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Training Trouble

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by SaskiaCamille, Jun 8, 2010.

  1. SaskiaCamille

    SaskiaCamille PetForums Newbie

    Jun 8, 2010
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    Hi there

    I have a 17 week Border Collie pub that we only got a few weeks ago so we're a little delayed on the training.

    Main problem at the moment is that he just isn't interested in treats! This in turn is making it very hard to communicate his positive actions. There are 6 in the family so using voice levels isn't very effective either, as we all have different rewarding tones.

    Another problem is his "play biting" we know its play because he only does it when he is bored. But when it does happen we can't seem to get anything to distract him from it. Using toys doesn't work because he just dodges them and bites our arms or legs or any body part he can find. Treats don't work as said before. Voice commands only work sometimes. And lastly locking him outside for a bit, he doesn't care about and therefore as soon as we let him back inside he bites again.

    If you have any tips or suggestions they would be great. Collies are meant to be smart dogs it's a surprise we are having such difficulty. :p

  2. lemmsy

    lemmsy PetForums VIP

    May 12, 2008
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    Hello and welcome,

    First things first- with regards to the nipping: the following is a post that I have just posted in a similar thread for someone experiencing problems with puppy nipping. There is also a sticky at the top of the Training and Behaviour Subforum which may be worth a read:

    With regards to your pups lack of interest in food. I have seen this too. My friend's BC is relatively uninterested by food and there is only one brand of treats that she will accept. She is however totally ball mad!

    However this may well not be the case with your pup. What types have treats have you tried him with. It may simply be a case of the treats not being high value enough or a bit boring.

    The best training treats should be meat based/something really smelly/irresistable to the dog.

    Have you tried any of the following:
    • Sausage (chopped and sliced length ways several times- the treats only need to be pea sized)
    • Frankfuter sausage (as above)
    • Cooked liver pieces
    • Homemade tuna/fish treats (recipes below)
    • Burns Training Treats (100% fish fillet- stink! My BC loves them!)
    • Roast chicken pieces (NOT bones though!)

    You get the idea.

    He may well also be toy motivated but being a collie pup is very focused on following his instincts and nipping you (not nastily obviously).
    You need to redirect this motivation for him.
    What types of toys have you tried?
    Here are a few suggestions:

    Fleecy tuggy type toys
    Ball on rope
    Squeaky toys (kong squeaky tennis ball)
    Kong Wubba

    once again... see if you can find something that motivates him (there will be something!)

    This article on learning theory and how dogs learn may be of interest:


    Just a few questions- what are you currently feeding him on? As this may be making a difference, especially with a high energy pup!
    Try to feed him on a food that has as few additives as possible. I could recommend foods that I know are available in the UK but don't know whether you could get them in Australia.

    Also what is your pup's background? What sort of breeder did he come from? Is he from working stock?

    Best of luck :)
  3. hutch6

    hutch6 PetForums VIP

    May 9, 2008
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    Get a tennis ball a football and any other ball you can think of.

    Roll them along the ground and watch how your dog reacts. Allow the dog to investigate them, sniff them, paw att hem, play bow att hem, bark at them and do whatever.

    Your dog has a very strong instinct to chase. It makes all of their body feel wonderful and they love to do nothing more. How you control that chase is up to you as ome people conmtrol them chasign sheep, some control them chasing their owners (agility) and some control them chasing the dream - anything else that involves them moving about.

    I have two collies. One that loves frisbees and the other one loves frisbees. Neither of them will take food if there is a frisbee in your hand and neither of them will look at anythign else when there is a frisbee in your hand. They will chas ethe frisbee as it rolls along on it;s edge, they will chase a frisbee while it flies through the air they will jump to catch the frisbees, they will sit for you to throw the frisbee, they will lie down for you to throw them, stay and wait for you to send them to look for the frisbee you ahve just thrown into the deep foliage, they will do whatever you want to get their gnashers around that frisbee. The same goes for tennis balls, footballs, tug toys, sticks, retrieval dummies, an empty plastic bottle, a bottle top you kicked along the pavement when walking. You make it move and they want to know about it. Their favourite toy? NO! Not a frisbee, that would be too obvious. An emtpy plant pot of course :D They can roll it, chew it, throw it themselves, flip it over, you can hide things in it, under it, hide the pot in the garden and best of all they cost about 12p.

    They will eat food but only as a means to fuel the chase.

    I would buy Understanding Your Border Collie (I think it is) by Barbara Sykes. She lives not far rom me and what she doesn't know about border collies isn't worth printing.
  4. SaskiaCamille

    SaskiaCamille PetForums Newbie

    Jun 8, 2010
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    Thankyou Lemmsy and Hutch6. This is alot of help to me! The idea of redirecting his attention is one we have tried before but not in enough detail I have realised. I will definatly be trying some new treats and toys.

    In terms of what he is eating - I will have to check that. It's just a very simple dry food at the moment and I don't think we plan to moving him onto any canned meats at all. I'll make sure that I check the amount of additives and reduce that if neccessary. Thankyou.
    We also bought him from a reasonably small familly breeder who had bred their dogs before as simply family collies, not show or working. So he doesn't come from a very hyperactive background. I don't know if that changes much though.

