What are the traits of a "highly trainable dog"?

Discussion in 'Labrador Training' started by Emily_BabbelHund, Mar 29, 2017.

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What's the most important trait that helps a dog be trainable?

  1. Food hound all the way

    5 vote(s)
    31.3%
  2. Loves attention - getting praise and pets

    5 vote(s)
    31.3%
  3. Good attention span/focus

    4 vote(s)
    25.0%
  4. Just plain old doggie smarts they were born with

    3 vote(s)
    18.8%
  5. Other (reply to post with your top trait)

    4 vote(s)
    25.0%
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. Emily_BabbelHund

    Emily_BabbelHund Longest on the Forum without an actual dog

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    I've been meeting a LOT of different dogs lately and today's shelter visit made me start to think about what makes a "trainable" dog. I'm pretty sure it's not brains, because the two smartest dogs I've ever had were also the hardest to train. o_O

    So I thought I'd ask: if you've had what you consider a highly trainable dog, what were the traits that made him/her so trainable? And if you'd had a doggie school class dropout, what made him/her so tough?

    As inspiration, here's Brogan during day #2 of his service dog test, carrying one of the many objects he had to learn to carry and deliver. He HATED carrying anything in his mouth and it was a testament to what he would do for a butt scratch that he learned to pick up, carry and deliver bottles, bags, letters and even coins for his SD certification. The photo also clearly shows one his most endearing traits, the wonky eyeball - you could never be sure if he was looking at you or at the phantom cheeseburger over your shoulder. :D

    Screenshot 2017-03-29 21.51.13.png
     
  2. selina27

    selina27 Registered Users

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    Gosh this makes me think. I don't think I've got enough experience of training to be able to make a very informed response, but I have trained two sheep dogs in the past for work on a farm (not trials) and we never used food rewards at all. They just seemed really happy to be out there doing it. I don't remember teaching them to walk on a lead, but then they didn't really need to.
    But the force free class I went to used the same methods for all breeds/types of dog and got the same results -- perhaps dogs are as trainable as their owners are committed. I think Cassie is capable of more than I do with her.
    Not sure if this makes any sense,
     
  3. Saba's Boss

    Saba's Boss Registered Users

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    In my humble opinion, you've hit the nail bang on the head! I have no doubt that Saba is capable of achieving far more than my short attention span can deliver :nod:
     
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  4. selina27

    selina27 Registered Users

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    my opinion is very humble indeed!
     
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  5. Emily_BabbelHund

    Emily_BabbelHund Longest on the Forum without an actual dog

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    Excellent point! With apologies to the memory of Brogan, I used to think he was dumb as a box of rocks (sorry buddy!). In fact when we found the training style that worked for him and set specific goals (something that always works for ME), we really took off. :)

    Then I spent the next 10 years apologising to him for thinking he was...ahem..."learning challenged". :rolleyes:
     
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  6. JulieT

    JulieT Registered Users

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    It depends on what you want to train them to do. :)

    Betsy, is much, much more 'trainable' than Charlie is - in a way. She is calmer, more focussed, and much more motivated by food and attention than Charlie is.

    So if you mean 'trainable' in terms of walk on a lead, display impulse control, perform tricks, be 'obedient', and stay calm in the face of what most dogs would call massive distractions, then Betsy is your girl. :D

    If, however, you want a dog to display speed, drive, and respond with lightening fast responses at a distance on a Gundog field, then Betsy is probably not your girl. Charlie is your boy - or, very likely he would be if I had known what I was doing earlier! :D:D:D

    Charlie is the dog that is so enthusiastic walking on a lead comes hard to him. Teach him to touch a pot with his paw (and being a one trial learner you only have to associate him getting a ball with touching the pot once to achieve this) and he'll whack it so hard it dents the sideboard. He constantly seeks out his reinforcers, so is highly distracted at times. But get him in the groove and he's fabulous.

    So, it depends....

    Edited to add: in terms of working out what he wants, and how to get it, Charlie is waaaay smarter than Betsy. :D
     
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  7. UncleBob

    UncleBob Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    Well, Harv is our first dog so I don't have much in the way of experience.

    However, based on this limited experience I'd say that drive is the most important trait. Harv has huge amounts of drive. So much so that it seems to compensate for my inexperience! He is like the Duracell bunny, especially if a tennis ball is his reward.

