Hopelessly Confused!
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Thread: Hopelessly Confused!

  1. #1
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    Hopelessly Confused!

    So, I've had my German Shepherd for nearly 3 years now, and got him at 9 months old. He was a very dominant dog at first, but i got him right out of that. I've done plenty of obedience training with him, and will listen well to all commands he's learned from basic to advanced even still. Ever since i got him he's had boundaries that i have made very clear, clearly set rules, and he never had a problem following them.

    Well, until recently. Within the last little while he has actually been breaking rules that were rock solid before. There was never any lax given on ANY of the rules, no leeway for any paws over boundaries. Basically, he is allowed anywhere up until he hits the livingroom, which is a clear line where the carpet begins. A line you can visibly see. The boundary line. Any single paw over that line was always corrected. However, very recently, he has actually begun going juuust into the livingroom when no one is looking. Not right into the middle of it or anything, but to where his whole body is a couple inches over the line to lay down despite the fact he has a dog bed he shares with my other dog and another carpeted mat (far from the line) in the permissible area. We often catch him and reprimand him for it, and all will be fine for a couple of days, then it will happen again.

    Also, a few days ago, he actually emptied half the garbage pale. Yesterday, after i gave him a bath, he actually pulled something out of it when my back was turned. Caught him and everything,but he has NEVER been a garbage picker. Ever. In all the time I've had him he has never taken anything out. He may have at most sniffed the lid out of curiosity, but that's it.

    Does anyone have any ideas on what's going on here? I'm honestly at a loss. I'm glad to answer any questions if it helps.

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  3. #2
    Senior Member Hiraeth's Avatar
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    Re: Hopelessly Confused!

    I think what you're experiencing here is the fallout that correction-based training can cause.

    If, instead of reinforcing good behaviors, you constantly correct bad ones when they happen, a smart dog is likely going to learn to push the boundaries, and will absolutely learn that corrections only happen when you're around, so behaviors like garbage picking can be performed when you aren't looking.

    I'd suggest you do some research into positive reinforcement training and instead of constantly punishing your dog with corrections, you reward and praise for desired behavior. If you want him to lay on his bed in the 'permissible area', teach him a command that means 'lay on your bed' and randomly treat him for being where you want him to be. That method will be far more effective in the long run that repeated corrections, which you can see are failing to get the point across.

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    Oh no, trust me, it's not only corrective. I do give praise when he's where he's supposed to be or doing what he's been asked to do. Know what i mean? Do you think I'm not praising enough even still?

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    Senior Member Hiraeth's Avatar
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    Re: Hopelessly Confused!

    Quote Originally Posted by Beckley View Post
    Oh no, trust me, it's not only corrective. I do give praise when he's where he's supposed to be or doing what he's been asked to do. Know what i mean? Do you think I'm not praising enough even still?
    If that's the case, then yes, I'd suggest upping how much you praise and reward. Your initial post made your approach to training sound very correction-based. Which means 'wait for dog to do something wrong then correct the wrong thing'. If you know your dog has been pushing the boundary and entering the living room, instead of waiting for him to do it and correcting, proactively send him to his bed and reward for him being there.

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    Thank you very much for your advice.

  7. #6
    Senior Member cookieface's Avatar
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    Re: Hopelessly Confused!

    I agree with Hiraeth's advice. I have two additional suggestions: 1) a sudden behavior change warrants a vet check and 2) find a reward more enticing than praise (meat, cheese, and play are far more reinforcing to most dogs than a "good boy").

    Depending on what you mean by "corrections" I'd eliminate then entirely and focus your training energy on teaching your dog behaviors you want instead of trying to eliminate behaviors you don't.

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    The praise has to have two or three times the strength of any correction. Let me say that again. Praise must have 3x the power of any correction. It must also be delivered at exactly the right time (usually immediately after a correction when the dog gets it right). Corrections must also be delivered at exactly the right time and only when the dog clearly knows the command and has just as clearly decided to be disobedient.

    Corrections only work when the dog knows he is being disobedient. Dog never went in the garbage before. Suddenly he did. How do you know he CLEARLY understands the garbage is off limits??? He never did this before. How was he clearly trained not to touch garbage when he never has?

    Room boundaries are not easily trained and are often not clearly understood by the dog. YOU clearly see the line drawn by the edge of carpeting. The dog typically does not relate to this. Instead, the dog relates to its location to other things in the environment and his place. IOWs he knows he is not allowed in an area, but does not relate it to the carpet.

    Last, get this dog his own bed. Do not expect him to share a bed. Your dog is maturing and, as a mature German Shepherd he will become less and less tolerant of bed sharing. He needs his own place that is not shared.

    Good luck.

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    Re: Hopelessly Confused!

    Have you tried clicker training? It's easier to mark the dog when he does something correctly. Also, remember that dogs (and really most other animals) look for opportunities. Whatever the reward, it has to be better than whatever the dog is getting with the negative behavior. I don't know a lot about the "leave it" command, but it might be a good idea to teach it to the dog and use it every time you catch him nosing the garbage. Look for and find ways to correct the behaviors you want to extinguish. Reward the behaviors you want to continue.

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    Re: Hopelessly Confused!

    Easiest way is to put up a gate or a door to prevent the dog from breaking the rules.

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    Re: Hopelessly Confused!

    A gate will stop a German Shepard? I once had a dog that climbed a six-foot fence.

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    Re: Hopelessly Confused!

    Quote Originally Posted by aspiringdogtrainer View Post
    A gate will stop a German Shepard? I once had a dog that climbed a six-foot fence.
    Okay? So put up a gate that's the height of the opening.

  13. #12
    Senior Member DaySleepers's Avatar
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    Re: Hopelessly Confused!

    Quote Originally Posted by aspiringdogtrainer View Post
    A gate will stop a German Shepard? I once had a dog that climbed a six-foot fence.
    Gates indoors are often less about physically stopping a dog and more about making a clear boundary that isn't easy to accidentally blow through. My in-laws used plywood boards occasionally to keep their dog in or out of rooms, but they're designed to be dachshund height - they only come up to my poodle's chest when we're visiting. However, because we redirect him away from the barrier when he tries to approach it, jump it, or paw at it, and reward him for doing as we ask (usually going to lie in his bed), he respects that when it's up, he isn't allowed to cross it.

    Sounds like a gate can be a good temporary measure in this case to reinforce the boundary while you're working on making lying in his bed more rewarding, as others have suggested.

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