    I'm going to see how her responds with the frissbee also! Should be great fun if he finds an interest in that fast :)

    Thankyou both again
  5. Burrowzig

    Burrowzig PetForums VIP

    Feb 18, 2009
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    As you don't have consistency with voice tone when praising, how about clicker training? Most collies respong to it really well, and the reward 'tone' will always be the same. Get at least one clicker (all the same) for each family member.
    While the ball should focus the pup, be aware that hip problems are fairly common in BC's, and one of the worst things for the developing joints is supposed to be when they skid to a stop with the back legs spread - that's exactly how they stop when chasing a ball. So not too much of it - a ball on a rope to play tug with is a better option once the pup learns to want the ball.
    #5 Burrowzig, Jun 11, 2010
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2010
  6. hutch6

    hutch6 PetForums VIP

    May 9, 2008
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    You can use a ball or frisbee or rope as the treat in clicker trainign by the way if he has no interest in food treats.

    Also just noticed you are in Australia. If you can't get hold of the book I mentioned then let me know and i will post my copy over to you as it is well worth reading.

    When he is nipping you and you are trying to engage him in a toy etc and he is trying to bite your arms etc I would suggest you stand still and don't move at all, completely ignoring the dog.

    Collies live for the stalk and chase, they are world beaters at it hence they don't make the best herders int he world, they make the easiest dogs to conmtrol when they are stalkign and chasing :D :D :D. A collie's main weapon when moving sheep is it's "eye". The ability to make sheep move by simply staring at them is what the collie is famous for and what is most desired in a working dog, and just for the record, all collies want to work just some more than others. The "eye" is the stalk. If a collie stalks a sheep from one direction the sheep will move in another direction and this how they herd with the handler positioning the dog's "eye" where he needs it to move the sheep where he wants them.
    Now, if a collie comes across a particularly stubborn sheep that they can't move using their "eye" then they will resort to the next step which is to nip the sheep. Some dogs get over excited and will charge straight in to the sheep and nip before considering stalkign them.

    If your dog nips because he is bored and then continues to nip when he is let back in after receiving atime out for bad behaviour then your dog is one that would not use his stalking to move sheep is one that gets excited a bit quick and can't help himself. He hips to get a game going and he nips when let back in as he is still over excited or excited to be with you again. When you use a toy he is nipping becasue you are moving and he is over excited about that.

    You can train this out of him quite easily but you need a basic behaviour in place first and then it is a case of using that to your advantage.

    Have you tried rolling a tennis ball along the floor (not fast. Just tilst your hand and let it roll along)? How did he react?

    The reason I ask this and the behaviour I am going to give you to try will teach him to use his "eye" rather than his nip. To give you the perfect example.

    If I have a tug toy in my hand and I wave it at either of my collies they will grab it - a nutural reaction given that they get rewarded for biting it as they get a good game of tug which allows them to tunnel their bite desire in a constructive way as do chew toys etc. The only difference here is that mine go for the toy and not my limbs :)
    The biggest difference that will allow you to teach your dog to control his excitement is when that toy is moving.
    Hold something in your hand and move it up, down, left or right and your dog follows your hand like a hawk. It's eyes remain dead centre and it's head rotates and tilts as though the end of it's nose is the sight of a rifle. It's a bit like when you motion to smash a football in your mate's face just to see them flinch. We want to reward this as this is what we are after - the dog moves his eyes, not his body. To reward it you can toss the toy to the dog and allow it to bite it if it wants and of course it is a toy you will allow the dog to bite.
    Keep doing a few of these but when you have the toy in your hand the dog must be doing a basic command such as sit or lie down. Make sure you are moving the toy a minimal amount whilst it is in your hand and the pup can not grab it so stand whilst doing this, pick it up and hold it by your side. Ask the dog to sit or lie down. Move your hand quickly up, left or right. When the dog's head follows it with their eyes staring at the toy stop the toy and remain in that position for about a second before giving a "Good boy!" and tossing the toy to the dog.
    You need to reward the dog because not only has it followed the toy with it's eyes and not grabbed it (as it is out of reach ;) but it has contained that most addictive drug of all in collie - excitement. You made him contain it for a second but he contained it. He gets rewarded for looking at it.

    With mine I will kneel down on their level and quickly move the toy out to one side. The dog will jolt and set itslef in the primed for action position but won't go to grab it, they will however stare at it as though they are using the force to try and move it. You can hold you hand there for upto 2mins before they will flick their eyes to you to make sure you haven't forgotten about them but their nose will remain dead centred to the toy. They then get released to get the toy be it still in my hand or dropped on the floor. Eventually you can move on to askign the dog to sit/down stay while you throw a toy and then release them but you will notice that there eyes never leave that toy. Even if I call my dog's name when they are in a sty they don;t move their eyes but the ear on the side nearest to me raises slightly so I know they are focussed on the stalk but willing to listen for the next command - just what a collie should be doing.

    All pups nip and bite, get over excited and love to rough house but if you do things this way you won't have a nipping pup the same as you would using other methods but you will also have a dog that will stop, watch and wait for what to do next. Excellent if you come across something by surprise as it buys you a few split seconds before the dog will bolt which then allows you to teach it not to chase stuff. This is further enforeced if you say "Go on!" just before you throw the toy and haven't asked the dog to stay as it gives the dog the command to run straight away.

    Hope that gives you a few ideas and let me know about the book.
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