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Discussion Starter #1
Cosmo is extremely smart and wants to please me. So bad that he gets overly excited and frustrated when I'm trying to teach him a new trick, and he will begin barking and whining and not focusing on what I'm motioning and saying well enough to understand what I'm trying to tell him to do.

Any tips on how to get him to just calm down and listen to me?

Thanks!
 

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My answer will sort of vary depending on *what* you are trying to train him to do... Are we talking simple, one-step, basic obedience such as 'sit', 'down', 'stay'? or something more complex & multi-faceted?

In either case, I'll just say that you shouldn't *begin* training any behavior with trying to "tell" him to do anything. If you're beginning with verbal cues for a behavior that he doesn't already exhibit & that you can't reliable obtain first, you're making things harder on both of you. You need to GET the behavior first, THEN you can 'name' it.

Are you using a clicker or other form of marker in your training? You might need to back up & break the behaviors down into simpler steps (do some shaping) in order to keep him engaged & not frustrated.
 

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I've been there and done that with Molly and sometimes we still revisit it. If I understand what you're talking about it's not so much the dog being frustrated as the dog going "OMG THIS IS THE BEST GAME I LOVE YOU WHEEEE!" and thereby being really hard to get to actually LISTEN instead of doing what they think you want and at speed. Molly also tends to get caught in these loops of doing what she thinks is the right thing (it's not) with increasing speed over and over and over. That one just takes stopping her with a hand on her collar (gently) and making her sit down again and resetting and slowing myself WAY down.

The things that have helped me most in general:
Start with a dog who has been exercised, but not one who is ramped up on play. So like play hard, wait 15 minutes, then try training. Or train toward the end of the day and before bedtime - or whatever time of day yours is most calm and settled.

Down the value of the reward at the teaching phase - Molly is crazy excited about toys. Too much added excitement makes her just sort of flail around and throw everything and the kitchen sink at me, at high speed, trying to get the ball/disc/tug. We use food (and low value food at that; kibble or cheerios) or just plain praise for the teaching phase. Once we're out of her learning the thing, we build enthusiasm and speed and energy with toys as rewards.

Keep your own energy calm and steady while you're training. Happy, but not crazy excited.

Sit, stay, look at me - Yeah, you have to teach the dog to teach the dog but once the dog knows that, it's my best way of catching her attention and having her focus on me. Reward CALM focus and engagement when you find them.

Don't drill. Take frequent play breaks. Blow off the building excitement frequently. Even with that entire sessions should be short. I can do many short sessions in a day, but we're not out there training for a half hour at a time. More like 5-10 minutes at a pop.

If the dog is totally spazzing and not getting it, stop the session and try again later. Dog's not going to learn much if they're all over - at least, they're not going to learn anything except crazy behavior is the way to behave when you're training.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
My answer will sort of vary depending on *what* you are trying to train him to do... Are we talking simple, one-step, basic obedience such as 'sit', 'down', 'stay'? or something more complex & multi-faceted?

In either case, I'll just say that you shouldn't *begin* training any behavior with trying to "tell" him to do anything. If you're beginning with verbal cues for a behavior that he doesn't already exhibit & that you can't reliable obtain first, you're making things harder on both of you. You need to GET the behavior first, THEN you can 'name' it.

Are you using a clicker or other form of marker in your training? You might need to back up & break the behaviors down into simpler steps (do some shaping) in order to keep him engaged & not frustrated.
I didn't mean for that to be taken so literally, I'm not just telling him "jump through this hoop, cosmo" and expecting him to do it haha. And he knows all his basic commands, I'm working on jumping over hurdles and through hoops to see how he does with agility before I throw away money to put him in real classes (I think he's doing well!) and also there aren't any agility options around here so I have to wait until I move in december anyway. Also teaching him to place himself on objects like books (back feet and front feet) to get him ready for hand stands when his muscles joints and bones are developed enough (and also for obedience and manner purposes), crawl, and roll over which he should know but he hates being on his back so it's been tough. Those are just a few I could go on he's very intelligent. My problem is he had a hard time not getting too excited about learning.

Yes I use clicking. But that's a good idea, thank you.
 

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I've been there and done that with Molly and sometimes we still revisit it. If I understand what you're talking about it's not so much the dog being frustrated as the dog going "OMG THIS IS THE BEST GAME I LOVE YOU WHEEEE!" and thereby being really hard to get to actually LISTEN instead of doing what they think you want and at speed. Molly also tends to get caught in these loops of doing what she thinks is the right thing (it's not) with increasing speed over and over and over. That one just takes stopping her with a hand on her collar (gently) and making her sit down again and resetting and slowing myself WAY down.

