Still a Rescue!

Posted by kjd
Nov 16, 2010
Sunna is very stressed in the dog club's clubhouse. She obeys the commands, but ignores food unless it is shoved into her mouth -- difficult to do when she is constantly moving her mouth away.

I [I][B]know [/B][/I]she was trained by a previous owner -- no dog naturally does a stand-stay and she did it perfectly the first time she was asked! However, based on her attitude in the clubhouse, I think her early training used harsh methods; she expects corrections for doing it wrong, not a treat for doing it correctly.

I want her to love obedience. This is the first dog I've had, the first dog I've seen, that hasn't loved it. I'm trying some things. However, I am open to any suggestions anyone may have.

Here is what I am doing: First, food and toys are out -- she isn't into toys and, when she is stressed, she ignores food.

So I am being very upbeat in the clubhouse praising her for just being. When I call her to "come," I only want her to be near me no necessity to sit or sit straight. [We are learning "front" as the formal command at home, but it will be some time before I try it in class.] On stays, which she is very good at, I am praising her at frequent intervals, something I would normally do only if I thought she were about to break.

We will attend the Christmas party, and take part in any games that look as if she will have fun. We'll start coming to the meetings, since there aren't any commands being given then. We will try TTouch as a way to calm her in class.

Sunna is supposed to be my obedience dog. She cannot be my obedience dog if she isn't having fun. We cannot do this if we cannot both enjoy it.

Any ideas?
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Nov 16, 2010
Hi kjd,

Sunna sounds like a "Martian" to me that she is not interested in treats! However, I think the reason why she doesn't show interested in treats is because she is stressed/nervous at the formal training. As you know, when timid and insecure dogs are stressed they don't even realize there is a treat in front of them

So the first thing you need to do is to make Sunna comfortable at the training by arriving way ahead of time and walking around, or playing with other friendly dogs etc.

Or, you might want to enroll a different class with a different instructor, or different arena depending on what makes her uncomfortable with this session.

If it is not because of any specifics of this session, you might want to look for her best motivators in her daily routine. Does she like any specific foods? Does she get excited at the meal time? Does she gets excited a lot when you come home after a few hours? How about in the morning? Does she sleep with you or by herself????

Sometimes, when dogs are with you all the time, they get too used to be with you and lose motivations to be with you! To my dogs, one-on-one time with each of them is a previlege for them since I am not at home during the day and when I am home there are too many animals that I need to take care of and pay attention to.

I read somewhere that the best time to train your dog is when he/she is:

and - Bored!

In other words, when he/she is longing for your attention.

I hope this will help but I am sure you are already well aware of all this...
Posted by kjd
Nov 17, 2010
Sorry, MaxHollyNoah,

I am not being very clear. Sunna does great in class as far as obeying the commands is concerned. I have no complaints. Often, she looks better than dogs that have been in SubNovice far longer than she has!

And I realize that ignoring the treats is one of her signs of stress.

However, my big problem is: Sunna is not having fun!

If I cannot convince her that class is fun, then I'm not sure I should make her suffer through it.

In answer to your other questions: Sunna gets most excited after she has finished her meal -- she takes me to the dish, I "discover" it is empty, and she gets a treat (lately, we go back upstairs before she gets the treat). Her excitement level is pretty constant during the whole play. [Hmmm, I wonder if I can be that "astonished and excited" when she returns to me? I'll try tomorrow.]

She also gets excited to get into the car and goes overboard in the excitement to get out once we are where we are going. (She will get into the car in the garage and stay there, even when I am working in the front. I think she thinks of the garage as a big crate.)

She sleeps wherever she wants -- spends some time with me, but also sleeps in other rooms or downstairs. I think I snore and bother her. The other dogs used to sleep outside my room. This is always their choice. I have a bed and a crate in my bedroom.

She meets me when I get home but doesn't show any particular excitement.

I've tried her favorite treats in the clubhouse to no avail.

But the problem is: Sunna is not having fun.

[I know, I sound like the parent who says "Yes, my child is getting straight A pluses, but why was there only a 99.9 on this test?"]

I'm inclined to believe her initial training was harsh and she expects corrections, not treats. I've given her over a year with no corrections and lots of treats, but may need to do more in the clubhouse.

Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Nov 19, 2010
Hi kjd,

Sorry for my misunderstanding. Now your problem is clear. Sunna is not enjoying the obedience class and you want to find out how you can make it more enjoyable for her. Correct?

You can think of many reasons why she is not enjoying it:

-She doesn't like to be put in the spot (she gets nervous when someone is looking at her and evaluating her)

-She doesn't like the instructor or the environment

-She doesn't like to be told what to do

-The class reminds her of her bad experience in the past (like you think she was trained with a negative method)

Does she get excited when she is going inside the building where the club is? If she shows reluntancy in going to the class, it might not be a good idea to make her go.

So if I were you, I would seek something else that she can enjoy. You can train her to be obedient at home. What activities does she enjoy the most? Does she like fetch? Does she like games? How about agility? Or, just walking? Dog parks? Going shopping or for a ride?

By doing a lot of fun things with her, she will learn to be a good and well-mannered companion because she would not get to do those things with you if she is a pain to be with. And who knows, she might like obedience classes maybe in a few months...