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Hey! I'm new here. I'm looking for suggestions on what to do to adjust the relationship I have with my 18 month old mastiff. He is a Boerboel, about 120-130 lbs. I've had him since he was 8 weeks old. From the outset, he was a very pushy dog, not respecting our space, mouthing at hands, guarding food and toys. But he was a pup, so we took it one issue at a time. He no longer guards food or toys. He sits before he gets his food or goes out the door. However, he is constantly pushing into my space. He tries to push past me in the house, noses between me and my DH when we hug, pushes his big head onto my lap when I'm reading, invades my space when I'm eating, and about 100 other times a day. He paws at me for attention. If I rest a hand or foot on him, he'll immediately try to get on top, either moving his paw or head on top of my hand.

He has been to obedience training and knows the commands, and has about an 60% response rate. However, the other 40% of the time, he stares me down as if to see if I'm going to make him. If I move toward him, he'll bolt off. If I stare him down, he'll eventually back off. But sometimes it'll take a solid minute + before he complies. He barks at nothing every time he goes outside. He barks at our cat at night as though she's an intruder and not a housemate he's known for his entire life. I crate him at night and off and on during the day, depending on his level of intrusiveness. He often whines when crated. If not crated at night or if I'm not home, he'll get into trash or destroy furniture or pillows. He drags trash all over the yard. He'll work for food, but I'm tired of bribing him to behave. I've had other big/working dogs before (GSD, doberman, boxers), but I've never had any dog challenge me constantly. I find that I have to be harsh to get him to obey me, but it only lasts about a minute, and it's not worth the grump it gets me into! I get no respect!

What do you think?
 

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Dogs demanding attention ( especially physically as you described) are IMO "assertive" dogs, shall I say, ones that have a fairly high self image of themselves. 18 months is the prime age for many a dog to test its previous boundaries especially if the dog is wired that way. Up the obedience and you should always be the one who dictates when attention is given, not the dog. When the dog is pushing you for attention/"affection", at the very least, make the dog earn it via obeying some basic obedience commands or other trained behavior.

Working for food is a common mistake so many make as it undermines the true goal of a working relationship. Create a relationship where the dog engages you because of what you offer other than food.

Being "harsh" at times only works if you back it up from square one and at exactly the proper moment. You sound like you have a willful dog going through a phase BUT this one sounds a bit more determined than your previous dogs. Up the ante and make the dog work for everything and I mean everything. You might ignore the dog for a while as well. If your dog knows the behavior then make him do it for your praise and expectations as well as what gets him next and I'm not talking about a scrap of food.

Do you currently do any focus drills where the dog must make and maintain eye contact before being released to a resource you control?

Investigate NILIF training and as you employ it, take your dog to a new level where he works for you, not a scrap of food.
 

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Dogs are being 'disrespectful', they are being dogs.

"however, he is constantly pushing into my space. He tries to push past me in the house, noses between me and my DH when we hug, pushes his big head onto my lap when I'm reading, invades my space when I'm eating, and about 100 other times a day. He paws at me for attention. If I rest a hand or foot on him, he'll immediately try to get on top, either moving his paw or head on top of my hand."

He wants attention and that is the way he knows to get it. Freyja does many of these things, but they don't bother me. She is a very touchy, velcro dog and I like it. If she is in the way I tell her to back up. If it bothers you that much ignore it, over time the behavior will change. The destructiveness sounds like boredom to me. How often do you take him out for walks? Play, tug, fetch? Mental stimulation? Also keep temptations out of reach, like trash. I still put the trash up when I go out otherwise my basset will get into it.
He's not challenging you, he's still a young dog and finding the limits.
 
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When the dog is pushing you for attention/"affection", at the very least, make the dog earn it
We are all different. If my dogs want affection I give it to them. If I'm doing something at the moment where I can't, I get to them when I can. I do redirect and change their behavior if they try to jump up on me unbidden (the poodle is allowed to jump on my lap when I am on my chair and I call her to do so).
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by DriveDog View Post
When the dog is pushing you for attention/"affection", at the very least, make the dog earn it
We are all different. If my dogs want affection I give it to them. If I'm doing something at the moment where I can't, I get to them when I can. I do redirect and change their behavior if they try to jump up on me unbidden (the poodle is allowed to jump on my lap when I am on my chair and I call her to do so).
IMO the dog is not trying to get your attention or affection, because that calls for cognitive ability of separate self, and dogs don't have the brain anatomy for that kind of understanding. The dog is trying to make contact. This is a good thing, but you can do things that encourage this in ways that are preferable. The best way, IMO, is by pushing. I have a Mastiff (English) and just by pushing I been able to change behaviors I didn't want, including pulling on leash, and reactivity.

