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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Ok so I'm just feeling so discouraged today.

My youngest dog, 11 months old, male mini schnauzer. He is a sweet natured and confident little guy. I love him more than I can express.

I have diligently trained him since the day he came home at 9 weeks. He knows soooooo many things and from age 4 months to 9 months, he was the best behaved little guy. Beautiful LLW, heeling, recall, sit stays, down stays, leave it, etc etc. I socialized him with lots of dogs and people and he was wonderful with all. I took him many many places to proof his obedience and LLW. I dreamed of him one day being a therapy dog.

Now... At 11 months he ignores me when he feels like it. Now when we are walking, he pulls and lunges at bunnies, bikers, etc. he barks like crazy, his responsiveness to commands like sit, down, recall has dropped to ~50% (unless he knows I have food). It's so frustrating.

I know he's in that juvenile phase where he is testing the boundaries, but it is still hard to accept. I want my sweet, obedient little pup back. Is this just a phase? Will he go back to being a good boy? Any advice to keep his obedience and behavior on track? Or words of encouragement?
 

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Aww don't get discouraged. I'm willing to bet it's totally a phase. I would just keep working on obedience- in a low distraction environment. He'll outgrow this phase :) Work on getting him his CGC certification. It'll give you a goal and you'll need it for therapy dog work anyway.
 

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Adolescent dogs can def be interesting to work with. You'll work through it! :)

What I would do is take a good look at my training. I've had to with my young guys. Both do a nice job of pointing out my mistakes and weaknesses. :p

In general, often the adolescents I work with (my classes and at the shelter) have not so great attention/focus and impulse control. Spending time working exercises in those areas tends to help and get them back on track.

Also, something I have noticed is that around this age people tend to really reduce rewards yet still ask for their dogs to work in increasingly difficult locations because as younger puppies they were so good. Puppy often ends up gaining reinforcement (often environmental and also unintentional on the owner's part) for unwanted behavior. As since reward = repeat well... happens again unless the owner addresses it. So take a look at how you are working the 3D's (duration, distraction, and distance). You can raise criteria or reduce frequency of rewards (ideally ''ping ponging'' - if that doesn't make sense let me know) in low distraction settings or places your dog has a nice reward history. New or very distracting locations will require lower criteria and higher rate of rewards.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Aspen & Kmes, thanks so much for your responses.

I have tried working on attention and impulse control. Do you have any suggestions for this, maybe new things I can try? I definitely work on distance, duration, distraction.

We still go to classes (every week since we was 3 months old), but he's a rock star at class. It's when we are on a walk or at the park etc, that he has suddenly chosen not to listen (sometimes even when I offer a very high value reward).

I remember my other dogs going through this kind of adolescent phase, but it never felt this bad because they were never as solidly trained and well behaved as this pup. To go from being so good to blowing me off is....upsetting. But I'm trying hard to be patient with my pup and strongly reinforce desirable behavior.

Like around age 3-4 my older dog became so reliably good. I think he finally got through the distracted, impulsive adolescent phase. Now he's pretty great, with only the occasional lapse in behavior.

Also, ping ponging?
 

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Aspen & Kmes, thanks so much for your responses.

I have tried working on attention and impulse control. Do you have any suggestions for this, maybe new things I can try? I definitely work on distance, duration, distraction.
Take a look over this thread. Lots of nice impulse control info and exercises.
http://www.dogforum.com/training-behavior-stickies/impulse-control-calmness-168218/
Ditto Aspen's suggestion of It's yer choice. Such a great way to work on this. I love it as it builds attention and impulse control as default behaviors (handler doesn't ask for pr prompt the dog - dog leans to do this on his own).

If willing to buy a book(s), Denise Fenzi's Beyond the Backyard is a nice program specifically for getting reliable behavior amidst distraction. Her sports skills books include information on engagement (attention/focus). She and others have blogs posts and youtube vids on engagement you could look at as well.

Something ime that really helps is to actively proof known behaviors for a wide range of distractions so for example, you might do some sessions with toys or food out and on the floor. A favorite person standing nearby. A person holding a toy or food. Another dog nearby in a stay. Etc. Very much along then lines of It's yer choice.

In these sessions you need to be able to control the distraction and also make sure your dog doesn't self reinforce. So you sometimes need to be creative or have help. You'll want to challenge your dog with the distraction he but at a level you feel he can succeed. Distraction level will need to be increased over time with success. 2-3 failures in a row means the distraction level is too difficult so will need to be adjusted in some way.

