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RainDrops

Barking at obedience trainers

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I've been taking my dog Fern (10 mo) to obedience classes to make sure that I'm not missing things she should be learning. She has been great at learning all of the exercises, but I've been having issues while she's actually in classes. Her very first class, she was great until one of the other dogs barked a bit and then she had the bright idea that barking might be a way to cure her boredom. I worked with her on keeping her focus on me, and brought along a tug toy to keep her entertained when she got bored. That seemed to be helping, and I talked to one of the trainers who suggested she should be in a level 2 class because the level 1 was too boring and she needed something more challenging. So I've been taking her to level 2 now, and she does seem to be less bored. But we've run into another problem. Although she initially liked the two trainers who teach the level 2 class, she has become increasingly fearful of them. I believe she fears them because they talk in a very commanding, loud voice because they are speaking to a big room. They use positive reinforcement, but have a very no-nonsense, stern tone of voice. I think Fern is alarmed by this. And so she wants to bark at them to alert me to the threat. I have worked on redirecting her attention to me, constantly treating her for attention on me, redirecting when she wants to bark at them. After the last class, I spoke with one of the trainers. When he was no longer yelling and he acted like a normal person, she was no longer afraid of him. But if he made too much eye contact, she became alarmed again. He said I just need to continue socialization with her and she will get over it. The other trainer I have so far liked, but she did make a comment that annoyed me, that "border collies are just neurotic" to explain the barking. I don't think my dog is just neurotic. I think she's going through a period where she's very sensitive to potential threats.

I understand that in a group setting, they can't make everything cater to a particular dog that is sensitive. But I am frustrated by the trainer that thinks I just have a shy neurotic border collie. I am terrified I will do something with good intentions that just results in me screwing up my dog.

So I'm trying to decide what to do. If I take her back to that class, her fear of the two trainers may just increase with repeated exposure to the stimulus that she finds concerning. I could take her and continue to work on her focus on me. Alternatively, I could try to find a different trainer and see if I can find somebody who doesn't alarm her. They have 3 sessions for that class, and I think the other sessions have different instructors. Maybe she'd do better with somebody different. I think she needs somebody who has that positive upbeat attitude to training rather than a stern commander. The trainer she doesn't like has a vizsla, and maybe she just doesn't work as well with soft dogs.

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15 hours ago, RainDrops said:

If I take her back to that class, her fear of the two trainers may just increase with repeated exposure to the stimulus that she finds concerning. I could take her and continue to work on her focus on me. Alternatively, I could try to find a different trainer and see if I can find somebody who doesn't alarm her. They have 3 sessions for that class, and I think the other sessions have different instructors. Maybe she'd do better with somebody different. I think she needs somebody who has that positive upbeat attitude to training rather than a stern commander.

You have basically answered your own question. It is true that a trainer cannot cater the whole class to one dog, but at the same time it is not necessary to speak in a stern and commanding tone of voice in order to be heard. You can speak nicely in a loud enough voice to be heard!  I also would never go back to any trainer who told me that border collies are neurotic. While this is a common myth, it is untrue, and any trainer that ignorant of border collies would never have another opportunity to be involved in any way with training my dog. As you already know, if you continue with this trainer you only risk your dog coming to fear and avoid all training classes. Stop now, and find a different place to train. Observe a class before you sign up so you will know how the instructor behaves.

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35 minutes ago, D'Elle said:

You have basically answered your own question. It is true that a trainer cannot cater the whole class to one dog, but at the same time it is not necessary to speak in a stern and commanding tone of voice in order to be heard. You can speak nicely in a loud enough voice to be heard!  I also would never go back to any trainer who told me that border collies are neurotic. While this is a common myth, it is untrue, and any trainer that ignorant of border collies would never have another opportunity to be involved in any way with training my dog. As you already know, if you continue with this trainer you only risk your dog coming to fear and avoid all training classes. Stop now, and find a different place to train. Observe a class before you sign up so you will know how the instructor behaves.