The things that have helped me most in general:
Start with a dog who has been exercised, but not one who is ramped up on play. So like play hard, wait 15 minutes, then try training. Or train toward the end of the day and before bedtime - or whatever time of day yours is most calm and settled.

Down the value of the reward at the teaching phase - Molly is crazy excited about toys. Too much added excitement makes her just sort of flail around and throw everything and the kitchen sink at me, at high speed, trying to get the ball/disc/tug. We use food (and low value food at that; kibble or cheerios) or just plain praise for the teaching phase. Once we're out of her learning the thing, we build enthusiasm and speed and energy with toys as rewards.

Keep your own energy calm and steady while you're training. Happy, but not crazy excited.

Sit, stay, look at me - Yeah, you have to teach the dog to teach the dog but once the dog knows that, it's my best way of catching her attention and having her focus on me. Reward CALM focus and engagement when you find them.

Don't drill. Take frequent play breaks. Blow off the building excitement frequently. Even with that entire sessions should be short. I can do many short sessions in a day, but we're not out there training for a half hour at a time. More like 5-10 minutes at a pop.

If the dog is totally spazzing and not getting it, stop the session and try again later. Dog's not going to learn much if they're all over - at least, they're not going to learn anything except crazy behavior is the way to behave when you're training.
Thank you! This is very helpful. And yes, it's more he's just really happy to be having a good time learning but on the other hand he starts getting frustrated when I withhold the treat because he can't figure out what I want. Cheerios would be great but I think they have corn starch and cosmo is allergic to all corn products. (finally getting his fur back to a healthy texture!) also I don't use kibble he eats raw with some tube slice and serve and carrots and things for the teeth cleaning crunch, but I'm sure i could dig up something. right now we use high value treats so that's a good idea, I'll try that. Thank you!
 

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It's really hard to tell without seeing what's happening. But if I had a dog that would bark at me when frustrated and stuck on the step of learning something new, I would do one of a few things:
-ignore until barking stops and another attempt, even if it's a few steps back in the process, is made toward the behavior I want
-'reset' by moving him/the object and seeing if he will approach it differently
-do a few simple commands I know my dog knows
-end the session, ignore the dog, and be boring as punishment for the dog barking
-break the training down to even smaller steps so the dog does not get stuck or frustrated, and/or go back a few steps in training

I'm not so much recommending what you should do as I am listing what I would do. You write "he starts getting frustrated when I withhold the treat because he can't figure out what I want" and without seeing your actual techniques, it is hard to list specifics because in some cases you can shut a dog down to offering behaviors, or make it more frustrated, by ignoring, resetting, or ending the session. Maybe your dog barks every time he is under any stress (and some stress is always needed in training) and in that case I would address the barking and also teach him to accept stress better, which might end up being setting him up to succeed more... If your dog is fine 90% of the training session and suddenly you hit a wall and he barks in frustration, chances are it's your methods and not the dog.

A video would help and I know a ton of us would love to see what you're doing and help out in a more specific way! :)
But also, I do agree with what CptJack says. The only thing I would say differently is if your dog is fine for most of the training session then it isn't the value of the treat that's the problem. Dogs that get too hyper around high value rewards... You can barely get anywhere with them from the start of the training session!
 

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I didn't mean for that to be taken so literally, I'm not just telling him "jump through this hoop, cosmo" and expecting him to do it haha. And he knows all his basic commands, I'm working on jumping over hurdles and through hoops to see how he does with agility before I throw away money to put him in real classes (I think he's doing well!) and also there aren't any agility options around here so I have to wait until I move in december anyway. Also teaching him to place himself on objects like books (back feet and front feet) to get him ready for hand stands when his muscles joints and bones are developed enough (and also for obedience and manner purposes), crawl, and roll over which he should know but he hates being on his back so it's been tough. Those are just a few I could go on he's very intelligent. My problem is he had a hard time not getting too excited about learning.

Yes I use clicking. But that's a good idea, thank you.
Well, behaviors such as short jumps/hoops or paw targeting are behaviors that are best and easiest when naturally & gradually shaped. If you're not breaking it down into small enough portions, and your dog is one that stresses UP, rather than down, that's probably your issue. He'll lose focus & just generally 'amp up' when he gets confused by a jump in your behavior criteria. I'd say take it slower.

