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I am training a young female GSD basic obedience. Her sessions are at her owners home because I don’t have my own place to do the training. The first week I worked with her in a non distracting environment (the basement) and then moved to the yard. She does everything I ask of her when I am alone with her. If she sees one of her family members she becomes so distracted that she doesn’t want to do anything at all until she has greeted them. A few times I have allowed her to greet, but then she will just stand and stare at me. If anyone else is near by she won’t listen to anything. She is scared of the dog whistle and the clicker as well, so I have been using treats and affection as her rewards. Her ability to focus is next to nothing. I try using short sessions and low expectations but she is very difficult to work with. When I am not there she won’t listen to anyone at home. A lot of her unwillingness to come to anyone was unintentionally reinforced by the teenager in the family whose favorite game to play with her is chase. He stopped doing that and she will come to me perfectly unless of course someone else is nearby or someone else is asking her to do it. The one thing I have not been able to get her to do is ‘stay’ because she has zero desire to sit still even for a second. I have taught multiple dogs these commands and have never run into these problems I am having with lack of focus and unwillingness to perform her commands for anyone but me. I have told the family that I want a day to practice the commands with everyone, there are four total people, so that I can make sure everyone is on the same page and doing everything correctly and consistently. A suspicion that I have is that the owners are expecting too much of her, too quickly. I am beginning her third week of training and she is too far behind at this point. I would really appreciate insight from all of you!
 

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What treats are you using? Perhaps she doesn't find the treats very reinforcing. Try cheese, deli meat, liver, the stinkier the better. Does she like toys? If she finds toys more rewarding than food, a ball or a tug are good options.

Most dogs don't find affection highly rewarding unless they have a good bond with that person, and 3 weeks is not enough time to develop any sort of bond. 3 weeks isn't enough time to expect much of anything, really. It might be easier to have the actual owners handle her while you teach the owner how to teach the dog.

Also, plenty of people play chase with their dogs and the dog knows how to come just fine. I suspect the dog just doesn't know what they're asking. Dogs don't generalize well, and one person teaching them commands may not mean to them "sit means sit no matter who says it or where I am."
 

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First of all, allowing her to greet anyone or any other dogs during training, especially intermittently, has reinforced her relationship with the environment. Second, this breed can be very much a "one person dog." You are training for someone else. She will work with you but not others and that is very common. You trained her. Those "other people are for playing with not obeying."

When she stares at you mark it and reward it. That is focus. That is how it starts. You must make her staring at you rewarding. She is OFFERING the behavior (looking at you and staring at you is focus) so mark it with Yes and give her a reward. Make it a party. A dog that stares at you and does not respond is usually a dog that does not clearly understand what you are asking. With my German Shepherds I had to be CLEAR. Black and White is what they like. I suspect other dogs like this too.

The rewards have to be super good. Affection, while appreciated, is not very dynamic. Marking the right behavior and rewarding it means YOU need to be engaging.. not just a Pez dispenser of food (not saying you are this but noting it in case you are.. cannot tell by your description). Mark the right thing and get silly and dance around and make it a party FOR THE DOG.

You may also find that a ball on a rope will work better as a reward once she has learned what the command cue is. This ball is ONLY used with the dog when she is being trained and handled (so it is special) and she NEVER has one like it other than when being trained.

As to Stay.. this in an incremental thing to train. I never train stay as a separate command. It is redundant to other stationary commands. If you ask for sit, then dog is sitting. Stay is not necessary as the dog should remain sitting until such time as you release her or give another command. IOW's "sit" is a job and she cannot stop doing her job until released. Same with "down " or "platz." Why do you NEED stay? Of course, platz or sitz is maintained for a few seconds at first.. you repeat the word when the dog is sitting or down and feed and then release building duration. When you can step away and the dog remains in place you step back, repeat the command as you feed and then step away.. and then back in and then give your YES and release the dog.

You need to have the owner do the handling and the training under your direction. That will work much better. The dog sounds like she obeys you because you have taught her but she is not generalizing the command cues to her owners. So, now the owners must do the handling and you instruct them.

What I am reading in your post is a dog that simply does not understand what is being asked and no one of the family is being consistent in their handling (so they are being unclear) and you may be as well (I am drawing off the allowing the dog to greet her family once or twice.. which makes your roll in the dog's life unclear).

As to the fear issues I cannot advise since I cannot see the dog. She may be a show line dog that has weak nerve and fearful-shyness issues (no idea her lines). I do use a clicker with my dogs but I also use YES!. I do whistle my dogs in and have a shepherd's whistle but I also have a very clear whistle that is just me using no device.
 

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BTW the fact that German Shepherds do NOT obey everybody and are one person dogs (often, not always) is one of the reasons they succeed as service and police dogs. You cannot have your Guiding Eyes dog obeying everyone. Same with a military or police patrol dog.
 

