that their company is important to me. Lex lived for praise, Sabi wanted food, Bud and Shadow where/are ball fiends.
 

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So, I used to go into the yard and toss the frisbee for a few throws with no structure or goal. Let puppy sniff, sniff, sniff, go pee(because it's tough to focus when you have to pee). Then I would call her over and treat for the response. Play tug and let her win. Call her back and treat. Then no more than a few minutes of sit, down, heel. A look at me and treat. Throw the frisbee. A minute or two of chase, some belly rubs and maybe a treat. Then tug, let her win. Call her back and treat. Sit, stay, come, look at me and treat. Throw the frisbee. Heel for the length of the yard. Look at me, treat, throw the frisbee.
Hi Sabis mom. Thanks for your response. This is great. I was just thinking today I need to mix it up WAY more. I am looking for that "what are we doing next?" look with him and staying with 1 thing too long he is obviously getting bored! I suppose my biggest frustration during play is when he runs off with the frisbee, ball or tug. Hard to keep things moving. I think I might try introduce food into the play session. I usually keep them separate. I will ask for a sit or hand touch then throw the frisbee. I will do a treat training session for new commands or a play training session or just play. He is pretty food motivated too so it might just work! Maybe this will help keep his attention better and help me with the toy return. I also was not too sure what to expect out of a 6 month puppy when I see how awesome other people's are at this age (I try not to compare, especially since I just got him! but it's hard.) but like you said he might not have had previous training which I think is the case. I can tell when I started he had no boundaries (he was owner surrender too much work) and had to learn how to learn.
 

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I have two totally opposite dogs. My male, Odin, loves and easily engaging with toys. Especially his ball! We didn’t even teach him fetch, he just picked it up on his own because he wanted us to play with him!

If you have a toy and want to play he will play with you and engage you until you stop.

Layla on the other hand has 0 interest in toys unless she decides. Even then it’s usually just to go in her little spot and chew on the toy. She will chase a ball then once she has it she just plops down and chews on it. Shes always been very hard to engage with toys as a puppy. She honestly just doesn’t like them that much unless their smothered in peanut butter.

I honestly just started to use food to engage her and get her to focus on me. She’s highly food motivated and I just stuck to giving her pieces of her dog food whenever I wanted to engage her or during training sessions.

She does love the flirt pole! Also try hide and seek! Both my dogs loved playing that game and engages them right away. I will just start running around my condo and then once I know they’re paying attention to me I will hide behind a door, In the shower or closet and then call them. This is the best way I engage both my dogs.

I think just trial and error till you find something their interested in and will lock in on and engage with you.

Sometimes I literally just say “Layla, snack” or “Layla, eat” and Layla will engage with me and once I’m done needing her attention I just give her a treat. An ice cube (they love ice cubes), a piece of banana, a piece of dog food someone dropped on the floor. Literally any food item works.
 

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Hi Moonshayde, we love you asking questions, and thank you for your use of paragraphs.

Does he like playing with the garden hose while you're watering the garden? Hose off (spray gun nozzle), sit, drop, etc command, dog complies, I start squirting again. Such fun!
 

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Does he like playing with the garden hose while you're watering the garden? Hose off (spray gun nozzle), sit, drop, etc command, dog complies, I start squirting again. Such fun!
I actually have not tried it yet! It just started getting nice enough in Michigan now...sort of. I can't wait to try it! He seems to love water and I will be getting him a backyard pool for the summer.
 

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I think just trial and error till you find something their interested in and will lock in on and engage with you.
Hi Nikka. So interesting to hear about your two different dogs. For me it is just weird having a dog that does not respond to squeaky voice and silly antics at all. I have never had that!

I think you are spot on with your comment about trial and error.

I am going to try harder to lighten up about all this, which of course makes so much sense we are trying to PLAY after all! It is easy to get discouraged when training goals come into the mix. Tonight after giving up trying to practice piano because Haku kept shoving his face onto my hands for attention (he did really good for a while before so I let it slide lol), I just lay on the floor with his squeaky ball and made it "come alive" by making it squeak and peak-a-boo around my legs and back etc (does that even make sense? :/). His face was priceless! He was concentrating so hard it was all wrinkled hahahaha.

I think I forget about these simple things in the desire to get stuff done a certain way. It's so silly. I need to bring back more of these random playful moments that have no agenda, just being silly and having fun together. With such a hectic day after work I find it is sometimes easy to forget this. Who knows, it may be useful for training later.
 

