Discussion in 'Dog Training Forum' started by Panzerotti, Feb 6, 2012.
Is it too late to sign up for that class? Looking for more ways to build drive& focus before we get back to Jess Martin in the spring!! Link anywhere? I'd google it but I'm just getting ready to step out the door to train!
My stance on purely positive has changed over time I think, at least with this dog. I have seen such a change in him when he understands that certain behavior is actually *not* what I want. Running around, and especially playing with other dogs is so self-rewarding for him. I guess it is for most dogs, but knowing him the way I do, I think nipping it in the bud by making it the wrong choice, is ultimately going to get us further. And I don't mean that I regularly use positive punishment at all! I think this situation, plus the time I have used it to tone down his behavior with the rabbits, are the only times I've punished him for anything. I wouldn't do it at all if it didn't work immediately, the first time, with no nagging, and no shut down. Also, the one moment of punishment happened as far away from me and the equipment as possible, and then he sprinted back to me where he was rewarded like gang busters. He learned that his choice to zoom around sniffing everything was not productive, but coming back to mom was awesome. He didn't leave me again, and he wasn't punished or even threatened with punishment the rest of the class. I don't expect that we will need to use the spray bottle again.
I've been doing classes, mostly obedience, with him for over a year now and his problems with focus have only increased with age. It's definitely something we're working on, really the only thing I'm working on in each class (plus I am figuring out online classes to improve those skills more). But the few times I have told him "no, that's not a correct option" have advanced our training far more in seconds than hours and hours of telling him yes. I will keep telling him yes, and I will never stop teaching him what he should be doing.
I guess I look for what works, especially for a particular dog. I never recommend aversives to anyone, and I've recommended to lots of people *not* to use a spray bottle for anything. But at the same time, being able to use it once, and get him to stop zooming around and actually focus on me, is worth it I think. Like I said, he's a hard dog. He has a lot of drive. He also acts before he thinks and sometimes his brain falls out of his ears. If he wants something, he is the dog who will hit the end of his leash with full force over and over and over again. I'm honestly not worried about lowering his drive by one moment of something unpleasant happening.
I definitely appreciate your advice, since I am new at the agility game and I know a lot of agility people are 100% positive. I guess I'm only 98% positive? I don't know, but I do know that sometimes being able to convey "no" to my dog has allowed us to make huge strides in areas that we spent months and months working on positively with very little progress. At some point, I just had to stop and think about why all of these positive techniques weren't working for him and what information he needed to be able to make the correct choices.
ETA: The suggestion to use the spray bottle actually came from the instructor, who is a very skilled agility competitor and trainer. I don't take her suggestions likely, and trusting that she knows what she's doing, and that I know my dog, were what lead me to give it a shot.
Unfortunately the class just wrapped up this week. Not sure exactly when it will open again. There's no new time listed, however you can go to the website and ask it to notify you by e-mail when registration opens for the course.
Building Drive, Focus, and Teamwork
You can choose to have a working spot, audit, or observe. I would highly recommend either working or auditing. I took a working spot and really loved the personal attention. It was also a nice coincidence that Tracy does some seminars for my trainer so my trainer was even able to e-mail her and ask what we were doing when what he asked me to do in class was counter to what she had suggested to me. So we were all on the same page which was awesome.
Highly recommend this course for young dogs with focus problems. Kili and I are a much better team now than 6 weeks ago. I am so happy with our progress and can really see her turning into a great agility dog now. Love that it's entirely positive reinforcement and that that is very much emphasized in everything that Tracy suggests. For example, in terms of interrupting a behaviour we are to take the dog by the collar (gently) and back up several steps. She always emphasizes that this needs to be done gently since it is an interruption and not a correction, and reminds us too that sometimes we should grab the collar for no reason and offer a treat. Love how she's always looking out for our dogs.
I know a very skilled agility competitor and trainer who teaches agility using an e-collar.
Just throwing that out there.
There are all kinds.
Everything else I've seen about this trainer is extremely positive to the point where she walked us through recalling our dog away from equipment they weren't supposed to approach, rather than leading them away. She didn't want the dogs to think they should avoid the equipment if they could be working on recall and being rewarded.
We did 5 runs today, CPE Level 1. He Q'd and got first in all five!
I have 3 videos, pictures and the best Crosserton in the whole world!!!! I'll update later! We had so much fun!!
Congratulations! I can't wait to see the pictures and videos!
Congratulations! You guys are so awesome.
Ok, I want to put the scenario out for the folks here who have way more experience and knowledge than I do. What would you do in this case?