Thank you that makes me feel better about the decision. I will try to find a different trainer that will suit Fern better. I find myself often unsure about whether it's better to avoid things Fern is nervous of, or if exposure will help her get over her fears. I know one of the trainers there specializes in border collies, and I think I will try to find a way to speak to her and see if she teaches group classes.

I am glad you agree that she is not neurotic. Fern is from working parents, and though she does seem to have some minor fear issues, I don't think she's acting unreasonably from her point of view. I feel like I just need to figure out what that point of view is so that I can meet her there appropriately and not put her over threshold. It is so hard to convince her something is not scary once she has decided to give it a bad label.

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I second what D'Elle said. I would change trainers too. 

I think it is very strange to explain the barking with "border collies are just neurotic". Just neurotic? Like nothing can be done about the behaviour and it is no big deal. It's a shame many people still believe this. This way it can become a self fulfilling prophecy.

As for when to expose or avoid: trust your gut. You know your dog and can see when something is too much. What always helps me is to have an exit strategy. That could for instance be as simple as walking away if something happens I don't like. Unfortunately that is not always possible. 
My neighbours have a really unruly pup, a Beaceron who is six months and quite big now. My dog really doesn't like that pup, as she wants to put her paws on my dog. It happened once where we were in the elevator together. Should not have accepted that situation. Very small space, neighbour trying to restrain her dog, my dog barking to defend herself...
So now I know I never ever want to be in a situation like that again. Exit strategy: politely ask my neighbour to wait, if she ignores that I will get out of the elevator and let her go first. 

I guess the gist of it is: you can try to expose your dog when you feel it might work,slowly if necessary, if you make sure you know what to do when you feel it isn't working. (So in my case: don't stay in the elevator dummy!)
 

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2 hours ago, D'Elle said:

.... at the same time it is not necessary to speak in a stern and commanding tone of voice in order to be heard. You can speak nicely in a loud enough voice to be heard!

As a loudmouth, I can attest to this.  I talk at the top of my lungs most of the time, and I often have fearful dogs in my classes, and I have yet to have a dog become frightened of me for that reason!

You can be loud and super pleasant at the same time!!!  :D
 

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26 minutes ago, Root Beer said:

As a loudmouth, I can attest to this.  I talk at the top of my lungs most of the time, and I often have fearful dogs in my classes, and I have yet to have a dog become frightened of me for that reason!

You can be loud and super pleasant at the same time!!!  :D
 

That sounds like the sort of trainer Fern would like! She is visibly more nervous around big men, though she usually is overly submissive to them rather than defensive. I think she picks up on commanding voice the same way as she does size. Usually she is most comfortable with women, but the female trainer we've had tends to take charge in a very "masculine" way. Fern's favorite people are small females who talk in a high pitched excited voice, though the more excited people are the more likely she is to forget her manners!

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1 hour ago, Flora & Molly said:

I second what D'Elle said. I would change trainers too. 

I think it is very strange to explain the barking with "border collies are just neurotic". Just neurotic? Like nothing can be done about the behaviour and it is no big deal. It's a shame many people still believe this. This way it can become a self fulfilling prophecy.

As for when to expose or avoid: trust your gut. You know your dog and can see when something is too much. What always helps me is to have an exit strategy. That could for instance be as simple as walking away if something happens I don't like. Unfortunately that is not always possible. 
My neighbours have a really unruly pup, a Beaceron who is six months and quite big now. My dog really doesn't like that pup, as she wants to put her paws on my dog. It happened once where we were in the elevator together. Should not have accepted that situation. Very small space, neighbour trying to restrain her dog, my dog barking to defend herself...
So now I know I never ever want to be in a situation like that again. Exit strategy: politely ask my neighbour to wait, if she ignores that I will get out of the elevator and let her go first. 

