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I've started some training with Poppy, a 2 y/o Lab. Poppy was basically raised on the antithesis to NILIF. She got food for basically nothing. Every time her previous owner saw her, he would just put a bowl of food down. As a result, Poppy is very, very fat... and not very bright.

She knows a good sit, thanks to her last owner's molding and luring. However, I'm trying to work with free shaping now, and I'm not getting very far. She doesn't really know how to learn. I charge the clicker, and then I sit and wait. She sits and waits. She just stares at me, completely still. Even her paws don't move.

Occasionally if a sound distracts her she will look to the left or to the right. Or sometimes, if we've been sitting and waiting long enough, she'll get disinterested and go lie down. I click for any of these behaviours, but she doesn't really seem to make the connection between food and action. It's more like "oh, some food has randomly appeared, what a nice surprise."

I've tried giving her objects to interact with, like her Nylabone, but she's not very interested. The thing is, when there's no food around, she offers really great behaviours with her Nylabone. She'll toss it, hold it, drop it, roll over with it in her mouth... but once she knows there's food present, she just sits.

How can I get this dog thinking beyond sit?
 

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How did you start clicker training off? If you just walk around with a clicker and you're clicking every 5-10 minutes or intervals greater than that, the dog will never make the association of "clicker = treat" or will take a very long time to get there. You need to lay the foundation of "click=treat" first. Then you need a plan of what you want to accomplish with her. If you want to teach her down then focus on that with the clicker rather than do "down" once, then "rollover once" then "Beg" a couple of times, etc...

Go back to ground zero with the clicker. If the dog is sitting or doing anything other than a behavior you don't want, then click and immediately treat. Do this about 6-8 times. Then move behind your dog or wait until the dog isn't looking at you. Click and if the dog immediately looks at you for a treat then you know she's made the association.

I'm not sure what you're trying to accomplish by just staring at the dog and the dog staring at you. Are you waiting for the dog to randomly offer you a behavior? I've found it's easier to teach a dog if you lure them into doing what ever it is you want and reward for that.
 

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How did you start clicker training off? If you just walk around with a clicker and you're clicking every 5-10 minutes or intervals greater than that, the dog will never make the association of "clicker = treat" or will take a very long time to get there. You need to lay the foundation of "click=treat" first. Then you need a plan of what you want to accomplish with her. If you want to teach her down then focus on that with the clicker rather than do "down" once, then "rollover once" then "Beg" a couple of times, etc...

Go back to ground zero with the clicker. If the dog is sitting or doing anything other than a behavior you don't want, then click and immediately treat. Do this about 6-8 times. Then move behind your dog or wait until the dog isn't looking at you. Click and if the dog immediately looks at you for a treat then you know she's made the association.

I'm not sure what you're trying to accomplish by just staring at the dog and the dog staring at you. Are you waiting for the dog to randomly offer you a behavior? I've found it's easier to teach a dog if you lure them into doing what ever it is you want and reward for that.
If you are luring you are not shaping. I think she wants to shape.

Rosemary, I think you will first need the dog to see food differently first. Will she chase a ball at all?
 

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I just took a clicker training class with my dog. I found it very difficult for both me and the pup as she used the capture method where you just stand there and wait for the dog to do something, then click and treat. For instance training them to sit, you stand there, when the pup finally gets bored and sits, you click and treat. You do this several times but do not name it, just click and treat. Once they sit every time you look at them, you start to name it, then move on to the down. Same thing. I have always used the lure method and in nothing flat, they are doing what you ask. If it were not for the socialization my puppy was getting I would have quit after the first day. The only reason my puppy did well was because I would bring her home and use the lure method on her at home after telling her what I wanted her to do. Does anyone else use the "capture" method for Basic Obedience. I can see using it for some cute thing the dog does on it's own but not for starting obedience.
 

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I would start by asking her to do something she already knows how to do, like sit, and then clicking and treating when she does that. I trained Zoey with out a clicker when she was smaller, and when I wanted to switch to a clicker, that's how I let her know what the click ment.
 

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I would introduce something novel like a BOX, for the dog to interact with. You may need to hide something very stinky in the box to get the dog to have interest in it.

What about target training?
 

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Free shaping is much more advanced than luring. I think Rosemary already knows what basic clicker training is, you guys are answering the wrong question. Read up on the difference.
 

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I think I would start by clicking something- ANYTHING- that she does. Blinking, head turns, a sigh (sighing on cue is ADORABLE)- just to get across that 'you do stuff, clicks happen'. You might also try more movement-oriented behaviors- don't just sit and watch her, walk around in a small confined area so that she moves and you can click her for moving. Try targeting- this was a good transition from luring to shaping for a few puppies I worked with. (Start with food on a plate or lid; dog learns to go look for food, you get nose touch to the plate almost instantateously. Guide the dog away from the plate fater you've clicked (and they've consumed the treat on the plate) by the collar so that they will have to go BACK to the plate to lick it/sniff again, finish the treat (using something sticky like liverwurst or peanutbutter basically ensues there is treat residue to get off if they repeat the behavior)- after the first rep or two, treat from your hand but make sure there's enough residue on the plate/lid to encourage her to keep returning. Then try it with nothing on the lid- after 12-15 reps, you should have a nice pattern of behavior going.
 

