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Discussion Starter #1
Marley is 11 months old now. She attended puppy kindergarten when she was three months old. Before we even started class she knew sit, down, stay, heel, etc.

1st Class: She's frantic. Trying to run out the side door. Won't let anyone touch her. Runs from other dogs near her. Treats don't work. Barks if any other dog in facility barks. Ignores me completely when giving commands. Bad, Bad night.


2nd Class: I go 1/2 hour early to just sit and relax with her. Buy cold cuts for treats. SPAZZZZ....She is worse tonight. Drags me off my feet twice. Hands are rug burned from holding on to leash. When heeling around circle she darts for the door and knocks over the fence surrounding arena. I cry.


Specifics on class:

7 dogs. 4 are 6-8 mo old, 1 is 11 months old with Marley, 1 is 1 1/2 years old. All are smaller than her by far except for the Labradoodle who is same age as her.

Instructor seems knowledgeable. Insists I not push Marley and just let her get acclimated the first night. Keeps me after to ask specific questions.

1. Are these new behaviors? YES...usually so focused on me she excludes everything else.

2. Was she raised or socialized around other dogs? YES...we have two other dogs and she goes to my mom's and friends houses weekly for play dates.

3. Is she used to being out of the house with me? YES...usually leaves house with me 7 days a week till December when it went down to about 4 times a week.

4. Has she been around other people much? YES...Softball to Cheerleading, to Soccer, to Cheerleading again. She attends all events with me and has since she was brought home at 8 weeks. Practices and games. Walks around park with me. Goes to my friends houses with me.

I am at a loss. The instructor seems to think it is a fear period and says they are common in shepherds of this age. Should I keep going? How can I make this better for her?
 

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Yes!! Definitaly keep going!!! Odd behaviour I think for a pup that has had so much exposure and socialization. Could very much be a fear period.

Your instructor seems to be on the right track. Don't push Marley, give her time. My pup seemed shy and unsure of other dogs up until recently. Again, it was odd: solid working lines, came from a large litter, was held by the breeder until 9 weeks and was with other littermates and older dogs in the breeder's household. Plays very well with my older dog, and shows signs of already taking over the Alpha position, gets regular socialization with Schutzhund Club, pet shop visits, walks in town and other busy/new places. Loves everybody! Even loves vet visits, despite the needles and examinations - nothing seemed to faze him. Yet he avoided other dogs and showed signs of stress in his level one class. Would back away from other dogs that approached him. Just seemed out of character for him, and was confused.

I just started level 2 obedience with him at 8 months of age. We are in a class of about 14 dogs. It is like he is a different dog, no hesitation, perfect focus, friendly play invitations to other dogs, acts very confident and calm.

So who knows about Marley? Fear periods? Un-even mental maturation? Weird puppy developmental stages? I don't think your experience is that unique. Keep going, don't take it personally, and don't get upset or exasperated, because she will pick up on it, and it will feed her stress. I'm pretty sure things will get better for you too as it did for me!
 

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I do think I screwed up last week. I was nervous before we got there and it got worse and worse. I was exasperated and in tears. Other people in class and instructor seem wonderful. No one approaches Marley from behind.

The instructor took time after class to have me go up and speak to each person in a circle while they held their dog. I was not to engage or give Marley any attention whatsoever. They held their pup tightly by their side and Marley had a loose leash. I just had to speak to the human and then pet and speak to the dog and ignore Marley.

She wants to use a prong collar next week. Is this something I should allow?
 

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My training days were much like yours... It usually always with me ending the day in tears. Don't give up though. The best advice that I have gotten from this site is that there are good days and then there are bad days. Sometimes more bad days than good but you learn from the good days and wow do you feel GREAT on the good days!!! so try to take it day by day. Dont have to high of expectations..for a while. Keep lots of patience in pocket... your dog is still a pup too. Most the time too its you that needs to be trained and not the dog. The dog getting trained is the easy part!! its getting insync that can be challenging at first especially with so many distractions.. but I say dont give up!!!
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Were you guys cheerleaders??? You are pumping me up. I will not fail.
 

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Originally Posted By: ShellyG
She wants to use a prong collar next week. Is this something I should allow?
My immediate reaction to this is no. Not yet.

Hope this is a fear period and short lived.

You mentioned that you were nervous before going to class.

