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So I have been working with this trainer for the past 8 weeks. Zelda is 11 months old, and before I started working with this new trainer, my training method was almost all positive reinforcement. I guess I was just surprised by his training methods. He doesn't use treats, just verbal praise and corrections with the prong collar. He seems to know what he is doing, and has been training for over 20 years, he is from Germany and has trained several and titled several schutzhund dogs.

We have been doing basic obedience, which I had already begun to teach Zelda, but she needed more work with distractions, so I wanted her to get into a group training class. But his basic obedience lessons are a prerequisite for taking his group class. Which is understandable. During our private lessons, I feel like Zelda doesn't respond well to the constant correction. She is fairly nervous, which is what I was trying to work on. He has other dogs on his property (they are kenneled) so she gets a little worked up. It seems like the more I correct her during the lesson, the more defiant she becomes. When I am home, walking to the bus stop, or out with her at tractor supply or home depot...she listens MOST of the time, shes definitely not perfect and the more stressful the situation, the less likely she is to listen.

The trainer is very strict. His big thing is she MUST do what you ask of her the first time you ask. No matter what. For example, this morning we were working on heeling, stopping, and putting her in a down. Which I do with her ALLLL the time, around kids, at the store, while were on walks. But today at his place, she was on edge because there was a guy working on the fence and she just would not relax. So when I stopped and she would go down, he told me to put my hand on her back, push her down with my hand, and pull down on the prong. Because she MUST do what I tell her to do. She got really aggressive and kept biting me when I tried to force her down. Now, just so you get a visual...I am a 95 pound female, trying to wrestle down my 70 pound puppy while she tries to bite the crap out of me :( . We did this same thing over and over and I will admit by the end, she went down with me only putting slight pressure on her back. I get it, she needs to listen to me, 100% of the time. That is what I am striving for, but is this really working? He told me that if I kept doing it that way for a week she would know that I mean business and she does not have an option. If that is the case, I don't even know how I would train like that. If anywhere else I go, she goes down, how am I supposed to keep forcing her down...unless we are at his house?

Sorry I am sure this is all completely scattered and random, I guess my question is...do you think this is going to help me achieve a more solid obedience foundation? Zelda is my baby, and I feel like I am probably softer with her than I should be. So maybe I just need to man up and be harsh so she will know I mean business? :help:
 

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To answer your question: No, you won't get better obedience. What you will get is as dog that shuts down and does not trust you.

Her defiance is her shutting down, disengaging because she is stressed. She cannot learn and improve if she is in a contant state of stress and mental shutdown. There are some dogs that are very hard and resilliant, and success can be achieved with this trainer's methods, but the average dog, even the hard, resillient dogs, will respond better to positive methods.

For her age and temperament, a minor collar correction is probably all she needs for you to let her know that this is required. If in a stressful environment, even more important that you keep working her with positive methods so she can figure out that "Hey, this isn't so bad after all", and not shut down.

Don't let this trainer's status blind you to your dog's needs. If it were me, and Zelda was my dog, I would just walk away and find someone else.
 

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Also, I've always been of the mindset that forcing a dog to do something is NOT training, it is bullying. You will end up getting bitten, or someone will end up getting bitten if she gets into the frame of mind. This is putting you into a very unfair and unsafe situation.

Work on your relationship. Be fair and be firm, but that does NOT mean that you have to get physical with her. If you get to be physical with her, then you are giving the message that fighting YOU is okay, because, hey, YOU started it. Most of the time when people come on the forum with "my dog bit me" posts, it happened when the dog was not responding and they were trying to physically force the dog to: get in the crate, get off the bed, drop the bone, etc . . . . These are basics that should be matter of fact through day-to-day training and interaction. Getting a dog to listen means that they respect us as leaders, and our status of leader happens through a million little interactions and expectations throughout the day.

