Difficulty in training, need advice

This is a place to gain some understanding of dog behavior and to assist people in training their dogs and dealing with common behavior problems, regardless of the method(s) used. This can cover the spectrum from non-aversive to traditional methods of dog training. There are many ways to train a dog. Please avoid aggressive responses, and counter ideas and opinions with which you don't agree with friendly and helpful advice. Please refrain from submitting posts that promote off-topic discussions. Keep in mind that you may be receiving advice from other dog owners and lovers... not professionals. If you have a major problem, always seek the advice of a trainer or behaviorist!

Crash Davis

Barked: Sat Jan 19, '13 12:09pm PST 
I have had Crash for almost 6 months, and have only managed to teach this dog sit and his name. Granted, due to my work and school schedule I do not work with him every day, however I do work with both him and our other boy Lenny a couple days a week. I usually split it up into 2 sessions that are usually 10-20 minutes each. Lenny I can usually work up to 30 minutes when he's really into it, but Crash I usually keep it much shorter 10 minutes max. I've tried shortening the sessions to 1-2 minutes at a time but that doesn't seem to help.

Clicker training is how I trained Lenny (and while I haven't proofed his commands in that high level of distracting areas, he's great in low distraction areas). Lenny learned rapidly, just took a lot longer to proof things. I figured with Crash it would be a similar process. Nope.

I've tried using food rewards and play, as well as introducing the premack principle I learned about from the book Control Unleashed. Shaping behaviors is a no go, and using my hand as a lure can help but the second I take it out he's lost again and just goes back to sitting and staring back at me. I'm not sure if the clicker even helps him (I've tried the clicker and just a marker word). It doesn't even seem to matter what I do, I can't get him to offer any behavior at all.

What's the best way to get a dog who seems unable/unsure to offer new behaviors for you to reward? I know I need a rapid rate of reinforcement and I'm willing to reward the smallest things, but he won't offer anything. Just sitting and staring. I've tried introducing objects for him to interact with, myself included when I was trying to teach him 'touch'. But... just nothing and I'm sure it's mostly me just not having him figured out yet, I just don't really know what to do to unlock his potential. shrug

I'm a princess
Barked: Sat Jan 19, '13 1:15pm PST 
Chase is so cute. I can't really offer any advice but I do feel your pain.

Barked: Sat Jan 19, '13 1:43pm PST 
Confidence issue probably. Six months isn't that long in terms of ownership. I think actually getting Zephyr used to the box game took a few months. She would still much rather be told to do something than have to think up something new. I'm not incredibly patient so I didn't push the issue and mostly kept to luring/using motion to get the new behavior.

I'd give him a lot of things he can succeed at rapidly and then end quickly. Upping the speed will probably help but the rest will come with time. Keep luring and repeating and it'll come with time. Lots of frustrating but useful time.

Crash Davis

Barked: Sat Jan 19, '13 1:57pm PST 
Thanks, I think he's a cutie too! And silky soft, which is a bonus when he wiggles his way next to you under the covers lol.

And I know 6 months isn't that long, especially for a dog that obviously hasn't had much training before hand (He didn't even know/respond to the name his owners had given him since he was a pup and he's at least 4 now). But I was hoping by now something in his mind would be churning. And certain shapes of my hand when I lure confuse him, that's been a whole new challenge in finding ways to shape my hand whilst holding food that will get him to continue the motion. I guess just keeping it short and rapid rewards will eventually show progress over time.

He's also a big barker, especially when he sees other dogs (he's dog friendly once he gets up to them) and its worse from behind the fence at home if he's outside and people walk their dogs by and he goes NUTS. Just not sure where to really begin in tackling this since I'm having troubling connecting with him in basic training.

we will dance in- the ring without- words
Barked: Sun Jan 20, '13 7:14am PST 
Sadly, you don't know his history. One of the trends i have seen is that dogs that have been trained via P+/R- in the past tend to exhibit learned helplessness. They don't readily offer behaviors. And dogs who have led isolated lives have the same issues.

How does he respond to the click? Can you see he understands what it means? Do you get that reflexive response (whatever it may be for him)? If not, you need to spend a lot more time charging the clicker. I have had dogs so shut down that it took months to condition a click. Dogs who came from horrible situations. But they all eventually got it.

if he does know what a click means and responds to it enthusiastically, you probably need to split, to break things down into itty, bitty steps. The smallest possible increments.

Ash could not do any shaping when he first came to me. Same thing, all he would do was sit and stare at me. It took a while to teach him to learn (and probably even longer than it should have because I was on my own learning curve). Keep working at it. if you need to, switch to a verbal marker. it will happen.
Crash Davis

Barked: Sun Jan 20, '13 8:36am PST 
It only took Lenny a couple days to figure out the clicker, it was a beautiful thing and helpful since I was new to it myself. His foster home had told me they hadn't really worked on anything so I wasn't expecting him to get it so quickly.

Some days it seems like I can see Crash understands and responds to the click, but other days it's like he doesn't really get it (then again sometimes I know my timing sucks so I give him and Lenny slack on that, that's me not them). I guess it couldn't hurt to charge the clicker more since that could be an issue. I just love to see that spark in Lenny's face when he's working for clicks and coming up with the silliest things and he's so dang proud of himself and I so very badly want Crash to feel that way abut training too.