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Dumb dog, smart dog...dealing with frustration

5859 Views 23 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  ThoseWordsAtBest
I'm having a difficult time dealing with my frustration with training more than anything. I have two dogs. One is a 1.5 yr old cocker spaniel. He's a very sharp dog, eager to please, motivated by food and affection and learns very quickly. I can usually teach him a simple trick in just 5-6 repetitions and can get it down very solid in just a session or two. He's fun to train because he learns so quickly. My other dog is a 10 year old basset hound. I swear he's as dumb as a box of rocks. He's motivated only by food and even then, he's very easily distracted. I can be holding a hot dog and he's distracted and wondering what's on my counters or what's in the trash or what's behind the refrigerator or whatever. I'm still working on getting him to sit on a regular basis. He will sometimes do it on command to get something from me but other times he looks at me like he has no idea what is expected of him. Getting him to sit and getting him to sit calmly are a completely different thing. The latter seems to rarely happen. At one point I thought I had trained him to not jump on the counters. He never did this when I was around at least. Now he doesn't seem to care and seems to have forgotten all the training.

How do you deal with frustration in training two dogs with such different learning speeds and capacities? I'm afraid I'm getting really frustrated with the hound and it's not helping the training process.
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I have seven dogs, and they are all individuals when it comes to training. What I rely on most is proper management. There is no point in training for desirable behaviors, only to allow the dog to rehearse undesirable behaviors when you're not around (especially those as self-rewarding counter surfing, for example). That means the house is puppy proofed to the max (trash cans are put up and away, nothing of interest is left on the counters, things are picked up off of the floor, wires are well hidden, etc.) and some of my dogs are crated or baby gated when I cannot supervise them.
There is nothing on the counters that's interesting. That's what kills me. I literally have nothing on my counters that's even edible. He's a basset hound which means that being low to the ground he can't see what's on the counters, but being a longer dog he can easily jump up and put his head up there. When he does his paws don't even reach the countertop and his head barely reaches over the top. He can't really get into anything up there, but I don't want him jumping up on the stove while I'm cooking for obvious reasons.

As far as training, I've been putting him on a long leash and giving him leash corrections when he looks at the counter and clicking/treating when he chooses to sniff the ground, chew a rawhide on the floor or anything else like that.
Is there a window the dog can see out of if he gets on the counter? That may be what's reinforcing him if he isn't getting food or anything else up there. If not, being what he is, he's probably being reinforced by simply sniffing a place where there was food at some point. LOL

The problem I see with what you are doing is that you are punishing your dog in your presence, on leash, and for simply looking at the counter. That's a very different scenerio and behavior than when he is alone, off leash and getting on the counter which I'm sure he is able to sneak plenty of looks at inbetween training sessions without correction (inconsistency).

For their safety when we are cooking, I taught my dogs "out." When we are around the dogs can now be told to move out of a space or room when told, and stay out until invited back in. This was all done using reinforcement, no punishment. As for when you're not around, why not crate your dog for his own safety?
It may be that he is just sniffing where food once was. My counters are clean, but I'm sure my dogs can still smell food up there. Typically the dogs are outside or crated when I'm cooking. I'd love to be able to break this guy of the counter cruising habit somehow. He's not big enough to get up on the counter with his paws or anything though so I'm not sure an upside down carpet blocker or even a scat mat would really work in this situation.

Get over it and stop judging. Whether you know it or not, your attitude plays a huge role in how your dogs relate and respond to you. How would you respond to knowing that someone you're working with decided you're not the sharpest knife in the drawer? Stop comparing, and work with what you've got.
I am a human, not a dog. I don't think dogs develop inferiority complexes.
Here's what I would do: I would make the floor very, very, very rewarding. I would make standing with four on the floor very, very, very rewarding. I would be sure that the counters are spotless so that they are very, very, very boring. When you cook, I would make staying out of the kitchen very, very, very rewarding. Think lots and lots and lots of little, decadent treat jackpots. And when you can't watch your dog, manage him so he cannot practice the undesirable behavior. Notice the lack of punishment. Nothing is interesting about the counter. He's not even going to get negative attention out of it. (I've noticed that sometimes negative attention makes the desire that much stronger. My little Poodle often gets plenty of negative attention from our Boxer when he tries to take a ball from him, but all that does is create a frenzied Poodle over the ball which he then wants more than ever.) When you have time to watch your dog and you see him going near the kitchen, I would call him calmly and have him do something for you for a treat, then release him. Perhaps take him to his toys. Redirect and reward, reward, reward. Instead of focusing on what you don't want your dog to do, focus on what you want him to do instead.
Good advice that I'm definitely going to try. Currently the dog is in the kitchen when he's inside because it's a hard floor so it's easier to clean if necessary and his crate is there and he hasn't earned freedom in the house. If he can't behave in one room, how's he doing to behave in the whole house I ask myself? Maybe I should let him jump on the counter a time or two and once he determines there's nothing there he'll give up. My struggle with him, like I said, is that he's a very slow learner.
I really LOVE Pampered Pups responses here. I think they will work if you can out persist the dog. Out persisting will take great patience and 100% consistancy on your part but not allowing the incorrect behavior to ever happen. How you do that is your call.