    It's not all good - this enthusiasm can sometimes be a handicap and Harv is very much in the Charlie school of lead walking ;)
     
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  8. edzbird

    edzbird Registered Users

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    I voted for food hound - but for Coco & me it's really Food Hound AND Loves attention, getting praise & pets. He is SO eager to please and seems to relish in getting things right, as indicated by food rewards AND praise. And, as others have said, Coco is definitely capable of achieving far more than me.
     
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  9. charlie

    charlie Registered Users

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    Hattie is our first dog but I would say she pretty trainable and is a foody, enjoys learning new things, she is still quite puppy like even at 9 years old, loves playing with the family. She is a very intuitive girl knowing who needs her most at the Hospice when she does her PAT work. Hattie is at her best when she is with me as I am the best thing in her life :heart: aww :*

    As for Charlie, well he has not been trainable :rolleyes: but I think I under estimated him in some ways and he undoubtedly would have achieved way more had he been adopted by an experienced owner. Scent work is his forte, he's happy as a pig in muck when we are training it, he has a big smile on his face, tail wagging finding tiny weeny treats in the most difficult of places inside the house and in our garden :) He also loves to do clicker training which has enabled him to do things to help me e.g. empty the washing machine, fetch the post and my keys so he's a very helpful boy and is always very happy :) x
     
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  10. Stacia

    Stacia Registered Users

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    I think trainability is inbuilt in the dog. Certainly my latest one has been the easiest to train and I don't think it has much to do with me!
     
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  11. Dalliance

    Dalliance Registered Users

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    I agree ,
    Ebony my previous lab from a working line was a wonder to train as she picked things up VERY quickly from a very early age ( as in any training ) .
    From only being a few months old she would fetch the newspaper and post from the letterbox after it had been delivered , in fact as her tail was so waggy she would constantly be kocking things off coffee tables only to turn around pick it up and fetch it .
    Ebony from a very early age would even walk herself home carrying her lead in her mouth on walks without straying too far ahead if at all .

    Then we come to the bundle of joy Bella who is probably the hardest dog I have ever attempted to train ....I have tried puppy classes ....which she just ran amok in etc .
    Bella certainly is a challenge , the biggest being trying to get her to go on walks without pulling me around everywhere and there is me being 6ft 2 and built like a barn door lol
     
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  12. Snowshoe

    Snowshoe Registered Users

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    I voted Doggie Smarts and Other. Smarts because I said many times, Jet was born trained. For learning new things the OH always used to say, "Show her twice, tell her once, and Jet's got it." But for Other I would say a tendancy to "LOOK at ME" naturally. Jet was the star at our first obedience class where the instructors could not get over her inclination to constantly watch me. She won a little trophy in that class and when we went to agility she and I were the only pair allowed to advance to the competitive classes. I've read complaints from people who said their dog was staring at them but perhaps their dog was just like Jet, waiting to see what the owner might want them to do next. I knew full well I had a special dog and that I was not the great trainer she made me look like I was and when I got Oban, even though the breeder warned me, what a shock. As one trainer said of Oban, he's the dog who taught me the most about training, not Jet.
     
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  13. Emily_BabbelHund

    Emily_BabbelHund Longest on the Forum without an actual dog

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    I have to admit I'm still confused by the term "drive" and what it really means. To me, drive has nearly a 100% bad connotation, because I associate it with prey drive and just plain being bonkers. I don't know how many classes I've been in where a dog is acting completely spazzy and someone will say, "Oh, he just has a lot of drive". I've always thought, well, if that's drive, I don't want any of it!

    But I know during my dog search of the past year, I've been told over and over by experienced dog people, "What you need is a dog with a lot of drive". So I need to continue to work out how 'drive' applies to what I'm looking for.
     
  14. Emily_BabbelHund

    Emily_BabbelHund Longest on the Forum without an actual dog

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    Agreed - I think this is what made my two boys such stars. They were constantly checking in. I think you can train this, but a dog who does it naturally from the get-go is certainly one step ahead.
     
