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Building confidence with a shy BC?


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My boy is two and a half years old. He was rescued from a shelter at 5 months and I have no back story on his life before we got him. He is a very friendly dog, loves people and other dogs, completely housebroken, doesn't bark too much. He knows sit, lay down, stay, come (although not reliable and he is NOT off leash), but I am really struggling to train him anything new.

Every time I put him in a sit to try something he just lays down and gives up instead of trying to do what I'm asking (even with a treat lure). Sometimes he even gets a weird vibe and just leaves the room and goes and lays down (even if I have treats out). We have never used physical punishment, never yell at him, nothing like that but he is so timid with us.

He is pretty noise phobic about sneezes and raised voices (even if never directed at him) and the typical dog stuff like thunderstorms and fireworks.

I just want him to trust me and feel confident that I have his best interests in mind. I'd love to get him into agility or herding but without being able to train him/keep his attention I don't know how that would be possible.

Anyone out there with a shy BC? How did you build trust and confidence? 

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It took me a while to get to a point where I could train my dog indoors. Outside I had no problems at all, but somehow inside I was inadvertently putting too much pressure on my dog, even though I was positive and friendly to her :) so I recognize the lying down instead of trying something. My dog would sit everytime I tried to teach her something new and when that didn't work she would lie down. Wouldn't follow the food in my hand. Because I could train outside I knew she did love to train with me.

What was different inside was that I sat or crouched near her or touched her or bent over. Outside I did all my training standing up. Plus she had breaks to run around and sniff, training was short and mostly informal during walks. So when I thought about it, training at home put a lot more pressure on her and she didn't understand what I wanted from her and was to insecure to try something other than a sit. Or when she really wanted me to stop: lie down.  

What I did was give her a break and not try to train anything inside for a while. After that period of rest I introduced her to some interactive food puzzles. I started with a Kong Wobbler and she just sniffed it but didn't know what to do and went to her default: sitting. So I showed her what to do (felt like an idiot shoving that thing with my nose...) but she eventually tried it herself. This way she got used to figuring things out partly herself but with help from me. Hiding food and chews also helped. I started with obvious places and when that went well hide it in the weirdest places or slightly above the ground. It is a lot of fun and a good opportunity to praise your dog a lot :) 
I then slowly introduced training again by asking for things she already knew inside and giving lots of treats. Kept the sessions very short, maybe one sit and a down. This showed her it was fun (treats yay!) and that I didn't expect a lot from her. Sit - treat - down - treat and walk away. Increased it with something a little bit new: going from a down to a sit. And increased to more difficult things and slightly longer sessions when I saw she was gaining more and more confidence. 

Now she absolutely loves our training sessions and has mastered something she found very difficult and scary: going from a down to a stand. Huge thing for her. (Ex-bf fault, he tried to teach her by lifting her rear with a towel...<_<). And some other pretty cool stuff: walking between my legs, pulling my socks off, putting her head through her harness, shrugging out of her harness. Currently working on putting her toys away. 

She can go a lot longer now, but I tend to keep sessions very short, but practise multiple times a day. 
Be patient and start with the smallest steps and you'll get there!

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Try to 'capture' something that he does naturally that you like/want. Does he back-up, or offer a paw, or turn in a circle on his own? I wouldn't start with capturing 'lie down'. Start with something he's comfortable doing but doesn't 'revert to.' Will he accept a treat if tossed to him? Simply pick a behavior you want to reinforce and toss a treat when he does it. Ignore him as much as possible while still keeping an eye on him. Only reinforce one behavior at a time. Work on reinforcing/rewarding that one behavior for at least a week. Then see what happens if you move on.

My second bc had been isolated, starved and very, very badly treated. She had no idea of how to behave with humans. She'd spent a couple months with very border collie saavy people and it still took a long time for her to get used to living with us. Sounds like your guy may have been through something similar.

Tincture of time and training one tiny behavior at a time is what's called for here. Start with the simplest behavior, get that solid, then add another simple behavior/cue.

Good luck!

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Does you dog like toys?  I always play tug of war with my dog and make sure he wins.  This will encourage his confidence and

allow him to think he has some power.  Treat him like a pack leader and he will soon begin to act more confident.  Also, take him around

other known dogs as much as possible to build his confidence.  If you can find a dog that is shy he will probably get along with that type best.

Also, if you can teach her an agility trick like jumping thru a hoop...this will build confidence too.

These are ideals that I have tried with my border and she went from a shy insecure dog 

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