Challenges at 8 months

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Challenges at 8 months

Postby BARB J » Tue Feb 11, 2014 1:04 pm

Are you tired of yet more whining from Puppy Parents?

We are still questioning whether our Gus is a normal Brit puppy or if we need to schedule what we jokingly call 'an intervention!'

He's eight months, neutered, and just finishing his second puppy class at a center we're quite happy with, but we've some serious (and not so serious) issues that we feel we are making little progress with. Maybe some of you can weigh in on whether we should be concerned or not. Here they are in no particular order.

#1 At least a couple of times daily, Gus will jump up - almost always on just my husband - snapping at him, grabbing his clothes, etc. This is accompanied by play bowing, barking, etc, so we don't feel threatened, but is unacceptable! My husband will immediately turn his back and attempt to exit the room, while Gus snaps at his backside. It's not always easy to do without screaming 'Off!' Occasionally, giving him a command that's automatic for him, like "Down!" will work, but not usually.

Why just my husband? And why are we making no progress, despite being consistent with not engaging him?

#2 Humping is a new, favorite pastime. We've removed the objects of his affection, but when he finds something new and wonderful, we've been redirecting to another fun activity. It seems like now he searches for trouble, because his reward is an immediate playtime with us.

#3 Still little or no recall while outside. We're working on it several times daily, but are we way behind the curve at 8 months?

#4 Does not play well with others. In spite of supervised puppy playtime at the trainers, he still insists on jumping on the backs of his playmates and does not change his behavior when corrected by the other dogs. Of course, at the training facility they interrupt play when it escalates. This is also problem when we take him to the park (not a dog park, just a large grassy area) and he runs into unleased dogs whose masters don't call them off. One dog on a leash and one running free is a bad scenario. We have no opportunity to play with friends' dogs (they are mostly very senior and have never been socialized to begin with). My son's dogs are used to very rough play together and even one on one Gus doesn't handle it well at all - he goes so crazy so fast that all of us are quick concerned someone's going to get hurt. And like I said, my son is used to accepting rough play, so it's not just us over-reacting.

#5 Gus is a model student in class. We practice the concept of Nothing in Life is Free at home. But, my teen will often decide whether or not it's worth it to him to comply. Out of the blue yesterday, I asked him, while he was calm, to sit. Something that's automatic to him now and requires no thought. He literally looked at me, sniffed each of my hands and noting no treat, just turned and walked away! This is why he now answers to "Little Sh_ _!" I followed him to the other room, told him to sit with a tiny piece of kibble in one hand, and he again sniffed both hands and promptly sat! I have treats stashed all over the house, but really now . . . at 8 months not to sit on command? We don't treat every single time, and will often give multiple commands before rewarding, but he still wants to call the shots.

#6 He cannot be trusted outside alone. We have a fenced yard, but he's so curious (read 'destructive') that unless he's watched the entire time he's out there, or on a leash, he'll come in with parts of our sprinkler system, or branches from living shrubs. I'm not talking about leaving him out there for hours - this is done within 5 minutes. The sprinkler damage is becoming a huge source of stress to us since it requires constant repairs.

#7 Won't settle down to rest except when crated and has only once entered the crate on his own. A treat is required. Not a big deal, but I hate to crate him every time he needs to settle down.

#8 Goes completely nuts over infrequent guests arriving. We've staged arrivals time after time with both treat giving on the floor as they arrive, with guests tossing treats on the floor as they arrive, and with guests exiting when jumped upon. No improvement.

#9 Howls and bays every time the phone rings and for several minutes after we answer (and try to talk.) After 4 months of this we had the epiphany to change the ring and lower the volume. Got all of two days out of that. Have tried calling the home phone with our cell and rewarding him after silence after one ring, then two. No improvement. This seems to be howling and baying like it hurts his ears, not to alert us.

We have not had an exceptionally bad winter, so he doesn't have cabin fever. His normal daily routine is as follows: a short 'business' walk with my husband about 7am, after which he likes to cuddle (the only time he will) on the sofa and nap. Then some breakfast (nearly all his meals are in an interactive toy) and about 10-15 minutes of training/trick homework. Then, my husband will take him for about a 2 mile walk, then it's a nap in the crate. We'll do a bit more training after our lunch, followed by ball chasing in the house or tug. In the late afternoon we usually take him to a place where he can run on a 50 foot lead (no recall, remember?) chasing balls (or mostly his nose.) Another nap and before dinner a bit more training and another slow mile walk from me practicing loose leash training.

