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Discussion Starter #1
Hi everyone,

I'm feeling very challenged by my pup. He is 10mo old, and a rescue (probably black lab/pitbull mix). We've had him for about 5 months now. He was an amazing puppy in that he's always been so well behaved, even without much training. I've been bringing him to work since we got him and he has been perfect. Never has any accidents, never did the typical puppy mischievous things (no chewing things up, no mouthing, etc.), always listened quite well, etc. We'd been doing training at home, and for the last 2 months started a group class.

He has a long and complicated story regarding his rescue, but part of it is that his leg was broken. When it healed, he got LOTS of exercise with us. We would take him on hikes, to the dog park, runs, etc. About 1.5 months ago he needed another surgery because the leg was having issues again. It was a very invasive surgery and the healing process is (and will continue to be) slow. It'll probably be at least 3 mo until he is allowed to do intense exercise again. Ever since surgery, his behavior has gotten so much worse. He now does all the things he never did while younger, such as stealing our socks and running around the house, jumping on guests, ignoring us when we give him commands, being super whiney and barky to get our attention, walking worse on a leash, etc. I am REALLY hoping that these issues are due to the fact that he is bored and not getting enough exercise (and believe me, I have tried pretty much every toy/game out there to keep him mentally stimulated, but it's not working). We managed it for a few weeks with sedatives, especially because he was supposed to take it easy. But I don't want to keep him on sedatives for three months...

Now, it's really becoming difficult and I lose my patience with him on a daily basis. I'm seeking advice on what to do while he has all this pent up energy. For example, he frequently steals socks/shoes/other things to get our attention. Telling him to "leave it" or "sit" doesn't work, he thinks it's a game and runs away. What should I do? Ignore him? Continue saying the commands sternly? Grab him by the collar and take the object away (but then I'm engaging him by playing chase)? I get similarly frustrated when he barks and whines because he's bored even though I've given him 3 kongs and new chew toys that day. If I ignore him, then he just grabs something he isn't allowed to have, knowing he'll get my attention.

Another thing that has gone downhill is that he is being difficult on a leash (he is now allowed on very short walks). He is not aggressive on a leash (in fact, he is overly friendly) but if for some reason we don't allow him to say hello to another dog (usually because the other dog is not friendly), then he barks and lunges and freaks out. It's embarrassing because then people thing he is aggressive, but it's the opposite - he is really upset we didn't let him say hi. We've been working on "leave it" but again, I think it's his frustration at not being allowed to play.

So, I'm looking for tips on how to manage all of this behavior for the next month or two. I'm crossing my fingers that once he can release all this energy, he will be back to his well-behaved self.

Thanks in advance!
 

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Wow, sounds like the second surgery worked really well and now you have a normal bratty adolescent dog! He isn't hurting, has loads of energy and his brain is free to be inventive, aka get into as much trouble as he can think up.

Adolescent animals go through a brain reorganizing that takes them back to ground zero so they can be lots of fun to deal with even if they did get into mischief and had to learn to behave as young pups. You never needed to teach him to be good, maybe he wasn't comfortable enough to get into the usual puppy trouble. Just go back to step one and kindly and gently go through each and every step involved in training a puppy. I get my dogs as bratty young adult/adolescents, it is the same as training a puppy but everything is bigger and there are fewer potty mistakes.

Start out by reading the reactive dog post at the top of this forum. He does need to stop the temper tantrums when he isn't allowed to meet other dogs.

For socks stop chasing him and practice trading as part of his daily training routine so when he gets something you can trade for a treat or a toy.

Go back to square one for leash walking. Reward heavily when he is at your side and stop moving when he wants to pull. Be sure to practice simply going out the door, that is really hard for a lot of dogs. My little guys sort of squirt out so it's easier for me to have them sit and wait, I step out then ask them to come to me and sit again.

Try upping the kong difficulty. Freezing something yummy inside can help lengthen the time it takes to finish one. Try feeding him from a puzzle toy if it's okay for him to be on his feet that long.

Teach him silly tricks. Since he isn't supposed to do much moving around maybe start with the impressive ball/treat on the nose one. It leads right into leave it training as well.

