Trouble Training


Well-Known Member
Hi Everyone,

I have two wonderful kids. One is a full Border Collie, Loki, and the other is a Border/Chow mix, Squish. Loki is amazing, so easy to train and totally focused on me and what we I want him to do. Squish on the other hand is not so easy to train. She is only motivated by food/treats when they are together. When I separate them and try to train Squish she literally spits the treat back out! I have tried several different types of food/treats to no avail. What to do? I have read the other posts about finding what drives your dog. Neither of my dogs care about toys or playing tug. I have spent a ton on different toys trying to find something/anything that they would play with or retrieve. Nada. Neither of them care about retrieving. Even Loki doesn't care about retrieving, he knows the command but doesn't get excited about it.

When Squish is away from Loki she will not focus. I can't train them together on everything, it just doesn't work. Even when I do train them together I am not sure they are really "getting it", I think their only motivation is to make sure they get some too .. LOL! When I take Squish out of the yard she only cares about running and chasing the squirrels and rabbits. I would love to give her that as a reward, but she won't come back. She has absolutely no recall. If I take Loki out of the yard and try to train her in the yard she is crazy because she knows he is out of the yard and she is not, so she still has no focus or care for what I am doing.

What to do? How do you train a dog that doesn't seem motivated by anything but running off?



Honored Member
Don't give up, just keep doing it. That's all I can say.
They are obviously used to doing their thing in the yard, not your thing. So keep your sessions short and give a high value reward.
I take my dogs to the woods a lot and usually they are allowed to do what they want. So when I get the idea that I want to do some training, they protest, by not paying attention.

A time out might help.(just thought of this) Have your dog on lead as your train. If he is not paying attention to you, say: Time out! Tie him to something and walk away a few yards with your back turned towards the dog.
Sneak a peak every once in a while, to see if he is watching you or ignoring you. If he is watching you, you can go back and ask him to do what you were doing before the time out.
If he is not watching, you can try to step out of sight.
If he still isn't looking at you( or looking in the direction you left in) game over. Dramatically put away your trainingstuff(treats and toys) take him inside and ignore him for a while. Don't look in his direction, act as if he isnt there.
When he comes to you to get attention, you can take him outside again and ask for the thing you were training.

It might take a little time before it sinks in that you are not going to give attention when he doesn't do as you ask, but most dogs get it after a couple of times.
Also you need to have high value treats or toys to start out with. That way you will get them more interested;)


Experienced Member
I agree with keeping squish on leash when training. I have to do this with my lab x. We just started with "look at me", and it seems to work quite well. Its so easy to get a treat.

Have you tried raw meat? cheese, carrots, apples? My two love carrots almost more than anything else. Definately try unconventional stuff, and start small.


Honored Member
It might help to cut back on free food (given in the food bowl) so that sustenance food has to be earned during training. Do training sessions just before a dog meal time. If your dog knows she is working for her dinner bowl the timeouts that Anneke suggest usually work brilliantly.

I have a treat spitting dog (I mean he'd spit out fresh chicken, hot dogs, ham...), I had to really cut back on his meals until now there is NEVER anything left in his bowl. Like Anneke suggests I still use high value treats - fresh chicken, sliced hot dogs, soft cheese (from a squeezy tube and the dog licks it off the end, it has to be clearly labelled DOG:ROFLMAO:), smoked dog treats and frolic (ugh) as a fallback. Overall I think my dog is healthier and happier. He still gets almost as much food but about half of it is earned during the day, he normally has to do a sit, down and stand for his dinner too.

Also what about letting the dogs into the yard separately at least once a day? This way Squish might get used to the idea that the yard can be visited without Loki. When Squish is desperate to get back in to see Loki, then call her in, she obeys, hey! You have a reward! the Loki treat! Squish obey a command and get to rejoin Loki!


Well-Known Member
I fostered a Border Collie, let me start by saying, I have never crossed paths with a dog more intense and quick to pick up on stuff in my life!!! Relic learned things I wasn't teaching, accurately and almost intuitively. He never needed a treat.I wish I had this site, back then, I couldn't teach that boy fast enough. I placed h im in a home where the man's health was failing and Relic needed to learn new skills daily. Like bringing the phone, getting the mail, fetching the 'right' shoes. picking up things the owner had dropped. It was the perfect placement. Relic had the love and time with human and a job.

Some things we "need" to train for safety or being able to co exist with our dogs. Some things we train because it amuses us. Some things we train for other reasons. All things trained, aid the dogs ability to learn more things. They are building blocks. It is up to us to use those blocks in a way that our dogs understand.

There is a "light bulb" moment with every dog I have ever trained, when you just know they*get* the clicker. With multi dogs it is trickier. They have more "noise" to filter out to be able to figure out what is going on. From your dogs perspective it could be the other dog farted, or was in the middle of turning around, or the click was meant for the other dog.... or .... or.... or. Have you tried "shaping a behaviour? It may help with your dogs. My "light bulb" went off using Shirley Chong's Retrieve. I finally got it, from the dogs eyes...

If your dogs are like Relic, you can train with no treats, I would use the clicker as a marker, but a nod/good boy/occasional treat would suffice. I would also watch to see about comfort zones and training, maybe you're too close, these dogs can work quite a distance away, naturally. Train existing behaviors, like if they are sleeping in the same room as you and have a habit of getting up every time you do... say "attention" first then get up (click when they rise) walk away, or sit back down... they will soon learn that the word "attention" means "on your feet soldiers" (heck use what ever phrase you want) In this case, following you would be the "reward" that works for your dogs. People and dogs do what gets rewarded, and for your dogs, following your footsteps is, for some reason rewarding. You could then move to treating (after click) the fastest dog only (double reward). Just don't move to this too quickly, you need to be 100% sure they "get" the trick.

Also, watch each dog and see if they prefer hand signals to voice commands. Relic's eyes never left me, I swear even in his sleep. He learned by the way I left a chair if I was going to the kitchen or bathroom, somehow...

Couple of things to start each training session on a good note, a hungry dog is a dog more willing to work for food. No free feeding, no meal before training. A dog full of pent up energy, is not going to be able to listen well to the intricate portions of a trick. Get a good burst of energy burned off first. Some dogs work for the love of it, your's may fall into this, be thankful, mark the behaviour with the clicker and move on. I did find that with some duel dog training, placing the 'non-working' dog in a crate in the same room will up the motivation for the 'training' dog. It may also cause distraction, each dog is different.

Sometimes fetching a ball is boring, but a fuzzy-squeaky toy isn't (or a Frisbee or a Kong that bounces funny....or) There are so many factors to what drives a dog. I would, personally, start with throwing a Kong (that may or may not have a treat in it) just because I *think* it may play on a Border Collie's "herding instinct" (self rewarding, to do what Mother Nature programmed you to do) . When it's retrieved, trade it for a handful of breakfast.

A training session doesn't have to be a formal production. Build on what they already offer. Use Mother Nature's installed program to your advantage and enjoy watching your dogs brilliance.