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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
We're working on impulse control around other dogs with our new puppy, and I'm hoping to pick up some tips.

When we approach the dog park, another dog, or another person on a walk, our 7 month old aussie will go absolutely bananas. She will jump as high as she can (several feet into the air, sometimes flipping herself over) to get at the owner. She'll run back and forth, she'll charge, basically she'll do anything and everything to break free of the leash and jump all over the fence, the other owner, the other dog, or all of the above.

I've been starting from far away (100-200 yards) and when she sees the dog park and starts running toward it, I stop and wait for her to sit. While sitting, she is visibly anxious. No treat is enough to get her attention back on to me. She'll sit and wait, but she'll shuffle around whimpering, or anxiously shift her weight. When I take a step forward, she charges at full speed and runs into the end of the leash. Then we repeat. Twice / day for a month, taking upwards of 15 minutes to approach the dog park sometimes. Not something I look forward to :/

This behavior is not improving a whole lot. As proximity to the dog park increases, her energy level goes up (predictably). This also applies to our neighbor, who in spite of my repeated insistence, encourages the dog to jump on her (and wonders why her own 10 year old terrier jumps on *everyone*... unbelievable).

What level of impulse control can I reasonably expect from a puppy this age, with consistent training? People look at me like I'm a bad person, restraining this 25 lb puppy from entering the dog park (not violently, just not moving and using a simple martingale collar because she can slip a flat collar), but I feel like this is a problem that needs to be nipped in the bud, not tolerated until she's old enough that it's completely ingrained.

We've done some impulse control stuff in the house, with treats, but she's not that food motivated so that's pretty easy.

Thanks!
-Ryan
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Sorry to bump this, but I was hoping I could get someone's attention. I just want to know what level of impulse control I can reasonably expect from a puppy of 7 months after training. I'm also wondering what level of on-leash walking behavior I can reasonably expect (training several times / day).

Thanks!
 

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I've been starting from far away (100-200 yards) and when she sees the dog park and starts running toward it, I stop and wait for her to sit. While sitting, she is visibly anxious.
That means you're too close. Once her excitement level has elevated to the point where she's focused on the park and won't take treats, you've already crossed the threshold of acceptable excitement. The reason you're not seeing improvement or being successful is that you're going into the excitement zone every time. At ALL points during desensitization, you should be able to have her do a few obedience commands and take treats. Ideally, you don't ever want her to end up in the excitement zone. (I know that's hard, but that's the ideal.)

People look at me like I'm a bad person, restraining this 25 lb puppy from entering the dog park
Oh! I know that look SO well! I'm so sorry, because I know exactly how that feels!

But start further away and take smaller steps. Forget getting into the dog park for now. Just see it as a training exercise outside the park. I did this for many weeks. :) Finally, I was able to walk my dog right past the dog park entrance without excitement, her watching me the whole time. It works, but it takes time and commitment. The more she is allowed to go into that excitement zone, the longer it's going to take to train her out of it.
 

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Yup, you've entered the worst possible training scenario. You need to rethink your approach. First decide what behavior you want, and teach that at home with no distraction. Then, slowly add distractions before testing it out on the road.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
Thanks for the responses!

Is this something I can reasonably expect to train in a couple weeks or months, or it likely that I'm going to have to be consistent while she's a puppy, but we're not really going to master it until the energy level goes down a bit? I understand building distractions, but I also want to make sure I'm setting realistic goals. What can I expect from a puppy at 7 months, and what should not be tolerated? At a certain distance, I can get her attention to give her treats and that will keep her eyes on me for a few seconds, but her eyes will dart back and forth from me to the dog park.

I'm also curious about leash training, specifically at this age. We work on leash training a *lot*. As soon as the leash is tense, I turn and go in the other direction, and we practice the name game and such as well.

Indoors she's perfect, and she stays on my left at heel. I get a lot of compliments on her leash behavior inside, even at PetSmart and our local pet store on Saturdays, where the distraction levels are very high.

Anyplace outdoors is difficult, though, even if it's our perfectly calm back yard. If you let her walk ahead of you, she won't pull very much; mostly she'll sniff around, and if I stop or slow down she'll sit and look back at me. She'll also periodically look back at me as she walks ahead. I will even control the pace, but this still drives me nuts because I'm out of sight and that leaves me at a disadvantage if a sudden distraction pops up.

So, I keep the leash short and position her at heel. Unfortunately, at heel outdoors the pulling is pretty constant, so I'm forever turning around and trying to get her attention. This is maddening; we've been working on this outside for close to 2 months, but I'm not making a lot of progress. I'm trying it in the quietest outdoor areas at times when nobody is around and it's still pretty tough.

