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Cyn

New BC behavior issues, suggestions please?

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Hello, I’m looking for help or advice on my Border Collie Sparrow. Bare with me as I try to explain the issues. I’m rather at a loss, I’ve worked with dogs for years and he rather baffles me so I’m trying to find out what I can do or if maybe it’s his age or any combination of another things.

 

LJ Sparrow is an 11 month old male border collie. (DOB 9/21/10) I got him a month ago, and till then he had spent his time on a farm with his siblings and parents. Outside only and not much human interaction. When I met him (and I drove 5 hours so it was rather a onetime deal to meet him) he was soft, but not overly timid, he came right to me and wanted attention. His old owner had told me up till a month previous he’d been the dominate pup in the litter and then when his brother left, he started acting like he had been beat all his life and acting a chicken to everything. He had been really close to said litter mate.

 

So I bring him home. The boy is scared of everything, wouldn’t play, and wouldn’t do much of anything. He started playing. If I am out in the yard with him, he acts normal. But if I put him outside even within a min he stands at the door, wanting to come in, and after about 2 min he’ll start running the yard, but in a worried manor. Separation anxiety it would seem. He’s gotten out twice in the last couple of days . But even if he really has to go to the potty, he won’t think about that all the thinks about is coming back in. He also shuts down when he’s in trouble. He’ll do thinks around the house with extreme confidence, but the moment you tell him no, he freezes… he doesn’t roll over, or shake, it’s like he completely shuts down and stops thinking. He’ll even do that without a “no” if he think he’s in trouble. You can see the lights go out and trying to correct or even say no at that point is pointless. Trying to find the things that scare him is impossible. He doesn’t mind thunder, and he’s fine with loud trucks passing, but random noise or collars or my cell phone scare him. Trying to take him on a walk is hard because he freezes at things like wind chimes, or a car door shutting 3 blocks down, but again no squatting, no bolting, he just freezes or tries to hide behind me. Garage sales scare him, tried to take him to one Saturday, he freaked. But had him in a crowded auction house and he sat or laid there calmly. Half the time he will not go up to people , he hides behind me, other times random he goes up to them without a hitch and even jumps on them.

 

Do, I don’t’ know if it’s because he is young, I don’t know if it’s because he’s unsocialized. I know he was never beaten, if I can take his old owner’s word, and I’m pretty sure, as much as I had and still am talking to her, hitting a dog even once wouldn’t be in her nature. On the farm he was used to all kinds of noise as it was a working farm. And the pups were kept in a pen fairly close to the house and around all the activities. And because he freezes at such random moments and even shuts down, I don’t know how to correct bad behavior, or encourage him to gain confidence. It’s like he has an on off switch. He’s either peppy and bouncy like a puppy should be, or he’s terrified. But even when he’s terrified often he’ll run a few steps away if he moves and turns around and watches it. It’s hard to explain, cautions is the best word I can find, for that behavior. So if anyone has any advice on how I can work with him….

 

I don’t need him to be people out going, he’s going to be a partial service dog so not going up to people is fine by me, but I’m worried about trying to do any training with him for anything. And with the separation anxiety…. I’m worried about him mentally, because he wont even go potty on his own.

 

Also on another note. I’ve had him for a month.. And not one bark. Not one yip. He’ll wine occasionally. But no barking, should I be concerned about that ? He is the first border I’ve owned, but not the first working dog. I’ve worked at shelters and with the local kennel club for 16+ years and his behavior is one I’ve never dealt with. Sorry for the long explanation, but needed to describe the problem as well as I could.

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Just a couple of initial thoughts: (I know others will have better suggestions.)

I wouldn't worry about not barking.

 

Sounds like he was getting his confidence from his sibling, and once his sibling left, he is now looking for someone else to attach to (you?)

 

If he is really soft, I would never use 'no'. If he is doing something you don't want him to do, ignore that behavior and get him to do something you want him to do - then reward that behavior. Don't think about correcting bad behavior - preferably prevent the bad behavior happening in the first place (you should know what his triggers are). If you know he may be about to do something you don't want him to do, ask him to do something else (come to you, sit, etc.) then reward him for that behavior. Set him up for success.

 

In spite of the fact that he was around a lot of activity at the farm, it is not the same as being taken out and about (to stores, puppy class, friends' houses, etc.) when he was a puppy. I think you will have to continue to socialize him with a lot of empathy.

