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Discussion Starter #1
I've got this new dachshund mix. I've had her for a week now. She isn't a nightmare by any stretch, but I've had the previous luck of having dogs that were exceedingly biddable and easily reinforced.

This 12-16 week old pup, on the other hand has interests that go beyond food and "ball drive". This, I know, is not unheard of. I would characterize my problem as a kind of strength-of-reinforcer problem, distractions and my own skill deficits as a dog owner.

At first, I was thinking that I'd work on the standard behaviors: come, sit, down, stand, "get it", "go in the crate", "leave it" "go inside".

Now, because I realize that I'm not going to dedicate huge amounts of time to formal training, I'm thinking I'll focus on the big ones: come and leave it

This pup has a strong drive to go to the ground in pursuit of anything that moves. She engages in rooting behavior in pursuit of grubs/bugs, too. When she locks in on this, it is clear that there are no reinforcers that can compete with this. To call her at this point will only confirm to her that she can ignore... because she ain't moving.

I've never cared if my dog sat, stood, rolled over, etc.... but it is immediately a problem if a dog won't "come" or cease a problem behavior when given the mark.

When I happen to hold something that she really wants, I want to use this drive for the reinforcer for the most critical behaviors. At the same time, I want to avoid satiation on that reinforcer (so I don't want to use it up on lower priority behaviors)

What do you think?
 

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You may want to keep her on a lead outside (15 or 30 foot length - can get at Tractor supply or Petsmart, Petco) while training her. This way, you can gently guide her to you while teaching her the command you're using, since she's learned to ignore you. I'd also use a clicker to reinforce desired behaviors. In addition, I'd use a VERY valuable treat as a reward (tiny hotdog or cheese pieces often work well). The clicker and the treat need to be used immediately, following the desired behavior, so the dog makes the correct association between the command and the desired behavior. I've even used it to teach a puppy to go potty on command. Keeping the dog on a long lead is very useful, and can even be used to teach the fetch command - just don't throw the ball further than the length of the lead - lol!
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I'm not clicking. (not that I have any particular issue against it)

But I am giving a "good girl" just before and during my delivery of a favored item.

Another tidbit:
She spent a decent amount of time in a humane society crate, I think, with all food delivered by the all female staff.

With me (a guy), I detect a slight bit of angst. She very quickly became hooked on my girlfriend (who lives with me) and is often worried about her location. She is getting better about that. I have instructed my girlfriend to become relatively unaffected and calm around the dog. To pet the dog when she is clearly calm, but make no big deal of comings and goings. With this, I'm trying to ensure that we do not cultivate some sort of hard-core obsession / separation anxiety issue.

I bring this up because I get the feeling that this dog has the capacity to become problematically intense or focused on things if we do anything to encourage it. She can become a worrier. She is still concerned about my girlfriend, but she is already more relaxed. The crying has almost stopped and when it occurs, I don't think it ever goes more than a few minutes.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
We must have posted at the same time...didn't see yours once I posted my last one.

Given that I have a reinforcer problem, I do need to strengthen on that end. I should have mentioned that I am only using her kibble. At times she seems sufficiently interested, but at others I am surprised at how she seems to barely want it (compared to other interesting things in the world). Even when she hasn't had her scheduled meal... when she should be hungry.

So that's an important point, perhaps kibble is part of the problem. I'll need something stronger. It will need to be quickly-edible (not chewy or crumbly). So cheese and hotdog sound good. I was resisting that in the name of keeping her diet stable and healthy. Can you suggest any pre-packaged, tiny (and quickly consumable) dog treats?

long line:
I have linked together a number of skinny, small dog leads to make a "long line".
I'd like to find a proper line, but most seem a tad too thick (and heavy) for her to drag around. Was thinking of going to HomeDepot to find a suitably thin line.

My "come" training hasn't started in earnest, yet. She is honestly not terrible. If I squat in the grass... at a time she seems unengaged in anything else... I can 95% reliably beckon her with "Gilly! come!". She'll dash toward me like a rocket.
However, I'm not getting a lot of reps because I do not like to call her if I lack confidence in A) my available reinforcer and B) the reinforcer that she already has (the world!).
 

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If she isn't food driven, yet likes "prey on the ground" mimic that. Take a small toy, like a mouse shape, stuffed toy, or even squirrel tail, with a.string. Start her on lead, no distractions, as soon as you give a command ( whichever you choose to get her attention) drop the toy and make it come alive! Try different ones, even squeaks or whistles at first, to see if any get her attention. Then work up from there, with a longer line, go to new places, add distractions, etc.

Keep it super fun, and only use this as the ultimate reward for recall.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Yes. I am thinking of that thing (my simulated "prey on ground").

I've noticed that when I pull weeds by hand, she sprints toward me whether I want her or not. She usually takes a short look at where my hands were pulling, and then finds other things. This indicates her "instinctual" drive to look-to-the-ground and it would be interesting to capitalize on that.

If I could somehow re-create a small-prey type reinforcer, it would require that I also take it from her or try to produce another small-prey to get her off the old one. This might work.

