What To Do When They Won't

Discussion in 'Service Dog Training' started by JoAnne, Sep 12, 2012.

  1. JoAnne Well-Known Member

    Boy its been a long time since I was here! My dog Asher will be two years next month, (some of you may remember him, Miniature Australian Shepherd). He's doing fantastic ... but yesterday when we got home from practicing at a small, quiet mall I asked him to pick up one of his toys that was outside and bring it in and he flat refused! I should have known better, he was tired and all he wanted to do was come in for a drink.
    However, what should I have done/responded, how many times can I ask and if nothing then what? This wasn't a new task or a difficult one, he's done this a hundred times. What do I do when he's 'won'? Just not rewarding him doesn't sound like the ideal answer, well for him maybe. Little:poop:! R1-03817-001A.jpg

  2. Amateur Experienced Member

    I would have brought in in myself then making sure that he could see ... give it to the cat
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  3. sara Moderator

    HA HA HA HA HA reminds me of that bacon vid LOL

    I think you do need to just let it alone for a bit, no reward, then try again later. Reward heavily for a successful retrieve :)
    southerngirl, Dogster, SD&B and 3 others like this.
  4. MaryK Honored Member

    He was tired, we don't always want to do something, even if we've done it a thousand times, when we're tired and thirsty. Sara is right, just leave it for now and ask later, then reward reward reward.
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  5. JoAnne Well-Known Member

    That's a good idea, I've always liked cats ... just not kitty liter. I've now introduced the expression, "maybe next time" after 3 or 4 seconds. It's just sticks in my craw to simply ignore the inconsistency.
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  6. Adrianna & Calvin Experienced Member

    Hi JoAnne

    I think the biggest change you can make is to change your mindset here :)

    By mindset, I mean to frame it as he flat refused! rather than to think, ok, when he's hot and tired his retrieve isn't as strong. Rather than to wonder if he just felt like, I'm tired, I'm thirsty, and I don't want to pick up that thing when my mouth is all sticky with thirst. It is incredibly easy --and any one of us who says we haven't done this is probably not being honest-- to just ask for one more thing in a dog who is doing so well. You put a few extra seconds on the 'stay' , you ask for a little longer eye contact with distractions flying around, you ask for one more retrieve ... and you lose the dog and the chance to reward. I've done it, and still struggle with the temptation to squeeze another rep out when my dog's just amazed me, but I've learned to rein myself in a bit :)

    Just ignore it, it didn't happen, keep walking. Make sure he is fed/watered/cooled down as needed. When you are also calm and fed/watered/cooled down as needed, you can work on your retrieves some more.

    For him something was different. Maybe he was quite thirsty, maybe he views Retrieve as something one does 32x in one hour, and not more. Who knows? We do know that dogs follow cues based on context and environment, and either he was physically reluctant, or he didn't see the cue as pertaining to this situation. There is a well known anecdote, the famous Dr Ian Dunbar once asked a room full of trainers and their beautifully trained dogs if the trainers thought their dogs knew the cue "Sit!" Of course everyone said yes. He then asked everyone to lie flat on the floor and cue the dogs to "Sit!" Few, if any, of the dogs complied. They don't speak or understand human language -- they know signals in context. If you were crossing the street and a red light came on, you'd automatically look for a change in traffic. If a red light came on while you were walking to your front door, it wouldn't even occur to you. It's all context.

    What you do is try to let go of the idea that this is a conflict that one side or the other must win. Believe me, your lives together will be even better than they are now, once you do this. It's not about mastering the dog, or withstanding his challenge, etc. It's a teamwork kind of thing, and a team member doesn't whoop and say "yes!" when he fails and the other team member doesn't punish him. It's not about winning, it's about making the team work.

    I'll be honest with you here, and I think that referring to a partner or team member as a little s--t, or turd, or whatever, is one of those things which can unintentionally undermine the relationship. Again it defines the relationship as one in which there is a master and a potentially defiant underling, rather than a cooperative partnership, and it also makes it easier to punish the dog, when you define him or her in derogatory terms. Rather than a creature with his own wants, needs, and reasons for doing XYZ (whether it's a lack of training, or a hurt tooth), the dog can be reduced to a series of reactions we deem appropriate or insulting to our authority. I'm not saying this is what's going on with you and your dog, but rather that this is a potential pitfall to be aware of.

    I think in general that willful defiance is a rarity -- mostly it's a lack of training and proofing that leads to failures. There are cases where you can see the dog decide not to follow a cue -- she's chasing a squirrel, your recall command gives her a brief pause but she returns to the chase. Even in these cases, it is a lack of training rather than a measure of disrespect by the dog which is behind the failure. As a predator, the dog will chase prey unless given a colossally good reason not to, and in that situation, the trainer hasn't given such a good reason. So the predator chases prey. It's not about a battle of wills, it's about dogs loving to chase squirrels.