 

Do you clicker train? That can be very helpful in catching desired behaviors and rewarding.

 

Have to go now,

good luck,

 

Jovi

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Hi Cyn I totally agree with the advice from gcv-border. My Border Collie Beauregard is also extremely nervous and fearful. He is also very noise sensitive but not all noises set him off. Like Sparrow the sound of another dog's collar or the sound of a door shutting are a few of the things that set him off. He doesn't freeze, he just wants to get away has fast as he can. He has been like this since he was a puppy and he is 6 years old now. We were told at the holistic vet we go to that his problem was caused by the fact he had his shots when he was too young. When we first got him we just took him to a regular vet but then we switched to a holistic vet. Beauregard has some autistic like behaviors and I often wonder if a dog can be autistic. You often hear about vaccines causing autism in people, I wonder if vaccines can cause autism in dogs. Maybe the not barking or yipping would be the equivelent to a person with classic autism not being able to talk. Also an autistic person could have irrational fears and have very sensitive hearing. I wonder if these same symptoms in a dog, mean that a dog can be autistic. We give Beauregard rescue remedy which seems to help some. You could check out the bach flower remedies to see if any of them would be helpful for Sparrow. http://www.bachflower.com/Pets.htm

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Hello, I’m looking for help or advice on my Border Collie Sparrow. Bare with me as I try to explain the issues. I’m rather at a loss, I’ve worked with dogs for years and he rather baffles me so I’m trying to find out what I can do or if maybe it’s his age or any combination of another things.

 

LJ Sparrow is an 11 month old male border collie. (DOB 9/21/10) I got him a month ago, and till then he had spent his time on a farm with his siblings and parents. Outside only and not much human interaction. When I met him (and I drove 5 hours so it was rather a onetime deal to meet him) he was soft, but not overly timid, he came right to me and wanted attention. His old owner had told me up till a month previous he’d been the dominate pup in the litter and then when his brother left, he started acting like he had been beat all his life and acting a chicken to everything. He had been really close to said litter mate.

 

So I bring him home. The boy is scared of everything, wouldn’t play, and wouldn’t do much of anything. He started playing. If I am out in the yard with him, he acts normal. But if I put him outside even within a min he stands at the door, wanting to come in, and after about 2 min he’ll start running the yard, but in a worried manor. Separation anxiety it would seem. He’s gotten out twice in the last couple of days . But even if he really has to go to the potty, he won’t think about that all the thinks about is coming back in. He also shuts down when he’s in trouble. He’ll do thinks around the house with extreme confidence, but the moment you tell him no, he freezes… he doesn’t roll over, or shake, it’s like he completely shuts down and stops thinking. He’ll even do that without a “no” if he think he’s in trouble. You can see the lights go out and trying to correct or even say no at that point is pointless. Trying to find the things that scare him is impossible. He doesn’t mind thunder, and he’s fine with loud trucks passing, but random noise or collars or my cell phone scare him. Trying to take him on a walk is hard because he freezes at things like wind chimes, or a car door shutting 3 blocks down, but again no squatting, no bolting, he just freezes or tries to hide behind me. Garage sales scare him, tried to take him to one Saturday, he freaked. But had him in a crowded auction house and he sat or laid there calmly. Half the time he will not go up to people , he hides behind me, other times random he goes up to them without a hitch and even jumps on them.

 

Do, I don’t’ know if it’s because he is young, I don’t know if it’s because he’s unsocialized. I know he was never beaten, if I can take his old owner’s word, and I’m pretty sure, as much as I had and still am talking to her, hitting a dog even once wouldn’t be in her nature. On the farm he was used to all kinds of noise as it was a working farm. And the pups were kept in a pen fairly close to the house and around all the activities. And because he freezes at such random moments and even shuts down, I don’t know how to correct bad behavior, or encourage him to gain confidence. It’s like he has an on off switch. He’s either peppy and bouncy like a puppy should be, or he’s terrified. But even when he’s terrified often he’ll run a few steps away if he moves and turns around and watches it. It’s hard to explain, cautions is the best word I can find, for that behavior. So if anyone has any advice on how I can work with him….

 

I don’t need him to be people out going, he’s going to be a partial service dog so not going up to people is fine by me, but I’m worried about trying to do any training with him for anything. And with the separation anxiety…. I’m worried about him mentally, because he wont even go potty on his own.

