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Discussion Starter #1
Just want to say first off, this is a great training school. I think the exercise is a good exercise and very "telling" of a dog. We knew Dante was weak nerved when we adopted him - he spooks at loud noises and doesn't recover quickly, he's very scared in new situations, etc.

He is socialized constantly (we're familiar with socialization) and has made great progress. Now he will greet people in stores, is walks nicely on a leash in various stores and places, he's turning out to be an awesome dog.

His obedience is fantastic, far superior than any puppy I've personally worked with.

HOWEVER, as a class we did a new exercise today in which you traded puppies with each whistle blow. Fun exercise and good socialization. We were to greet them, offer treat, and then do basic obedience and walking around. I worked with 3 other puppies and they all did awesome.

In the glaces at Dante he was TERRIFED. My SO was there and I asked him to watch Dante while I worked with the ones I was working with, so he could relay how Dante did and if he got any better as the whistles went on.

He actually got worse as time went on. After the exercise, he was shaking and difficult to get focused. He was used as a demo puppy in an earlier class, and you'd think he didn't have a lick of training because he is so scared to work with someone other than me or my SO. He will greet them, but is too scared and unfocused to work with them. He was literally lungeing at the end of his leash trying to get away from other people.

Suggestions? Thoughts from other Malinois owners? Will your dog work with someone else? I know they are more sensitive than shepherds, but WOW. I was really surprised at just how bad his reaction was given how great he's been at overcoming fears.

It's sad to see the difference in what GOOD NERVE does to a dog vs one with week nerves. I love my boy and don't expect him to be a schutzhund dog, but would like to know what the realistic chance is of him overcoming to some extent (through training and socialization) the severe spook reactions and being so scared of being handled by someone other than my SO and I.
 

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I'm all for handing off my puppy to another person and having them either just hang on to them or walk them around as he will need to be able to do this calmly as he gets older, but I draw the line on expecting my puppy to do any sort of obedience for anyone else and would flat out refuse to do this. I strongly feel that it's unfair to ask any dog or puppy to do obedience for strangers and if there were corrections involved, I would completely freak out.
 

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Mals definately have their 'quirks", (love them by the way!),,I did this in Masi's puppy class in the beginning, and tho she was "ok" with it, she was definately becoming stressed,,as soon as the trainer saw she was stressing, she handed her back to me.
Which I was getting ready to get her anyhow:)

I don't think pushing this kind of situation on an already stressy puppy is such a good thing..In fact, I wouldn't do it again..I'd pass on that exercise..

Now if he was ok with it, I'm all for it, but obviously you've been working with him in other situations since there IS a problem, this kind of thing is just not going to do him any good if it stresses him out..

I would skip that part of class, I would continue what your doing out in public and don't 'push' things on him that are going to negatively impact/stress him more than he already is:).
 

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Discussion Starter #4
if there were corrections involved, I would completely freak out.
No, just basic obedience for a minute or two with each puppy to further socialization.....have them focus and work with someone other than their owner. Not a correction based exercise, it was meant to be a positive training experience but for him it turned out to be anything but, and for me it was pretty distracting trying to work with other dogs when he was so scared.
 

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In the glaces at Dante he was TERRIFED. My SO was there and I asked him to watch Dante while I worked with the ones I was working with, so he could relay how Dante did and if he got any better as the whistles went on.

He actually got worse as time went on. After the exercise, he was shaking and difficult to get focused. He was used as a demo puppy in an earlier class, and you'd think he didn't have a lick of training because he is so scared to work with someone other than me or my SO.
Poor guy. Did the trainer say anything about it?
He sounds like he's doing so well in other areas I am surprised the trainer didn't have you pull Dante out of the exercise, let him calm down, and then maybe try it again with just one other person.

Have you ever left the room to see if he acts any differently when you're out of sight? Annie won't happily work for anyone else if she can see my husband or I, but she's fine if she can't see us.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I haven't left the room and had my SO work him, but I will try that and see how he does. They haven't had me leave the training room to see if he works for anyone else.

I am assuming the trainer noticed (I don't know how anyone could have missed it, especially given how GOOD he is in the actual obedience in the class). He did not say anything about it, and did not suggest me taking him back. In fact, at the end of class when I asked him about it he pushed doggy daycare again and said to just keep at socialization, have him greet a lot of people. He is doing well at that, but getting worse at anyone else handling him for training purposes (trainer worked him in second class and he was very scared but somewhat responsive, this was the 5th class and he did much worse with someone else..).