    To me, viewing things through the Koehler/Pattison/Millan lens of dominance and defiance is more of a burden than anything else. It's a tough way to live and train. I don't care who my dog thinks he is, as long as he is happy and comfortable in the world-at-large, and his behavior is acceptable. Does he think he is the true heir of the throne of Portugal? Maybe. I don't care, as long as he lies quietly while I cook and eat, doesn't pull on walks, doesn't annoy the cat, etc. As long as he is confident and relaxed at home and on walks, and happy to go new places and meet new people, he can plan for his Kingdom all he wants :)
  7. JoAnne Well-Known Member

    One last request, I can recite Karen Pryor and Gail Fisher in my sleep and it all sounds great on paper. What are any suggestions perhaps not in the book, other than beating him with it?
    I know some of you are not going to see the humor in that ... get over it.
  8. SD&B Experienced Member

    I think this is incredibly true and it's something I have been very guilty of and that I've been working on. I still have my failures, but I am trying to find that right balance. Sundog makes it much harder, because she can be so amazing at times and she has an incredible work ethic. Nevertheless, I think when I find that right balance, she will be even more amazing.
    MaryK likes this.
  9. mtagntz Active Member

    I don't think jokingly calling somebody or something a name undermines a relationship... That is just ridiculous to me. Nicknames whether you think they are appropriate or not are terms of endearment.
    Mr-Remington likes this.
  10. Mr-Remington Experienced Member

    I'm trying to start a argument, just my opinion. I call Remi names like that, I say jokingly of course. I've called him little:poop:, brat, crazy etc. I've never thought that it was a bad thing, I say it with love, and I'm usually laughing when I say it. I also do the same with my friends and family. I agree with mtagntz that it doesn't undermine a relationship. But if its said out of angry and screamed than its different!
    southerngirl likes this.
  11. mtagntz Active Member

    Exactly! It isn't said in anger.
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  12. Anneke Honored Member

    Think of it this way... if you have to do something over and over and over again, don't you get bored of doing it? You start doing it more slowly and in the end you refuse to do it.
    It is better to do it a few times, then leave it untill a few hours later, or the next day.
    I used to do this too, but these days I do a trick a few times and then move on to something else. Then in the next training session, I do it again.
    That way it stays fun to do, for the both of us. And when my dog refuses to do something, it is either a sign(to me) that she is tired. I usually ask for something else, something she knows very well, like a sit or a down or a handshake and then end the session.
    In the situation you discribe, I would have put the treat away with an big gesture and ignored her.
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  13. Adrianna & Calvin Experienced Member

    Hi Melinda

    I was going to add more of an explanation to my original post but ended up thinking that the post was too long, and the context would do enough to explain what I meant. I guess not, since your remark says my thoughts on the subject were ridiculous.

    I'm sure you don't mean that nicknames are always terms of endearment. They are mostly not, except for those that shorten the person's given name. Anyway I don't know if the OP nicknamed her dog 'little sh-t' or not. Calling him one in a post that speaks about his defiance, her reluctance to let his 'refusal' of a behavior go, and a displeasure at what she sees as his 'winning', is different than you saying "oh you little stinker!" when your dog snatches up a potato chip from the floor.

    To give you another example, today I ran into a friend who had just bought his dog a bully stick, and when we started talking, the dog plopped down to chew her stick. Calvin investigated, looked at me, and gave this short, low, mournful howl at the Injustice of Two Dogs, One Treat. We humans both laughed, and I said, oh, what a drama queen! But this is different than if I always called and truly considered Calvin a drama queen, and saw his behaviors in light of this label. Can you see how that could lead to me discounting signs of discomfort, or other behavioral signals? Since he's a "drama queen" and just looking for attention? Can you imagine that thinking a dog is being dominant or 'trying to be alpha' can change how you think of and deal with behavioral problems?

    There is some solid science behind name-calling, insults, derogatory nicknames, etc.; heck, even calling ourselves names in our own heads is linked to depression, poor performance, and a change in brain activity. Personally I don't tend to call my friends or animals names, for the most part, but for people who do, consider what names you use for which people, and why you would or wouldn't call someone else the same name. Your peers, parents, grandparents, bosses, neighbors, etc. -- what rules do you unconsciously make about who can be called what?

    On a lighter note, a slightly uncomfortable SNL spoof on verbal insulting one's dog ... http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/dissing-your-dog/229061/
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  14. Amateur Experienced Member

    I think some of this thread has strayed a little from the original posters intent.

    I believe she was asking when is it ok to just shrug your shoulders an say ok you are tired and let the moment go, while NOT letting the dog get the idea that next time he can ignore another request if and when he wants to -- maybe next time I wont have to wait at the door before dashing out.

    I believe she was concerned that If you say 'Oh I'll let it go this time,' will the dog "wins" or gets his own way, and may take advantage of that later on. We are told consistency is the key.

    But from what I have gleaned from most of the posts, I guess we are saying the occasional refusal is not going to ruin his training, so its ok to just let it go sometimes - especially if you can see a reason for it, and it isn't a safety issue thing.
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  15. Adrianna & Calvin Experienced Member

    Hi Amateur

    Yes the thread has gone off on a tangent! And thank you for pointing that out, in that tangents are usually only slightly related to the original remarks.

