Seeking your ideas for a specific training difficulty. - Page 1

Pedigree Database


by Hundmutter on 16 August 2019 - 07:08

Regulars to PDB will know from my posts by now that, while I do not mind giving limited advice on basic obedience and domestic issues to newbies, I have never set myself up as some kind of Training guru; and I do not train for anything complicated, including manwork, with my dogs. I just do basic Obedience with any dog I own or work with. And consider that, as far as that goes, I am reasonably competant. Normally. I may ask questions on more elaborate training from time to time, but basically I leave discussion of the finer points to those who actually do train dogs for Work. [Not counting the little bit of Competitive Ob. I've done in the past - now some years back !]

I now find myself with a particular training problem I seem unable to overcome. Assuming that some of the more experienced trainers among you might find it in your hearts to assist ? My current GS is a 'rescue' dog who is 7 years old. I picked him up a year ago (today, 16 August, is his 'Gotcha Day') at which point we were told he was 6. So he is 'middle-aged', not a puppy or juvenile bursting with learning enthusiasm. He's like most middle aged dogs, a little set in his ways.

He has clearly never been taught some aspects of basic pet obedience (that if I were training a pup I would consider essential). E.g. he Sits; but only in front of me, never to my side, and only for as long as it takes him to grab any food reward on offer, then his arse is off the floor again. Well, we have worked on that, and he now sits still for longer, and I am getting him to do so in more than one place and more than one position relative to handler.  So, he can learn new stuff.

My problem issue is this one:  he hasn't been taught to Down outside. And now doesn't want to.

He is quite capable of lying down, on grass or any other surface, while he is out on walks etc WHEN HE WANTS TO DO SO.  But when I issue a 'Down' command - that he readily obeys indoors - he looks blankly at me, and, worse, positively seems to be refusing to comply.

So far I have tried: checking that the surface I want him to lie down on is in no way uncomfortable; food lures - not interested; toy as lure - not interested; changing the command word - not responsive; using the hand signal he knows goes with Down indoors - not responsive (I have been trying to come up with a distinct new hand signal to go with the new (Platz) command - suggestions welcome !) ; a combination  of food/toy lures and getting him to go under my outstretched leg*; consistent praise / reward for him A) doing a Down outside under his own steam & B) going Down indoors.

*There's a problem with this one anyway, I can't use it often / consistently, because being Arthritic I am too stiff, and Dexter is too goddam BIG to make this manoeuvre as easy as it would be with a smaller dog.  Likewise he is too big and strong (especially now I've got the pet flab off him !) for me to use a more 'yank & crank' approach by pushing him into a Down - he'd just push back !

I have tried both from a standing position and with him in a Sit first - doesn't make any difference.

All ideas gratefully received.

Help, please !!!



by apple on 16 August 2019 - 11:08

It sounds like he knows the command and is simply being disobedient. He doesn't sound like he has a lot of drive, so your only option is compulsion. Since you have some physical limitations, about the only option is negative reinforcement via an e-collar. Find his working level where the electricity is slightly adversive and when he downs, the electric goes away.


by emoryg on 16 August 2019 - 13:08

Understanding your physical limitations, I will give you a famous saying and then my own personal sayings.

Famous saying - You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink.

My saying, -You can lead a thirsty enough horse to water, and you don’t have to make him drink.

My saying - You can lead a dog to his food bowl, but you cannot make him eat.

My saying, You can lead a hungry enough dog to his food bowl, and you don’t have to make him eat.

Key words, hungry enough. There is a reason why test animals are kept 10-15% below their ideal body weight. Before guidelines were established, an animal could be over 25% as there was evidence that the higher the percentage off ideal weight, the faster the rate of reinforcement, which translated into a faster conditioned behavior.

Pads and food (only time he eats) inside should quickly transition to outside (only time he eats). Same spot each time, reduce pad size, ask desired behaviors just before pad, etc. can wean him off object dependency in no time. Feed for correct behavior, ignore everything else. When the stomach talks loudly enough, the dog listens.

by Centurian on 16 August 2019 - 13:08

Hund .. I sent to you a PM ...... a while ago


by Sunsilver on 16 August 2019 - 13:08

I got my male, Ranger at age 3. I had a TERRIBLE time teaching him 'down'. He'd never been taught much of anything in the way of obedience.

He, too, was a big boy, and forcing him into a down was difficult - like your boy, he'd just push back. And, of course, whatever I tried in the way of using a treat didn't work either. He just DID NOT get it!  (I sometimes wondered if it had anything to do with him being a male, and not wanting to put himself in a submissive!)

A very skilled trainer suggested putting the treat on the other side of a chair or bench, and holding the leash so he would HAVE to go down in order to reach it.

It worked like a charm!

Suggest you combine that with what was said upstream about making sure the dog is hungry enough to REALLY want the treat.

by ValK on 16 August 2019 - 13:08

emorig gave good advice - suspend food for a while and return to exercise when he's really hungry.

Q Man

by Q Man on 16 August 2019 - 14:08

I feel there are a few things that you can do at this point...First:how is his Food does he eat...does he finish his food within a few minutes or does it take longer...Second:ONLY feed him OUTSIDE and when he Downs for his Food...Third: there are many ways to teach a "Down" command...Considering everything I think some dogs learn situational things...such as they learn to sit or down in certain places and in certain positions and don't relate that to the command but to the place...So in this circumstance you'll have to basically re-teach the command...Now taking into consideration your physical ability put a leash with a collar (like a choke chain) You can place a bit of food on the ground then place your foot on the leash and hold it patient...and he will go down...maybe he'll eat the food...maybe doesn't matter...
To me the "Down/Platz" command is my Safety command...I will use Compulsion with it no matter how I actually teach it because this is a No Non-Sense command and can save my dog's life...
There are many factors in how you teach your dog to do things...The dog...the trainer...the drives...the location...Figure each out and work with what works best for all involved...


by ValK on 16 August 2019 - 17:08

Q Man
according to initial description - dog is well aware and familiar with "down" command but for some reason won't executing it outside the house. sounds rather like "who's boss" situation.
if you cannot force your will onto dog physically, then use other means, which can clearly demonstrate to dog his dependency on you.


by Hundmutter on 16 August 2019 - 17:08

Thanks guys; I have had, & answered, your PM Centurian (which features use of a pad); to the rest of you, especially EmoryG and Bob, thanks, there are bits in there that I can add in and use, like the foot on lead thing.

I never train when a dog isn't already hungry. Agree with you Bob about the value of an instant Down and I'd like to teach him that eventually - but I need to get him to go down outside AT ALL, first. Sad Smile

This dog has lost 3 kilos in the year he has been with me - he arrived at a 'pet weight' ! That is to say, he wasn't actually harmfully obese, but he did need to lose some flab ! He is not just lighter now, but stronger for having turned some of it to hard muscle !

Sunny, your dog was clearly 'of like mind' to Dexter Omg Smile; cheers for the bench idea, that may be a good substitute for him going under my leg !  Plenty of free standing benches around here.


by yogidog on 16 August 2019 - 20:08

Maybe not hungry enough to follow your hand. I'd say drop his food be at least 30 percent as I would when doing obidience. I would not use e collars at this stage myself don't think it would be useful yet. When a dog is hungry u can do any thing with them but in my experience he must have something to work for and that is called dinner. Some may not agree but if he won't do the excise well the he doesn't get fed. A couple of days without food and he will do it. That is why I'd drop his food by 30 percent fir at least a week make sure he is ready to work and not full and lazy


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