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I’ve read many threads on here about people not being able to engage their dog with them. I thought I would start this thread and hopefully the “old timers” would chime in with their tips / experience / advice and expertise on what they did to have their dog engaged with them during play, training and just being there.
While I am by no means an expert, I have been pretty successful with a lot of things with Kyleigh. Engagement was never a problem with us as I started super young – 9 weeks!
My tips are for those at the puppy stage. I’m sure they can be used on older dogs – with some variation of some kind!
I used a martingale on Kyleigh until she was about 11 months old, then I switched to a pinch collar when her prey drive REALLY came out!
You are always fun – ALWAYS – no matter what it is you are doing, playing, training, guiding, etc. you are FUN!
I NEVER corrected Kyleigh until she was about 6 months old – I redirected, and didn’t give her a chance to finish what she was starting. For example – food on the counter – I would purposefully leave meat on the counter, have the leash on her and walk into the kitchen. Of course she’s going to smell it! We would walk past it and as soon as she moved towards it – her nose, head, body, whatever – I would say NO, then call her name, a quick tug on the leash (NOT a correction, just a redirection) and show her a toy and run into the other room with her and PLAY. This is redirection.
I NEVER used food for obedience training, and in my opinion, this is why I have better engagement with my dog. I didn’t bribe her to do something for food – I got her to do something because I was the reward, and I was better than ANYTHING else out there. (I have used food for luring a specific behaviour that I want – i.e. teaching her to crawl, turn in circles, sit pretty, etc. but this is NOT obedience, these are tricks!)
Here’s an example of how I trained Kyleigh to sit. Martingale collar on her, leash in hand and she’s standing. I’m saying SIT at the same time that I am pulling up on the leash, and touching her bum with one finger towards the down position. (Seriously, they all get this instantly!) Do it quickly three times in a row and praise on the third time: chest rub, toss them a toy, and then play for a full minute. Repeat this for about 10-15 minutes.
When I was teaching Kyleigh to down, I put her in a sit, sat down beside her, and applied a little bit of pressure on the leash (again on a martingale collar) in the down position, and said DOWN. I held the leash in that position until she lay down. (You’re not forcing the dog down, you are applying about 3% more pressure than the dog is and you simply hold it until they lay down.) Popped her back up, repeated quickly for three times, and then praise praise praise – same as above. Repeat for about 10-15 minutes.
ALL of my training was done through pressure and release with a martingale collar. (I learned this watching the move BUCK – if he can do it with a 1500 pound horse, surely we can do it with a 10 pound puppy!)
When I wanted Kyleigh to go over something new, I would guide her with the leash (pressure) and as soon as she was there I dropped the tension (release).
I was her reward – nothing else. She didn’t get to play with the toy herself, it was MY toy that she was playing with ME. (So, the rewards with the toys were interactive – tug, toss / fetch, etc.) And this kind of reward helps release more physical energy.
When it came time to teach recall training with Kyleigh, it was the EASIEST thing ever. I didn’t even use a long line. Once she had sit, down and stay figured out, I started in the back yard. Told her to sit / stay, backed up about 10 feet, crouched down to ground opened my arms and called her – Kyleigh COME … she flew at me. Repeated two more times, and then playtime with me was the reward. Did it over and over. Added distractions – food / toys, etc. along the “path” to get her to come to me, and a quick LEAVE IT if she veered off course and we were off and running.
IMO this type of “very basic obedience training” builds the bond with you and your puppy, mentally stimulates the dog and physically drains the dog. Creating this level of trust / bond with your dog makes recall the easiest thing in the world because by now ALL your dog wants is to be with you!!!
One of the most important things I find that a lot of people don't do or won't do was have fun in public with your puppy / dog. A lot of people are "nervous / afraid / don't want to look funny" when they are working their dogs in public.
Me? I couldn't care less. I'm out there working with my puppy / dog and we are having a blast. I'm pretty sure I looked like a total nutcase when I was training Kyleigh as a puppy in the parks / playgrounds / fields, etc. My praise is very vocal, and very physical with her. We look and sound like a bunch of hooligans. But you know what? When I walk my dog now, 4 years later, my dog walks with me, not against me. When I do obedience in a field and there's a soccer game going on 50 feet away and she's in a down stay and I'm at the other side of the field, and she doesn't move or even acknowledge anything else around her - that's engagement. And to see her FLY across the field when I call her? That is just pure awesome and joy!
I'll stop my book here LOL and hopefully lots of other people will chime in with their tricks of the trade!

