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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello,

I have taken on a bit of a special mission. I'll tell the full story.

Thirteen years ago my mother owned a bernese mountain dog which she loved and trained very well. She died of natural causes, and another six years passed without a dog at the farm I grew up on. Then after all the kids, me included, had moved out and my parents had time for themselves again my mother started mentioning how she missed the dog occasionally. Tragically, my father and my sisters and brother decided she really meant she wanted a new dog, so we got one as a surprise for her birthday, another Bernese Mountain Dog.

The problem, however, is that she never really wanted a new dog; that is, she loves the new dog, but the combination of being older, having much more work to do in other parts of life, she doesn't feel she has the time or energy to really offer what a dog needs. My father is even more busy, but somehow promised to help out, a promise he was never going to be able to keep.

So here we are, a bernaise mountain dog, my two parents and me (staying over summer) with a mission: To train the dog at least a little. I've chosen to train her by clicker training.

I am aware that most dog behaviour problems are really just reactions to human behaviour and lack of consictency, and that my two months of training will have to be retained somehow for all this to be worth anything.


Problem areas I've identified for our dog Bella:

- She pulls the leash alot when walking (This has been remedied, she is now much, much better).

- She always bites the leash after we put it on for walking and walks with it in her mouth until she gets bored and starts sniffing the ground instead.
- She reacts negatively to 'come' when we want her to come in or over to us unless she knows we have a reward. (I know why this has become a negative call; she always has always had to come inside or be on the long leash in the garden when the call is used) How do I change this into a positive?

- She has little impulse control. She'll go for anything she wants to go for (I've started training for this, using placing treats on the ground in front and not letting her get to them until she sits, getting better, but slowly).

- She keeps stealing toys and/or food out of the hands of my sisters 3 year old daughter.


Human problems:

- My parents have no time to do much other than walking her now and then and cuddle her. Very little training is done.

- I am here only 2,5 months of the year.


So, if anyone has got any advice on how to train and even better, advice on how my parents can do training that takes little time in order to retain the little I can teach her now, that would be brilliant.



PS: The dog is living in a rural mountain area at a farm with cats, hens and goats. She's got tons to do and is often let free to roam around the farm as she likes. The only times she shows signs of stress is when on a long leash for a couple of hours and noone is there with her.
 

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sounds like she really stressed out by the leash in general... the biting the leash, and followed by the sniffing the ground... i would start conditioning her to accept the leash in the first place. start by taking the leash out, and clicking/treating her for just looking at it... you can set it on the floor in your training area and do this. then let her progress to touching it.

how did you remedy the pulling? some more ideas, they will help to make the whole leash experience a more positive one for her:
http://www.dogforum.com/dog-training/loose-leash-walking-1683/

for the recall, always have rewards, call her to you often, then release her to do what she was doing again, over and over, then release her again after, so that she doesn't associate the behavior with the end of her good time. you can start to phase out the reward as you get more consistent results from her and only reward her when you really are going to end the good times, but not when you are releasing her again (in my world "come" means come all the way to me and let me grab your collar)

some recall tips:
http://www.dogforum.com/dog-training/recall-9595/

for the 3 yo, restrict her a bit when around her, and teach her a strong leave-it and practice some impulse control training:


as far as what your parents can do when you aren't there, i'm not really sure... i mean, dog training is potentially a really simple thing, and you can achieve it by doing REALLY short sessions and using life rewards, or it can get more complex, depending on the dog... how old is she?



Dog | Forum | Rocks!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks alot for the reply!

sounds like she really stressed out by the leash in general... the biting the leash, and followed by the sniffing the ground... i would start conditioning her to accept the leash in the first place. start by taking the leash out, and clicking/treating her for just looking at it... you can set it on the floor in your training area and do this. then let her progress to touching it.
I think I was a bit unclear. She only bites the leash when I take her on the leash for walking. The long leash in the yard she doesn't have an issue with as long as she doesn't have to stay there for long. And when walking she keeps biting it, jumping around, occasionally growling. The sniffing part is just what she starts doing after a little while of walking, reading the newspaper as it were. :) So I suppose that is more interesting than biting the leash.

In other words, the biting of the leash lasts for two minutes or so.

how did you remedy the pulling?
Simply by clicking and rewarding when she walks with the leash loose for a short while, stopping and walking the other way or simply stop. I just read the sticky on that, and happy to see I am doing that bit right. I am a tree, haha.