Look into nosework. You can do some of the exercises at home without going to a class. Basically hide something of a particular scent and when he finds it it's party time. Ginger was adopted at 5 years of age and didn't know what her nose was for, really cool watching her learn how it worked.

If it is okay for him to be on his feet then use a food puzzle to deliver any part of his meals that isn't hand fed as part of his training.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks, Kathyy! All of this is very helpful. I just wanted to clarify something that may have been unclear in my post. For the 2-3 months in between his major surgeries, I think he was fairly pain free and a totally happy pup. But we made sure he got LOTS of exercise and I think that's what kept him so good at home.

Questions
-if I trade a sock for something he wants, won't that teach him that if he continues to grab socks, he'll get better things?
-any tips on dealing with him when he's demanding attention?

And as to the kong and other puzzle toys, I've tried EVERYTHING (I think), with lots of variety in difficulty. He's also not super food motivated, so when I freeze his kongs, even with super tasty things (like chicken skin), he'll work on it for 2 minutes and then give up.

And as to the reactive post, it sounds like that one is more geared towards aggressive dogs, right? Not sure how applicable it is to him...

Thanks again!
 

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Reactive is reactive. Sure it's dangerous if the dog is aggressive but a noisy one is just as much of a disturber of the peace and a lunging one is dangerous if you are caught offguard. Unfortunately dogs must be leashed for safety and they cannot go up to every dog or person they see. Hard lesson to learn, hard to teach but a reality of life.

Why are socks where he can get them? Be happy he is finding them so you can put them where they belong instead! You might get a dog that figures out that bringing stuff to you is a good thing and it might be annoying but probably won't be an issue. Once the lesson is solidified you reduce the treats and he'll mostly get praise and things will settle down. Or you could do as I did with Bucky. Bucky was picking up not dog toys when he was first allowed out of the pen when he came here. Pick up a not toy, he was popped into his pen with a treat as clearly it was time for a nap. Bucky literally had no idea how to lay down and sleep outside that pen so he did need a nap! I never make a big deal about what he got, I paid attention to the dog instead.

Another idea for training. Karen Overall's Relaxation Protocol. Bucky gets really excited when the mat comes out and he gets to stay on it. Such an odd dog! Young dogs often need to learn how to relax, this can help. Bucky cannot be exercised until tired, he just plain doesn't get tired, this helped him know he wasn't a shark and wouldn't die if he stopped moving.

And 'sit on the dog'. Don't give into demand jumping and barking. Wait him out by leashing him, giving him enough lead to lay down and sit on the leash ignoring his bratty behavior for as long as you can stand it.
 

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@atlaspup definately read up on reactivity. It can be caused by a few different things....fear, aggression, excitement. Sounds like your dog wants to play, its basically like his excitement overides his ability to control his self. Hes young, at the teenage stage, so he's gonna be a butthead for awhile. He'll grow out of it but needs training now. I would stop letting him meet other dogs altogether out in public. Nothing to get excited about if he never gets to meet them. He'll learn.
Otherwise sounds like an intelligent maybe drivey pup.
My 11 month old german shepherd does the picking up laundry thing. I use it. Havent had to pick up my own laundry off the floor in months lol. Next step is teaching him where the laundry basket is.
The advise I can give you is more brain games and leash training. Let him use his brain. Dont just play fetch. Have him sit, do tricks, whatever between throws. Make it interesting. This extends to other things as well. He sounds like a smart dog, and intelligence begs to be used.......
 

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@atlaspup definately read up on reactivity. It can be caused by a few different things....fear, aggression, excitement. Sounds like your dog wants to play, its basically like his excitement overides his ability to control his self. Hes young, at the teenage stage, so he's gonna be a butthead for awhile. He'll grow out of it but needs training now. I would stop letting him meet other dogs altogether out in public. Nothing to get excited about if he never gets to meet them. He'll learn.
Otherwise sounds like an intelligent maybe drivey pup.
My 11 month old german shepherd does the picking up laundry thing. I use it. Havent had to pick up my own laundry off the floor in months lol. Next step is teaching him where the laundry basket is.
The advise I can give you is more brain games and leash training. Let him use his brain. Dont just play fetch. Have him sit, do tricks, whatever between throws. Make it interesting. This extends to other things as well. He sounds like a smart dog, and intelligence begs to be used.......
Agree with this. I too would NEVER let him meet other dogs on leash. It is a recipe for disaster (read "the Other End of the Leash" by Patricia McConnell). Meeting on leash forces dogs to meet unnaturally and can cause aggression where there is none. Keep him away from other dogs.