How about trying going to the next class with a mindset just to observe and work on the sideline for the first part of class. Join in if you feel Marley is becoming a bit comfortable or just sit on the sideline for one class?

I won't repeat what Lucia and Kristin said. Just tell you to reread their posts a couple of times- and just before you head out to the next class. They are right on the money. You are not failing! Just facing another challenge. And those challenges go a long way to learning something else about you and your dog.
 

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You'll be fine. So will Marley. Think of this as a progression & not a 'pass/fail' experience. Repeat the class if necessary. No big deal.

The 1st UKC class Djibouti & I attended was unbelievable. It was a very large class b/c it had been shut down for months following the floods last summer. Dogs were alllll ages. About 2/3 of the dogs lunged against their leads at every dog/person approaching while alllll of them with the exception of one angel*mutt barked frenetically. Ugh. Several weeks into the class most of the lunging had stopped as had the continuous barking. There were profound changes in most of those dogs in just a matter of weeks.
 

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My hit? Handler error. What do you have so invested in this class that YOU end up in tears because your dog acts up? It's an obedience class for pete's sake. These folks got something on you???


My eldest, as a young dog, was quite inattentive in her first class. A year later everyone had forgotten that and I had a reputation as having terrific dogs -- when we clicked it was great - until we started doing matches and trials. Our first match we got first place. I was more concerned about a sick dog at home than I was about Jr. at the match. Then we spent several entries blowing matches and trials in one way or another because I would be wired. On the ones where enough was out of whack before we got there, I figured it was too loused up, relaxed (figuring it was a lost cause) and we did fine.

I would not use a prong collar on the dog. I would settle down myself, remembering that my status as a human was not in jeapordy because my dog went wonky at an obedience class.
 

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Dogs go through training plateaus as well as possible fear periods, so when one of my dogs suddenly acts different in training I don't fret over it. It happens. I usually say something like "why are you being so darn silly today?" and then I laugh and move them away from whatever's making them reactive. Then we just work on really simple things like attention and maybe some fun tricks. I don't push new training or even newly-learned behaviors at that point .. I simply work on the very basic things that are really solid and I accept that my dog is going to be a bit dingy that day.

The more you stress and feed into this kind of behavior, the more important it becomes to the dog. Shrugging it off and thinking of it as a silly thing the dog is doing helps keep YOUR nervousness from making it worse.

I can remember my 3 year old GSD, who was trained clear through Utility (scent articles, signal exercise, directed retrieving and jumps) suddently deciding that he not only didn't KNOW any of those exercises, he was going to start growling at other dogs and people. That wasn't like him! I got kind of shook up (this was my first dog that I'd seriously trained) and all that did was make him worse. When I finally settled down and thought "maybe he's just having a bad time for a bit" and worked on simpler things for a while, everything fell back into place and he went back to being the sweet guy he always had been.

If this IS a fear period for your dog, adding in a prong collar won't help diminish the fear and it may very well increase it. I'd stay with a simple collar and maybe plan to come in and not actually take part in the class activities - pull up a chair in a quiet area and simply observe your dog, rewarding whenever she does something you like (looking at you, laying down calmly, being non-reactive when another dog goes by, etc.). If she's doing really well, you might join into some activities but stay out at the edge of everything. Keep calm and if she gets goofy again, simply walk her away from it with no reaction.

The GSD that I described above already had his CD and CDX before he went through this weird period. He was very well trained. But he got some sort of odd thought in his head and evidently had to work through it. Once he did, everything was great again, and I had learned a lot about how NOT to react to my dog.

Good luck - be calm - watch your dog and keep telling yourself that she's just being silly for a while - reward the good behaviors, ignore the ones you don't like - and your "old dog" will return!

Melanie and the gang in Alaska
 

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When we started training with Renji, we were on the complete opposite end of the training field. After about five sessions, we were able to be just a few feet from another dog. A few more sessions, my trainer and I were able to talk face to face and Renji and her intact male stare-happy border collie were just a couple feet away from each other, ignoring each other.

I don't know if anyone has mentioned it yet, but move away from the rest of the dogs! Right now yours is in sensory overload. Back away to a quieter distance and over the next several classes work your way back into the group SLOWLY. A good trainer will have no problem with this.


