Omega | German Shepherd | San Marino, CA | In Training
Omega is a two year old German Shepherd from San Marino, California who is joining us for our Two-Week Board and Train Program to address his leash pulling, to create structure through obedience and to work on being neutral and calm around children playing. We will work on a balanced approach with our relationship being the most significant tool to build trust and shape behaviors. Stay tuned for Omega's Two-Week transformation!
Today was all about establishing the base line for the rest of the training. Omega is a strong young dog who needs structure. He pulls on the leash and is otherwise disrespectful but not aggressive. He has some dog reactivity but for the most part is interested in exploring and smelling the world around him. His pulling on walks has contributed to him being kept in the house more and thus the world is an even greater distraction. Omega will first learn a robust obedience and then using those skills learn to manage his distractions in public and be mindful of his manners on walks and with his family.
Omega and I worked on his manners using a prong collar today. He did very well! He is a strong young dog but with boundaries and encouragement he is making good choices. Tomorrow we will introduce the e collar and work on shaping his behaviors so he is respectful without needing any extra muscle for the leash. Omega is smart and capable of being quite gentle but we need to show him why it is worth it by rewarding his good efforts and reinforcing our commands when he is ignoring us.
Omega is a smart dog but there are times when he might be satisfying his own lazy desires. With firm boundaries and proper rewards his intelligence does not have to work against us! Omega was able to work through almost all of the obedience behaviors on the prong collar today. With the e-collar used as well, he was able to heel nicely, sit, come to my side, and down. The most important thing, like I said, is a firm boundary and a regular routine of obedience. Considering Omega's strength we have to make sure that he is personally responsible and polices his own behavior.
Today with Omega I continued to combine the prong collar and the e-collar. Omega is smart and he is catching on to the behaviors that I would like him to perform when I command him. It is important to remember that he is not a robot but instead an emotional creature with his own motivations beyond what we can reward him. So, in order to best incentivize the dog we have to keep in mind his State of Mind. If the dog is struggling because he is afraid or he is overwhelmed, then it is up to us to make sure that we are communicating effectively and offering guidance and not additional stress. Omega has shown me so far that he is capable of policing his own desires and his own distractions, given adequate motivation and going forward as I slowly wean him off of the leash and allow him off leash freedom, I am going to expect him to continue policing himself.
Today with Omega, we continued to work on marrying the prong collar pressure with the stimulation from the e-collar. Omega is doing very well with his obedience. It is only a matter of ensuring that he listens to my voice first and foremost, as I begin to trust him with off-leash freedom. Going forward, I will begin using the prong less and less reducing to nothing as we rely solely on the e-collar stimulation to reinforce our commands. We will continue to use our voice to prompt obedience behaviors, to mark correct behaviors and to mark incorrect behaviors as well. Remember to talk to your dog; communication is key for the kind of success that is lasting and does not need any heavy lifting or physicality. We have to use our voice and remember to be clear with what we expect. If our expectations are clear fair and reasonable and the dog has a good reward that they appreciate, then obedience will be reliable under any circumstance. So long as we give the dog opportunities to practice his self-control and reward him when he does.
Today with Omega, I worked on his off-leash skills. He is doing very well when it comes to following along and heeling, his sitting is doing well and his come to sit is doing well.
Where he needs work is when he gets distracted by odor in the grass or potentially dogs and people in the distance, not to the extent that he is becoming reactive, but just that he loses focus on the task at hand.
My primary goal in training right now is to continue to evolve the off-leash obedience to the point that I no longer need to have Omega drag a leash or a line of any kind and to get him paying attention automatically to my change in direction or where I am relative to him in space, meaning that if I am healing with him and suddenly I make a turn, he does not find himself attracted sniffing garbage or the grass or another place that a dog has peed etc. But instead he finds himself looking for my leg and looking for the appropriate place to sit and expect his reward.
Today with Omega we continue to improve our off leash skills. We were able to walk down the street with him at my side, without holding the leash in my hand, or needing to directly influence him with the use of a prong collar. Tomorrow, I will rely solely on the E collar for any reinforcement that I might need for my commands rather than using any leash pressure at all to help him. If he is struggling, I of course will provide assistance where necessary, but the goal is to make him independent so that he might police his own behavior to the extent that I can put him in tougher situations so that he continues to develop his skills. Remember that Omega is trying very hard and he is doing his best, so we need to reward all of his go od effort as well as his success. If we don’t reward effort, the dog will lose motivation and we are less likely to get the desirable results that we are working toward , so continue to praise the dog as he puts his best foot forward.
Today Omega and I worked with a fellow trainer at a local park on his obedience. Today was the first day with only stimulation from the e collar and no added help from a prong collar. Omega has a tendency to push on the handler's legs as was previously discussed and today we spent time making it clear to him what the boundaries are and where it is appropriate for him to walk. In this stage of training we know Omega knows the answers to the questions we ask him so it is important to put him in situations where he can exercise his problem solving skills and not rely on our assistance. There are of course mistakes still but as he continues to struggle he also perseveres and overcomes any confusion by relying on the obedience we have shown him. By giving him a toolkit and then providing problems for him to solve we are giving him the confidence in himself to make the right choices because they make natural sense first hand rather than solely being constructed by us. The lessons the dog can learn on his own will always be stronger than what a person can show him which is what makes changing habits so difficult but by using this same principle to our advantage the dog is learning on his own but making the choice we want.
