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Hi there! We just got ourselves a rough collie puppy. We've had him for three weeks, he is 13 weeks. His name is Louie :)

We're really into training and behavior, we do several short training sessions with him every day. I think that overall we are doing a good job with him, but there is just SO much info about dog training, and we feel very overwhelmed, and unsure of what methods are the best for our dog.

I've read a couple of books on Collies, and looked through many Collie-specific websites. I keep reading that they are very sensitive, and that they respond to a gentler training approach with lots of positive reinforcement.

We take him to a weekly puppy obedience school with other dogs where they socialize, then you walk in a circle, sit the dogs, walk some more, more on recall, work on leave it, etc. They are adamant that I be more firm when trying to get his attention. If he's doing something bad I should say "HEY!". I need to be less gentle.

As you can imagine I have no idea what the heck I should be doing, I'm getting so much conflicting information. I'm going to list what our methods have been with training and obedience. It would be SO awesome if anybody has any criticisms or suggestions.

We worked on sit and potty training right away. He got potty training in about a week. He still has pee accidents sometimes, but we think that it's because he just can't hold it. He either goes to the door or we take him out before he gets a chance.

We try to keep training sessions short. He gets sit, but if I try to make him sit too many times he starts barking, like, "No! I just did that!" This does make it hard to train commands that require the dog to be sitting first. Also, the puppy class has us constantly sit the dog, so eventually he stops wanting to sit, but it's even worse because he's in a crazy, loud, smelly room with other dogs.

He can be lured into a "down" position once he's sitting.

I will hold a treat in hand and command "leave it" as he licks my hand. He'll stop then he gets the treat.

I train "watch me" I say "watch me" and if he looks at me he gets a treat.

For stay I have him sit, then I back away saying stay with my palm out, he can do that for a pretty long time, maybe 6 steps back. The puppy class people say I need to be turning my back for stay and not looking at him, which sounds great but obviously he won't do that. I'm going to try to work on turning my back though.

For recall my girlfriend and we will play "puppy tennis". I'll call him then he gets a treat, then she calls him and he gets a treat, slowly increasing the distance. The puppy class people say I need to have him come when he can't see me, which I agree with. I guess I'm just slowly building towards that.

Outside his recall is pretty poor. After he goes potty he just wants to stay outside and I'm there by the door, "Louie come!" whistling, trying to get him to come back in. I'd say he comes 40% of the time.

I'll hold out my hand and say "touch". If he touches with his nose or licks then he gets a treat. I'll slowly increase the intensity of the stimulation, trying to get him to let me pet him without nipping at me. If he uses his teeth at all (usually he's gentle with his teeth) he doesn't get the treat.

He does get bitey when he gets worked up. The puppy training people say to scream "OUCH!" and act really hurt, then bring the hand back in and see if he bites again. Three times then he gets a time out. I get why they want us to do this, but he really does not seem to respond to this at all. It just doesn't work. We've tried yelling, or stearnly saying "NO BITE" but this can make him defiant. So far we've had the best luck with "No bite", calm, but firm. Also we might use "Off" but I think we've decided that "Off" should be used when he jumps on us. Honestly if he's bitey and we can't get him to settle down most of the time we put him on the other side of a gate, he whines a bit and watches us, calms down. This is one area where I could really use advice, we REALLY REALLY don't want him to be getting bitey and playing to rough onces he's 60-80 pounds!

He's not too good on walking on a leash. I will leash him, he gets a treat. Then we'll walk around the house and I try to lure him with a toy or treats. I'll say "heel" and try to get him into heel position. He gets a treat when he's in heel position. Sometimes I'll try the same thing but but outside where all he wants to do is sniff around.

Sometimes outside I will try to get him to follow me and get into heel position without the leash. I'll use treats to lure him for a bit, then I'll leave him alone, then some more heel and treats.

He does seem to be getting better when he's on the leash, but he still puts the breaks on A LOT when he's on the leash and I doing a lot of "This way!" "Come!" "Heel!" . I am always sure to be the first one out the door, and lately I've been trying to get him to sit before he can go outside.

The puppy class people are very adamant that we issue commands only once. But this does not work! If I issue a command and he does not obey, do I just stand there, defeated? When do I try the command again? Surely there is some leeway here? Sometimes he responds right away, but sometimes there are too many distractions. I'll use watch me to get his attention first, but even "watch me" usually must be repeated before he'll look. Am I training him to ignore me? Or is this normal?

We have two cats and sometimes he'll want to play with them, chase them,bark at them. The cats are getting less afraid of him and they'll take a swipe at him and he'll back off. We're hoping that they just kind of learn to get along together like our pets always did growing up, but should we maybe be doing something specific to facilitate this?

