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Overcoming dog training issues

What has been your dog’s challenge?

Most mutts are good dogs, at least as good as any other dogs. But all dogs – shelter dogs, mutts, store-bought dogs – come with some sort of behavior problem. That’s just what happens when two species live together. We have different ideas of what is “appropriate.”

Today I want to ask you:

  1. What has been the most difficult training or behavioral challenge between you and your dog?
  2. Did you find a way to overcome it? Did you find a way to manage it?
  3. Is it still a struggle?
What has been your greatest dog training challenge?

My dog’s tennis ball obsession

I was very lucky with my mutt Ace because he came to me with hardly any issues. OK, he drools nonstop and he pukes on a daily basis, and with that I’ve gone with the management/deal with it route. We go through a lot of paper towels. 🙂

But every dog has something the owner finds difficult, and for me it is my dog’s tennis ball obsession. Don’t get me wrong, I love that my dog is a ball nut. It means he will not leave my side. It means he is easy to train. It means he has always had a near-perfect recall.

However, the fetching obsession can also be a challenge, and with that I’ve also taken the management route.

For example, my dog does not play normally with other dogs at the dog park. Instead, he frantically searches for a ball. When he finds one, he drops it at the nearest person and proceeds to stand there in a hypnosis waiting for the poor soul to throw it. He trembles, drools, does not blink.

For me, management is best.

In seven years I have not been able to soften my dog’s retrieving drive, but I have found a way to work with him so his obedience skills are pretty solid. I can always count on him to come, heel and stay on command in off-leash situations – even when he’s fixated on a ball.

So whenever I see that my dog is reaching his “loony” state of mind I can call him to heel and he does it. It’s what works to get his brain to focus on a different kind of work. Once he mellows out a bit I can let him go back to retrieving for short periods.

People do not notice my dog’s obedience abilities, but they are amazed by his retrieving “skills.” I get comments like, “Wow! How did you train him to fetch so well?”

“Um … I didn’t have to teach him that.”

So how about you?

What has been the most difficult training or behavioral challenge for your dog?

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Sunday 1st of December 2013

Haha. Yes, there are some dogs who naturally have that recall built in. (They sometimes need to learn "go away" - hehe).

Dog # 1 is my easier dog. Biggest challenge is that she gets anxious about certain separation situations, such as dropping someone off and leaving them behind or being separated from dog #2 when he is the one going somewhere else. Mostly have dealt with it via management and being able to avoid those scenarios but I've also been separating the dogs more as a matter of routine to let her get more use to the separation not being a big deal. I had a long period of time where the dogs basically did everything together which is what created the problem in the first place. So fixing it has to do with undoing that expectation.

Dog #2 is my bucket of issues dog. Most relate to his inability to self-regulate or cope with frustration or heightened excitement, and his tendency to space in/out of environmental situations. He is a quirky strange dog whose behaviors can not be understood or resolved quickly or put in a category of "oh, that's a shy, fearful dog" or "that's a pushy dog who doesn't want to perform to please." Even though dog #2 has received plenty of training (and continues to), he requires lots of management and probably always will. Based on what I know of his background and what I don't know, I suspect that he just has a wire crossed in his brain that can't be solved with training.

The hardest part is not any one behavior but rather his unpredictability. One day, he'll be ok with something, the next day he won't. He is good with almost all dogs but not every dog so he is not trustworthy around all dogs. There is no real trigger distance or scenario that is consistent for any of the things that alarm him, so you can try to train things or desensitize and things are fine closer and then bad again further away with no rhyme or reason. His recall is trained yet I would never bank on it because...again, he's just unpredictable to the point of being unreliable. When you have a predictable dog, you can set up situations for success, you can use tools to help manage, you can train and figure out what works. When you have a dog that is unpredictable, even after training, you just have to manage and control every situation to a much higher degree.

Lindsay Stordahl

Sunday 1st of December 2013

I'm lucky because my dog is soooo predictable.

Julia at Home on 129 Acres

Saturday 30th of November 2013

Our biggest issue is Baxter's chase drive. I think it started when our barn cats were anxious about meeting him. He seemed to really want to be friends (he was fostered with lots of other animals), and their lack of interest boiled over into frustration, so that now any time he sees them he chases them. It's also translated to squirrels and rabbits and deer. We don't have him off leash very much because we don't trust that he'll stay with us. But I think that leads to more frustration/excitement that leads to problems when he is off leash. We've dealt with three runaways, which are awful experiences. We're working on recall, but we have a hard time motivating him and keeping him interested and finding something more alluring than the scents and sights of the great wide world.


Saturday 30th of November 2013

Management seems to be the easiest method. I believe strongly in training, but there's something to be said for natural behaviors. Maya has always had trouble being have when she is excited - always. Getting her to sit and stay so a stranger can pet her has been an ongoing challenge. I've been training her and she has gotten a lot better, but there are still times when she just can't help herself.

My challenge with Pierson has been with his barking. He knows he's supposed to be quiet when I tell him, but sometimes he just can't help himself. I finally resorted to a bark control collar that gives a static correction. I was amazed at how quickly and how well it worked, but a part of me feels guilty about using it.