In the beginning she kept pulling, but she's slowly becoming better. Now she will usually be very excited at seein the leash, then bite at it when putting it on, then walking the leash tight, stop and wait, walking the leash tight and repeat that pattern for a while. After walking for some 15-20 minutes she is usually happy to walk on a fairly loose leash without me having to turn or stop. We are definately nowhere near her walking beside me for the length of any walk, she is usually walking in front, still a little impatient.


as far as what your parents can do when you aren't there, i'm not really sure... i mean, dog training is potentially a really simple thing, and you can achieve it by doing REALLY short sessions and using life rewards, or it can get more complex, depending on the dog... how old is she?
What I really ask with that bit is wether or not everything I teach her this summer will be gone by Christmas if it isn't repeated constantly.

Bella is two years old in August, so still fairly young and lively. Nothing is safe of her tail indoors ;)
 

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Your thoughts are so sweet!

How old is the dog?

- She pulls the leash alot when walking (This has been remedied, she is now much, much better).
I am curious how did you remedy the leash walking?


- She reacts negatively to 'come' when we want her to come in or over to us unless she knows we have a reward. (I know why this has become a negative call; she always has always had to come inside or be on the long leash in the garden when the call is used) How do I change this into a positive?
Is it a long distance from where she is to the inside of the house?
What I do with my dog was starting off with a really small distance, then gradually increase the distance. I'd give him treat every time he comes over for the first few times, then I will give him treats for every 2 times he comes over and so on.

- She has little impulse control. She'll go for anything she wants to go for (I've started training for this, using placing treats on the ground in front and not letting her get to them until she sits, getting better, but slowly).
That is a good start. I always make sure that my dog knows that he doesn't just get things he wants. He has to earn it. For example, he has to sit down before I let him have the food. He has to sit and wait before he can run out to the backyard etc. (else I close the door on him :cool:)

I don't know about other problems. I just gave some suggestions on the ones that I have experience with. I don't know about "little time" since everything accumulates. However, if they don't have a lot of time, they can do very small sessions at a time. I train my dog about for a few minutes per session and multiple sessions throughout the day. It doesn't train my dog as quickly as I would like to, but it fits my schedule. He might learn slower but he still learns in the end. As long as you repeat and emphasize.

Living in a rural area definitely helps, especially when she has a tons of to do. My dog is kind of on the reserve (we live in a city though). He didn't have much freedom at first, then we slowly give him more freedom (freedom as in let him out of his kennel). After about a year, he goes from having like an hour of free time to completely out in the house.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I might add that before mid-June I had not really ever done any training with a dog. Bella on the other hand has learnt that she can be a bit bossy without anything really happening. So my initial response was to be strict, not allow her in the kitchen or living-room at all. Her reaction to that was one of ambivalence, she was offended at my mother for letting me 'taking over', seemingly even demonstrating it to my mother by refusing to react to her at all.

But now, after reading up a bit on the bernese I learnt how connected they are to their family, how little they enjoy being alone and removed those barriers that I had put up for her indoors. And I've been reading up on clicker training as well, and it helps both me and Bella.

I am basically trying to become a dog trainer in a few weeks, a ridicolous goal of course, but what I am achieving is a greater understanding of our dog and a bernese mountain dog that is getting more and more tied to me by the hour. And that is a great feeling. :)

To Yuer:

She is almost two years old, and I answered some of what you asked above your post.

Living in a rural area definitely helps, especially when she has a tons of to do.
I might add that while she has tons she COULD do, when free she is mostly just lying in our large, open parking area behaving as she was the manager overseeing everything being in order which is quite funny considering there is alot of activity around her. Free-running hens, cats and humans in a big mix.
 

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I think I was a bit unclear. She only bites the leash when I take her on the leash for walking. The long leash in the yard she doesn't have an issue with as long as she doesn't have to stay there for long. And when walking she keeps biting it, jumping around, occasionally growling. The sniffing part is just what she starts doing after a little while of walking, reading the newspaper as it were. :) So I suppose that is more interesting than biting the leash.

In other words, the biting of the leash lasts for two minutes or so.



Simply by clicking and rewarding when she walks with the leash loose for a short while, stopping and walking the other way or simply stop. I just read the sticky on that, and happy to see I am doing that bit right. I am a tree, haha.
gotcha ;) i would recommend watching and using the "silky-leash" method in addition to what you are already doing... i makes a huge difference by helping to overcome "opposition reflex"

for the biting, i would work on a "leave it" and see if she will respond to that... or you could try stopping, as if she were pulling and waiting for her to stop biting... c/t for walking without biting, or maybe even taking the leash off and ending the walk immediately when she bites (practice walks at home of course) sounds like you have a good grasp of the process, so experiment and see what works, sometimes you have to switch up/combine techniques...


What I really ask with that bit is wether or not everything I teach her this summer will be gone by Christmas if it isn't repeated constantly.