Overall I'd say his biggest problems are coming when we call, and settling down when he starts to play too rough. Also walking on leash without putting on the brakes constantly would be a huge plus. He does start barking at neighbor dogs through the fence, we will socialize him with all of them eventually (except one which is a mean and unfriendly pit bull). I usually use watch me and can get him away from the fence.

Seriously big thanks to anybody who takes to time to read this and has any advice or wisdom. Thanks so much.
 

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it's a puppy class, he is a puppy. Those idiots are wrong.... it will be your forever job to protect Louie from idiots, don't let anyone mess up your pup. Collies are sensitive and they do respond to an easy touch... all dogs do.. puppies learn and get better by having the opportunity to practice . You rewarding for the right responses is all you need.. Puppies have short attention spans, your doing great doing short training to help build your puppies skills and enjoying working with you. My childhood dog was a collie, as a kid you don't do training, we just spend all our years together being together and he would do anything for me because we knew each other for bonding just being together and having our adventures in the neighborhood .. Great deep loving breed that wants to please. And naturally wants to look after his family.... Tell the trainers "your good" Your happy with your approach. And smile... lol ... practice is what all puppy's need , learning to trust in their owners , build their confidence to work for them, and try new things.
 

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The Fenzi Dog Sports Academy online training school has a really good class starting December 1st, called Performance Fundamentals. https://fenzidogsportsacademy.com/index.php/courses/49 It's excellent for a young puppy, and once you enroll for a class at FDSA, you can join the Facebook groups, and have access to a very large, very supportive community.

There are also some classes in the February session that are specific to focus https://fenzidogsportsacademy.com/index.php/courses/926 and recalls https://fenzidogsportsacademy.com/index.php/courses/12090
 

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I feel like both you and the puppy school are expecting a bit too much from your pup. Remember, he is an infant. He knows nothing. Commands aren't as important right now as teaching him house manners and letting him experience new things. The leash walking, the attention span, the "melted brain" syndrome, they're all things that take tons of time and patience to teach, and the pup simply growing up is part of that learning process. Honestly, I wouldn't go to that school anymore. They sound like idjits.

Yes, Collies are incredibly sensitive, like many herders. They take harsh corrections personally. Personally, I air on the side of caution with my Aussie/Collie mix. I don't typically correct him. He doesn't know what 'no' means. Corrections or harsh words lead to a sad, shut down dog, so instead I manage him and work to help him him understand what I do want, and how doing what I want gets him what he wants.

Puppies have very short attention spans, and although handler oriented, Collies despise repetitive drilling of commands. They will get bored if you have them keep doing the same thing. At his age, I think your pup doesn't fully understand what you are asking him when he ignores your command. Use a treat to lure him into position. As he gets older (fun teenage phase) and you know he fully understands the command, then you can wait him out. When outside for potty, put him on a long line so you can reel him in. Outside is probably just too exciting right now, and building a solid recall takes lots of time and practice and a long history of awesome rewards. Most dogs can't be completely trusted until they are adults!

Your pup sounds like a very normal pup, and I would take a step back and enjoy this time instead of worrying so much about how much your dog is learning. I mean, don't stop training, but don't expect your pup to be perfect, either!
 

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The only corrections my delicate flower collie mix gets are unintentional cries of dismay such as "No don't do that!" which are never said in a harsh tone anyway - usually I'm trying not to laugh. Personally, I'd rather be my dog's friend, and teach them that listening to me is fun rather than try to be "alpha" (which isn't a thing in dogs anyway). It's not always easy and sometimes it requires a lot of creativity, but I have no need to try to make myself appear superior to my dogs. I'm the one that holds the food scoop, anyway. :p

I agree with Patricia, LeoRose, and Lillith. Get out of that training facility! Look around for other trainers in your area who use positive reinforcement-based methods. If the trainer brags about not using treats, talks about providing leadership, or mentions packs, alpha, dominance, or submission, run away.

If you can't find a good R+ trainer (or even if you can, tbh), I second the Fenzi recommendation. Deb Jones, one of the instructors teaching the Fundamentals class that LeoRose suggested has her PhD in learning theory - if anyone knows the "best" way to teach a dog, or any creature for that matter, it's her!

And PS, the "gentler" methods work with less sensitive dogs too. It often takes more creativity, especially if the dog isn't easily motivated by traditional things, but if anyone tells you that positive reinforcement doesn't work for a certain breed, they don't understand learning theory and shouldn't be training dogs, IMO.
 

