Training timid dog to come?

Discussion in 'Dog Training Forum' started by ELewis, Jun 30, 2012.

  1. ELewis

    ELewis New Member

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    I am dog sitting my sisters two dogs while she is overseas for the next month.

    One of the dogs is a rescued dog, and very timid especially around men (I'm male).

    The dog is relatively used to me, he will sit next to me on the couch for instance, and will accept treats from me (it took a long time before he would come near me, not runaway if I came near him, or accept any food I gave him).

    I want to get him to respond to my "come" and "sit", to make life easier for both of us.

    Ideally I want him to "come" when he's called and to sit up straight and not cower. If he's not in a situation where he can easily escape when he's on the floor and I come near him, he cowers. He used to panic and bark and run away, so I guess this is an improvement, but he's very hard to deal with when he cowers, for instance putting on his harness/lead is a real pain when he's lying on the ground and being unco-operative and floppy.

    He learned, sort of accidentally, to jump up onto the couch when his name is called. Even when my sister calls him at my house, he jumps up onto the couch instead of going to her. I guess it's like his "safe place", and he likes being there because we're less intimidating if he's up higher, and even more so when we're also sitting down.

    So I'm trying a few things to teach him to come on demand, but I'm not having much success.

    1. I sit on the opposite end of the couch to him, and say "come". Sometimes he will come close enough for me to give him a treat.

    2. I sit on the ground next to his "bed" and say "come". He has responded to this once or twice and I give him a treat.

    3. I sit in different places around the room and say "come", but he never responds to this, just stares at me, sometimes paces on the couch.

    4. I sit on the couch when he isn't on it and say "come", and he will come and jump on the couch and I give him a treat. But I think this might be a mistake as it is associating "come" with the couch and not with me.

    All of the training guides I've read for teaching your dog to come, say only give them the command when they are guaranteed to come anyway, and don't associate the command with anything negative.

    Well, the dog never comes to me on his own and generally avoids me, and the come command itself is inherently negative because he doesn't really want to be near me.

    I'm worried that every time I say "come" and he doesn't come, that I'm just decreasing any chance of success.

    Also should note, that I have known this dog for a few years, it has stayed with me before for various periods of time, and that when she first got the dog it would constantly bark and growl at me (and still does at most strangers, especially men) and that I'm not expecting miracles.

    Any pointers or advice?
     
  2. Doberluv

    Doberluv Active Member

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    I wouldn't worry about actively teaching him to come on command just yet. Work on your relationship with him...wait for him to trust you more and to enjoy being around in the near vicinity...as near as he is comfortable. Don't do anything overt toward him or command him to do anything. Wait and watch him. If he happens to come a little closer toward you or in your direction, drop a high value treat (like a tid bit of chicken or steak) on the floor for him. Get him to associate your presence with good things. Does he have a bone or a toy he likes? That can be used to. What does he like? Does he like to go outside? Or is he afraid of things outside? When he does any approximate thing...closer to a behavior you're looking for, reinforce that. But mainly, I'd work on getting him to like hanging out with you. Watch movies together, share a little popcorn. lol. Then when he's more comfortable and trusting, he'll be easier to teach things to. Right now, he's not going to be able to think and focus very well on learning new tricks because he's too worried about staying safe. So, yeah...no punishment or scary voice with this dog whatsoever. Keep in mind to make things pleasant for him as best you can when he does something close to what you like in the way of behavior. Then down the road, when he starts coming close to you on his own and regularly, you can really reinforce that with high value rewards...things he loves and then you can start adding a verbal cue while he's in the act of coming to you...when you're sure he's coming...on his own. THEN....when he starts offering that behavior (come or sit)....trying to see if he'll get a treat, you can start adding in your verbal cue ahead of time...to elicit the behavior. But don't try eliciting the behavior until you're already getting it by capturing it, by his offering it on his own or by shaping it. (that is...you reward for small increments or approximations toward the final goal.)

    You may not be able to accomplish this in the time you have with him but you might. It just depends on how you two warm up to each other and how trusting he can become. I'd also try to keep his stress level low...like other things that stress him out. Concentrate on just being relaxed and letting him work things out on his own time and in his own way with just a little help with tasty treats or other things he likes. You can use his meal also. Instead of giving the whole thing to him in a bowl, you can use handfuls here and there when he perhaps comes a little closer than he did the last time or when he sits down all by himself. Just watch and wait for him. Good luck.
     
  3. Maxy24

    Maxy24 Active Member

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    Can you work on training other things first? If he starts to enjoy working with you on commands he's more comfortable with it should make him open up to you a little more and make teaching come easier. Do you know how to clicker train? I'm thinking you can clicker train but instead of using a clicker use a clicking noise with your tongue. The clicking noise just allows you to mark the exact moment the dog does what you want, even if you are not standing right there to give the treat, it allows there to be a delay between the correct behavior and the reward. So when the dog does the right thing you make a clicking noise, then give the reward.