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I guess you're right after re-reading the question. I'm a KISS guy so I stick with luring. It works and teamed with the clicker is very effective as well.
 

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I guess you're right after re-reading the question. I'm a KISS guy so I stick with luring. It works and teamed with the clicker is very effective as well.
Hulk, read some articles on free shaping. You can teach your dog to do some complex things and it leads to easier training once your dog understands the concept. It won't lead you to that brunette in your dreams but I think you will find it very useful.:)
 

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Hulk, read some articles on free shaping. You can teach your dog to do some complex things and it leads to easier training once your dog understands the concept. It won't lead you to that brunette in your dreams but I think you will find it very useful.:)
I've seen many a fine looking brunettes free shaping, so don't be so quick to close that door.
 

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She doesn't really know how to learn.
This is off topic, but I have to ask:

Is it true that a dog can really not know how to learn things? Don't they learn every day, even if you aren't "formally" trying to teach them something? If the dog knows how to sit on cue - didn't she have to learn it? It seems that drawing an association between this foriegn sound ("sit") and putting her butt on the ground is learning? Or am I off, again?
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Thanks for all the great responses, guys!

KB: I don't know how true that statement was, about Poppy not knowing how to learn. In some cases she seems like a remarkably smart dog. She knows which thresholds not to cross in the house (she's not allowed upstairs) and sticks to them very consistently. Her sit is, I'd say, 90% reliable in high-distraction areas.

I don't really know the terms to describe it. It's not that she can't connect her actions to a reward. It's more like she's learned that all she ever has to do for food or attention is sit long enough.

She has a very good natural retrieve. About 50% of the time she will drop the object on the way back or not want to give it up upon returning, but that's still much better than nothing.

I will start clicking for more subtle behaviours like blinking and turning her head. It just makes me wonder if she's actually aware enough of her body movements to realise that "hey, pricking my ears like so earns me a click!" I'll also try the box idea.
 

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I don't really know the terms to describe it. It's not that she can't connect her actions to a reward. It's more like she's learned that all she ever has to do for food or attention is sit long enough.
Oh man, I remember that phase.

Wally used to think sitting was the answer to all in life! :eek:

What's ironic is that I taught sitting by the capture method to teach the behavior. I think that's what got him thinking that "hey - sitting gets me stuff, even if I do it just all randomly." Didn't help that I didn't put it a cue until he learned - but by then, it was just sit and expect a reward.

I took that and made it his "default" behavior (which is also ironic because sitting actually is the answer to a lot of things) as it's a "safe" behavior (i.e. one I'll never correct him for). He'll sit if he doesn't know what else to do (like when trying to put a name to a behavior and it's a little early - he'll end up sitting and looking at me giving me that "please give me more information" wave of the ears), or when really, really nervous.

About the only thing I could do to get him out of that was to start teaching other things. At least then, he'll try other stuff at he knows when he's not sure (nothing was sillier than the stuff he tried when trying to teach him "shake")

I think I started with targeting. Stick something in his face, and if he sniffed, he got a click. Heck, if he looked at it (like I showed it to him from the side), it was a click.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
That worked with Honey... but it doesn't seem to be working with Poppy. It's like her whole world is made out of random stimuli, which is great, but she can't associate any of these stimuli with consequences like reward or punishment. I know she must be able to -- or at least, I know she was once able to -- but she quite honestly doesn't display any sign of it now.
 

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Is it true that a dog can really not know how to learn things?
Dogs and people learn by manipulating their environment and seeing a consequence. When everything you do results in no change (either nothing happens OR the same thing happens), then you can go into a Learned Helplessness state. Researchers used to think this was an all or nothing mental state, but animals and people can separate situations where they have control and where they have none.

If a dog sits around and has no control over the environment - in other words, they sleep all day, except when they get fed, then sit around ... staring in space, with minimal interaction... then they can "forget" how to learn.

However, if there was no trauma, you can rehabilitate the dog by simply reacting to and interacting with the dog.

Now, to pile on guilt to most of us: If you spend lots of time teaching your puppy, then he will learn quickly, gain confidence, and enjoy learning new things. However, as you teach him more, you begin to run out of things to teach him, or time to interact in that way... even with ample exercise.

And, when you stop teaching the dog, it is like getting a Ph.D. ... and then never opening a book again... So do the right thing... teach your dog to read... I did :)

- Hank Simon
 
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