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Hi Folks,


I'm teaching Emmie some basic tricks using treats and praise as positive reinforcement. I'm pretty new to training dogs. As most of you know, I adopted her a bit over a month ago. At this point, she seems really settled in with her new home and routine and has really bonded with my me and my wife.

 

She came to me already trainied with basic obedience. I've taught her some basic games (rollover, hug, up (where I point to something and she jumpts up on it) and hide and seek, and of course normal, routine oriented things with living in hour house (where to go to the bathroom, where to sleep, what areas are off limits, etc).

 

Right now, we're working on distinguishing between objects by name ( we're using a rope toy and a stuffed toy and I'm working on getting her to pick up one or the other by name). This game seems to be more challenging to her than the other stuff I've taught her. She's caught on quickly to pick up one of the 'named' object from a group of unnamed objects, but struggles when both 'named' objects are present.

 

We've been at it for about 3 nights, and she starts to shut down after about 15 minutes. Even with only positvie reinforcement (treats, praise), I have to start really revving her up about 10 minutes in to keep her engaged, then after about 20, she's done. I saw this when she was introduced to sheep last week, too.

 

She seems to be nervouse about making a wrong choice and her body language (mostly lowered head and whale eyes) indicate that she gets a little stressed when she's not making the right choice. I was correcting her ( a soft 'no' when she makes the wrong choice), but I think maybe even that might be too harsh for her, so I've stopped correcting her at all during the sessions and just give her her success cue ('yes!') when she does the right thing. Even with no correction, she seems bothered when she makes a wrong choice.

 

Anyway, my questions are, 15-20 minutes seems like not a lot of training 'endurance' (for lack of a better word), especially given border collie's reputation as workaholics - will endurance to training build up? Once she starts sulking and seeming unsure of herself, I've been trying to rev her up by talking excited and trying to make things more fun, which usually prolongs the session for a few minutes, but perhaps I should end them earlier?

 

Thanks!

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Personally, I would end earlier. 15 minutes can be a long time. I would try 5 minutes - 3 times a day instead. Short and sweet :)

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15-20 min is a long time for any dog. I train 5-10 min sessions then come back later in the day to do more. Quit before she does so she will want to come back and learn more.

Set her up for success too. If she chooses the wrong toy then go back a step. She isn't choosing the right toy because she is choosing not to, she is choosing the wrong toy because she doesn't know which to choose. That is why you will need to go back a step. Figure out a new way to show her what you want, break it down into smaller steps.

You shouldn't have to rev her up during your sessions. If she is slowing down then quit. End on a high point. Again, leave her wanting more and give her brain a rest so she can process. My dog learns more if we are both focused and doin small increments through out the day vs one long drawn out repetitive (ie boring to the dog) session.

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Thanks, good to know, I thought her shutting down was indiciative of 'low drive' or something (I'm pretty new to dog trianing), and I have high hopes of volunteering for local canine SAR when they recruit this spring, so I'm trying to build her up a bit before then and get better at training myself, as the SAR training is pretty long term and intense. I'll make sure I end the sessions before she starts showing signs of stress to keep her optimistic.

 

One thing, about 'backing up' - she's pretty good when I use a physical cue, such as pointing to the object. If I point to the right object, she'll get it every time. Perhaps I should use this cue in conjunction with the verbal (name) cue, and then work on removing the physical cue?

 

BTW - this is inspired by John Pilley's dog chaser, who seemed to have a special talent for names. If anyone has any knowledge of insight on how this dog was trianed, I'd love to hear it!

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I have high hopes of volunteering for local canine SAR when they recruit this spring, so I'm trying to build her up a bit before then and get better at training myself, as the SAR training is pretty long term and intense.

 

 

Not to stick my nose in, but it shouldn't be. The dogs are mature enough to handle the training (so it's not intense for them). It starts as hide and seek games (find me, where did I go). The sessions might be hours, but the dogs only "work" for 5 minutes at first. The image of dog on a huge long track or out clearing acres of field takes slow patient work and is built over time. Personally, I'd call your local group (or email) and ask what they want you to do with the dog.

