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Our new Border Collie has only been with us for 6 days, so he is still settling in. He's very nervous, shy, and I do not think he was exposed to much, other than living on a ranch and helping to herd livestock. It doesn't seem like he was socialized with people outside of his previous home, but I could be wrong.

 

It's a huge change for him, that I understand, so I do not want to push him too much, but I don't know WHEN I should begin training basic commands. I've tried to toy with the idea of getting him to sit (for a treat, since he LOVES treats), but he usually turns around and runs scared if I ask him to sit.

 

He'll come up to us now to be petted (he likes his tummy rubbed) and will let me brush his entire body now. He wags his tail and gets very excited when we approach him if he hasn't seen us for a little while too.

 

 

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

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hmm, so he runs when you say 'sit'? Does he act afraid when you are talking? If he isn't afraid of you just talking then there could be something about your body language or the tone you say 'sit' in that is frightening him.

 

Since he does like treats and being around you then you've got everything you need to start training. Training will also help build his confidence. The three that I would start with are sit, down, and touch. Start by training these without using any words, just guiding with the hand. For a sit you can start with just holding the treat above his nose. Once he cranes his neck, give a treat. Do this 5 times, then you can start to move the treat over his head. Once his back legs start to bend, give a treat. Do that 5 times. Then do the same, but wait for more of a bend in the back legs. work your way to being able to draw the treat over his nose and having his butt hit the floor. Then you can slowly shift this into a hand signal (arm at your side and a scoop upwards is the common hand signal for sit). Basically, break it into very small parts. Don't try to hold out for a sit if your dog doesn't know how. This will just frustrate him.

 

Once your dog can sit with the hand signal then you can try to add the voice command (if your dog is ready, may have to wait for this if the command is scaring him for some reason). Say 'sit' and wait a few seconds, then give the hand signal. This will teach your dog to associate the word 'sit' with that motion. Once you have a sit you can move onto a down. This is done by just bringing your hand to the floor in front of the dog while in a sit and you can break it into a lot of small parts. Once your dog looks down at the treat, give it to him. Once he is good with that, then wait for you dog to show some lowering of the shoulders and so on until you get a down. Then you can start to change this to a hand signal by not bring your hand all the way to the floor, just an inch above the floor. As your dog gets this you can stop your hand higher and higher until you no longer have to bend at the waist and just motion a down with your hand.

 

Then touch is a pretty easy one that is very useful. Just hold your hand flat facing the dog. Most dogs will touch your palm with their nose pretty quickly and reward when that happens. If he is hesitant then you can hold treat between your thumb and palm which should get him to touch your hand. This one is fun because once he knows it you can make it a game. Start moving your hand away from him and make him work to touch it.

 

In summary, I would say to start training. Training is a great way to build confidence for you dog, but you need to break it into small enough parts for your dog. Since your dog seems to be frightened of voice commands right now, just work with hand signals. You can work on adding voice commands latter.

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If he's not terribly noise-sensitive and he is treat motivated, I would get a clicker. Start with a few sessions charging it so he know that hearing a click means he'll get a treat, then play with free-shaping or capturing behaviors with no cues, only naming the behavior once he's offering it reliably. Free-shaping is clicking/treating for small steps towards a behavior, gradually building it up to the finished behavior. Capturing is waiting for the dog to do something he would do naturally, then clicking for it - 'sit' and 'down' are pretty reliable to capture. Both of these techniques are pretty hands-off, which can be less overwhelming for a shy dog than all the body pressure you give when you're trying to lure or (more so) if you're using compulsion-based methods.

 

However you train, keep in mind that right now 'sit' means 'something scary's going to happen, run away'. I would teach the behavior completely on hand signals before you name it, then do a cue transfer to a neutral word (you may be able to transfer it back to 'sit' again eventually, but I would get it on verbal named something else first).

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Generally people I know subscribe to a two week shut down when they bring a new dog into their home, especially a mature one. During that time just let him chill and acclimate to his new environment. Minimal training. Minimal interaction with resident dogs, etc.

 

I'd probably be chomping at the bit to get some training started with a new dog, but this guy sounds like he's in particular need of a shut down.

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I agree with Sekah. Give him time to adjust and continue to give him tummy rubs and treats when he wants so he will begin to trust you. Trust is important in training. Yes, you can build confidence and trust with training, but I think that he has to trust you a little bit to begin with so he isn't stressed when working with you.

 

Let him chill and just enjoy him. Whether you train now or in 4 weeks shouldn't make a big difference.

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Or you can try just "capturing" one or two behaviors you like when you happen to see them.

 

Charge up the clicker (or another marker) so he associates that with a treat... then just go about your day and simply notice when he sits on his own- click-treat, repeat. Catch him lying down click-treat, repeat. After a while, he will probably offer the behavior on his own, looking at you expectantly- (catch that!) click & treat!

 

Then add gesture/verbal cues after he's offering frequently.

 

The touch game is a great suggestion. Also, you can drop a few small treats on the floor and say "Find it" in a cheery voice as he is searching around scarfing them up. (I don't click this because the treats are already dispensed). I use "Find It" as an early verbal command since most dogs do it naturally while looking for the scattered yummies. It also provides an easy transition to begin to click-treat for looking at you -in anticipation of more opportunities to "Find it." 1) The dog finds all the treats and then looks at you. 2) Click that and throw down more treats 3) say "Find it" as the dog looks and eats. Wait for him to look at you again.

 

Training games (short and playful) are so much fun! And a great way to build raport and get to know your pup. I wouldn't wait ;-)...

 

Also, that's awesome that he lets you brush him all over- my pups have sometimes tried to RUN from the brush, so I've had to back off and go very slow with that job in the past... ;-)

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Thanks for the advice, everyone! He's actually warmed up so much I decided to try working with him today, and he did great! We worked on sit, down, and roll over and he gladly did all of them for a treat. He doesn't seem to be scared anymore. :)

 

He's not interested in toys or playing (other than playing with our other dog) - at all. Is this normal? I don't think he was introduced to ANY at his previous ranch home, so I'm not sure if that is why, or if it's still because this is all still fairly new.

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When I first got Kieran a squeaky toy, he freaked out a little at the noise. Now I can't get him to shut them up. It took him a couple months to really start playing with me. One night, he suddenly darted toward me with his legs all crazy and then galloped around the apt. I was shocked and a bit terrified because he had never done that. I thought he was out to get me. Eventually I realized his true personality was starting to come out.

 

I would just give him some time - everything is new to him like you said. If you can get him to play, then you can build up his toy drive by ending the game before he gets bored. Good to hear how well he's doing - it's scary how fast they learn!

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He's not interested in toys or playing (other than playing with our other dog) - at all. Is this normal? I don't think he was introduced to ANY at his previous ranch home, so I'm not sure if that is why, or if it's still because this is all still fairly new.

 

It's completely normal. Dogs aren't born knowing what toys are, so until you teach him, he won't differentiate a toy from a rock from an artichoke. :P As with everything else, just give him time.

 

~ Gloria

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