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I've had my dog for over two years now. I found her on the side of the road at an estimated age of nine months. I have learned quite a bit about training and behavior over this time, and I am very grateful for the guidance I have received on this forum. The dog is a brindle mutt that looks like a mix of pit and boxer. She is almost three legged having a hind leg that was broken and allowed to heal without proper medical care. I have no idea what she experienced in the nine months before she was dumped on the roadside but I imagine it was an ugly, neglectful, and abusive situation. I suspect this because of the injury to her leg and her displays of defensive aggression towards people. She also has issues with arousal. My focus has been on managing her behavior and conditioning relaxed and non reactive behaviors as well as I can as an amateur trainer. I had taken her to a compulsion/praise trainer despite the warnings from members on this site and learned the hard way as she was stressed and turning on the woman administering corrections with a choke chain. Ever since then she has been trained on a harness with a verbal marker and food rewards. I've made a lot of progress in shaping a loose leash walk, heel, down, sit, recall, leave it, lets go,touch...etc. During training I do not use any positive punishment.

This long winded introduction leads me the to issue I am having with managing the dog. During daily activities around the house when I'm not consistently engaged with the dog there are times when she refuses or is stubborn about my cue/command because she realizes there is no opportunity for reward. I realize that I can diminish the association between pouch/ no pouch or opportunity/ no opportunity but I've yet to master this balance of engagement/disengagement. As I said earlier her issues with arousal have presented me with difficulty in finding a balance between an on and off state. Any engagement I have with her seems to illicit a state of peaked energy that is not conducive to a calm dog that relaxes while I perform daily activities. I realize that my tone can effect the dog very much. I could give the dog a cue in an upbeat excited tone and she will perform the behavior a very high percentage of the time, but It results in arousal and frustration or lack of duration if I'm not maintaining engagement with her. Other times I will give the dog a command and she stubbornly refuses because of my tone and I escalate into a more aggressive, dominating, repetitive insistence that she comply. She eventually does perform the behavior but I think it is a punishment using negative reinforcement in which I turn off the vocal pressure when she complies. It feels wrong and ineffective.

These conflicting interactions typically occur when I want the dog to rest in,come to, or leave a specific place.For example, I allow her to sleep in bed with my wife and I and also rest on the couch. If anyone has input on the repercussions of allowing this behavior I am open to it. Typically I place her on the couch before bed and don't allow her to come on the bed while I'm lying awake in it. She then slips into bed when we are asleep. I don't have an issue with this because I feel like it should be healthy by reducing her stress(could be wrong!). However, when she is on the bed, I want her at our feet and not between us. She slips into bed and I will wake up to find her between us and I end up getting annoyed when she resists moving to the space I'm pointing to and my tone escalates until she complies. The interaction feels awkward, inefficient, and unhealthy. Must I allow her into the bed when I can mark and reward the position I want ? Should I be training in an upbeat tone to get positions that I eventually want her to remain calm in? I guess I'm trying to help myself solve this problem by writing about it and hoping I can have some input from any of you who have learned to deal with this sort of relationship issue.

I'm really proud of the progress we've made together and appreciate any advice you guys have to share.

Thanks,
Dan
 

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I am typing on my phone so this will be a limited detail kind of reply but I can get into more specifics later for individual training issues.

Overall, I am glad to see you shift your training methods away from compulsion and towards rewards. I think you recognize that some of what you are doing feels ineffectual because well, it is. You can "burn" commands by repeating them over and over without the dog obeying them. Almost any time the word "dominating" comes up as a description of interaction between dog and human it is a sign that the situation is being looked at the wrong way.

Set the dog up for success and limit the dog's ability to disobey commands via management of the living space/organization/physical actions. Classic example would be using a long line to practice recall (come when called) training even in a fenced area so that dog does not get the choice to blow off the command and the command is rarely repeated.
Think about how your daily life at home is set up and how you can make it more natural for the dog to freely choose the behavior you want like being in a certain place and to reduce the options for the dog to pick a "bad" behavior.

Think of things like setting up a dog bed in your room for example so dog can be close but not in an annoying position. You might have to start by crating, then crating with door open, then to a dog bed. Not saying this is what you should do per se, but more about the perspective of training. The mindset.
 

