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Old 04-24-2012, 03:39 AM   #1 (permalink)
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How can I train my dog to obey without treats? And other questions

Hey, I have a foster doberman/GSD mix. He's pretty settled into the home. I live alone with him. I have a few questions about training:

First off, he is good in grass, or in the house for training. Especially when I have treats. He gets super excited and obedient when I've got little hot dog slices or cheese cubes in the backyard. I tried training him that way at the park in grass, and he is the same way.
Problem is he isn't very obedient elsewhere. On the walking trail, which is paved, he will only come, and sit on command. Sometimes I have to have a little will battle with him to get him to sit, even. He just sits there and looks at me.
Do I need to just keep training him to obey in these places, too?

Also, how can I train him and get him excited to do stuff when there aren't treats involved, and just praise? Do I need to get him to learn to be in "obedience mode" or something? I'd like him to learn to obey anywhere if possible. Particularly the command "stay" and "heel" (I have not taught him heel, yet. he isn't much of a problem walker, but I'd like him to learn to hang close when bikes and cars go by.)

And my other question: He tends to have his tail between his legs a lot. He wags when he's getting trained, and when we're going out the door, or especially when I come out of my room in the morning. But at home even when he comes up to me and nudges for affection, his tail will hang very low or even be between his legs, completely immobile. He doesn't usually show submissive signs, though he is a fairly submissive dog. Not much makes him wag. Is this low set tail just the GSD in him?

Also, how can I get him more socialized? He hasn't been very socialized with people. He gets nervous around them. I try and get him in public, and I tell people they can pet him, but let him sniff them first. Then I tell him "good boy" as they pet him or talk to him.
He looks at me a lot for reassurance during interaction with other people, and his tail is often a bit between his legs. Then when it's over he gets excited and jumps around me a bit. He hasn't show much aggression (other than growling at men on his turf, and once a faint snarl towards a man on his turf), but I still get a bit worried and hold his collar when people or especially little kids get excited around him and want to pet him. Am I doing okay, or should I do anything else?

Sorry this was so long! Feel free to just respond to one part of it. XD
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Old 04-24-2012, 05:50 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Have you had a dog before? Or have you had working breeds before?

If not, I highly suggest finding a great trainer to show you how to train your dog and mould his behaviour in public.

Grabbing his collar every time a person or child walks by is sending the wrong message to him. Your actually telling him your nervous, and he will see those people as a threat. If you are really concerned, think about muzzling him in heavily public areas.

For training without treats, you can build up his prey drive, and wean him off onto a toy. It's hard to tell what you mean by 'battle of the will' maybe your dog doesn't understand you, or he may be distracted.

Good luck!
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Old 04-24-2012, 07:46 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Went to our first obedience class last Sunday, and the trainer uses clicker training. If the dog obeys, you click and then you treat. Eventually you stop using the clicker and replace it by saying the word, "YESSSSSS!" in a excited, snake-like way, which sounds different than the way you'd use any English word. You say, "yessss" and you treat. Eventually, you ween them off the treats as well.

As for your concern with obeying in different environments, it may be a distraction issue. Duke does the same thing. In the house, PERFECT. Outside the house, doesn't listen to a single command. It's a slow process, but you have to keep at it by slowly introducing one distraction at a time until he gets it.

Don't know how to answer your concern about having his tail between his legs around you at times, but I can help answer the socialization question. I've added links below that I got from our trainer about socialization. Not sure if your dog is a pup or not, but I'm sure all the exercises still apply.

Your Puppy Socialization Checklist

Scavenger Hunt for Puppy Socialization

Properly Socializing Your Canine for Dog-to-Dog Introductions
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Old 04-24-2012, 07:47 PM   #4 (permalink)
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You can train your pooch in one place and she probably won't know what to do when you take her to another. Even different rooms of your house. Dogs don't generalize well—you have to show them "sit" means "sit" in as many different ways and places as you can until she gets the idea. Also, as your training progresses you stop paying with every rep. Use a random schedule and decrease food as success increases. I just got my wife's totally unsocialized 4 year old Mal to run into her kennel on command consistently. A few days ago she would just stand on the porch and look at me! A clicker, some Bil-Jac and about 30 minutes all told. And I'm a total noob!

