Is my training style hindering relaxation?

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Postby pitbullmamaliz » January 11th, 2010, 3:08 pm

As you guys know, I have enrolled Inara in a "Relax Class" to encourage her to relax and not react around other dogs. I'm super excited.

But I have a question. When I work with Inara on training, I keep it very upbeat, active and fast-moving. I do this in the hopes that she'll have fun and remain engaged with me. We only do it for a few minutes at a time. Normally we work a bit on each of the following: watch (make eye contact with me), touch (bop my hand or a target with your nose), fast sits (move around quickly then stop and tell her to sit quickly), gotcha (collar grabs = Good Things), and loose leash walking. I'm using the clicker for all of this and lots of treats. She seems to have fun, and I have fun. But is all this upbeat training going to prohibit her from relaxing when we do it around other dogs? Or will the fact that she is engaged and active with me be sufficient to overcome the fact that she's not relaxed?

I hope that made sense!
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Postby maberi » January 11th, 2010, 3:28 pm

A very interesting question Liz and something I've pondered myself.

I think in general, training should be upbeat and fun for dogs. Dogs just like people tend to learn better when things are interesting and fun.

I'm currently working with Kayden on some Control Unleashed exercises at the training building. I'll have to take some video of Kayden this week during our session but he is COMPLETELY different in terms of being relaxed at home vs the training building. Certainly this is not unusual. He has a history of running flyball in the building and being really amped up in that environment. Kayden is naturally a VERY high strung dog and has a lot of difficulty relaxing in stimulating environments. He fires over his threshold extremely fast and it is very difficult trying to get him back under that threshold. What I noticed the first night with him is that relaxing was not something he was comfortable doing. The second he would start to relax he would immediately fire up and grab his leash and shake it (his displacement behavior when he is stressed). Kayden will settle down a bit and become operant in that environment but he is by no means relaxed and will quickly go back over that threshold. He needs to continually have practice (even if they are short moments) relaxing and staying calm in those settings so that it gradually becomes easier for him.

On the other hand I can walk Earl into the building (he too runs flyball there) and within 5 minutes can have him lying on the floor with his eyes closing.

Again, like humans dogs are wired differently and what comes naturally for one dog is extremely unnatural for another. I think what you are going to see with Inara initially is that it is very hard for her to relax in class. She has a long history of being excited in situations around other dogs and that will not be an easy change for her, but if you guys take things slow and stick with it, I bet you will see a huge change.

pitbullmamaliz wrote:As you guys know, I have enrolled Inara in a "Relax Class" to encourage her to relax and not react around other dogs. I'm super excited.

But I have a question. When I work with Inara on training, I keep it very upbeat, active and fast-moving. I do this in the hopes that she'll have fun and remain engaged with me. We only do it for a few minutes at a time. Normally we work a bit on each of the following: watch (make eye contact with me), touch (bop my hand or a target with your nose), fast sits (move around quickly then stop and tell her to sit quickly), gotcha (collar grabs = Good Things), and loose leash walking. I'm using the clicker for all of this and lots of treats. She seems to have fun, and I have fun. But is all this upbeat training going to prohibit her from relaxing when we do it around other dogs? Or will the fact that she is engaged and active with me be sufficient to overcome the fact that she's not relaxed?

I hope that made sense!
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Postby pitbullmamaliz » January 11th, 2010, 4:00 pm

I'm fortunate in that she's been in this building once before, when we were having our private session. So it was just a very calm, relaxing hour with me, her and the trainer. She was allowed to wander around and sniff for a bit while the trainer and I talked, and then we worked on relaxation exercises. So hopefully she will remember that building as a soothing place. Obviously it will be different with 3 other dogs there but it really sounds like Ginger is going to keep it as low-key as possible.

I guess I'm hoping that even though I'm not working on official "relaxation" exercises at home, having Inara feel like she can focus on me and have Good Things happen will help her feel safer/more relaxed in class. I hope!
"Remember - every time your dog gets somewhere on a tight leash *a fairy dies and it's all your fault.* Think of the fairies." http://www.positivepetzine.com"

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Postby amazincc » January 11th, 2010, 4:52 pm

Inara sounds so much like Sepp... even when he's relaxed, he's really NOT.
Rioght now we are working on being relaxed while simply being petted... good God, and it's slow going and frustrating. :shock: :rolleyes2:

I've noticed that "upbeat training" makes Sepp over-excited and it takes forever for him to actually focus, so I am forcing myself to be very, very calm and wait him out... for instance, if I say "sit" in a happy, upbeat voice he's all over the place (butt wagging and all excited) before he will finally sit. If I say "sit" in a very quiet, calm voice he will obey much, much faster.

Faust is the total opposite... he can calm himself, sit quietly for petting, and just enjoy the moment. He's even like that around other people he doesn't know when given a command.

It always amazes me to see such a huge difference in two dogs who are basically being raised the same way.

PLEASE keep your other thread updated, because I would LOVE to know how to get the big brown goof to become a little calmer and relaxed. It makes me tired just watching him. :wink:
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