After dinner, it's usually some more tug or ball chasing before hoping he'll settle down with a chewy or knuckle bone. If food or chewing is not involved he's a hellion. By 8:30 he falls apart and won't be good for anything! He really just needs to go to bed for the night and sleeps until about 6:30.

I think he'd enjoy FlyBall but there's no place for that here. I'm thinking about an agility class, although I probably can't get into anything advanced because I don't think that I could run an entire course with him. But getting started on the training would be fun for us both. Our trainer recommended Lure Coursing which I'll also look into - with no recall yet, that would be in the future. There's a Jumping Puppies1 class coming up that I think they must be adding just for Gus! I'm only half kidding.

The school we attend is positive training only. I hate to even broach the subject here, but sometimes do Brits need more than that? I'd hate to ever resort to an electronic collar but that was ultimately what saved my son's rescue who had no recall and would get out and run onto their busy street. He was also a biter (unlike Gus) with strangers which was practically a death sentence for him. They used a well respected trainer who cost them a fortune but he was hired for the life of the dog, and they haven't needed him back (or had to use the collar) now for over two years.

Things that ARE going well - learns commands quickly and enjoys the training, will go to his rug and stay there while I cook if rewarded regularly with bits of kibble to stay, will wait for a treat put right in front of his nose for up to 2 minutes so gaining some impulse control, he's getting better on a loose leash, and calming down a bit with free access to the house while we are home. We have no choice there as he jumps or pushes aside gates and opens doors. (Bonus - my house has never been so clutter free - ever!)
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Re: Challenges at 8 months

Postby BARB J » Tue Feb 11, 2014 1:16 pm

Sorry for all the typos and for posting without a thank you in advance. My laptop was down to it's last little bit of power and I didn't want to risk losing my rant.
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Re: Challenges at 8 months

Postby tobster » Tue Feb 11, 2014 2:10 pm

Oh Barb, I feel your pain. Hope you don't mind if I chime in.

#1 Same problem with Toby, except he does it with everyone. I think my problem is that most of my friends love jumping/rough-housing with him, and so it's often reinforced. This only happens during greetings though.

#3 Toby has terrible recall too, but he responds well to a few helpful commands. "Let's go" is what I use when I want him to come towards me when he's off leash (like he's sniffing a bush and I've continued walking, I yell 'let's go' and he catches up to me, and I give him a treat). The other trick is "touch." This is probably the best command I've taught him, because I can easily direct his body to any place I need using my hand. Not sure if Gus knows it yet, but you simply train him to touch his nose to your open palm. You can get a reliable "touch" much faster than a reliable "come." For short distances it works well to get him to come up to me off leash, and has been invaluable for me since he still does not have a reliable recall. It also works for getting him off the couch, out of a room, close by my side, interrupting play, etc. I think it's such a specific task, that it's much easier to hardwire (like "sit") then other more complicated commands ("off," "come," "leave it" (when off-leash) etc.). I'm still working on making those other commands more reliable.

#4 The way Gus plays doesn't sound weird to me-- Toby jumps on other dogs' backs and they jump on his. My puppy class looked for specific emotional responses (tail, ear, butt, and head position) not types of play. I think this might just vary from trainer to trainer, and Gus may not be doing anything inherently bad. I think the more he plays with other dogs his energy level, the more he will understand what is acceptable. Have you tried doggy daycare? If you can find a reputable one with good supervision, it will help socialize Gus and get out some of his energy. Toby was a bad playmate until he started going to daycare (the other dogs taught him a thing or two).

#5 Toby has an attitude too. Is this just an age thing?

#7 I'm really curious-- what happens if you don't crate him? Would he never take a nap? Maybe you should just wait him out. He'll eventually fall asleep (maybe on the couch by you or maybe he'll go to his crate).. he can't go the whole day without a nap. (anecdote: I use to crate Toby when I had people over for a movie if he didn't settle down right away. Then I decided to just wait him out. We could barely watch the movie for the first 45 minutes (he was jumping on everyone, pacing, ringing his potty bell) and then he finally settled next to me on the couch. Next time it was 20 minutes, and eventually he learned to settle himself right away). It might take a week or two, but I think he might eventually learn to regular his naps on his own.

