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Basic training (stay, come, sit, leave it) difficulty: very short attention span/motivation

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Hello, I adopted a 7 year-old brood bitch 3.5 months ago who is very sweet and extremely chilled. After seeing a behaviorist and several vets my dog is now on a low-intensity anti-depressant but only for a few days, so no results for a while and we're taking things slowly and very carefully. She is still adapting to city life after being in a kennel her whole life surrounded only by Greys.

I would like to train her on basics for her own safety rather than anything else (stay, come, leave it) but I am struggling with her lack of interest. I use a peppy voice, I give a lot of affection as reward, I try using treats but after 8 min (max) she'll turn away and just look bored. I also time the training before meals when I know she's most eager. 

I want each session to be short and sweet but just 3-5 min. even if I do it 3 times a day isn't a whole lot. She has sensitive digestion so I can't really go crazy with fun exotic treats and I have to keep what she eats simple. 

Does anyone else have experience with an under-motivated dog? I haven't even really tried the dreaded "sit" yet because, from experience, no treat seems enticing enough to her for the effort, apparently. Help, please! :-)

Edited by MaryHD
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If she's "extremely chilled" why is she on an anti depressant?  I'm assuming you mean an anti anxiety medication??  If she's an anxious dog, it can takes a much longer time for her to work through her settling in phase - as long as a year even - so you just may be jumping the gun with trying extensive training.

Broodies are famous for being stubborn and doing exactly what they want in their own way and their own time.  Your best bet for training is to try more "behavioral shaping" than actual training sessions.  Keep a good treat she can eat close by or in your pocket, and when you see her beginning a behavior you want, give it a name/command while she's doing it, praisepraisepraise and treat.  She'll get the idea - in her own way!

You can also try different rewards if treats aren't her thing.  Many will work for praise, a toy, a ball, or other item they really enjoy.  Also, think out of the box with treats if you can - if she can have only a certain protein, say, chicken, used store roasted chicken for treats, or chicken jerky.  Don't rely on only "dog" treats to motivate her.  If she has a canned food she eat, you can use very small bites on a spoon, or small pieces of dehydrated (or cooked) liver.

You might not think 5 minutes is a very long training session, but it is a long time for a dog.  Several very short sessions a day is perfectly fine.  It just takes longer.

Remember, greyhounds have been bred for hundreds of years to work independently of their humans.  So they aren't predisposed to be people pleasers like gun dogs or herding breeds.  They are more like cats in their attitude towards their staff!  ;)   So finding what works and keeping them motivated to learn can be an interesting journey.

Chris - Mom to: Lilly, Felicity (DeLand), and Andi (Braska Pandora)


Angels: Libby (Everlast), Dorie (Dog Gone Holly), Dude (TNJ VooDoo), Copper (Kid's Copper), Cash (GSI Payncash), Toni (LPH Cry Baby), Whiskey (KT's Phys Ed), Atom

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Hi Greysmom, and thanks for your advice. You are write, I was unclear in my post and I did mean anti-anxiety medication. By "chilled" I meant to describe her body language as mellow or low-energy most of the time. She is indeed very anxious around certain triggers like running/active small children or the stairwell of my building that has a very strong echo each time someone opens a door or uses the elevator (to name only a couple).

I laughed reading your use of the word "staff." I am definitely the live-in physical therapist giving her little massages when she is sprawled on my couch ;-)

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I agree with greysmom,  With my first greyhound I got 5 of a behavior a day did not matter if she did them on her own or if I asked for them.  She was not food motivated at all I did behavior shaping at home and took her to obedience class 6 months later to proof her before her Therapy dog test.  So she knew how to do everything.  We were on the small dog mat as she did not get the concept of walking in a circle fast to go nowhere.  The walk sit walk drill she would do the first then turn into a cow that had never been lead statue no amount of anything could move her until the last one was called she would happily get up and do that one.  The teacher was so frustrated with us (she had goldens). Said no dog could pass up steak my greyhound would not even look at it.  She passed her Therapy dog test a few months later.  So I guess what I am trying to share is sometimes they just do not see a need or point to training session when they are new.  So now I do no formal training with mine for the first 6 months just so they get settled in and learn house rules.  I try to keep the first few months most like what they have come from turn out, free time, crate time, repeat.  Then a few months more of less and less crate time.  Until they are letting me know when they need out and are comfortable then the formal training starts.

Every moment is used as a learning moment instead of training sessions.  Do not want the greyhound in the kitchen every time she goes that direction she is told “Out” when she is out of the kitchen she is told good girl.  She learned two thing not to be in the kitchen and Out means not her area and turn around and move.

Give her time to adjust and make it fun.  Just think if you were taken to another place and had no one of you kind around, did not speak the language and got thrown into school how productive would any of us be? Adjustments sometimes just takes time for them to feel safe.

Just what has worked for me since 1990.  Hope your transition/training goes well.  There are so many different ways/styles to get things done.

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33 minutes ago, 1Moregrey said:

The walk sit walk drill she would do the first then turn into a cow that had never been lead statue no amount of anything could move her until the last one was called she would happily get up and do that one.  

A cow that had never.... :D:D 

That made me chuckle! 

I'm lucky in that my grey is HUGELY food obsessed and very receptive to an excited voice. He'll sit, down, sit, wait, paw.... just for an oh-so-exciting bit of carrot now. Bring out a high value treat and he trips over himself with excitement. 

