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I have a situation that I am puzzled and a little worried about with my 3 year old female Shiloh Shepard, Pepper.

Pepper seams to be acting out a little and I do not understand why. We have been doing a lot of obedience and rally training this past year to year and half and we have even competed getting excellent results each time in the ring. I used almost all positive training approach/methods with verbal only corrections from time to time. We practice about 3 nights a week for anywhere from 2 hours to 15 minutes depending on the energy level we both have, and with lots of play breaks inbetween. Things were going very well, and Pepper and I were really getting in sync with each other and developing an even stronger bond.

We started training on the long sit stay and the long down stay where I get her in position, give the command to stay, and then I leave the area so I am out of sight to Pepper. After a little practice at it, Pepper got to the point where she would stay for at least 3 minutes. From what I was told, she would look a little concerned at first, be seem a little more relaxed after a few minutes. This has changed in the past month. Now when she is in the stay command she will almost frantically look for me and break her stay in less than a minute.

I know this sounds like some type of separation anxiety, but this is the only time and situation she acts like this in. This is the worst when we are practicing at our obedience club and there is a large group of dogs and people around. While she has always been a little nervous in situations like this, it has never bothered her this much before.

I can not think of a single bad experience that could have led to this behavior

Any ideas of what is causing this and how I could deal with it ?


Could this be her testing me, some type of development stage at age 3 ???
 

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It sounds like she is anticipating her release word: "Cliff said 'stay', I think I've stayed long enough now... time to get my treat, right?" I find that it helps to really vary your practices when it comes to 'stay'. Two variables that can keep dogs from "guessing ahead" are:

a) Where you reward her. If you are calling her over for a reward every time, or walking back to her every time, she will begin to predict. When you practice stay, walk away and release her from where you are standing. Then put her in a stay again, walk away from her, walk BACK to her and release her.

b) Reward her in the middle of her stays. Put her in a stay walk away, wait 30 seconds, come back and reward her WITHOUT releasing her and then walk away again, rinse and repeat however many times you like. This teaches her that it's not being released that gets her the reward, it's the stay that gets her the reward.

These two ways of mixing it up, I feel, sort of break that old routine of "Stay means I sit here and wait until I can rush over to the handler and get my treat".
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I only give the release word after returning to her.

I will try returning more often to give her a treat for a while and see how that works. I had been doing that before and had slowly worked up to being able to stay for at least 3 minutes, sometimes even pushing it to 5 without a problem. Not too sure why it seems we have taken a step backwards.
 

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I don't think you'll find an answer. Dog training goes backward and forwards in fits and starts, it's rarely a straight line of progression. Just take it back a step, go in and reward her more often as you said, and work back up. This is a hard behavior for dogs
 

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We started training on the long sit stay and the long down stay where I get her in position, give the command to stay, and then I leave the area so I am out of sight to Pepper. After a little practice at it, Pepper got to the point where she would stay for at least 3 minutes. From what I was told, she would look a little concerned at first, be seem a little more relaxed after a few minutes. This has changed in the past month. Now when she is in the stay command she will almost frantically look for me and break her stay in less than a minute.

I know this sounds like some type of separation anxiety, but this is the only time and situation she acts like this in. This is the worst when we are practicing at our obedience club and there is a large group of dogs and people around. While she has always been a little nervous in situations like this, it has never bothered her this much before.

I can not think of a single bad experience that could have led to this behavior

Any ideas of what is causing this and how I could deal with it ?


Could this be her testing me, some type of development stage at age 3 ???
To me is just sounds like she is very uncomfortable with the situation. Behaviors fall apart under stress if the 3D's (distance, duration, distractions) aren't covered well. And I'm betting you may not have dropped criteria/expectations when beginning to practice your stays in a group setting.

You'll want to retrain your stay. Looking for comfort is going to be very important to ensure this doesn't fall apart again later. Watch and find out what she is comfortable with. Might be a certain distance or a amount of time out of sight. That's the stay you have and where you'll need to begin. ;)
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks guys

I will dial it back and start it over again. I'm really not in a rush, just want to do it right
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks, I will

I think I will take a little week long break from the training first, just to make sure I have not been over doing it
 

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Well, the weeklong break only turned out to be a few days. Another kennel club invited me to a fun match today. I figured we might as well go and practice on the things that Pepper knows well in a completely new environment with all new people. She did so well, I tried the sit/down stays. She did grate. She did not bolt on the sit stay, even with me being gone in the next room the whole time. She did get up on the down stay when the club member who was acting as the judge on this event walked towards her. Can’t get upset at those results. Some excellent process all around. I think I will just lay-off practicing the sit/down stays as much and focus more on building her self-confidence on the other new aspects we are learning.



I think we might have been trying to take on too much new stuff too soon without focusing enough on adding new distractions before moving on to something else/new.


I am certainly going to stick with the advice given here and plan on going over everything we have done so far and keep strengthen that with new/more distractions and focus and building her self-confidence more
 
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