#8 Same.. help. please. :D

I hope it helps to know you're not alone. As Barb said, thanks in advance for any advice!
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Re: Challenges at 8 months

Postby BARB J » Tue Feb 11, 2014 3:40 pm

Good to see you, Toby's Mom! :D

I appreciate your input! We know 'touch' but have never used it like you do! In fact, they introduced it as a great way to have your pup say 'hello' to a child. I've only used it with Gus calm and in a 'sit' and other than that, thought it was a rather useless command. I see from you how I can branch out with it and use it for other situations.

Regarding playing with other dogs. Someone (so sorry I can't give you credit by name) linked me to her videos showing acceptable play. I'm poor at picking up the dog's body language but what I've witnessed is more frantic than that. Or else, it's because I'm worried about it getting out of hand. Our trainers hate day care because their opinion is there are none in our area that are well enough supervised. We live in a big city, so I may have to make some visits and check them out on my own. I believe there are some benefits and don't take every thing they say as what's best for Gus.

The trainers got together and watched a video of Gus playing - I didn't know they filmed it, let alone reviewed videos as a staff - and believe he's not aggressive at play, but scared and frantic. They have him playing alone with a nippy Aussie right now, but that's better than the Great Dane and Mastiff! :) I'm sure I should be exposing him to more, not less, even though I recognize it makes me uncomfortable.

Your suggestion to 'wait Gus out' on napping is a great one. Since he's learned to open doors, he's overwhelmed at all the possibilities for mischief EVERYWHERE so it's extra hard to settle down. Over the past couple of weeks I've tried to introduce him to a room at a time by puppy proofing a room as much as possible, blocking the door with the two of us inside, giving him his favorite long lasting treat like a stuffed Kong, and ignoring him. It took him 90 minutes the first day (in our Master bedroom) for him to stop exploring and give his attention to his treat. We're down to 40 minutes yesterday - hooray - so are making progress. I still have to steer him away from trouble I can't puppy proof but those are the only interactions I have with him unless he lies down quietly for a nano second and gets a kibble bit or a 'good doggie!'

Typing that out makes me realize that 40 minutes IS progress!

Oh, on walks our "let's go!" is intended to let Gus start moving again. I swear he's a nose connected to a dog for he eats and grabs all sorts of things on our walks that I can't even spot before there are in his mouth. Instead of 'touch' to call him back, he gets a treat if he comes back to be with the command 'By me!' So, we're attempting the same results with different commands, I guess. And getting somewhere, if not fast.

While typing this Gus unplugged a lamp in the next room, drug it across the floor and then barked at it since it had the audacity to follow him! I thought he was just barking at something outside so was ignoring it. I finally investigated and there he was, rump in the air, tail waging, and dancing around his new toy. *sigh*
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Re: Challenges at 8 months

Postby LizBot » Tue Feb 11, 2014 4:17 pm

My Brittany is still a baby, but I have a couple suggestions based on my past dogs I had growing up. :) Also, Jazz is very treat crazy as well... although he hasn't begun manipulating/ignoring me for them yet. And he better not start. :P

I don't know what you're using for treats, but I recommend switching to something boring like small chunks of carrot. I notice when I use treats that smell delicious with Jazz, it doesn't take long for him to get overly excited about the food and difficult to engage in training.

Have you considered clicker training? I had a Cocker Spaniel that was difficult to recall until we switched to using a clicker. The clicker marks exactly which behavior you want to see and associates the click with something good, instead of trying to get a treat to your puppy before he associates the reward with something else. I'm starting to do clicker training with Jazz now, though he's only 9-weeks-old, and he can already sit, lay down, stay, come, and shake.

Also recommend maybe investing in some puzzle toys or teaching Gus to "find" different scents, something to keep him mentally stimulated. It sounds like he might be bored, or just needs some direction for his playtime -- especially outside. I know I've already got an entire basket of toys for Jazz because he needs that much mental stimulation and chew time. :P

I hope you find some solutions soon! That sounds incredibly frustrating, I can't imagine having to repair my sprinkler system all the time and spend 40+ minutes letting my pet check out a room would make me a very happy camper. Good luck!
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Re: Challenges at 8 months

Postby Lisa » Tue Feb 11, 2014 7:12 pm

Puppies, Puppies!!!! I will admit that I don't recall having some of these challenges with Charm...but, she's a girl, time may have dulled my memories, I have multiple dogs, and I'm so used to fostering that lots of things that drive most people nuts are just every day things for me to deal with :D

Okay, incredibly LOOOONG reply here.....

BARB J wrote:#1 At least a couple of times daily, Gus will jump up - almost always on just my husband - snapping at him, grabbing his clothes, etc.