 

Also on another note. I’ve had him for a month.. And not one bark. Not one yip. He’ll wine occasionally. But no barking, should I be concerned about that ? He is the first border I’ve owned, but not the first working dog. I’ve worked at shelters and with the local kennel club for 16+ years and his behavior is one I’ve never dealt with. Sorry for the long explanation, but needed to describe the problem as well as I could.

It doesn't sound all that complicated to me. You have an unsocialized dog who's timid in a new environment. You're probably reinforcing his timidity without realizing it, and the problem is getting worse, or going to.

 

When his "lights go out" what is your response? How did you introduce him to your home environment?

 

I find that most people with timid dogs are reinforcing the behavior without realizing it. I'm not a fan of clicker training in general, and I'm less of a fan in regards to a timid dog who is sound phobic. I wouldn't want to risk associating myself with a scary sound, and this isn't a behavior issue, it's a psychology issue.

 

You need to work on getting him to trust you, and you do that by always projecting confidence and letting him rely on your confidence.

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You often hear about vaccines causing autism in people, I wonder if vaccines can cause autism in dogs.

 

I believe the fellow who made that link (vaccines cause autism) was widely discredited and his case studies found to be fabricated.

 

RDM

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May I ask where you got your dog? The situation sounds very similar to mine (driving 5 hrs to get my dog who lived outside in a pen with his dominate brother on a farm, etc).

 

My guy was also very nervous and noise sensitive as well. We did not hear him bark for 2 months, and it was at a horse walking by! Still, a year after having him he has only barked while running around with other dogs and occasionally he barks once if someone knocks hard on the door. Give him time and you will eventually hear his voice.

 

My dog was also afraid of things on a walk (storm drains, cars, bicycles, dogs, etc.) but in time he has gotten over them. I either ignored his scared behavior if it was a mild fear or brought treats with me to reward him whenever we got near a trigger. He too would come to a dead stop if a car was coming past us or he heard a noise that scared him. Do not correct it, keep on walking or use a smelly treat to lure him on. I have found that clicker training while on walks has helped him quite a bit but didn't start that until most his fears were gone already. No one would ever know he was so scared to go out before. Now his only fear while on walks is the "ribbon" that people put across their driveways after having it sealed (he zooms behind me walks on my right as far away from it)... I know, quite a weird one but we're working on it!

 

Keep in mind that your dog was never exposed to the things in your neighborhood or house so it will take time to adjust. I would definitely not correct him or say no if he is that sensitive. With my dog, all it takes is a soft "hey" in a normal voice and he stops whatever he was doing. Try to have fun with him, the more you build his confidence with teaching tricks/commands and finding toys he likes the better he will adjust. Once we discovered how much my dog loved frisbee it really helped with him going outside.

 

Also for things like your cell phone scaring him, you can slowly show him that the phone and the noise is a good thing by having your phone go off on a low volume in another room and treating him, then eventually make it louder/closer. Just work slow. My dog was scared of the vent fan in the bathroom after we starting bathing him at home, so every time we showered he ran to his crate. Now when he hears the fan go on he expects a treat and doesn't hide.

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Based on what you write, one of mine is a lot like him by nature. He has some underlying anxiety and he is almost always half worried about things, even when he is enjoying himself.

 

Two things have really helped him a great deal. The first is structure. Does Sparrow have a safe place of his own to go to? A room, a crate, or a certain place in the house? Someplace he likes to be.

 

If so, one thing that you can do is have him go there when he mentally checks out on you. Think of it as a "reset". It's not a punishment or a time out. It's a chance for the dog to regroup and start to function again.

 

For my dog, Dean, this is the car. If he is spooked by something at training class, usually a few minutes in the car with him him reset and he can continue with the task at hand.

 

I have not found that this reinforces fear, but actually has the opposite effect. He tends to come back into the situation more confident and over time he is able to function at a higher level.

 

The other thing that has helped him is a great deal of reinforcement based training, where I started out using a high rate of reinforcement so he could learn "I'm doing something good, I'm doing something good, I'm doing something good . . ." (Quotes are figurative, of course). The more he learned that he could do things that he could rely on as "good", the more confident he became, and he started to worry a lot less about being wrong.