Pushing videos
 

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We are all different. If my dogs want affection I give it to them. If I'm doing something at the moment where I can't, I get to them when I can. I do redirect and change their behavior if they try to jump up on me unbidden (the poodle is allowed to jump on my lap when I am on my chair and I call her to do so).
If I am busy I don't drop everything to give them attention either. They learn to wait for it. Sometimes it take a lot of time and repetition. If I'm busy I say, not now or wait. I don't allow jumping, unless invited up which isn't often.
 
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We are all different. If my dogs want affection I give it to them. If I'm doing something at the moment where I can't, I get to them when I can. I do redirect and change their behavior if they try to jump up on me unbidden (the poodle is allowed to jump on my lap when I am on my chair and I call her to do so).
I wonder if your situation with your dog is the same as rcinga's ? I freely give my dog attention regardless whether the dog solicits it or not. I do this because the dog learned a while back not to "push" me. Our relationship is solid as is the bond but it took some "understanding" on both our parts. All of the GSDs I have had were/are very willful dogs, just as I desired. full of drive and spirit. Each and every one of them at about the same age, 15-20 months displayed the same departure from previous behavior in certain sectors. Basically, all of them retested previous limits, boundaries as well as adherence to commanded discipline. Along with these changes, they all exhibited a more headstrong attitude. I suspect this might have to do with the dog nearing adulthood and starting to experience their full capacities as an adult (almost).

"If you let him sleep in your bed even after he's growled or snapped at you or give him attention on his terms you are telling him that you're happiest when he's in charge."

The excerpt above deals with a dog which might become confused as it passes through this stage in its life and changes in behavior may manifest itself in a perceived aggressive fashion or numerous other undesirable characteristics. IMO, the dog is simply confused due to this stage of life coupled with a high drive dog and willful to boot. The dog is under a lot of pressure due to this new stage of life and the dog will generally tend to be more assertive in dog terms, some are obvious and others are completely missed by humans because we tend to think like humans. The solution is the dog needs direction and guidance. It becomes so clearly evident once all has been reestablished and order is in balance again that the dog is comfortable again and a load of pressure has been taken off the dog. The dog is no longer "confused".

Yes, we are all different just as our dogs are. I prefer a willful dog, most do not. I want a dog that has a powerful attitude and spirit. With my "wants" comes the responsibility of proper training and maintenance of my expectations and boundaries, most likely more than most might prefer.
 

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If you read the situations, they are not alike, and I am happy in my situation whereas rcinga is asking advice.
Glad to hear it. Thanks for the clarification.

Did you ever go through a period with your dog around that age where you needed to reinforce previous behaviors due to new undesirable behaviors arising? If so, what did you do?
 

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Sorry, not sure how to respond to an individual post. DriveDog, what do you mean, what I offer other than food? Attention? Play time? Hero is very assertive. We were told that mastiffs tend to be big softies on the inside and not to be too firm. We tried that for a couple months, and that may have been us getting off on the wrong foot. How do I get him to maintain eye contact, and what happens when he does? If not food, what's in it for him? I've seen some NILIF material, but will need to refresh my memory on implementation.

Gnostic Dog, why is pushing "preferable"? I watched the videos. What's the point? Thanks for the input!
 

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Sorry, not sure how to respond to an individual post. DriveDog, what do you mean, what I offer other than food? Attention? Play time? Hero is very assertive. We were told that mastiffs tend to be big softies on the inside and not to be too firm. We tried that for a couple months, and that may have been us getting off on the wrong foot. How do I get him to maintain eye contact, and what happens when he does? If not food, what's in it for him? I've seen some NILIF material, but will need to refresh my memory on implementation.

Gnostic Dog, why is pushing "preferable"? I watched the videos. What's the point? Thanks for the input!
Techie answer, just use the 'quote' button for individual posts, put the @ sign in front of someone's name, and that will send an alert.

What you can offer other than food? I would make a list of all the things your dog wants. This should be a very big list, but I'll sample Sonic's (and won't include food).
Walks
Open the door
Sniff pee
Pee on trees
Squirrels
Muscrats
Geese
Chasing people he loves
Going forward
Running forward
Butt scratches

etc.
And then start crossing off things that you have zero control over. The left overs will be things you can use for training (and NILIF).
Look beyond the obvious.
As an example, on the list above--I can't allow my dog to chase muscrats and geese, and mostly can't let him chase squirrels, but if a squirrel is in a tree within my reach, I can use access to the tree as a training opportunity. Grant him access to the tree for good behaviour on a leash (or a sit, or a down), so even things that seem to be beyond your control sometimes can be within your control and become opportunities.
 

