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Old 10-28-2012, 01:44 PM
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Riobravo Riobravo is online now
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Default Building a better relationship

Hi,
I'm a long time lurker but haven't really ever posted. I'm having a bit of an issue with my dog and am hoping the knowledgeable and supportive members here can help give me some ideas of how to work with this.

Rio is a 2 year old border collie. He was found on the side of the road as a tiny puppy so we don't know if he's mixed but he looks and acts like a border collie. I've had him since he was a 12 week old puppy and we presume he is from some sort of working lines. He has a very strong herding drive and has been on sheep a few times. We've been training in agility, obedience and dock diving. He's my first competition dog and he's a real good dog to learn with. We'll probably never make any sort of high level competition but we will have fun and learn together. He has been trained using positive/clicker training methods and I prefer to stick to those techniques when training. Rio is also my heart dog. I love him immensely and he is a very sensitive and sweet dog most of the time.

So now the issue, I need to know how to build a better relationship or connection with him. I've been told that he doesn't respect me but mostly I think I'm just not exciting enough to him in high distraction situations. Couple examples:

When out for a walk, he will walk on a loose lead but he's not really "connected" with me, he's looking around for other dogs (he has a fence fighting issue and he's always looking for a fence with a dog or listening for other dogs) or rabbits. He's aware of where I am because he keeps the leash loose but he never really looks at me or seems to really care about what I'm doing. He will not take treats or respond to the clicker on walks right now. There is NO connection except for the leash.

At agility class he used to be super awesome and loved to work for me. We had some issues with a trainer and he really started to break down in class. We have a new trainer who is working really hard with us but it's another place I don't feel any connection with him. Sometimes he will do a few obstacles but mostly he's running away to go run the fence at the horses or bark at the other dogs waiting for their turn. He frequently gets to the point where he won't take treats. He will come back to me if I call him but it seems more of an automatic response versus actually caring about the reward.

If we are in a training building in a class, in the house or in the backyard, he is on and connected and awesome. He used to be super connected in agility class then we started having issues with the trainer and that broke down. He is great at dock diving, focused on his task and responsive. If we go to a friend's house to work and play in her huge back yard, he's great, comes back when called and stays connected to me. I just can't get that intensity and focus to be on me in all situations.

So I need some suggestions please. I have read lots of different books and have lots of different ideas running through my head but not sure the best direction to go with him. How do I make myself more exciting to my dog?

Thanks

Sara
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Old 10-28-2012, 06:03 PM
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Unfortunately, it takes a lot longer to undo the damage a bad trainer can do than it can take for the damage to be done.

Have you tried the premack principle? It's the BEST for fence fighting, and really good at teaching your dog that you're super interesting and worth paying attention to.
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Old 10-28-2012, 06:06 PM
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Thanks!
I feel like I do use a lot of Premack with him, but could you elaborate on how you would use it for fence fighting? I may be misusing it or not using it to it's full potential.

Thanks!
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Old 10-28-2012, 06:16 PM
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I was at an agility seminar this weekend that focused a lot on the same sort of things you are talking about. It was a novice dog group, so of course we were all talking about how easily our dogs get distracted and disconnect from us.

I'm terrible at transferring information I've heard into words, so forgive the mess this is likely to be! Two different things we worked on:

1) It's Your Choice/It's Yer Choice (I hate intentionally misspelled words ). Teaching the dog to choose you over distractions. There is a lot of information out there about how to train the skill, from the very beginning up. The final idea being that when your dog sees something it wants - food, another dog, a person, whatever - their default behavior is to not dive right for it, but to look to you for the reinforcement. All the dogs in the group quickly showed good progress in the maybe 10 minutes we worked on it. My dog was quickly walking right over a bowl full of cut up hot dogs and roast beef with nary a glance.