 

You might want to get a copy of Ali Brown's "Scaredy Dog". It's an easy read, very inexpensive, and it might serve as a starting point for working with Sparrow.

 

I wish you the best. Bringing confidence to a fearful dog is a very good thing. It takes time and work, but it is a wonderful opportunity, as well.

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I think you are dealing with 2 different issues here.

 

1 - lack of socialization and life experience. This can be mostly overcome with careful work on the part of the trainer. It's not to late to get him out and expose him to new things.

 

2 - he never learned how to learn from a human. This, unfortunately, seems to become a lifelong learning disability for most dogs. I don't have the knowledge or experience on how to best deal with this problem. Maybe some rescue people who have worked with such dogs can provide you with some pointers.

 

I've seen people work with them and make amazing progress, even going on to compete in dog sports. They are a different sort of challenge though and not every trainer knows how to best aproach the problem.

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With a dog like this I think you need to be very patient, and very consistent and clear. I know that saying "it will take a lot of time" isn't probably what you wanted to hear, but its the truth. I have fostered a whole lot of shy dogs, and owned a couple as well. What brought them around was the humans being patient when they were confused, having very clear sets of expectations and allowing the dog to figure out how his new world works. Once they start figuring things out, they will often come out of their shells.

 

 

One question I have, related to his possible burgeoning separation anxiety is: where does he sleep?

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With a dog like this i would tether him to you and just let him be with you throughout the day. Calmly reward behavior that you want, ignore behavior you don't want. Before he can function in this new world he needs to trust you and figure out his new life. Don't put him in scary situations, but if they happen be upbeat and matter of fact about them

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With a dog like this I think you need to be very patient, and very consistent and clear. I know that saying "it will take a lot of time" isn't probably what you wanted to hear, but its the truth. I have fostered a whole lot of shy dogs, and owned a couple as well. What brought them around was the humans being patient when they were confused, having very clear sets of expectations and allowing the dog to figure out how his new world works. Once they start figuring things out, they will often come out of their shells.

I agree with the above, and also with Mara's suggestion to tether him to you some of the time. It will simply take time with this dog. Be sure you are reinforcing good behavior and not his fear. Also, I suggest that you turn yourself into a dog-observing machine. Really, really study his body language and learn to spot clues that he may show before shutting down, and before other behaviors as well. It will help a lot to grow your relationship of you can anticipate any of his reactions or feelings

 

And be patient. It may take a long time. I think that clicker training would be perfect here. Read the book "Click To Calm" -- your library probably has it. It's written for the training of dogs who are dog-reactive in particular, but the principles work on many other types of reactivity as well. Give him time......lots of it.

Good luck!

D'Elle

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Thankyou all for the quick and thought out responses! I really appreciate it! Today I took him to a very small ren faire(like 6 tents small), on theory of something, we went with my best friend’s 9 year old aussie. He of course is calm to everything and an attention hound. Sparrow did very well, we think Puzzle’s calm presence was a help, or maybe sparrow was having a good day. But with that theory we're going to try to do more social things with the two of them. She just happens to live in a different town.

 

But now to answer people’s questions :

 

GCV-border: no I don’t clicker train; sadly I really don’t like it. Never really have. We tried to clicker him a bit, but he thinks the sound is either scary, or a “hey let me jump on you” sound depending on the person/day/time that it’s done. Best way we found to train him was treat baiting, for things like sit and down.

 

BC one: I will definitely check out that site thank you. Though I know on him he didn’t get vaccinated to early. He got his first set she said about 8 months of age.

 

Barefoot: Yeah I’ve been trying to catch that. It’s almost natural to me to see him scared and want to “sooth” him and of course that’s wrong. When the lights go out, myself it depends on the situation, I feel exasperated, or angry, or worried…. But if he stopped doing the bad behavior at that point I simply ignore him, and return to “good dog” when he comes out of it and is friendly. I’m rather at a loss of what to do when it comes to training sessions and he does it. I try to give him a break, but luckily he’s seeming to bait fairly well for obedience. But not coming when called is our big one that actually caused me to seek advice. He knows how to respond to his name. and always it’s happy “sparrow come” “sparrow come here pretty boy” always with a high happy voice. He’ll come to the point where he can see me, and at times decide what I’m holding is scary…. And go back into the room. Not in a run, not in so much of a hurry, just a “huh I don’t’ want to deal with that now” and goes back to where he was. Call him again he ignores me, go to where he is, and don’t have to say anything, and I try to be upbeat about it, but that shut down look is on his face. Even trying to be happy then “sparrow come here silly boy” and he either is still shut down or does the “here is my belly” thing…. I try to keep all training words in a happy voice. Make sure to praise really well, cause I think he’s going to be a praise and treat training boy…. Just when those lights go out its kind of hard to figure out what to do. I’ve dealt with scared dogs before, but not the ones where lights go out.

