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Advice On Focus Training - Stubborn Dog


Guest VelvetOkie
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Guest VelvetOkie

i posted the below and got several responses about focus training as a start.

 

http://forum.greytalk.com/index.php/topic/301778-harnesscollar-for-a-backer-outer/

 

i am starting with basic request to focus on me with a small treat as a reward. the problem i am running into is that when my boy isnt interested no treat in the world entices him. nothing. (he is already super finicky anyway). so i run into times when i request the focus and he ignores every attempt. even holding the treat to his nose doesnt work. its like he turns to stone and wills not to be swayed :)

i understand that letting them "get away" with not doing what i request undermines my position as alpha, but if he wont do it under any circumstance im at a loss..

 

any ideas?

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Forget about "alpha" and everything associated with it. Just put it in a box, lock it, and throw away the key.

 

Now, what *exactly* are you and the dog doing, under what circumstances, and how does dog respond? The more details you can give, the more it'll help folks help you :) .

Star aka Starz Ovation (Ronco x Oneco Maggie*, litter #48538), Coco aka Low Key (Kiowa Mon Manny x Party Hardy, litter # 59881), and mom in Illinois
We miss Reko Batman (Trouper Zeke x Marque Louisiana), 11/15/95-6/29/06, Rocco the thistledown whippet, 04/29/93-10/14/08, Reko Zema (Mo Kick x Reko Princess), 8/16/98-4/18/10, the most beautiful girl in the whole USA, my good egg Joseph aka Won by a Nose (Oneco Cufflink x Buy Back), 09/22/2003-03/01/2013, and our gentle sweet Gidget (Digitizer, Dodgem by Design x Sobe Mulberry), 1/29/2006-11/22/2014, gone much too soon. Never forgetting CJC's Buckshot, 1/2/07-10/25/10.

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I agree, lose the alpha everything. My dogs misbehave because they get something good out of it, not because they are trying to be the boss.

 

Make training fun and positive. Use a happy voice. If treats aren't working, try better treats or play sessions.

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Guest k9soul

I think dogs can get bored too. I try to mix things up and keep things new by using different treats, jackpotting sometimes, withholding other times, and not spending too long on one exercise. I think of it like as an analogy of making a training session like playing a slot machine. It's the drama of it, the chance to win big or maybe not at all, that keeps attention riveted. Don't Shoot the Dog by Karon Pryor really explains the power of reinforcement and how to use it optimally very well.

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If he's totally ignoring you he is over threshold. He's not challenging your authority he's just unable to concentrate for some reason. Reasons? Fear, uncertainty, anxiety, excitement, interest.

 

Summit ignores me when he is afraid. Today at the dog park we heard gun shots and he ran for the gate. I put his leash back on and offered him hit dog which he wouldn't take, wouldn't look at me.

 

Kili ignores me when she is excited and when she is overwhelmed. Lots of things are distracting to a 13 month old dog. Other people, other dogs, squirrels, strange smells, too much activity or commotion.

 

Figure out what the distraction is then get your dog under threshold. For Summit's noise phobias that means removing the noise. Can't really fix this one. For Kili it means getting further away from the distraction. At a certain distance it becomes less interesting than the chicken in my hand. Then we work and reward and slowly work towards the distraction. Slowly could be a matter of minutes or it could be months. Depends on the dog and the distraction.

 

You can also increase the value of the reward. This only works up to a point. It really depends how interesting the distraction is (or how great the fear/anxiety). You can also use Premack's principle. The principle is basically to give the dog what it wants. A reward is only a reward if the DOG finds it rewarding. Sometimes with Kili her reward is whatever she wanted. If she sis and gives me attention she can go greet the other dog. If she performs a few commands for me she can go chase the sea gulls in the field. If she recalls at the dog park she gets to go back and play.

Kristie and the Apex Agility Greyhounds: Kili (ATChC AgMCh Lakilanni Where Eagles Fly RN IP MSCDC MTRDC ExS Bronze ExJ Bronze ) and Kenna (Lakilanni Kiss The Sky RN MADC MJDC AGDC AGEx AGExJ). Waiting at the Bridge: Retired racer Summit (Bbf Dropout) May 5, 2005-Jan 30, 2019

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Guest VelvetOkie

interesting thoughts here. let me say though about the alpha comment i didnt mean that to sound dominant in a mean or bad way, i totally agree with positive reinforcement, but i also know if my 80lb boy doesnt see me as alpha to him he will never do what i request if he doesnt want to, including getting off the bed etc when i want to go to sleep..trying to push him off the bed is impossible, it goes much better if he knows he has to do what i say :) but another subject entirely..