I guess the gist of it is: you can try to expose your dog when you feel it might work,slowly if necessary, if you make sure you know what to do when you feel it isn't working. (So in my case: don't stay in the elevator dummy!)
 

Thank you for the advice! I think I need to be more proactive about ending situations that cause anxiety like that. I think I've been too eager to let her "get used" to things, and I need to listen to what she's saying with her body language more. Fern also has issues with certain dogs that don't know how to play politely or don't understand dog body language, and I think I find it tricky trying to decide if letting them experience it will help the situation, because sometimes they learn to get along after some communication. Other times they don't, and I remove Fern after it's clear that she's not benefiting from the situation. But when that happens I tend to beat myself up about not pulling her sooner, because I hate her having negative experiences. But it's hard to tell which sort of situation it is at the beginning.

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46 minutes ago, jami74 said:

It's such a pity there aren't border collie specific classes, I'm sure they would be so different to the standard anydog classes.

I think that would be a lot of fun! 

 

1 hour ago, RainDrops said:

Thank you for the advice! I think I need to be more proactive about ending situations that cause anxiety like that. I think I've been too eager to let her "get used" to things, and I need to listen to what she's saying with her body language more. Fern also has issues with certain dogs that don't know how to play politely or don't understand dog body language, and I think I find it tricky trying to decide if letting them experience it will help the situation, because sometimes they learn to get along after some communication. Other times they don't, and I remove Fern after it's clear that she's not benefiting from the situation. But when that happens I tend to beat myself up about not pulling her sooner, because I hate her having negative experiences. But it's hard to tell which sort of situation it is at the beginning.

Glad to help :) It is difficult! My dog has the same issue with rude dogs. Some can be pretty obnoxious and then it is obvious that I should move on, I can usually spot those before they approach (there is a husky in my neighbourhood who has an evil stare for instance). But I have realised that always moving on isn't helping her, because if I hang about, like you said, they learn to get along. So now I am more relaxed about it and stop to chat to some owners. I feel this is helping her a lot. 
Some negative experiences in life shouldn't hurt your dog, as long as you are vigilant and show your dog you have got her back by walking away. In our own life we sometimes meet people or situations we do not like and we learn to cope (or walk away). 
The story is of course a bit different with a very fearful dog.

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I'll come back later when I have more time, but the minute any trainer I was working with told me border collies are just neurotic would be the minute I'd walk out of the class.

First of all, it's just not true and it shows that she doesn't understand dogs very well, and certainly not border collies.

Secondly, any trainer who'd dismiss the barking out of hand is shirking their responsibility in the class. Of course they can't devote 100% of their time in a group class to one dog/handler team, but this is such a disruptive behavior for everyone in the class that they should be giving you some constructive instruction for how to work with it. If they're not, especially in conjunction with the stupid neurotic comment, I suspect they really don't have the skills in their training repertoire to know how to instruct you.

If you have options to check out other trainers, I'd definitely recommend looking into them.

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18 hours ago, GentleLake said:

I'll come back later when I have more time, but the minute any trainer I was working with told me border collies are just neurotic would be the minute I'd walk out of the class.

First of all, it's just not true and it shows that she doesn't understand dogs very well, and certainly not border collies.

Secondly, any trainer who'd dismiss the barking out of hand is shirking their responsibility in the class. Of course they can't devote 100% of their time in a group class to one dog/handler team, but this is such a disruptive behavior for everyone in the class that they should be giving you some constructive instruction for how to work with it. If they're not, especially in conjunction with the stupid neurotic comment, I suspect they really don't have the skills in their training repertoire to know how to instruct you.

If you have options to check out other trainers, I'd definitely recommend looking into them.

Thank you I appreciate your time. I was pretty annoyed she was calling my dog shy and neurotic, because the first time she met her, Fern was very friendly and happy with her. It was only after Fern observed her for a while that she got anxious. I think border collies seem to be very sensitive to behavior of other animals (which makes sense for a dog that specializes in manipulating animals) and it isn't surprising that it results in a tendency to be overly analytical of human behavior. I think Fern draws conclusions way too quickly, resulting in some very difficult results.