 

Waffles: I got LJ Sparrow from a little farm in northern MO, south of Kansas city. Yeah that confidence building is what we are trying to do. I thinking the fact he’s in that… second fear stage.. (8 mo-14 mo?) isn’t helping the life change any! I did find out his dad was kinda goofy like this till he was two… genetics maybe?

 

Rootbeer: Yes. He likes under my desk, my room in general, and his crate in the living room area (which door is always left open to him) I definitely want to get a copy of that book it might be a big help, and you touched a bit on what I was thinking. He is enrolled for his first obedience class on the 12th, I know from experience that training in a socialized environment can do wonders!

 

Liz P … your two… I feel kinda like a “duh” moment, like I should have thought about that…. That makes perfect sense for the shutting down bit. He wants so badly to please me…. But he doesn’t know how to learn from people…. That puts a whole new light… thanks for that!

 

Rushdoggie: He sleeps in my room. Sometimes on the bed, but usually under the desk, or by the closet door. That’s more for me than him. I have the cats sleep in my room too… I also am a college student and I don’t’ work and my friends let him come over with me, so yeah he does spend a great deal of time with me. I myself have some issues (hence why he’s also being trained as a service dog as well) And time is okay, he’s my baby boy, I just am dealing with some behavors I didn’t know where to start with , and well… its my opinion that a good trainer always seeks advice from others, because the more ideas, the better it is for the dog because like children, different dogs need different treatments to make them grow! And I’d rather ask for advice before I do something to a very sweet and loving intelligent boy instead of ruin the bond that has already formed.

 

Maralynn and D’Elle :He pretty much is, like separation anxiety in the house is no big deal, if I “have” to leave him, he gets crated and he loves his crate. It’s the outside bit that bothers me cause he needs to be able to go potty! And he obsesses over me a bit too much to get that done, and even 2 minutes outside by himself and he freaks a bit isn’t good for him nor his bladder or his colleen!

 

If I missed someone’s question sorry! I’m trying to be as detailed as I can me!

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But now to answer people’s questions :

 

GCV-border: no I don’t clicker train; sadly I really don’t like it. Never really have. We tried to clicker him a bit, but he thinks the sound is either scary, or a “hey let me jump on you” sound depending on the person/day/time that it’s done. Best way we found to train him was treat baiting, for things like sit and down.

 

 

Cyn,

I am glad Sparrow had a good day. It sounds like a calm dog really helps her.

 

With regards to clicker training: If you want to try clicker training, you CAN work past "the fearful of the clicker noise" stage. When I tried clicker training about 9 years ago with my then 4 year old rescue Sheltie mix, she would put her head down, turn around and slink out of the room. She didn't like loud noises, and the clicker was too loud for her. Nowadays, if she hears the clicker, she will come out from the room she is sleeping in because she knows she is going to get some treats. Get Sparrow used to the clicker as you would anything she is scared of - start with a soft sound and work up to a louder/regular sound. Try to find a clicker that is not as lound. I have found that some of those really cheap ones at a big box pet store are less obnoxious vs the 'good' ones which can sometimes be annoying even to me. Or use your usual clicker and deaden the sound - put it in your pocket or wrap it with something so you can barely hear it.

 

And of course, whenever you click, immediately treat with something REALLY GOOD (boiled chicken or meat or bits of deli meat or cheese - whatever is Sparrow's "favoritist" treat.)

 

You don't even have to ask her to do anything in the beginning. Just get her used to the idea that every time she hears the clicker, she will get a treat. It is called "charging the clicker".

