Suggestions For Heeler Questions

Discussion in 'Working Dogs Forum' started by rheel287, Mar 25, 2022.

  1. rheel287

    rheel287 New Member

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    Suggestions For Heeler

    My last two adopted dogs were Dutch shepherds who came with a lot of issues due to previous environments/being mishandled. They made me such a better trainer/handler/pet owner. LOVE the breed but due to increasing mobility issues, I couldn't commit to that level of intensity anymore. Enter my new adopt, a red heeler, adopted several weeks ago.

    He isn't typical of the breed from what I've seen so far. He's very laid back, loves to cuddle (especially under the blankets), and as the saying goes, "has never met a stranger." At two, he had no knowledge of anything, so we began lead training, heeling, basic OB, and have worked on distractions in various parking lots and points around the lake. I'm happy with his progress.

    I would like for him to learn a couple basic assist skills (most important one: hand it to me, as in something needs to picked up). I never had a problem teaching any type of assist skills before, but no matter how I approach it, this little guy isn't doing it. Even "take it" isn't getting through.

    My Dutch's all had jobs besides assisting, and this guy doesn't appear to need jobs (and if that's the case, that's fine), but as stated, it would be super beneficial for me if he could master just that one command.

    Any suggestions?
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  3. Helidale

    Helidale Member

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    I am having a similar problem with my rehomed four and a half year old Beagle, who has had no training beyond what was needed for the show ring. Like yourself, I'm not a novice - six years ago I was given a six year old Beagle from a very similar background, and she was up to Working Trial Introductory level within a year. With my current girl I started by trying to encourage picking up and delivering to hand from her very basic play retrieve. However, she is really choosy about the toys or items that interest her, and her progress is not consistent. I don't want to introduce any old fashioned negative methods.
    It looks like being a long job!
  4. Toedtoes

    Toedtoes Member

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  5. Helidale

    Helidale Member

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    That is the method that we use. It is generating enough interest in the article that is the stumbling block. I have never had a dog with so little interest in toys or articles. She is active and playful - adores people and other dogs, but she only has brief spells of interest in non edible 'things'. I'm sure we will get there, but it certainly won't be a quick fix.
  6. rheel287

    rheel287 New Member

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    Helidale, I feel your pain, lol. If you find something that works, even if only a bit promising, please share. I've owned difficult dogs and all ended up good, but I must say I've never had a stubborn one. I've questioned if I've not adequately engaged him on those particular tasks...it's hard to read b/c he's so low-key anyway.

    Don't think it'd be "past life" issues since he's learned other things fine. That said, he didn't know toys or how to play (and still doesn't engage for long, like he doesn't really see the point.) But he sure has learned how to run through some OB and tricks for a KONG with a treat in it. (He didn't know a thing about Kongs, and was waaaay too gentle with them until he learned he had to put some energy into it.)

    Toedtoes: Thanks for the link...and those tech's are part of the arsenal, or some variation of, including breaking down the tasks that when chained offer the behavior you want. My guy has shown he's aware now what to do but he won't commit. Basic OB--no problem. Learning to heel with or without a cane or beside a walker--no problem. For most everything I teach, I include hand or leg gestures along with the verbal cues--he knows both...except I'm not adding the nonverbals when trying to teach the assist tasks that he has trouble with. It'd murky the situation IF he's just not getting it rather than he's being stubborn.

    I think I'm fairly keyed into how he learns...except for this. Can't figure it out. I even elevated the value of treats.

    Funny one: Today, a small ball was in my path and the new guy broke heel to grab it and toss it. My last Dutch shepherd would have done that to get it out of my way....the new guy did it b/c he kind of likes that ball (he has a hint of object guarding in him that I'm working on).

    Thanks for listening and responding.
  7. rheel287

    rheel287 New Member

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    Helidale likes this.
    Our two beasts sound like kindred spirits.
  8. Toedtoes

    Toedtoes Member

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    My Cat-dog has absolutely no comprehension of toy play. She watches her brother play with toys and chase after balls, etc, but she is completely uninterested. So I understand that issue. Unfortunately, I don't know how to get her to show any interest in an object other than to rub food all over it. And even then, I don't think that interest could be transferred to objects without food rubbed all over them.
  9. Queensland blue

    Queensland blue Member

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    Helidale likes this.
    The only thing I can add right now is about my blue cattle dog and cattle dogs in general , and mateship .