2) Getting the dog in the right frame of mind to work. I'm terrible at this normally, and I'm letting everyone I train with know that this is my winter goal and they are welcome to smack me if I forget. I let people rush me in class or practice to get on the line and take my turn. Rapid fire fun tricks/commands with a really high rate of reinforcement (food/tug/whatever they like) until they are "up" and looking to you and ready to go. If they wander off when you go to the start line, go back to the warm-up games. I'm planning to teach Gusto to spin and jump over my outstretched foot. He tugs like a maniac, but it doesn't really connect him to me well.

I'll be looking for the other responses as well - this is something we are dealing with now as well!
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Old 10-28-2012, 09:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Riobravo View Post
Thanks!
I feel like I do use a lot of Premack with him, but could you elaborate on how you would use it for fence fighting? I may be misusing it or not using it to it's full potential.

Thanks!
Sure. Unfortunately, there was an AMAZING video on premack for fence fighting on youtube but it got taken down I'll try to type up an explanation of it later, but for now, check out this video. It won't help his focus, but will make him more comfortable walking past other dogs behind fences.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3n_fPKPLA2g
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Old 10-30-2012, 12:15 PM
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In addition to all the good ideas you've gotten so far, I'd practice with him in very low distraction areas for a while more. By being the most exciting, rewarding and cool thing in his otherwise boring environment, you will give him a chance to have more focus on you become more of a habit. Get that going good and strong and then work in distractions very gradually....to practice these other techniques. If he's not interested in the food treats, work him on a somewhat empty tummy. Find whatever it is that motivates him and use that for reinforcement. When you get to the stage where there are a few lower level distractions....something he's interested in, you can use that as reward AFTER he gives you just a little of what you want. Don't ask for too much too soon. Break everything you do down into tiny increments and reinforce those. If you're losing him, it means you've gone too far too soon. Go back to where your'e getting success and work there a little longer. He sounds like a great dog. Remember too, that he is still pretty young....and experience plus maturity will work in your favor as time goes on.
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Old 10-30-2012, 12:22 PM
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I don't do any agility etc (yet), but I have been reading some books. I HIGHLY recommend this one for you:

http://www.cleanrun.com/index.cfm?fu...roduct_ID=3080

This is the puppy edition, and it will help IMMENSELY in the areas that you're talking about here. She goes into lots of depth about common misconceptions about "lack of respect", focus in distracting situations and the reasons dogs do this.

It is really really good.... in fact, I should finish reading it

Seriously though - everything you're saying in your post..... she hits it right on the head. It will be perfect for you.
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Old 10-30-2012, 12:36 PM
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Tracy Sklenar and Denise Fenzi are two trainers that I would look up, both deal a lot with relationship issues with sporting dogs and their handlers. Leslie McDevitt is another one, Control Unleashed is a must read for people having connection issues.

You are on the right path, you realize it's a relationship issue and not the dog's fault or your own. You are a team and the only way to make it through this is to work together as a team. Read your dog, know his thresholds and learn to work with him.
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Old 10-30-2012, 01:12 PM
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Agree with all of the above and I would also recommend doing SG's Recallers 4.0 which is opening up again soon.
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Old 10-30-2012, 02:25 PM
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Thank you very much for all the advice. I do have Control Unleashed and have already started re-reading it. I've also been really interested in the Recallers work but haven't been able to find any more information on it or how to join?

I think a huge part of my problem is that I have to do most of this training on my own. There aren't very many positive trainers in the area and very few trainers I'm comfortable working with on this issue. My other issue is I have a hard time organizing my training and training goals. I start reading so many different things, get too many ideas, want to implement ALL the ideas, start feeling overwhelmed and then just don't do anything because I feel frustrated and overwhelmed. I really need to come up with a clear training plan that has measurable goals and stick with it.

I think Control Unleashed is probably where I need to focus on for now.

Thank you also for not making me feel like an awful person. I feel pretty bad having to admit that I have a connection issue with my dog but it's nice to know other people have experienced it also. He is a really nice dog and he's going to be a great team mate, we just need to work on connecting a bit better.

Thanks!
Sara
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