Well - ignoring isn't working, so maybe it's time to change the approach. Gus wants attention, he wants to play, and this is how he thinks he's going to get it. Instead of ignoring or telling him "off" or leaving the room, can you take just a few minutes to interact with him in a different manner? For example, when he does his psycho pounce-on-dad thing, gently pick him up (at arms length to avoid teeth, if needed), set him down on the ground, ask Gus if he's "ready" (or whatever word you use to signify either play or training time) and then either have a short training session or play time or both. If you're clicker training, this could be a chance to just shape a new behavior, which is both play and work for the dog. Just spend 5 or 10 minutes on it, then tell him you're done.

Which brings up something else - I've found it's really helpful to have words that signify play/training time and when that time has ended. I usually just use "ready" with my dogs to mean that we're going to interact in some way, be that playing, training, running around, whatever. I usually use "okay, we're done" to let the dogs know that the session has ended and they need to go entertain themselves. I didn't really train this, just started using the words at the beginning and ending of interactions, and the dogs picked up on it.

BARB J wrote:#2 Humping is a new, favorite pastime. We've removed the objects of his affection, but when he finds something new and wonderful, we've been redirecting to another fun activity. It seems like now he searches for trouble, because his reward is an immediate playtime with us.

You might try just stopping the behavior rather than re-directing. He might just be getting over aroused and sometimes, that comes out as humping. When Buster starts that (yes, at 9+ years old), I usually just gently pull him off of whatever he's humping by using the scruff of his neck. Then, I set him on all 4 feet a little away from the object of his affections, and just silently wait until he calms himself down, then I let go of him and walk away.

BARB J wrote:#3 Still little or no recall while outside. We're working on it several times daily, but are we way behind the curve at 8 months?

I don't think you're behind the curve. Recalls are HARD! Especially with a bird dog that is bred to work independently out ahead of the handler. For my dogs, I reward recalls every single time, with very high value treats. Make sure you're not asking for too much, too soon. Either work distractions, or work distance, but not both. If he's solid on his recall in the house, even with lots of distractions, move it outside, and try for minimal distractions. When he's good outside, close up, work some distance. When he's good with some distance, add in some distractions, but decrease the distance you're asking him to recall from. Practice a ton! Make coming to you the best thing ever. And, do lots of recall then release back to whatever he was doing. You don't want recall to always mean the fun ends. I take Charm to the dog park, call her to me, tell her how awesome she is, give her a treat, and then tell her to go play and send her back off. After a while, she starts to want to stick with me instead of running off because I've become more rewarding just by letting her go do what she wants to.

BARB J wrote:#4 Does not play well with others. In spite of supervised puppy playtime at the trainers, he still insists on jumping on the backs of his playmates and does not change his behavior when corrected by the other dogs. Of course, at the training facility they interrupt play when it escalates.

Honestly, some of that is just Brittany Puppy. I've found that Brittanys just play different from other dogs. They tend to be more cat-like, with pouncing on other dogs. Charm still pounces on other dogs, and she's over 2 years. It's the way they play. He needs the chance to learn from other dogs that not all dogs like to play that way. The only way he's going to learn it is if he's corrected by other dogs. And, he's going to try it with each new dog...his little puppy brain will go "okay, Sam the Lab doesn't like me to pounce on him, but what about Ben the Golden...nope...okay, what about Fido the Aussie...nope...okay, what about..." It's not so much not playing well as playing differently. If you feel uncomfortable with the play, then it's your choice to stop it. However, I can promise you that if Gus starts to feel uncomfortable (or the other dog does), he will disengage on his own and either come to you or just step back for a bit.

BARB J wrote:#5 Gus is a model student in class. We practice the concept of Nothing in Life is Free at home. But, my teen will often decide whether or not it's worth it to him to comply. Out of the blue yesterday, I asked him, while he was calm, to sit. Something that's automatic to him now and requires no thought. He literally looked at me, sniffed each of my hands and noting no treat, just turned and walked away!

So, he's learned that commands might be optional. If you repeat commands on occasion, he's learned that it's really optional to follow it the first time, because you'll tell him again. He's learned that you'll give him a treat when he does what you ask, so he is making value judgments of whether the treat is worth it or not. If you're not already using a clicker or verbal marker, you might consider it. That eventually becomes the reinforcer, rather than the treat, which lessens the chance of the dog making value judgments. To Gus, right now, sit apparently means "if I have a treat, sit, and I'll give it to you." You want sit to mean "when I say sit, your butt hits the floor." I teach this with a clicker...when their butt hits the floor, I click and toss a treat. they learn to pair the word sit with their rear-end hitting the floor, not with a treat.