I am not gung ho about sending him to doggy daycare. Does anyone really think that would help? He is fine with other dogs, I don't see the correlation to be honest.
 

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Did the whistle freak him out, or was he afraid to go to the other people? When we did "pass the puppy" exercises it was in a puppy class, and we all sat in a circle on the floor and just passed our puppy to the person next to us when the trainer said to. No loud whistles, and they weren't expected to do any obedience for the person, it was a handling desensitization exercise. We touched feet, ears, tails, tummies, and muzzles while giving treats. I've never been in a class where we handed the leash off to someone else to work with our dog.

Poor little guy. :( I don't know if daycare would make a bit of difference, but if you're opposed to it, then it doesn't matter - don't let anyone try to coerce you into something you don't want to do, simple as that. Good luck, I hope you get a handle on this, it must be very stressful for him and you too.
 

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I've never had a dog class where whistles were used. Are they trying to get the dogs used to noises? That's strange. The problem you are going to get is, as Dante freaks out, whoever is holding him is going to try to comfort him, which is totally the wrong thing to do. That will make it worse, and is probably what is happening.

I would not send him to daycare if that's just going to add stress. And it sounds like it will.

In class, see if you can skip the passing around part, though, at my club, they do that every class. It's a big part of the socialization.

Somebody in my last puppy class had a mini-Ausi that was just terrified of being passed around. He never really improved much by the end.

Now MY Malinois was a total basket case in Puppy Kindergarten. She even managed to slip her collar and get away from one woman. I told her, "You lost her, go get her." I was joking. She's 5 years old now. When there are people around, she wants to stick her nose in their pockets, but backs up when they try to pet her.

Other dogs freak her out. But, other than her little issues, she's great at obedience and agility. She's a good tracker, too, when we have time to practice. I just work with her and keep her out of situations that she finds uncomfortable. So, we often get walks alone together. (Like today.) :) She's my early warning dog, because she will bark at the slightest noise in the middle of the night. But not good for staying in motels.

If noise continues to be an issue, something I've found to work really well is to laugh a little and say something really light, like, "Do you hear that! That's somebody being noisy." I really helped with Doerak's and Ciana's noise issues.
 

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I'm all for handing off my puppy to another person and having them either just hang on to them or walk them around as he will need to be able to do this calmly as he gets older, but I draw the line on expecting my puppy to do any sort of obedience for anyone else and would flat out refuse to do this. I strongly feel that it's unfair to ask any dog or puppy to do obedience for strangers and if there were corrections involved, I would completely freak out.
I agree all around.
 

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When we did "pass the puppy" exercises it was in a puppy class, and we all sat in a circle on the floor and just passed our puppy to the person next to us when the trainer said to. No loud whistles, and they weren't expected to do any obedience for the person, it was a handling desensitization exercise. We touched feet, ears, tails, tummies, and muzzles while giving treats. I've never been in a class where we handed the leash off to someone else to work with our dog.
This sounds exactly like our puppy class. Being handled by a stranger is obviously something that dogs should be comfortable with, but I can see how being expected to obey and perform for a stranger could be very stressful for a puppy that's is working hard just to be comfortable around people he doesn't know. I do think that if Dante is completely freaked out, you or your SO (or a "stranger" you know and trust, that you have discussed a plan with before hand) should probably be the one handling him - then you can control the situation the way you want to, and you don't have to go back and fix behaviors caused by the way handlers react to him when he's scared.

For the class, if you choose to pass him off, maybe the person could just give him some treats, and a pat if he calms down, but not place any expectations on him - just let him get used to someone else holding the lead before asking him to obey the person.

It sounds like what you have been doing has worked really well for Dante, so if you don't think day care would help, then I wouldn't do it, I personally don't see how it would.
 

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I agree with Elaine as well. Granted I've yet to have a puppy that would freak out with anyone else if I did allow it, but I'm pretty strict about how my dogs are trained and handled, especially as young impressionable puppies. Now I take my puppy all over and he is touched and handled by probably a dozen different people each day, but they are not doing obedience and I am right there to decide how close to stay or how far I can move away and how my dog is being handled.