 

Rebecca

 

(I handled SAR dogs for years)

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Thanks Rebecca, please offer advice, I have been in contact with the unit I'd volunteer for, but recruitment is a long way off (they recruit at my company each spring), so I'll take any free advice I can get in the interim :). I've gotten some basic advice on establishing a good trianing relationship with my dog (hence the herding training I've begun with her, as it's been suggested that a dog sport of some kind is good for establishing a working relationship).

 

It's good to hear about 'hide and seek', because I started that with her and she loves it, and seems more enthusiastic about playing that game than other things I've tried. She even initiates hide & seek games with us, if you can believe it (while we're walking, she'll suddenly 'down' herself and allow us to get out of sight and wait until we call her and then she comes looking for us (at about 100mph) ).

 

I've not begun SAR training, so intensity was more and assumption brought on by some reading about 'selection' for an appropriate dog that was sent to me by the group (e.g.):

 

It takes a great deal of natural instinct, agility and most importantly temperament to be a search and rescue dog. Screening should be carried out at puppy selection (generally at 8 weeks) and then again before formal training is started. The primary concerns during candidate screening are the presence of appropriate drives (particularly prey and food drives), tractability, temperament, and tenacity ("work ethic"). Extreme defensiveness ("civility") is a disqualifying characteristic, although well-trained dogs of steady temperament with natural defensive drive, a common trait in working breeds such as the German Shepherds, may make excellent working dogs.

 

I had imagined rather long trianing sessions, but presumably those are worked up to, as you mention. Emmie isn't showing a great deal of tenacity at this point (other than with the hide and seek, so maybe that's a clue...), but with my inexperience it's impossible for me to judge her potential for work. What she has shown me is that she's extremely focused on me and wants to work with me, but worries too much about making mistakes. The trainers I've started working with can hopefully assess her potential for SAR type training as we get closer to recruit time.

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did a little googling on Chaser. This was on NY Times...

 

"He bought Chaser as a puppy in 2004 from a local breeder and started to train her for four to five hours a day. He would show her an object, say its name up to 40 times, then hide it and ask her to find it, while repeating the name all the time. She was taught one or two new names a day, with monthly revisions and reinforcement for any names she had forgotten."

 

Now remember you've only had her a month and she is not used to the kind of task your asking her. You are basically building toy drive as well as attention to something other than sheep (you said she just came off a sheep farm). So dont look at this and think, well if Chaser can learn for 5 hours a day my dog should. Im sure this was only after many years of them being a solid team. Anyway u asked how he did it... apparently he just said the name a zillion times lol.

 

 

 

Here is the link... http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/18/science/18dog.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

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Thanks Rebecca, please offer advice, I have been in contact with the unit I'd volunteer for, but recruitment is a long way off (they recruit at my company each spring), so I'll take any free advice I can get in the interim :). I've gotten some basic advice on establishing a good trianing relationship with my dog (hence the herding training I've begun with her, as it's been suggested that a dog sport of some kind is good for establishing a working relationship).

 

It's good to hear about 'hide and seek', because I started that with her and she loves it, and seems more enthusiastic about playing that game than other things I've tried. She even initiates hide & seek games with us, if you can believe it (while we're walking, she'll suddenly 'down' herself and allow us to get out of sight and wait until we call her and then she comes looking for us (at about 100mph) ).

 

I've not begun SAR training, so intensity was more and assumption brought on by some reading about 'selection' for an appropriate dog that was sent to me by the group (e.g.):

 

It takes a great deal of natural instinct, agility and most importantly temperament to be a search and rescue dog. Screening should be carried out at puppy selection (generally at 8 weeks) and then again before formal training is started. The primary concerns during candidate screening are the presence of appropriate drives (particularly prey and food drives), tractability, temperament, and tenacity ("work ethic"). Extreme defensiveness ("civility") is a disqualifying characteristic, although well-trained dogs of steady temperament with natural defensive drive, a common trait in working breeds such as the German Shepherds, may make excellent working dogs.