Marion
 

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a lot of good ideas Kyleigh !

" NEVER used food for obedience training, and in my opinion, this is why I have better engagement with my dog. I didn’t bribe her to do something for food – I got her to do something because I was the reward, and I was better than ANYTHING else out there. (I have used food for luring a specific behaviour that I want – i.e. teaching her to crawl, turn in circles, sit pretty, etc. but this is NOT obedience, these are tricks!)"

 

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Kyleigh the one thing I do differently when teaching a new command is not to speak the command until the dog is actually in the position.An extreme example would be saying "off!" when a dog jumps on you,inadvertently teaching off means jump.I would get all four feet on the ground first,then give the behavior a name.

I think not using food lures is the way to go!Unfortunately that's all that motivated Samson as a puppy.Now he's into toys and praise so we're transitioning.Being animated and enthusiastic is my weak spot and I'm learning recently just how vital that is when working with distractions.

Another interesting thread from you,thanks!
 

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I NEVER used food for obedience training, and in my opinion, this is why I have better engagement with my dog. I didn’t bribe her to do something for food – I got her to do something because I was the reward, and I was better than ANYTHING else out there. (I have used food for luring a specific behaviour that I want – i.e. teaching her to crawl, turn in circles, sit pretty, etc. but this is NOT obedience, these are tricks!)
By that, do you mean better than your own, previous dogs?
 

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Discussion Starter #5
No by that I mean with people that I have seen / worked with who constantly use treats as a bribe ... to get their puppy to do something basic.

NOTE: I said this was MY opinion ... I am SO not a fan of people using food to lure a puppy into a sit / down when you can do the same thing with minimal pressure / release with either a slip lead or a martingale collar.

My dog(s) have awesome engagement with me and I never used food to teach obedience ... I am the reward ... I am the BE ALL END ALL to everything for my dog's ... not the food.

This is what I am trying to get across.

I have used food, as I mentioned for other things - teaching crawl, "spin", sit pretty ... I also used it in the last 8 months to teach the watch me command to get her focussed on me and only me, regardless of the crazy dogs going bonkers beside her.

I am trying to stress that for puppies, and to build that bond with you, you don't need food. All you need is you and a bunch of enthusiasm!
 

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I was just curious, because of that being such a strong statement. I've trained previous dogs with compulsion, escape the pressure, avoid the pressure. Now I lure and play. I don't really see a difference with mine as far as attention and obedience, but I have more fun with the latter. From what you described, I get the impression you've come across people who don't understand the difference between rewards and letting it become a bribe.
 

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I don't use food as a bribe, but I do use it heavily as a reward, especially with a young puppy. I like to capture and reward things that the pup offers up without being cued. One of those things is eye contact. Halo was SO focused on me by the time she started her Puppy 1 class at 13 weeks old (she came to us at 10 weeks old, so I had been working with her at home for 3 weeks) that after class one day a woman stopped me in the bathroom and asked how I got her to do that! She was also the star of Puppy 2, ("superstar", according to the instructor, who said she wished she had gotten us on video because Halo's test at the end was the best she'd ever seen :D), was dubbed the "stay star" in her CGC prep class, and in Family Dog 2 other people were jokingly making snide comments about how we were making everyone else look bad, lol!

I know everyone has their methods that work best for them, but with a super food motivated dog, why not use food to reach your goals? With a toy motivated dog, why not use a tug or a ball to reach your goals?