BARB J wrote:#6 He cannot be trusted outside alone. We have a fenced yard, but he's so curious (read 'destructive')

Really, he's just a busy little guy and this is pretty typical of this age. I don't think I left Charm outside alone until she was well past one year old.

BARB J wrote:#7 Won't settle down to rest except when crated and has only once entered the crate on his own. A treat is required. Not a big deal, but I hate to crate him every time he needs to settle down.

Have you tried having him on a leash and just ignoring him until he settles? Maybe he needs to just learn how to settle on his own, and that might mean waiting him out. What I usually do is put the leash on the dog, put my foot on the leash so that they have enough to stand up, sit, or lie down, but not wander off or jump on me. Then, I just sit and read or watch tv, and wait until they settle. When they do, I acknowledge it with a quiet "good dog" and go back to ignoring them. Practice each night for a bit.

BARB J wrote:#8 Goes completely nuts over infrequent guests arriving. We've staged arrivals time after time with both treat giving on the floor as they arrive, with guests tossing treats on the floor as they arrive, and with guests exiting when jumped upon. No improvement.


Yeah - guests are FUN! What about sending him to his dog bed or mat when guests arrive? Or putting him on a leash so he can't jump, and then basically ignoring him until he settles a little bit?

BARB J wrote:#9 Howls and bays every time the phone rings and for several minutes after we answer (and try to talk.) After 4 months of this we had the epiphany to change the ring and lower the volume. Got all of two days out of that. Have tried calling the home phone with our cell and rewarding him after silence after one ring, then two. No improvement. This seems to be howling and baying like it hurts his ears, not to alert us.


Squirt him with a squirt bottle at the first peep. Give him a toy to put in his mouth. Send him to his mat. Basically, shock him out of the behavior (squirt with water), and then give him incompatible behaviors...he can't howl if there's a toy in his mouth

BARB J wrote:The school we attend is positive training only. I hate to even broach the subject here, but sometimes do Brits need more than that? I'd hate to ever resort to an electronic collar but that was ultimately what saved my son's rescue who had no recall and would get out and run onto their busy street. He was also a biter (unlike Gus) with strangers which was practically a death sentence for him. They used a well respected trainer who cost them a fortune but he was hired for the life of the dog, and they haven't needed him back (or had to use the collar) now for over two years.


There really is no such thing as positive only...even just removing a thing the dog likes is a "negative." What the school probably means is that they don't use force based training, positive punishments, or negative rewards. (And here you get the quick behavior terms primer - Positive Punishment = adding something to make a behavior less likely to occur - ex: dog barks, bark collar shocks dog, dog is less likely to bark. Negative Punishment = removing something to make a behavior less likely to occur - ex: dog jumps on person, person walks away, dog is less likely to jump on person. Positive Reward = adding something to make a behavior more likely to occur - ex: dog sits, give dog a treat, dog more likely to sit when told. Negative Reward = remove something to make a behavior more likely to occur - ex: apply pressure to dog's rear until dog sits, dog sits, remove pressure from rear, dog will be more likely to sit when pressure is applied to rear to get the pressure to be removed.)

So, with that said, here's an absolutely awesome article on positive reinforcement training and why it might not be working as you'd like it to:
http://awesomedogs.wordpress.com/2014/0 ... or-my-dog/

I do think there are some things that can really only be taught using positive punishment - specifically, snake avoidance training comes to mind. Anything else really can be taught using other methods, but you have to put in more time and be more consistent with it. I know lots of folks that say you can't teach a Britt a recall without a shock collar...not true, I've seen it done, and Buster has a good recall...it takes longer but it's possible.
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Re: Challenges at 8 months

Postby BARB J » Tue Feb 11, 2014 7:19 pm

Thanks for replying LizBot -

I need to find more information on scent training. My trainer mentioned that, as well but I've no clue what she's talking about. He's truly a nose connected to a pup.

Gus is just as happy with a carrot or a kibble chip as he is with a piece of chicken. He'll do whatever I ask for any type of food treat or time with a special toy. If nothing's offered, he'll perform if he feels like it! Maybe, I should do some training right after meals when a food treat, in general, isn't as tasty!

