Motivated by Nothing.

Discussion in 'Dog Training Forum' started by Tazwell, Jun 5, 2010.

  1. Tazwell

    Tazwell New Member

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    I have a dog/handler pair in one of my classes that is looking for some fresh ideas with her dog... She's raised and handled many Chinese Cresteds, but none quite like this little guy. He's a little.. "off". He has issues with shyness, despite socialization. He's never, ever relaxed, not even at home-- he's always tense, and "folded" looking. He went through a period when he was younger where not even his owner could touch him... And even now, at a year and a half, he hates it.

    As far as training goes... He is motivated by NOTHING. He won't take food from his owners hands, even if it's grilled chicken. Won't even eat it off the floor. He won't play with toys, and he doesn't like to do... Anything. The only thing that I can see to possibly motivate him, is lack of touch. He probably would work to lose physical contact....

    She's taught him sit, watch me, and even heel through very gentle manipulation... But down has been nothing but a brick wall. I told her since he doesn't like physical contact, teaching him down through manipulation is not a really good idea... But I'm at a loss. I have recommended tellington touch to try and help his tension, and that's going well, but she's very interested in trying to teach him "down".

    Thoughts?
     
  2. corgipower

    corgipower Tweleve Enthusiest

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    What are their goals for training?
    Does he have behavior issues?
    How long have they had him?

    I wouldn't worry about getting a down. I would work on getting him more comfortable with contact/interaction and getting him to relax and to accept food/toys. Lots of quiet time just sitting in the same room with him, never attempting to invade his space, letting him quietly come to them.

    Did anything happen to cause him to not want contact? Some dogs just have a huge personal bubble and it takes a while to earn their trust.
     
  3. lizzybeth727

    lizzybeth727 New Member

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    This is what I was wondering, too. Is it more important that he responds to "down," or that he is comfortable in his home with his family?

    Does she have any other dogs? Maybe another dog - just the right dog, that's important - would help this one feel more comfortable and would teach some social skills.
     
  4. Doberluv

    Doberluv Active Member

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    Poor little guy. He does sound like something's off. If he were mine, I'd be much more interested in teaching him to be more comfortable around the house and family than any tricks or such. I wonder if he's really unhappy or if it just looks that way to humans. Maybe he's just an odd ball who likes to be left alone more than being sociable.
     
  5. Tazwell

    Tazwell New Member

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    They've done a lot of work on getting him comfortable in his own home, and he just is content the way he is. He's gotten as far as his owner is happy with. He won't take food because he doesn't want it... Not necessarily because he's afraid.

    Her goals in training is working on basic commands, mainly down. It's a challenge!

    He doesn't have any behavior issues, except for the above mentioned.

    And she's had and handled him since birth. There was an incident in his past that she thinks was wither at fault, or a contributing factor to his behavior- and that was a reaction to his vaccinations at about 5 months old. That's when nobody was able to handle him for a length of time.

    She raised and sold the other puppies in his litter, but wouldn't sell him, of course, because of his issues. There are a few other dogs in the household, and I don't k ow how he interacts with them. He's timid around other dogs in the class. He'll go and sniff people and dogs, but that's the extent.
     
  6. Tazwell

    Tazwell New Member

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    That's exactly what his owner believes, and that's certainly what it seems like. He's in his own bubble, and that's where he's happy.
     
  7. corgipower

    corgipower Tweleve Enthusiest

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    Nyx is like that.
    Except that she does want treats and toys. But she prefers to sit a few feet away and not have physical contact. Just needs her space.

    As for the down, I'd say capture it, but they need some sort of reward.
     
  8. Tazwell

    Tazwell New Member

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    I did recommend that she with hold his food, and begin conditioning a marker (the clicker) and throwing a handful of food in his bowl at a time as the reinforcer... Or to use chicken, or whatever else. She didn't seem to think that would work with him. I just don't think he cares about food at all.
     
  9. lizzybeth727

    lizzybeth727 New Member

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    But, um, why though? I mean, it stinks to tell people "My dog doesn't even know down," but seriously, is there a real reason why he needs to know down? I never actually use down with Luna, the only time we practice it is when we're just running through a bunch of tricks she knows.

    Maybe a better goal would be to figure out what motivates him; what, in life, does he enjoy? Then you can use those things to improve his quality of life, which might make him more people motivated and then easier to train.
     
  10. Tazwell

    Tazwell New Member

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    I don't mean to make it sound like she's only concerned about one little command... She is trying to figure out what motivates him. Through training of basic commands. She's trying to further his socialization, learning, and confidence through by bringing him to class. There are no problems with him, she's trying to help him along.
     
  11. Maura

    Maura New Member

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    Maybe she needs to learn to accept him the way he is. It's quite possible he reacted to the vaccine, but it could be a combination of things, so she needs to take a step back and just enjoy him. Remind her that she has done very well with a very challenging situation, but accept certain limitations.
     
  12. lizzybeth727

    lizzybeth727 New Member

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    That's great, it's just that you mentioned that she has already used physical manipulation to teach a few behaviors, and you mentioned the possibility of using removing physical contact (negative reinforcement) as a motivator for teaching more behaviors. IMO both of these are bad ideas when you're trying to build motivation into the dog.

    I heard a talk by Steve Martin (the famous bird trainer, not the famous comedian) on this subject. I think zoo trainers are much more careful about not using negative reinforcement or positive punishment when training their animals, because their animals are a little more sensitive than most pet dogs. Because dogs have evolved with humans, they tend to be more forgiving of us.... though we still have to be careful, too. And with a dog like this one, with much less people motivation than most dogs, the training should be more similar to what the zoo trainers are doing.

    Here's an article by Steve that is sort of an abridged version of the talk I heard, but I think it has lots of important information for this particular dog. Of course it referrs to training birds, but I think it's pretty easy to adapt to this situation.
     
  13. Maura

    Maura New Member

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    That's a great article. Mr. Martin stressed, among other things, backing away from an animal when it shows signs of stress. I think people need to learn what these stress signals are, and to respect them. Clearly, having the animal comfortable is part of the recipe for success.
     
  14. MPP

    MPP petperson

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    Maybe she could try a few novel experiences? I'm thinking of a hike in the mountains or a walk on a beach, something in a heretofore unexperienced, but enticing, environment. Giving the dog something totally new to think about (sniff about?) might make him more open to other experiences.

    Also, it would be fun!
     
  15. Doberluv

    Doberluv Active Member

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    I think that's a stupendous idea!:) It might turn out to be a great jump start for who knows what. It is important that the dog isn't frightened or over-whelmed by new things though.
     

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