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When your dog is playing keep away, that is actually the opposite of engagement, so I would try to extinguish that behavior. Get a light line/leash about 15' long, ideally with no handle and let him drag it when you play tug. When he wins the tug and tries to run off, step on the leash and try to coax him back to you or reel him in with the leash and grab the tug. Ideally you want him bringing the toy back to you and putting his feet on you to play more. Dogs with very high prey drive are more likely to do this and dogs that are possessive often want to play keep away, but there are possessive dogs with very high prey drive that will naturally bring to toy back to you to reengage. How big is your tug and does it have just one handle? How do you tease him up and give misses to build frustration. You can also get a French linen "ball" on a string that is essentially a round tug on a string. The other thing is if the dog is not showing much interest after a few tries of engagement, put him up rather than begging him to engage. He will learn that if he wants to have some fun, he has to bring some engagement to the game.
Here is a link to a small French linen ball on a string and they also have large ones.
https://legacyk9gear.com/shop?olsPage=products%2Fklin-small-french-linen-ball
 

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I'm too lazy to read all the responses so this maybe redundant.


first mistake was "to tire him out" stop before he is "tired out" stop well before then. stop while he still intensely wants whatever it is you are offering


now you may want to make playing with you a bit more rare (and back to a lot more rewarding)


he seems happy playing tug and winning - best to let them win a lot of the time - to get him to come back rather than keep away, at this age you may want to use a long line (15 to 30 feet). If your yard is big enough, you can also (with perhaps a helpful friend) do the "run away handler" trick. - someone holds the dog who is in a sit - handler runs maybe 30 to 40 paces away calling the dog - dog is released handler keeps running and calling until the dog gets close when the handler turns around - the intent is for the dog to slide to a stop in front of you. And the dog gets heaps of praise, a reward, a big party. Do not use a long line on this one.



and someone mentioned a flirt pole -- yes BUT stop while the dog still wants more.


No more "tire him out" stuff -- quit before he does.
 

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You can also tie him out and tease him up with the tug and try to get him to bark and if he barks, come a step closer teaching him to drive you to play the game so he can engage. As he drives you closer he gets the tug and with him being tied out, you don't have to worry about him playing keep away. You can also have another tug with you and step back again and get him to bark you in again for the other tug. Be careful that he doesn't come charging toward you on a tie out and hit the end of the line hard which can injure him. It depends on his level of drive and how good you are at making prey movements with the tug. I think part of the problem is that he is simply lacking in drive and you start to create problems by having to put so much energy in getting him interested and "begging" him to engage. Food is also an option for obedience and IMO, is usually best to start out with because you can continuously reinforce correct behaviors, whereas with a toy, the behavior is interrupted when you reward with the toy.
I agree with middleofnowhere about not tiring the dog out. Always stop with him wanting more. You could try to always end a session by teasing him with the toy and giving him a few misses and then put him up without actually getting the toy.
 

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When your dog is playing keep away, that is actually the opposite of engagement, [/URL]
I have to respectfully disagree. Both Shadow and Bud and to a lesser extent Lex were actively TRYING to engage me with this game. It was their idea of fun. It was a reward. I use "tag" as a reward for Shadow. That's why I specified that you need to be the one to start and stop it. She is focused and driven when playing, tuned to my every move or twitch and having fun.
Maybe a different definition but when I think of engagement I think of a dog that is focused and working to participate with the owner.
 

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The best active-interactive times I've had with my boy from puppy hood on while in the back yard was with unexpected props and imagination. If your back yard it nice and neat, mess it up a bit with stuff and start using the stuff. Watch how curious and attentive the pup gets and I bet he'll want to join in.

Ex: my son has very thick long rope he use to use for working his arms. I pick up one end like I'm trying to pull it or wiggle it. Made some grunting noises and my guy was all over it

Grab 4 trash barrels (32 gal). Make a makeshift tunnel with a blanket, large sheet, or tarp then crawl in it and make some funny noises or poke the sides to make the sheet move or throw a ball through it. Use imagination

Grab a few 5gal buckets, set one on its side, one right side up, one upside down. Let him see you throw some treats in and let him figure how to get out them.

That makeshift tunnel once he gets the gist can become a send in game where he learns on cue to run through it and just as he's coming out, you roll a ball fast just a head of him so he has something to chase.

Sometimes it isn't so much the actual direct interaction but the intensity of interest of what you are doing. I think if the standard isn't doing it for him or you then a few thoughts and tries "outside the box" might.

If you do enough weird fun stuff in the yard, you are changing his mind set of that area and what he expects to happen while in it. I.e. Something strange, fun and different.