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I've had my dog for over two years now. I found her on the side of the road at an estimated age of nine months. I have learned quite a bit about training and behavior over this time, and I am very grateful for the guidance I have received on this forum. The dog is a brindle mutt that looks like a mix of pit and boxer. She is almost three legged having a hind leg that was broken and allowed to heal without proper medical care. I have no idea what she experienced in the nine months before she was dumped on the roadside but I imagine it was an ugly, neglectful, and abusive situation. I suspect this because of the injury to her leg and her displays of defensive aggression towards people. She also has issues with arousal. My focus has been on managing her behavior and conditioning relaxed and non reactive behaviors as well as I can as an amateur trainer.
FWIW most of these behaviors are not brought on by abuse (tho they can be). Most of these behaviors are genetic. A dog's behavior is mostly hard wired (drives, fears etc,). Good homes and good training can mitigate some of that but it is still there in the dog. I know of one dog that was BADLY abused in training. He is genetically a very good, stable and confident dog. Under a new owner and consistent, fair, non abusive training that dog is back to being what his genes are.

Since you found this dog along the road it is as "likely" the dog was hit by a car as it is the dog was abused. Just something for you to ponder and consider in moving forward training this dog.

I had taken her to a compulsion/praise trainer despite the warnings from members on this site and learned the hard way as she was stressed and turning on the woman administering corrections with a choke chain.
NO ONE I know uses a choke chain to train a dog in this day and age. We do use a long link choke chain on our dogs in IPO, but it is NEVER attached to the "live" ring (always attach the leash to a link in the collar so it does not and cannot "choke"). Also, we do not use this collar for corrections when we need to correct the dog. This collar is simply a tool to add a leash to or not.

Ever since then she has been trained on a harness with a verbal marker and food rewards. I've made a lot of progress in shaping a loose leash walk, heel, down, sit, recall, leave it, lets go,touch...etc. During training I do not use any positive punishment.
I get jumped on here for this, but I dislike harnesses in training (if the dog is trained I guess they are fine). I find that a harness leaves things very unclear to the dog when training. A collar (you can use a flat collar) allows greater accuracy in communication and a bit more control if you need it. JMO.

This long winded introduction leads me the to issue I am having with managing the dog. During daily activities around the house when I'm not consistently engaged with the dog there are times when she refuses or is stubborn about my cue/command because she realizes there is no opportunity for reward. I realize that I can diminish the association between pouch/ no pouch or opportunity/ no opportunity but I've yet to master this balance of engagement/disengagement.
It sounds like you have no "bridge" word. A bridge word lets the dog know they are doing it right. For instance, you put your dog in a down. Between the down and the "yes" or click which releases the dog to a reward, you need a word that lets the dog know he is doing it right but the position/behavior is not "done" yet. I use good. For a down I have the dog down and (when I am building duration) I will say "Gooooooood down" soft and low and go back and feed the dog in place, leave again, say "Gooooooood down" again, go back to the dog and feed and then leave.. go back and say "yes" of click and feed the reward between the front feet where "down" takes place. I always feed the reward where I want the behavior to happen.

Try building a bridge word that means "you got it right, keep doing it, the reward is coming."

As I said earlier her issues with arousal have presented me with difficulty in finding a balance between an on and off state. Any engagement I have with her seems to illicit a state of peaked energy that is not conducive to a calm dog that relaxes while I perform daily activities. I realize that my tone can effect the dog very much. I could give the dog a cue in an upbeat excited tone and she will perform the behavior a very high percentage of the time, but It results in arousal and frustration or lack of duration if I'm not maintaining engagement with her. Other times I will give the dog a command and she stubbornly refuses because of my tone and I escalate into a more aggressive, dominating, repetitive insistence that she comply. She eventually does perform the behavior but I think it is a punishment using negative reinforcement in which I turn off the vocal pressure when she complies. It feels wrong and ineffective.
Your instincts on this are spot on. Repeating a command without compliance teaches the dog that the command is optional. I strongly suggest that when you are doing household chores you start using a crate. You are distracted by your task. The dog knows this. You show frustration. The dogs knows that too. Just simply baby gate or crate the dog elsewhere while you work. Your work and working with the dog CAN happen at the same time, but your focus then needs to be on the dog...

Meanwhile, OUTSIDE of doing chores start teaching your dog a "place" command. This is where you have the dog go to his.. wait.. her.. bed and stay there. You can improve success of this command by rewarding her with a kong filled with plain yogurt that you have frozen, but do not use this until you have taught "place" consistently and she understands it means "go lay down on your bed." When teaching this command remember to reward her where you want the behavior to happen. Start out right next to her dog bed and then build distance.. use your bridge word and so forth.