Hounds are not used for obedience work for a reason. It is not that they cannot learn.. they can. It is that they are bred to do a job independent of human commands. Their link to their nose is hard wired.

I have heard all kinds of negative things regarding Bassett hounds from 'impossible to House break' (I loaned a crate to a neighbor with a Bassett he was trying to house train Their Bassett puppuy and it was returned 14 years later when the dog died.. never Could house break him..) to 'impossible to train.' I suspect the skill of the trainer coupled with the breed of dog.

Bassetts are not Poodles or Cockers or GSD's.. they are who they are! :D
Yeah, bassets are an interesting breed. This guy is housebroken with a doggy door at his old place. Doesn't have one here so I let him out on a regular basis and have had no problems with him in that department. There are definitely times when I think he merely tolerates my presence because I feed him and even then it's begrudgingly. Part of me wishes I had kept the basset I fostered as he was much, much more mellow and laid back than this guy is but I agreed to give this guy a nice place to retire. He has that, but to me it'd be nice to give him more.
But they have to be able to take human direction, do they not, even if they are doing a job close to what they were bred for?

Whenever I hear "bred to work independent of man/humans - I always wonder, "then how do you get them to work with you?" They don't take directions - yet they will need some direction to know what the human(s) want, no?
Traditionally hounds hunt rabbits which they do with very little human assistance. The hound is let loose in a field and trails the rabbit. It's next to impossible for obvious reasons to teach a dog which scents are recent and which one's aren't, but given experience the hound learns which scent is the most current rabbit scent. So he proceeds on foot trailing the rabbit. The rabbit hears him and says, "Predator for sure, but it sounds like a hound so I'm in no big hurry." Rabbits run in circles so he will take off away from the baying hound in a big circle which eventually takes him back to where the hunter is who then shoots the hapless rabbit. The hound is normally about 50 yards away when this happens. This is what I've read in numerous books about bassets. So they are bred to work fairly independently of humans.

This is much different from a cocker spaniel (my other dog) who's a traditional gun dog. A field trained spaniel walks the field at his owners side. When the owner releases him the spaniel finds the flock of birds in the field and jumps them causing them to fly into the air where the hunter then shoots them. The spaniel then walks the field with his owner again or, if trained to do so, retrieves the shot bird and brings it back to his master. He's bred to work very closely with a human.
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I, at the very least, feel you. All three of my dogs are on completely different wave lengths. My mutt is ridiculously smart. There isn't any thing she can't be taught. In just watching me from the sidelines attempting to teach our Elkhound to bow, she just did it. No luring, nothing. I just said "Jack, bow" while looking at my Elkhound, and she did it.

My Elkhound? Big dumb. He's older and spent a lot of his life outside, so we give him the benefit of the doubt, but teaching him any thing is like pulling teeth. He at least learns eventually, unlike my dachshund, who I am convinced is mentally retarded. We work with these guys every day, and he still can't even sit on command. We'll think he's got it, and then twenty minutes later I'll tell him to sit and he just stares at me. :p
I'm coming to the conclusion that my basset knows what he needs to do, but simply chooses not to do it unless there's something in it for him. I had a rawhide (which he absolutely loves) and was trying to get him to sit before I gave it to him. He tried for about 5 minutes to jump up and get it while I was telling him to sit. Then he tried running around me and trying to sneak up on it before I could yank it out of his grip. Then stopped, walked around me and tried jumping up to get it again. Finally, he sat (as I'd been telling him to do the whole time) and I gave him the rawhide. The look in his eyes said, "The stupid things this guy makes me do just to get a toy. It's so unreasonable."
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