 

anyhoo, i am trying to incorporate training sessions into our walks. the main reason for this is he freaks out easily oover other dogs when we are out hence the backing out of his harness post i referred to. i know when we are outside the ignoring me is likely due to the stimulation makes him nervous. he isnt a take off and run kind of spook usually, more times than not he is the statue type. it doesnt take much either. a car in the distance, a lawnmower down the road, a jogger, a child several houses down...due to this i know i need to start him exclusively indoors and build up to trying it on walks.

 

however indoors it seems to be more of a just plain stubborn issue. its almost like - "i dont feel like doing what you say right now and the more you entice me the more i will ignore you"

i will try to make it more upbeat and fun, which works wonders for my girl, but my boy is super stoic. as for high value treats, he is picky to start with, but when he isnt interested nothing works. he just turns his head away. funny, this laid back attitude makes him a super easy house dog, but rather hard to train it seems :)

 

the idea of giving him what he wants doesnt sound like it would work either, what he wants is me to stop making him work haha!

 

if he could talk he would tell me "feed me and let me out when i ask, play with me when I'M ready but otherwise i am retired now. dont ask me to move, work, or listen as i wont do it"

 

as for exactly what we are doing, i am showing him my hand with the treat in it hoping to intrigue him then putting my hand near my face as a gesture and using the word focus. when we looks at me (or my hand rather) and holds it for a second or two he get the treat. sometimes i let him get a whiff of the treat so he knows there is something he wants.

 

i know there is a solution i am just overlooking... i have never had a dog quite this stoic so i need to get inventive. funny thing is for such a stoic boy, when he does get playful hes super spunky and sassy. his terms i guess :)

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the idea of giving him what he wants doesnt sound like it would work either, what he wants is me to stop making him work haha!

If that is what he wants then that is exactly what you give him. He does what you ask and you let him go and lay down or go sniff, or go look out the window. If you keep pushing him to try to do something after he has done it, and he doesn't want to, he's going to think "why should I do it, you'll just make me do it again". If he won't do multiple repetitions then don't ask for them. Greyhounds aren't dogs that typically do well with repetition but some take it to an extreme. Convince him to do it once and ave a HUGE party. He doesn't even need to party with you at this point. Make a huge celebratory fuss, offer him a high value reward, and regardless of if he takes the food or celebrates with you, release him to do whatever it is he wants.

 

Chances are he'll figure out that you like it when he pays attention, that there's good things in t for him, and that he won't be forced to repeat this over and over and pestered again and again... he may start to enjoy learning and become more willing to do more reps.

 

As for teaching him eye contact. Put a high value reward in your closed fist and hold it out to your side. Make sure he knows it is there. Ideally the dog fixates on your closed hand. You can even let the dog sniff and lick at your hand. Eventually the dog will go from staring at your hand to looking at you (I.e. what the heck, dude!?). Click or use your marker word ("yes!") and open your hand so he can take the treat. Again, the reward has to be rewarding to the dog for this to work.

 

In order to train your dog you need to find something he wants. You cannot try to train a dog if you do not have something of value to him. It's like trying to train a child with broccoli. Not going to work. You use candy. You use toys. You use video games. You use "if you do your homework then you can go over to Johnny's house". But it doesn't work to say "if you do your homework I will give you broccoli". Right now your dog views treats as broccoli. You need to find out what video games are to him and use that. One day he may begin to work for treats in certain situations. I can reward Summit with kibble in most situations. When we first started it had to be hot dogs, cheese, chicken, steak. Now I dole out kibble and milkbones just as often as hot dogs. Training itself is now fun and partly rewarding in and of itself.