I am very concerned about working on desensitizing her to triggers she is nervous of, and am just trying to do this through encouraging positive stranger meetings, and using a clicker to work her up to checking out things that give her the willies (like trucks) in a sort of LAT style. I do think she is going through a fear period, but she's also getting more confident in her abilities and tries to scare things away rather than running away herself. But it's so hard to go to an obedience class and be working on two things at once. So I feel very good about this decision.

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1 hour ago, RainDrops said:

 am very concerned about working on desensitizing her to triggers she is nervous of, and am just trying to do this through encouraging positive stranger meetings, and using a clicker to work her up to checking out things that give her the willies (like trucks) in a sort of LAT style. I do think she is going through a fear period, but she's also getting more confident in her abilities and tries to scare things away rather than running away herself. But it's so hard to go to an obedience class and be working on two things at once. So I feel very good about this decision.

My first bc, Samantha, taught me to teach her a 'Check It Out' cue. That means to go up to the Scary Thing and sniff it. Get reinforcement, usually some small bit of food reward. It Works Like Gangbusters. All my b collies have embraced Check It Out with enthusiasm. One had been badly abused and isolated for a year at least, and she REALLY liked it. Clickers work great with CIO.

Gibbs came to me from a working home and knew nothing about suburban life. He thinks CIO is a great game to play, and it really eased those transitions for him.

LAT works better for something that's moving, (like a truck) and for people, too, if your dog is really uneasy around strangers. Let Fern set the pace with CIO, because it means getting physically close to the Scary Thing. That goes double for approaching people. Some folks think they're doing the dog a favor by reaching out to pet it, but some dogs just don't like it.  If you have family or friends who will take your direction, ask them to let Fern approach them and have them ignore her. If she warms up, then they can offer a hand for her to sniff. Fern might be a dog who is simply a bit shy around strangers, or she might be one who really doesn't care for anyone but her family and close friends. Let her show you.

And kudos to you for following your instincts about that trainer ~ glad you're  getting other information.

Ruth & Gibbs 

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2 hours ago, urge to herd said:

My first bc, Samantha, taught me to teach her a 'Check It Out' cue. That means to go up to the Scary Thing and sniff it. Get reinforcement, usually some small bit of food reward. It Works Like Gangbusters. All my b collies have embraced Check It Out with enthusiasm. One had been badly abused and isolated for a year at least, and she REALLY liked it. Clickers work great with CIO.

Gibbs came to me from a working home and knew nothing about suburban life. He thinks CIO is a great game to play, and it really eased those transitions for him.

LAT works better for something that's moving, (like a truck) and for people, too, if your dog is really uneasy around strangers. Let Fern set the pace with CIO, because it means getting physically close to the Scary Thing. That goes double for approaching people. Some folks think they're doing the dog a favor by reaching out to pet it, but some dogs just don't like it.  If you have family or friends who will take your direction, ask them to let Fern approach them and have them ignore her. If she warms up, then they can offer a hand for her to sniff. Fern might be a dog who is simply a bit shy around strangers, or she might be one who really doesn't care for anyone but her family and close friends. Let her show you.

And kudos to you for following your instincts about that trainer ~ glad you're  getting other information.

Ruth & Gibbs 

Thank you for the advice! That's great to hear CIO works so well. It's funny... I've actually been doing CIO, calling it that, but didn't realize it was a separate thing from LAT. That's exactly what we've started doing with parked trucks and stuff, and she seems to be doing well. If she isn't able to advance on her own towards scary object we leave the scene. Moving things like skateboards and scooters make her want to bark/lunge/chase, and our protocol for those is as soon as she sees one, I click multiple times, and she gets treats for looking at me while it passes. It already seems to be helping, as she has reduced barking and lunging.