You have a young dog who has been in classes, working on foundations of impulse control, recall, attention, and focus for a year. New to agility, that dog runs off in an early class when he's allowed off leash. He comes back, the class continues and he's ok off leash for the next couple exercises. The next class, he runs off during another off leash period to seek out another dog for play (play goes on for 5min until the dogs can be caught). He proceeds to run off another time during that class play again. The third class, the dog runs off every time he does an obstacle off leash (not sequences, just things like going between a pair of standards towards a hand waiting with treats). This dog finds sniffing one of the most self-rewarding things, so running around the arena smelling where the other dogs have been is self-rewarding and lots of fun. At this point, it's becoming a habit.
How would you handle it? I'd really love to hear suggestions because it's the major obstacle gating our participation in pretty much any dog sport.
The answer can't be attend more foundation classes either, because we've done that for a year now. We're continuing to do it, but at some point you have to admit when something just isn't working and you need a new game plan. What specifically, in that moment and that class, would you do and how would you train?
I see a lot of things about "correcting" dogs in agility by putting them away in crates, withholding rewards, taking a collar and leading the dog back, etc. What if those things just don't work for a particular dog? What if he really just doesn't understand what you're trying to communicate? For those things to work, the dog needs to understand it as a correction, and he just doesn't. How else would you communicate?
I'm sure if I were a better trainer I could be purely positive with him. I'm sure we'd have a better chance if I had access to the best trainers in the world for one-on-one instruction. We've worked with a few trainers (5 or so?) in my area now and every single one has been 99% positive and still recommended some sort of correction for him, all mild (I'm not talking leash pops or ecollars or anything). They didn't recommend corrections for other dogs, specifically mine with his personality.
I spent a few months being very frustrated and wondering if either of us were cut out for any type of dog sport even at the lowest level. We weren't making any progress. At some point I decided that if I liked a trainer and the methods they generally used, I was going to try things they recommended, like mild corrections, and see if they worked at all for my dog. All I can do is keep an open mind, and evaluate the results on my dog and how he is feeling.
So awesome! Congrats!
I'm replying now, so I remember to reply more in depth later...
Having dealt with something similar in a much more extreme fashion my number one suggestion is prevent it. Buzz was NEVER off leash when another dog was (not that he really wanted to play with them anyways, but then the temptation was lowered), and I never took his leash off if I had a feeling he might bolt. If I didn't trust his stay, but thought he could do other work, I had someone restrain him to start sequencing when I needed to lead out. I never let him practice a behavior in the agility setting that I knew he would, given half a chance. There was a single time during our initial/foundation training that he was successful in joy running. I knew he was going to be unresponsive to cues so I had my instructor snag him for me. I don't think we did anything other than interaction games (OH MY GOSH, I SWEAR I AM SO MUCH MORE FUN THAN RUNNING AWAY) the rest of the class.
He also bolted at two separate trials (one outside, one inside) and I stopped showing him at outdoor trials because of it. The indoor one he flew down the dog walk (we had stopped contacts) and tried to leap over the paneling--right into the netting he couldn't see. Uhm, unintentional environmental correction?
Maybe it wasn't the best approach, but it's what I did. He was very highly reliable but he was the dog that if he was done/found something more interesting, he wasn't sticking around.
And even though I already typed a lot, I swear I have more--especially in regards to training plans.
ACK!!! CONGRATULATIONS. Now, hurry please& post those videos& photos! Give Crossbone an extra smooch from Penn& I
Neat.. I will look into it. I think, for the most part, Penny is maturing out of her focus issues (well that and I've put A LOT of work into it) but I'd still love to have the course under my belt. I'll set the email to let me know when it's reopening. Isn't it soooo nice when we see our hard work paying off??
Mini-Penn brag: We trained tonight. We had 8 runs in just under 90 minutes. 13 obstacle course. She had 0 knocks, 0 off-courses& NAILED her weave entries and with SPEED. I love my babydog.
Thanks for the reply! It's comforting to hear from another spaniel person who went through the same thing.
Definitely not letting him off leash at the same time as another dog again. That was only one time, and we were on opposite ends of the arena, but Watson decided that going through jump standards over a low jump 5 times was just one time too many, I was boring, and he was off. I also felt bad because Watson started it, and then it took the other owners 15min to catch their dog even after I had leashed Watson.
Every other time he ran away he did come back to me after a min or so, without having to be caught, which was nice. I know from our year of other training that he can hold a stay, and can recall from a stay with other dogs running past him. I also know that with little warning he will break his stay and go on a joy run occasionally or tackle the dog next to him and I only get a second's notice.
In agility, after only 3 classes, it seemed like it was becoming a bad habit. Using a spray bottle certainly wasn't my first choice, and not something I would have done on my own, but I can't say I'm sorry since it did work. It just made the choice very clear for him - running around isn't all it's cracked up to be, but mom has awesome treats and fun games.
