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    1. #1
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      kimbersmom's Avatar
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      Keeping her attention in class

      We attended our second obedience class last night. Stormy is not a huge fan. So far, it's a mixture of commands she knows with a few that are new to her. I think class is beneficial in that she's great in the house and yard, but her attention nosedives in a high-distraction area like class. Getting and keeping her attention, however, is a challenge for me.

      At the start of class, she started barking. I told her hush, and then gave her a treat. She turned that into "Give me a treat every 5-10 seconds or I will bark." Normally I put her in a timeout, but class is outside in a big park. I moved away from the group so that the others could hear the instructor, at least. After the instructor demonstrated the exercise, it was time for us to practice it. Stormy would obey about half a dozen times, and then stop paying attention. She barked at the other dogs, and tried to eat acorns, and jumped on me. (Sidenote- we'd given her a healthy dose of exercise before class to get the wiggles out.) I changed to a higher-reward treat; she definitely got more interested, but her attention span focused on the treat and bottomed out the millisecond she got it. And even that only worked a handful of times. She seemed super interested in the other dogs, but during breaks, she would give greeting dogs a quick sniff and then want to move on.

      As I write this out, I realize it's similar to when I took her to Colonial Williamsburg for the first time. It's as if she gets so overwhelmed by all the sights and smells that she cannot focus. She zooms from one thing to another- in this case, "Acorn! Instructor! Smelly Treat! Someone parking their car 100 feet away! A fire engine! Dog on my right! An acorn! Dog on my left!"- and her attention never settles down.

      Any insights or strategies would be appreciated!
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    2. #2
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      This is all very normal. Classes can be hard for some puppies.

      A few things to consider:
      * The barking is probably more about frustration and over-arousal. I don't do the bark/hush/treat. It creates a behavior chain. I think I mentioned it when you first brought it up.
      * Stormy might not be ready for a highly distracting class; you might practice more at home instead, and then add distractions at home. Then, go from the back yard to the front yard. From the front yard to the sidewalk. From the sidewalk to the driveway. Etc.
      * She may need exercise BEFORE class. When I have a lesson with Presto, I have learned that taking him to run, adding in some recalls, sits, retrieves, etc. for about an hour makes for a better one-hour lesson (an hour is a long time for a puppy, and he gets a lot of crate breaks during this time while my instructor and I talk about what we are doing)
      * Stormy may be frustrated by your timing, delivery, etc. Do you use a clicker? That can work better for some puppies. It can help to video yourself delivering treats or communicating with your pup.
      * Stormy may be a dog that doesn't feel like doing things six or ten times is worth it! There are many dogs that feel this way. There are dogs that think if you keep asking, they did something wrong, so they might just say screw it, I'm outta here because I can't do it the way you want to! Sometimes this has to do with timing; sometimes it's the dog.
      * Focus is learned (though some puppies come with it). What have you done to JUST teach focus?

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    4. #3
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      You realize you rewarded the bark with a treat right? I usually teach "Speak" to I can teach "No Speak". I think you reward too quickly, she is old enough to have to earn it by giving you attention longer, or being quiet for longer.

      In class, expect more of her, a leash correction, "pop" goes a long way in focusing her. Why isn't your instructor intervening with solutions? A simple "here try this, instead" is way better than just allowing her to bark, and a very bad habit. No cookies when she barks, a pop on the leash and a firm "Quiet!" and redirect is better. Do something she knows, like "puppy push ups" (Sit... Down... Sit... Down etc... My dogs know they are in trouble when they have to do push ups. But it also teaches respect. Sometimes you have to be really firm, but always be fair. And never ever angry.

      I also use the gutteral deep voice "Ughn Uh" if my dogs are doing something they shouldn't, if they don't stop they have consequences, like puppy push ups, or other obedience moves, like a down stay. A well timed "Yes! Good puppy!" is way better than any treat. Catch her doing good things and reward that, like good girl when she is doing something you like, and drop a cookie at her. Teach her "Watch me" and reward eye contact and smile at her and give her a small treat each time, do it randomly through out the day, and always pleasant and upbeat, so she knows you Love It when she looks at you.