Today, Omega and I went to the Home Depot to work on our obedience around distractions in public. Omega did very well, considering how many new experiences there were for him: there were new sights and smells and sounds new textures. Omega did feel a little bit uncomfortable with carts and people moving large objects around him but we were able to overcome those moments by focusing on our obedience and keeping his mind occupied.
Other than the training for today I would like to take a moment to point out the importance that Omega go to the bathroom in areas other than where he is most familiar in the backyard. Omega being so choosy about where he will relieve himself means that he holds his bowel movements and his urination far longer than he ought to, and ultimately this can lead later on in life to health problems besides being frustrating. The process is simple although it can be frustrating because it does require commitment.
What you need to do is simply take Omega for his daily walks when he first wakes up so that when he’s going to relieve himself in the morning, he associates that experience with being out and about rather than just going into the backyard.
Today with Omega, we worked on making heeling, automatic. It is important for Omega to understand where he needs to walk and that he can’t push on the handler. Omega has a bad habit of leaning on the handler. I think due to insecurity, but it could be from any number of things. The important element is that it is a bad habit that he continues to display. This behavior is important for me to eliminate in order to show Omega the proper position then I can reward him for being in. Omega did very well at finding that boundary and respecting it.
Today with Omega, we were able to work on all of our obedience without a leash on. He was able to heel nicely at my side without bumping into my leg and knocking me over. For now I have only been rewarding him with verbal praise and affection but tomorrow I will show him the toys I was provided when I picked him up. I want to see how he behaves around his toys and if I can apply his obedience to help him play more fairly and with rules. Omega is progressing well and I hope to continue the rate of improvement in the next few days.
Today Omega and I worked on his self control around children playing in a playground. Omega is able to maintain himself very well around distractions and so long as he is rewarded in a calm and consistent manner he will be calm in his obedience. If we are too excited with our voice then Omega has a harder time keeping calm, so remember to speak in a soothing tone when rewarding and praising him. Omega is a strong young dog who needs experience outside of his home to be more confident and comfortable and if you continue to practice with him in new environments maintaining his calm demeanor he will find it easier every time.
Today with Omega I spent some time working on door manners. We want Omega to be able to control himself around the door at home but also any entrance or exit. Entryways can be particularly exciting for dogs because that’s where the coming and going is taking place. The added activity and therefore heightened state of arousal contribute to a more difficult task in controlling our dog’s attention. Remember to work on obedience anywhere the dog is expected to work or he won’t automatically make the association between his environment and staying focused. The end result will be a dog comfortable behaving himself anywhere, but only if we take the time to show him how.
Today Omega and I worked on all of the obedience we have been working on in preparation for filming the final video tomorrow. Omega is a very willing dog but he still has a strong desire to smell the ground as he walks. Our job as a good leader is to provide directions to our dog when we have a specific job for them to do. Omega knows he is supposed to stay focused on the task at hand but sometimes we have to remind and encourage him with our voice. Remember that as much as he is trained, Omega is not a robot and it is not a fair expectation for him to be perfect at all times. Consider when he is told “break” to be his free time to sniff and explore so that when we do give him a command we know he isn’t totally restricted and does have an outlet for his desire.
Omega and I filmed his final video today at Santa Anita Mall. Omega like many dogs had some issues with the slipper tile floors and the new environment of the mall. Ultimately he was able to overcome his stress and focus on the task at hand. When our dogs struggle with new places the best course of action is to offer them something familiar in the form of structure and routine. Remember how Omega would only want to smell everything around him and ignore the handler? Now he pays good attention to what we ask of him but we must be aware of his emotional state to get the most of his new skills. Be patient and remember time is your ally.
Omega and I worked on active relaxation in public. Many times we will take our dogs out in public temporarily for a walk on a journey where the end goal is to get back home. That’s where all the relaxation happens and for certain dogs this can turn into a habit of needing to go back home in order to feel comfortable. In an effort to better approach Omega‘s training going forward I would like to see him go out in public into places where there are distractions and just ask him to lay down and have him relax and experience those moments so that he can grow around distractions. With practice his natural desire will be to find comfort and self sooth with obedience rather than stimulation.
Today with Omega, I spent time troubleshooting basic mistakes and errors that the dog frequently makes when we are doing obedience. Something to keep an eye out for: when you are asking for a sit, and the dog chooses to lay down. It is important to be strict in making sure the dog performs the behavior we have asked for and that it is not multiple-choice. Remember that our commands and obedience are always motivated by a healthy reward of affection and praise so there should be no reason that the dog doesn’t value performing our commands unless of course they have decided that what they would prefer to do is more valuable, or it is easier to access as far as a reward goes, and so it is important to make sure that we are rewarding the dog frequently, and in a positive enough tone of voice, and with enough affection, so that they highly value our praise. By ensuring that our boundaries are enforced, as well as our rewards are healthy and frequent, more often than not as you’ll see in this video when we need minor adjustments to be made to our behaviors then just like Omega, our dogs will rise to the occasion.