An Interesting New Student

Discussion in 'Off-Topic & Chit Chat' started by tx_cowgirl, Mar 25, 2011.

  1. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    A friend/coworker of mine recently asked me for some help with her dogs. Their main issue is she and her boyfriend are not entirely consistent and on two completely different pages as to how they want the dogs to behave. Bf has a "favorite," and is very blind to that particular dog's misbehaviors. Anyway....that's another thread.

    One of the four is Dexter, an Italian Greyhound/Daschund mix. Dex has the most training of all the dogs, but still not much. Dex is a rescue, and in his former home he was abused. His "mom" has done a good job getting him to trust people thusfar, but he can still improve.
    The first thing I learned about Dexie is that he is terrified of the clicker. His first session I had to give him a break after only a few clicks attempting to load the clicker because he was too nervous to continue any training. So we've gone with a verbal marker instead. :)
    Also, "Sara" as we'll call her has been successful in teaching him to approach people. But, in watching him I've found that he seems to think he has to approach people and is not comfortable with it at all. He is fairly comfortable with me, but the first time he approached me he sat at my feet, and when I bent down to pet him to be less scary he turned his head away from me, lifted one front leg and winced. Rather than petting him, I stood up and walked away to talk to Sara, leaving Dex alone. He seemed puzzled at my reaction, and after watching me a while he walked up to me again, sat at my feet, but this time I got a big tail wag and he actually relaxed when I petted him. Yay! He is very in tune to human body language, despite the fact that the owners don't really know a lot about dog body language.
    I have instructed Sara not to force him to approach anyone, not even to encourage him, just to let him decide and if he's not comfortable then not to let them pet him.

    Shaping with Dexter is challenging me but we're making progress. He is afraid to interact with anything, even objects he is used to seeing around the house. We tried the lid to a tupperware container, and with some work, I eventually got him to cautiously nose it.

    Dex is a very interesting little dog. Any tips on shaping with him are appreciated. :)
    reveuse likes this.

  2. sara Moderator

    Scared dogs is becoming another specialty with me. My dog Zoe is still a tad nervous to interact with her environment... after 7 years, she's 500% better, but she's still afraid to step over cords, or anything strange needs be avoided, and no amount of clicker work, or encouragement will help. We just let her be.

    Here's an idea for you. instead of a verbal marker, whatabout a little LED light? Mine makes no noise, and is quite bright. Can be seen in the daylight, quite easily.

    Another thought... would she be comfortable with something that doesn't make any noise? something soft perhaps, like a cushion? Zoe wont approach anything that might make a noise... wont eat out of stainless steel, or ceramic dishes (must be heavy duty plastic ones, that wont move or make weird noise) a plastic lid would terrify her, but she'd be absolutely fine with a sock, or a cushion, or a stuffy.

    Whatabout being outside, vs indoors? Zoe is much more comfortable in an outdoor setting, than indoors, she feels that she can get away, if needed, and accepts new things easier when off-leash outside than in.

    Oddly enough, Zoe's food motivation is stronger now than her fear, so her initial fear of the noise a clicker made was quickly overcome. but with her, I rolled a piece of food towards her then clicked as she picked it up, while making absolutely no movement, or saying a word. it took about 10 pieces of food, to load the clicker and overcome her fear of the click. she now, when seeing the clicker starts immediately putting her paw over her nose :)
  3. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    For the time being I will not try to load the clicker with Dex, but maybe in the future when he has more trust in me and his owner understands his behavior a bit better. She's doing well with the verbal marker so we'll practice with this until Dexter is a little further along.
    Today I started teaching him to target my hand with his nose(touch). It is taking much longer than it has ever taken me to teach any other dog, simply because he is so timid and unsure of everything. About 10-15 rewards into it, he had a lightbulb moment and seemed to get what I was wanting from him, but he wasn't quite sure if he wanted to do it every time I offered my hand. I quit before he was stressed.
    I will try some shaping with an object that doesn't make noise. Maybe a sock.

    As for inside vs. outside...so far, he doesn't seem to act more/less comfortable in either setting. We have had sessions in both areas and he seems to be the same.
    Thanks for the tips!! So far things are going well, just slow. I'm going super easy on him because he gets stressed very easily. He is starting to warm up to me. :)
  4. reveuse Well-Known Member

    How did you get him interested in doing it? I've tried a few times with Whisper but she is the same way. I think it would be a really helpful thing for her to learn. Ro picked it up in about half a second and the only other one i've tried it with was Willow and she also caught on pretty fast .
  5. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    The way that I teach is to hold my hand horizontally with my thumb holding a treat against my palm. They reach to take the treat, you click and give it to them. Repeat repeat repeat then fake them out--stick your hand out with no treat. Click and jackpot for even just barely touching your hand. Once they've got it, vary the position of your hand so that they will touch anywhere--even if they have to stand on their hind legs to touch it. :)
    With Dex it's just a matter of him being very cautious about trusting me enough to do that. If this is Whisper's case, either keep at it or give her some time to bond with you.
  6. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    Dex overcame his clicker fear all on his own just the other day. I dogsat for them over the weekend, and worked a lot with all 4 dogs.
    Anyway, I was working with Kedo, my favorite--crazy little JRT mix. Not thinking about Dex being in the room, Kedo did something right and I clicked. I wasn't even paying attention to Dexter, but after 20 clicks or so(to Kedo) Dex was sitting at my side like, "What can I do to get treats??" So I proceded to load the clicker with Dex. He still flinches every time I click, but he is learning that the click is a good thing. I'm still using "YES!" when I'm actually trying to teach something just so that he has NOOOO negative association whatsoever with training. The only time I'm clicking is to load the clicker and on tricks he is already good at, just so he doesn't have anything else to be scared of when trying something new.
    So far he's doing well. He is so much slower than I'm used to, but I'm being really easy on him and not rushing him.
    Kedo, on the other hand...lol. Everything is in fast-forward. Super fast and super crazy--which I LOOOVE! This is exactly what I'm used to with my own dogs, so everytime I get to work with one like that I just love it. Silvia Trkman has mentioned before that she picks the dogs that technically aren't recommended because they are nuts and will probably have short attention spans--but they usually end up having the best attention spans because they are so driven. My kind of dog. ^^
    sara likes this.
  7. sara Moderator

    Awe good little Dex! Zoe learned to wave all on her own, after watching Scout do it and get cookies! LOL I call Zoe "Me Too" as she always seems to be saying Me Too!!!! Shy dogs often need to see other dogs behaviour, and confidence. Adopting Scout is the best thing we ever could have done for Zoe, Scout, with her absolute confidence in and love of people showed Zoe that people aren't that scary. Scout's complete lack of interest in "scary" noises (deaf dogs come in very handy here) has helped Zoe overcome some of those fears, and Scout's complete trust in and obedience to her humans has taught Zoe to look more to us for hints as to appropriate behaviour.

    And then I added 3 more to our pack... Zoe is queen bee, make no mistake, but she seems quite happy surrounded in all these dogs!

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