Given that she's so well behaved indoors, how much of the outdoor behavior is a function of her age and desire to sniff everything? I use the premack principle to get her at heel, and then go to reward her with what she was wanting to go to after, but it's still tough. I have a solid understanding of what to expect from an adult dog, but I do not understand how much is reasonable to expect from an extremely hyper 7 month old puppy.
 

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An aussie puppy at seven months should be able to drop on a down immediatly, sit when asked to immediatly, walk properly on a leash, and come when called into a front and finish. 7 months is not too young to start asking for perfection.

perhaps you just haven't done enough training outside. try staying in your backyard and training for 20 minutes twice a day everyday. the best way to desensitize a dog to a certain environment is to be with them in it alot under calm behavior.

She should also be corrected everytime she sniffs the ground if you haven't given her the "ok"
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Wow, ok. I adopted her at around 6 months, so we've had her about 6-7 weeks now, and we have a lot of work to do before we reach that level. This helps, because people around here look at me like a madman when I work on training the dog in public. I get a lot of "she's just a puppy", "she's acting like a puppy", etc when our puppy goes bananas or refuses to pay attention. All of that outside scrutiny was really starting to get to me and make me doubt my expectations.

It sounds like we should avoid the dog park entirely for a while until I can command a much higher level of attention. And while we're at it, avoid other people :) Thanks for the advice
 

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I think you are doing a good job and it sounds like you are spending a lot of time training your pup. Keep doing what you're doing and remember not to expect too much too soon. No breed at any certain age has any specific things that they should or should not be able to do. Every dog is different and every handler is different.

Of course, striving for perfection is important and continuing to work hard is key. I would try heeling in and out of the front door and ending up inside with lots of praise and a jackpot of treats at the end of the short session. After doing this with no over-excitement a bunch of times then heel out of the door and down the sidewalk a little ways and then back inside, then back down the sidewalk, then back inside. . .gradually increasing the distance you go but never continuing if the dog is getting overly excited. Likewise I would go to the dog park and do some training in the parking lot, as for away as possible from the actual park, and then end with success and go home, never entering the park. Doing these things teaches the dog that they cannot predict what is coming so there is no use pulling and getting so excited.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks for the advice. I've been working on this the past couple of days, and I'm hitting a snag when it comes to walking. What do I do to actually walk the puppy?

I can command her attention for short periods of time outside, but she needs a lot of exercise, so I need to figure out some way to walk her around the neighborhood without reinforcing all of her bad behaviors.

When she sees a dog at a distance, her ears perk up and she goes tense. Or, just walking around in general, she's constantly interested in everything and anything and is always wandering all over on the leash to get at it. If I gave her a treat every time I had to redirect her from something she was interested in, I would certainly make her ill (she has a sensitive stomach).

Right now I've been walking her around on the gentle leader, and if we run into something particularly distracting (eg dog, ducks, squirrel), I usually walk in front of her and snap my fingers or do something, then ask her to sit and give her a bunch of treats. This works for a moment but then she's right back to staring at whatever it was, so I try to exit the area but it's tough to keep her eyes on me. This is pretty exhausting for both of us :)

This morning I only fed her 1/4 cup, instead of her usual full cup of california natural, and then a couple hours later I tried feeding her as we walked. This didn't go especially well; mostly she ignored the food in favor of the environment :/ Towards the end of the walk, when the energy level was lower and it's easier to get her attention, I had success, but am I too late at that point?
 

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This morning I only fed her 1/4 cup, instead of her usual full cup of california natural, and then a couple hours later I tried feeding her as we walked. This didn't go especially well; mostly she ignored the food in favor of the environment :/ Towards the end of the walk, when the energy level was lower and it's easier to get her attention, I had success, but am I too late at that point?
I would look at this a success. I think if you keep doing this you will start to see her calm down earlier and earlier. Are you doing some obedience work before you leave for the walk? Sometimes it helps to get the doggy mind warmed up and ready to think and focus before you leave.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I'm not doing much, but that certainly makes sense. I'll start running her through a few commands inside with the leash on before we head out. Thanks :)
 

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I wonder if going AWAY from the dog park when she gets too excited would be more effective. Walk toward the park until she begins going wild, then do an about turn and go in the opposite direction. Of course the idea would be that she only gets to approach the park as long as she is under control. In order for this to work, you would have to be prepared to keep it up until she is calmly walking all the way there (this will take more than the 15 minutes you are now spending in your approach). I think right now she knows that no matter how she behaves she is going to the park, so she'd rather hurry. Arriving at the park is a huge incentive for her.
 
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