Quote:If she's doing really well, you might join into some activities but stay out at the edge of everything. Keep calm and if she gets goofy again, simply walk her away from it with no reaction.
There we go! Sometimes Renji will become overstimulated and I actually walk INTO him when we move away from the group, but that's because he's also a bigtime stubborn butthead. I'd just turn around and walk away. Work at a distance, then move back in. It's like being at a huge social function and going to the restroom to collect yourself and take a few calming breaths before diving back in.
 

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I also would keep going, but ALSO work on just plain and ordinary 'out and about' socialization at LEAST every other day between classes.

'Obedience' isn't just about our dogs doing what we ask when we ask. But also about the dog's frame of mind in whatever environment we are asking the dog to perform the behavior. So if they are OUT OF THEIR MINDS
with being over stimulated and overly excited at someplace new. Then you aren't going to get the attention and focus needed.

But it just means that we have to work on getting our dogs use to more car rides, getting out and out, meeting and greeting. So they start realizing that's all normal (boring?) and just part of another day out with mom/dad. No big deal.

With that, you can then work on the fact YOU are the most fun thing because YOU have the treats, YOU have the toy, YOU are the one that's the most fun....................

I know quite a few good trainers that take on dogs and just keep in mind they may have to take the beginner session of classes more than once. That's just fine. Instead of getting frustrated about what their dog isn't ready for, they work on preparing it so the NEXT sessions go so much better!
 

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We have similar issues with Suki. We enrolled in a basic obedience class with her at Petsmart (fortunately, the instructor seems to know what he's doing and absolutely loves working dogs - he has a rottie pup himself.)

We ended up being the only ones enrolled in this particular time slot, so for 4 weeks we had "private" lessons, which was great! We were able to get to the material usually covered in week 7. (He told us after that he was supposed to transfer us right away, but he loves working with GSD's, and liked having us one on one so we could go at her pace.)

However, Suki needs to learn appropriate behavious around other dogs, so last weekend we switched to another class that had just started up. All Suki did was bark. And bark, and bark. (There are several small dogs, one other GSD, and an unidentified large dog (like a black and white sheepdog with dreads?)

The instructor told the class to ignore her, for us to go to our "happy place" ("don't get embarrased, she's not your child, you didn't give birth to her"). Whenever she displayed proper behaviour (quiet for 5 seconds, looking at us, etc.) we would praise her. So while the other dogs worked on "leave it", we worked on "quiet".

We're curious to see how it will go tomorrow..
 

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I would not use the prong yet. If she is totally spazzing out when you are trying to work on the commands and exercises, I would go and just sit in a corner, let her relax and watch, be calm and treat her for NOT going crazy. Don't push her too fast.

At our place we often have random dogs sitting in on classes. We had a GSD that was terrified to go IN the building. He would shake. Finally he went in if the trainer put down rugs. So each class he would come and practice going in, lying down, and watching for a little bit longer. We pretended he was not there.

My female GSD is shy of men, including my husband. When I first got her she would jump if we stepped on a stick. She is a LOT better now but still defers to me and sometimes avoids him. I've had her for almost 2 years. That's how much time we've given her to adjust. Now he is taking a class with her. She can do everything in the class. It's a skills class where they do stuff like target stick, long stays, sending the dog over a jump or around an object, tricks, "go to mat", etc and she can do it all but not with my DH. Some things he does, other things he won't do yet even though she can, it's pushing too hard to do it with him (for example, proving you can look in your dogs' ears, mouth, feet).

If any of the exercises make your dog spaz and leave you in tears, then it's probably too much too soon. I would stay in the class and just ask to opt out of some things and work on rewarding her for sitting calmly in a corner while the other dogs work.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I am so glad that so many of you took the time to respond to my post. I am feeling better already. I agree TOTALLY with the person who said it was probably "handler error". I let myself get too upset and worried about this.

I am going to take the advice all of you have given. I will hold off on the prong collar. I am going to go to the next class and work with Marley a bit away from the other people and dogs. Whoever said overstimulation is dead on. It definitely seems like there is so much going on that she is darting her head back and forth constantly to take it all in.

I will also go to the facility the day before and just sit and watch a class or two while relaxing with Marley. No pressure.

She already knows all of the excercises they are teaching. She just needs to learn to do them with a zillion other things going on at the same time. I am going to take this slowly and know that eventually she will feel comfortable enough to handle the situation.