It doesn't happen because your dog was overwhelmed and shuttting down, and you assaulted her. (Hey look! I'm STRONGER than you are!). That is NOT being a leader, that is being abusive. NOT saying that you are, I know you were trying to work with the trainer and get the results he expected.

I would find another trainer, maybe a behaviourist to come to your house and observe your regular and normal interactions with Zelda and see if there is a leadership issue - might not be one. Could be that just continuing with positive training and letting her mature some more is all she needs.
 

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In the end if you're not comfortable with his methods then yes you need to find someone else. The end result should be the same though. Complete obedience is a must if you can't over power the dog in an emergency. If she's turning to bite you during a correction she doesn't respect you and you'll need a good trainer to help you get past that in a more positive way IMHO.
 

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Thanks, all I kept thinking this morning was "how can this POSSIBLY be helping her?" I could see the frustration in her eyes and it literally hurt my heart to keep pushing her. I shouldn't have done it, and I did feel like it could possibly be hurting our bond.

We don't really have obedience problems at home, she knows the rules and follows them for the most part. She does have her bratty moments, but she is still young. The problem is more when she is put in a more stressful situation, and doesn't want to listen. Like today, what SHOULD I have done when she wouldn't go down? Even if I had food, if she is on edge because of something, she doesn't care about food, or toys. She just stays focused on whatever it is she is concerned with. So if I told her to go down, and she didn't, am I reinforcing that she doesn't have to listen?

If she's turning to bite you during a correction she doesn't respect you and you'll need a good trainer to help you get past that in a more positive way IMHO.
Is it really a respect issue if she tries to bite me when I am literally wrestling her to the ground? Or is that her canine nature? I'm not trying to be rude, I really want to know. If I am giving her a normal correction (verbal or prong collar) she doesn't ever snap at me, but when I was forcing her down to the ground WHILE pulling on the prong, that's when she bit me. Does that mean she doesn't respect me?
 

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Personally...if I say something to my dogs at this point and I know they know the command, I will correct for it. There is no blowing me off because you're focused on something else that according to me isn't the priority at the moment. So I would correct if I said down, and my dog was busy staring at something outside. He knows better, and if he needs a correction to remember what's more important at the moment I'll give him a reminder.
 

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In your first post you state that you are softer on her than you should be....I think this is a source of her resistance to obeying you. It really shouldn't matter what the situation is that she chooses not to obey because she should always obey. If you are being soft, IMO it is making her weak. Dogs need leaders, consistent and firm. If they do not have a leader as an owner, they can take that lead and you see it in misbehavior. You mention situations where she is nervous ...especially at training. If her being nervous makes you nervous, she knows this. She needs you to be confident and secure...she's actually feeding off your insecurity. She's not your baby and will not benefit by being treated that way. Just my 2 cents worth.
 

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Personally...if I say something to my dogs at this point and I know they know the command, I will correct for it. There is no blowing me off because you're focused on something else that according to me isn't the priority at the moment. So I would correct if I said down, and my dog was busy staring at something outside. He knows better, and if he needs a correction to remember what's more important at the moment I'll give him a reminder.
Yes, and that is where I guess I am conflicted. I know she KNOWS what the command is. So if I tell her down, and she refuses, I correct her with the prong. If she still doesn't go down, do I do a stronger correction and tell her again until she goes down? I want her to listen to me even when distracted, and I don't want her to get into the habit of ignoring me. I just need to find a balance between being a push over and wrestling her down to the ground lol.
 

