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I recently adopted a 7 month old shepherd mix. We have had her for a month. Her recall, sit, down, and "shake" are good with no distractions and on leash (verbal ok, hand signal much better). They are reasonable off leash in a fenced area, provided there are no major distractions (dogs, cars).

She is VERY high energy. If there is a limit to how much she will run, I have not seen it, even after watching her go for a solid hour in a fenced area with other dogs. In her area at the humane society, it said "VERY HIGH ENERGY" and "VERY INTELLIGENT" in all caps and a different color in a long description from her fosters. I work from home so she is with me most of the time and I train her frequently throughout the day. We use kongs, bully sticks, and toys that make noise.

That's the background. Here are the components to the problem -

1) I had planned to jog with the puppy, but I have since been informed she is too young for structured jogging and it can damage her joints. Thus, I need a way to exercise her. 30 minute walks around the neighborhood do not cut it.

2) Puppy LOVES other dogs. No stimulus is as positive to her as being able to run with other dogs. She is not very food motivated and will turn her nose up at many treats. I cut up hot dogs, bits of sausage, ham, etc for training but food is not even remotely enticing to her when there are other dogs around.

3) We have two dog parks here, both fenced and adjacent. One is about as big as 3 school classrooms, and the other is about half a football field.

4) Puppy will run very little by herself in the park. Mostly she'll sniff around. Responds to recall pretty well.

5) When puppy is off leash with other dogs, she runs and runs and runs. Finally gets the exercise, but exhibits problematic behaviors. She is not aggressive at all, but excitedly jumps on other owners. She likes to dig until someone looks at her, and then run like Steve Austin. I am fully aware she will ignore me off leash with dogs around, so I never give commands and she checks back in with me frequently, but I'm powerless to stop her problematic behaviors.


What do I do? I feel like I'm setting myself up for a dog that's going to learn that off leash time is when the dog can roam wild with no controls, but at the same time, I have this ridiculously high energy puppy that doesn't seem to get adequate exercise any other way. We're working on fetch, but her favorite game is keep away (ugh) - a big problem when the puppy steals some *other* dog's ball in the park.

Sorry this is so long, but if you read this far, then thanks!
 

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1) I had planned to jog with the puppy, but I have since been informed she is too young for structured jogging and it can damage her joints. Thus, I need a way to exercise her. 30 minute walks around the neighborhood do not cut it.
Many short walks instead of one long walk. Games of fetch. As long as she gets to decide when to stop, and you are moving at her pace, things should be fine. Swimming is also a great form of exercise that doesn't stress the joints -- have you tried bringing her to the beach? Training sessions can also go a long way in burning energy.

2) Puppy LOVES other dogs. No stimulus is as positive to her as being able to run with other dogs. She is not very food motivated and will turn her nose up at many treats. I cut up hot dogs, bits of sausage, ham, etc for training but food is not even remotely enticing to her when there are other dogs around.
You need to increase distractions very slowly. Don't train her at home, then attempt to conduct a training session in the dog park. Instead, have one dog over, to a low-distraction environment like your own home.

Since your pup is so motivated by playing with other dogs, I would use this to an advantage. Read up on the Premack Principle. It basically works like this: your pup is playing with other dogs. You call her, she responds (assuming you've been gradually working up to this point) and as a reward you send her right back out again. This is extremely reinforcing. You use the playtime itself as a reward.

5) When puppy is off leash with other dogs, she runs and runs and runs. Finally gets the exercise, but exhibits problematic behaviors. She is not aggressive at all, but excitedly jumps on other owners. She likes to dig until someone looks at her, and then run like Steve Austin. I am fully aware she will ignore me off leash with dogs around, so I never give commands and she checks back in with me frequently, but I'm powerless to stop her problematic behaviors.
If her behaviour is inconveniencing the dog park owners or the other patrons of the dog park, I wouldn't take her till her obedience is a little more solid. She's still very young, so just keep working at the training for now. Remember to proof it in different situations, increasing distraction level slowly.