If the puppy freaks out I wouldn't push it, don't do the exercise anymore. I would have taken my puppy back at the first signs of stress and not let it escalate. The puppy class should be very fun and build confidence in the dog. To me that is more important than the actual obedience exercises. It's good to find out the dog's limits but if my puppy was scared and shaking I would *immediately* stop and do something very fun and rewarding for the puppy and sit out that exercise in the future. I don't know about daycare but IMO the solution is not to keep pushing/forcing the issue.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Did the whistle freak him out, or was he afraid to go to the other people?
It wasn't the whistle, he is used to that. They do work on getting them used to noises, sights, distractions, etc. It is not your usual "puppy playgroup" obedience class. There is a lot of training involved, and controlled socialization, but they do not have any kind of "playgroup" where they are off leash and playing with others.
 

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Pup is four months old. I think he will get better. Bring your SO, and let the pup get handed off. If he is not as bad as last week, let him get handed off two or three times. If he is just as bad, after a minute or so, have SO rescue him and take him over and get him relaxed.

Ask the person you hand him off to, not to do ANY obedience commands with him, just offer a treat and let the pup come to him.

I think that by not continuing with this exersize, you will be missing out on a good opportunity for socialization. But if the puppy seems just as tramatized, do not make a big deal about it, just come up and take the pup and have him do some exersized for which you can praise and treat.
 

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Thanks for all the advice. We only have one more puppy class, so I'm hoping that when novice starts this might not be an exercised that is done. If it is, I guess I need to figure out if I want to keep pushing it on him and see if he makes progress or talk to the trainer about an alternate plan (someone suggested having someone just feed him treats, which sounds like a good idea).
 

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I would keep in mind peeps, this is a Malinois puppy not a gsd..I have many many friends with mals that do sports with them, and frankly, they are wired different. not in a bad way but a way that will challenge you to figure out what the best approach to training is.

And yes, if you want to continue handing him off, I'd start slowly and stand there, you hand the leash to someone, you treat him, person treats him, you step back, treat him, person treats him, step back some more..

I think he sounds like he's doing fine in public with what your doing, and no I wouldn't have another person try obedience on him, just treat treat treat..
 

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I would keep in mind peeps, this is a Malinois puppy not a gsd..I have many many friends with mals that do sports with them, and frankly, they are wired different. not in a bad way but a way that will challenge you to figure out what the best approach to training is.

And yes, if you want to continue handing him off, I'd start slowly and stand there, you hand the leash to someone, you treat him, person treats him, you step back, treat him, person treats him, step back some more..

I think he sounds like he's doing fine in public with what your doing, and no I wouldn't have another person try obedience on him, just treat treat treat..
I agree with this. Part of the reason we love to watch the Mals in OB is because of their reactivity- which I think falls under the umbrella of nerve. You say down and they hit the deck. You say Go and they're there before they know why. But Mals are not exactly known for being Steady Eddie.

I remember a friend of mine was socializing a Mal puppy and it was walking down Main Street, saw it's reflection in a mirror and decided right then that the puppy in the window needed to die. It freaked out, redirected onto it's handler, and basically had to be snapped out of the situation and given a chance to "reset". After a minute it was like nothing ever happened.

Mals just seem to have a switch and once it gets flipped you are challenged to figure out how to snap them out of that state of mind. From what I've seen they are not easily redirected once they're fixated. Some dogs I've seen actually need a pretty serious correction to snap them out of their state of mind, followed by rapid feeding/playing focus exercises.

Do you think maybe a recall game would help? Go get a treat from that person and then come back? I would also try and start it somewhere NOT at training if you can. Truthfully dogs build up associations with places pretty quickly and you might find him a good deal more reluctant to work with other there.
 