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  15. lorilou61

    lorilou61 Registered Users

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    I think in regards to drive, it's a matter of using it to channel it to what you want to accomplish. I think some dogs have internal drive and reward traits. So that the activity itself is their reward. Others are driven to please and receive external rewards such as treats or interaction. I see the very calm and well behaved service dog as being every bit as driven as my whacked out prey/play driven boy. They just have been trained to channel that drive in a different direction and are likely motivated to please. But I think that personality and genetics combine with that drive to help determine how each dog learns, what motivates them and what they may be driven to do. My initial plans for Edsel and I were to be a therapy dog team for hospice patients. His personality and genetics say otherwise. He's sweet, gentle and kind. Loves everyone he meets. But is thoroughly convinced that his life's purpose is to find and retrieve things. Anything. And I don't believe there is any way he would ever be trained to believe otherwise. So I believe he's very trainable, was an absolute breeze to housebreak and most obedience has come easy. But if I were to be determined to train him to sit quietly at a bedside, we'd be abject failures.
     
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  16. selina27

    selina27 Registered Users

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    The thing is -- I think everybody's right. I guess "trainability" to some extent depends what the trainer requires.
    Interesting thread. Especially hearing from those who've had more than one lab.
    I must say a "high drive" dog is one I'd probably never cope with myself, I'm a bit too idle.
    After food Cassie's greatest love is the chair nearest the woodburner --does anyone know how to use this as a training reward?!!:D
    Regarding the look at me, thinking about it this was the first thing we had to work on at my class was getting them to focus on us.
     
  17. Boogie

    Boogie Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    The easily trainable dog is well motivated.

    It doesn't matter what the motivation is - food, games, praise - dogs are different (tho with Labs it's nearly always food!) but the easiest dogs to train really want that reward!

    It's the same with children. Find what presses their buttons and they'll do anything for you!




    ,,,
     
  18. UncleBob

    UncleBob Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    To me, drive means the level of enthusiasm and eagerness to undertake what is asked of the dog. At many of our training sessions Harv is totally transfixed with me and virtually exploding with anticipation for what I might ask him to do. Send-aways to a cone, recalls, and speed of response to cues are generally excellent ... walking nicely to heel and waiting calmly, not so much!

    A while ago we were fortunate enough to have some training sessions with a very experienced police dog handler (who, for the avoidance of doubt, was very much a 'positive' trainer rather than the 'old school' type of trainer that may be envisaged by some). He said he would far rather train a high-drive dog, and put up with any less desirable aspects this entailed, than try to motivate a low-drive dog to do something that it had no desire whatsoever to attempt. That's not to say, of course, that the latter dog couldn't be trained, it could, simply that he found it easier to train the former.
     
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  19. Stacia

    Stacia Registered Users

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    Re the 'experienced police dog handler' who is a positive trainer, I wonder if he is the same as the one I see as we live quite close to each other, I am in Malvern.
     
  20. Emily_BabbelHund

    Emily_BabbelHund Longest on the Forum without an actual dog

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    That's interesting. My thinking would it be easier to train a chilled-out dog with no drive than a high-energy dog with lots of drive. But several experienced trainers have told me I'm wrong about that, and now your conversation with the police dog handler.

    What prompted me to start this thread is my current search for a dog. While I've pretty much decided to get a puppy from a breeder, because I was heavily looking a rescues earlier in the year, the local ones now have my number (if you know what I mean). I'm getting emails/calls every week to go out an look at dogs in shelters. Which I'm doing because I'm of the "leave no stone unturned" persuasion.

    What I've been seeing a lot of lately are mastiff mixes, which have a wonderful energy for me - very calm, slow and gentle. And also completely unmotivated by food, toys or human interaction. If you want a dog to sit by the fire or go for long and relaxing walks, these guys are THE breed for you. However, I also need to do service dog training with them - and never having had a dog who wasn't the least bit interested the holy trinity of dog training (food, toys, praise), I'm a little stumped. For the moment, it's all kind of academic, as I've not yet found "the dog" for me and still think I will end up with a Lab from a breeder, but it certainly got me thinking.

    I'll be taking a couple shelter dogs out for trips to the beach this weekend (both mastiff crosses), so have wracking my brain to think of what I could plan to help them with their training. Or, in @Boogie 's words, find out what presses their buttons as they seem SO different to what I'm used to!
     

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