These conflicting interactions typically occur when I want the dog to rest in,come to, or leave a specific place.For example, I allow her to sleep in bed with my wife and I and also rest on the couch. If anyone has input on the repercussions of allowing this behavior I am open to it. Typically I place her on the couch before bed and don't allow her to come on the bed while I'm lying awake in it. She then slips into bed when we are asleep. I don't have an issue with this because I feel like it should be healthy by reducing her stress(could be wrong!). However, when she is on the bed, I want her at our feet and not between us. She slips into bed and I will wake up to find her between us and I end up getting annoyed when she resists moving to the space I'm pointing to and my tone escalates until she complies. The interaction feels awkward, inefficient, and unhealthy. Must I allow her into the bed when I can mark and reward the position I want ? Should I be training in an upbeat tone to get positions that I eventually want her to remain calm in? I guess I'm trying to help myself solve this problem by writing about it and hoping I can have some input from any of you who have learned to deal with this sort of relationship issue.
Honestly? I would have a dog bed (or even an easy chair if there is room) in the bedroom and have her sleep in that. I am sure she finds it comfortable and warmer to stretch out between you. You can also use a crate in the bedroom next to the bed (if there is room). I have a soft crate I use to travel for Hotel rooms and it folds up flat so you might consider that as well. I do not think any of these options will "damage" the dog.

There is another thing to ponder. At times dogs need to learn to be alone. It is really very healthy for them just like it is important to us to have alone time. I know of someone with a very nice dog (on par with the abused dog I mentioned above). In this person's case, there was a divorce and the dog ended up replacing the partner that was gone, including sleeping in bed with the person. It created conflict in the dog... it was just too much reliance on the dog and it drove him a bit confused.. he no longer knew what his place was in the household. When she finally started crating the dog in another room at night you could see an immediate difference and the dog's old clarity began to come back. I am not saying this is the same as your case, I am just putting it out there. You have a VERY different kind of dog and VERY different gene pool.

I'm really proud of the progress we've made together and appreciate any advice you guys have to share.

Thanks,
Dan
I hope this is helpful.
 

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I have a dog who would climb up in bed with us. Although I don't really mind, two people and a 50 lb. dog really isn't that comfy for either party! Have you considered getting her her own bed? She may get chilly at night and seek warmth, so sometimes a big comfy bed she can curl up in helps. Fixed the problem instantly with my dog. His old bed apparently was not comfy enough for him, but once I got a big bed for him with extra fluff he decided sleeping on his bed was better.

You might also consider crating her at night to prevent her from climbing on the bed while you're sleeping. It doesn't have to be forever, but it is a viable solution while she builds a habit of sleeping in her own bed. Make her own bed a rewarding place to be by giving her special treats on her bed, teaching her a "go to bed" cue where she gets greatly rewarded, and randomly dropping treats on her bed when she chooses to lay on her bed by herself.

Calmness is not always something that dogs naturally come by. They sometimes have to be taught to just chill when you're not doing anything with them. Try watching Kikopup's "Capturing Calm" video on YouTube. You can also use management techniques such as crating or baby gates to prevent the dog from getting overly excited or getting in the way or into things. Could you perhaps give an example of what you mean by she enters a state of "peaked energy" when you give her a cue? I think I know what you mean, but I think some clarification would help!
 

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Thank for your reply 3GSD4IPO! The leg was healed before I found her so I know that it was a matter of neglect. I took her to the vet the next day and he told me she lost an inch of length. Either way, I believe she is probably genetically predisposed to these fearful, aggressive, and defensive behaviors.

I do use a bridge word when I'm training but I guess these situations fall into a time and space where I am not focused on the dog. If I put the dog into a heel or down I will extend her duration and concentration with "good". I'm an amateur and I'm sure I could improve but I do what feels right. Should I be in a "training mindset" 24/7 with rewards always available?

I'm confused because I don't use any punishment other than my voice. I feel like a correction would result in more consistent behaviors and duration, but I don't believe it is beneficial or appropriate for this dog. Is raising your voice generally an ineffective punishment?

The issue I have with a flat collar is that she is reactive and the collar is stimulating. I've worked on leash pressure with both the collar and harness. I think that the world is too unpredictable for a dog like this to be on a collar. She will often zoom and the harness really helps me ease her down without conflict or injury. I agree that communication through a collar would be ideal.

I appreciate your advice!

