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Training a dog that has no food or play drive

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by Kaily, Oct 7, 2020.


  1. Kaily

    Kaily PetForums Senior

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    I went to view a very nervous Chihuahua today, he is 18 months old. He has no interest in toys or treats, I am wondering how you would be able to train him. Too nervous for kisses and cuddles.

    I have walked away but the poor little fella is playing on my mind. There was just that little bit of spirit, so potential for lots of improvement I would think.

    Alfie tolerated him reasonably well by ignoring him.
     
  2. Twiggy

    Twiggy PetForums VIP

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    Well of course if the poor little dog was nervous then he won't want food or toys. You would have to spend a lot of time building up his confidence first.
     
  3. Kaily

    Kaily PetForums Senior

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    The owner said he has never liked treats or toys. He was ok with her with regards being touched but hasn't even learnt to do a basic sit.
     
  4. LinznMilly

    LinznMilly Moderator
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    It's well documented that Honey "wouldn't walk" when I got her. It wasn't until I'd had her for about 3 weeks that she started to accept treats. I "taught" her to enjoy walking by making what she did want (to be carried) a reward. By the time she took treats, we were going full 1 hour walks.

    Did the owner say whether or not he likes to be on her lap? (He's a Chi, so I imagine he does - or at least, beside or with his human).
     
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  5. O2.0

    O2.0 PetForums VIP

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    Well, you've seen Penny's thread ;)

    There's several things you can do.
    First thing of course is to build up his confidence. Sometimes just getting them in to a new environment with stable dogs and different people can make a huge difference that alone. But working with him, being a stable human in his life helps too.

    Is he fat? Very often dogs who lack drive and interest in the world are overweight, carrying too much weight, and have enough groceries to not be interested in more. Free feeding does this too. A lot of people free feed little dogs, I'd rather have food on me all day and use that as rewards throughout the day.
    Penny eats twice a day, two very small meals as the rest of her food she gets in the form of training. Granted, she also gets a lot of exercise so the total amount of food she eats daily is up there.

    Teach him to work for his food. Most dogs love working for their food. Be that in the way of a reward for a behavior, puzzle toy, sniffing games. There is nothing more boring than a piece of food offered to you, sometimes it's even scary having a hand shoved in your face.
    Dropping treats, hiding treats and encouraging him to find them, takes some of the pressure off and makes the food way more interesting.
    I had to drop treats for Penny at first. I still 'hide' treats for her if she's really busy and too distracted to take treats from me. If she thinks she's found it on the ground, she'll take it.

    Make food precede something he likes. Do you want to be picked up? Okay, take this treat first, then I'll pick you up. It's called transferring value, or building value. I do this with Penny, she has to take a treat before I unclip her leash. The treat is good, the loose is more good, that adds value to the treat.

    Have treats been "poisoned" for him? This is a great article on why some dogs don't seem to work for food and what you can to to counteract it:
    https://lifeasahuman.com/2011/pets/some-dogs-wont-work-for-food/
     
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  6. Kaily

    Kaily PetForums Senior

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    Thanks for the tips.

    He is actually underweight.

    I didn't get to touch him at all, he just cowered away from me. We went to a field and he did run about and enjoy himself. I sat on the grass to see if he would come near me but he didn't. Even when his owner picked him up he cowered as if she was going to beat him but he was clearly devoted to her. I think he has been bullied by the children.

    Alfie can be very jealous/possessive and wonder if he would take advantage of a dog that fearful.
     
  7. Kaily

    Kaily PetForums Senior

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    Very interesting article, thank you.
     
  8. O2.0

    O2.0 PetForums VIP

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    He won't if you're aware of that potential and pre-empt it ;)

    Competition has been great for Penny, knowing that a cat might get a treat instead of her builds the best treat drive :D

    Why are they rehoming the Chi?
     
