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I had been looking forward to tonight for weeks. Well Max started his class and it did not go too well
He is the biggest/oldest dog in the class for one thing. All her classes were booked up til now so he is at the oldest level this class permits.

He would not settle down, barked at every dog there, wanted to run and play with some of them, REFUSED to sit still. She directed me on how to massage him to get him to relax. It would last for a minute then he was back to being agitated


He barked so much that it was hard to hear the instructor and we were getting nasty looks from the other owners. It got so bad they had to put a fence around him to attempt to block out the other dogs. Then he whined because he could not see them


Needless to say, I left with a headache, muscle aches from trying to keep him in the "box" designated to him. He was sooooooooo unruly. I have never seen him like this before.

I keep telling myself it was his first night. He has never seen that many dogs in one place. For the most part he just wanted to play with them. The other pups looked at him either with fear or started whining too that they wanted to play too. It was chaos!

I hope next week goes better! I spent the entire class massaging him, trying to get him to settle and did not hear much of what the instructor said. Luckily I brought DH and he managed to listen to what she was attempting to teach everyone.

I hope Max does not get kicked out or flunk kindergarten!
 

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If Max has never been in a classroom full of other dogs before, then this behavior is absolutely normal. Annoying, yes, but perfectly normal for a young, excited dog who just wants to play.

You need to work on teaching him to be quiet during the class, and I think the more time you spend in class, the more that will happen anyway. The novelty of it all will work off within a few classes.

I think they did the right thing by "sectioning" Max off from the other dogs so you could participate in class. Sectioning a dog off, or removing a dog to a further part of the classroom is used very frequently as a method with dogs that are overly excited, or dogs that are anxious / fearful in the classroom at first. It allows you to focus on your dog, and your dog to focus more on you, keeping him from getting overexcited and overwhelmed.

Do they have proper "screens" they use, or what did they use to section off your area? The place where I went had 4" fabric screens that could be moved around freely wherever needed, and they came in very useful in class at the beginning.
 

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I help out in obedience classes. First classes are always chaos. Lots of excited, vocal pups not being able to contain themselves.
Nothing to be embarassed or frustrated about.

Then by the third and fourth class, a miracle happens! Things start to quiet down, dogs start looking to their owners for direction and rewards, and start ignoring the other dogs. BIG HUGE difference!

Next time give Max a bit of exercise before the class to help him relax, and keep him hungry so he's more focused on you and the treats you have in your hands.

When I went to my very first class with Keeta, she was so hyped, I couldn't even walk her from the car across the parking lot into the building. I had to literally grab her by the collar and drag her in.

That first class, I wasn't expecting much, and was overjoyed almost to tears that I got so much as a sit out of her.
She ended up being something of an obedience superstar. Even my trainer was surprised at the change in her. So don't despair, I know Max has it in him to make you proud.
 

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Well this is all good to hear. Max is really pretty well behaved so I was so surprised at how he reacted tonight. I had figured he would get all excited seeing all the pups and would take a while to calm down, I had no idea he was going to be the only dog fenced or "talk" throught the entire class.

He is the only shepherd in the class. Most of the dogs are gentle little golden retrievers, a couple really small dogs that I have no idea what they are but they were very well behaved,gorgeous akita pup who was as mellow as could be as well as a great dane who was also sweet and mild manered.. Max's brother was supposed to be in the class and I had hoped he would be but nope, he wasn't. As the class wore on I had wished Rambo was there also so Max would not be the only dog acting up LOL...

Well I am going to work with him all week at settling down and calming himself. Hopefully he will be better next week and at worst the following week. I just don't want people complaining that he is disrupting the class. People did not seem very thrilled that they dished out 225.00 to listen to Max bark through the class
 

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Another thing to consider is not just calming Max, but calming you as well. I know you probably didn't feel that nervous before the class, but I'm sure there was some excitement on your part. And then once Max started acting not-so-great, I'm sure you were a bit embarrassed and annoyed, and probably getting flustered. All of that travels down the leash to your pup, too.

