Training methods

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Training methods

Post by Chucklevision » Sun Jul 10, 2016 5:21 pm

I'm hoping for a first post that I'm not breaking the philosophy rules on training methods but i wanted some advice.

We've been taking our 4 month beagle to puppy classes since he was 10 weeks. Since Dudley is a Beagle he is challenging to train because he can often lose his focus during classes but unlike your typical beagle he is not particularly food motivated.

The trainer is describes herself as no nonsense and the training philosophy at the dog training school is getting the dog to focus on the owner through reward-based training. This week at class Dudley was particularly unfocused ( in fairness to him we were working on their scramble field where lots of wildlife visits and therefore this was a massive distraction for him) and the trainer had to take over handling him as I was struggling to get him focussed. She gave him a yank and has advised us to do the same.

I don't mind giving him a light pull to guide him but I'd rather avoid yanking him if at all possible.

Training him at home is generally fine although he can lose focus there. When this happens we give him a break or play with him until he's ready to return to training.

I suppose I have two questions
1) does the advice to yank Dudley fall within positive reinforcement training?
2) Any bright ideas for getting him focussed in extremely distracting environments to avoid advised yanking?

Any help/hints would be gratefully received

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Re: Training methods

Post by Erica » Sun Jul 10, 2016 7:04 pm

Dudley is still a very young dog - a toddler, in human terms, or younger. He won't have much of an attention span to speak of! What you're doing at home is great. Giving him a break and letting him "chill" is exactly the right response - as someone with attention deficit disorder, if I force myself to focus when I don't have the brainpower for it, it's miserable and most of the time, fruitless. It takes less time to give myself a five minute breather and then start again than to try to force myself to complete the task without breaks.

If he focuses well for five minutes and then gets tired/distracted, keep training sessions to three minutes. Try to end them before he loses focus, so he always looks forward to training :) You can do several sessions per day, but they don't have to be long! One easy trick is to train during commercial breaks if you watch TV.

Yanking on his leash won't do much good in the short or long run. If the rest of the trainer's teaching is reward-motivated and good, and you can get her to leave you alone about leash yanks, you could keep going. When Dudley loses his ability to focus, let him relax and do nothing for a bit - you can still learn by watching and practice what you miss doing in class at home. Something like a bully stick or peanut-butter filled Kong style toy could let him calmly and safely reduce stress - licking and chewing do that for dogs.

In most of the classes I've gone to, for puppies and adults, there are usually a few dogs that just can't focus through the whole class. Our instructors recognize that dogs have very short attention spans, especially puppies, and encourage the owners to let the dogs relax and rest their brains if they're having trouble focusing.

As to getting him to focus in distracting situations: don't ask for much at first. Maybe a single sit, or just looking at you, then let him observe and (if it's safe) explore the environment. Ask for one thing every five minutes, reward it heavily, then let him watch more. The "Look At That" game might be a good one for him - I'll try to remember to link you to a video about it when I get on a computer. As he grows, you'll find he's able to focus for longer and that the world is a little less overstimulating, so you can ask for more attention.

In short, to answer your questions: leash yanks are not advisable or something I recommend, and for now just wait it out!

It's fine to ask about training methods; what we don't want is people advising others to do something outside the forum's ethical grounds. :) So feel free to ask away if you have any other questions at all!
Delta, standard poodle, born 6/30/14

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Re: Training methods

Post by Shalista » Sun Jul 10, 2016 9:26 pm

I have a two-year-old rat terrier with an attention span shorter than the length of his cropped tail :lol: We've taken a ton of classes. I try to use classes as an opportunity to learn what to practice at home and some new strategies and insights into problem areas rather than a dedicated time to work really hard at something. surrounded by so many other dogs and strangers classes can be too trying for even the most focused dogs. give yourself a pat on the back for taking time out of your day to do something with him and just let it be fun. The first class session for a new class i resign myself to not getting anything done at all. Bax is far too interested in trying to say hi to everyone :lol: :lol:
Baxter (AKA Bax, Chuckles, Chuckster) Rat Terrier, born 01/16/13

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Re: Training methods

Post by Chucklevision » Mon Jul 11, 2016 3:02 am

Urgh I did type out a massive reply and lost it! Thanks for your comments Shalista & Erica.

The sessions are about 90mins with 4-8 dogs. We are expected by the trainer to ensure the dogs never go 'self employed' in that time and for a puppy, especially one with a short attention span, I do think that's a bit unachievable. I think I need to stop letting it get to me when Dudley's not "performing" in these types of scenarios as on Saturday I was so stressed I was on the verge of tears and I'm sure he's picking up on it!

Other than than the yanking I don't have any concerns about the training methods so I'll up the ante on his treats/praise and give him a time out in the classes and hopefully get the trainer off my back. Erica that's a really good idea about training during the ad breaks

He really is a great little dog and I would rather keep it that way. I don't know if I've done too much reading and thus too sensitive but it seems really easy to get things wrong and cause more severe issues down the line.

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Re: Training methods

Post by JudyN » Mon Jul 11, 2016 3:25 am

There's a book called Pigs Might Fly for independent-minded dogs (what many people would call 'stubborn') which could be worth a look.

Do be prepared to stand up for your dog in class. I have a sighthound, and he really was not suited to all that 'sit-down-stand-down' stuff - after about 20 minutes he would decide it was a waste of time (and who could blame him?), get bored and frustrated, and start jumping up and generally lose the plot. I'd have been better off staying for the first half-hour and then leaving.
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Re: Training methods

Post by Nettle » Mon Jul 11, 2016 4:06 am

You are a very perceptive owner for realising that a baby beagle finds scent MUCH more interesting than anything else. :) Well done!
A dog is never bad or naughty - it is simply being a dog


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Re: Training methods

Post by Chucklevision » Mon Jul 11, 2016 6:19 am

Thanks Judy N I'll check it out.

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