Honestly, with the amount of foundations we've done, I don't know what my options are other than keeping him on leash for another year or so and hoping he grows up (and there's only so much stuff you can practice while trailing a leash), or trying to find private lessons where we could work with zero distractions at first (so no dogs remotely nearby, no barn cats in the vicinity, etc) and I don't know how realistic that is. I'm sure we'll be in beginners 2 for quite a while, and I'm totally ok with that, but he has to be at least the tiniest bit reliable for us to get anywhere.
I can't wait to hear more specifics of what you've done. Watson is so tough, because when he's in tune with me, he's awesome, and we've made so much progress in our communication and skills. I just know he could be fantastic. At the same time, if I'm even slightly boring, he's going to find something more interesting, or generally flail around on the end of the leash.
I'll reply in bold what worked for my red dog!
Sorry for the novel. Your mileage with it all may vary. Hope at least some of it is useful Oh, and you have to continuously be more exciting than the environment. Running Penny is A LOT more work than running the Borders. They have perma-focus. Penny is like I'll focus as long as you stay more entertaining than that blade of grass 10ft away, mom. It's exhausting but awesome at the same time once you adjust to it. Lots of high-pitched voice rewards& right now you should be doing a lot of one-obstacle, reward& using tricks before& after leashing up
yvo0nne, thanks for the tips! Love hearing from another sporting dog person with similar problems.
I'll try to just address a few things, because it might help me think things through.
I love the idea of unclipping the lead, playing some games that he already loves and finds rewarding (high five is his ultimate game), then reclipping. I make high five a reward when he's done well, and also to gauge how he's feeling, so I incorporate it into a lot of stuff already. Sometimes I just do full body cuddles, which he also loves.
I agree about having dogs in crates. I know in the intermediate class (which is after ours) everybody crates. I guess they do beginner with other dogs around so each dog can take a quick turn, then get a short break while the other dogs try the equipment. Unlike a more advanced class, we're mostly doing things on-lead like introducing equipment/contacts or working on targeting. Still, I wish the other dogs just weren't there because it would solve a lot of our problems.
I'm definitely still rewarding heavily. When he ran off the one time, I was standing next to a tiny jump with string cheese in each hand, having him go back and forth. So it's not like the rewards aren't super frequent! The longest "sequence" is a tunnel to a single jump, and I reward him after the tunnel, then after the jump. He looks the same (to me) going into the tunnel (focused), but he will rocket out and be gone sometimes, and other times race out looking for me. He's tricky and will look like he has 100% focus, but then sprint off. I'm sure a better trainer than me would pick up on it, but he can be really subtle. I think sometimes he's so impulsive even he doesn't know if he's going to run away or come to me. lol
But basically, we are only doing single obstacles right now. We definitely won't be moving up to sequences longer than jump-tunnel-jump for a while, and he's rewarded every step if he's paying attention. So I don't think I'm asking for too much too fast.
Good to know that in some ways he'll grow out of the zoomies if I just keep making myself and the work rewarding. He does like the work, and seems to be really excited about the obstacles already, so I hope that comes with time.
Personally, I don't see the spray bottle as much different than a firm no and a crating. It's just that Watson does not understand "no" and crating. lol I've tried so hard with those things before (not in agility, but in other training situations) and he just does not get it. The spray bottle, he gets. I have never found another correction that he was remotely phased by or understood to mean "that was wrong, try again". He thinks being put in his crate, or having his collar grabbed and moved back, is just part of the game. Maybe when he's really into the game of agility crating will work, but for now it doesn't seem to work for anything.
At least I can laugh at his running away. Yes, it can stress me out, but I try so so hard to laugh off his idiot puppy moments and not let him know for one second that I'm upset or frustrated with him. Doesn't always work. lol But I try!
It makes me feel better that there is a seasoned agility person in my class with an 8 month old GSP who is also a nut job (though she generally doesn't run away as often as Watson). It's nice to laugh about our crazy sporting dogs with someone who gets it, and to see that even an experienced person is going through some similar stuff.
Trained the pups yesterday. Mimi's weaves are getting better, but her endurance for weaves is short. She's super specific about what I do while she's weaving, which I need to work on. If she hits the entry, I can't say "Yes!" or she'll call off. I can say "Good!". My fault, I've used both the clicker and "yes" as a marker word. Clapping to encourage her is hit and miss, but I've clapped to get her attention before, again my fault... She's probably 90% on the weaves if I chant "Go, go, go!" as she's weaving. I need work.
Ezra still doesn't quite know what the point of the game is, but food is involved, and that's cool. Jumping is alright. The tire isn't scary. OOHH TABLE! Offered that one up himself. He was going pretty confidently through a 6-7 foot relatively straight tunnel at the end of our 15 minute training session.
The only 'oh no!' moment we had involved him deciding he needed to go up the full height teeter on his own (we'd used it for Mimi and the Dane that was training's course earlier). I was close enough to step on the end so it didn't bang, and just slowly lowered him a little so he could hop off and have a super exciting fun party for being brave (and clueless!).