A good solution when you don't feel like playing "keep away" anymore is to just ignore the pup altogether. Act like you're not interested in the toy anymore. She only wants it because you think she wants it. Spunky used to love keep-away, and when she had something I would just pick up one of her dog toys and act like it was the best thing in the world. I'd play with Honey (my other dog) with it, and generally act excited about it. Usually though, once I turned my back on Spunky, whatever she had would just drop out of her mouth and she'd go find someone else to annoy. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Thanks rosemary. We are taking about 4 15-30 minute walks / day, or sometimes a couple 15 minute walks and one 45 minute one. She doesn't play fetch yet; we're working on it. I use two balls to train, because she'll chase, but she'll either take the ball and play with it, or keep it away from me. I can get her interested in a different ball, which she then fetches and keeps, or bats around and chases further. Usually she won't even start coming back to me so I can begin praising. When she does, she's only mildly interested in the treat. We are working at small distances right now (about 7 feet) indoors.

We are increasing distractions slowly; we're just not at dog park level yet. I don't expect her to respond at the dog park of course, so I don't give her commands there at all. I guess my question is, though - is taking her to the fenced dog park now, untrained, setting her up for failure later? Even if I'm not giving her commands there?

The other dog park regulars actually really like the puppy. I'm more concerned about the digging, jumping, and general disregard of me escalating off leash and becoming learned behaviors. Dog park owners also tend to reinforce bad behaviors, like puppy jumping, which they find adorable (she only weighs about 25 lbs) but I obviously do not :)

I'm definitely going to try implementing the Premack Principle once I have her responding enough at that distraction level to get her to perform the behavior in the first place. I've been using environmental rewards in most of our outdoor training - eg, if you sit when I stop, we can both run towards that bird, that sort of thing.

We have our first group class this Sunday, so I'm hoping that will help too :)
 

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Are you crating this puppy? They seem to mellow out after a while of getting crate trained. I know you work from home (I do too) but I put her in there at least 3-4 hours a day and it seems to help. It also gives me a huge break from trying to see if she's chewing or destroying anything. Don't make the assumption that crating is only for people that aren't home a lot! It's a good timeout and naptime for them (or a chance for them to cool down!)

As far as the energy goes, mine is energetic too and if you're training her as much as you said she will probably calm down after a while. Training stimulates their brain which can cause them to get sleepy.

Last I guess is a post I read somewhere in here on another thread - Someone else was complaining about their pup running around everywhere and the user stated that you should enjoy this period of their lives! They are puppies after all. And he so wisely stated that ten years from now when your dog has trouble getting up or going about, you're going to really wish your dog had as much energy as it does right now. That put it very much in perspective for me and even though my dog goes crazy sometimes you just have to sit back sometimes and laugh and smell the roses. You'll be a better owner for it too.

5) When puppy is off leash with other dogs, she runs and runs and runs. Finally gets the exercise, but exhibits problematic behaviors. She is not aggressive at all, but excitedly jumps on other owners. She likes to dig until someone looks at her, and then run like Steve Austin. I am fully aware she will ignore me off leash with dogs around, so I never give commands and she checks back in with me frequently, but I'm powerless to stop her problematic behaviors.

!
Also just to add to my reply - I also take my puppy (6 months old) to the off-lease park. I did this for a couple of reasons - 1) to socialize the puppy with other dogs, which is EXTREMELY important. It's also good for her to meet other humans and get as much interaction out of the house as you can. You need to find a way for your puppy to socialize somehow - no matter if it's the offleash park or whatever you decide. This will also help alleviate their biting because dogs teach each other not to bite a whole lot quicker than you saying "ouch" and removing yourself from the situation trick. 2) I also take her to the park to get exercise. And funny enough, she has actually learned how to play fetch a little bit by watching the other dogs do it!