She is interested in prey... thrown items... but she immediately "worries" that it will be taken and that she must hoard it. She doesn't growl, but you can see that she is going to try to play keep away.

I have tried to deftly counter condition that by approaching her and touching her happily and leaving her with her possessed toy... or touching the toy...but not taking it... then petting her.... in an attempt to reduce her apparent toy-hoarding tendency. Don't want her to think that I'm going to take her stuff every time I approach. This is going well, but you can just see that she is only one-neuron away from engaging in "keep away!".

Food would be optimum, but if I can come up with an alternative non-food thing... even better.
 

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There are lots of rodent type toys you can get, she is a terrier after all! Expect her to like to dig and go after things!

You can get some string and put the toys on 'leash' so the game isn't so much 'take it and bugger off' but 'play tug with this with me'. You're part of the toy in other words.

Look up teaching to retrieve, using several of the same items. Don't pay any attention to the toy she has, instead pull out another toy that's the same and get her attention - the game is all about you and the toy, who cares about the toy she has!

You can also have her in your lap and then give her the toy, and just hang out with her being there, praising and petting or not, but ignore the toy.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I generally don't look around in the fridge. But after I talked to my girlfriend about improving the reinforcer for "come" and the possible options, she mentioned that we had a cheese block in the fridge.

She cut them up into pencil eraser size bits and we went outside with the dog. POW! The annoyingly distracted pup turned into a focused Border Collie!

Very cool.

We ended the 4 minute (come!) exercise outside while she was still thrilled with the activity. We had a bunch of reps off of a very small amount of cheese.

I'm wondering if we can offer kibble that has been "mixed" with cheese bits, too... getting that cheese stink on the kibble. This way, she'll usually get cheese, but occasionally just a cheesy kibble bit, too. (and less fat in the diet)
 

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Yes, you can do that -- it will probably spice up the kibble at least a bit. Actually it's good to have a variety of treats when training, even high value ones. We usually used a mix of hot dogs bits and cheese bits for obedience school.

On days when you're doing a lot of training, it's OK to make the meals smaller. Also, lowfat string cheese is quite healthy and works great. I can get at least 100 treats out of a single 50-calorie string cheese. Cut it in quarters the long way, then cut each long piece into 25 little pieces.
 

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If sniffing is more valuable than a treat, use the opportunity to sniff as your primary reinforcer. Good girl is conversation. I'd use a clicker for communication.
 

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We must have posted at the same time...didn't see yours once I posted my last one.

Given that I have a reinforcer problem, I do need to strengthen on that end. I should have mentioned that I am only using her kibble. At times she seems sufficiently interested, but at others I am surprised at how she seems to barely want it (compared to other interesting things in the world). Even when she hasn't had her scheduled meal... when she should be hungry.

So that's an important point, perhaps kibble is part of the problem. I'll need something stronger. It will need to be quickly-edible (not chewy or crumbly). So cheese and hotdog sound good. I was resisting that in the name of keeping her diet stable and healthy. Can you suggest any pre-packaged, tiny (and quickly consumable) dog treats?

long line:
I have linked together a number of skinny, small dog leads to make a "long line".
I'd like to find a proper line, but most seem a tad too thick (and heavy) for her to drag around. Was thinking of going to HomeDepot to find a suitably thin line.

My "come" training hasn't started in earnest, yet. She is honestly not terrible. If I squat in the grass... at a time she seems unengaged in anything else... I can 95% reliably beckon her with "Gilly! come!". She'll dash toward me like a rocket.
However, I'm not getting a lot of reps because I do not like to call her if I lack confidence in A) my available reinforcer and B) the reinforcer that she already has (the world!).
For the big exciting world, you definitely need something more powerful than kibble. (Kibble is fine for many dogs for training at home) At this point, I'd be trying to build a habit in less exciting situations, which will then carry on to more exciting locations. I want my dog's response to a recall to not have to wait for the dog to decide. I want a reflex reaction. That's created through really high value reward and repetition, and consistency by the owner/trainer. If she has more interesting options, don't waste your cue word. Didn't you say you were a behavior analyst?
 

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Natural Balance makes "logs" of moist food that can be cut into tiny pieces and used as treats. Beats the heck out of a hot dog nutritionally and dogs really enjoy them.

Baked chicken breast is a good treat too and not loaded with calories or crap. Dogs love it.

Kibble that was stored with hot dog bits is good too, but maybe not in a highly distracting place.

Also, the value of the food tends to need to be higher when a dog is first learning how to play the training game. Once they like training, sometimes the value of the food can shift downwards of be more intermittent without losing the dog's enthusiasm.

Sniffing, while certainly an activity that dogs really love, can also be a sign of stress. My non-sniffy dog went though a phase where she sniffed at trials but not at home. That isn't a "sniffy" dog, it's a stressed out dog. The sniffing helps her avoid a stressful situation. Just something to keep in mind. If your dog is more sniffy with you than your girlfriend, I think you have to consider stress and pressure.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Yes. I'm a behavior analyst. I suppose you ask because my "problem" has a rudimentary solution, eh? I get that.