The lhasa in my class did this and I almost had a heart attack! Luckily she's so light that her owner had plenty of time to catch her before the teeter fell.
Gotta love the silly clueless dogs.
I've been thinking for a couple of hours about how I'd respond; the idea of using the squirt bottle in an agility setting is so aversive to me (as, yes, the owner of two agility dogs with varying levels of softness, and both of whom are prone to "stressing down" rather than up), although I do generally try to go with an "if it works for you and your dog" sort of attitude normally.
Meg was my first agility dog - adult rescue Mountain Cur, incredibly, incredibly soft (at first a gentle "eh, eh, try again" would end class for us, because she would be under a table immediately). I never worried about "losing" her from a running away/distracted perspective, except in one particular situation. The fenced in outdoor space where I was taking classes at the time was surrounded by holes from the biggest ground hog I've ever seen. And because he lived out there, he knew the fence was secure and had no fear, so he would sit there and watch. Did I mention I have a hound-type dog?! Meg would simply run the fence line hysterical as soon as I took her off leash.
We turned the groundhog into her reward. Premack! I honestly thought the trainer had lost her mind at first. I'd get her with me, on leash. Take the leash off while shoving food in her mouth (I've never done agility on leash or dragging). Get ONE jump and yell "get him!" to her, and follow her running to the fence line, cheering her on and letting her go all out at the fence for 30 seconds or so. Tell her she's a genius, put her leash back on, go back, get two jumps before releasing her to the fence. Within an hour group class, she could run sequences with me again. I would never have believed it worked if I hadn't been there.
Gusto is a whole 'nother kettle of fish. I got him as a puppy, as a sport prospect (BC/terrier). I did everything I thought of right. He was in performance puppy classes from about four or five months, doing restrained recalls, crate games, shadow handling, etc. We went to seminars. And I thought over and over "no dog can ever be as challenging as Meg was". :rofl1:
He is the king of distraction and checking out. If there is a spot on the floor, he has to go touch it. If someone dropped food three days ago in the corner, he has to go see. He would play keep away (is there anything in the world more embarrassing than not being able to catch your own dog in class?).
I thought he was being a jerk, I thought he needed more proofing on distractions. I did a seminar with a very well thought of agility handler/judge that was a huge mental breakthough for me. Not because she fixed the problem, but because I learned there was a line I wouldn't cross with my dogs. There was no real physical corrections, but there was no excited playing with your dog ("It is his job to be ready and listening"), walking the dog down and taking their collar and firmly putting them back where they left you. Within 2 working sessions of maybe 5 minutes total, Gusto was hiding from me in the tunnels. I left in tears because I didn't feel like I stood up for my dog.
I've done a seminar, a camp, and an online course pretty much similar to the one mentioned above) with Tracy Sklenar, and the difference is night and day. No, it isn't an instant fix, but Gusto and I are both having a good time, he is progressing well, and I don't feel bad about how I'm treating my dog. Yes, it probably is just more foundations, which I know you said isn't an option for you. It's collar grabs and It's Your Choice and play with toys and play with just you and no toys. And IT WORKS. I have no doubt that there are other trainers who are also great at this stuff, but after my bad seminar experience, I'm very hesitant to recommend trainers I haven't personally worked with. I'd recommend Tracy in a heartbeat. She's not only great with the dogs, she's great with people, and that is a huge thing for me. I don't need someone blowing smoke to make me feel good about myself, but if a seminar presenter or trainer makes me feel like I'm failing or ruining my dog, I don't want to work with them.
As for what I'd do right now with a dog who was reacting like Watson - I'd make sure that play with other dogs was not an option while we were working right now. Other dogs crated, or out of the ring, or do privates. You need to build up the value of the equipment and working with you, and right now, compared to other dogs, you are going to lose. He doesn't have all those repetitions of equipment = pay yet, to make that seem like the better choice.
Another thing to just keep in mind is to think about if he's stressed. I say that because, with Gusto, I failed to recognize for a long time that his distraction issues are very heavily stressed based. I could see Meg's stress so easily - when a dog goes crawling out of the ring on her belly peeing, nobody confuses that with something else. Dogs who "stress high" (those dogs doing zoomies at trials while their owners say 'look how much fun he's having!') and dogs who stress by disengaging are harder I think, because it looks like something else. It really sounds from what you've said that Watson simply finds other dogs more rewarding than you, but keep that in the back of your mind, since he doesn't sound like a dog who would stress down.
I wish you the best of luck with him. Gusto still makes me want to bang my head against the wall sometimes, but he also gives me moments of such genius that I want to cheer. There's a light at the end of the tunnel, I know it. He's still a baby at only 2 years old. I can be patient