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Discussion Starter #1
So I have a stupid dilemma because I did not do enough research on my obedience class/ school (epic fail.)

I have had my rescue puppy for 2 months and I started teaching him basic obedience because you know...he is a 7 month old Shepherd and NEEDS it! Both for the boundaries/ manners and for the engagement and mental stimulation.

There were 2 decent looking training schools near me that both seemed to offer positive reinforcement classes (I do correct my dogs when necessary) but I am looking for a place to teach my puppy in a class setting etc.

He is highly toy and food motivated and as I like Michael Ellis I have worked hard on engagement training with both of these. The results? Beautiful. My out of control, counter surfing 5 month demon is now an energetic, feet on the floor (kinda), 7 month menace that asks politely for dinner and to be released through doorways.

My problem, and here is where I need some advice. I just attended my first obedience class and I am very disappointed.

Their techniques seem to be completely opposite to everything I have been teaching. I use a "yes" as my marker and either a toy or food when teaching new behaviors or in new settings. This school is asking me to use dried liver in my fingers, as a lure (they can nibble/lick) into a sit, down etc then when they are in position say "good dog!" all happy. and thats it. They do not actually give them the liver. Later I believe we will be using a squeaky ball as the marker (yes a SQUEAKY BALL!) my poor boy, he is going to lose his mind. His squeaky ball is one of his favorites and he will do almost anything to get it. I was told that this squeaky ball is not a toy and the head trainer does not want to ever see it in my dog's mouth :(

Long story short. I tried to go in with an open mind (I did pay $300 no refunds after all.) They told us to forget any training we have done before. Sure I get that. 5 minutes at home trying to practice the new techniques and I felt sick. Watching my poor puppy's absolute confusion and frustration was actually painful. I felt like I was just teasing him with the liver. He was trying SO HARD. But all he got was a YES! from me like usual. after 3 times he actually bit me out of frustration (not hard/ aggressive just pent up.)

Now I don't believe I should always have food or a toy. I absolutely backup any command that he already knows. But as far as training and engagement I found this soul crushing. I am thinking of just totally dropping out and finding another school/ trainer that is more in line with how I want to train or cheating at home and trying to wing it in class on the day. Am I being crazy? Is this type of technique normal? I am by no means a dog trainer and it has been ages since I have had a dog too so maybe I am just being stuck up :(
 

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If I were in the exact same situation this is what I would do. Since there is no chance of a refund, I would not bring my boy to class again but I wouldn't drop the class either. I would just show up without my dog. I would be too curious to see how that trainer and the group progressed and how effective/ineffective the methods are. Since I paid for it, I sure as heck would not give up my spot. And sure as heck would not bring my dog. I would have an excuse ready. This would also allow me more time to observe without Causing more stress and confusion to my boy and giving me time to make a more informed decision. and if after the second or third week was told I had to bring the dog in or drop out, I would insist that either I stay in class with or without my dog or receive a partial refund equal to the classes that are left.

But that's just me.

Don't undo what you have accomplished and what works for you both. It isn't fair to either of you, especially with a method that you have never seen or heard of before. I haven't heard of it either.
 

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I agree with Heartandsoul. I can speak from personal experience that changing up a successful training routine just because you've paid to be there or because it's other people telling you to do it, doesn't mean it's best for your dog. If you can see the confusion and issues, then it's happening and you will possibly end up undoing all of the hard work you've put in already. Ryka is two and JUST starting to heel like she did as a puppy, because I finally threw some other things out the window and decided I was going to train the dog in front of me with what worked best between us. Sometimes there's just too many chefs in the kitchen and it ruins the end product.

Like mentioned, don't be afraid to learn new methods or approaches. Take them in, see what you like or don't like. Apply what might benefit you. Learn about what you like or don't like to help you reflect on what your training philosophy might be. But definitely don't confuse your poor pup. Work with something until it doesn't work anymore and then adapt, but don't change it just because someone else tells you to even though it's clearly successful.
 