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Gnostic Dog, why is pushing "preferable"? I watched the videos. What's the point? Thanks for the input!
The point is to allow for flow.

Inside your dog is a battery, an emotional reservoir filled with “unresolved emotion”. Unresolved emotion is created when emotion, a primal force of attraction, meets resistance and doesn’t come to a point of complete resolution. Unresolved emotion is an emotional “charge”, a concentration of energy that builds in intensity in order to overcome resistance.

Me - This is why your dog is attempting to make contact with you, but it is being blocked. Pushing will unblock that and it will satisfy his need for resolution.

Individuals do not have access or control over the unresolved emotion they carry in their emotional battery even though resolving it is the fundamental motive underlying all behavior. Unresolved emotion can only get out the way it went in; it is attracted to objects of resistance. In other words, any given layer of unresolved emotion can only be activated and ultimately resolved by the degree of resistance that caused it to be formed in the first place. It takes an external trigger of specific intensity to bring a given layer of unresolved emotion to the surface. And because unresolved emotion can-only-go-out-the-way-it-went-in, the emotional battery “tunes” the animal to that which can potentially resolve it.

Normal activity, positive experiences and physical exercise cannot resolve the deeper levels of unresolved emotion because they cannot trigger this energy. Therefore I train a dog to “PUSH” – i.e. to overcome resistance in order to get something I want the dog to have – for two reasons. First, I want to access the energy held in the dog’s emotional battery, particularly the deepest layers. This teaches the dog to tune in to me no-matter-what. Secondly, I want to be the means of its resolution. This teaches the dog to attune to me, no-matter-what.
https://naturaldogtraining.com/blog/why-we-push/

Did you read this on pushing above the videos, it gives a good explanation on the whys and how to's.

http://media.wix.com/ugd/b6a50b_da4dc71957d247c89064cd2bb22984d8.pdf
 

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Sorry, not sure how to respond to an individual post. DriveDog, what do you mean, what I offer other than food? Attention? Play time? Hero is very assertive. We were told that mastiffs tend to be big softies on the inside and not to be too firm. We tried that for a couple months, and that may have been us getting off on the wrong foot. How do I get him to maintain eye contact, and what happens when he does? If not food, what's in it for him? I've seen some NILIF material, but will need to refresh my memory on implementation.

Gnostic Dog, why is pushing "preferable"? I watched the videos. What's the point? Thanks for the input!

I apologize for not replying sooner.

Look it, so many people train a dog with food as the primary reward and it pretty much ends there. One has to take it further because inevitably there are other items which a dog will be more attracted to and that leaves the handler in the dust with a handful of food treats and a dog that blows them off. I most certainly have and will use food rewards amongst other rewards but only to teach a new behavior. Once the dog knows the commanded new behavior, I fade the food rewards and raise my expectations and training so the dog obeys and is rewarded with a source which gets the dog to give me his/her engagement. I always strive for the ultimate reward in the form of communication with the dog signifying that the dog has done well and pleased me and receives praise and lots of it. Most always, my praise is connected to a drive oriented reward at some point, might be right away or might be 20 minutes later but it is coming eventually.

Artdog gave some good suggestions as to other "rewards" and as mentioned it is specific to the individual dog. I tend to use items such as activities which require ME to satisfy the dog's strongest urges/drives. Example, a game of tug is lifeless if I am not at the other end of the tug toy. A game of fetch or frisbee cannot happen if I am not involved. A session of scent training cannot happen if I don't set up the course and lures. A session of most any training cannot happen if I am not the main component which allows the dog to indulge its basic drives. The bottom line is a thing called "engagement" and that's what you are shooting for, you want the dog to want what you have more than anything else available.

Another thing that Artdog stated that is spot on is " Grant him access", access to what trips your dog's trigger BUT you control the access for proper behavior as the reward. I think Artdog is suggesting that you find desirable and acceptable behavior which your dog thrives on and incorporate that behavior in your training and reward protocol but only when the dog obeys your commands. My current dog has a strong nose and at first it was a real problem even on something as simple as a walk, the dog wanted to scent track anything and everything. So, I took advantage of her tracking passion and used it as the reward for her adherence to the rules of a simple loose leash in the slot walk. When she maintained proper obedience to leash rules on our walks she was always rewarded with my praise and then some tracking time, wherever her nose led her and of course followed with more praise after a definitive end (upon my request) to her tracking time and back in the loose leash heel position.