Kristie and the Apex Agility Greyhounds: Kili (ATChC AgMCh Lakilanni Where Eagles Fly RN IP MSCDC MTRDC ExS Bronze ExJ Bronze ) and Kenna (Lakilanni Kiss The Sky RN MADC MJDC AGDC AGEx AGExJ). Waiting at the Bridge: Retired racer Summit (Bbf Dropout) May 5, 2005-Jan 30, 2019

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1-2 quick thoughts, might have more later:

 

- In the beginning, all I want is for the dog to look at me. I don't care if he holds the look for a second or two. All he's gotta do is look at me for a split second, "Good dog!" (or click) and treat.

 

- At the very start of a walk with a difficult dog, the very start -- as in, we just stepped outside and haven't gone more than a few steps -- I'll prime the system with my command ("Watch me!" or whatever), get that split-second look, "Good dog!" and treat @ 5-6 times in a row. Then do another 1-2 after 5 steps, another 1-2 after 10 more steps, then periodically every 20-30 steps. Meanwhile we are walking briskly and we are getting some "Good dog!" (or click) and treat for "Heel!". If this is a potty or relaxation walk too, then after a bit I'll give my release/we-are-done-training-now word, slow down, and let him stop and smell the roses for a time. Then maybe last 3-4 minutes of the walk we'll resume our briskness, crisp heeling, etc.

Star aka Starz Ovation (Ronco x Oneco Maggie*, litter #48538), Coco aka Low Key (Kiowa Mon Manny x Party Hardy, litter # 59881), and mom in Illinois
We miss Reko Batman (Trouper Zeke x Marque Louisiana), 11/15/95-6/29/06, Rocco the thistledown whippet, 04/29/93-10/14/08, Reko Zema (Mo Kick x Reko Princess), 8/16/98-4/18/10, the most beautiful girl in the whole USA, my good egg Joseph aka Won by a Nose (Oneco Cufflink x Buy Back), 09/22/2003-03/01/2013, and our gentle sweet Gidget (Digitizer, Dodgem by Design x Sobe Mulberry), 1/29/2006-11/22/2014, gone much too soon. Never forgetting CJC's Buckshot, 1/2/07-10/25/10.

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Guest VelvetOkie

If that is what he wants then that is exactly what you give him. He does what you ask and you let him go and lay down or go sniff, or go look out the window. If you keep pushing him to try to do something after he has done it, and he doesn't want to, he's going to think "why should I do it, you'll just make me do it again". If he won't do multiple repetitions then don't ask for them. Greyhounds aren't dogs that typically do well with repetition but some take it to an extreme. Convince him to do it once and ave a HUGE party. He doesn't even need to party with you at this point. Make a huge celebratory fuss, offer him a high value reward, and regardless of if he takes the food or celebrates with you, release him to do whatever it is he wants.

 

Chances are he'll figure out that you like it when he pays attention, that there's good things in t for him, and that he won't be forced to repeat this over and over and pestered again and again... he may start to enjoy learning and become more willing to do more reps.

 

As for teaching him eye contact. Put a high value reward in your closed fist and hold it out to your side. Make sure he knows it is there. Ideally the dog fixates on your closed hand. You can even let the dog sniff and lick at your hand. Eventually the dog will go from staring at your hand to looking at you (I.e. what the heck, dude!?). Click or use your marker word ("yes!") and open your hand so he can take the treat. Again, the reward has to be rewarding to the dog for this to work.

 

In order to train your dog you need to find something he wants. You cannot try to train a dog if you do not have something of value to him. It's like trying to train a child with broccoli. Not going to work. You use candy. You use toys. You use video games. You use "if you do your homework then you can go over to Johnny's house". But it doesn't work to say "if you do your homework I will give you broccoli". Right now your dog views treats as broccoli. You need to find out what video games are to him and use that. One day he may begin to work for treats in certain situations. I can reward Summit with kibble in most situations. When we first started it had to be hot dogs, cheese, chicken, steak. Now I dole out kibble and milkbones just as often as hot dogs. Training itself is now fun and partly rewarding in and of itself.

 

this is a very good point i had not thought of. i hadn't thought about the repetition issue being counter-intuitive, thank you. and putting the treat to the side. i was thinking get him to look at my face but instead this relies on natural behaviors. i knew i was overlooking something simple :)

 

to be honest the video game may be the walk itself. he gets so excited he can barely contain it. maybe a good chance to practice before we go.

 

 

1-2 quick thoughts, might have more later:

 

- In the beginning, all I want is for the dog to look at me. I don't care if he holds the look for a second or two. All he's gotta do is look at me for a split second, "Good dog!" (or click) and treat.

