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Categories: Marker Training

Q. My dog is completely disengaged with me. Where should I start to retrain him?
Dear Cindy,

I feel hopeless. I have a 5 year old Dobe that is completely disengaged in me when we show/match and most of the time when I train if he can help it. I'm willing to do the time to retrain but there is so much information out there, I just don't know where to start. Where would you suggest. I'll try anything. I'm tired of him avoiding me. I know it's due to my stress in the ring partially but no more excuses. If I want to be a great trainer, I need solutions. Thank you so much for your information. With all the training I've sought, I've never seen it put as simply as just being an engagement issue. Big light bulbs are booming!

A. Most training issues tend to be linked to engagement in some fashion, good for you for recognizing this.

What you need to do is start over, and give up the idea of shows & matches for now. Pretend your dog doesn't know any behaviors and start building a relationship based on rewards and communication. The dog needs to have a reason that is valuable to HIM to engage with you.

I would read our article on training dogs with Markers. To get started I would recommend: The Power of Training Dogs with Markers and The Power of Training Dogs with Food.

If you can get him engaged with food, I would then progress to toys/tugs. The Power of Playing Tug with your Dog

Only after the dog is engaged with food & tugs would I recommend more detailed training.

Focused Heeling with Michael Ellis
Training the Retrieve with Michael Ellis
Training the Jumps with Michael Ellis
Training the Send Away with Michael Ellis

You can go to our streaming video section for lots of sample clips of this type of training.

I hope this helps.
Cindy Rhodes
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