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Here's another vote for no harsh corrections for collies. They love to learn and they love their people. They do learn best with gentle, positive reinforcement. As the others have said, 13 weeks is a BABY. This is the time for fun, bonding, and learning house manners. Obedience and the other stuff will come.

I love "puppy tennis". We did that with our guys when they were young and they loved it! It was great for bonding with us.

You are absolutely right that they pick up stuff quickly and get bored with repetition.

Most of all, don't let people push you with such a young dog and don't let them tell you that harsh corrections are the way to go.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks for all of the great responses so far everyone. It's nice to know that we are on the right track, and to hear some consistent feedback. We try to keep things really positive. Not that I want the dog to walk all over us or anything, my dad certainly yelled at our labs and goldens occasionally when I was growing up and they were all fantastic dogs, not nervous or depressed at all. I can just tell already that Louie responds VERY quickly when we are extremely consistent with our calm and firm mannerisms. There's just no need for it to get to that level. Unless he's in biting puppy berserker mode. Then we just put him on the other side of the gate, it's not like yelling at him is going to calm him down when he gets like that anyway! If he's outside and not responding to come, I really don't think it matters how loudly I say it, it seems like it's more about how interested can we make him in coming (ie, yummy stinky food)

If anyone has the extra time I'd love to hear different folks' thoughts on house manners. What are your essential house manners, and how do you train them?
 

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There are novels of information about puppy training so instead of rewriting them, here are some valuable resources:

Ian Dunbar is great and has a ton of free videos and articles:
https://www.dogstardaily.com/raising-a-puppy

"Perfect Puppy in 7 Days" by Sophia Yin. It's $10 for the digital version on Amazon.

Start with those two so it isn't overwhelming. Maybe even start by just browsing through Dog Star Daily since it's free and all. Here are some general recommendations:
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"The Power of Positive Dog Training" by Pat Miller. This is good for general training and is not specifically about puppies.

"Don't Shoot the Dog" by Karen Pryor

"The Culture Clash" by Jean Donaldson

"The Other End of the Leash" by Patricia McConnell

Channels on youtube: kikopup, zakgeorge

And so much more. But this is more than enough to get you started.
 

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Thanks for all of the great responses so far everyone. It's nice to know that we are on the right track, and to hear some consistent feedback. We try to keep things really positive. Not that I want the dog to walk all over us or anything, my dad certainly yelled at our labs and goldens occasionally when I was growing up and they were all fantastic dogs, not nervous or depressed at all. I can just tell already that Louie responds VERY quickly when we are extremely consistent with our calm and firm mannerisms. There's just no need for it to get to that level. Unless he's in biting puppy berserker mode. Then we just put him on the other side of the gate, it's not like yelling at him is going to calm him down when he gets like that anyway! If he's outside and not responding to come, I really don't think it matters how loudly I say it, it seems like it's more about how interested can we make him in coming (ie, yummy stinky food)

If anyone has the extra time I'd love to hear different folks' thoughts on house manners. What are your essential house manners, and how do you train them?
We got our dog at 5 months, so we skipped some of the baby puppy things, but one thing I'm really glad we worked on was sitting to ask for things. Sits before meal time, sits before getting treats, sits before getting little itty bits of people table scraps, sits to get pets! I mean, he didn't always get what he wanted sitting, but he knew that it was more likely to get him what he wanted then say, jumping on me or counter surfing. (Also, keep food off the counter so the temptation is eliminated, lol!)

Potty training is a big one. Management and consistent breaks are key!

Crate games to teach the puppy that a crate is a positive place. You may want to consider crate training in multiple locations to generalize that the crate is a good thing in all places. My dog has trouble with that!

The rest of it seems to be management. Preventing him from chewing on inappropriate items, confining him to a crate or pen when you can't watch him. And some of its just ignoring the bad behaviors, like demand barking and whining for no apparent reason.
 

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awww love the picture.. Only thing I could add is about being a good teacher to a puppy. They learn by doing. So when your puppy is out in the yard not coming when called.. and especially when you know they not at 100% I wouldn't wast my verbal command on them.. As the owner set yourself up to always win. If your pup is not 100% recall in the back yard. Then start, by going out into the yard to them with a lead or slip lead. get that happy come to you in the back yard.. Then leash them up and tell them the command.. (house) and praise them along side of you back to the house,, then into the kitchen to sit and get a treat... teach them all the details of the event from start to finish,,, by doing it with them in that situation on how to apply their OB skills that they learning..
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Lillith: thanks for the great recommendations. We've definitely watched a lot of Zak George's videos, or as we call him, the happy dog guy.