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I tend to use classed for exposure and distraction purposed more so than learning how to train my dog. I often ignore the trainer's instructions and do my own thing, and since my dog often already knows how to do whatever is being taught. Trainers tend to be busy with someone else and if your dog is doing what is being taught they don't care. Another option would be to contact the trainer and discuss that you use different methods and if they are okay with you doing your own thing in class. I have never had an issue with using a different technique, but if the trainer is not open to it then you need to decide if you feel up to standing your ground or else drop the class. I have never had a problem since my dogs have always been able to do whatever is doing taught.
 

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I did something similar to Bramble with my newest dog, Steel. I paid for a puppy class at a local AKC obedience club just for the experience of a different environment. I only took suggestions from the trainer there when they were useful to me and didn't completely undo what I've already taught Steel. I'd just bring him and train him my way, but the trainer there knew me from outside the club so there was leniency you might not get at your place.



If it were me, I'd drop the class if the trainer doesn't budge about the issue. It sucks, but I'd rather not confuse the dog because the trainer is "my way or the highway."
 

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Hey guys thanks so much for the responses! I have been stressing out about this all night.

The silly thing is that when I first taught Haku the sit/down/heel whatever, I did a similar lure technique. It's so nice and easy to shape them into the position that way to explain what you want. But the difference was I actually GAVE him the treat once he got it and I marked with a "yes." Of course he is super smart so 3 times of that and I could ask without the lure and he would actually use his brain and offer the position. Bingo. I thought that was how this was done... I just find using a lure and then not giving them anything is frustrating to the dog. The trainer called using food bribing the dog and said they don't do that your dog won't care about food in petsmart. She is right, but when shaping these initial behaviors I just don't see a need to not reward and not keep my dog engaged. Once he KNOWS the command that is a different story.

I am more concerned about that upcoming squeaky ball. I am sure their techniques work though, they have very high reviews, a ton of people trying to get a spot in class and I have seen Shepherds on their website. This seems to be a "family dog" kind of place. And I belatedly realized that I am looking for something a bit more than that. They offer agility so I am a bit surprised by their methods. I chose them because they do a lot of outside based classes in the future at HomeDepot, Markets etc. I am looking for that sort of help with distraction training. Haku can't do anything outside of the house right now he is too excited.

I am going to try some of your suggestions and reach out to the trainer and explain my frustration and see what they say. I have a feeling she will shoot me down. I really don't like the head trainer and I don't know why. She gives off a no-nonsense vibe which should be good but she irritates me already, which is a bad sign. She seems to have a "my way or the highway" and I feel if I want to tweak anything for my dog it will be an absolute no. As far as me going to class and being ignored that will be VERY hard. The training room is TINY and we all barely fit so I can't just stand off to the side and find a corner. I could only get maybe 5 feet away from any person. Her words exactly "we run a very tight ship here." If anyone saw my other thread and was curious this was the same place that offered Day Training where they board my dog two days a week and teach them what we are going through in class. I refused as I want to teach my own dog. I was very upset to see the first day at orientation they spent more than half the class explaining why I should let them board my dog.

There is another good reviewed school that is all clicker based training. Although I do need a slightly firmer hand with my puppy regarding outside issues reactivity, I think for training and class purposes that sort of approach may be way more up our alley. He LOVES training right now and lights up. I just don't want to break that. He is such a sweet thing.
 

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I tend to use classed for exposure and distraction purposed more so than learning how to train my dog. I often ignore the trainer's instructions and do my own thing, and since my dog often already knows how to do whatever is being taught. Trainers tend to be busy with someone else and if your dog is doing what is being taught they don't care. Another option would be to contact the trainer and discuss that you use different methods and if they are okay with you doing your own thing in class. I have never had an issue with using a different technique, but if the trainer is not open to it then you need to decide if you feel up to standing your ground or else drop the class. I have never had a problem since my dogs have always been able to do whatever is doing taught.
This is an approach I may try take Bramble. Haku already has a very solid sit, down, stay, stand. My problem is getting him to do them with distractions. I wonder if I could train with the lure and treats at home so he learns their specific hand signals and then go to the class and give it a try. I can always sneak some food in with the lure lol.....this is so stupid. As an introvert I feel I will need to cut the $300 loss and find a class that we can have some fun in.
 