    Cattle dogs are great mates ,
    Mine will try and do what I ask because she loves me, If I get mad raise my voice and don’t talk to her nicely she won’t participate any longer in what we are doing together .

    So when positive reinforcement , and negative reinforcement are brought up ,
    This for a cattle dog is mateship also .
    Thats the bond and thats why they can be so loyal and obedient .

    So relating to mateship and pleasing and participation , I would actually expect a cattle dog to take a while longer to develop that closeness which is an advantage in my eyes with this breed .

    Not sure if this can help you , however that is my first thoughts.

    you may get better results in time as the natural loyalty grows .

    I am not so much a well versed dog trainer as others here may be , have had and trained dogs on our own time throughout life with results our own way however.
  10. Queensland blue

    Queensland blue Member

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    And also about “having never met a stranger “ as you say , and being only 2 years old the heeler may still hold some surprises .

    A friends blue heeler up the road is approaching 3 now , he has always been very friendly and is recently changing .

    Becoming dominant with other dogs , and becoming protective .

    If my pup goes near their new baby he may get nipped or warned .

    same would stand for anyone else who was out of order .

    beautiful natured dog but old habits (traits) die hard . Its their nature , if a stranger tried anything out of order you may find the dog sneaks around and bites them on the heel .

    I have told these friends not to underestimate the dog as they kept mentioning he was friendly to strangers and not a good guard and he is now coming around .

    Other than that , i have heard someone say some cattle dogs will roll over for a pat to strangers .

    I still think most have the other part though , its just they feel comfortable and safe and socialized .
  11. CaroleC

    CaroleC Member

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    That is true Q blue. Though it feels as if my girl has been here for ages, it was only the end of January that we met, - and she was straight off a litter. @rheel287 has only had her youngster for a few weeks too, and the rescue trainers adage, 'The Rule of Threes', is supposed to be especially apt when rehoming an adolescent or an adult dog.
    The Rule of Threes describes the way the dog is feeling during the initial phases of his new placement.
    1. Three days of feeling nervous and overwhelmed.
    2. Three weeks of settling in, and
    3. Three months of bonding and learning to build trust.
    So, looking at it from the dog's point of view, we are probably still in the early stages of developing a genuine bond. I'm going to refresh my memory by having a read up around this topic. I think I might be trying rush her.
  12. rheel287

    rheel287 New Member

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    Queensland: Thank you for you for your insights. One thing that occurred to me last night was my guy, when it comes to the assist skills, might not be seeing the endgame and his stake in it. IDK. But I take heart in your suggestion that as the bond deepens, he will be more willing to trust the process and outcome.

    My concern in the meantime is: If he doesn't comply (one example: take it),and I let him off the hook, it just reinforces his refusal. I guess I should just drop the assist skills endeavor until we deepen our relationship....?

    I have noted that now he knows this is his home, he has exhibited a hint of protective behavior. He's not a barker, but if we're in the car in the driveway and someone walks by, he might begin barking. I thank him and say that's enough and he stops.

    I was told at the shelter he was the dog who calmed the nervous and scared dogs and turned every dog into his buddy. He's only been face-to-face with one dog since I brought him home (a bassett) and I was surprised with his body language. Stiff and staring down at the bassett. (The bassett just did what bassetts do, lol...just stood there...lodidodido.)
  13. rheel287

    rheel287 New Member

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    @CaroleC: Yes, on the rushing and good reminder for us all. I've had to remind myself a few times; my last rescued canine, who passed in February, was with me 12 years, and it's been that long since I brought in a fresh canine rescue.

    And likely, over that time, I lost my edge in some training skills, especially advanced. But dang...Dutch shepherds just get everything right off the bat--and with such gusto!--even when they had a bad past. They spoiled me, lol. (I think it is my responsibility for any future readers that Dutch shepherds, like some other notable breeds, are not for everyone; they are a lot of dog to handle, and handle well, or things will happen.)