How do you teach "focus" you ask? Start easy and as I have stated I will use food rewards to teach new behaviors. With my current dog, I started the process at the back door and front door because the backyard and out the front means all kinds of wonderful activities to my dog, so I didn't need food treats. But let's use food rewards because it seems like that is your typical procedure which is fine. Next time you feed your dog or food treat your dog, issue a command, I used "eyes" and keep the food somewhat in line with your dog's eyes and your eyes. The moment, the exact moment the dog looks directly at your eyes, use your positive verbal marker and then reward the dog. I don't care if it's a glance in the beginning, mark the moment instantly and then reward. Turn the glance into a few seconds and make the dog hold eye contact longer and longer. Then take the food reward and move it to a position which is no longer in line with your eyes and the dog and command "eyes". The dog will stare at the food treat most likely and not your eyes, repeat the "eyes" command if necessary and wait the dog out and eventually the dog will take its stare from the food to your eyes. The moment that happens it's a praise party, first with positive verbal marker and then the reward. Develop this until the dog stares you down without the food being in the line of both your eyes. You should be able to put the dog's food bowl on the floor or hold a treat by your side and the dog will lock eyes with you and not look at the food reward. Then take this to every pleasurable activity your dog enjoys and make it default behavior for any and all releases issued by you. Some dogs stare down their handlers rather easily while others are hesitant to make eye contact but once they learn it gets them to what they want you will not even need to issue an "eyes" command, they'll just stare at you awaiting direction.

Start small and build the duration as time goes by, patience and praise.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Thanks, DriveDog, for all the info. Where are the "real" dog trainers for real dogs and dog owners? It's difficult to find an obedience class taught by a person who has a clue, or who teaches beyond the basic commands. How would I go about connecting with/looking for knowledgeable real-life handlers in my area? I'm a visual learner, so I'm sitting here trying to visualize what your words would look like in a real-life setting. My mastiff LOVES to chase or catch anything. We hung a rope in a tree and he plays tug with an oak. I play tug with him, too, and make sure the games end with me putting the toy away. What I haven't been doing is using interaction as a reward for behavior. I also phase treats out after a command is learned, but I guess I haven't been very consistent about replacing it with praise and attention. Getting good feedback is so appreciated. Thank you.
 

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Where are the "real" dog trainers for real dogs and dog owners? It's difficult to find an obedience class taught by a person who has a clue, or who teaches beyond the basic commands.
I believe you have just asked THE question and IMO, it is incumbent upon you to really push any trainer on the questions particular to your goals. Yes, too many dog training facilities promising all kinds of wonderful results in very broad and general terms. Some might be able to deliver but too many are not properly capable in certain situations with certain breeds. Breed specific trainers are generally a better way to go but probably not a reality in your world unless you get really lucky, I've been lucky with GSDs. Does a "real" dog trainer need to be breed specific? I'm thinking not but you really need to ask the penetrating questions and represent your situation and goals adequately. One other question which I think is required when searching for a quality trainer is : How do you, the trainer, deal with handler deficiencies and lackings? Don't buy their baloney as you want someone who will rip into you if you are the weak link in the equation. Too many times, it is the human element which is more the problem than it is the dog's behavior. Yes, many dog trainers and their websites suggest they train the human as well as the dog but I like a trainer that will kick my rear end if I am contributing to the overall problem. I am not suggesting that this is your problem but simply a trainer with that mindset is more likely the better choice than the cookie cutter crap too many dog training businesses peddle.

One last thought, the fading of the food reward does not need to have a huge moment to it where it is simply cut off hence the term "fading". Think of it in the terms of a slot machine as they say, keep the dog guessing when it is coming BUT in the mean time when the dog doesn't hit the payout use your praise and other rewards so as to let the dog know it has done well. Your dog will begin to associate your alternate "reward" as a job well done. In an effort to not to try and confuse you but the power of a dog's anticipation for reward, in whatever form, is a powerful tool. You can shape this anticipation to your benefit with your dog but it needs to be created by you.

FWIW, I have never trained nor owned a mastiff only GSDs, so I can only speak to what I have found effective with the GSD breed. However, when it comes to finding a trainer, I think I can speak somewhat across the board. Unfortunately, I have wasted time and resources training with the wrong supposed "quality" dog trainer.
 
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