Just a clip of such a set up. It's treibball but process can be applied to any behavior. I do similar setups for obedience behaviors, heelwork, freestyle tricks, etc.
https://www.facebook.com/kelly.stilson.3/videos/1076489005726871/
I had shared initially on Instagram so doesn't show the whole session. Silly time limits!:p
Dexter is working more than one ball and at further distances BUT these were new distractions so dropped my criteria a lot (short distance and a single ball).
My husband had moved in closer over the course of the session. I also moved the treat container in closer though this doesn't show it. If Dexter had gone to my husband for attention, he would have looked away and ignored him. If Dexter had tried to take the food in his hands, he would have closed his fist and ignored. If he had gone to the treat container, I would have either walked away or perhaps gone in and stepped on the lid to prevent him from opening without saying or doing anything else. Choosing to re-engage with me and the game would get verbal support (''there you are goofball'' or something like that) but no cookies or toy play. Those rewards are for successful reps only (focused on task, done correctly). If he had failed 2x in a row, I would have moved the distractions further away or moved in closer to the ball to make it a little easier to get success.

This type of intentional setup, prepares dogs for distractions in real life and seems to really build attention and focus on the task. Just clears up for the dog how to earn reinforcement and what to do when distractions arise. Basically addresses conflict. So helpful!



We still go to classes (every week since we was 3 months old), but he's a rock star at class. It's when we are on a walk or at the park etc, that he has suddenly chosen not to listen (sometimes even when I offer a very high value reward).
At the park then, you'll want to drop expectations and increase rate of reinforcement. For example I might ask for a short stay, fewer steps for polite walking or in heel. If it was a precision behavior (often positions - heel, front, etc.) I would likely drop my expectations rewarding the effort initially. Not worrying about perfectly straight or how close to me. I would reward a crooked sit or a front/heel further away than I would ideally like (not forever, just initially while addressing the distraction) and use reward placement to fix the position (straighten the sit or feed close to my body to get them in the correct place). Once the distraction is dealt with (speedy responses, ignoring the distraction) I would require the precision.

Think of it almost as retraining everything in that new setting or around the new distraction.

Also, ping ponging?
For all your behaviors when working with the 3d's you'll have a bracket in which you'll train. So for example...
When working duration of stays you'll have a min. and a max. time. Starting out (initially training a stay or near a super tough distraction) it might be 1-4 seconds. You would ask for the stay and then bounce time between rewards within that time range. 2 seconds then reward, 3seconds then reward, 1second reward, 4 seconds reward, 2 seconds reward, and so on. Once reliable within that bracket, both ends are bumped up. So next time in that setting range might be 2-6 seconds.
Similarly with distance (might be distance on stays or polite walking/heelwork), you have a range. A minimum and maximum number steps. You ping pong or bounce within that range. When reliable then both ends of the range are bumped up a bit.

Your range will be higher in low distraction settings and likely progress more quickly. The range in new settings or very distracting scenarios will need to be dropped way down low and rebuilt. ;)

Training this way challenges dogs at a level they can succeed (done correctly) and includes easier reps which helps maintain the behavior. Preps them for working longer periods without as many rewards as well and keeps them engaged with training. If it continually gets harder and harder they tend to check out/quit. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Aspen- thank you for the video!! Yes, I have done many of these things with my pup, but I picked up a few new things to try.

Kmes- thank you so much for your detailed advice!! Super helpful. Especially the explaination of ping ponging. I will start that right away because he does often quit in a high distraction environment. I will drop the criteria and make sure he can get success which will keep him motivated to work.

Thank you both!! I will keep you posted.
 

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I'm in a very similar place: I've had 3 dogs in my life, but only with the third have I relied on actually training the dog what I want vs just correcting when she does something wrong. My Boston is 9 months, and is now pretending to forget everything she's ever learned.

Something I found very helpful was the suggestion to train the dog you have in front of you that day, and not train the dog you had in front of you days, weeks, or months ago.

He has finally realized he has his own mind. You are not longer the center of his world, and his hormones are probably all out of whack (yes, even if he is neutered, I'm not just talking about sex hormones).

You may need to take a few steps back in training and lower your standards. This may mean starting from scratch for a few behaviors or moving backwards in phasing out treats and rewarding every second time he does something instead of every fifth, or lowering the level/amount of distance/duration/ distraction.

He will be what he once was again, he just needs some patience and time. Training as this age is 1/2 technique and 1/2 patience, IMO.
 

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Don't fret, it's the adolescent stage and it will eventually pass. Just continue training and socializing, and you will both sail through the storm. I sympathize, as I have a 13 month old, and going through some things too.

You should absolutely read this article. Whenever I feel frustrated, it helps me from tearing my hair out!

Surviving our dog’s adolescence - Smart Animal Training Systems...
 

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Another adolescent owner right now! My girl hit this stage late at about 15 months. She was so good and now she's little miss "I'll do what I want when I want". ARGH.

I'm just going back to basics and treating her as if we've never trained anything. It's so frustrating feeling like months of work just disappeared (we adopted her at 7 months which is probably why it took a while for her teenager-ness to shine through as she had to settle into new life first).

Hang in there, we'll survive this phase!!
 
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