Training frustration

Frustration venting time?

I?ve been taking Gossy to obedience class with a trainer who uses a modified form of clicker training. When we go to class, Gossy will pay attention to me for about 10 minutes but after that she looks out the door at squirrels outside or sniffs the dog food or treats in the bins (the class is in the reception area of an animal clinic) or tries to see whats around the corner of the room. Of course, the instructor then tells me to get my dog under control! This is not the traditional obedience class where every one walks around with their dog healing or practising the sit command or whatever. Instead the instructor spends time explaining rationale and then we pretty much just stand in one place and do hand signals (no verbal commands) while she mostly watches the people with slavish type dogs. I can get Gossy to sit and heal but only if I use verbal commands, which the instructor doesn?t want. It?s been 6 weeks now and I?m frustrated. When I took EL D to a traditional style class after 6 weeks he could sit, heal, stay, come.

When I talked with the instructor after class yesterday she said ?Well you need better management at home. You?re letting Gossy get away with behaviors like pulling at her leash? (nice of her to point this out this late in the game).

She also doesn?t believe in any kind of reprimand. No saying ?no? no using the squirt bottle. So someone asked ?Well what do you do when the dog jumps at the table or kitchen counter?? She replied, ?You don?t let them jump at the table.? She expects us to keep an eye on our dogs 24-7 and as they start to do something unwanted we are supposed to prevent it. So I said I can?t keep a constant eye on my basenji ? there?s preparing dinner or doing the laundry or whatever. ?If the dogs can?t be left alone unsupervised then they need to stay in their kennel? she says. Oh sure, after all day at work the dog wants to run free and for you to pay attention to them ? they don?t want be forced to stay in their kennel even more.

I picked this instructor because she uses the clicker and because she supposedly helps with our behavior towards dogs (like the lady on ?Me or the Dog?). Am I just being a grump or have I missed an important step?

Sniffing and that distracted behavior is a sign of stress. My dogs frequently will reach a point in class where they hit that and often the worst thing is having someone telling you to "get your dog under control" because then you are more stressed so the dog is more stressed so starts to sniff and get more distracted trying to avoid the situation and everyone's frustration level just increases.

How frequently are you changing activities in class? Do you click and treat attention? Often when my dogs have gotten to the point that they are frustrated with an activity and doing the sniff, sniff thing, I go back to basics and just work name response and attention so they can be successful and get rewarded.

Sounds to me like Gossy is bored. I think you might do well to seek out another class. I don't like the idea of an instructor telling you to get your dog undercontrol, and then limiting your options by not allowing you to use voice commands.

I think it is ridiculous to instruct people not to use the word "no" or any sort of correction. There are many positive reinforcement trainers that do think this way, and that, IMO, is fine for their own dogs…but it isn't very realistic for the real world, and how their clients live with their dogs in the real world.

A few things that you might try, if you want to stick it out in this class, is a higher value food reward when you go to class...Gossy was a show dog, right? so liver would probably do the trick 🙂 Usually, if the dog is ignoring you in class, they are either over stressed (as Lisa pointed out), or not being paid off frequently enough, with a high enough value reward. You can practice at home using a regular old treat...but bring out something special for class.

Also, take your act on the road...at the park or somewhere so you can start to work on the behaviors with distractions.

I would talk to your trainer also...ask her what you SHOULD be doing to keep him from pulling, or if she can suggest any walking aides to keep him from pulling while you work on retraining him.

@Quercus:

A few things that you might try, if you want to stick it out in this class, is a higher value food reward when you go to class…Gossy was a show dog, right? so liver would probably do the trick 🙂 Usually, if the dog is ignoring you in class, they are either over stressed (as Lisa pointed out), or not being paid off frequently enough, with a high enough value reward. You can practice at home using a regular old treat...but bring out something special for class.

The trainer at the class I'm going to right now has us bring 2 different kinds of treats…a normal dog treat (I use Solid Gold Tiny Tots - soft meat treat) and one high value (in my case, cheese). That way if the they lose interest in one kind of treat because they get it so often during class, we have a backup to get their attention back. She also has us clicking/treating for attention, name recognition and clicking for calm when they are distracted or acting out.

Thanks for the tips - I did change treats; in fact I brought 3 or 4 different kinds so if one didn't work another might. I'll try the liver or maybe just hot dogs next time too.
Because it's been winter I've been doing all our home work inside but now that the weather is better (well not today becasue it is raining) I can use the deck in the back - lots of birds and squirrels and other dogs barking for distraction.

I think I'm more frustrated with the instructor. We don't really change activity in class all that often so that is one point. Also her rule is if we lose the dog's attention, we just stop take a rest and then go back to the same thing. I tried calling Gossy's name to get her attention one time and she told me not to do that - "the dog has to come back of their own accord". It felt like 10 minutes before Gossy focused back on me (waste of valuable practise time)! She also has me confused now about when we click and treat and then sometimes we don't click and sometimes we click but don't treat. It's the instructor.

There's only 2 sessions left and I'm debating whether to continue to the bitter end or just find another class.

I have a couple of questions-Has the trainer ever trained a Basenji before? How long are you sitting? If it's more than a minute-I'd say she's totally bored and she hasn't worked up to the length of time required to sit. These dogs learn very quickly and then are bored with the whole thing. As for the way she's teaching you to clicker train, it sounds confusing to me. One time yes, the next no? Does Gossy know what the clicker action is for? I'd be frustrated too. Have you called around to other trainers?