When we started obedience, I was horrible the first couple of classes. Abby was really hyper the first class, prancing and barking, and, of course, I didn't want the other people to have a bad impression of us and started to get pretty flustered.

What really worked for us was taking a long walk before class. That gave both of us a chance to collect our thoughts and go into the class in a more business-like way. It helped that our training facility was about 3 miles from my house, so we'd just walk to the class instead of driving. Got the energy out of Abby, and the worry and nervous out of me. It also helped that the way to class was through the park, so she even got to run off-leash a bit.

Tired dog = good class.


Also, I really want to say you shouldn't worry too much about what the other people in class think about you and your dog. You paid the same money they did.

Good for them if all their dogs are really calm and laid back, but that doesn't mean there's something wrong with your pup because of the way he was acting. Some dogs are more mellow than others, and a lot of dogs are bred to be the mellow couch-potato type. YOU, on the other hand, have a German Shepherd.
Different dog.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Chris, great post! You made some great suggestions that I will certainly try. I totally agree that a tired Max would be better behaved in class. I should have thought of that!

The instructor called today. She wants to meet with us one on one before the next class
She was wonderful though. She owns a Shepherd, Max's brother actually, as does her assistant. She told me that Max just acted like all Shepherds do in the first class. Chris, she basically said the same thing you did, that other breeds were meant to be mellow etc, and obviously Shepherds are not. So I am looking forward to this private session to address some issues with Max.

Chris, also you are right about me becoming flustered. I tried really hard to remain calm with Max but when I started getting nasty stares from people I did become stressed feeling I had to get him under control quickly so as to not disturb the class.
 

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I was also going to suggest trying to tire Max out before class. I know that has helped with Molly in the past. I don't have too much more to add because Chris gave some wonderful suggestions, I just wanted to say it sounds like you have a wonderful instructor that knows a thing or two about shepherds and that I think you and Max will do great in the upcoming classes.
Hang in there and keep us posted on your progress!!
 

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Have you done much training with him at home? Rewarding him for looking at you and coming to you? Attention directing exercises? I agree with the others, new place, new dogs = very exciting and distracting. He SHOULD start to settle down over the next couple of classes, but in the meantime I'd work with him a lot at home so you have a strategy for getting his attention back on you if he loses focus. And Chris is absolutely right, he'll feed off your stress, frustration, and anxiety, so do your best to ignore the other people and dogs and focus on yours. Smile at him, laugh, talk silly to him, whatever it takes to keep yourself calm and relaxed. Ditto on wearing him out first, either a walk, or vigorous play, like chasing a ball can take the edge off his excitement.

Keefer is my excitable, easily distracted boy, and he was also 14 weeks old when we entered puppy class. Envision a very small area sectioned off at the back of a pet supply store with 11 puppies and about 20 people in it, and that was his class. But he was actually the star of his class because I had done SO much work with him at home starting at 9 weeks old when I got him. By then he'd lay on the living room floor and stare at me for hours if I'd toss him a treat occasionally.

I started by using a clicker and treats, and every day when I got home from work I strapped on my treat bag and wore it until bedtime. I'd spend some time clicking and treating him every time he looked at me, or laid down on the floor - I rewarded behavior that I wanted to encourage, just short sessions many times a day. Then I started naming those behaviors, telling him 'watch' and then clicking and treating when he made eye contact, or 'down' right before his butt and elbows hit the floor, again, marking and rewarding.

I'd call his name and when he whipped his head around I'd click (or mark it verbally - Yes!) and give him a treat. I taught him 'find it', which means to look for a treat on the floor. This is a great way to get him back if he gets distracted in class - say the command and toss a handful of treats on the floor. Once he learns that the command means there's yummy food to find and will come running from across the room whenever you say 'find it', you can also start using it to play recall games. Give command, toss a treat, and run into another room in the house, calling his name. When he gets to you give him another treat, say 'find it' again and toss another treat on the floor, running away and calling him again. Repeat until you're both panting.