Fwiw, I'm not my guys favorite person to play fetch with, I stink at it and I don't get that excited about it so it's no wonder my guy doesn't either when I throw.(Dh is the fetch player with him and he lite up for him.) but I have a blast making the tunnel and sending him through it and he has a blast doing it. I have a blast setting up hides for him to find and he has a blast looking for them. So maybe some of these games that you are trying just doesn't lite you up either.

Both of you are figuring each other's like and dislikes and there really aren't limitations to playing or training except the boundaries that you set.
 

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Thanks everyone for your great responses!

I have backed off on the "begging" for engagement and got a bit more silly and fun about it. Randomly pick up a stick (all my fancy toys and he wants a stick...) quickly run away. I switch stuff up faster now. Will suddenly switch toys and whip out his frisbee from under my top, throw it 3 times then put it away and tug etc. Although there is still not much energy, I think we are both having more fun.

Unfortunately I cannot decide on the "keep away" game. I think, even though he loves it so much, I am going to wait until he is a little older and I feel like I can put a clear stop and start to the game. Right now I really need him coming towards me more I think.
@Heartandsoul - I love the idea of the backyard item fun. I actually wanted to do agility with him but I believe he has hip dysplasia :( I will be having xrays done soon. But no reason why we couldn't mess around with buckets etc! Maybe I can get him weaving around then and putting his paws on top. I have run out of stuff to teach him before our obedience class starts in 2 weeks because I am mentally tired lol. He LOVES picking up and playing with new things.

I will let you guys know if he suddenly lights up over something! I think that french linen ball on a string might be worth looking at. He seems to like soft fabric objects. Right now his favorite tug is a dish rag with 2 knots tied in it. It's so stupid I am equally glad and disappointed that he seems to have lower drive lol. I am (WAS) a bit of a couch potato!

He does like his soccer ball!
 

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Moonshayde, if you ever run out of ideas, feel free to ask for more, I have a ton of them. My guys first flirt pole was one of those thick reedy reeds that grow about 8ft if left to grow. Had a ton of them out back. I stripped the grassy leaves and leave the feathery frond at the end. He preferred that more than any flirt I ever bought.

Also, as he got better with his obedience, I added self discipline obedience exercises to the games. I.e., he had to keep his sit or down or stand and wait for the release to do what I set up for him to do. Dh always thought it was mean just because I would make him wait and Dh had a hard time watching my boy's anticipation escalate lol. But my boy actually loved that part once he understood that it was part of the game.

I taught him all of it without corrections or collar pressure Just some patience, and decent timing when to release before he failed and broke his position.

It sounds like you are starting to have fun finding your niche with each other, the bond will follow.

Just adding that I know the flirt pole may not best for dysplasia, it was just another use things on hand example. I hope that the X-rays prove negative and if they don't, there are a lot of things you can do to help him along and a lot of things you can still explore that he should be able to do that are fun, tons of threads here to look through so try not to worry too much until the results are in. Harder said than done.
 

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Moonshayde, if you ever run out of ideas, feel free to ask for more, I have a ton of them. My guys first flirt pole was one of those thick reedy reeds that grow about 8ft if left to grow. Had a ton of them out back. I stripped the grassy leaves and leave the feathery frond at the end. He preferred that more than any flirt I ever bought.

Also, as he got better with his obedience, I added self discipline obedience exercises to the games. I.e., he had to keep his sit or down or stand and wait for the release to do what I set up for him to do. Dh always thought it was mean just because I would make him wait and Dh had a hard time watching my boy's anticipation escalate lol. But my boy actually loved that part once he understood that it was part of the game.

I taught him all of it without corrections or collar pressure Just some patience, and decent timing when to release before he failed and broke his position.

It sounds like you are starting to have fun finding your niche with each other, the bond will follow.

Just adding that I know the flirt pole may not best for dysplasia, it was just another use things on hand example. I hope that the X-rays prove negative and if they don't, there are a lot of things you can do to help him along and a lot of things you can still explore that he should be able to do that are fun, tons of threads here to look through so try not to worry too much until the results are in. Harder said than done.
You have absolutely mastered the art of enjoying the world on their level! Lol.
We get so wrapped up in making them fit our world that we forget to fit into theirs. It's why I encourage crawling on the ground with puppies, pouncing at grasshoppers and getting dirty.
I find that much to often we demand everything and give nothing. The whole world is an adventure.
I lived with a pack of stray dogs for a while as a kid. I can promise that they don't subscribe to our ideas about behavior. They sleep in piles, play chase and tag, make random objects into prizes, jump and climb, splash in puddles, tease, torment and love with absolute abandon.
Get there and you will find your real dog.
 