 

- At the very start of a walk with a difficult dog, the very start -- as in, we just stepped outside and haven't gone more than a few steps -- I'll prime the system with my command ("Watch me!" or whatever), get that split-second look, "Good dog!" and treat @ 5-6 times in a row. Then do another 1-2 after 5 steps, another 1-2 after 10 more steps, then periodically every 20-30 steps. Meanwhile we are walking briskly and we are getting some "Good dog!" (or click) and treat for "Heel!". If this is a potty or relaxation walk too, then after a bit I'll give my release/we-are-done-training-now word, slow down, and let him stop and smell the roses for a time. Then maybe last 3-4 minutes of the walk we'll resume our briskness, crisp heeling, etc.

 

1. my logic for the sec or two was worrying that if i praised and rewarded as he looked away i would be encouraging the wrong action. i will reward even the smallest from now on.

 

2. this is my plan almost to the letter, but with all the goings on outside making him nervous i dont think we are quite there yet.

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Guest k9soul

 

1. my logic for the sec or two was worrying that if i praised and rewarded as he looked away i would be encouraging the wrong action. i will reward even the smallest from now on.

 

 

This is why clickers are so useful. You can immediately mark the behavior that was good and not miss it so there is no confusion about what he's being rewarded for. A voice cue can work too but the clicker is such a uniform sound and I find it easier to do at the exact moment of the behavior.

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During the times you're focused on training, you should be able to "Good dog!" (or click) + treat the instant his eyes shift TO you. Timing is important, but I think you can do it :) . For now don't worry about what happens next.

 

When I'm working with a difficult or new-to-training dog, I use a lot of "Good dog!"+treat. I expect some folks think I am nuts, on the order of, "Dear god, is that woman going to reward her dog for every freaking step?!" Darn near it, if the dog is maintaining a nice heel, watching me, etc. (For this purpose, I like the soft and chewy Buddy Biscuits because you can break them into teeny tiny pieces, they're really stinky, and they're not so gooey that you can't put them in your pocket.) .... I guess what I'm saying here is, set your sights really low at the beginning. Find something he's doing right that you can reward happily and often, and for the "eek!" moments just try to keep him under control for now. It sounds like he is at a point where he needs first to learn to work with you, because you are really really fun to be with! :lol But, I think you know what I mean. Best luck!

Star aka Starz Ovation (Ronco x Oneco Maggie*, litter #48538), Coco aka Low Key (Kiowa Mon Manny x Party Hardy, litter # 59881), and mom in Illinois
We miss Reko Batman (Trouper Zeke x Marque Louisiana), 11/15/95-6/29/06, Rocco the thistledown whippet, 04/29/93-10/14/08, Reko Zema (Mo Kick x Reko Princess), 8/16/98-4/18/10, the most beautiful girl in the whole USA, my good egg Joseph aka Won by a Nose (Oneco Cufflink x Buy Back), 09/22/2003-03/01/2013, and our gentle sweet Gidget (Digitizer, Dodgem by Design x Sobe Mulberry), 1/29/2006-11/22/2014, gone much too soon. Never forgetting CJC's Buckshot, 1/2/07-10/25/10.

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Guest VelvetOkie

yea i have to admit i have been really slack with him :( he has been with me 15 months and he is such a good dog but i haven't enforced any training beyond what he has already. and since he loves his walks so much but still a spook, its time to expand.

 

all these responses have been a huge help and i am going to try the new ideas first thing in the morning :)

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to be honest the video game may be the walk itself. he gets so excited he can barely contain it. maybe a good chance to practice before we go.

Perfect! That's exactly what I mean. Hopefully some of the other tips from folks can get you going in the house to start with your focus training. Once you get outside with it, simply allowing him to continue on the walk might be part of your reward for attention. :)

Kristie and the Apex Agility Greyhounds: Kili (ATChC AgMCh Lakilanni Where Eagles Fly RN IP MSCDC MTRDC ExS Bronze ExJ Bronze ) and Kenna (Lakilanni Kiss The Sky RN MADC MJDC AGDC AGEx AGExJ). Waiting at the Bridge: Retired racer Summit (Bbf Dropout) May 5, 2005-Jan 30, 2019

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The other thing to be aware of is that, if he isn't a dominant dog, he may find making and maintaining eye contact with you intimidating. That can be a challenging gesture in the dog world, so if he is turning his head away, it may be that he is trying to show you that he doesn't want any sort of confrontation with you. This can be a hard thing to do, but when you ask him to focus on you, try and make your eyes "soft", not hard and focussed on him. That is less intimidating, but counter-intuitive when you are trying to get a focussed stare.