You have a focus issue. He should be focused on you and not other dogs and now that he has been allowed to play with other dogs on leash you have inadvertently made your job a LOT harder. Work on getting him to focus on you. ALWAYS have food on you. This way you can always reward him for doing the right thing. Use his food to teach him things (instead of feeding out of a bowl, make him work for his food).

Labs and Pits are very energetic dogs. You need to engage his brain (look up Karen Pryor clicker training stuff and 101 things to do with a box). 20 minutes making him think will wear him out as good as a long long walk.

Your dog sounds very normal.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Hi folks, I wrote a long response last night and am seeing now it didn't get posted. How frustrating! Here's a short summary of what I'd written:
- Thanks for all the helpful advice!
- About leash reactivity: I hear you all and this is the #1 thing we are working on with the training classes. Would appreciate more links/videos if anyone has particular ones they like because I've been hard pressed to find useful ones (preferably not a whole book because I don't know when I'll have the time to sit down and read the whole thing!). And, I'm curious about the suggestions to NEVER let him meet dogs on a leash. I understand it's unnatural and understand that I need to limit it now while he is learning appropriate behavior. However, I feel like it can't be avoided for life. It's unavoidable that another dog pops out from around the corner or that you are at Petsmart or a busy street and surrounded by dogs on a leash. In that case, isn't it better for him to be desensitized to it so that when it does happen, he is ok with it?

And please keep the "engage his brain" suggestions coming, they are very useful. Are there any toys you all recommend for engaging the brain specifically? I tried looking through old posts but haven't found anything.

Thanks again!
 

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Toys will never engage his brain like training and making him think will. Free Shaping with a clicker (and no words) will exhaust him.

Years ago I was in a class where they used those round, battery operated closet lights where you push on the light and it lights or it turns off. The Free Shaping exercise was to teach the dog to touch his foot to the light to turn it on and off. But it was more that than. It was refined to be only his left front foot and only directly on top of the light.

Another class to free shape the dog pulling on a rag to open (or close) a door. Then we had to free shape using a foot to push a door open and pull the rag on the door handle to close the door (and also to push it closed with a foot and open it with a pull on the rag). We were promised a free 8 week course if we could teach our dog to get a bottle of beer out of a refrigerator for us (no one did it)....
 

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Thank you, 3GSD4IPO - sounds like that's a great way to get him engaged.

I hope that this will not be taken the wrong way by folks, but in addition to doing training and making him think, I'd really like to find some ways to keep him engaged without me having to do the engaging. We spend all day together already....he comes to the office with me, we go on walks, do training, etc. I need a bit of a break from him sometimes, and because he has all this pent up energy, it's hard to get him to relax and do nothing. So therefore the need to find some activities/toys that I can give him to him for him to work on alone so that I can make dinner, work, etc.

I do love the free shaping suggestions...I might get around to those when I have tiny bit more time!
 

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Crates are your friend. When you cannot be with your dog, crate him. Get a Kong. Stuff it with unflavored Yogurt. Freeze it. Give him that in the crate. Raw meaty bone (not a marrow leg bone) is good too. I use Beef Neck Bones.

Another toy (for outside in a fenced yard) is a Jolly Ball. Safe for in a 10x10 kennel too.
 

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This sounds like pretty normal teenage dog behavior. Its normal to feel the way you do about it, too! Even without having to go through major surgery, young dogs are like this!

First, you do not need to entertain the dog 24/7. You will never, ever tire that dog out, especially at his age. Set aside 1-2 hours for just puppy dog time. It doesn't have to be all at once. I break mine up into 2 parts. He gets to go for his walk, play fetch, do some training, whatever but that time is for you and the dog. After that, he of course gets to hang out in the house with you, but he doesn't need to be actively engaged with you. Some young dogs don't know how to do this, so it is necessary to confine them. You can put the pup in a pen, a crate, or on a leash. I like pens or crates better, personally, and have them in the same room as you. As long as they can't get into anything inappropriate. Ignore him. He may make a fuss, but ignore him. Reward him for offering any calm behaviors, like laying down or playing with his toys by himself.