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In your first post you state that you are softer on her than you should be....I think this is a source of her resistance to obeying you. It really shouldn't matter what the situation is that she chooses not to obey because she should always obey. If you are being soft, IMO it is making her weak. Dogs need leaders, consistent and firm. If they do not have a leader as an owner, they can take that lead and you see it in misbehavior. You mention situations where she is nervous ...especially at training. If her being nervous makes you nervous, she knows this. She needs you to be confident and secure...she's actually feeding off your insecurity. She's not your baby and will not benefit by being treated that way. Just my 2 cents worth.
Thank you, this is all so true! The crazy thing is...my dad was an infantry drill sergeant, I was raised in a very strict household. My husband is currently a drill sergeant, and my parenting style has always been rather abrasive. I am probably more strict and stern than most mothers with my daughter, but she is a smart, respectful, and extremely resilient 7 year old. Because I know what she is capable of, and I expect nothing less. I have always said that I am not my daughters friend, and she may not think I'm the super fun mom now, but that doesn't matter as long as she respects me and I am helping her become a better person. Now, that said, if only I could apply all of that to my canine mothering...Why does that have to be so hard?? :( You're right though, I am not helping her by babying her.

Like I said, most of the time she listens. But if we are in a situation where she is hyper focused on a distraction and I tell her down, and she doesn't. I correct her, and she still doesn't listen, sometimes I cave. Huge mistake I know, so should I just keep correcting her? Or how should I reinforce the command in that situation.
 

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Had a trainer just like that. Praise but lots of force.

Politely fired him.

Fire yours.

The first response to your post is one you should read and reread several times. It's about a relationship.

Also, treats, especially high-value treats like small pieces of boiled beef liver are without any doubt the best way to train an animal to do what you want. It's a myth that in the future they won't do what you want without treats. Transition them from treats to toys after a while. They most certainly will obey without a treat once they understand what you want them to do.

Some also advocate marker training. Tried it but I'm a fumbling fool with too much to think about with treats, leashes and clickers. Still, without markers it worked out fine.

Repetition, Fun, Treats, Praise, Compassion, Justice, and Variety are the things that makes a dog, especially a GSD, loyal and obedient to you. It take time and commitment. But the bond will be unbreakable afterwards.

The only time I ever use force with my dog is if he becomes aggressive without being commanded to be aggressive. It's amazing now at only a few days from two years old how he looks me right in the eye for direction and how genuinely affectionate he is to me and my wife and how genuinely protective he is of us both.

LF
 

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My girl Reagan sounds very similar to your Zelda. She gets very anxious sometimes and when she gets that way, it's like she doesn't hear me. I could seriously put a whole hot dog in her mouth and she wouldn't eat it. We are currently enrolled in a group obedience class. She is most anxious being around other dogs while leashed. Other than that she is very obedient and well behaved. I'll give some strategies we have used that have helped A LOT. We're in week 5 of the class and she is now happily listening to me and even looking away from another dog walking towards her to focus on me. I am a firm believer that with a dog who is nervous and anxious, corrections can make the problem worse.

1. The biggest thing for me has been teaching Reagan to look to me for help/when she doesn't know how to respond. When she gets anxious, she feels she is in control of the situation and doesn't know how to react, so she gets more nervous. We did something called the "crazy walk." It is where you walk very erratically. Take three steps, then make a sharp turn to the right, then take a couple steps, then about face, etc. Your dog will quickly learn to pay attention to you instead of everything else around them. I was skeptical of this but it worked wonders with Reagan! I actually am training her to walk slightly behind the typical heel position so she really understands that she is following me and I am the leader.

2. Work under their threshold. If Zelda gets nervous when barking dogs, the construction worker, etc. are 50 feet away, then start by training at 60 feet away. Keep her to a distance where she is comfortable responding to you. As she gets more reliable, SLOWLY work your way closer. Reagan has gone from having a threshold of about 20 feet to one of about 3 feet within the past 5 weeks. It really does help!

3. Keep it positive. I normally use corrections if I feel Reagan should know something and she isn't doing it, but if she seems the least bit anxious I don't correct. I simply move away from the distraction until she is calm enough to focus and then try again.