I'll look at more puzzle toys - about all he hasn't destroyed involve treating. The plush ones like the Squirrels in the Tree Trunk lasted about a week only because we took it away everytime he started ripping into it! I feel I've bought one of everything at Amazon already! With both of us home most of the time we interact with him a lot - in fact, I've wondered if he needs LESS stimulation!

Our class is doing clicker training but we've had some problems. My husband has a hand tremor so the clicker was actually slowing things down as he tried to use that quickly and then also quickly produce the treat. So, we've switched to an immediate, happy, verbal, sing songy "YES!!!" to substitute for the clicker and it means the same thing to Gus - a treat is on its way. In fact, I started with the clicker but it seems more consistent to have us doing the same thing with him. Our instructor prefers the clicker, but sometimes you have to work with what you can follow through with.

I appreciate both the sympathy and the ideas to try. He's a stubborn little dude but we're not going to give up on him.
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Re: Challenges at 8 months

Postby BARB J » Tue Feb 11, 2014 7:27 pm

Lisa - Bless you for all that!

We are headed out the door for Gus' final exam :P so I've only had time to scan your reply. I'll reply tomorrow - I appreciate every word.
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Re: Challenges at 8 months

Postby Lisa » Tue Feb 11, 2014 7:28 pm

BARB J wrote:Our class is doing clicker training but we've had some problems. My husband has a hand tremor so the clicker was actually slowing things down as he tried to use that quickly and then also quickly produce the treat. So, we've switched to an immediate, happy, verbal, sing songy "YES!!!" to substitute for the clicker and it means the same thing to Gus - a treat is on its way. In fact, I started with the clicker but it seems more consistent to have us doing the same thing with him. Our instructor prefers the clicker, but sometimes you have to work with what you can follow through with.


And - one more thing to add to my incredibly long post from above....

I LOVE the button type clickers - you can order an iClick from Karen Pryor's website, and PetsMart usually carries the Triple Crown clicker that is also a button. They don't last as long, because the button sometimes falls (or gets chewed) off, but you can hold them in the palm of your hand and just squeeze to click or press it against your leg, or even have it under your foot and click with your foot. The benefit of the clicker is that it is a neutral, consistent, fast noise to mark the behavior. Works well for folks with hand or coordination issues (or just clumsy people like me).

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Re: Challenges at 8 months

Postby BARB J » Wed Feb 12, 2014 12:26 pm

Finally have time to respond to Lisa's comments. As usual, when I post, I get great suggestions. And empathy. Between this site and our training center, we'll turn Gus into a good dog eventually.

First of all, I'll look into those other clickers. It seems important enough to try to make that work.

Lisa, every time I've talked to the trainer about Gus 'attacking' my husband she's always told us to leave the room. Your mindset of (paraphrasing here) "that's not working so try something else" makes so much sense! I'm always a rule follower so sometimes I do the same thing over and over and over without stopping to rethink it.

So, at last night's final class, when I asked her once again about this problem (after already reading your suggestion) it was like you two had talked to each other. She said it was time to try something else and basically it was your advice. In person, she went one step further, trying to pinpoint when and why it happens. With prodding we realized it mostly happens when Gus goes out for his quick, short (maybe 10 minutes is all) 'business' walk first thing in the morning. We think he's just frustrated that pre-dawn walk is over so fast when he's just getting started. So, as soon as they come through the door, my husband plans to engage in some ball tossing, tug, or even have a stuffed Kong ready so the fun's not quite over so fast. It worked today! :P

We already do the signal for playtime - just a carry over from our last dog, I guess, since no one's ever told us to do it. We use, "Ready?" to signal the beginning of a training or playtime, and Gus immediately plops down into a 'down.' When it's over, he gets a 'Game's over!" and I put the toy or treats away and show him my empty palms. I do think that might settle him down when he's wild if we follow through with actual playtime.

Regarding the humping, will try removing him, rather than rewarding him with playtime. Brits are good at manipulation and I do think he's seeking interaction with us (as well as the pillow!) :oops:

I guess we are actually doing okay with recall, and have been expecting too much. Forward progress is still progress. I don't know if this is common in training, but we have two recalls - the usual 'Come!' which we are still working on, but also a more urgent recall, which we've chosen to use the command 'NOW!!!! for. 'NOW!!! is meant for absolute 100% never-to-be-ignored situations, where the pup is never, ever allowed to refuse the command even once.