Often, I ask a question because the answers can surprise me with their creativity and "gee, I never thought of that". Experienced dog trainers .. good ones... can easily be as skilled (or more skilled) than any applied behavior analyst. There is no doubt of that. This is particularly true for those trainers who are obsessed with limiting themselves to purely positive reinforcement. This requires must more ingenuity, behavioral skills, and finesse, in my opinion.

I do not waste the cue word if I can help it. (and I'm having to coach my girlfriend on that matter as well)

Truly, I was hoping that I could do some high motivation training with my unfed pup. Being unfed (strong motivational operation), was supposed to make her usual kibble amazingly great. Along with that, healthy.

But I'm recognizing, after my first week with her, that I'll need to swallow my "healthy diet" philosophy and prioritize solid behaviors instead. Somehow, I was hoping that there was some sort of species (dog) specific trickery that I had failed to imagine.

Most of the time, I can predict the kinds of answers I might get... but I love it when there is a simple solution (the best kind) to a problem. Those "why didn't *I* think of that!" solutions come around every now and then.

With the cheese, I was able to function as a behaviorist. I will make the food bits as absolutely small as possible while still allowing my to manipulate those bits without bumbling.

I'm sure I'll arrive at some better "stump the dog trainer" questions in the future. For now, it was just a simple reinforcer question. I honestly appreciate the responses.
 

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You may want to keep her on a lead outside (15 or 30 foot length - can get at Tractor supply or Petsmart, Petco) while training her. This way, you can gently guide her to you while teaching her the command you're using, since she's learned to ignore you. I'd also use a clicker to reinforce desired behaviors. In addition, I'd use a VERY valuable treat as a reward (tiny hotdog or cheese pieces often work well). The clicker and the treat need to be used immediately, following the desired behavior, so the dog makes the correct association between the command and the desired behavior. I've even used it to teach a puppy to go potty on command. Keeping the dog on a long lead is very useful, and can even be used to teach the fetch command - just don't throw the ball further than the length of the lead - lol!
I have a question about this training ..... Now does one transition to off lead & how does one know when they can do so if at all?
 

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You seem to be most interested in the reinforcer aspect, so for the moment I'll limit my comments and add them to the good ideas posted above.

GET READY. Most dogs really go for food or toys. Praise can be superior with select dogs as well. Begin by preparing a large variety of reinforcers that you think your dog will go for. Various toys: differing textures, and sounds. Rubber, leather, soft cotton, coarse fur, nylon, rope, squeaker/no squeaker etc. Various food treats: differing textures, and tastes. Cheese bits, cheerios, leftover ham bits, carrot bits, popcorn, breadballs, pretzel stix, crunchy, soft, whatever. Be creative.
EXPERIMENT & DISCOVER. Find out which ones your dog is interested in, and which ones your dog is most interested in. Somewhere in the mix will be her 'favourite' or favourites; see if she will forego the popcorn in favour of the nylon toy etc without any further expectations toward any specific behaviour. Allow your dog to pick her own reinforcers, and allow her to rank their value as well. Sometimes what we assume will be the highest ranking by our own thoughts or personal preferences, is not actually how the dog will rank them ie: some dogs prefer cheerios to steak. Make mental notes of these for future reference, it will prove to be invaluable if you intend to do reinforcement-style training.

Since I'm here now, I'll add one more suggestion. "Restrained Recall" is a good foundational excercise for puppies, it helps to initialize and condition your cue, and it's just plain fun too. You and your girlfriend can both play it. Start in a low distraction environment such as a hallway. One person very gently restrains the puppy while the other teases/engages the puppy by waving a reinforcer right in front of their face to gain their attention, then leaves excitedly! to assume a spot say 15' or 20' away. Call the puppy with your intended cue (Gilly, come!) and have your gf release her restraint immediately right after the cue. The pup should bound to where you are, simply mark with a timely click or a verbal "yes" and administer THE BEST reinforcer from the list. Obviously, food treats are usually ideal for this, but be ready with the best one which you've determined previously, if it happens to be a toy then use that toy to play some tug etc. Repeat by performing the excercise in reverse with you restraining the pup and your gf calling her and administering perhaps a different but equally high value reward.

Also ... have you read the forum stickies ? There are some really good ones on NILIF, and more.
 

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I can say this about training: success builds on success. You may find that with positive training techniques, work and time, that your dog is more open to learning with you. Kabota's not really any kind of trouble, but he was not open to learning when I first got him. I think he had some pretty bad experiences with training, so he didn't want to learn. What I've found is that by getting some success with some things, he's more willing to try and I'm more motivated to keep trying. For a while there, I thought he was just kinda stupid, yesterday, we did a one minute down stay!

My advice is to keep training sessions positive and short (like 5 minutes or less), start and finish with something your dog will do, even if it's just respond to her name, and be very, very patient. Also, be flexible. Kabota was not doing well with verbal commands. I switched to hand signals only, had a lot more success with that, and am now successfully adding verbal commands back in.
 
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