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  9. LotsaDots

    LotsaDots PetForums Senior

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    Poor little dog sounds terrified, it would probably change personality completely in a calm, patient and loving environment given time.
    As for your other dog I can only offer my experience. We have a 4 year old terrier who can be possessive with other dogs, and is generally a spoilt brat! 2 weeks ago we got an 8 week old puppy. I was fully expecting full jealousy from her and to have to separate them, however she has surprised us all and loves her little brother. She will even let him steal her chews and play with her humans, as long as she can play too! I can only assume it's because as a puppy he's no threat (it doesn't sound like this little Chi would be challenging for anything) and she's accepted him as part of the family.
     
  10. Linda Weasel

    Linda Weasel PetForums VIP

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    I think you could maybe do a lot with this little dog, if you have the time and patience, and are prepared for a dog who may not always be the dog you dreamed of.

    I say that because I dreamed of a dog who’d come everywhere with me, trot along to the shops, visit family and so on. That’s mostly all out of the window as I can only do what he can deal with and have had to change my expectations to fit, and I’m not disappointed because I love him to bits, neuroses and all.

    So I do really think that you could give this dog a much fuller life than he has now, even if it’s not all perfect, if you want to commit to it.

    I’m wondering if the ‘devotion’ that you saw was a form of appeasement behaviour, or if he would anyway be better balanced in a calm home with no children (my dog came from a home with children and was petrified of them for a long time; nearly 9 years later he still cringes if he hears children’s’ voices).
     
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  11. Kaily

    Kaily PetForums Senior

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    Thanks for all the great advice everyone.

    Alfie tolerated him at the park but when we got back to my car he wouldn't let the Chi near it! He doesn't share.

    The owner says she is rehoming him due to her youngest daughter being too rough. Thing is this is already his 2nd home and he is only 18 months old so I suspect there is probably more to it. People, sadly, aren't always totally honest. Or maybe I am just naturally suspicious. He did wee on the floor when his harness was put on, again a fear response.

    Thanks again.
     
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  12. O2.0

    O2.0 PetForums VIP

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    Oh poor little guy!

    Since this would be his 3rd home at only 18 months, I wouldn't take him unless you're 100% sure you can commit to keeping him.
    If you can't take him, I'd try to encourage the owner to go with a Chi specific rescue, I'm sure there are some around?

    The good news is that he is young, and a change of environment might really be all you need and he'll blossom.
    It's hard to tell what is learned behavior and what is inherent temperament. I'm not a fan of fearful dogs myself, but I'm on my second fearful dog rescue now and she too has greatly surprised me. I went in with pretty low expectations and she has surpassed them all and then some. (The last one we took on before Penny I thought we were going to PTS and he too greatly surprised me and ended up therapy dog certified - not bad for a dog who cowered in the corner the first time I met him.)

    So really, you just don't know. Good genetics can go a really long way, and you just won't know about the genetics until you get him out of that environment.

    I also agree that the 'devotion' to the owner could well be just appeasement behavior, but it's good that he wants to connect with a human, that bodes well for future potential.
     
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  13. Kaily

    Kaily PetForums Senior

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    I just went to see him again and sadly decided not to proceed. I don't know why, just my gut feeling. I just hope he finds a good home. She won't give him to a rescue as she wants a lot of money for him, I did suggest it.

    Feel a bit sad now.
     
  14. O2.0

    O2.0 PetForums VIP

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    I'm almost scared to ask, is this dog intact?
     
  15. Kaily

    Kaily PetForums Senior

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    Yes and has been used as a stud.
     
  16. O2.0

    O2.0 PetForums VIP

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    well shit....
    Nothing to say really, it just sucks on so many levels.
     
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  17. Kaily

    Kaily PetForums Senior

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    I would of rehomed him and enjoyed teaching him that life could be fun, but I couldn't pay nearly £1000 to do so.
     
  18. LinznMilly

    LinznMilly Moderator
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    *Nods sadly* 100% this.

    Speaks volumes, doesn't it?

    :Greedy :Greedy :Banghead :Banghead
     
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