For stealing non-toy items: Clean up. Anything the pup cannot have, you put away. Do allow him access to appropriate toys and chews, and praise him when he uses those. Keep working on your 'leave it' cues, of course, but its so much easier to train it when you are in control of the situation and the dog isn't about to destroy your favorite pair of shoes.

Barking and whining for attention: Ignore him. It will end. He won't go into that sweet silence quietly, but he will! Again, pick up. Anything he can't have, put it away, or confine him to a crate or pen.

Poor leash behavior: What your experiencing is called reactivity, most likely out of excitement and frustration because he wants to go play with that dog. It's basically the dog throwing a tantrum because he isn't getting what he wants. I also suggest going ahead and reading the reactivity forum in the Dog Training section. The training is basically the same no matter what type of reactivity it is. It does get better with age, maturity, and training.

Good luck!
 

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Good advice from everyone! I just will toss in a couple extra tidbits.

I agree with the training - Atlas will get so he stares and whines at us (when he has food/water/been outside six times already) and I will take even 5-10 minutes of running him through his tricks, working on something new or whatever and he will usually settle down and take a nap. I understand he's still being rehabilitated, so you may not be able to do everything with him, but maybe check out YouTube or the Do More With Your Dog website for ideas on things you can train him to do. (Bonus with DMWYD is you can earn certificates/titles, which can be fun.) My current trick now that Atlas is getting his 'sit pretty' down pat, is to add in a 'gimme 10' and have him high five me from that position. The possibilities are endless with what you can teach. (I agree with Lillith - you can't entertain them all the time, so he needs to learn he can just lay down and be bored, and that's ok. Atlas is usually really mellow, so when he does start to whine and be annoying I know he is *really* bored. With it being winter, walking him isn't always an option for a wuss like me here in Canada.)

Something else that you can play around with, which will hopefully help you with the leash walking (as was mentioned above) is getting him to focus. There is a well known concept (that I am just now learning about) that is called Premack. The basic idea is - you ask/wait your dog to do something they don't necessarily want to do, in order for them to do something they really want to do. (Like kids eating veggies to get dessert.) So, ask (wait) for him to make eye contact before you feed him, let him outside, walk ahead on the leash, etc. Or, wait for him to make eye contact with you (and not the treat) before you give a treat to him. You can sit on the floor with treats or his kibble and if he has a default 'leave it' for something in your hand, wait for him to look at you, mark and reward that. It only takes one or two tries before I have tons of eye contact from Atlas when we do this at home now - even when I hold a treat out to the side, he will still look at me. (If he doesn't know to leave it by default, you can start there - YouTube can be a big help with that.) We are now building up to having him ignore treats in his dish while we do heel work around it (for when we start showing in rally obedience) - the first night I tried that, he was glued to the dish and had a very hard time looking away and coming with me, but he got it and got rewarded well for it. (I know you said he's not super food motivated, so maybe a toy would work better for this?)

And, for socks... Atlas is the biggest sock thief I've ever met! He's been stealing them from day one. I did a lot of trading a treat for a sock when he was little. It has become a bit of a game, but more of a funny one than anything. Now he will find a sock, and come to us with it - so we happily ask him to give us the sock and he usually does. (Sometimes he tries to play tug first, but he will always give it up.) His reward sometimes is that if the sock is ready to be retired, we put a knot in it and give it back to him. We then play tug with it, and he can shred it (supervised, always) and in 5 minutes when it's done we pick up the pieces and toss it away. If he finds a stray sock and we aren't around to examine it, he actually won't do anything to the sock, just carry it around, or leave it until he remembers it and will go and get it again once we are home. We are extremely lucky (mostly my boyfriend, or he would be sock-less by now). If Atlas was any way inclined to eat and swallow the socks, I would be extremely diligent about making sure they get put away. (Full disclosure, I am aware this is a risk, but he's proven in the last year and a half to be very reliable and not inclined to eat them, so I will let it continue.)