Right now, we only use "NOW!" when we are absolutely certain he will obey (he's calm, giving us his attention, and not engaged in anything very interesting) and when he responds the best treats ever practically fall from the sky in copious amounts while we make happy fools of ourselves. If he ever ignores the command we never let it go, but actually go get him and lead him to us. He's actually doing good with that if we plan for him not to fail - even when we've upped the ante from inside the house, to the yard, and even the park. I'd imagine zero success, though, if a bird or dog or any other distraction entered the picture. But, in 'staging' his NOWs!!!! he usually comes immediately at full speed.

I appreciate being reminded to not be asking too much, too soon. Sometimes I have to be reminded of that numerous times. I almost think we are training ourselves more than our pups! I was complaining to our trainer a few weeks ago that Gus would go to his rug while we were having dinner but would not stay there! She asked what I was doing to make that too hard for him! And, it dawned on me, that I simply had the rug where it's always been - right by the sink - and he just needed it to be moved closer to us! He still doesn't stay for the duration of the meal, but he stays several minutes, rather than mere seconds and is learning to relax there rather than readying himself to spring right up from the sphinx position! :lol:

Guilty as charged with repeating commands. My husband and I are constantly pointing out to each other that we've given Gus a command multiple times. And I'll sneak a silent hand signal in there, too, for good measure! :wink: Another reason for trying to get us both to use a clicker.

It looks like we'll need to develop a thicker skin on the socialization with other dogs, after you pointing out that Gus has to learn from many interactions. I'm horrible at reading body language and knowing when to bring things to a close. There were three very short play times at class last night - each maybe about 2 minutes long. I finally asked if they stopped the sessions because of Gus, and they said it wasn't going well for any of them. They said Gus was terrified each time. First, they paired him with an Aussie who nipped him (he nips any dog he plays with) and the second time with the huge Mastiff. Then, they tried all four at once, which added a Great Dane to the mix. Not sure if anyone learned anything from that round!

I hope by my own postings and rantings, others have learned as much as I have. Thank you all.



Gus passed the class but taking the final is individual so needs to be scheduled. I really want him to get his S.T.A.R. certificate (and I think he's ready for that) so he can eventually become a Canine Good Citizen. That seems a long way off.
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Re: Challenges at 8 months

Postby tobster » Wed Feb 12, 2014 1:45 pm

I agree with Lisa on the puppy play situation. Brittanys have a certain play style, and they (and all puppies) learn to play well by playing with other dogs. He's going to miss out on these key learnings if he never gets to play with other dogs (especially while he's a puppy). I know daycare sometimes gets a bad rap, but Toby is much more improved since he started going. I no longer have to worry about him engaging an agitated dog, or nipping a sensitive dog, or pouncing too hard. He has learned all of this (including how to read dogs) from other dogs at daycare. It's much easier now to have him at dog parks. That being said, you want to make sure he goes to a good one.

Also one clarification on "touch." I don't use it much for "by me." I use it to get him to come over to me when he's off leash around 10-50 feet away, and I'm worried he won't respond to "come."

Quick question that came up from my puppy class-- The optional part of our final exam was heeling around cones. Toby didn't pass (like not even close!) but most other dogs did. Not at all surprising considering the breeds represented (Aust cattle dog, aussie, GSD, corgi, and two belgian sheepdogs). The trainer basically suggested I give up on teaching a bird dog to heel at this age, and should instead just get a longer (10 ft) leash to stop pulling. She said I could revisit it when he was older, but at this point I would pretty much have to beat him into it (figuratively), which would not be a positive experience for puppy or owner. Thoughts? It makes sense to me-- Toby aced every other command in class, but did not even begin to grasp heel. My trainer is very insistent that heel is a trick, not a behavior. Is this good advice to follow? I don't care about heel at all, but would like Toby to walk on a loose leash, so if a longer leash is the answer, I'll try that.
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Re: Challenges at 8 months

Postby Lisa » Wed Feb 12, 2014 2:02 pm

tobster wrote:Quick question that came up from my puppy class-- The optional part of our final exam was heeling around cones. Toby didn't pass (like not even close!) but most other dogs did. Not at all surprising considering the breeds represented (Aust cattle dog, aussie, GSD, corgi, and two belgian sheepdogs). The trainer basically suggested I give up on teaching a bird dog to heel at this age, and should instead just get a longer (10 ft) leash to stop pulling. She said I could revisit it when he was older, but at this point I would pretty much have to beat him into it (figuratively), which would not be a positive experience for puppy or owner. Thoughts? It makes sense to me-- Toby aced every other command in class, but did not even begin to grasp heel. My trainer is very insistent that heel is a trick, not a behavior. Is this good advice to follow? I don't care about heel at all, but would like Toby to walk on a loose leash, so if a longer leash is the answer, I'll try that.