 

I had imagined rather long trianing sessions, but presumably those are worked up to, as you mention. Emmie isn't showing a great deal of tenacity at this point (other than with the hide and seek, so maybe that's a clue...), but with my inexperience it's impossible for me to judge her potential for work. What she has shown me is that she's extremely focused on me and wants to work with me, but worries too much about making mistakes. The trainers I've started working with can hopefully assess her potential for SAR type training as we get closer to recruit time.

 

What area are you in/what team? Here in MO, a lot of our work was in hilly wooded areas, distance control while off leash was a must. You've only had her a month, let her get to know you before you press anything. She needs to trust you. My dog saved my life putting his at risk, you need that kind of loyalty. I could have sent him to hell and back and he would've gone because he trusted my judgment. He saved my life because I trusted his.

 

I take tenacity to mean work ethic... When it gets hard, does the dog keep trying. For example, streams can be challenging. The water carries the scent particles down stream. You'll often see dogs licking the surface - they aren't thirsty, they are trying to find the scent. It's hard. Is the dog going to give up? That's not a good dog to work with.

 

It's really very important to stave off bad habits. In hide and seek, is she using her nose or her eyes (eyes are bad).

 

It sounds like they don't want you to train the dog before - a lot of groups are like this from what I've seen here. I don't blame them. I tried teaching Aspen tracking before getting connected with a team and SAR specific trainer. I screwed him up so bad that he was useless at tracking and he hated it... That's the last thing you want.

 

In my opinion, the best thing you can do is bond with her and teach basic obedience stuff. Don't drill it, just make her confident. Agility might help. Many times I sent Aspen up over or through something to check it out bc I couldn't get there easily. Just my two cents - what I wish I did.

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Rebecca, thanks, it will be King County or Snohomish canine SAR here in western WA, whoever recruits next. Emmie does have really good control off leash, so that is good. She's one of those dogs that really wants to be sure that she knows where I am at all times and doesn't let me get very far away, and she's always keeping on eye out and checking in (she does this even in the house). Her recall is reliable and I can down her from any distance as long as she can hear me. She was pretty much like that from the beginning, though I did keep her on lead most of the time at first just in case (on advice from more experienced folks).

 

She does seem to rely more on sight when playing hide and seek, though we haven't made it particularly challenging for her. She loves to sniff though, and is always finding interesting scents that I have to coax her away from. We have tons of dog sports here in western WA, so stuff like agility and nosework (which might be particularly appropriate) classes are easy to find. I wanted to give trial training a go first, though, as it was the most interesting to me. Agility was plan 'B'.

 

As of right now, she really wants to do what I want her to do, though she does have some fear issues - not serious (e.g. she doesn't flee, bolt or show any fear based aggression), but she will shy away from new people and dogs. We take her out all the time to get her more broad socialization and she's getting more confident in meeting people and dogs, but overcoming 'shyness' is a work in progress.

 

I do believe she would put herself at risk for me based on a few things I've seen . For example, she doesn't seem to like the water. If my wife or I wade out into the water, she will get very worried and follow us, making a very worried sounding vocalization the whole time, but she will swim to us if we call her out to us. We don't do this anymore because she obviously doesn't care for swimming (we let her come in as far as she wants to now), but she's willing to overcome this specific fear to obey and be with us, so that's probably a good sign. I also trail run with her every couple days and she hangs in there with me over pretty tough terrain and (lately) pretty high heat without complaint. If she knows what she's supposed to do, she shows tenacity, it's when she's unsure of what to do that she seems to tire out quickly, and I think that has to do with her (innate or learned) fear of doing the wrong thing.

 

Yes, I asked specifically if there was any kind of prerequisite trianing we could engage in as preperation or even if there were any SAR specific trainers in the area that would work with me for a fee, but I was told (I quote) "You don't need to try to train search skills on your own though; that is best done with the guidance of experienced handlers after you join a group.", so I think you're right about that assumption.

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If it were me, I'd work on the socialization with objects and people. The dog needs to be reliable around everything from heavy machinery and loud noises to strange people (they won't know the people they are looking for) and water...

 

Best of luck!