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Focus is a skill that sometimes needs to be taught, just like sit, down, and stay. I'd work on specifically teaching handler focus, including a cue (e.g., whoever is holding the leash, or a verbal "watch" or similar) that also indicates who she should be focusing on.
 

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A suspicion that I have is that the owners are expecting too much of her, too quickly. I am beginning her third week of training and she is too far behind at this point.
My suspicion is that YOU'RE expecting too much of her too quickly.

I would go back to training in the basement where distractions are non-existent or minimal. Work on focus and eye contact foremost, plus some basics like sit, down, and stay. Gradually add in some very mild distractions when she can perform the basics fluently while maintaining focus, and work your way up to moderate ones such as family members standing idly in the background, there in the basement, first. Then eventually take her to outside environments but only when/ever she's ready for it by being absolutely rock solid on the previous lessons.

Don't arbitrarily put her on your timetable, let her develop her own pace of progression and you follow it. If you listen closely she'll tell you when she's properly prepared for more challenges. Accept the fact - and perhaps explain to the owners as well - that good dog training *takes as much time as it takes .. period* .
 

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Thank you all so much for your advice and perspectives. I am going back tonight and if anyone is there I will ask them to participate so I can make sure they are correctly commanding her and also so she will learn to respect their commands as well. It is hard to catch anyone because they are a busy family but I have made it clear that I need to do this with them too. Just hasn’t quite happened yet. At first I was using just regular training treats and switched to meats and cheeses and also fetch as her rewards. The tennis ball seems to work pretty well as a motivator. I am going to work on ‘watch me’ tonight and see how it goes. Also I’d like to point out that this is a dog I’ve known for almost a year so she does respond well to affection.
 

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Thank you all so much for your advice and perspectives. I am going back tonight and if anyone is there I will ask them to participate so I can make sure they are correctly commanding her and also so she will learn to respect their commands as well. It is hard to catch anyone because they are a busy family but I have made it clear that I need to do this with them too. Just hasn’t quite happened yet. At first I was using just regular training treats and switched to meats and cheeses and also fetch as her rewards. The tennis ball seems to work pretty well as a motivator. I am going to work on ‘watch me’ tonight and see how it goes. Also I’d like to point out that this is a dog I’ve known for almost a year so she does respond well to affection.
Please do not use a tennis ball as a reward. Many a working K9 has died from these balls getting lodged in their throat and then they suffocate. It is a horrible death. In fact, there was one recently.. Everyone thinks it will never happen to them.

Please get a ball on a rope, preferably a ball on a rope that passes through the ball and is tied to itself. I use this one (I actually make my own using paracord).
The dog can squish this and it can help a lot to release stress if the dog is stressed.
Dog never gets this toy unless playing with and working with the handler.

ball on a rope.jpg
 

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Thank you all so much for your advice and perspectives. I am going back tonight and if anyone is there I will ask them to participate so I can make sure they are correctly commanding her and also so she will learn to respect their commands as well. It is hard to catch anyone because they are a busy family but I have made it clear that I need to do this with them too. Just hasn’t quite happened yet. At first I was using just regular training treats and switched to meats and cheeses and also fetch as her rewards. The tennis ball seems to work pretty well as a motivator. I am going to work on ‘watch me’ tonight and see how it goes. Also I’d like to point out that this is a dog I’ve known for almost a year so she does respond well to affection.
I hope it goes well for you and the family. "Watch me" is a good first step, but teaching focus is more than just cuing the dog to look at you. There are entire classes devoted to teach a dog handler focus and engagement. (Most pet dogs can probably get along okay without the engagement part, but its very helpful for sports dogs).

Personally, I start teaching focus from the day they come home - every time they turn away from something interesting to pay attention to me they get praised for it (and rewarded with food or toys or personal play if I have the opportunity). I set up specific training sessions just to work on focus, and gradually increase the difficulty as the dog gets better and better at choosing me. (I also make sure that when the dog does choose to pay attention or interact with me that I make it worth their while, not just with cookies but also by being fun. Fun things happen when they pay attention to me!).
 

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If I was working with this dog I wouldn't even be starting with basic obedience. I would start with impulse control, and capturing and shaping focus. Lots if It's Yer Choice and working on a release cue for traditional and real life rewards. In short, teaching a dog how to learn before teaching them to 'listen'.

Also, if this happened to be a family that lacked time or consistency, I would be focusing on situational learning, and maybe a reasonable routine/management plan rather than drilling obedience. It's no use teaching the dog anything if no one is going to uphold the training. But teaching the dog where to be at the right time, or creating an area that is predictable, calm, and rewarding, would be more useful in the long run.
 
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