Thanks,
Dan
 

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Thanks Lillith. I used to crate her but I guess I feel like she has graduated from it. Am I anthropomorphizing ? I also think that the crate increased her stress levels.
I have seen Kikopups video and I own her video on reactive dogs. It has been a valuable resource.

I may have been exaggerating when I wrote "peaked". It's more that she is just generally easily aroused. If she knows that I am focused on her and looking for behaviors she becomes really eager to perform. I reward her as Kikopup advises to capture calm, but she will rarely reach a point of true calm that I can reward. Those moments are so far and few between that it makes it difficult. She is faking calm a lot of the time. I've read that you should allow the dog to fake it until they make it but I think I've conditioned her to fake it. I know kikopup says not to reward while the dog is faking. If you have advice on that I'd appreciate it.

Thanks,
Dan
 

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Thanks Lillith. I used to crate her but I guess I feel like she has graduated from it. Am I anthropomorphizing ? I also think that the crate increased her stress levels.
I have seen Kikopups video and I own her video on reactive dogs. It has been a valuable resource.

I may have been exaggerating when I wrote "peaked". It's more that she is just generally easily aroused. If she knows that I am focused on her and looking for behaviors she becomes really eager to perform. I reward her as Kikopup advises to capture calm, but she will rarely reach a point of true calm that I can reward. Those moments are so far and few between that it makes it difficult. She is faking calm a lot of the time. I've read that you should allow the dog to fake it until they make it but I think I've conditioned her to fake it. I know kikopup says not to reward while the dog is faking. If you have advice on that I'd appreciate it.

Thanks,
Dan
That's good that she is eager to work with you! I don't understand why exactly that this is considered a negative. Can you explain? Is she jumping around or barking or doing something when you begin a training/play session that is undesirable? I mean, you WANT her to be excited about working with you. She is going to get aroused. I mean, you can train manners and teach her the appropriate way to exhibit her excitement, but it would help to tell us what exactly the undesirable behavior is.

I had the best luck with just ignoring my dog when I needed to go about my daily activities. He was not destructive, so it wasn't a big deal to not pay attention to him for a while. He generally stayed in the same room as me and followed close behind me whenever I changed rooms. If your dog is destructive and tends to get into things, I would put up baby gates to limit her access to inappropriate items. When I caught him voluntarily laying down, I dropped a treat in front of him. He would generally get excited and think we're doing something. So I ignored him again. He would eventually chill, perhaps chew his toys. He would get another treat.

Also, I stuck to a pretty predictable routine, which I think helped my dog learn to chill. He's crated while we're at work, and after work we go outside and play or take a walk for about an hour. After he's had his hour of one on one fun, he is present but generally ignored while the humans eat their dinner/dog eats his dinner and clean up. He was rewarded for choosing to lay down or chew on his toys by himself. There were times when he was persistent with running amuck and not settling, and popping him in his crate for a bit generally took care of that. Now, when he sees cleaning supplies, cookery, or that the humans are chilling on the couch with computers or video games, he understands the routine and that nothing is going to happen, so he lays down.
 

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There is a level of arousal that is frankly bad. Eager and excited is good, regardless, yes, but there is a point where it is downright incompatible with using brain at all.

Molly at lure coursing is high pitched screaming, teeth chattering, and shaking. Is she happy and excited? Yes. Is she THINKING? No. Is she capable of thinking? No. It's not a problem at lure coursing because I neither want nor expect her to think. All she needs to do is chase the thing and it's fine. If she's in that state in agility we have a PROBLEM. Because she's out of her head.

That said, most of the time - not all but most - of what people see as undesirable arousal in dogs during training is actually frustration. Sometimes it's just 'this reward is really high value and I can't think I must have it now!!!' at which point, high intensity, short play before training or working for a lower value reward at first can help. Mostly it's 'I want the reward but don't know how to get it so they start yelling and flailing around, then the owner gets frustrated and it all goes to heck in a handbasket. Best bet in that case is to: speed up your rate of reinforcement, use lots of 'reset' cookies or toys (throw away from you, start over when dog comes back) and, yeah, to work impulse control and calm behavior rather than true calm.

For general in the house stuff, it's rough. Capture calm, yes, but also don't let yourself be pushed into being an entertainment dispenser. Every time the dog 'convinces' you to throw the ball they have reason to work harder at it next time. Routine makes my dogs WORSE because they start anticipating things and start nudging and nagging earlier and earlier. "The house is boring as heck" works out. We do fun stuff other places and the only thing that predicts me going to the door is me walking to the door.
 
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