Bella is two years old in August, so still fairly young and lively. Nothing is safe of her tail indoors ;)
it depends on if they can be consistent with the things you worked on with her, ie, being a tree if she pulls etc... her age will help for sure, as dogs mature (about 2-3 yo) training can sort of "stick" better... but if you could talk them into really short sessions, it would have a better chance of it, i'm talking 5 treat long sessions... that sort of thing... could help them to hire a dog-walker for her too, if that is feasible?



Dog | Forum | Rocks!
 

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@Zandalis, oh my sorry. Took me so long to type that I didn't see the new response posted >.<

- typing more -
 

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( Took too long to type, and I can't edit the old post anymore >.<) Sorry for multiple posts)

I am basically trying to become a dog trainer in a few weeks, a ridicolous goal of course, but what I am achieving is a greater understanding of our dog and a bernese mountain dog that is getting more and more tied to me by the hour. And that is a great feeling.
It is really good that you are so positive toward this! A lot of research will help. Not all techniques will work and sometimes you will have to mix and match some techniques and find out whichever works best for your dog.

What I really ask with that bit is wether or not everything I teach her this summer will be gone by Christmas if it isn't repeated constantly.
If she learned well in the time with you, and being repeated every now and then then it shouldn't be gone by Christmas. I watched an video before of someone who hasn't visited the dog for a long time and the dog still remembers the old tricks (like, getting the remote control/putting clothing in laundry and such).

Have you talked to the previous owner? Just to see what kind of environment she was in and whether she had any bad experience or something. Just an idea :D
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Have you talked to the previous owner? Just to see what kind of environment she was in and whether she had any bad experience or something. Just an idea :D
There hasn't been a previous owner, I am just trying to train my parents dog. They had her since she was a puppy.

Bad experiences would include not enough attention and stress from being on the leash in the garden for a full day. Other than that, I don't think so.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
There is one more thing I forgot to discuss, an a very important one too.

When we play with her, and especially the female members of the family, Bella will get really worked up about the game and go for not just the ball, but elbows and arms. She can obviously really hurt people when what we are trying to do is playing with her.

I am talking about tug-playing with a rope or throwing a ball.

If my sister is throwing a ball, Bella will often hit her wrist, elbow or arm, jumping and often growling. Obviously the game ends as soon as that happens, but I wonder what the cause is? Why does she get so worked up, why does she go for arms, even using teeth?

She is never trying to bite anyone in any other situation, and she is not really biting here either, but still, it can be scary.


In my eyes, even touching us with her teeth is a big no go. How do I teach her how to treat us carefully even in a wild game where she is worked up?

Is growling ok when playing or is it a sign of aggression? If so, what do I do?



Sorry for not mentioning this initially, but because I rarely play with her like this randomly and without an agenda of teaching her to let go or impulse control it is mostly my sister and mother that struggle with this. My mother even mentioned Bella nibbling at her elbow when coming home from the store with both hands occupied with bags.
 

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tug with rules... don't let play be a free for all, and put away her toys so that she cannot initiate it... start playing with her in a very structured way, so that you can put rules on the game... she should know a solid "leave it" and have a solid "out" (drop the toy) and you practice, paying careful attention to her arousal level, if she starts to get worked up, game off, if she makes contact with her teeth, to anything other than the toy, game off... the toy goes away, and you disengage from her. i'd give it some sort of time out period, then try again... the more excited she gets/enjoys the game, the faster she will learn the rules and play by them. you may also try "back-chaining" a retrieve, to help her learn how to appropriately take toys etc from you... the more different experiences she has doing this sort of thing, the better chance of her generalizing it... does that make sense?

it really sounds like you are just on the cusp of getting her behaviors under control actually ;) and you are doing much of the "right" things to address them... all you need is time to practice, and consistency with everyone else.



Dog | Forum | Rocks!
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
tug with rules... don't let play be a free for all, and put away her toys so that she cannot initiate it... start playing with her in a very structured way, so that you can put rules on the game... she should know a solid "leave it" and have a solid "out" (drop the toy) and you practice, paying careful attention to her arousal level, if she starts to get worked up, game off, if she makes contact with her teeth, to anything other than the toy, game off... the toy goes away, and you disengage from her. i'd give it some sort of time out period, then try again... the more excited she gets/enjoys the game, the faster she will learn the rules and play by them. you may also try "back-chaining" a retrieve, to help her learn how to appropriately take toys etc from you... the more different experiences she has doing this sort of thing, the better chance of her generalizing it... does that make sense?

it really sounds like you are just on the cusp of getting her behaviors under control actually ;) and you are doing much of the "right" things to address them... all you need is time to practice, and consistency with everyone else.
Thanks, I really am trying :)

I suppose one of the things I need to teach is to teach my family how to play with her first of all, and then take it slow from there. This forum is allready giving me so many ideas I'm afraid I'll end up overwhelmed before I get going with Bella again tomorrow :p
 

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lol... you'll be ok ;) start by showing them what you do... and what that gets bella to do... that way they can see it working and are hopefully motivated to keep it up :)



Dog | Forum | Rocks!
 

