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Discussion Starter #1
1st, some history. Sonic spent 1.5 yrs in the Dominican Republic as a pet dog to refugees. I doubt they had time or means to train or learn about training, so he would have learned from 'the school of hard knocks', with wrong equalling hit, or kicked, or 'uh uh'd' or whatever from mild to strong, and right equalling getting fed, getting cuddled, getting scraps, treats, and access to comfortable indoor spaces. He actually 'sat pretty' and looked at us to gain permission to jump on our couch on his first hour at our place.
So he's doing great with marker training, loves that game, and he's already learning to tug (which is a big deal for a 3rd world dog, as he 1st needs to realize that a big something in my hand is for playing, not hitting) but he super duper wants to keep focused on me (eye contact, super duper eye contact) and/or the treat, or the area behind me where I ineffectively hide the treat bag.
So I thought I would try 101 things to do with a box, grab a clicker, a bunch of treats, and wait for him to do anything other than stare at me, or behind me (where I have my hands and treat bag). A long wait. He is very very patient, and very very good at standing still, even trying not to blink, seriously.
I did manage to get him sort of to interact with the box, a look, a sniff, and more (somehow used up two handfuls of treats in each session) but I can tell he is trying way too hard and keeps reverting to standing very still and staring, or sitting pretty (probably behaviours that got him fed for the last year and a half).
I want this to be fun for him, any thoughts*? I am tossing the treats so he has to break position to get them. Otherwise I'm being fairly still and just clicking. He does 'get' the clicker.
 

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I think you need to look for even smaller things to reward. Maybe something like a soft blink, or even a relaxing exhale, or a weight-shift. I'm not surprised, as it is so common for cross-over dogs to not want to attempt anything. Hang in there! Once he realizes he's never wrong, the game will become very fun to him.
One thing I might try is using some random object, and before you put it on the ground, make a big show of pretending it is the most amazing thing you've ever seen in your life! (Even if it is just a towel). Your high level of interest will hopefully intrigue him, and the second you put it down he will sniff/look/paw touch etc, and you just need to be ready to click and treat! :)
 
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The issues you are having with staring at you are super common.

Some things that help initially....

Start with the box up. Have your clicker and treats ready. Bring Sonic into the space and then put the box down. Normally initiates a sniff or looking at the box. Click and treat.

Super high rate of reinforcement. Ditto Clicking and treat anything and everything, like weight shift towards box, glances, etc.

If stuck, you can pick the box up and set it down again to initiate another clickable interaction with the box.

Toss or drop the treats strategically near or even on/in the box for now. Basically want to box to be the source of the food rewards which causes dogs to focus more on the box than the handler. Eventually with time they start to figure out the game. That their interactions with the box causes the click and treat.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I think you need to look for even smaller things to reward. Maybe something like a soft blink, or even a relaxing exhale, or a weight-shift. I'm not surprised, as it is so common for cross-over dogs to not want to attempt anything. Hang in there! Once he realizes he's never wrong, the game will become very fun to him.
One thing I might try is using some random object, and before you put it on the ground, make a big show of pretending it is the most amazing thing you've ever seen in your life! (Even if it is just a towel). Your high level of interest will hopefully intrigue him, and the second you put it down he will sniff/look/paw touch etc, and you just need to be ready to click and treat! :)
I think I may be too picky. He is doing the above, but still staring at me. May try clicking those too. He is/was actually offering behaviours, just not including looking away from me in those behaviours. Now I feel mean... but there is always tomorrow, yay.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
The issues you are having with staring at you are super common.

Some things that help initially....

Start with the box up. Have your clicker and treats ready. Bring Sonic into the space and then put the box down. Normally initiates a sniff or looking at the box. Click and treat.

Super high rate of reinforcement. Ditto Clicking and treat anything and everything, like weight shift towards box, glances, etc.

If stuck, you can pick the box up and set it down again to initiate another clickable interaction with the box.

Toss or drop the treats strategically near or even on/in the box for now. Basically want to box to be the source of the food rewards which causes dogs to focus more on the box than the handler. Eventually with time they start to figure out the game. That their interactions with the box causes the click and treat.
Will try 'in' the box to. It's a milk crate. I think I need to loosen up too. I am very animated when I train using voice marking, but put a clicker in my hand and I go silent sam. Could I be weirding him out with silence?
 

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Use the fact that he is super focused on you. Put a treat on the ground and point to it with your hand, then your foot, work up to just looking at it and nodding. Because he is so focused on you, using your body language to show him the treat will work. He may find it easier to work up to the box

Then you can introduce the box and point.

It is definitely good that he gives you such attention, he sounds like a great dog.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I'm changing tact. His focus & willingness to try out new things is beautiful, why throw that out--so first we will play 101 Things to do with Me, and the box or other objects will come later.
Yes, I do admire his sparky attitude, given that he was exposed to some harsh treatment, he really is so willing to see all the possibilities.
 
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