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I am more concerned about that upcoming squeaky ball. I am sure their techniques work though, they have very high reviews, a ton of people trying to get a spot in class and I have seen Shepherds on their website. This seems to be a "family dog" kind of place. And I belatedly realized that I am looking for something a bit more than that. They offer agility so I am a bit surprised by their methods. I chose them because they do a lot of outside based classes in the future at HomeDepot, Markets etc. I am looking for that sort of help with distraction training. Haku can't do anything outside of the house right now he is too excited.
Regarding the squeaky ball. I'll just bring this point up to you. If you've ever seen a police K-9 handler with their dog, they ALWAYS give the tug or ball after a successful training session and they don't use the tug/ball as a lure to execute singular tasks and then not give it to them. So, just putting that out there. The toy is the ultimate reward for the full session. It's like getting a paycheck for your job. You already know this, because you've got a brain in your head.

I am going to try some of your suggestions and reach out to the trainer and explain my frustration and see what they say. I have a feeling she will shoot me down. I really don't like the head trainer and I don't know why. She gives off a no-nonsense vibe which should be good but she irritates me already, which is a bad sign. She seems to have a "my way or the highway" and I feel if I want to tweak anything for my dog it will be an absolute no. As far as me going to class and being ignored that will be VERY hard. The training room is TINY and we all barely fit so I can't just stand off to the side and find a corner. I could only get maybe 5 feet away from any person. Her words exactly "we run a very tight ship here." If anyone saw my other thread and was curious this was the same place that offered Day Training where they board my dog two days a week and teach them what we are going through in class. I refused as I want to teach my own dog. I was very upset to see the first day at orientation they spent more than half the class explaining why I should let them board my dog.
So your first post told us they refuse to offer refunds (yellow flag to me). Now they're "my way or the highway" (red flag), and they spend a ton of time trying to sell you something expensive (double red flag). You know what. YOU ARE THE CUSTOMER. You paid them money, so you take the position that it's your dog, your work, and if they want to help you work with the dog in front of you, great. A good trainer should always do that and take your efforts into account. A good trainer offers additional methods and helps you tighten up what you're already doing and makes small adjustments that don't completely confuse the dog.

I'll say to you what my husband has said to me in times of doubt: "You're the one in control." Just remember that.

Tweak her training if you want. Tweak it all over the place. Use what's useful to you (surely there's something she's teaching that's useful). What's she gonna do? Yell at you? Kick you out? If she does, just laugh at her and say "Hey, it's my money. If you don't like it, give me my money back."
 

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I banned squeaky toys in my pet training classes as it turns most dogs crazy and me too. Hope everybody learned from the OP's posts; observe a class without your dog before entering in one.
OP, did you have to sign a contract which states that you cannot use treats? $300 sounds pretty spendy. But cutting your loss is worth it if it means protecting your and your dog's sanity.
I agree with HeartandSoul to finish the class and observe without the dog if you can stand the nonsense, just to see results. Keep us posted. In the meantime enjoy training your dog the way that works for you and him.
 

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I agree with most of what Kyrielle says. I would not use a ball for a young dog that you are trying to put foundation training on. Food works so much better and once they know the exercise you can add a higher level reward. If your dog has a lot of ball drive then using a squeaky or a ball or a tug could take them right over the top and you won't accomplish anything.

This one size fits all thing would indicate a very limited trainer who does not know how to use a dog's drive and reward. I have found that alot of old school AKC trainers seem to lure but not reward.

I reward and reward and reward. I use their entire meal in a 10 minute training session. But I learned from one of the best "if you're dog isn't looking at you, then you aren't rewarding enough" ~ Deb Zappia.
 

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If I were in the exact same situation this is what I would do. Since there is no chance of a refund, I would not bring my boy to class again but I wouldn't drop the class either. I would just show up without my dog. I would be too curious to see how that trainer and the group progressed and how effective/ineffective the methods are. Since I paid for it, I sure as heck would not give up my spot. And sure as heck would not bring my dog. I would have an excuse ready. This would also allow me more time to observe without Causing more stress and confusion to my boy and giving me time to make a more informed decision. and if after the second or third week was told I had to bring the dog in or drop out, I would insist that either I stay in class with or without my dog or receive a partial refund equal to the classes that are left.

