Cocker Specific Discussion > Behaviour & Training

Steps to take when commands are ignored

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Looking for advice on what to do when your puppy ignores 'no'.  >:D

There's lots of articles out there about not letting your dog ignore you, distracting them with treats and toys, positive reinforcement, etc. but if these aren't working - what's the next step? She's ignoring me when she sniffs out a tasty worm and digs for it (nose to the mist) I appreciate she's still very young (only 11 weeks) and is just exploring her environment, but I want to start as I mean to go on. I certainly don't want to repeat 'no' more than x3 so does anyone have any tried and tested advice?

The gundog training book I have suggests grabbing by the scruff of the neck and repeating the command, this doesn't sit well with me, but the author is a respected gundog trainer and FT CH handler and I do intend to work my girl, so has anyone had any success with this? My gut is telling me that's the wrong road, but I've never had a WCS before and only had Shetland Sheepdogs (who are very sensitive to any corrections, even a stern look!) so my instincts may well be wrong here.

I like the idea of positive reinforcement as I don't want to 'punish' her for using her nose to find something as that will be very useful in the field, but I definitely don't see a need for digging (!) As she hasn't lifted her face from the ground when I say 'no' or try to distract her yet, positive reinforcement is proving a bit impossible :005:

Would 'time out' or taking her back inside help if she's ignoring me?

Hi! The biggest problem with „No“is that we (not you, we‘ve all done it! ;) ) expect the dog to understand immediately what it actually means. Punishment is totally contra productive because they can‘t understand what they‘re actually being punished for and that just results in confusion, frustration and distrust in the handler. The best way of telling at dog that you don’t want it to do whatever it‘s doing is to show it what you do what it to do, - i.e. an alternative behaviour. You can call the dog to you but if its found something incredibly exciting in the hole it‘s digging you need to offer something more exciting as an alternative (I say exciting at this stage as at 11 weeks its too much to expect impulse/self control, you need to start with distraction).
Keeping the focus on you is the key at this stage, treats can be used to a point but a game, a tug, intactive play is better. Try as much as you can to be a step ahead and start to offer the distraction before she gets too focused on something else.
Grabbing by the scruff of the neck is, thank heavens, totally out of date and achieves very little other than a dog who may eventually seem disciplined but is infact only reacting out of fear. Cockers in particular are very sensitive, and being  heavy handed can destroy the results of weeks of training in just one go. Learning to ignore the behaviour we don’t want but rewarding the behaviour we do can sometimes be a challenge but believe me, its the best way forward.
Your girl is still a baby and she needs to explore, discover the world around her and gain confidence, which doesn’t mean she‘s allowed to do everything she wants but she‘ll learn that by doing certain things will get her rewards and other things, like digging holes won‘t !!!
The base line is, that most dogs WANT to please and do the right thing, cockers thrive on praise, they just need to learn what pleasing you means!  ;)
Best of Luck!  :luv:

Thanks Bizzylizzy :luv: I think I was expecting a bit too much from her too soon, and will be careful about my use of 'no' whilst she's still so young.

I tried distraction before with no joy, but last night I gave it another go and came prepared this time with her favourite toy and a few sweet potato bites. I tried calling her name close to her and got ignored, but I moved further away from her and tried again and she lifted her head, saw I had her toy and raced over!! I think the lure of thundering towards me and launching herself into my arms from a distance was too much to resist and it finally got her attention. I did have to do this many, many times as after a fuss and play, she went straight back to digging  >:( BUT I'm hopeful, the consistency will pay off and she will start to want to pay attention to me in the garden, rather than the worms!!

I often find she gets more selectively deaf to me and hyper if she needs a poop. She's a bit of a reluctant pooper, bless her, and will find anything and everything in the garden to do rather than poop. Even though she gets a big fuss and play session when she does eventually go. I'm sure the digging and chewing will get better as she grows and isn't so confused and unsettled by the feeling!

I appreciate your comments about the scruff grab - I absolutely don't want her to distrust me, and good to know that training techniques have moved past that now.

Thank you again for the advice, I was ready to give up on trying to distract her but you encouraged me to persist with it and so far, so good!

Have you thought about making a certain toy high value?

Something that you are in control of, as in it only comes out when you play with her and gets put away until next time

Just a suggestion

Thanks for the suggestion Cazza :D She does have a nylabone that she only gets when outside, and if I need to 'get out the big guns' I'll go and get her rope giraffe as that's only in her pen for a few hours in the evening. I think they're both fairly high value to her, but I'm wondering if I should introduce something she can carry more easily in her mouth.

I've been asked by her gundog trainer not to give her balls unless they're for training retrieving work, which is a shame as that would have been perfect for her to carry around with her in the garden! I'll have a think about some alternatives.

As an update on the digging, she isn't doing it every time we're in the garden now (thank goodness!) but it's still her 'go to' move when she's wound up, needs the toilet, or just wants to test me! I worry that I've taught her digging gets her positive attention now as she will sometimes dig then look at me cheekily waiting her a treat or play! I'm hoping this is just a phase and she'll grow out of it when we start taking her outside - first walk on Wednesday!


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