I don't think you should stop going to the dog park. I think it's great. Your puppy is only 6 months old though - when its playing you're not going to get any reaction to your commands and you shouldn't - your dog is still relatively new to the world! It's also not the time to attempt to have the dog learn the commands either. I have gotten to the point where I can say come and my dog will race over to me, but that's only because we have been working on it non-stop at home. Home is where the training starts, and like the other person said you must introduce things slowly. The dog park is for the pup's enjoyment at this point and to learn about other dogs and people.
 

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1) I had planned to jog with the puppy, but I have since been informed she is too young for structured jogging and it can damage her joints. Thus, I need a way to exercise her. 30 minute walks around the neighborhood do not cut it.
Walks w/humans really don't provide much exercise, but, when combined with interactive games, brief training sessions, and other activities, one can ensure that the dog gets tired out.

I have 3 very athletic dogs (Standard Poodles), one of whom is a 7-month old puppy with endless energy! LOL I use mental stimulation/challenges through interactive games designed to make them think, problem-solve, and to learn self control. They LOVE this! It took three tries (about 10 minutes) to teach Maddy (as a 5 month old puppy) how to play the Search and Find game. She STILL loves this game, and would play non-stop if I kept it up! LOL I give them all jobs: Take out the trash, put toys away into toybox, put junk mail in the kitchen garbage, find, and bring to me the remote, the phone, my purse, keys, etc. Dance sessions are another way to tire out my crew! I turn up the music, and we dance like wild things!

My male seemed unaware of his back end and where it was :D, so I had him walking the plank outside (cement blocks and a long board); first forward, and then walking backward. It worked great, and the excellent side effect was that it wore him out! (I have the other dogs walk the plank, too!)

2) Puppy LOVES other dogs. No stimulus is as positive to her as being able to run with other dogs. She is not very food motivated and will turn her nose up at many treats. I cut up hot dogs, bits of sausage, ham, etc for training but food is not even remotely enticing to her when there are other dogs around.
Remember to use treats as part of the daily meals, especially with dogs who aren't real food motivated. You could work with your puppy in the presense of a friend or maybe a neighbor's dog first, before all those other doggies at the dog park.


4) Puppy will run very little by herself in the park. Mostly she'll sniff around. Responds to recall pretty well
.

Play tag with her, or other games - try a dog whistle to get her to come, get a treat, then send her off again.

5) When puppy is off leash with other dogs, she runs and runs and runs. Finally gets the exercise, but exhibits problematic behaviors. She is not aggressive at all, but excitedly jumps on other owners.
Work on self-control exercises, along with consistent training on meeting and greeting people.

She likes to dig until someone looks at her, and then run like Steve Austin. I am fully aware she will ignore me off leash with dogs around, so I never give commands and she checks back in with me frequently, but I'm powerless to stop her problematic behaviors.
Use the whistle to call her to you when you see her start to dig, praise and treat.
 

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

How often do you give your puppy the interactive sessions? Our puppy seems to learn best in short bursts (maybe 5 repetitions of "fetch" for example), but I'm never too sure how long I should wait until the next session.

I hadn't thought of the dog whistle - what do you do if you whistle, she comes, and then goes back to digging?

poodleholic, your dogs sound like they do everything! I started teaching our puppy hide and seek a bit with treats today, but she was confused and acted as if we were training "stay". She would run over to where I was with the treat, but wait for me to pick it up and give it to her :) I'm going to try again later using a toy that's more visible instead.

Does your pup have jobs too? That's definitely something I'd like to work towards.

I hadn't heard we should use treats as part of daily meals; why's that? We usually train right before meals, but the two are separate.

We used to play tag, but that seemed to encourage her jumping :/

bondra, we do crate when I can't watch her. Most of the time she's out of crate, but if I need to run errands etc. She's very well crate trained and will go in to sleep and that sort of thing by herself. I also noticed our dog picking up fetch from another dog! Unfortunately that quickly turned into a keep away game, with our dog grabbing the other dog's ball and running in circles with it...
 
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