But that's just me.

Don't undo what you have accomplished and what works for you both. It isn't fair to either of you, especially with a method that you have never seen or heard of before. I haven't heard of it either.
I would do either this or just drop.

I did walk away from a $90 class in a similar situation. It was better in the long run for both my dog and for me. For $300, I think I would want to stick it out and observe. It could be interesting.
 

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Tell them it’s not working for you and if they don’t give you a refund, you will show up to class and do what is best for your dog and make sure everyone knows it. There is no reason why you have to go to class, take what they dish out and not give feedback. I’m guessing if you are vocal they will either give you a partial refund or ask you to leave, at which point they would have to refund your money. If you can afford it, do what was joist suggested and walk away. I walked out of a $70 class and never returned. I’ve spent a lot more on a private trainer since then. It sounds from your initial post that you need to work on house manners. Leave it is a good command for counters and anything else they need to learn to ignore.
 

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The silly thing is that when I first taught Haku the sit/down/heel whatever, I did a similar lure technique. It's so nice and easy to shape them into the position that way to explain what you want. But the difference was I actually GAVE him the treat once he got it and I marked with a "yes." Of course he is super smart so 3 times of that and I could ask without the lure and he would actually use his brain and offer the position. Bingo. I thought that was how this was done... I just find using a lure and then not giving them anything is frustrating to the dog. The trainer called using food bribing the dog and said they don't do that your dog won't care about food in petsmart. She is right, but when shaping these initial behaviors I just don't see a need to not reward and not keep my dog engaged. Once he KNOWS the command that is a different story.

Exactly! I have heard of trainers who don't use any kind of reward other than verbal praise, which may be motivating for some dogs but why limit yourself, especially if you have a dog that would work harder for a REAL reinforcer? You can usually figure out who those trainers are because they tend to use the word "bribe" while dismissing anyone who uses food or toys in training. What doesn't make sense is that this person DOES use food, but is basically just teasing the dog with it. How on earth is that supposed to work??? Yes, I have some yummy food, do this thing for me and you'll.....wait, no you WON'T ever get it! That's just dumb.

Lure with food initially, mark correct behavior, and deliver the reward. Start to phase out the lure as early as possible by removing the food from your hand, but still mark and reward when the dog gets it right. Luring with an empty hand is basically a hand signal for that behavior. Begin to add a verbal cue, then start to phase out the hand signal, only using it as necessary as a reminder of what the word means. It sounds like you've already done all this, what the trainer wants you to do is take several steps backwards, and go off in a different direction that doesn't even make sense.

And using a squeaky toy as a marker, oy! :rofl: Yes, I have a toy you covet greatly and if you do what I want you'll get.....NO YOU WON'T!
 

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This is an approach I may try take Bramble. Haku already has a very solid sit, down, stay, stand. My problem is getting him to do them with distractions. I wonder if I could train with the lure and treats at home so he learns their specific hand signals and then go to the class and give it a try. I can always sneak some food in with the lure lol.....this is so stupid. As an introvert I feel I will need to cut the $300 loss and find a class that we can have some fun in.

You know your pup better than someone who only sees him once a week. I am an introvert and don't like confrontation so I usually just do my own thing. So far I haven't had any issues doing so. If a trainer is not open to learning about different methods then IMO they aren't a very good trainer. Do what's best for you and your pup. Sometimes a class or trainer just isn't a good fit.



Collared Scholar is opening up a course that will be covering a lot of foundation stuff. I've done a couple past courses and they are well run and there are live chats where you can ask questions and get training videos reviewed: https://collared-scholar.mykajabi.com/a/14728/ZGTu8KNZ
 

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This is an approach I may try take Bramble. Haku already has a very solid sit, down, stay, stand. My problem is getting him to do them with distractions. I wonder if I could train with the lure and treats at home so he learns their specific hand signals and then go to the class and give it a try. I can always sneak some food in with the lure lol.....this is so stupid. As an introvert I feel I will need to cut the $300 loss and find a class that we can have some fun in.
Go to home depot, tractor supply, public parks. Kids LOVE to help. Ask the workers to stand still while you sit your dog next to them. Ask them to move around. Ask the kids to do the same. Use soccer games with balls flying.

