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Old 05-29-2010, 08:02 AM
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Default Dislikes Rally? Is This Normal? Is it Me? Or Him?

When I got Jack I did so with the hope of casually competing in some dog events--agility, rally, obedience, etc. Since Jack has elbow dysplasia agility is obviously out, so we started doing some rally classes with the hopes of competing. I was under the impression that rally, especially at lower levels, is an easy thing that any reasonably trained dog can do.

Except my reasonably trained dog. It's not that he CAN'T do what is being asked of him--he just does not seem to enjoy it very much. In fact, the only time he does seem to be interested in what we are doing is when he is doing off leash rally in class. When he is on leash he seems bored and hard to motivate, although he is very food motivated and will take treats with too much enthusiasm, but he is much more "fun" motivated. He still often seems bored even with the treats involved unless I hold it right in front of his face which them makes him completely unfocused on what we are doing.

He CAN focus, depending on what he is doing. When I take him swimming at the lake I don't usually break out the treats unless I have to recall him from a zoomie-fit, which is actually rare. He is very focused on retrieving in the water, and I actually have to force him to rest.

I've tried mixing up treat rewards with toys, and while that seems to get his attention for a second, that's it.

When I do rally off leash with him he is better, but I still just get the feeling he just isn't enjoying himself. We took a break from rally for several months, and then last week while we were waiting for his swim therapy I took him into the training area there, let him off leash and asked him to do simple front/finish stuff. He really didn't want to. He would sit down and scratch himself (which I believe is a "calming signal") whenever I gave him a command and was avoiding me.

I don't use corrections with him as I want this to make this as fun as possible. Actually, he seemed to have MORE fun and was MORE focused in regular obedience classes we took a couple of years ago where the instructor had me use a prong collar on him throughout the class. he does rally in a flat.

Am I doing something wrong? Do some dogs just not enjoy things like rally? I know some breeds don't enjoy obedience but most labs seem very into it....
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Labs do it in the lake.


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Old 05-29-2010, 08:28 AM
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Well, Rally really is a lot heeling, so maybe that's part of it. Also, from what I'm hearing on other boards- for some weird reason, dogs seem to "deflate" a little when they go back on lead. And, speaking from experience, he could just be going through a phase. Caleb has weeks where he practically doesn't put a foot wrong and is up and happy. Then we go through the "huh, I don't know what you mean" phase.
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Old 05-29-2010, 08:43 AM
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Some dogs don't like it. Walking around in circles is not exactly the most exciting thing to do - compared to retrieving in the water, for example.

Maybe take a break from it.
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Old 05-29-2010, 12:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MicksMom View Post
Also, from what I'm hearing on other boards- for some weird reason, dogs seem to "deflate" a little when they go back on lead.
I've seen this in a lot of dogs in a lot of different venues. IMHO the reason is that when you're working on off-leash obedience, you're 100% focused on your dog and motivating your dog to work with you. You're probably using more treats, and you're almost definately talking to him more and using other types of attention and reinforcement. Usually when dogs are on leash, we don't pay as much attention to them because we can feel if they get out of position. Then when they get out of position we "correct" them... even if it's not a physical correction, no correction is fun. So on-leash work tends to be less reinforcing and more punishing, while off-leash work is pretty much 99% reinforcing.

So, my suggestion would be to make a special effort to treat all on-leash work exactly like you treat off-leash work. Maybe even video yourself doing some on-leash and off-leash work, and compare the videos to see what you're doing differently.

If you're truely not doing a single thing differently, then the problem is probably some sort of leash aversion. You mentioned that you used a prong collar in the past, that could have left him with a bad opinion of the leash in general. Or you'll need to look at what you're doing outside of the rally ring... when he's on leash from the building to your car, are you treating that as a training session with lots of reinforcement, or could it be a little more boring or punishing? You might consider switching equipment - use a harness or head halter for rally, and the flat collar with a retractable leash for every other time he needs to be on a leash outside of the rally sessions.
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Old 05-29-2010, 12:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lizzybeth727 View Post
I've seen this in a lot of dogs in a lot of different venues. IMHO the reason is that when you're working on off-leash obedience, you're 100% focused on your dog and motivating your dog to work with you. You're probably using more treats, and you're almost definately talking to him more and using other types of attention and reinforcement. Usually when dogs are on leash, we don't pay as much attention to them because we can feel if they get out of position. Then when they get out of position we "correct" them... even if it's not a physical correction, no correction is fun. So on-leash work tends to be less reinforcing and more punishing, while off-leash work is pretty much 99% reinforcing.

So, my suggestion would be to make a special effort to treat all on-leash work exactly like you treat off-leash work. Maybe even video yourself doing some on-leash and off-leash work, and compare the videos to see what you're doing differently.

If you're truely not doing a single thing differently, then the problem is probably some sort of leash aversion. You mentioned that you used a prong collar in the past, that could have left him with a bad opinion of the leash in general. Or you'll need to look at what you're doing outside of the rally ring... when he's on leash from the building to your car, are you treating that as a training session with lots of reinforcement, or could it be a little more boring or punishing? You might consider switching equipment - use a harness or head halter for rally, and the flat collar with a retractable leash for every other time he needs to be on a leash outside of the rally sessions.
Great post! Such good insight and advice. I also think some dogs just plain don't dig some kinds of activities. If you try more and he still seems bored, maybe some other sport, something with water like CP mentioned would be more up his alley.
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Last edited by Doberluv; 05-29-2010 at 01:07 PM.
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Old 05-29-2010, 01:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doberluv View Post
Great post! Such good insight and advice.
Thanks for the compliment! I actually had a similar problem with a dog just a few weeks ago. His off-leash heelwork was perfect, but when I put the leash on him he went a little bit nutty. Difficult to handle (and he was only 45 pounds!), completely unfocused, etc. I don't know what happened before I got him, but I do suspect he had some aversive leash training.... he's a sensitive dog anyway so it must have just had a lasting effect on him.

I switched him to a front-clasp harness, and he's just as good off leash as on leash now. I'm hoping to be able to transfer him back to the flat collar (it's difficult for my clients to put the harness on him), but we'll see how it goes.
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Old 05-29-2010, 01:07 PM
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It's amazing what a little creativity will accomplish. Great news!
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