Hopelessly Confused!
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  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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    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.

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    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.

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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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    Okay. So for anyone who wanted an update on this situation if they were having a similar problem!

    Yes, I knew corrections and treats needed to be at a specific, perfect time. Yes, the boundary was clear during the day because he would literally lay an inch away along the line. Not over it, not ON it. And yes, this did start with a gate, and once it stuck we stopped using it and got rid of it alyogether. Yes, the garbage was known to be off limits. He would intentionally avoid it.

    Now here's the deal:

    I tried taking advice from this forum. I tried countless treats, tons of praise, play, retraining the boundary he already knew, everything. And no matter how much praise or treats (no matter how delicious), he actually seemed to be getting worse. Yes, worse. So I was baffled. My dog wasn't going hungry. He clearly knew the boundary by day and forgot about it by night, even if I was around.

    *drumroll*

    My dog was bored and undersimulated. As it turns out, I wasn't training him enough in general OR giving him enough new and engaging experiences, and I don't mean treats either. Just... Games. And he loves tracking, so more of that. Started doing more of those and BOOM. Problem solved. None of the training even had to involve the rules he was breaking.

    So to those of you that are finding treats and playing with toys and such just isn't working with this kind of scenerio, I urge you to try even just a little more training during the day, and to really try to diversify the activities you do with him/her. Get that darned brain of theirs working. I know how weird it all may sound, but it worked for me and my bud

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    Re: Hopelessly Confused!

    I'm glad you found something that seems to be working and is enjoyable to your dog!

    All of the advice here is still good advice. I especially agree with this one:
    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.
    While puppies and younger dogs don't mind sharing, that can change as they get older and more mature. My one dog won't even lay anywhere near my other dog anymore because he shifts around and bumps her and she gets irritated by that.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jen2010 View Post
    I'm glad you found something that seems to be working and is enjoyable to your dog!

    All of the advice here is still good advice. I especially agree with this one:
    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.
    While puppies and younger dogs don't mind sharing, that can change as they get older and more mature. My one dog won't even lay anywhere near my other dog anymore because he shifts around and bumps her and she gets irritated by that.
    I 100% agree. My dog has never slept in my bed, even as a puppy. He's got his own the fact that poster made that assumption though is almost annoying

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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.
    Happy containment and respecting boundaries ( physical, visual or implied ) are learned GSD's are smart and willing team member's... They can do anything that you will show them and do it with them to learn it..


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    Re: Hopelessly Confused!

    What a great update. Almost sounds like he was trying to 'engage' you be testing the rules with 'what if's' to see what happens? Kind of like when bored cats knock things off shelves just to get you moving.
    Sounds like you have an awesome dog-they do teach us too. Glad to hear about it all working out.
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    Re: Hopelessly Confused!

    Hi Beckley

    I'm glad you sorted the problem out eventually and I'm sure the solution keep both of you mentally and physically occupied.

    My own GSD/Collie cross is lately trying to tell me something but for the life of me I can't figure it out. We lost our Jack Russell pup of just under a year recently due to a undisciplined neighborhood dog so maybe the GSD/Collie is just trying to tell me she misses having canine company.

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    Quote Originally Posted by islanddog View Post
    What a great update. Almost sounds like he was trying to 'engage' you be testing the rules with 'what if's' to see what happens? Kind of like when bored cats knock things off shelves just to get you moving.
    Sounds like you have an awesome dog-they do teach us too. Glad to hear about it all working out.
    Thanks! Yeah, that's honestly what it seems like. They've most definitely got a way of communicating, it's just figuring out what the heck they're trying to tell you haha

    Quote Originally Posted by WesselGordon View Post
    Hi Beckley

    I'm glad you sorted the problem out eventually and I'm sure the solution keep both of you mentally and physically occupied.

    My own GSD/Collie cross is lately trying to tell me something but for the life of me I can't figure it out. We lost our Jack Russell pup of just under a year recently due to a undisciplined neighborhood dog so maybe the GSD/Collie is just trying to tell me she misses having canine company.
    Oh no that's not good at all. Dogs mourn just like we do, So that could definitely be the case. Best of luck, and I'm sorry for your loss

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    Senior Member piperboxermix's Avatar
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    Re: Hopelessly Confused!

    Quote Originally Posted by Beckley View Post
    My dog was bored and undersimulated. As it turns out, I wasn't training him enough in general OR giving him enough new and engaging experiences, and I don't mean treats either. Just... Games. And he loves tracking, so more of that. Started doing more of those and BOOM. Problem solved. None of the training even had to involve the rules he was breaking.
    That is so great. If only more owners were like you, and worked with their dog like that. Congrats!

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