    Not every cue is followed perfectly every time, and the feedback the dog gives us shows us what we need to do to teach the dog exactly what we need and in what circumstances. To give another example, I'm teaching my cat "leave it." He was doing so well, he learned so fast, I was amazed! And then I thought, hmm let me switch hands .... and we were back to square one. He showed me that he can't generalize automatically, I need to take it in wee steps first. The "key of consistency" is on my part, not his. There was no refusal -- there was a lack of teaching on my part.

    For my part, that is almost the opposite of what I meant, so I'm sorry I expressed myself so poorly. A refusal implies that the dog is making a conscious decision to not follow a cue that has been taught, proofed extensively, and consistently rewarded (remember, the rewards are in the eyes of the reward-ee). It is a default diagnosis, if you like, because first you have to eliminate other possibilities. Is the dog used to being "on" for X hours a day? Is the dog a little fuzzy minded with thirst or exhaustion? Does the dog think that every X amount of retrieves is rewarded with ZYX, and he's already done X+3 retrieves so what does the cue really mean?

    I don't think it's ok to let it go in terms of the big picture -- it's feedback, and we have to consider what we can do to improve performance in the future. But in that moment, yes, just move on because standing there repeating the cue or getting mad about it won't help. Make a training plan to improve. Hope that clears things up.
    MaryK likes this.
  16. Amateur Experienced Member

    Not every cue is followed perfectly every time, and the feedback the dog gives us shows us what we need to do to teach the dog exactly what we need and in what circumstances. ... There was no refusal -- there was a lack of teaching on my part.[/quote]

    Just wanted to clarify what I was meaning ...
    Aren't you reading a little too much into the original situation? I don't discount anything that you have said and I'm am sure its all pretty much correct but Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. I took it as a one time thing or very infrequent at most. Yes something may have been different but most times you may never discover what that one thing may be.

    Just because you happen to wear an orange shirt that day and your cat hates the colour orange, are you saying that's the perfect excuse to totally ignore you? --- oh wait that example works so much better with the dog. I cant imagine that any command is given 100% the same way every time, yet the dog seems to understand anyways.

    I think we are kind of debating semantics of certain terms. Why can't a dog "refuse" for the sake of refusing ? I just read this problem as a one off and she wanted to know what to do in that instance - if it happened again and again - then yes thats another matter to be dealt with much more thoroughly. But then I could be totally off base.
    MaryK likes this.
  17. Adrianna & Calvin Experienced Member

    Hi Amateur

    I guess I'm still being unclear so I'll just give it this one last try.

    It does sound like a one-off to me too. And I agree, we might never know why the dog didn't do the retrieve.

    I can't follow what you mean here -? Yes, dogs may not generalize to new scenarios. When they don't do a trick outside in front of strangers, when they've done it well a bazillion times in the house, it's not because they've found themselves a great excuse to ignore you and embarrass you. It's because they haven't generalized the cue from 'inside with mom' to 'outside with a crowd.'

    Well he sure can 'just' refuse. I don't know that they would do it for the sake of it, whatever that would mean to a dog. but for sure they can not feel like picking something up in their mouth at that moment, or have a greater interest in sniffing XYZ, or just going back in the house, or have an itchy spot on their leg they'd rather attend to. They aren't robots and they make choices all the time. Our job as caretakers and trainers is to get them to make the choice we want them to make :)

    For more on the non-automaton dog who makes his own choices, check out:

    Yes, and I think both I and other people addressed that (what to do, it's a one-off) in the beginning. Since you and I seem to be agreeing on a lot of stuff, I am not sure what's so tangled here. The OP's question has been addressed already, we are just talking about tangential 'extras' now.
    MaryK likes this.
  18. Amateur Experienced Member

    Guess I was finding it hard to express what I was thinking .. doesnt matter as long as Joanne is satisfied with her answers
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  19. running_dog Honored Member

    This doesn't sound like a persistent problem for you two just asking too much in one session (we've all done that).

    If it did become more persistent (and I don't think it will) then yes variety in training sessions helps, re-explanation helps, good treats help, good alternative rewards help, shorter training sessions, clickers, silly voices, training games etc etc etc. But once in a while I've found it needs something a little different.

    If my dog refuses (for want of a better term), I say nothing, break eye contact, ignore him, walk away, look at the sky, whatever for a slow count of 10 or 20. Then I ask him again. 9 times out of 10 he'll do as he's been asked the second time and he gets rewarded. Sure he has a right to chose to ignore a cue but I have right to ignore him for a few seconds too.

    I don't see this as using a negative, often we trick trainers give our dogs a lot of attention and maybe once in a while they take it for granted. Basically I am upping the value of the reward by reducing the availability of my attention for about 10 seconds. We all seem happy to accept a time out scenario for a dog that growls or jumps up. This simply transfers it to a slightly different training scenario.
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