    Thank you so much to everyone. I feel better about moving forward (or rather, not moving forward right now with assist skills). For now, we'll work on reinforcing OB and proofing and beyond that, I'll let him be a dog.
  14. Helidale

    Helidale Member

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    @rheel287 Re. Not complying, and does letting him off the hook reinforce his refusal?
    If I get an attempt to investigate the item, even if she doesn't pick it up - I verbally click with a Yes, good girl.
    If she picks it up I will add a small reward, but if she picks it up and brings it to me, I go into ecstasies and give multiple rewards.
    However, if I get a flat refusal, I just pick up the item myself, say, 'Nothing for That', and stick the item in my pocket. So even though there's no compulsion, the fun stops there.
    I actually had a minor breakthrough last night. I introduced a new article - a piece of rubber cut from the leg of an old tweed welliy boot. About 3 inches wide, rolled tightly and secured with a plastic tie. This was an instant hit and Tally retrieved and delivered it three or four times. Today I planted it behind a chair and asked her to, Find the Toy. She looked around, found it and brought it - twice. Reward, reward, and pack up while we're winning!
    I may well get the blank look tomorrow though!
    IMG_20220327_000334.jpg
  15. Malka

    Malka Member

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    CaroleC likes this.
    Well done Tally!
  16. rheel287

    rheel287 New Member

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    @Helidale: Congrats on the win! I can imagine your glee! Interested to hear how it goes today....

    I do as you do with no compliance, except I say "Game over."

    I also do rapid-fire rewards for a behavior that was hard to come by, or a behavior that is super-important, or if they unknowingly begin a behavior I want.

    And especially for hard or super-important behaviors, I up the value of the rewards.

    You might have hit on something with your make-shift toy that we often don't consider--the texture or pliability or size of an item can matter to a dog. Maybe you found the sweet-spot for her. One of my Dutch's didn't like rock-hard things--for play--but didn't blink if a job he had involved a hard item.

    And another thing (!), lol...is something can sit in a dog's head without compliance and then suddenly, bang!, they do it like they've been doing it all along. I haven't found this to be very common but it has happened.
  17. CaroleC

    CaroleC Member

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    @rheel287 It is still me - I have dual identity due to a password difficulty.
    Tally had not retrieved anything outdoors - until today! She is now completely in love with this little roll of rubber. I remember that this was what I used to teach Merry, (<- this avatar), to retrieve.
    The next problem is already looming. Tally now won't even look at her other articles, all she wants to do is play fetch or find-it with this precious piece of welly boot.:069:
  18. rheel287

    rheel287 New Member

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    @Helidale / Carole C: If they only knew how they keep us on our toes. Every time they throw us a curve, we learn from it. (Who's teaching whom?)

    What do you think you'll do about the new problem...let it go for now since she finally succeeded?
  19. Queensland blue

    Queensland blue Member

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    I think you 2 will figure out your knack together after your short breather away from it, as they say .

    from the things you said about being stable with other dogs also making them feel secure and guarding the car , it sounds like you have got a good dog there .

    yes guarding cars is one of their favourite pasttimes .

    Or guarding ‘Utes’ . What the americans would call a truck .
  20. rheel287

    rheel287 New Member

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    Queensland: I'd absolutely call a ute a truck....If I heard the word ute, I'd think it was someone from a NYC borough saying "youth."

    And he really is a good little guy. :D Exactly what I was looking for this time around.

    With DNA and inherited traits both being so random, I believe there is shar-pei somewhere in his lines...certain moves he makes creates a lot of folds body/face/neck, and when he's focused on you, his eyes get that "pinched" look. I know zilch about shar-pei's except for their folds and that heeler-pei's were introduced in the 1800s. Also heard pei's can be a bit independent-minded, like heelers. Oh, goody.
  21. rheel287

    rheel287 New Member

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    CaroleC likes this.
    My "little mule" did it. Finally. He started "handing me" things but was so very selective about what he'd hand me, and inconsistent. We hadn't been working with objects unknown to him, just his Kongs...

    ...but then a couple days ago when I was in a lot of pain and didn't want to bend over to pick up a piece of wadded paper I'd dropped (unless I had to), I asked mule-boy, "Can you hand that to me?" And voila...he did. I dropped it again, asked, and he did. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    He has a cute way about him when he's full of glee: he smiles and prances) and sometimes his butt flies up off the ground. When he handed me the paper, I kind of squealed with joy, and he smiled and pranced.

    Not going to introduce any new jobs until he holds no reservations (or independence) about "hand it to me." (Today he was reluctant to hand me a small plastic jar I'd dropped, though he eventually did it.)

    And so, we are on our way to the world of assisting skills. In three more days I'll have had him two months. He's learned a lot of OB, behaving on lead, heeling, tricks, etc. along the way. He's just a doll, even with his little independent streaks.

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