For strangers it's weird, because she really truly loves to meet people, which I assume based off her body language of googly eyes and wiggly butt, but I can tell she's a little nervous about the actual people. She will try to lean out toward people on our walk if they make eye contact, so she definitely wants to meet strangers. But sometimes if people make a funny movement she's not expecting, she'll get startled and start barking at them. I'm hoping this will fade over time, so I'm just trying to reinforce all her positive interactions.

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"They use positive reinforcement, but have a very no-nonsense, stern tone of voice. I think Fern is alarmed by this. "  I've been in classes like that, and agree with Fern.

But seriously, the human half of the team is important too, fun is contagious, so are less comfortable emotions.  Positive reinforcement training should be fun (honestly, I think all training should be fun).  Hope you have some good choices available. I wonder if Fern is picking up on your discomfort with the trainer?

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On ‎11‎/‎27‎/‎2018 at 3:24 PM, RainDrops said:

 I've actually been doing CIO, calling it that, but didn't realize it was a separate thing from LAT. 

For strangers it's weird, because she really truly loves to meet people, which I assume based off her body language of googly eyes and wiggly butt, 

Look At That, in my understanding, is simply that ~ look at the Scary Thing. Check It Out is actually approaching, and nose-touching, if safe, the Scary Thing.  For me they are definitely separate processes. Same principle, but different actions.

Safety first - there are things I DON"T want my dog to approach, but I do want him to be comfortable with being in the vicinity. So, loud motorcycles, people with hats or in wheelchairs or outlandish costumes, etc, can be looked at safely and calmly. LAT is for those.

Check It Out is for things that scare the dog AND that I absolutely know will not harm the dog, or even frighten it further with movement/noise, etc. Perfect example: I'd had Gibbs a couple months and we'd been using both LAT and CIO. He caught on to the difference quickly.

On a walk, I saw a balloon with it's string wrapped around some fencing, bobbling about in the breeze. G caught sight of it and froze. Probably not a lot of balloons found on sheep ranches.

I told him to CIO. He looked over his shoulder at me, with a sort of 'Really?' I told him again. He tiptoed towards it, finally got there and nosed it. Then nosed it again. Then looked back at me, grinned and wagged his tail. Then proceeded to nose it more, just in case I'd missed it. Made me LOL, he was so pleased with himself.

There are probably situations that call for LAT first, then easing into CIO as the Scary Thing becomes less scary, and is known by The Human to be safe to approach. 

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5 hours ago, urge to herd said:

Look At That, in my understanding, is simply that ~ look at the Scary Thing. Check It Out is actually approaching, and nose-touching, if safe, the Scary Thing.  For me they are definitely separate processes. Same principle, but different actions.

Safety first - there are things I DON"T want my dog to approach, but I do want him to be comfortable with being in the vicinity. So, loud motorcycles, people with hats or in wheelchairs or outlandish costumes, etc, can be looked at safely and calmly. LAT is for those.

Check It Out is for things that scare the dog AND that I absolutely know will not harm the dog, or even frighten it further with movement/noise, etc. Perfect example: I'd had Gibbs a couple months and we'd been using both LAT and CIO. He caught on to the difference quickly.

On a walk, I saw a balloon with it's string wrapped around some fencing, bobbling about in the breeze. G caught sight of it and froze. Probably not a lot of balloons found on sheep ranches.

I told him to CIO. He looked over his shoulder at me, with a sort of 'Really?' I told him again. He tiptoed towards it, finally got there and nosed it. Then nosed it again. Then looked back at me, grinned and wagged his tail. Then proceeded to nose it more, just in case I'd missed it. Made me LOL, he was so pleased with himself.

There are probably situations that call for LAT first, then easing into CIO as the Scary Thing becomes less scary, and is known by The Human to be safe to approach. 

Thank you, this is a good reasoning for why I should teach her both of them. I will keep at it and see how it goes. She seems to be changing a whole lot lately, and hopefully her confidence is improving.

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