I have more tips if you're interested! I know a lot of people here have a lot more experience than me, but it seems like you have a very similar situation to what I am working through so I thought I would share what has been working for me. :)
 

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2. Work under their threshold. If Zelda gets nervous when barking dogs, the construction worker, etc. are 50 feet away, then start by training at 60 feet away. Keep her to a distance where she is comfortable responding to you. As she gets more reliable, SLOWLY work your way closer. Reagan has gone from having a threshold of about 20 feet to one of about 3 feet within the past 5 weeks. It really does help!

3. Keep it positive. I normally use corrections if I feel Reagan should know something and she isn't doing it, but if she seems the least bit anxious I don't correct. I simply move away from the distraction until she is calm enough to focus and then try again.
. :)

Yes yes yes!

This is what I was going to say. Stay under threshold. If she can't work that close to the distraction back off and try again...then move closer as she becomes more comfortable.
 

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Her defiance is her shutting down, disengaging because she is stressed. She cannot learn and improve if she is in a contant state of stress and mental shutdown.
^This. If your dog is anxious, fearful, or stressed, she's not in a learning state of mind. A very general, basic rule of dog training is that when you increase the difficultly, in whatever fashion, you lower the criteria you're asking for. You don't take a dog that obeys commands consistently at home in a low distraction environment that she's perfectly comfortable in, (and in which she probably learned those commands in the first place), and expect the same level of compliance in a new and distracting place, or under stressful circumstances. You're not going to get it anyway (as you've discovered) and continuing to expect it without working your way up by increasing difficulty gradually is just setting her up for failure rather than success, and yourself for frustration.

If you have to physically overpower your dog, you've already lost the battle, and the fact that she's biting you shows the relationship has become damaged as well.
 

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This dog sounds like she is anxious and her lack of response to commands probably has less to do with respect and more to do with her being nervous.

Think about it. If your dog is refusing food that she will normally work for and now she won't even take it if it is being given to her for free, there's got to be something that is troubling her. At this moment, her behavior has nothing to do with your relationship and everything to do with her anxiety.

At these times, giving commands is not going to be successful unless you make her think disobeying you is scarier than anything going on around her in which case her anxiety levels will go up.

The other option is to teach her to be confident in her surroundings. When she is confident in her surroundings, she won't be anxious and then you can work in your normal way. This is compounded by the fact that she is the age at which many dogs go through a second fear stage. This means it is extremely important during this time to not invite negative experiences as she is particularly sensitive.

A great book to consider is The Cautious Canine by Dr. Patricia McConnell. It is made specifically for owners of dogs with fear and anxiety issues to give them a detailed outline of how to work with their dog. Another great book is The Other End of the Leash which talks about canine and human communication and why things often go south.

And I will leave you with this, because I think it is very fitting:
"Using dominance as the 'reason' your dog does not come when you call it or doesn't sit when you request a sit is excuse-making........... The other great mistake is made by the owner who is so paranoid, every move the dog makes is seen as some sort of status-seeking behaviour. The whole 'don't let your dog go through the door before you because he is trying to dominate you' ideology. I mean, really. I don't allow my dogs to go through the door until I tell them they can do so, but it is a safety issues; I dislike being dislodged off my feet by dogs shoving me aside in their excitement to get into the yard. If a dog runs through the door ahead of me, I wouldn't assume he has sinister intentions and is trying to 'pull one over on me.' I think he just wants to go outside and is taking the direct route."

"A dog in a submissive posture should never be punished. Punishing this animal will only make the dog feel more anxious in your presence. In addition, you teach the dog that you ignore attempts to communicate with you."

Aggression in Dogs: Practical Management, Prevention & Behavior Modification by Brenda Aloff
 

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I agree with the posters who say that she is over threshold and the defiance is stress -- she is shutting down. I have trained both ways: 1) total compliance at all times and 2) figuring out a particular dog's threshold and working _with_ the dog. I learned the hard way that not every dog responds to the same type of training and their is a difference between obedience and developing a good relationship. I prefer the latter.