When Halo runs back at the end of a flyball run and latches onto her tug, is it ME, who possesses the tug, or the tug itself that she sees as the main reward? I don't know, and I don't really care because the two go hand in hand and she obviously finds the play rewarding. She did seem to come genetically predisposed towards engagement though. Not all dogs do.
 

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I guess for me (and a lot of others I'm sure), I don't "teach" engagement (in the sense of teaching) to my dogs.. It's something that happens through interaction, be it playing in the backyard, going hiking, taking long walks, hanging out around the house, feeding, training, etc..

I do use food for imprinting/luring/teaching a behavior or command. Then I switch over to toys, corrections and leash pressure.
 

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I guess for me (and a lot of others I'm sure), I don't "teach" engagement (in the sense of teaching) to my dogs.. It's something that happens through interaction, be it playing in the backyard, going hiking, taking long walks, hanging out around the house, feeding, training, etc..

I do use food for imprinting/luring/teaching a behavior or command. Then I switch over to toys, corrections and leash pressure.
I agree with your statement if you substitute the word "bonding" for engagement.I think of engagement as being more intensely focused.Perhaps because Samson is so nervy and it takes a lot of effort to keep him focused(engaged) in public.Yet we have a close bond and he constantly watches me for cues when he's not stressed.My interpretation anyway:)
 

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Discussion Starter #10
While these comments are great, I was actually hoping other people would chime in with their experiences and tips on teaching engagement / bonding with your dog.

I did stress a number of times in my post that these were things I did, and they were my opinions. I certainly wasn't looking to challenge anyone's training methods. These were things I have done and I have huge success with ...
 

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My whole point for this post was for puppies I said in my first sentence that this is what I did with my dog when I got her as a puppy at nine weeks The first thing I would do if I had a dog like that is literally just sit beside it for a couple of hours every single day moving closer and closer slowly touching it backing away slowly touching it and giving the dog the respect in the space that it is asking for This might take weeks but at some point the dog will seek out some attention or affection from you and then you can move from there

Another thing that I have seen done on videos is to have the dog work for its food Very similar to be nothing in life is free so instead of feeding your dog a meal every single thing you wanted to do you do with food because you were trying to build trust and very similar to be nothing in life is free so instead of feeding your dog a meal every single thing you wanted to do you do with food because you were trying to build trust and a bond a bond

I would do this with an adult dog but I wouldn't do this with the puppy

It's important to remember that when they are puppies you are the most important thing to them you are there universe they've just been pulled away from their litter and their mom and you Are #1 in their life

We see tons of post about people bragging about how awesome their dog is at 2, 3, 4 month-old how was following them all over the place and always wanting to play with them
What I'm trying to say is this is the perfect time to engage your dog in play bonding training without having to use food because you are number one in their life
 

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While these comments are great, I was actually hoping other people would chime in with their experiences and tips on teaching engagement / bonding with your dog.

I did stress a number of times in my post that these were things I did, and they were my opinions. I certainly wasn't looking to challenge anyone's training methods. These were things I have done and I have huge success with ...
Lol Kyleigh!I think it's just become a habit around here to pick apart people's posts:)

One thing I did with my Sheltie Max(RIP) was to keep him on a long line as we walked and when he would get really interested in something or other,I would call him back and reel him in if necessary.Then throw a party!He got so he was checking in with me constantly and eventually I could have him off leash anywhere and he never wandered where he couldn't keep eyes on me.Even if he took off after a squirrel or something he would check himself before going very far,then come flying back and run a few circles around me.
 

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Oh, I didn't mean that to be challenging, I was actually asking as more of an advice thing. Your method makes sense to me, but can't apply across the board to all dogs, so I was just wondering what you would do in that situation
 

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My puppies (with food/toy drive) are raised working for the majority of their meals during training sessions. I also raise them strictly with food or toy reinforcement based training, paired with praise, and have never had an issue with engagement or with bonding.