This was a lot longer than I intended! Hope some of it makes sense. Please look up anything I've suggested as others can explain it a lot better than I have, and I have found YouTube to be a big help. I'm glad you're in classes with him, and hopefully they will be the biggest help for a lot of your issues!
 

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This community is fantastic, thanks for all the recommendations! I think the most helpful part of this is the reminder that this is normal. It's easy to get overwhelmed and to feel like he's a terrible dog or I'm a terrible dog mom, but I guess this is par for the course. When can I expect the behavior to subside? I'm sure the response is: as soon as you train him out of it, but I'm sure biology has a role to play too!

Another question: what is the best way to ensure consistency in his response? Right now, like a typical teenager, he has selective hearing. He listens when he feels like it, and he doesn't when he doesn't. How can we work on this? Is it a matter of constant repetition? Is it a matter of time and him growing up? I'd say with "sit," he does it 75% of the time. With "come," we're maybe at 60%, and with "leave it," definitely somewhere below 50%. He knows them all but doesn't always decide to listen.
 

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This community is fantastic, thanks for all the recommendations! I think the most helpful part of this is the reminder that this is normal. It's easy to get overwhelmed and to feel like he's a terrible dog or I'm a terrible dog mom, but I guess this is par for the course. When can I expect the behavior to subside? I'm sure the response is: as soon as you train him out of it, but I'm sure biology has a role to play too!

Another question: what is the best way to ensure consistency in his response? Right now, like a typical teenager, he has selective hearing. He listens when he feels like it, and he doesn't when he doesn't. How can we work on this? Is it a matter of constant repetition? Is it a matter of time and him growing up? I'd say with "sit," he does it 75% of the time. With "come," we're maybe at 60%, and with "leave it," definitely somewhere below 50%. He knows them all but doesn't always decide to listen.
It really depends on the dog. Some dogs begin to settle after a year or so, some it seems to take 3-4 years to act like a mature adult! Really, you're in the worst of it right now. Around 1.5 I started to notice a brain growing in my dog's head. Some people say at 2 their dogs started to get themselves together, but they're still the equivalent of a 20 something human. I'd say around 3-4 you would see a pretty mature dog, but this terrible crazy phase that you are currently experiencing will not last too long with training.

Typically, if the dog decided he has 'forgotten' the cue you gave him, I would lure him into position, then reward. For manners type things, like counter surfing or getting into stuff, its best to manage the situation by never allowing him the opportunity to practice those behaviors. Also, make sure you're using valuable rewards. Sometimes if the pup isn't too interested in leaving that stinking piece of garbage, try using better rewards for obeying like hot dogs or cheese.

Additionally, with cues like "come" and "leave it", practice in a controlled setting and manage with leashes, pens, and confinement when you can't. For 'come', have the dog on a long line because come is not optional. If he blows off 'come', reel him in with the line. Honestly, when my dog was that age I didn't even practice 'come' because he was having some really serious selective hearing issues, so I decided to lay off of that cue for a bit, give his brain time to get out of whatever funk it was in, and never used that command until he was interested in me again. It saved me some sanity, and sometimes if it isn't a really serious issue, just letting it rest and keeping the dog on a leash if you have time constrains and will need the dog to come to you helps both dog and owner.
 

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Then there is Bucky. He was supposed to be 2 years when we got him 2 years ago. To this day on a walk he acts like a 2 month old puppy. The world is new and different and exciting every single day and he has to dart this way and that and stop and stare like a baby dog unless I have him completely engaged every second. I still have hopes for 5, my dogs have been excellent companions rather than just moderately well behaved dogs at 5. At home he's quite a wonderful dog to have around though.

Start using his cues. Rather then having a training session for sit daily ask him to sit before he gets to go outside. Don't forget to switch it up and ask for down sometimes and work on wait before he's allowed to go out the door as well. A hand in the collar will help at first. He has to sit before the leash goes on. If he is squirrelly the leash gets put up. Same for dinner. If he doesn't sit dinner gets put away. Of course you get it out again in a couple minutes but he doesn't know that. Sit, down, stay, come aren't parlor tricks they are the foundation for communicating with the dog. If he doesn't listen make it easy for you to have consequences for his blowing you off. When he listens make the reward completely wonderful. Getting to go outside, dinner and walks are really great rewards, right? Each time you work on a new cue start out as a formal training session but take it on the road as soon as possible.
 