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Guest VelvetOkie

i dont "feel" like thats the issue. i have had dogs like that before and its seems like its a different demeanor with the looking away and his seems almost like sticking his nose upwards instead of the downward that you get with a submissive pup but i will definitely keep that in mind in case he has a different "look". these greys are definitely a different breed in every way!!

 

and yes krissy, everyone has been very helpful! i cant wait to try out the new advice :)

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Guest VelvetOkie

The other thing to be aware of is that, if he isn't a dominant dog, he may find making and maintaining eye contact with you intimidating. That can be a challenging gesture in the dog world, so if he is turning his head away, it may be that he is trying to show you that he doesn't want any sort of confrontation with you. This can be a hard thing to do, but when you ask him to focus on you, try and make your eyes "soft", not hard and focussed on him. That is less intimidating, but counter-intuitive when you are trying to get a focussed stare.

 

actually i have been paying attention to this in other interactions tonight and he doesnt want to look right at me other times but when hes excited and playful its different. if it is a submissive thing how do i work with this??

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Guest Giselle

Forget the "dominance v.s. submissive" gesture stuff. Forget it, forget it, forget it. It's unhelpful and wrong. Dominance is a trait about the relationship between two conspecifics (two animals of the same species). Dominance is NOT a personality or behavioral trait. You cannot do anything called a "dominant behavior". There is no such thing. Dominance refers to a relationship, not specific behaviors or personalities. And, unless you're a dog, dominance doesn't mean squat between you and your dog! We are homo sapiens. They are canis familiaris. We are not the same species. Dominance does not exist between our relationships. Again, no such thing!

 

If the goal is to teach a strong Focus outside of the house, we must first teach it to be rock-solid in the house first. For example, before you were taught calculus, you had to understand basic algebra and trigonometry first. Getting strong focus from dogs in distracting environments is like calculus to them. It's hard, and it requires a lot of foundational work. At this stage, it sounds like your dog is still learning basic arithmetic. So, to get him up to the level where we can have confidence in his focusing abilities outside the house, we need to teach Focus as an incredibly strong, fun, and automatic behavior IN the house, first.

 

I would also suggest avoiding luring and using free-shaping instead. Taking a treat and holding it to our face is luring. It works great in the short-term, but the dog only learns to follow the treat. He won't actually learn that your eyes are what got him the treat. Free-shaping is what Krissy described. I have a video that shows a bit of the focus training in the beginning, but it's sped up:

http://www.progressdog.com/video-focused-heel-and-lat-technique.html

You'll find lots more available online, maybe Youtube it. It's often called "Doggie Zen". The key is to practice this over and over again inside the house and in all different situations. Practice it before giving your dog his food, like so: http://smg.photobucket.com/user/LSophie/media/Videos/FeedingTime.mp4.html?sort=3&o=17

Practice it before letting the dog out to go potty. Practice it before putting on the leash. Practice it so often until the dog understands, "Whenever I want something good, I need to focus on my owner first." Once you reach this point, you've unlocked the door to further training success :) It's simple, but it take consistency and practice. Good luck!

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Guest VelvetOkie

using krissy's suggestions, we did a few rounds when i came home today using milkbones since that is the obligatory treat when we get home :) holding the treats to the side i soon got the "what the hell mom? cmon" look and both were rewarded. it only took about 3 tries before he started looking at me much quicker to get the treat. so i think i get the idea now and it seems much more doable!

 

thank everyone for the suggestions, and thank you giselle for the videos and info on finding more. i am a visual learner so that will help me

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He's a hound. I think their mentality is different.

 

For what it's worth, "focus training" is a relatively new thing. In the "old days," you knew a dog was paying attention to you because he was focused on you. You didn't teach that as a sort of trick. It was all about establishing a relationship of trust where the dog knew to look to you for direction.


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Guest VelvetOkie

He's a hound. I think their mentality is different.