Okay. I feel better. I guess I just needed you all to put it in perspective for me.

I will let you know how Tuesday's class goes.
 

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Quote: She just needs to learn to do them with a zillion other things going on at the same time.
Exactly!


Go to Walmart. Go to Home Depot. Go to the park. Go to near a school. Go by a grocery store..... Take your pup everywhere!

Then get out of the car and just practice being there, being calm and having your dog be calm. Getting as close to the front doors as you can. As near people as you can. If there are benches you can sit on and well, just sit.............that's great too! The world is full of people, noises, sights, sounds, smells............... and the more your pup realizes that all 'normal', mom is calm and quiet, so it must be ok. Then they'll just sit/lay there, and take it all in.

So when you are able to start adding doing tricks and training in public, it's just so much easier. And so will dog class !!!
 

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I totally agree with all suggestions,,Masi had some really 'negative' experiences at a purely positive puppy class I took with her,,before I smartened up and yanked her out of class,,I realized a couple of things that were contributing since this dog was much as your sounds,,,socialized heavily, no problems with kids, people other dogs,,UNTIL I joined this class..

Anyhow, what I realized is,,1. the place was to dang small, 2. Masi , at that age, (4-5 mths) was much more comfortable in outside places, vs indoor confining places 3. other dogs (puppies) whom she considered "rude" 4. other dogs staring at her/barking at her, set her off ..She was definately not in a comfortable place, her "fear" made her defensive,,(not in a good way either))

The whole thing was NOT positive for her,,so I yanked her...

My point is, consider your surroundings as well in this class,,they very well may be a contributing factor..

What worked for Masi (I had ALOT of deprogramming to do) was going to a different trainer/facility who was much more structured, and we observed 5 classes from behind a gate,,we did absolutely "nothing",,by the 3rd class, she was literally falling asleep on the floor and nose to nose with other 'strange' dogs!!! The last two,,we were in the big room with all other dogs, just hanging out..WHAT A DIFFERENCE!

We are now in a formal obed class with 11 other dogs,,and mz masi is absolutely fine with all of it...

Sorry to ramble,,just wanted to give some background and add that hanging out doing NOTHING,,can be more benefit than actually joining in..:))

GOod luck
Diane
 

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Not sure if this was covered or not I didn't read all the posts. But go get a leather leash. I hate any thing but leather unless I plan on wearing gloves.

Oh for a while in class I called Raya, Radioactive Raya, she was lightening off at everything. I tripped and twisted my ankle one night and no one wanted to try to grab her leash because they are all afraid of her. Luckly I didn't scare her that bad, when I called she came back to me. The people are saying hey Val we would like to help you if you need help but we don't think Raya will let anyone near you.

So yea I wanted to cry a few times, but things get better. Hing in there.
 

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Re: Failing Obedience Class...HELP (Update!!)

First, let me say THANK YOU to everyone that responded. I also need to thank my breeder who basically said the same things you guys said...LOL

Marley did so well last night at class. No stress from me helped more than I could imagine. I went early and just walked around and talked to people and completely ignored Marley. She was much calmer when the class began.

I started class by going to the far corner? of the ring and working on sits, stays, and downs while blocking her from the other pups and people in the ring. She was totally focused on me!!!

We gradually worked our way into the circle of dogs but still kept a distance. I always made sure I was between the two dogs that don't seem to startle or bother her at all.

By the end of class I had a guy yelling from the outside of the ring to "Keep it up with Marley, her tail is up and she looks like she is loving it!!"

The instuctor was so impressed. She praised Marley repeatedly and said that she was a new dog this week. We have so much more work to do but now I know I can do it and am looking forward to it.

I stayed after class for 1/2 hour and just stood and talked to some other people in my class. By the end of our talk, all of our dogs were just laying in lumps at our feet. Marley was sleeping!!

Thanks again to everyone......
 

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Re: Failing Obedience Class...HELP (Update!!)

Originally Posted By: ShellyG "Keep it up with Marley, her tail is up and she looks like she is loving it!!"
That says it all!! Way to go you two!
 

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She wants to use a prong collar next week. Is this something I should allow?
_________________________

In my opinion, yes, allow her to use it.

If the collar is used, let us know how it goes.
 
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