Imho, the most important things are trust, consistency and clear leadership, not dominance. You need to figure out what works for your dog and work with your dog and not against your dog. Rafi knows many commands and most of them he learned himself because he is tuned into me all of the time. Work on building a strong, trusting relationship with your dog so that she willingly looks to you for leadership.
 

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go with your gut.

she's your dog and you will need to follow through with training, so choose a trainer you feel good about.
 

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First of all, I just want to thank everyone for the responses. This is exactly why I LOVE this forum, everyone is knowledgeable and so willing to help out. So a couple of things, I really do try my best to work below her threshold. For example, I started working inside the house of course. Moved out to the back yard, then right outside the fence. Then we started training while walking around the 3 mile track that circles the neighborhood. She does well, but it is the uncontrollable things that happen that get me. Sometimes, she surprises me in a good way. Hardcore artillery fire, so loud it rattles our house, doesn't phase her. She still has good focus. One day we were out in a field and a Chinook helicopter came in and was hovering like 100 feet above us...it was LOUD, I seriously expected her to be terrified and bolt away, but she didn't. But then there are other times when she sees a particular dog or person and it is like it doesn't matter what I do, she doesn't even know who I am. So in a situation like that, if I am unable to physically move farther away from the distraction and I ask her to do something. When I notice that she is nervous, should I just stop asking anything of her, and just let her stand there until the distraction is gone? Or is that teaching her that she can then ignore me? Or do I correct her until she does whatever I asked and THEN wait until she is less distracted? I really try to "set her up for success" as much as I can, but when something unexpected happens, I guess I really just don't know what my course of action should be.

At the beginning of this school year I decided to take Zelda with me to the bus stop to pick my daughter up from school. The first day was a disaster, and it was all my fault, not hers at all. We walked up to the bus stop, I put her in a down, she did great...until the bus load of kids came running off of the bus. A couple of them ran up to her, which of course freaked her out. She was super nervous, and I knew right then I made a huge mistake. So after that day, I would take her to the bus stop every day. I did what you guys have all suggested, started about 50 feet away, not in the direct path of kids running home. Success, she did fine. Long story short, we slowly worked our way up and now we can walk right up to the bus stop, I put her in a down, kids literally running and screaming all around her, and she is cool as a cucumber. What is the best way to train that kind of obedience in a situation in which I cannot control the distraction?

Tiffseagles mentioned confidence, I think that is a HUGE part of my problem (I say MY problem because I know all of these problems are mine, not hers...but I am talking about her confidence) I feel like if I could just get her to feel more confident, things would be less stressful for her. Any tips on confidence building?
 

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First of all, I just want to thank everyone for the responses. This is exactly why I LOVE this forum, everyone is knowledgeable and so willing to help out. So a couple of things, I really do try my best to work below her threshold. For example, I started working inside the house of course. Moved out to the back yard, then right outside the fence. Then we started training while walking around the 3 mile track that circles the neighborhood. She does well, but it is the uncontrollable things that happen that get me. Sometimes, she surprises me in a good way. Hardcore artillery fire, so loud it rattles our house, doesn't phase her. She still has good focus. One day we were out in a field and a Chinook helicopter came in and was hovering like 100 feet above us...it was LOUD, I seriously expected her to be terrified and bolt away, but she didn't. But then there are other times when she sees a particular dog or person and it is like it doesn't matter what I do, she doesn't even know who I am. So in a situation like that, if I am unable to physically move farther away from the distraction and I ask her to do something. When I notice that she is nervous, should I just stop asking anything of her, and just let her stand there until the distraction is gone? Or is that teaching her that she can then ignore me? Or do I correct her until she does whatever I asked and THEN wait until she is less distracted? I really try to "set her up for success" as much as I can, but when something unexpected happens, I guess I really just don't know what my course of action should be.