 

Good Luck,

Jovi

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I know you said you are not fond of clicker training, so please do not take this as pushy. But my experience is that people who do not like clicker training usually do not understand it. This was true of me, until I learned enough about it to understand how and why it works, and the perfect beauty of it. If I may, I would like to recommend that you read "Reaching The Animal Mind" by Karen Pryor. It will explain to you how and why it works, how it empowers the animal and teaches the animal to think, and how it improves the relationship between you and the animal you are training. It is an easy and entertaining read, too. Just try a few little things, maybe, and see if you get results. You can start with the click of a ballpoint pen, followed by food treats, and work up from there.

 

The main thing that you need to work on, it seems to me, is the relationship between you and this scared dog. He needs to learn to trust you and to believe in you. from there, all training will come more easily. I would work for now on your relationship, and let more formal training wait a little while until he trusts you more. Another great book, specifically about the relationship between people and dogs, is "Bones Would Rain From The Sky" by Suzanne Clothier.

Good luck

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Rushdoggie: He sleeps in my room. Sometimes on the bed, but usually under the desk, or by the closet door. That’s more for me than him. I have the cats sleep in my room too…

 

M. Shirley Chong, a dog trainer who I like and respect a lot has suggested a direct correlation between dogs who sleep with their owners and separation anxiety. I have found this to be true in my experience.

 

I would consider teaching him to sleep in his crate right next to your bed, and then slowly moving it out of the room. This will teach him how to feel comfortable without you in a slow, controlled manner when he is already feeling relaxed.

 

In addition, try offering him things like stuffed Kongs and puzzle toys with food while you are home and slowly move away from him, and then to another room. This way he can associate the fact that you are leaving with something positive. In addition, the licking and sucking he will do to empty a Kong can be soothing for a dog.

 

I have a annoying puppy but its a wonderful feeling to see him hapily go to bed in the front room and be unperturbed about me leaving him when I walk out the door.

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I myself have some issues (hence why he’s also being trained as a service dog as well)

 

 

I don't want to be blunt, but I really doubt that this dog is cut out to be a service dog. When choosing a working dog, you need to chose a dog that is suited for the job. The type of temperament that it seems you're explaining would have gotten him cut from any reputable service dog program. Service dogs need to have a focused and confident attitude and Sparrow just doesn't. It's not fair to him to give him a job that he can't handle.

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I myself have some issues (hence why he’s also being trained as a service dog as well)

Maralynn, I totally agree with you. It definitely wouldn't be fair to Sparrow to give him a job he couldn't handle.

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I myself have some issues (hence why he’s also being trained as a service dog as well)

Maralynn, I totally agree with you. It definitely wouldn't be fair to Sparrow to give him a job he couldn't handle.

 

Oops I accidently posted this twice or maybe it was worth repeating.

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Clicker training is one of my favorite methods. At the same time, it might not be suitable for all dogs, at least in the context of using treats as a reward, it all depends on the dog's value system.

 

For very attached/affectionate dogs, the click can mean "good job! come get some love." I have one like that. She's very, very soft, most likely abused at some point in her past also. She's coming out of it now and has gained a lot of confidence. I started her on small, simple mental stimulation games, confidence building exercises, and I always reward the behaviors I want and ignore and walk away from her when she displays behaviors I didn't like. It's very hard to turn your back on a dog that tugs at your heartstrings, but sometimes you have to look at the bigger picture and where you want her to be in the long run.

 

The opposite can be done with dogs that are unsure of people. Llamas are clicker trained to accept people by a someone walking just into the threshold where the llama feels uncomfortable, but isn't bolting. The person stays there for a moment, clicks, and then beats a fast retreat. Over time and repetitions, the threshold becomes closer and closer to the llama until you're standing right next to them. You can do the same thing with an under-socialized, frightened dog. Click = fast retreat from whatever is scaring you. The retreat becomes the reward.

 

Basically, you have to figure out what your dog values in order for the clicker training to be successful. If you're not comfortable with the clicker, you can always use your voice as the reward marker; however, because of varying pitches and the fact that dogs hear our voices all the time, it's not as effective as using something else (ie the clicker) to mark the behavior.

 

I hope that helps. Good luck to you and Sparrow!

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Rootbeer: Yes. He likes under my desk, my room in general, and his crate in the living room area (which door is always left open to him) I definitely want to get a copy of that book it might be a big help, and you touched a bit on what I was thinking. He is enrolled for his first obedience class on the 12th, I know from experience that training in a socialized environment can do wonders!