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i would definitely pass on that exercise, especially with a nervy puppy, by re-exposing him to stressful situations he will get worse and may end up with more unwanted behavior such as growling or snapping as a way of saying he's uncomfortable...........i know, because i went through this with my young gsd..........in fact we did the same thing in an early class, a young girl 12 years old ended up with Sam which i was very uneasy about, but the trainer was all for it, first lesson learned, go with your gut feeling...anyway, i took another dog and walked away, i was watching this young girl very closely, my pup started getting Very upset, she made things worse by waving her hands in his face saying "its ok Sam" i knew if he stayed with her much longer he was going to end up growling or nipping her because she was a young in-experienced girl...........so i went and took him back.......the trainer really shouldn't have let it happen but alot of trainers think this social thing is good for pups, general pups maybe, but not nervous traited dogs...........So, there is nothing wrong with you passing on this exercise, you have to do whats best for you and your dog, forcing anything on a dog like this only results in more issues.......anytime you feel uncomfortable with an exercise in class, learn to speak up, and if the trainer pushes anything that you are apprehensive about you might want to move on to someone that knows how to properly deal with these issues.....
 

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also let your dog get more comfortable and more confidence, then as said above maybe play some one on one games with people/friends etc.........maybe have different people play retrieve games with him, two man recall game with treats etc.........but, never force things, and i think some dogs also get nervous in inclosed areas like inside classes where there are to many things going on in a small space, so top that with trading your nervous dog to someone else is not a good combo........i would try controlled situations outside class first with people you know, then go from there......
 

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Not a correction based exercise, it was meant to be a positive training experience but for him it turned out to be anything but, and for me it was pretty distracting trying to work with other dogs when he was so scared.
You need to listen to you dog. What I put in bold is what you need to keep in mind with whatever you're doing with Dante. If something is supposed to be positive and fun but he makes it clear that it isn't, there is no reason to push it. If you push it, it sort of becomes "anti-socialization" where he is going to learn to be afraid rather than learn to be confident.

I haven't had a Mal but I've had black Belgians for about 15 years now. Mine have been pretty good but I've worked with a lot of other people's Belgians who have had issues like fear, phobias, reactivity or the such. Belgians can be "quirky" dogs, they tend to be obsessive, easily frustrated and they generally aren't as forgiving as many GSDs are of training or socialization errors.

I have had to urge people with Belgian puppies of all varieties to avoid group play with them in puppy class if it becomes obvious at any time that it was not a positive experience for the dogs. While some Belgians are ok with it, some get worried and try to avoid the other puppies and others may become over over stimulated, chasing, barking and grabbing at the other puppies. Many Belgians dislike other dogs invading their personal space and group play with pushy dogs can teach them to have less tolerance for it and that they should be quick to react to keep other dogs away.

I understand that there is no group play in your puppy class but it sounds like the puppy switch exercise is having a similar effect on Dante as group play does on some Belgian puppies. I would just take him aside during this exercise and work on his focus on you. There is really no reason that he has to learn to work for and focus on other people. I don't think the exercise is necessarily a bad one, as long as everyone's having fun. I do wonder why the instructor didn't notice what was going on with Dante and have you do something else with him.

Are you on any of the Belgian discussion lists/forums?

SitStay Belgian Forums, All varieties (aka Planet Belgian)
SitStay Dog Run • View forum - Belgian Shepherds

Belg-L, All varieties email list
Join Belg-L - a Four Variety Belgian E-Mail List
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Thank you for the links on the forums, I will check them out. I didn't know there were Belgian specific forums. We will talk to the instructor before class (this next class is his last puppy class, but he starts Novice the week after after puppy graduation). I want to ensure this isn't a Novice class exercise as well, and I don't want to put him through the exercise again in case it happens in the last puppy class.

The instructor is very good, he is a schutzhund guy and GSD breeder, I assume he has exerience with Mals. I will talk to him about our concerns with this particular exercise and go from there. He is a good guy, should be pretty receptive. He did advise me not to coddle him, and said he hadn't seen me doing so, so I think he does have experience with this. However, one of the women who handled him in the trading exercise sat on the floor and petted him when he started freaking out, so I'm guessing that probably wasn't the right thing to do although she was surely attempting to just calm him and not ask him to work for her.

The difficult thing with asking people to just feed treats is that this exercise happens FAST (maybe a minute or two with each dog) and you switch from dogs you don't know to dogs you don't know. Dante doesn't come back to me before he goes to person 3, 4, etc. So it might turn into a game of "telephone" trying to relay the message of "don't coddle, don't ask him to perform obedience wise, just feed treats and socialize." Each person would have to tell the next person that.

I think I would like to just keep him with me. It is enough for him right now with that hustle and bustle to just focus on me. Asking him to do it for someone else is too much (for him).
 
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