I taught him 'touch', which is to target my palm with his nose. This is handy to teach off leash heeling by following your hand, and is also good for recalls and giving your dog something to do in class. I can hold out my palm and my dogs will come to me from across the room to do the nose bump.

We were often so close to another puppy in class that their tails would be touching during downs, but he had been so heavily rewarded for weeks for paying attention to me that he had no trouble tuning out the other puppies. Now that he's older he's much more excitable and barky in classes, but I can always get him back with 'find it' and a handful of treats, and then keep him focused on me with the 'watch' command. I've found that if we're actively doing something he's fine, it's the down time between exercises while the trainer is describing and demonstrating what we're going to do next that he'd lose focus, so it's good to have something for him to do rather than just sit there and look at other dogs.

Tom took this picture of Keef watching me at his first day of puppy class:



You can see how narrow the space we were in was from the feet on our side of the room, and the chairs on the opposite side of the room at the top right of the picture.
 

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Cassidy'sMom, wow, I can guarantee you that at no point during that class did Max come even CLOSE to giving me the focus your pup was giving you in the pic!

I had been working with him a lot when we first got him. I dropped the ball when my lab got very sick and needed my attention. She was put down a couple of weeks ago. Since that time I have been working more with Max, especially the last week.

You have many great ideas in your post that I will surely try. The trainer was teaching the touch command last night. Max did well with it and we worked on it last night after class and this morning as well. I do want him to get to the point where he will respond to hand signals even if he is not right next to me.

I understand all dogs are different but this is the first Shepherd we have had that has been "so much dog". Both the others were females and just seemed so much easier to train. Max is from working lines and has a high prey drive which the others did not have and he has a bit of "atttitude" that neither of them had either. That was the main reason I needed to get him enrolled. We travel a lot in the summer and want Max to be with us like our other dogs were. At this point there is no way I would attempt to bring him where there are other dogs etc. He is great with people but needs to get his focus off the other animals and other distractions and onto us.

Well it will be a challenge but one all in my family will meet because we love him to pieces and want him to be well behaved and under control so that he is not a danger to anyone or himself for that matter.

I took him to the pet store today and there was a pit bull in there that was very well mannered. Max didn't growl or anything and showed no real signs of aggression, but he did bark, and bark, and bark long after the other dog was gone. I did stop walking and made him settle down and treated him when he did. It just took too long for it to happen so I need to really focus my attention on getting HIS attention...

Anyway, thanks everyone for your input. We WILL get through this!
 

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Keefer is REALLY food motivated, he pretty much lives to eat, so that made it a lot easier. And if it makes you feel any better, the first thing he did when we got there before we went inside was bark at all the other dogs.
But as soon as we got down to it, he was great. After all, mom had FOOD!
and those other puppies didn't, lol!

He also has huge prey drive, he's easily overstimulated by fast motion - balls being thrown, small furry creatures like little dogs, cats, and squirrels running around, that sort of thing. Dena is a ball fiend, and also loves chasing the kitties, but she was calmer at 6 months old than he is at 2-1/2.

Once Max hits adolescence it's going to be a lot harder, so the more work you can put in now, while he's still young, the better. Keefer is by no means perfect, and still very much a work in process, but continued training and also maturity should help calm him down some.

In his last class, which was almost a year and a half ago (I took all last year off training after taking 9 classes between the two dogs), he had one of the best out of sight stays, and a phenominally fast recall, but still barked at the other dogs if I didn't keep him busy. They recommended that he repeat the class, because although his obedience skills were quite good, he's still so distracted. And this is AFTER all the work I did for that first year, and with continued NILIF as part of the daily routine.

They also had fabric screens, which they refer to as 'condos', and a couple of times when he got barky the trainer would call over and ask if I wanted one. But since I had ways of breaking his attention off other stuff and getting it back on me, I declined. There was another dog in the class that was very reactive, and he stayed in his condo the entire time. It kept his anxiety level down, his owner could still work with him, and the other dogs in the class were safe.
 

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Well, one thing you can look forward to is the last lesson, you will get the most improved award. They always seem to give it to the dog that was the most vocal, boisterous on the first night of training!
 
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