Thursday, December 13, 2012

Seppel - the Frustrator

Monday, I wanted to kill Seppel.

We went to training, my Ibizan Hound friend came along. They had called to tell me our decoy couldn't make it, but I missed the phone call. As it was, I really wanted to work on the bark & hold and was glad he wouldn't be there so we could try the things we worked on during the week.

I was highly confident Sepp would bark. He did it several times last week without issue.

We went into the building we sometimes work in, I handed Seppel to the trainer and proceeded to agitate him. HE WOULD NOT BARK!!!!!!!

We tried and tried and tried to get him to bark. We must have told him to speak 100 times and all he would do is this weird growly noise. We tried tying him to the wall, which then made him shut down completely and he wouldn't even make his goofy noise.

I even tried to get him to do it outside, by the time we were done working [we did some blind checks] I got him to let out two woofs. I'm really glad our decoy wasn't there... because he really blew the wind out of my sails when he wouldn't bark.

This dog absolutely blows my mind. Truly, when he's good he's AMAZING, and when he's bad, he's really freakin' bad!

When we got home, he barked for me as if nothing had ever happened.


  1. I just read the part about asking him over and over to bark. I really think that this can dull a dog to to a command. I'm not really sure that's what's going on here, especially because it seems to be situational, but in general I am always hesitant to give Toby a command multiple times. If a dog hears "sitsitsitsit" before it sits, it thinks the command is "sitsitsitsit" and is less likely to think it is "sit". I could find a more thorough article on this if you would like.

    I know when clicker training, commands aren't introduced until the dog is already performing the behavior. At first it seemed counter intuitive to me to just sit and wait for the behavior to be offered. Sometimes the behavior itself isn't offered, but a hint at it - like Sepp's growly noise instead of a bark. When I trained Toby to speak, I started off rewarding any small woofs or big growls. After rewarding growls 10 or so times, I withheld a click and waited until he got more amped up and offered a small woof. I would reward the woof for awhile. Eventually, I stopped rewarding the woof and waited until he got frustrated enough to offer a bark and then he would get a jackpot. Obviously teaching a dog a "trick" speak and a Schutzhund bark are not the same, but it's just some extra food for thought. Eventually once Toby knew that I was looking for a bark, I would create the bridge between the command 'speak' and his bark so that he learned the command AFTER the behavior.

    I am still guilty sometimes of saying a command multiple times, but I do know that I get much more consistent results when I go back basics and really retrain the behavior. I try to make it extra fun; not in a "cheerleading" way, but more in a "jackpotting" way by giving super awesome or extra treats every now and then, especially on the first times that he gets the behavior. Jackpotting requires feeding many small treats slowly so that it takes longer than the typical treat. I'm not sure how much you use treats, but anything would work- a tug, ball, pets, etc. Toby just happens to be the most food motivated dog I've ever known!

    I don't mean any of this as a lecture and you may already know all of this- I just thought I'd outline a few extra ideas that I've personally had good experience with. :)

  2. Thank you for sharing all of this information!

    I knew a dog that wouldn't sit until the owner said it three times. So I understand what you are saying. The thing is, until two weeks ago, we never told Seppel to speak in bitework. Back when we first started Ryan would come into the building we were in and act weird trying to get Seppel to bark. We started with a giant tug and graduated to a sleeve. When Seppel would bark he would get the tug or sleeve. We strongly encouraged him to bark when he would bark - shouting "Good boy!!!!!" and then rewarding with the toy.

    I only started asking him to speak because he came to me knowing the command. In the video I took, I say it repeatedly because he only barks once to speak. He KNOWS what it means and will perform it at home without issue. When we filmed the latest video, I told him to speak for the bark and hold and he started barking, but when she filmed him he stopped. I just don't think he has made the connection that barking = the sleeve. But it's weird because in the beginning he understood, and then in training without me there he understood.

    In bitework the reward is the bite - we don't use food. At home for obedience we use toys and food, he is also very food motivated.

    Thinking about it today I want to go back to the building and work on building the barking behavior. At this point I would be afraid to reward the growling and build on it, because as it is he won't attempt to bark so we'll never be able to build it up if he never offers a bark - he'll just continuously growl. The thing is as well, we try to frustrate the crap out of him, we use a gate between him and Ryan and he still will not bark.

    Definitely not shooting your ideas down, and I think it's definitely true that we might need to build from a 'woof' if I can get him to do it. I really do appreciate your input and hope you will continue to share your ideas with me and never be afraid to give me your take on it, because I enjoy reading what you have to say :)

    1. Thanks! I understand the growly thing. Toby is VERY vocal when he gets frustrated, so it's easy for him to build on that, but I understand how it may not be for Seppel. I definitely think that your plan to build on it at home will help. =)