All of the things we teach our dogs to do are technically "tricks." We put them on cue, we ask for them when we want them. Behaviors are things a dog does naturally and not just when we ask for them. A Brittany is not going to naturally heel. Their job is to be out in front of their handler, looking for birds. But, to get a Brittany to not pull on a leash, you're going to need a good 50 foot line!!! I've found that a longer line does not discourage pulling, it just means they can get farther away from you before they start to pull. You can totally teach heel or just loose leash behaviors at a young age. I think it's actually easier to teach it younger. The more they get used to pulling, the harder it is to teach them not to. WIth a determined puller, you need to reward super frequently. Reward for the dog being next to you, over and over and over. Don't even give them a chance to step away or look away. Every second they are next to you, they are right - click and reward. Your clicker should sound like a machine gun at first - click-treat, click-treat, click-treat. Then, take one step, click-treat, click-treat, click-treat. Every single step, every half step, be rewarding. Once they start to get the idea, reduce the rate of reinforcement. Instead of clicking on half steps, click on just every step. Then just on right (or left) foot steps, then every 3 steps, then every 5 steps....you get the idea.

And - for those of you that have met my dogs - yes, I can teach heel, I just really choose not to ask for it most of the time :D . Pulling doesn't bother me, so I allow it. It's really all in what you are comfortable with. I've taught Buster to heel, but rarely ask for it. I've taught Charm to heel on her show lead, but if she's in her harness or on her agility lead, she's allowed to pull all she wants. If I ask for an easy, she'll stop pulling, and if I ask for a heel, she will.
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Re: Challenges at 8 months

Postby tobster » Wed Feb 12, 2014 2:16 pm

Lisa- That's very encouraging. How does training loose leash differ from the heel training? The constant click/treat method is what we used in class too, but it was still very difficult for Toby. How do I teach that he doesn't have to be by my side, he just can't be at the end of his leash? Or should I just train heel instead?
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Re: Challenges at 8 months

Postby Lisa » Wed Feb 12, 2014 2:25 pm

Heel is actually a very specific position where the dog's shoulders are even with your leg. Pretty much anything else would be considered a loose leash walk. For the sake of teaching, I'd work on having the dog somewhere near the heel position, but unless you're going to do competition obedience, it doesn't need to be exact. As he learns that staying near you is a great thing, you can relax your standards a bit.
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Re: Challenges at 8 months

Postby LizBot » Thu Feb 13, 2014 4:17 am

Barb --

Scent training is essentially teaching your dog to play hide and seek for a particular scent, like a tracking dog. :) I've seen some puzzle toys with multiple door-type compartments for treats that look like they would be great to stuff small things into -- pieces of cloth with certain oils or scents on them, food items, etc. -- and train the dog to be able to isolate different smells. It's very mentally stimulating work so you really only need to do it for a few minutes a day to get a good effect out of it. And it makes for a great party trick! I'm going to try it with Jazz if I have time. I've always wanted a really cool way to always be able to find my cell phone. ;)

I think you're spot on with training after he eats. Maybe try celery as a treat since it has very little taste and is mostly water? I don't know what to do with a dog that will eat virtually anything and love it. I suppose if you did it after dinner, kibble treats would be less appetizing and he might focus more for you at least.

I agree that the button clickers might work for your husband. My hands are often sore -- though not as much as his, I'm sure -- from crocheting and other projects I do, but I find the big button on the StarMark clicker is easy to manipulate even if I have other things in that hand. One bonus I found with clicker training is that I am able to mark the correct behavior even if I'm having trouble finding a treat in my pocket. Jazz still sits there and waits for me to either produce a snack or give him another "job" to do. If the clicker doesn't work for your husband even with a button-style, I'm sure saying "YES!" in a sing song is fine. There's a lady who has an agility champ named Pan (you can find him on YouTube, actually) and I've seen her use that method. Her dog can do about a zillion cool tricks so it obviously works just fine. :)


As for your puppy's play style... After the meeting of the brothers this evening, I can also confirm that our Brittanys here in Nebraska also pounce and have other cat-like behaviors. I'll be interested to see how our puppy class goes when we start next week. Hopefully we don't spend too much time in the Quiet Corner. ;)
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