Also, your OP very specifically says that he's losing it when you are "motioning & saying & telling him what to do". You might want to take a very critical look at how much pressure you are putting on him during a training session. If he starts out OK, but then loses it part way through, you need to figure out what you can change to relieve some of that stress. Shorter session? Smaller steps? Change in your own attitude or energy? Something...
 

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I agree with those who said that it's hard to figure out what's happening without being able to see it. My first suggestion would be to increase your rate of reward. If he's barking at you because you're being too slow with the treats, then listen to him and give treats more often. My guess is that you are lumping, and waiting for too much of the behavior when rewarding. Click and reward every small tiny increment and I think you'll see that he sticks with you longer and you get less of the frustration behaviors. IME, this behavior can be fixed pretty easily with a higher rate of reinforcement.
 

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Also, I did not mention stressing high because it just plain didn't occur to me in the moment, but if that is what is happening (and it may well be, because I didn't quite catch that this is only happening during part of the training session), then I agree: you need to treat it the same way as a dog who shuts down or gets sluggish from stress. Take some pressure off. More rewards, smaller increments, shorter sessions, easier criteria, whatever.

My dog at home can do some really, really complicated and impressive stuff. In class, she can do less. In a trial like setting she can do almost nothing. It LOOKS like she's just a hyper-butt dog having the time of her life, but I know my dog and that's not fun. That's her trying to cope with stress. Some dogs sniffy, some seem to tune out and wander off, some get slow and ploddy. Some just explode every which way, stop listening, get zoomies, and try to do anything BUT what you want. Still stress. The answer to stress is less pressure. They do improve and learn to cope with the pressure/stress as time goes on and they gain confidence in the behavior/environment/whatever, but you have to back it off at the early stages to get there.

(Also, if you do classes, expect backsliding. Expect it to happen again when you trial. It's a thing.)
 

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Any tips on how to get him to just calm down and listen to me?
Reward CALM focus and engagement when you find them.
In my opinion, really this is it.

I don't think you can expect to teach a dog or have a dog perform complex behaviours, even simple behaviours, until you at least have a STRONG foundation of calm attention. In fact if it were me, I'd forego teaching any / all other behaviours for the time being, until focus becomes the default. Boring? yeah, but it beats creating a dog who easily comes apart at the seams.

You know, like they say .. patience is a virtue .. for both handler and dog.
 

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Another thing I wanted to add, because I'm not sure if this was clear in my other post. While some dogs do just get over excited and over aroused by training sessions, it's far more common (in my experience) for dogs to act like this because they are frustrated and don't know what you want. If it's truly excitement behavior, then I agree with others that you need to get calm focus on you and the task before you do anything else. But if it's frustration, you should be able to stop it quickly by increasing rate of reward and making it easier and more clear for the dog. There were times in my own training that my dog was barking at me and spinning and I thought "look how excited he is!" until a trainer pointed out that he was frustrated and I needed to change what I was doing. As soon as I changed my own training the barking and frantic behavior stopped. He is excited to train, but he shows it with focus and enthusiasm, not frantic barking.
 

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I want to say THANK YOU because you are all giving great suggestions but first I want to mention I don't think I'm moving too fast with him. Here's a breakdown of, for example, our steps with the hoop. (Which we don't have much problems with) Just so you know what exactly I'm doing. I'll try to add a video when I have computer access!

He's familiar with the hoop. We spent a session with him just smelling the hoop and clicking and treating and repeating. The next session I had him step into it with click and treat and he was fine with that so the next session we had him walk through it un elevated. He went around it for a few minutes but eventually went through it and after he figured out that's what I wanted he very eagerly ran through it each time. Next session we elevated the hoop. He kind of walked into it but after working with him he made kind of a high step over it. Next session we did the same thing and once he was comfortable walking through an elevated hoop i lifted the hoop higher so he had to actually jump. He actually had no issues and leapt through it right away, and that's what we have been working on. Now, he knows how to jump through it and is comfortable with it. All of these sessions were over about a week and a half - two weeks

The hoop isn't something we have much trouble with, however sometimes he does get excited and barks while jumping through the hoop. I watched a video of an Aussie who was doing some flip tricks off of this girls chest (our goal one day because that's freaking cool) and the Aussie was barking the whole time. The girl didn't seem to mind, but I do mind. I've tried ending the session when he barks but that doesn't seem to ever change the barking, it still continues when we start up (I've waited anywhere from 15mins to 2hours before trying again and sometimes don't start again until the next day) Under this circumstance, he's just excited and does what I ask, however usually very enthusiastically and sometimes sloppily because he's trying to do it 100 miles a minute so that I'll throw him a piece of chicken and tell him good boy. Also barking which is not ok for the apartment were moving into in a few months. (He doesn't usually ever bark any other time except training and when he's particularly excited to see me when I get home, to which I ignore him and he calms down. He just won't calm down with training!)