I highly suggest Jean Donaldson's book "The Culture Clash". She lays down a ton of info, and she's funny as can be!
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Old 04-25-2012, 01:28 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Hey, Thanks for the responses!

I've had dogs before. Not one that I was solely taking care of though. Also, the dogs I've had experience with were very friendly or confident ones. I've never had such a "one-woman" dog. He's pretty indifferent to all distractions, but he gets a bit worried when they invade his personal bubble of him and me.

I'm not worried enough that he'd need a muzzle. I'm just overly cautious if anything. I think when he meets new people, I'll feed him a treat, as that one link said. So he can associate new things with treats. I never thought of holding him close sending him the wrong signals! That's probably true. I will stop doing that and just instruct people to not overwhelm him. He actually did very good with the kids. He was noticeably worried but they pet his muzzle and everything and he was calm.

Now that I think of it, maybe it is just that he doesn't "generalize". I'll keep training him at home and the park, and gradually bring the training down to the trail, and then streets, etc. I guess he's so used to the trail being the place we just go forward on, he gets confused when the mission suddenly changes, haha.

Clicker training might definitely be worth getting into. I also have reached the conclusion I should carry small treats everywhere, and give him random rewards for good behaviour.
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Old 04-25-2012, 05:34 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I got a little bitty "bait bag" that hangs on my belt at one of the big chains. I keep it loaded with treats an a clicker pretty much all the time. It's good to have so you can "capture" a behavior when you dog does it... I've been trying to do the click and the yesss together to I kind of did it on my own, put together both techniques from books and videos. That way I'll have a marker no matter what.

Jean Donaldson says the biggest mistake most amateurs make is not rewarding enough. Apparently pros will reward up to ten times per minute. Fast and furious, I guess!
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Old 04-26-2012, 04:00 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Yeah, I need to get a bait bag and find a treat that's relatively cheap, delicious, and not as greasy as hotdog or cheese bits.

Do the pros eventually get the dogs to obey with that much vigor without using so many treats?
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Old 04-26-2012, 12:07 PM   #8 (permalink)
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A few things I'd do

#1 wear the bait bag all the time and don't always give treats. The dog becomes accustomed to the bag vs a dog who uses it is a clue to only work when bait bag is on.
#2 make sure to wean off luring with treats within 3-5 times

And yes, they do learn to do things without high value rewards every single time.
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Old 04-26-2012, 12:52 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I've decided that I hate my itty-bitty bait bag. I'd like to get something with three bigger pockets—one for regular treats, one for high-value (delicious) treats and one for toys (balls, tugs, dumbbells etc.) I know you can buy them from the various training aids suppliers, but they are kind of pricey. I think I might try one of those nailing aprons they sell at Home Depot for 77¢.

They can definitely be weaned off food. Use a random pattern of reward (think slot machine) and taper off gradually. It usually doesn't take long.

I like Colleen's idea of wearing the bait bag all the time… they catch on pretty quickly!

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Old 04-26-2012, 03:01 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Adara, thanks for the tip about "wear the bait bag, but don't always give treats". I think I'll give that a try, myself. I sometimes stuff treats in my pocket, just to be different, but I've sometimes forgotten to take the leftovers out before doing the laundry.
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Old 04-26-2012, 10:46 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Adara, thanks for the tip about "wear the bait bag, but don't always give treats". I think I'll give that a try, myself. I sometimes stuff treats in my pocket, just to be different, but I've sometimes forgotten to take the leftovers out before doing the laundry.
Ewe...I know! 1/2 cheese stick thru the washer thankfully didnt make it to the dryer. Also that wet car smell that was getting worse...ugh...forgot that bag of boiled ck gizzards in the console!
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Old 04-26-2012, 11:11 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Also that wet car smell that was getting worse...ugh...forgot that bag of boiled ck gizzards in the console!
I don't even want to think about that. Yuck.
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