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Just a short note on "Keep Away"...

This week my dog and I were walking up a street and a big pup (English Sheepdog?) was let out of the front door offleash into the yard (potty break, I guess). She dashed towards us. The young girl behind her grabbed her collar but couldn't hold her, and I watched in horror as the young girl was dragged for several yards on her stomach before letting go! The pup reached us, and our dogs greeted. Then the pup kept following us up the street, so I stopped walking! The mom then came out and tried to get her.

Every time the owner reached for her collar, she dodged away and ran. She began to really enjoy the "Keep Away" game, running in huge circles, galloping all over the street! She totally ignored her name and ignored the treats. I was getting worried that a car would come up the street at any minute. Finally I unclipped my dog's leash, slipped the loose end through the handle, and gave it to the owner, who dropped the loose "lasso" over her neck and we finally got her.

But I was thinking that "Keep Away" was probably the most fun the pup had all week - the next time she has a chance, she's going to bolt into the street again. :-( . Hopefully they will figure out how to train/manage.
 

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Just a short note on "Keep Away"...

This week my dog and I were walking up a street and a big pup (English Sheepdog?) was let out of the front door offleash into the yard (potty break, I guess). She dashed towards us. The young girl behind her grabbed her collar but couldn't hold her, and I watched in horror as the young girl was dragged for several yards on her stomach before letting go! The pup reached us, and our dogs greeted. Then the pup kept following us up the street, so I stopped walking! The mom then came out and tried to get her.

Every time the owner reached for her collar, she dodged away and ran. She began to really enjoy the "Keep Away" game, running in huge circles, galloping all over the street! She totally ignored her name and ignored the treats. I was getting worried that a car would come up the street at any minute. Finally I unclipped my dog's leash, slipped the loose end through the handle, and gave it to the owner, who dropped the loose "lasso" over her neck and we finally got her.

But I was thinking that "Keep Away" was probably the most fun the pup had all week - the next time she has a chance, she's going to bolt into the street again. :-( . Hopefully they will figure out how to train/manage.
You and Rumo handled this well! Nice job.
 

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@GSDchoice your story reminds me of something that happened with my son several times.When he would get off of the school bus down the road from us a young girl who lived close to the bus stop would accidentally let the family dog slip out of her front door.The young lab would tear around happily,completely ignoring the young lady's calls and attempts at capture.My son wouldn't say a word,he just started running around in circles and zigzags.The lab was delighted with this game and would run around next to him.When he got close enough my son would grab his collar and walk the rascal home safely.
 

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Those fabric ball tugs that chip mentioned on here look interesting I did just order one for Luna. Anyway, find there own strength and likes and build on it. I would be careful with sticks mine have been punctured with them. They have rubber type sticks and chuck it has bumpers that are waterproof and float in the water. Nose work/scent detection is a great engagement and bonding activity. Hide n seek games. My kids are always hiding in the woods and the dogs take turns. Finding them. They have become so good they will always lead me to them in the direction when kids are out on bikes and we usually meet up and are on target. Rewards-For max paise, a game of fetch and treats and for Luna -praise tug and many treats as a reward.

Luna likes to play tug and find it games she also loves cheese or human treats but praise I think she enjoys more then anything else as a reward. Max enjoys fetch with the ball and find it games he likes tug to or any kind of engagement. He will also like to grab something and play keep away if he wants to engage with a family member or friend. He does know the rules though and is enough to discover just in body language the game is over. He once put his big head in my moms pocket book to his surprise she had a hambone in their that I gave her when she was over for dinner she was using it for her pea soup. So that was ingrained and he now always looks for hambones in pocket books or something - I don’t know but I know he has not been that lucky lol! Dogma 13 reminded me of max’s Adolescence the find me game if he got out to chase deer or cats. The kids would run out and yell find me and hide - a favorite game of max’s and be would stop what he was chasing and find the kids that’s how much he likes the search for the kids. The excitement of that game is contagious. Max is a ball nut and enjoys the hunt he will hide his own ball or bumper in the oceans surf-he does this when I am on break and just want to chill. I think we only lost two balls or bumpers to the ocean in all the years of doing this. I’m also glad he can entertain himself when need be. Luna likes to play tug she will only pick up the ball only if to steal it from max. Max will also drop the ball on her and then it’s hers- he likes to challenge himself but fails this test he gives himself every time because he then looks at me to help him get it from her. He is smart! Lol he will plow through waves of the Atlantic for his bumper or ball.
 
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