 

 

Training in a group setting can do wonders, but do be prepared to take things slow. Your dog may not be able to do everything that the other dogs in class do right away and that's OK.

 

When I started classes with Tessa last January, she actually had to learn to follow a lure. She was afraid of that. We moved very, very slow, not moving on until she was ready. She is about to move from Foundation Agility into Beginner now! She has set a much faster pace than I anticipated, but I let her lead the way. Had I pushed her too hard, we would probably still be struggling to get out of Advanced Basic!!

 

If your instructor wants you to try something that you are not comfortable trying, don't hesitate to discuss it. A good instructor will work with you, and will take any concerns that you have regarding your dog seriously.

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Barefoot: Yeah I’ve been trying to catch that. It’s almost natural to me to see him scared and want to “sooth” him and of course that’s wrong. When the lights go out, myself it depends on the situation, I feel exasperated, or angry, or worried…. But if he stopped doing the bad behavior at that point I simply ignore him, and return to “good dog” when he comes out of it and is friendly.

Be careful about calling fear, "bad behavior". You're not dealing with a behavioral issue here, you're dealing with a psychology issue here. That's a part of the reason I would tend to disagree with a lot of what other folks have written here.

 

I’m rather at a loss of what to do when it comes to training sessions and he does it. I try to give him a break, but luckily he’s seeming to bait fairly well for obedience. But not coming when called is our big one that actually caused me to seek advice. He knows how to respond to his name. and always it’s happy “sparrow come” “sparrow come here pretty boy” always with a high happy voice. He’ll come to the point where he can see me, and at times decide what I’m holding is scary…. And go back into the room. Not in a run, not in so much of a hurry, just a “huh I don’t’ want to deal with that now” and goes back to where he was. Call him again he ignores me, go to where he is, and don’t have to say anything, and I try to be upbeat about it, but that shut down look is on his face. Even trying to be happy then “sparrow come here silly boy” and he either is still shut down or does the “here is my belly” thing…. I try to keep all training words in a happy voice. Make sure to praise really well, cause I think he’s going to be a praise and treat training boy…. Just when those lights go out its kind of hard to figure out what to do. I’ve dealt with scared dogs before, but not the ones where lights go out.
This seems very different to me than the problems you posed in the original post, and I think it has a lot to do with why you're having issues. You're approaching his phobias from a training perspective, or at the very least you're failing to separate the two. Not coming when called is a totally different problem than the scenario you described about being fearful of everything.

 

In this scenario, you are giving him positive feedback for not coming by calling again in a "come here silly boy" voice after he's ignored the original request. It's at the very least ambiguous and confusing, which often leads to a lack of confidence in dogs because they don't have a clear picture of what is correct and what is incorrect.

 

There are 3 ways to put psychological pressure on the dog, they are increasing forcefulness:

 

1-Verbally- Using a negative tone or word can put pressure on the dog. Volume varies the amount of pressure.

 

2-Spatially- Standing up increases your presence, as does moving towards him. Decreasing the space between you and the dog increases the pressure.

 

3-Physically- Touching the dog, taking the leash or collar and using it to move the dog puts the maximum amount of pressure on the dog.

 

Instead of the "silly boy" scenario, call him, and if he doesn't come, give him a slightly harsh "hey" and then move towards him, silently.

 

You're putting a little pressure on him here, but you have to be prepared to remove that pressure completely and immediately as soon as he makes a move to you. As soon as he makes a move towards you, give him a relaxed "good boy" and change your posture by turning around and walking away. If he comes all the way to you give him a more exuberant "good boy" and a pat. If he starts to come and then stops, add the pressure again by walking towards him (nothing verbal) and again remove the pressure at any movement towards you. If he starts to walk away, give a negative verbal cue and walk towards him again.

 

Keep repeating the process until he has come all the way to you and you can give him the warm reception he deserves.

 

The idea here is to make the dog see that he can release the pressure by coming to you, and that's the only way. He can't avoid it by ignoring the command or trying to avoid it.

 

The dog is probably feeling pressure already from the command itself because he lacks confidence. What you're doing in your description is allowing him avoid the pressure he feels by ignoring the command. He hasn't learned that he becomes free from all the pressure if he does what you want.

 

Avoidance is a common trait in unsocialized dogs, but you have to make sure that the avoidance doesn't work.