 

For what it's worth, "focus training" is a relatively new thing. In the "old days," you knew a dog was paying attention to you because he was focused on you. You didn't teach that as a sort of trick. It was all about establishing a relationship of trust where the dog knew to look to you for direction.

 

yea i knew they had a different mentality to some extent but every day i see more and more just how much!

 

i am using the term focus training to refer back to posts here that used it, but im not sure if what i am after is that entire methodology per se, in the end i just need him to know to focus on me so i can distract him from whatever gets him freaked/spooked. so yes, i suppose it is mainly a trust thing.

 

P.S. I love this place :)

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If he's truly freaked/spooked, the training may not help unless you start before he's spooked. I have a shy boy and if he's spooked he won't acknowledge his name, take anything to eat including steak and all he wants to do is drag me home or hide under things.

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Guest Giselle

I'm really confused by a previous statement. "Focus training" is not a "new trick". Training for focus is as old as obedience itself.

 

I work with many older folks, folks from "the old days" who competed with hundreds of dogs (including sight and scenthounds) in obedience. These folks "from the old days" earned and continue to earn OTCHs and MACHs, and I guarantee you that focus and eye contact were always taught as the first behavior. Strong eye contact and focus has always been the foundation for strong obedience skills. The manner in which it is taught now has changed because the past methods were mostly compulsion based and caused a lot of fallout or washouts. But, no matter what, focus and eye contact were always the foundation. It's not a "trick". It's a learned behavior that is practiced over and over again to ensure that the dog is 100% committed to working for you, not blowing you off or ignoring you. "Trust" and "relationship building" are idealistic words we humans like to use to justify handling dogs in questionable ways. It's great if our goal is to philosophize about the nature of dogs. But, in my experience, it's utterly useless in reality and does not help modify dogs' behaviors. Eye contact is solid evidence, something you can bet or rely on, to help bring your dog back from a distracting situation and to modify their behaviors. Focus training isn't new. We just have a better, more scientific understanding of its worth and of how to achieve it now. And, boy, is it worth its weight in gold!

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Guest VelvetOkie

If he's truly freaked/spooked, the training may not help unless you start before he's spooked. I have a shy boy and if he's spooked he won't acknowledge his name, take anything to eat including steak and all he wants to do is drag me home or hide under things.

 

thats pretty much my boy !! except he goes into statue mode usually but a passing dog sends him into "must back out of this harness and run"..

 

so yea we have been working on this inside. with treats, outside, dinner, walk time, anything he wants becomes an exercise. i am pleasantly surprised how fast he picked up looking at me gets him the treat!! now that people here have helped me with a better way i am super optimistic about how well he will pick it up :)

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Batmom, Krissy, and Giselle are three of the most knowledgable and experienced people on this forum. They have given great advice. I think that once you lose the alpha nonsense, you'll be in a better place for training. Also, I would recommend taking some time to observe and learn your dog's specific triggers and cues. What does he look like when he's stressed, scared, excited, overwhelmed? If the dog is over threshold in any of these scenarios, the training will not be effective. It's important to understand when to push their boundaries and when to say, 'This isn't working, let's try something else or stop.' Be aware of your own body language as well- it's very difficult to make any type of progress if your dog is sensing your frustration or anger. I say this because I've taken over a dozen different obedience classes with my dogs, and it still happens to me when my dog isn't quite 'getting it.'

 

Also, I don't think anyone has asked this question yet, but how long have you had this dog? I'm asking because it is so easy to fall into the trap of trying to do too much too soon with a greyhound. It took me six months to a year before I established a level of trust with my dogs to where I could clearly convey my expectations of their behavior. Just making eye contact in the beginning is a big deal. You may have to take a hundred baby steps before you can get the focus you want in a distracting situation (which is 100% normal and okay). A lot of that will come naturally when the bond is solidified, and the dog automatically looks to you for confidence and reassurance.

 

Lastly, I should mention that in the training world, greyhounds are considered one of the more 'difficult to train' breeds, so don't feel like there's anything wrong with your particular dog. They won't work out of the sheer pleasure of pleasing a human. That's just how they are. You sometimes have to get creative in order to make it an enjoyable, fun, experience. And if there ever comes a time when neither of you are having fun, then it's time to stop and reevaluate.

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