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Thanks, Lillith! I appreciate your comments, maybe at 1.5 mine will start re-growing a brain too :) I don't want to sound like a smarty pants, but we already do most of the stuff you suggested. He's very good about sitting to ask for things and practicing. Practicing at home, he is great with come, sit, down, leave it, etc. He is pretty close to 100% (with the exception of when he gets into his crazy too much energy moments). But when going on a walk outside, going to the dog park, going to someone else's house, the office, etc. - that's when he often opts out of responding. I'm pretty sure he's like "I'm having too much fun and no treat can be as fun as whatever I'm doing now!" One day, in the distant future, I'd love to trust him off leash but I can't imagine that with a dog that doesn't always listen. I wouldn't want to create a dangerous situation.

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And Life with Atlas - funny to find another Atlas on here :) I appreciate all your tips. I was not aware of the name "Premack" but this is something Atlas is really good at typically. He definitely knows how to ask for things by looking us in the eye and sitting nicely. But all of that goes out the window when he wants to play or has the zoomies. And in those cases, there is just no getting him to listen! I appreciate your suggestions also on where to look for training ideas. Thanks again!
 

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Thanks, Lillith! I appreciate your comments, maybe at 1.5 mine will start re-growing a brain too :) I don't want to sound like a smarty pants, but we already do most of the stuff you suggested. He's very good about sitting to ask for things and practicing. Practicing at home, he is great with come, sit, down, leave it, etc. He is pretty close to 100% (with the exception of when he gets into his crazy too much energy moments). But when going on a walk outside, going to the dog park, going to someone else's house, the office, etc. - that's when he often opts out of responding. I'm pretty sure he's like "I'm having too much fun and no treat can be as fun as whatever I'm doing now!" One day, in the distant future, I'd love to trust him off leash but I can't imagine that with a dog that doesn't always listen. I wouldn't want to create a dangerous situation.

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And Life with Atlas - funny to find another Atlas on here :) I appreciate all your tips. I was not aware of the name "Premack" but this is something Atlas is really good at typically. He definitely knows how to ask for things by looking us in the eye and sitting nicely. But all of that goes out the window when he wants to play or has the zoomies. And in those cases, there is just no getting him to listen! I appreciate your suggestions also on where to look for training ideas. Thanks again!

Dogs don't generalize well, so if you're seeing trouble in areas outside the home, he might not understand that "sit" means "sit" at home as well as your office. It just takes more practice in different places to get them to understand that "sit" means the same thing no matter the location or situation!
 

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There are a lot more Atlas' around than I thought when I named mine! :p Well, thanks to the world of internet anyway, I know about them all. It's a good name. :D

I understand the not listening when they get so excited - that's definitely a young dog thing! My suggestion will be to try and not ask him for things when you're pretty sure he's not going to bother listening - no point in saying "sit, sit, sit, sit, sit" if he's completely gawking at something else. NOT trying to say you do this, but I have seen it happen, and been guilty of it myself. (My boyfriend is the king of repeated commands, and it drives me totally bonkers some days. I think he's making progress, but I also think that's because Atlas is pretty quick to respond in the house these days.)

You can use the principle of Premack (and it's awesome you've been doing this unintentionally) for things like going to the dog park - if he's not going to wait nicely to get out of the car, you have alllllllllll day to wait since you're not the one so excited to get out, for example. Like Lillith said, they don't generalize all the time, so you will need to practice everywhere. And start small - like in your front yard or near your house, and if you can get his focus there you start building up.

And work on a ton of focus exercises - you won't regret it! I actually just had a moment in our class last night where he was distracted by another dog at the beginning, but turned his head and gave me full eye contact very quickly! This was great! Of course, he was well under his threshold there, so this is entirely different than when we are out and about. For that, I accept him sitting calmly and letting the other dog pass by (and staring rudely... but we're a work in progress).

You have a young and super energetic pup - but he will be worth it in the end when you've put the work in. :)
(I have noticed that the more they learn, the easier it is for them to learn. Herding breeds are generally good 'thinkers' but the more Atlas has learned, the easier it has been to teach him something new.)
 
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