 

Rebecca

 

Rebecca, thanks, it will be King County or Snohomish canine SAR here in western WA, whoever recruits next. Emmie does have really good control off leash, so that is good. She's one of those dogs that really wants to be sure that she knows where I am at all times and doesn't let me get very far away, and she's always keeping on eye out and checking in (she does this even in the house). Her recall is reliable and I can down her from any distance as long as she can hear me. She was pretty much like that from the beginning, though I did keep her on lead most of the time at first just in case (on advice from more experienced folks).

 

She does seem to rely more on sight when playing hide and seek, though we haven't made it particularly challenging for her. She loves to sniff though, and is always finding interesting scents that I have to coax her away from. We have tons of dog sports here in western WA, so stuff like agility and nosework (which might be particularly appropriate) classes are easy to find. I wanted to give trial training a go first, though, as it was the most interesting to me. Agility was plan 'B'.

 

As of right now, she really wants to do what I want her to do, though she does have some fear issues - not serious (e.g. she doesn't flee, bolt or show any fear based aggression), but she will shy away from new people and dogs. We take her out all the time to get her more broad socialization and she's getting more confident in meeting people and dogs, but overcoming 'shyness' is a work in progress.

 

I do believe she would put herself at risk for me based on a few things I've seen . For example, she doesn't seem to like the water. If my wife or I wade out into the water, she will get very worried and follow us, making a very worried sounding vocalization the whole time, but she will swim to us if we call her out to us. We don't do this anymore because she obviously doesn't care for swimming (we let her come in as far as she wants to now), but she's willing to overcome this specific fear to obey and be with us, so that's probably a good sign. I also trail run with her every couple days and she hangs in there with me over pretty tough terrain and (lately) pretty high heat without complaint. If she knows what she's supposed to do, she shows tenacity, it's when she's unsure of what to do that she seems to tire out quickly, and I think that has to do with her (innate or learned) fear of doing the wrong thing.

 

Yes, I asked specifically if there was any kind of prerequisite trianing we could engage in as preperation or even if there were any SAR specific trainers in the area that would work with me for a fee, but I was told (I quote) "You don't need to try to train search skills on your own though; that is best done with the guidance of experienced handlers after you join a group.", so I think you're right about that assumption.

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Good advice above ^.

 

It sounds like you have good insight into Emmie. I agree with working on her socialization because with SAR dogs, they should be driven to find the victim. That is often reinforcement enough, but usually the victim will also have a toy to play with the dog. (At least that is what my local SAR team does.)

 

I would also work on her 'agility' skills. I don't mean agility as in agility classes for competition, but general agility -- walking on moving objects, climbing rocks and rubble piles (for urban work), working in and around brush piles, jumping over obstacles, etc. The local team also trains for scent work around water - so swimming ability is desired. She should be used to commotion and loud noises. Again, local team trains for gunshots. She should tolerate wearing a harness and then being picked up with it. Just food for thought when you run out of things to train.

 

Jovi

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Thanks Jovi,


Some of that stuff sounds like it will be challenging for her, mostly dealing with a lot of commotion and lots of strangers, but thankfully we've got some time to get her bomb proofed. I'll work on the water stuff, too. They way she 'swam' seemed to indicate that she hasn't had much experience in the water, so her apprehension could have just been lack of experience. Heck, even my golden was a little intimidated the first few times in water and then she turned into an otter.

 

She gets quite a bit of agility experience following me through the woods when I go out on trail runs and she seems willing to jump on, through or over just about anything :)

 

Thanks for the excellent, practical tips on things we can work on!

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You've only had her a month, correct? She's doing amazing well for so short a period. Sometimes it takes dogs months and months to truly settle into their new home. As she does settle more and more her drive (for whatever task) will improve. You have to remember that she went through a major life change not too long ago, and that's probably not out of her system yet.

 

You sound like your doing wonderfully with her. I will second the advice about ending the training session before she gets tired. I would even go so far as to say end it when she is at her finest. You say she starts to wane about 10 minutes in? Then I would end the session at 5 or 7 minutes. That way she's still really into it and it leaves her wanting to do it more and more.

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