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Attention problem at training class

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by Janl, May 8, 2010.


  1. Janl

    Janl PetForums Junior

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    My puppy is 13 weeks old today. I got her when she was 8 weeks old and began clicker training almost immediately following the methods in Pat Miller's book, The Power of Positive Dog Training. She learned quickly and I was very pleased with her progress.

    I signed her up for a training class which is treat based and has a philosophy that training should be fun. She began when she was 11.5 weeks old. She has now attended two of the weekly lessons. My problem is that while she is in the class I find it impossible to get her attention. She just stands and seems to stare into space or else just wants to meet the puppies and owners either side of me. I am completely invisible to her and as I find it impossible to get her attention, I am not able to get her to do any of the exercises. On the odd occasion when she will sit on command, she is not interested in eating any treats and is not interested in following a lure.

    I know it is early days and that all these experiences are new to her and that I am probably being a little impatient but I'm worried about not being able to get her attention and not being able to make any progress in the class. There are other puppies in the class of her age and they all seem to be far more attentive than my pup. We are working towards the KC Good Citizen Puppy Foundation Scheme and she can do much of what is required at home and during our walks but does absolutely nothing in class (except the recall with distractions exercise where we all had to let our dogs meet in the centre of a circle and then recall them. She loved walking up to the other dogs and then running back to me). I wonder if anyone has experienced this lack of attention and whether it is me who is not interesting enough for her in class, or whether the treats are not tempting enough to compete with other things or whether she just needs more time to become used this new situation. Any help to get over this hurdle would be appreciated.
     
  2. tripod

    tripod PetForums VIP

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    Wow you are doing great with your puppy - lucky little girl!

    Zoned out or distanct dogs are often a little overwhelmed by the goings on; refusing food can also be a sign of this and/or that your treats are not that wonderful.

    Lots of suggestions for you:

    - bring 3 different treats to class - the top three motivating food rewards for your dog, start with the lowest and move up as you need to but only if you need to
    - teach her how to play tug (properly) and always have a tug toy with you
    - play jazz up and settle down before and during training class
    - play 'look' at home first with low value rewards (kibble) and then begin to proof by gradually and slowly going up through distraction levels
    - bring her to class early, before other puppies, so she has time to settle and sniff and investigate before the action starts
    - teach her to hand target with her nose
    - play Look at That with distractions at class, sounds counterintuitive but is excellent - click her for looking at distraction and then feed repeat until she is looking to distractor and then back at you
    - shape attention by first clicking any glance away from distraction, then glance toward you etc etc etc.
    - play Sue Ailsby's doggie in the middle game in class and/or with friends: have people sit on chairs in a ring so dog can't get out of circle, everyone except owner ignores dog, owner clicks and high values reward for any attention (again slowly shape attention)
    - you can play Say Please at home and/or out and about by having her tethered to you and earning her daily food rations for focus
    - play distraction recalls and hide n seek recalls with her so that she learns that you are the key to good things
    - she earns playtime with other puppies by giving eye contact, first a flash and release for 'playtime' and then build duration of focus

    I'm sure there are more...best of luck:)
     
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  3. Janl

    Janl PetForums Junior

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    Thank you very much for your great suggestions, Anne. I think she is overwhelmed by the situation too. She has experience of busy places and different envronments and has taken all these experiences to date in her stride. However, the training class is rather a different situation with so many dogs around her. I will definitely work on your suggestions. Thank you.
     
  4. Colliepoodle

    Colliepoodle PetForums VIP

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    Brilliant suggestions by Tripod ^^^^

    I know exactly how you feel though. When we graduated from puppy socialisation class we went straight up into a competitive obedience class. My girl was by far the youngest there at, iirc, about 4.5 months old and I am not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that all she wanted to do for the first 3 or so sessions was sniff the floor. So upsetting and frustrating because, as is so common, she was brilliantly responsive at home.

    On the rare occasions when she did lift her nose from the floor, she wanted to play with the other dogs. I almost gave up and didn't go back.

    But gradually, especially once she got more and more tuggie motivated, she started to tune in to me and now she completely ignores all the other dogs, smells etc - she knows that it's "focus on me" time rather than playtime.

    It's very early days - you WILL get there and it sounds as if you're doing great :thumbup:
     
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  5. Daggre

    Daggre PetForums Member

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  6. Polimba

    Polimba PetForums VIP

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    Firstly she is a beautiful Ridgeback, we have one too a male who's 7 months.

    We have the same problem, it's funny our trainer was saying yesterday that he always has this look to say 'OK I'll do it, but what's the point?' :lol:

    Do the pups have a play before the work begins? We found this helped Zimba to a certain extent or he just wanted to play all lesson.

    Can you get any attention at all or does she do it for a bit and then get bored? Once we've hit that boredom stage we have to go to something else and then come back to the exercise. Our trainer understands why we do it and it seems to work. So if we were teaching targetting for example, he'd do it perfectly 5 times, then stop and gaze around the field, so we'd do some heel work and then come back to targetting.

    Also what treats are you using? I think in your situation at the classes I'd use very high value. I can normally get away with some 'rubbish packet stuff' as Zimba would probably call it lol But at training class when he can be hard to motivate I use chicken, I also use that for recall.

    I think it's a bit of a Ridgie 'thing' they get bored with repeating tasks or something they can't see the point in doing, especially when there's lots of dogs to say hello to :rolleyes:
     
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  7. babycham2002

    babycham2002 PetForums VIP

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    Hi there, I also have a 5.5month old RR,
    She can have a bit of an attention problem too at class (we are on Bronze now)
    I think tripods suggestions are excellent, esp turning up early and letting her burn off some play energy, we still do that with Samba.