I think you are on the right track with training all by yourself. if you took the class for distractions, you can find them anywhere. I trained for my BH using stores and kids on playgrounds.
 

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Since you are in a somewhat strong position to be adamant about watching the class, I would do this. You will learn a ton just by watching other dogs and their body language. You may see in other dogs what you saw in your own pups eyes. You will also get good at understanding nuances of each dog. You will be able to identify the stress signals of one and the confusion of anther, the dogs who are confident and the ones who are timid. And you will be able to do this for 6 weeks. Put your money to good use. Talk to the trainer at class while in group. She may be more willing to agree when in the room with classmates as opposed to private. Doesn't mean you have to publicize it. Step aside with her but stay in the room.

There may be others who are to timid to question but are concerned also. Ask the hard questions in class. It may help the trainer explain better what she has in mind. Explain the process. Don't be to quick to burn the bridge even if you are certain that you won't ever use the service again, you'll feel better about it ; you never know but if a fantastic trainer is offering classes there in the future, facing the owner and chit chat will be easier.

During my scent work classes, it is really apparent when another dog has found source but it often takes the handler more time to make certain that his dog has pin pointed the source before calling the alert. Watching others is an integral part of learning.

You'll come out smarter as long as she isn't unpleasant to you while there. But I don't think she will in front of a class as it's to risky pertaining to holding onto or losing clients.

Just an extra 2cents that I thought of. :)

Adding, I wouldn't sneak treats in a class that opposes it, you'll probably get caught. Not worth what may be dished out to you and your boy doesn't need to be exposed to that.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Thanks for your responses everyone! Really good ideas and food for thought.

I have pretty much decided to find another school that fits my current training style closer. It's just money right? :O Really stings with possible TPO or THR coming up! To be honest I really did think the school used a food reward based system but were so vague on their website I was so stupid for not double checking.

I tried their techniques one more time and successfully ruined Haku's "down" like an idiot. Now when ever he sees my hand during training sessions he grabs at it frantically for the lure because he knows he is not going to ever get it properly and is totally not thinking. Before I had a dog that would watch MY EYES intently not the LURE, would LISTEN for what was being asked and then offer the position or inclination or whatever I am shaping. Mark, reward = happy pooch that enjoys this game! What a fail. I stopped immediately, ran through our old stuff and it was decision made haha. I am possibly holding the lure wrong. They keep saying "licking, nibbling, slobbering" when describing using the lure. Well its super hard, Haku is just like wtf and tries harder to get it out of my hand and it actually hurts I need to teach him a "gentle" command for taking treats again now. But I can tell he is frustrated, especially when he knows he is not getting it all at the end.

I am going to visit another positive based training school tomorrow. They seem to offer a much wider variety of courses that run 6-8 weeks instead of 4. (Yes I paid $300 for a 4 week course) They use clicker training but the principle is exactly the same as how I taught Haku and definitely reward the dog with whatever works best. Along with the basics they offer agility, reactivity classes, nose work, Trieball, tricks and some more. I am sure we can have some fun there. I already chatted to one of the trainers and she owns her own super toy enthusiastic 3 yr old Shepherd and she says she trains work and service dogs. I feel much more hope but will definitely be visiting first!

Thanks everyone.

Oh and I will be reaching out to current trainer seeing what she says and asking to sit on for remainder of classes. Not sure I can bring Haku he barks and whines and if I don't want to follow her methods it will just be messy all round I think...
 

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The other class sounds much better. $300 for 4 weeks is very expensive, more than I've ever seen here in the SF Bay Area where everything seems to cost more. $200 for a 5 or 6 week class here would be pretty typical, or sometimes $150. What area do you live in?
 

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The other class sounds much better. $300 for 4 weeks is very expensive, more than I've ever seen here in the SF Bay Area where everything seems to cost more. $200 for a 5 or 6 week class here would be pretty typical, or sometimes $150. What area do you live in?
I am in Michigan, Detroit but my place is right by a fancy downtown area... The other school is about $270 for 6 weeks, It sort of depends on the class. Still expensive though.
 
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