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Discussion Starter #1
At the shelter I volunteer at, I've been working on a badly neglected rottweiler mix and have run into a problem I've never, ever encountered. He is desperate to please, and intensely happy to have human affection and praise and .. therein lies the problem.

He was handed to me after my co-volunteer gave up due to too many poisoned cues. When training him (smart dog, figured out housebreaking after 2 weeks with 4 years being outside only), when he is praised, treated, or even CLICKED for doing something right, he completely flips out in joy with a dangerous level of doggy exuberance.

He bounces around the room at top speed, he squeaks, he barks, he spins in happy circles, stub tail going a million miles an hour. He is just so thrilled to be right that he goes bonkers. While he is going bonkers he can and has knocked his trainers and others on their butts simply through running into them. Praise or treat for calm relaxed behavior and it sets off the I WAS RIGHT YAAAY flipping out.

While it's painfully endearing and sweet, it's also a bit dangerous for anyone who can't handle suddenly being knocked on their ass by a delighted rottie who is just so happy to be right. I can't scold him for the spazzing out, and waiting til he stops spazzing to give him the treat simply sets him off again. If there's NO treat and praise he becomes visibly saddened and less willing to cooperate. I don't want to depress him but I would very much like to teach him to not bounce around the room like a superball, it'll make getting him a new home much easier.

Currently poisoned cues used to tell him he did something right: "Good boy" "Good" "Yes" ANY TREAT at all, tennis ball rewards, and clickers.
 

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There is a dog I know who can't use the clicker. It sets off pretty much the same reaction you're describing, although I will admit, a lower intensity. To my knowledge, she's never knocked anyone over! Her owner uses "Oui" (which is just French for "Yes") and uses really low value kibble.

That is seriously adorable.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
It is very cute. For a dog that saw people maybe once a week if that for most of his life, he is ... a very good animal. Just a little too excited about being right! I can try leading into using french (or spanish! si works as well!) tomorrow with a very low value thing and see if it makes any difference.
 

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I have to use Kabota's kibble for training cues, because anything else is just too high value and he gets so focused on the reward, he no longer cares what he's supposed to do to get it. I can use high value items for training recall, but that's about it.

Rottis are so sweet, despite their reputations. Poor baby.
 

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Hard to really tell without seeing but sounds like an impulse control/over stimulation thing rather than poisoned cues to me. :)

Maybe ditch the clicker and verbal markers for now. With the dogs that are super easily overstimulated at my shelter, I tend not to focus too terribly much on actually teaching much new stuff. I also don't do much play. They are just so stressed from the environment they can't handle it. Instead I work on beginner impulse control exercises and massage!:)

First impulse control exercise I do is treats in hand and hand on my knee. Pawing, licking and mouthing = closed fist. Backing away, standing still, sitting, etc. = hand opening. If they try diving on the food hand closes. If they do not dive, I reach for a treat and then give it to them. If they continue to be polite, I continue picking up treats from my hand and feeding. I generally don't say anything. Maybe a quiet, calm ''good boy/girl" as they eat a treat.... really I rely on the consequences (fist closing, opening, being given a treat) instead.

If really good at that then, it's treat on my knee. Cover with hand for diving. Uncover if polite and then feed.

Then treat on knee and dog has to do a known behavior to get the reward. If they get to this point before being adopted, I might start teaching new behaviors if they are able to remain reasonably calm. If not, I just continue on with impulse control and massage.

For massage...
Most ime respond really well to nice slow rubbing and massaging from me. I intentionally keep my voice calm, and quiet and all physical contact slow/gentle (I do the same with the impulse control stuff). Massaging ears, jaws/mouth, and neck seem to be the favs and the most tension relieving, though I'll also do spine and if comfy thighs and shoulders. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I'm fairly sure it's poisoned cues in this case because even if you're not working with him, and he hears 'good boy!' even if you're talking to another dog, off he goes in the happy bounces of slobbery rottie glee. And so on. It's cute even if I know he shouldn't be spazzing out all the time. Happy dogs are such a joy to see.

I'm gonna try low value treat of plain kibble, and see if impulse control exercises help at all. He'll be here for a while yet I imagine due to his thinness and sores, so I should have a few weeks at minimum to work on it and see if there's a way to slow things down.

He does love being petted though. He'll come lean on you and sigh and flop over to get rubbed and petted everywhere, and climb into your lap to curl up there if he thinks he can get away with it and then start dozing off. No problems touching him or petting him or getting him to relax and trust human touch at least ... without saying the GoodWords or having a clicker or anything like chicken or cheese in your hands.

He's going to make someone an amazing pet one day if we can get this under control!
 

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This is not poisoned cues. A poisoned cue is when an owner repeats a cue or command so often without reinforcement or follow up that the dog becomes "deaf", and the cue becomes meaningless. Like giving the dog the cue and expecting it to follow when it hasn't fully learned, or giving a dog the cue in a situation where it's too over aroused to follow. Come is probably the most often poisoned cue....Think about people who let their dog off leash and yell "COME!!!!" so often that the dog doesn't even look. Come is now meaningless. Poisoned. A cue can also become poisoned if the dog learns to expect negative things. Like the owner that calls come and then yells at or spanks the dog when it comes.

Praise and treats are not cues. They're positive reinforcement. He just has such an exuberant temperament and poor impulse control that he becomes over-aroused easily.

I would use the lowest value treat you can find. Even cheerios are an option. And just be patient. Keep everything low key, reward him for following the cue you give, and then wait him out while he acts like a clown. Ignore completely until he's calmed again. He will eventually learn to keep his head because that gets him more reinforcement, and the amount of clowning around you deal with between rewards will get shorter and shorter. Remember that he's probably in such an aroused state that he honestly cannot help himself. His brain has to be reprogrammed to THINK. The more he's asked to think, the better he will become.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Ah I am using 'poisoned' in this case as 'completely useless to what I need it to do'. I will keep that in mind.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
So this morning we tried normal kibble instead of treats and he flipped out in glee anyway. I stopped trainings at that point and just stuck to cuddles and pets until he calmed down and got back to being a sweet and way too heavy lapdog. I may attempt to use physical affection as his reward instead of a 'good' or a treat or anything of the sort, since he doesn't wig out when petted, and then try to work back up to it. It's still a positive reinforcement I hope, there's just no bouncing around like a rabbit in a carrot factory going on.
 

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I would remove all verbal cues and use shaping instead with a calm and short pat on the head or wherever he likes it best. I would also keep a loose leash on him to keep him from moving about everywhere and keep him slightly restricted until he settles. I would also keep training sessions very short and spread apart throughout the day. You're doing a great thing with this dog. Seems like he truly deserves your help. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
Ooohhhno you don't ... put a leash on him if you know he's going to flip out. He can and will, entirely without intending harm, drag you right over in his happiness. He's done it. XD And then he'll come poke you and lick you and whine and be confused as to why you're on the ground with a new set of bruises. He's good walking on the leash if you avoid the Good Words!

But definitely going to try the reinforcement through pets!

I can't wait til he's healthy enough to go to a new home. He's going to make someone such a fantastic dog.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Okay, update after working on this all week with my fellow volunteers. He's still spazzing out a little bit but it's definitely reducing if we don't use cue words or treats, and just use affection as the reinforcement. Nobody's been run over at all in four days, which is a complete win.
 
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