@wizard:

I think I'm more frustrated with the instructor. We don't really change activity in class all that often so that is one point. Also her rule is if we lose the dog's attention, we just stop take a rest and then go back to the same thing. I tried calling Gossy's name to get her attention one time and she told me not to do that - "the dog has to come back of their own accord". It felt like 10 minutes before Gossy focused back on me (waste of valuable practise time)! She also has me confused now about when we click and treat and then sometimes we don't click and sometimes we click but don't treat. It's the instructor.

First off, if you Click then you treat every time otherwise you devalue the clicker. As for the dog has to come back of their own accord, it sort of depends on what you are practicing and how long they have lost focus. I think that the instructor doesn't understand the difference in hardwiring of the various breeds. How much diversity is there in the breeds in the class? Lots of what you are going through with Gossy is what you would expect from a sighthound, they are hardwired to watch and things moving like a squirrel are going to be a huge distraction for them. Also sighthounds in general and basenjis specifically do not do well with long repetitive training sessions, they do much better if the activities are changed up frequently.

For teaching things like a stay, increased periods of attention, increased length of time in a sit, I have had good success with 100 peck method. Ask for the behavior then click/treat then count 1 click/treat then count 1, 2 click/treat and use that to build duration if the break the position then we start back at zero. I use this a lot during classes where we are asked to listen while the instructor talks and my dog is expected to sit or lay quietly during that time. When you are just starting on a behavior expect to click/treat frequently and then as they get it start to decrease the frequency of the rewards or raise the criteria for the reward.

Thanks Lvoss - I'll try that tip for the "stay".
As for the other breeds in the class - retrievers, labs, shepherds - there is a sheepdog and there used to be a great dane (but those people left after a couple of classes). In thinking about it, I think that she seems to want the dogs to end up as "slavish types" - always and evermore with their attention on you and nothing else - individuality not encouraged. Her dog (mastiff) sits in an expen for 2 hours during class and either sleeps or just stares at the door and when she brings it out for demonstration or to do stupid tricks it looks at her and nothing else, like its a robot.
It seemed like a good class at first but well, live and learn.

From what you've described of the class, it sounds like a bizarre down-the-rabbit-hole type thing. I think I might just "forget" to show up for the last few.

I'll throw in my 2 cents… Lola & I have been learning agility together, and we work on basic obedience stuff in the first few classes. We're expected to do the majority of obedience training outside of class so we can focus on learning agility in class, but the instructors have given me a lot of invaluable advice.
I've noticed if we work on sit/stay or down/stay for more than 2 or 3 minutes, Lola gets bored & will refuse to do it anymore. So if I feel she is getting too bored, I will either switch to something else until the instructor wants to see the behavior, or add something to make it different. (sit/stay while I walk away & then back, progress to sit/stay while I walk away, place a treat on the ground, then verbally release her, etc)
Lola can get distracted easily, and the instructors told me to make myself the focal point by frequently rewarding her for eye contact & attention & also tapping or poking her lightly to get her attention, then rewarding her with lots of praise and yummy treats.
High energy, fun fun fun, a very special yummy treat (we use hot dogs cut into the width of nickels & either halved or quartered). Don't forget to integrate praise as part of the reward, too. Pets & great job should be associated with the yummy treat. I try to use only positive language. Sometimes I say no, but its not a "no bad dog" kind of no, its more of a "no, you don't understand what I want. Let's try that again" kind of no (if that makes sense at all). I don't raise my voice or yell or punish, I just try again. If I find myself getting frustrated, I will immediately force myself to pick Lola up or bend to her level & tell her what a good girl she is until I get myself mentally back on track. I won't allow her to sense my frustration if at all possible.
I just started Booger in agility class, too, and his instructor gave me a great tip for leash pulling. Walk with your dog on leash & frequently & abruptly change direction without warning. Your dog will quickly realize he needs to watch you to find out where you're going next, and once he starts paying attention to you, start treating him. In just 5 minutes it made a huge difference with Booger, although I expect it to take a couple of weeks of constant work to get him to reliably watch me while walking.
If I were you, I would probably not go back to that class at all because it is clear to me you are frustrated. If I can sense this frustration just through an internet posting, your dog definitely senses it standing next to you in class. If you aren't having fun, he won't have fun. And to me (a total amateur), I've found that fun & patience for both dog & human are the most important pieces of training.
Agility is filled with those slavish dogs that want to obey their human's every command, but I find it EXTREMELY rewarding when I've managed to convince Lola or Booger to do something I want them to do. The extra challenge makes it extra rewarding.

Basenjis are not shepherds…thank goodness! While I love it when they do pay attention to me, what I really love about basenjis is their independence and free spirit. That they think for themselves and are not slavishly dependent on me for everything! I want them to come when I call and to not completely ignore me at the park, but I don't need them to walk at my left side or sit when I stop. I am happy that they stop too and just stand by me, and that my right arm isn't longer than my left!

I'm with Agilebasenji, I would just pass on the last classes and look for another trainer.

A friend found a great clicker training web site and has ordered a book and clickers, she said the videos were very clear about how to train.

http://www.clickertraining.com/

by Karen Pryor.

Have a look.

Thanks for all the tips and support. I found some more information on clicker training that explains things way better than this instructor did so I have decided to dump the class and I really am so much happier (I didn't realize how much my frustration with the instructor was affecting me:().
We did learn a few things in that class and with the tips you all have given I think Gossy is progressing well. The other day I was practising using my hand as a target stick and it ended up she healed without the leash! She did the same thing last night and for a significant distance. I was impressed! Of course now we need to work outside with more distractions.
Happy days are here again :).

Looks like your connection to Basenji Forums was lost, please wait while we try to reconnect.