At the beginning of this school year I decided to take Zelda with me to the bus stop to pick my daughter up from school. The first day was a disaster, and it was all my fault, not hers at all. We walked up to the bus stop, I put her in a down, she did great...until the bus load of kids came running off of the bus. A couple of them ran up to her, which of course freaked her out. She was super nervous, and I knew right then I made a huge mistake. So after that day, I would take her to the bus stop every day. I did what you guys have all suggested, started about 50 feet away, not in the direct path of kids running home. Success, she did fine. Long story short, we slowly worked our way up and now we can walk right up to the bus stop, I put her in a down, kids literally running and screaming all around her, and she is cool as a cucumber. What is the best way to train that kind of obedience in a situation in which I cannot control the distraction?

Tiffseagles mentioned confidence, I think that is a HUGE part of my problem (I say MY problem because I know all of these problems are mine, not hers...but I am talking about her confidence) I feel like if I could just get her to feel more confident, things would be less stressful for her. Any tips on confidence building?
That's so great that she improved so much with the children on the school bus! You're clearly working really hard with her and that's what's most important. :)

I totally understand what you mean about unexpected distractions. I live in an apartment complex. I can't tell you how many times I've been calmly walking Reagan and someone lets their little dog out off leash to go to the bathroom. It makes Reagan so nervous. She doesn't hear anything I'm saying and it's so frustrating for both of us.

Can you give an example of a distraction you can't physically move away from? If you come across another dog or person while walking, you can cross the road, turn around, etc. Just get farther away as quickly as possible. That has been a big thing with Reagan and I. I don't freak out, I just say "come on, let's go!" in a really cheerful voice. She definitely has picked up on my tension in the past. Just be as cheerful as possible and keep going. You may also want to investigate LAT training. This is where you reward the dog for looking at whatever makes them nervous and then focusing back on you. I do a similar thing with Reagan where if a dog barks at her, I get her attention on me before she reacts. This only works if she's under her threshold though.

As far as confidence goes, I've heard tug works well, as well as nosework/tracking, agility, etc. But I don't have experience in any of those areas so I can't say much more than that!
 

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this sounds an awful lot like a trainer my mom used for our lab over a decade ago. i understand the concept, and i'm an advocate of your dog doing exactly what you say, when you say it, and some dogs do need that extra kick in the ass. our lab was completely uncontrollable when we got her. hyper, didn't listen to a word we said. my mom must've taken her to a a half dozen trainers who instead of working with her, advised she be put down. by the grace of God, my mom found this trainer who was trained in schutzhund training and this guy worked a miracle on her. i don't know if it was as forceful, but it definitely involved a correctional collar, and if the dog didnt do what it was told, the correctional collar was used to make it do what you wanted. was thinking about taking roya to him, but he's also charging a fortune presently. more than double what he charged my mother.

i'm not supporting your trainer's method, but i do understand it. some dogs need more reinforcement than a treat and a pat on the head, especially if there are dominance issues. and i can tell you without a doubt, because i've seen it first hand, it DOES work. our lab would stop in her tracks to obey any command my mom gave her when all was said and done. ****, she even got her responding to hand signals.

so again, it definitely depends on the dog IMO. that training isn't for every dog. doesn't make it right or wrong or your dog weak by any means, just some dogs are wired for it and some aren't.
 

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We used a similar styled trainer once for my border collie I used to have and we did one session with this man and never went back. His style was similar but minus the praise part. He believed in choke chains (which I do as well for little corrections on leash), but his method of teaching for example: down was "step on the leash close to the collar until the dog is forced to the floor". It was kind of a do it or else thing. I, like you, was unsure about what had happened at the session and wondered if I was being over sensitive. I want my dog to listen to me because he wants to, not because he is scared of me.

Well let me tell you, that dog was extremely cautious around me for the next few weeks and was afraid of people's feet and it took probably a month or so before he acted normal around me again. He was my velcro dog prior to this. This is my biggest regret as a dog owner- but unfortunately I didn't know enough to run outta that training facility!
 
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