    I would VERY highly recommend liver cake, I made my very first batch this week after recommendations on here and I must say it will get them doing anything!
    Except a leave, I wouldnt work on leaves with liver cake lol.
    I can get my two to do it , but the lok on their faces, its almost cruel!:D
     
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  8. Janl

    Janl PetForums Junior

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    I am pleased it is not just my puppy doing this and it's great to hear that you overcame it, Colliepoodle. I was starting to wonder if there was any point in continuing with the classes but it is a great chance for her to meet the other dogs so we will keep going along and see what happens.

    Daggre, thanks for the link to the video. I love Kikopup's channel and had watched many of her videos before we got our puppy but I had forgotten about that one. Another thing I was worried about was that she would learn to ignore me during the lessons so that video has given me more to think about working on while I am there.

    Polimba, RR's are not particularly easy to train but it sounds as if you are doing a great job with your little boy.

    The puppies don't really have a chance to play before the lesson begins but they do meet each other as their owners arrive.

    I am not getting any attention right from the start during the class. Her concentration span is very short even at home so I find it best to do lots of short training sessions at home rather than one longer one. It is good that your instructor understands. I feel a bit of a failure at the moment as our instructor believes that all dogs are food and toy motivated and if they aren't then you don't have the correct treats or toys. However, I am sure he is a very good instructor and I like his philosophies so I am willing to give his methods a try. I just need to get over this hurdle to prove that she can do something more than just stare into space or play with other dogs and their owners. :)

    I've tried all sorts of treats (ham, sausage, chicken etc) during the class but she hasn't really been impressed with any of them. However, the instructor rolled a treat to her and she gobbled his up. Maybe she thinks I'm trying to poison her and all the other owners will save her from her evil owner. :lol:

    babycham2002, big congratulations on reaching the Bronze stage with your RR. I've been thinking of making some liver cake so will try that for the next lesson.

    Thank you to everyone for your ideas and thoughts. It has given me lots to think about and I really appreciate the help from you all.
     
  9. tripod

    tripod PetForums VIP

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    There's certainly something to that - toss her treats for her to catch or just along the ground rather than hand feed her while at class. Works for lots of dogs. Also do this for look exercises: say look when she isn't paying attention, toss treat so it lands near her and its a great way to get her attention.
     
  10. Jenny Olley

    Jenny Olley PetForums VIP

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    She could be a little worried about the environment, I've had a lot of RR in classes over the years currently I have 6 in different classes, ranging in ages try and get her playing to build confidence, Ridgies are usually greedy dogs, so if she is not interested in the food there is a reason.
     
  11. Jenny Olley

    Jenny Olley PetForums VIP

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    I also meant to say, you could be just trying a little too hard, I get people in my pup class who have taught the pups loads of things and home, but can't get them to perform to that standard in class, lower your expectations, and she will give you more.
     
  12. Janl

    Janl PetForums Junior

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    Thanks, tripod, I'll try that too. I'm willing to try everything at the moment. :)

    We have to take a toy next time so I'll see how she is with it. She has to be in the mood for play but she does enjoy tugging games. I've heard mixed opinions about tugging but she is learning to give the toy when asked, that a treat is her reward and then the game can continue.

    Thanks, Jenny. My OH says he thinks she is doing fine for her age so maybe you have a point there. She may not be doing the formal exercises but she is learning lots of socialisation skills which I must also remember. :)
     
  13. Jenny Olley

    Jenny Olley PetForums VIP

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    Quote"We have to take a toy next time so I'll see how she is with it. She has to be in the mood for play but she does enjoy tugging games. I've heard mixed opinions about tugging but she is learning to give the toy when asked, that a treat is her reward and then the game can continue." Quote

    Glad she enjoys the tugging, it will build her confidence, especially if you let her win loads, I know that will go against lots of things you have read in books, but it really is the best way to build confidence. you need to really get the play strong when away from the class environment, including playing whilst wearing her lead, or else she'll not be interested when in class.
     
  14. Colliepoodle

    Colliepoodle PetForums VIP

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    Agree with that 100%. Get them playing, get them WINNING loads and you'll be the most exciting thing around - whatever else is happening ;)
     
  15. Janl

    Janl PetForums Junior

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    Well, we went to the training class yesterday armed with tuna cake (I couldn't get liver but had plenty of tuna in the house already) and her attention was much, much better. She performed the sits, stays, stands, spins etc for the treats but wasn't interested at all in her toy. She also wouldn't lie down. I think the ground was too cold for her and she wouldn't even lie down while relaxing.

    I made some liver cake this morning and asked her to lie down on the patio in the garden. She loves the liver cake and reluctantly lies down but jumps back up as soon as possible after she gets the treat. In the houe she is quite happy with lying down. However, during the test she will have to lie on the cold floor so I need to get her used to it. At the moment she is getting the jackpot every time she lies down!

    Thank you to everyone for your help. :)
     
  16. tripod

    tripod PetForums VIP

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  17. Janl

    Janl PetForums Junior

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    That's a great idea! I don't suppose they would object in class. RRs have very little fur, especially on their stomachs so she probably feels the cold ground more than most. She is quite a softy in any case. Loves to be warm and comfortable! :)
     
  18. tripod

    tripod PetForums VIP

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    I shouldn't think it would be a problem - matwork is part of ALL my classes from babies right the way up :)
     
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