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Sorry for the misunderstanding earlier. When you mentioned almost 2 years old, I thought that was when you guys got her. I didn't know you guys have had her since puppy.

I was looking up my dog's problem (jumping on people) and I found this thread that might have helpful information for you:
http://www.dogforum.com/dog-training/2y-o-female-bernese-mountain-dog-21393/#post224654

You did mention that you stop the game when the bad behavior occurs (which is good). Do you tell her "no" or "bad" when she does it too? We say no/bad whenever our dog does something bad. During playing, furthest we let him go is barking. Anything beyond barking such as starting to nip, we immediately tell him firmly no/bad and stop playing with him. Then we'd resume to play again after he has his little break.

From my readings, two main methods that I came across are 1) the friendship type and 2) the dominance type. The friendship type is like, if she bites you, then you go "Aww that hurts! No, bad!" that worked for some people but didn't work for mine. I went with the dominance type and it worked with our dog. We have an Australian Shepherd. I used to be really soft/easy on him until I found out that my softness is what made him think that he can have control over me.

My dog does not have problem with my boyfriend (who is really firm on training him). So I have had the same problem for a while that Bella is doing to the sister and mother. What worked for me (it was scary at first), is to be firm with him and to show him that I am the boss here. If he does anything bad, I will give him an angry look with a firm no (but I don't really get angry because I don't want him to feel my anger. It is just something I do to go with the firm no). Showing him that I am the boss here, and that I am not scared of him. That is just from my experience so I am not sure if it will work with Bella. Our dog is a tough kid so we have to be really firm with him to teach him.
 

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it isn't necessary to tell the dog "no/bad" when you disengage with her, she will realize that there is no reward in the behavior... that in itself is a punishment.



Dog | Forum | Rocks!
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Yuer:

Haha, that forum thread? It's the same dog! It's my Bella :)
The thing is, before I started training with her a couple of weeks ago, my girlfriend was visiting. She is used to horse dressage, and set off working with Bella when I was more or less constantly away working for a while. And I knew she was asking around on forums and such, but I never knew it was this very forum! I haven't actually read that post/thread yet, but I certainly will have to. I did discuss Bella alot with her though, but she's away now and will be for the summer, so I've identified my own problems and solutions since she's left.

So yea, two threads by two different posters, but the same dog. :)
 

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@Zandalis, that is what I thought too because it seemed like the same dog, but I didn't want to make any inaccurate assumption so I didn't mention it LOL.

@fawkese1,
it isn't necessary to tell the dog "no/bad" when you disengage with her, she will realize that there is no reward in the behavior... that in itself is a punishment.
I see. We have always used verbal to associate with any stop of action so yeah >.< If we just stop, our dog will continue playing. For us, if we tell him no and stop then he gets the message.
 

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there is a difference though, to teaching your dog a cue to stop a behavior, for example i teach my dog an "out" in tug, and when i say it, he stops playing, as opposed to verbally correcting him. when my dog outs, he gets rewarded for following that cue... when my dog is corrected for something, it is usually by the removal of the reward... "leave-it" is another example, when my dog follows that cue, he is rewarded, leave-it isn't the same as "no/bad" it is an instruction to ignore something... when he does so, he is rewarded. removing your attention though, that is a punishment, and it is much more similar to telling the dog "no/bad"

the OP is learning about training, she may be interested in this sort of information ;)



Dog | Forum | Rocks!
 

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@fawkese1, I see.

If I have understood your explanation correctly, then it is like, "no more laser" when we tell him we are not longer playing laser game with him, which is stop a behavior as you have mentioned. Not "correcting a behavior" since it isn't something bad.

The removing attention as a punishment I only tried when he was a young puppy (8 weeks or so). He was biting me a lot, and I stopped paying attention, but he would just keep going on biting me. So simple removing attention didn't work for me in that instance. I don't know if it will work with him now since he is older. We say no/bad and stop playing. Our no/bad is associated with things that we do not like him to do, so it is bad that he does certain thing. So he will stop whatever he is doing if he hears no/bad.

I can try next time to see if he will stop if we just stop giving him attention.

the OP is learning about training, she may be interested in this sort of information
Yes, that is why I responded to your message instead of just moving on. I am still learning as well. Some methods work for my dog and some don't. So it is nice to see how others are doing it. My posts are just my own personal opinions/experiences so they might change if I try out other people's suggestions/clarifications :D
 
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