Training really helped us to bond as he was so nervous and introverted. I have no idea what I would have done if he hadn't been so receptive to food!

That said, for the first few months or so he just needed space to relax into his surroundings. So I agree wholeheartedly with 1Moregrey - give her time and then make it all fun and turn things she does into a training session. Eg if you see she is going to lie down you could say "down" as she's doing it and give her a "good down" treat that you know she likes...rinse and repeat. She may respond more to praise than a treat. Or she may just not find training time engaging enough/be ready and needs a bit of easy encouragement. 

Good luck :-)

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Hi Mary,

I'm actually jealous that your dog is doing 8 minutes training haha. 

When I got my greyhound Johnny he seemed to be so not interested in any training that I thought he will never ever learn anything. It was a bit frustrating because I'm keen to spend time with him and put effort into our training so it felt like a one way thing. It only got 'better' when I lowered my expectations. A lot :) . After talking to a dog trainer I tried the 'nothing in life is free' method and instead of training 'sessions' I just asked for certain behaviors whenever he gets anything. It seemed to work better for him because he doesn't enjoy training sessions as such and gets fed up with it after a minute. When I realised that I have access to all the resources he wants and needs (food, cuddles, walks, car rides, being allowed on the sofa) I used it to reward him for showing certain behaviours/responding when I ask him to do something.

t took around 6 months till he learned the basics (sit, lay down, come, stay, on your bed, up (go on the sofa or car), off (go off the sofa)). I prioritized 'come' and 'stay' because I find it important for his safety to respond to those words. At the moment he gets no food whatsoever without doing one or two commands. (just like your dog, my dog has a sensitive stomach and i can't feed him treads all day long to keep him motivated). It doesn't seem like a lot of training but it really adds up.

If your dog does 5 minutes training every day, that will make a difference in a few months time.  Stop before she gets frustrated and end when she is still enjoying it, makes it more likely for her to do it again the next day.  Its great that you want to teach her something and I'm sure if you are patient she will learn.

I know progress seems slow, especially if you are used to train other dogs. I was dog sitting for  a Labrador recently and he learned in one afternoon what Johnny learned in 6 months. But that's ok, Johnny did enough in his life for us people, he was a racer for most of his life. he is retired now so good on him for setting some boundaries towards his humans :) 

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Grace has only learned two important commands in two and a half years. Wait and NO!

And a few fun ones such as Walkies, Food and Biscuit? The rest of the time her behaviour is controlled by routine and reacting to what I do.

Grace (Ardera Coleen) born 18 June 2014
Raced at Monmore Green, Wolverhampton UK - 68 Races, 9 wins, 5 second places
Gotcha Day 10 June 2018 

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even with highly motivated sighthounds i keep training times down to a minimum. terriers, working dogs, other hounds can go for who knows how long. 

personally it sounds like your reserved girl just needs baby steps. try dehydrated liver- it's not messy and most dogs love it.best is always slivers of hot dogs but they can be messy- i wear a treat bag if need be. always have some with you. when you say her name and she responds- give her a treat. start off with something as basic as that. most likely she's not even that responsive to her name. 

have you considered the tether method- keep her on leash and with you in the house. when you say her name and she looks at you- treat. do that for a while. then say her name, and let's go- move from one place to another and treat. just don't get up and start to go. break everything up into teeny tiny steps.so you would say her name- get her attention- stand up and say let's go- and treat. eventually you can leave the name step off and say- " name, let's go and treat~

  also a great thing to teach which helps establish a good connection between you and the hound is "touch". i first use my hand w/ some peanut butter on it- and put it in front of the dog's head, around 12" away and say touch. when they touch the hand they automatically get the treat- the peanut butter.remember to say - excellent or good dog.  i work that into just touching the hand with out peanut butter and rewarding the dog with a more traditional treat. then pass that skill on to objects. currently my puppy has transferred touch to the freezer drawer- yup. that's where i keep the marrow bones. i have nose prints all over the freezer since she is always touching it hoping for a treat. she also walks up and now touches me, pantry closet and what ever she wants hoping for either a treat or what's hidden inside. i am the only person in the world who HATES the clicker. it's too much coordination for me-

she will feel more secure with a leash on- and treat yourself to something other than a 1" nylon leash. they are bulky and heavy. for lots of leash time i prefer the old fashioned cotton web leashes https://www.max200.com/cotton-web-longlines    it's getting more and more difficult to find them, most of the manufactures are selling cotton/nylon blends. not as light and comfortable. these are very strong leashes, don't worry. as to a bait pouch you can be creative, but i purchased something like this 18 years ago- and still use it, especially since i'm working w/ a 10 month old whippet. https://www.amazon.com/Karen-Pryor-Clicker-Training-Black/dp/B00CDSDDWY/ref=sr_1_38?crid=3LMKNZ3O8HYDK&dchild=1&keywords=bait+pouch+for+dog+training&qid=1610458132&sprefix=bait+pouch%2Caps%2C138&sr=8-38

remember baby steps and not all dog like to work. that's why i start off with super easy things. our female gh annie shut down in classes. i just worked annie at home. emily loved to work- it must have been her racing career of 168 races and she needed a job. felix adored classes.

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