      If she does whatever exercise 6 times, don't ask her for more, move on to something else she knows, then repeat the first exercise. Puppies get bored easily, and if she did it right the first 6 times, then she must think she is doing it wrong for you to repeat it 6 more times and she shuts off. ALWAYS end on a good note even if it is just a nice "watch me" and reward with love, scritches, praise and a small tidbit.

      As far as her getting overwhelmed by the world "SQUIRREL!" just take her to a park and sit, no greeting other dogs, or obedience, just sit and watch the world go by and pat her occasionally. One of my show dog friends lives in a rural area, so she takes her puppies to the Walmart parking lot and sits on her tailgate with her puppies, so they get used to fire engines, cars backfiring, grocery carts, different people, noises, motorcyles, etc... etc... etc... So they have confidence in the world. Let her explore and check out an acorn or pine cone, or trash bag on the ground, so they learn all that stuff is normal life stuff.

      I have to go, but if you have any questions or need clarification, let me know.

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    6. #4
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      Quote Originally Posted by Shelley View Post
      You realize you rewarded the bark with a treat right? I usually teach "Speak" to I can teach "No Speak". I think you reward too quickly, she is old enough to have to earn it by giving you attention longer, or being quiet for longer.

      In class, expect more of her, a leash correction, "pop" goes a long way in focusing her. Why isn't your instructor intervening with solutions? A simple "here try this, instead" is way better than just allowing her to bark, and a very bad habit. No cookies when she barks, a pop on the leash and a firm "Quiet!" and redirect is better. Do something she knows, like "puppy push ups" (Sit... Down... Sit... Down etc... My dogs know they are in trouble when they have to do push ups. But it also teaches respect. Sometimes you have to be really firm, but always be fair. And never ever angry.

      I also use the gutteral deep voice "Ughn Uh" if my dogs are doing something they shouldn't, if they don't stop they have consequences, like puppy push ups, or other obedience moves, like a down stay. A well timed "Yes! Good puppy!" is way better than any treat. Catch her doing good things and reward that, like good girl when she is doing something you like, and drop a cookie at her. Teach her "Watch me" and reward eye contact and smile at her and give her a small treat each time, do it randomly through out the day, and always pleasant and upbeat, so she knows you Love It when she looks at you.

      If she does whatever exercise 6 times, don't ask her for more, move on to something else she knows, then repeat the first exercise. Puppies get bored easily, and if she did it right the first 6 times, then she must think she is doing it wrong for you to repeat it 6 more times and she shuts off. ALWAYS end on a good note even if it is just a nice "watch me" and reward with love, scritches, praise and a small tidbit.

      As far as her getting overwhelmed by the world "SQUIRREL!" just take her to a park and sit, no greeting other dogs, or obedience, just sit and watch the world go by and pat her occasionally. One of my show dog friends lives in a rural area, so she takes her puppies to the Walmart parking lot and sits on her tailgate with her puppies, so they get used to fire engines, cars backfiring, grocery carts, different people, noises, motorcyles, etc... etc... etc... So they have confidence in the world. Let her explore and check out an acorn or pine cone, or trash bag on the ground, so they learn all that stuff is normal life stuff.

      I have to go, but if you have any questions or need clarification, let me know.
      All of this!
      Annette

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    8. #5
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      I don't use leash pops or "uh-uh" and I can train my puppy in a Home Depot, in the middle of an agility trial, etc. He did not come to me a focused puppy! Presto, despite being a confused hormonal teenager, is a pup that is obsessed with my attention in public (public = working! = YAY!) and now I have to teach him to relax in public and look around. It's not all about work all the time. My friends are all disappointed that he won't visit with them and he ignores other dogs, too. It might be far above what you're doing with your pup, but Petra Ford is doing a lot of engagement workshops and talks on her FB page. You might get something from that around focusing in public/class. Here are some additional resources:

      I taught focus at home and worked on it outside of the home before ever asking for anything. This is a great book. https://www.amazon.com/Focused-Puppy...y&sr=8-1-fkmr1

      This is also a good book for people who are ready to train outside of the home. https://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Back-Y...gateway&sr=8-1

      Here is a good article by Dr. Amy Cook. We need to stop calling it "socialization" - Play Way Dogs