That's on one end of the spectrum. On the other end, when learning motion tricks such as roll over, crawl, play dead, place (placing his feet on a target), and back up he seems to try really hard to do what I'm trying to teach him, but will get frustrated after he can't get it and stands up and barks. It's hard to work with him when he does this. I use small steps with all of these tricks like with the hoop, but he always gets worked up when he can't get it.
 

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If he's barking while doing the trick, then he's probably just excited. You can try not rewarding if he barks, or briefly ending the session, but that can be too punishing for some dogs.

Basically, if the dog is barking while doing a behavior they know, it's probably excitement. If they bark between reps, it's probably frustration.

So the hoop sounds like excitement from a dog who likes the bark. But for the others, where he's trying to get it but not getting it, sounds like frustration and he needs you to show him a different way, or split the behavior down more.
 

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Basically, if the dog is barking while doing a behavior they know, it's probably excitement. If they bark between reps, it's probably frustration.
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This, this, this. It doesn't matter if YOU think you're going to fast, it only matters if the dog does. Briefly ending the session, or just resetting and not rewarding for any execution of the behavior that involves barking can work - if it's not too punishing for your dog. If it is, more heavily reward quiet exercises or quiet in general.

If your dog is stopping to bark at you rather doing a behavior, they are frustrated and/or stressed. If the dog is barking WHILE executing the behavior it can just be excitement (and usually is), but if the barking is in response to being given a command? They're saying as clearly as they know how "I DON"T GET THIS!!!"
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Ok, that makes sense. Thank you for all the help! I guess I can try to break it down more, and perhaps I'm trying to train him too many things at once? I mean it's not ALL AT ONCE but he practices a couple different things in the day. I've always thought that was fine (I got that from Zak George) but maybe he is just a dog who needs to focus on one or two things in a 1-2 day period instead of working on lots of things.

I've always worried about keeping training exciting but Cosmo seems to think it's perfectly exciting enough haha
 

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Ok, that makes sense. Thank you for all the help! I guess I can try to break it down more, and perhaps I'm trying to train him too many things at once? I mean it's not ALL AT ONCE but he practices a couple different things in the day. I've always thought that was fine (I got that from Zak George) but maybe he is just a dog who needs to focus on one or two things in a 1-2 day period instead of working on lots of things.

I've always worried about keeping training exciting but Cosmo seems to think it's perfectly exciting enough haha
I suspect that your solution will be found in rewarding more often, and raising the criteria (duration, distractions, difficulties in other ways) for performance more slowly, rather than in necessarily breaking down the behaviors into smaller pieces (though for some behaviors that is important - but if it's like 'sit' not so much) and/or focusing on a single thing at a time.
 

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I suspect that your solution will be found in rewarding more often, and raising the criteria (duration, distractions, difficulties in other ways) for performance more slowly, rather than in necessarily breaking down the behaviors into smaller pieces (though for some behaviors that is important) and/or focusing on a single thing at a time.
Agree with this.

And sometimes you just need to change the picture you present to the dog. I got a lot of frustration barking when I tried to shape Watson to stand with his front feet on a frisbee. He "knew" what to do, but had a hard time understanding the criteria of putting both feet on. So he'd put 1 foot on, or 1.5 feet, and I wouldn't reward and he would bark because "I'm clearly doing it, stupid food lady". I changed to a bowl that was more elevated, and easier for him to get right (hard to have one foot on and one off with something higher off the ground), and immediately the frustration was gone.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Wow! That's a great piece of advice and I hadn't thought of that before. Thank you, because place is something we've been struggling with. Guess I'll have to get creative!
 

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I also find it helpful to "review" what we did at our last session before moving on to the next step. One of my regular mistakes is to assume that because they were successful at a previous session that they now "know" something rock solid, and brains don't always learn that way. If they nail it, I progress. If they seem confused or frustrated, I back up and it's a review session.
 
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