Patricia: that's a cool idea. And yes, I've noticed that the more you can break the situation down the more you can teach the dog what you want (just like a person, duh). Another thing I noticed is that the issue outside is not completely about his recall. It's about the STAIRS. Often he WILL come, but he stops at the stairs, waits a bit, then runs off. I spent a lot of time the first week teaching him how to go up and down the stairs, but I realize now that he's still a little wary of them, so his recall is probably much better than I give hime credit for. We just need to work on those stairs more too.
 

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Honestly it sounds like you're doing all the right things for the most part. But I'll echo what others have said regarding the age of the puppy. You can't expect too much at this age - they simply don't have the attention span to retain everything at once. I would perhaps back it up a little bit and pick 3 or 4 things to work on in terms of basics and just drill those until they get solid, then start introducing other commands into your training sessions. I think it's almost harder when you have a really smart puppy and they pick things up easily because then it's like OH! He's smart enough to work on all of these things! Well he may very well be, but it can be overwhelming for a baby to be getting all of that information, even though you're super excited about it all.

As for recall, at this point I would not be doing anything off-leash with him, ESPECIALLY outside. Until he can learn to stick with you and walk politely on a leash, or come when called immediately, he should not be given any further freedom. It's just setting him up to develop habits of blowing you off and you don't want that. Leash for everything unless you're strictly playing!

Regarding the jumping and excitability, teaching a "settle" command is so very helpful. This might come into play after the basic sit, down, etc. but it is an invaluable tool. There are various ways to do this - I'd suggest doing a little research on best methods for your household and your particular pup.

Also don't forget to balance training with fun and playtime too... training is great, and it's SO easy to make everything about training, but they also need time to just be a puppy and romp and play without any sorts of expectations.
 

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you have a great breed. my Rusty would put his life on the line to protect me, he actually knocked me down and dragged me out of the road and back into the yard when I was a toddler. He scraped me up really bad cause it was a shale road and driveway lol lol .. They so smart to react on their own for the safety of the family. He once jumped the fence and found me at the little store that we walked to which was about 2 or 3 miles from our house and it was across a two lane highway. I came out of the store and he was there waiting for me. I was scared for him because of the highway we had to cross back over. All I had in my pocked was a spool of sewing thread so I tied that tiny thread to his collar and told him to stay with me so we be safe crossing the highway together. Rusty never broke that thread he stay'd with me all the way home and he was only a country dog that learned how to live with his family. Collies are just good dogs :) I hope you find as much deep enjoyment and companionship as I did for the first 14 years of my life... I'm still crying over that dog... 46 years later ... When I got my 4.5 year old new male he was from the Ukraine never heard English in his life.. His breeder told me not worry about Ukraine words just talk to him with what you want.. She was right he understood me and what I was asking of him.. and settled right in with my Heart..
You are off to a great start with Louie...
 

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Discussion Starter #15
TGKvr: Thanks! You've re-enforced what we've heard from some other folks: that we should be using a leash or a long line when working on a recall outside. Are you suggesting that he should always be on a leash outside or just when training? Usually he is not on a leash when he goes out to potty.

Patricia: That's crazy! They must be responding to quite a bit of body language and tone of voice huh?
 

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At this point, if it were me I'd keep him on a leash at all times, including potty breaks. I think it would be OK to have him off-leash while strictly playing, assuming of course that you're actively engaged in play with him, but it should be clearly separated from training and bathroom breaks.
 

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TGKvr: Thanks! You've re-enforced what we've heard from some other folks: that we should be using a leash or a long line when working on a recall outside. Are you suggesting that he should always be on a leash outside or just when training? Usually he is not on a leash when he goes out to potty.

Patricia: That's crazy! They must be responding to quite a bit of body language and tone of voice huh?
If you need him to come back to you in a timely manner, then leash him up. If you're just outside playing in your fenced back yard and don't expect him to do anything, then I think off leash is fine.
 

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OK, we'll take yall's advice. It's definitely an end goal for us to be able to let him out when he goes to the door, and let him back in when he's done doin his business, so naturally as soon as he was able to go potty by himself we were overjoyed. But, I can see how that creates opportunities for him to develop bad habits out there too.
 

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Honestly my dog was a little over a year old before we let her outside unsupervised. We also like to have the option to just let her out to do her thing, then back in when she's ready - it just takes a little while to get there. Learning boundaries, where they can/can't go, and also simply coming when called all have to be solid before granting greater freedom. It is a pain in the you-know-what, especially when it's crappy outside, but in the end you'll be thankful for setting those rules down when you did. Now I don't have any worries when my dog is outside without me - though I do check on her every few minutes just to ensure she's within sight/voice distance. (I live on 20 acres in a rural area btw)
 
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