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Putting pressure on a fearful or under-socialized dog has never worked for me, at least not in the way you're talking about. I might make them deal with the pressure that's already there by not letting them back off and rewarding them by going away when they're calm, but I personally have found that adding more can make the problem worse or turn it into a game chase, then you're really in trouble. That's what my llama analogy was trying to illustrate, changing a mindset through progression of stages. I'd leave off the recall until the dog is more comfortable being around me. That's just IMHO and experience, but hey, if it works for you.

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Putting pressure on a fearful or under-socialized dog has never worked for me, at least not in the way you're talking about. I might make them deal with the pressure that's already there by not letting them back off and rewarding them by going away when they're calm, but I personally have found that adding more can make the problem worse or turn it into a game chase, then you're really in trouble.

 

I would have to agree with that...

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I did catch that you didn't like clicker training, but I must echo what a few others have said about it. It is a wonderful training tool that can help a nervous dog. It can be a bit awkward at first trying to balance clicking with treat administration and having a free hand to signal or pet, and clicking at the accurate time can take some practice, but it is worth it.

 

You sound like you have a highly unsocialized dog. The farm environment is a lot different than a home environment...There are a lot if things in your home and neighborhood that he's never been exposed to. There are appliances that emit a constant high pitch squeal that we often can't hear, there's things turning on and off, televisions, cars going by, sudden noises he's never heard before, big objects he's never seen. And that's all very scary to him.

 

I wouldn't recommend putting pressure on him at all if you can avoid it. Its usually pressure that will cause a nervous or fearful dog to shut down. If he shuts down, you aren't going to get anywhere with him, and that just damages whatever confidence he has left even more. Right now, he's probably pretty clueless. He doesn't have a good grasp that when you say a command, then there's an expectation that he do something. And when he does that specific something, he gets rewarded. It's almost imperative that you make this as positive as you possibly can for him. No pressure, no punishments or harsh corrections. Remember, this is his first experience with "training". If you blow it and make it a miserable experience for him, then it's going to make your life even harder.

 

If he doesn't know what "come" means, then you can't really expect him to respond to it the way he's supposed to. Since he doesn't respond to come, I can only assume that he truly does not understand or he lacks the confidence to perform. Either way, pressure or corrections won't work. Go back to step one and teach him what you want and build up his confidence. I'm assuming he'll already let you get pretty close to him, so sit or kneel down about an arms length away from him and hold out a treat. Don't say anything. If he's gotten frustrated before with the word "come", then it's best to leave it out for now and add the verbal cue in later when he becomes more confident in what he's supposed to do. Humans communicate naturally and primarily by spoken language. Dogs don't. Sometimes the best thing you can do for your dog as a trainer is to shut up for a bit and become more in tune to the other ways you can communicate to your dog that your dog may be more comfortable with.

 

Lure him to you and then reward him and praise the dickens out of him. Keep doing this and gradually increase the distance between you. He'll figure out pretty quickly that coming to you is a good thing. When he's coming confidently, THEN add a light, cheerful cue and up the reward the first couple times. If there's a time when he freaks out and doesn't come, don't stand around talking to him and trying to convince him to come. Get closer to him, kneel down and hold your hand the way you did when you first taught him and praise him for coming to keep him confident and remind him.

 

One final note, considering the temperament of the dog and the lack of socialization, I don't think its fair to expect him to be a service dog to you. The service dog training programs start dogs as puppies. These puppies are raised in a home environment and they are taken EVERYWHERE and exposed to EVERYTHING. They meet people of every race, creed, color and fashion sense. By the time those dogs go into a home with somebody that needs them, there is not a lot they haven't seen, and if there is something they haven't seen, they have the confidence and training and temperament to not react. And not every puppy makes the cut to go to work either.

 

That's not to say you won't make progress with him through positive training and patience. But because Sparrow is already an older puppy, you have missed out on the early windows of opportunity to expose him to the world and socialize him. What was on the farm is what he is socialized to, and he's going to react to the things he sees in the home and in the city. You can spend a week training him to get used to your vacuum, only to have him freak out if a vacuum is turned on in a store or strange place. Sometimes older dogs never get fully comfortable with loud noises.

 

Your best bet for a service dog is to get yourself a puppy because its like working with a blank slate. It's much, much easier to start off with an already confident puppy, working during those critical socialization periods, than it is to get an unsocialized adult and work backwards.

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