My IGP dog is afraid of the stick - Page 1

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by Curing on 26 April 2019 - 00:04

Just looking for some insight on if this can be worked on or if we’re just plumb out of luck.

Some quick background, I got a 2 year old IGP prospect in September whom was started at an early age and showed great potential but that I’ve since restarted. He was restarted because sometime during his training between 1year and 2 the previous handlers did something that caused him to shut down and stop working.
I took him on as a challenge to improve my training skills and I’m working with a mentor.
The dog is great and has progressed and changed a lot since I got him. I think most of the problems he was having had to do with his original handler and little to do with his genetics as I’m seeing a lot of problems disappear just with his confidence being rebuilt.
Because he’s being completely restarted he’s also restarted completely in bitework, so has only really played with a leather bite rag in low stress situations.
He’s not over the top and has a good off switch, has a nice calm bite and enjoys The work a lot.
You can also smack his sides and he won’t shy away or drop the rag either. Nor does he get more aggressive.
That being said, as soon as a stick comes out he completely changes, he’ll drop the rag/tug and wants nothing to do with it and acts very scared. And this is simply if the stick is raised above his head. So it’s not even coming into contact with him. 
I know these could be a nerve/genetic thing but I also know it could also be a training thing.
I don’t know which it is for him because I only know his temperament and nerve now at this stage in his life.
I do know he is sort of a sensitive dog though and doesn’t take really harsh corrections well. But again idk if this is due to previous training or genetics. Especially since from what I was told he wasn’t having problems prior to the other handler.

I just want to do right by the dog and give him the best chance I can, so if there’s a way I can help him through this I want to do it.

A bit about his temperament that may help too:
He’s a very aloof dog, doesn’t care about much other then me and immediate family. Generally if he’s around people he may or may not come up to you to greet you but ignores people for the most part, and It has to be his idea, if he’s approached to aggressively or by too many people he does freak out a bit (not growling or barking, but will jump away and put space between him and the person/s) and then assess that person/s before approaching again. This has improved a lot with desensitizing/“socializing” as he used to not be able to be approached by anyone without jumping back and away from the person.
He doesn’t bark, but is very watchful and attentive. Doesn’t bark to sound stimuli either
Takes a bit of time to adjust to new things but adjusts fairly well and will work in new environments after adjusting.
He occasionally will jump at strange sounds but it’s kind of a hit or miss thing. For the most part he generally doesn’t care.
When strange things go past him he doesn’t budge or shy away (we’ve had a huge scaffolding ladder pass just inches from him and he just stood there.
And he’s not animal or human aggressive.

I think that’s about all about him.

The mentor I’m working with said that he could have potential with a lot of work, but I’m under no illusions that he’d be a top dog. He really is just for me to learn and grow on. So nothing you can say will hurt my feelings :)

by hexe on 26 April 2019 - 06:04

Do you LIKE this dog, apart from as a sport prospect? If you found out tomorrow that he wouldn't ever be able to compete in this sport, what becomes of him?

In the grand scheme of things, you really haven't had him very long, and it sounds like he's been passed through more than just one set of hands before arriving in yours, so it's quite possible that you won't see who he really is for a while still--it can take some adult dogs as long as a year to become 'at home' with a new owner in a new place.

If you like the dog for who he is as a family member and companion, then just keep on with what you're doing, the restarting the training as if he were a green dog, and don't rush the stick in that capacity. Maybe you can neutralize the stick's effect on him by working on exposure to it separately from the work on the field, using a clicker and treats so it changes his association with it, and then transition it back into the protection work again...something you and your mentor can discuss.