My older dog does not have high food or toy drive, and I needed to resort to compulsion with escape/praise as the motivator type training as you described, and at the higher levels of obedience needed for trialing, it doesn't hold up.
 

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Oh, I didn't mean that to be challenging, I was actually asking as more of an advice thing. Your method makes sense to me, but can't apply across the board to all dogs, so I was just wondering what you would do in that situation
A book I read by Patricia McConnell suggested touching your dog lightly on her collar whenever you give a treat.In that context it was to make sure you could always grab the collar quickly and your dog wouldn't shy away.But it might be a way for you to get her to look forward to touch?Treat and touch different spots maybe?
 

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Dogma, Lyka is fine with touch with me, it was just an example. She loves physical touch with me, but it generally seems to give her the zoomies, so using it in training would be a fail. Lol
 

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Dogma, Lyka is fine with touch with me, it was just an example. She loves physical touch with me, but it generally seems to give her the zoomies, so using it in training would be a fail. Lol
Ok,never mind:)
 

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"From what you described, I get the impression you've come across people who don't understand the difference between rewards and letting it become a bribe"

This!

I understand that you're just stating your opinion, experiences and success - but the mere mention of bribery as an argument towards never using food or in support of achieving better engagement... just as Steve put it, suggests a misinformed and poorly executed usage of food (which, don't get me wrong, I see it happen all the time but I'd never consider that a dog that's engaged in learning/training).

it'd be similar to saying I never give my dog physical corrections because I dont think it's necessary to abuse dogs, that's why my dog is better behaved.

anyway, sidebar for sure....

I do appreciate you explaining your techniques.

personally I use every tool available to me.... food, toy, praise, pressure/release, compulsion, etc etc. because my dogs are rescues - my most recent pup quickly learned that I was the coolest most rewarding fun and valuable person ever because A) every morsel of food (primary reinforcement) that went into him that first month came from my hand, B) out of crate time generally meant we were playing, training or exercising (w/o my other dog), C) no balls, just tugs and flirt poles to remain interactive (attached physically oppose to running away from me) and lastly, you are indeed correct, because I doesn't mind looking a fool while out in the public enjoying my dog ;)
 

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These are great comments for people who are struggling with their dogs to read and try and incorporate into their relationship with their dog.

I use purely positive reinforcement training with my parrot and it works beautifully ... I have no objection to people using it ... when done properly. What I have an objection to is people using food as a bribe to get the dog to do what they want ...

How many of you have seen people at a park calling their dog 20 times waving treats in the air and the dog is still in la la land? Or how many times have you seen some one say SIT SIT SIT SIT and when the dog finally sits they give it a treat? This is the kind of behaviour (from the people) and training (or lack there of) that I am referring to.

I also believe (again, my opinion) that when you come home with a 9-week old puppy you can create what motivates it - food, toy, you, etc. I chose, with my current dog, when she was a puppy to make ME the biggest motivator, reward ever.

Puppies are pretty much blank slates and we create what we want with them - to a point of course, I certainly recognize that there are differences in drive, etc.

I see so many people with their dogs, have read tons of threads on here about people having problems with the bond with their dog, and getting their dog engaged with them.

I see people walking their dogs and they might as well be invisible to their dog ... the dog is oblivious to the owner at the end of the leash. This clearly demonstrates - no engagement on the part of the owner with the dog.

This thread was explicitly meant for puppies ... there have been so many new threads started on here with "help, my puppy is ..." My hope was, and continues to be, that people will chime in with games they've come up with, training techniques they've incorporated so the newbies can read this and say OH WOW ... here's something I could try.

Finally, it is to also help the newbies realize just HOW MUCH work is involved in working with your puppy / dog ... there are hours and hours and hours of training, playing, bonding, etc. that must be done in all weather conditions, in all situations, in order to have that AMAZING dog we all wanted when we got the puppy in the first place.
 
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