    9. #6
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      Thanks so much! A few clarifications in case others want to comment:

      1) DH exercised her BEFORE class (from 4-5; class was 6-7).
      2) She bark bark bark'ed, I said hush, she was quiet for a count of 10, and then I'd treat. Sounds like I need to work on extending the time, as Shelley said.
      3) The instructor. I don't know. She's highly recommended but during two classes, she has only come to observe us during practice time once, and never offers advice. A lot of the other dogs are brand new to obedience so she spends her time with dogs that need to learn the command, rather than refine/reinforce like Stormy.
      4) We did a lot of "Watch Me" training as a pup. She's good in the house/yard/driveway. Open park? Not so much.

      Thanks again! Please keep your thoughts coming.

    10. #7
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      Quote Originally Posted by kimbersmom View Post
      Thanks so much! A few clarifications in case others want to comment:

      1) DH exercised her BEFORE class (from 4-5; class was 6-7).
      2) She bark bark bark'ed, I said hush, she was quiet for a count of 10, and then I'd treat. Sounds like I need to work on extending the time, as Shelley said.
      3) The instructor. I don't know. She's highly recommended but during two classes, she has only come to observe us during practice time once, and never offers advice. A lot of the other dogs are brand new to obedience so she spends her time with dogs that need to learn the command, rather than refine/reinforce like Stormy.
      4) We did a lot of "Watch Me" training as a pup. She's good in the house/yard/driveway. Open park? Not so much.

      Thanks again! Please keep your thoughts coming.
      I have similar challenges with Diggity. One thing the instructors all keep telling me is, “he is still a puppy, so don’t be too hard on yourself.” I’d say the same with Stormy. She still has “puppy brain.”

      From my perspective, it seems like you are doing all the right things and Stormy just needs more practice in distracting situations. Same with Diggity. He is awesome in the house. Pretty good outside with no distractions. Terrible as soon as we see another dog (his highest level of distraction temptation.) He’s good in class now, but in the beginning of each class he pulls and wants to say hello to every single dog in there. Progressively, he has gotten better as we’ve done more classes and once we start working in class, he’s focused. We have gone through four different classes (6 weeks each) now and we are on our fifth. I really think he understands we are there to work. But, we still struggle at the beginning of each class, because after all, he IS the mayor and needs to greet everyone.

      If you don’t click with that instructor, can you find another class with a different instructor?


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    12. #8
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      Silly little puppy head, Stormy! I don't have any better ideas than others have already given. Henry did his first round of classes starting just before he turned 4 months old and it lasted 8 weeks. He spent a fair amount of time in every class barking. I'd give him a collar correction, the instructor, thinking she could do it better than me, gave him collar corrections, yeah, didn't work for either of us more than a few seconds. If we were sitting down, he had to sit with a chair in front of him to break his attention or block his view of other stuff.

      There was about a 2 1/2 month hiatus between session one and session 2. He barked a little at the first class of session 2 but 2 other dogs were barking and 2 additional ones whined through much of the class. He settles down so much more quickly and is so much better at paying attention to me than first session. He is an adolescent so we need to keep working on shaping his behavior and classes help me prioritize that. This is not to say that Henry doesn't act like a frat boy at his first kegger sometimes but he settles down more quickly now. It sounds like you're doing the right things. If you hang in there and continue to be consistent, hopefully as she gets a little more mature and less puppy brained, things will improve with her as well.

      Ha ha, after I posted this I see Diggity's Mom used the term puppy brain as well. It's like their brain is a little snow globe that's gotten shaken up.

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    14. #9
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      wow that was a TON to ask of a puppy. and OUTSIDE class in a park as a first round of classes? even adult dogs with a few classes under their belt will often struggle with that. And she hasn't really had any training in a new place? again that's a HUGE factor. and she probably isn't used to such long training sessions either?

      I second Julie's advice and would honestly look for indoor class options so at least you are not struggling with quite that level of distractions and start practicing your training outside the house/yard (starting in calmer settings).

      First class can often be a write off though, regardless.

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    16. #10
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      Ditto all above. The thing I didn't notice, is, how many dogs are in this class?
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