    I would probably start with having him target an object. What you want is to teach the dog to poke the object with his nose. It can be any object, just be sure it's not something that can get knocked over and spook the dog. Many people use target sticks...any longish thin stick-like object that you can hold...I've seen chop sticks and dowel rods used. I have used a walking stick and wiffleball bat. However this dog may be afraid of you holding a stick like object, so something more remote (not connected to you) would be better. It can be a flipped over bowl, a book, a rubber dog toy (soft toys might be too tempting to pick up), whatever. Put the object on the ground near the dog. Then you start clicking and treating the dog for looking at the object, then for moving towards the object, then sniffing the object, and finally for touching the object with his nose.

    I would go through this with 2-3 objects, it should go quickly after the first. Then I would teach the dog to do the same thing with your hand. So hold your hand out flat, not directly at the dog, but out to the side. Again click and treat the dog for looking at it, moving towards is, sniffing it, and finally touching it. Eventually you want the dog to enthusiastically touch your hand whenever you present it. You should be able to move it away from him and have him follow it to touch it again. You can then pair the word "touch" with him putting his nose to your hand. This can then be used as a recall, present the hand, say "touch" and the dog should come over to poke your hand.


    If the dog is too scared for even learning to touch remote object then I agree to skip any formal training for now. Just carry treats around and reward him for showing an interest in you whenever he happens to (as long as it's appropriate, not obnoxious begging behavior) so he eventually sees you as something awesome. Then try training again.
     
  4. Kat09Tails

    Kat09Tails *Now with Snark*

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    I wouldn't worry about come at this point. With a timid dog it's just too much pressure. Sometimes even talking to or maintaining eye contact with dogs like this is too much pressure.

    I would work on the foundations of marker training instead until he feels like he can approach you.
     
  5. sassafras

    sassafras mushinois

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    When we first got Pip, he was really scared to come when called. The words "come here" or waving your hand or patting your leg or any variations thereof just made him crumple. But, we discovered that he LOVED squeaky balls and would come running from wherever he was when he heard them. So, we just started using the squeaky as a cue to come: Squeak, recall, treat, and release. All very light, happy energy and super, ridiculously positive. I walked around with wee squeaky toys in my pockets for months and months. Eventually we were able to transition to whistling (which he to this day recalls best for) and then back to words, but it took a long time.

    But this only worked because it wasn't actually coming to us that scared him, but the typical recall cues which had obviously been poisoned by someone, somewhere along the way. If this dog is actually intimidated by coming to you, period, something like that won't necessarily work. But you might be able to hit upon that "one thing" that he likes enough to "recall" for without actually CALLING it recall.
     
  6. monkeys23

    monkeys23 New Member

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    This exactly. Thats what I did with Scout.

    Just do fun foundational games like marking when he interacts with objects, play some fun focus/leave it games with slow increments, teach to interact with a mat, click and treat for making any sort of move in your direction, etc. Just lots of fun stuff!

    When I first agreed to take Scout I had to crawl in her crate to clip her leash on she was so freaked out. She'll always have some anxiety issues, but she's changed very dramatically during the two years I've had her.

    I hate the word come. I just feel like it sounds.... I dunno harsh? Maybe its because of how I've heard people use it. Anyway I usually just whistle for my dogs or call their name. Name regnition exercises may be useful for you.
    Make sure to keep your tone positive and be very very careful not to pressure this fearful dog too much as that will greatly exacerbate things. It isn't even your dog and its got fear issues... the things outlined in the opening post sound very unrealistic and harsh for this dog to me. Focus on relationship building with this dog instead of trying to make it come.... you'll find things happen much more quickly and are a lot more fun.
     
  7. Sekah

    Sekah The Monster.

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    I have a Chihuahua (she came with my fiance) who had crap recall when I first got her. She was simply lazy and not accustomed to anything ever being asked of her rather than timid, but hand touches worked wonders for her.

    Very simply, you ask the dog to target your hand with its nose. You can start it out by moving your hand and if the dog orients to it, mark and treat. Or you can rub smelly food on your hand and mark/reward when the dog investigates with its nose. Gradually you can add distance, and work on enthusiasm as the dog gets more accustomed to the game. I like targeting better than a come command for a lot of dogs since it's more obvious to the dog what you want them to do: touch THIS vs. come hangout somewhere around my general vicinity. And, well, you always have your hand... handy.

    It might not work for very timid dogs - if not, working on bonding exercises as mentioned above might help you out.
     

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