OTOH, if you're not really into the dog as just a dog, don't be surprised if you're never really able to work him through this so he's reliably confident with the stick--he's going to need to have complete trust in you to do that.


by Hundmutter on 26 April 2019 - 10:04

Sounds like a dog who is capable of communicating a great deal with you, if you let him and learn to 'read' him. He is telling you exactly what it was that went wrong with his first trainer / handler; at some point the stick got used badly, so now he's worried it will (accidently ?) hurt him again. Everything you've said about him indicates that he has the potential to be a very nice character indeed; Hexe is absolutely right about taking the time to build the 'bond' with him, please don't waste it. Best of luck for the future with him.

by Gustav on 26 April 2019 - 11:04

Maybe an obedience career would be more satisfying for this dog than IPO. The stress he receives from certain aspects of this training certainly is no fun for him. There are many other fun things to do that he may “ look” forward to the training/ or participation. Good Luck and enjoy your dog!

by apple on 26 April 2019 - 11:04

I think Hexe's idea is useful. Remove the stick from the context of bite work altogether and constantly pair it with positive or neutral things. For example, put it next to his bowl when he eats. Try to get him to retrieve the stick. Play two toys with one being the stick. When you are just petting your dog, see if you can rub him with the stick. Ideally, the stick should be introduced without pairing it with bite work to see if the dog is going to have an issue so that if he does, the stick doesn't become a stimulus for fear. But even then, if the dog is stressed by the stick, you are masking a fault.


by Koots on 26 April 2019 - 12:04

Some great suggestions thus far - I like the idea of creating a whole different attitude towards the stick by association with good/positive things. When you see that he has changed his POV towards the stick, then you can try introducing it back into bitework by starting with the stick laying on the ground where he is getting bites/reward and see how that goes. Baby steps when incorporating it back into bitework. BUT, as Gustav has pointed out it may be more fun for both of you to pursue tracking & obedience if the stick issue cannot be resolved.

Working a 'weaker' dog will increase your skills as a trainer/handler but you also have to consider the effects on the dog doing something that is stressfull to him. Keep it fun, engaging, and a learning thing for you & dog but also be realistic about goals. Good luck.

by Curing on 26 April 2019 - 14:04

I love him to pieces we’ve really grown and bonded and just from the short time I’ve had him (9 months) I’ve seen him change immensely.
I made the choice to keep him despite being told he was ruined and despite actually lookin for a serious IGP prospect because I felt like he really needed me. So now matter what, sport dog or not I just want to restore him and give him more confidence. He’s a truly amazing dog :)

by Curing on 26 April 2019 - 14:04

I 100% agree, we work a lot on just building confidence, engagement and focus! I try to work him everyday and of course we spend time everyday together. I do my best not to push him too and take things slow which is why we’ve only done basic obedience and then play with a tug or bite rag which he loves!
I started working to desensitize him a to the stick a bit just by running it along his body and reassuring him. He responded very well so I’ll keep doing that. :)

I love this dog very much, he’s very smart and I’ve actually accomplished alot With him.
Just the other day we accomplished a focused heel!
I think with a little time he’ll be amazing

by Curing on 26 April 2019 - 14:04

Thanks for the suggestions everyone!
I couldn’t respond to everyone because that would be a lot of posts but I 100% agree that it would be better to just do OB or tracking if things end up too stressful! We will be started tracking in May!

We did stop using the stick as we didn’t want any more poor associations and now mostly what I do is I’ll rub it against him and try to be calm and gentle. He doesn’t mind the presence of a stick, it’s just whenever it’s raised above the head so I’ll work my way to desensitizing that.

He’s a really good dog with a lot of potential I think and I really enjoy working with him. And he’s really grown a lot since I first got him, so i have hopes that he can blossom more.

And I appreciate the honesty and encouragement as well, some people sugar coat things and others don’t even assess the situation before making a comment (I was told the dog was ruined and would never change by someone who met the dog once the very first day I got him). So it’s nice getting raw advice :)
I’ll work on desensitizing at home and see if we can make some progress and then talk with my mentor and go from there!
Thanks again!

by ValK on 26 April 2019 - 14:04

you realize that that genetic issue and teaching that dog to be tolerant toward the possible threat
is nothing else but faking his performance, do you?
nothing good will come from that.
good advice was from Gustav - do not expect that training magically can change that dog.
better concentrate your effort on what that dog suitable for.


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