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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So far I've been fairly blown away by how well Leia is learning things but the way she's doing so is in some ways completely different than other dog's I've trained.

Somethings are the same such as having clear consistent rules and leading by example.

What's different is motivation. She is completely unmotivated by food and doesn't have any interest in playing with humans. What she does enjoy is snuggling and being held and cuddled. I'm trying to pair that with a positive marker but I'm not sure how well I'm doing.

She seems to somewhat enjoy a light pet but is not overwhelmed by joy, but so far it's the best I've got. I pair an affectionate tone with the positive marker and am just going for consistency.

Does anyone have any tips ?
 

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Snuggling-as-reward is likely to create a pretty low-arousal response to the marker (and possibly a fairly inconsistent response, given how context-dependent the emotional response to snuggling can be). Kikopup has a good video about low-arousal markers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Is3CVqvfOn8

I use a low-arousal marker for specific things, but it would never suffice for all my training needs. Arousal and engagement ("drive," if that's the term you're more familiar with) are huge elements of my training, so I need ways to get my dog more enthusiastic as well as more calm. So, if it were me, I would be spending a lot of effort building value for more forms of reinforcement.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
So how would you build value for other forms of reinforcement. When I said play was low interest I specified with humans because she obviously has a strong play drive to play with our other dog. Simba for example will play tug of war with me until he passes out with exhaustion. Leia will do the same with him, but if I try to pick up the other end of the rope she just drops it.

On the food end I've tried a variety of treats and she usually will eat but never get's excited.
 

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How old is she, what does she like? Have you seen her excited at anything that doesn't involve other dogs?

If you are holding the tug rope and have a dog at each end, will she play? How does she react when you and Simba are playing?

Does she have a prey drive that you could use, like flirt pole or something? If you run, will she chase you?

Is the weather hot where you are? I am not suggesting you restrict water, but if you are the one to offer it at frequent points during the day, then she may be a bit more excited to see you. When our dog was a puppy, she was hard to motivate, but we offered her water maybe every hour, and that definitely made her come to us and be excited about doing it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
How old is she, what does she like? Have you seen her excited at anything that doesn't involve other dogs?

If you are holding the tug rope and have a dog at each end, will she play? How does she react when you and Simba are playing?

Does she have a prey drive that you could use, like flirt pole or something? If you run, will she chase you?

Is the weather hot where you are? I am not suggesting you restrict water, but if you are the one to offer it at frequent points during the day, then she may be a bit more excited to see you. When our dog was a puppy, she was hard to motivate, but we offered her water maybe every hour, and that definitely made her come to us and be excited about doing it.
11 weeks old. She gets excited if she sees me or my girlfriend coming after having not seen us during the day or even for a few hours. She'll jump up on the side of the wood that divides the garage into her "pen" and her tail will be wagging like mad.

If I grab the object they're tugging on they both drop it. If I then extend it towards Simba he'll grab it immediately and tug but Leia won't. When I'm playing with Simba she'll sometimes watch if she's a little tired but will often try and resource guard me, trying to chase Simba off.

I haven't tried a flirt pole. I made one for simba last year, I'll look for it and post back.

The weather is not hot, today was about 65 degrees. We've been leaving a bowl of water available at all times, I don't think our schedule wouldn't allow us to give her water only when she needs it.

Another thing, she doesn't play with toys by herself, not even the kong! Simba will play with that for hours and I've posted before about how he'll play catch with himself when he's bored, throwing a toy over the wall and then chasing it as it rolls down the driveway. For Leia though, toys seem to exist only as things to take away from Simba.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
So far she's learned boundaries (not to come in the house through an open door), potty training, and basic street walking skills (i.e. sit at intersections, only cross on command) as well as "Sit" and "Down". We're working on "come" but our success is kind of nebulous there.
 

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Building value for reinforcement is a subject much longer than a quick forum post. Well worth researching though...trainers like Denise Fenzi or Susan Garrett have written good stuff.

Re: food motivation. Any dog that is alive has some level of food motivation, so there's always some tiny spark to nurture...if she will eat treats you offer, you're already ahead of the game. I usually start by trying to find "better than average" foods (looking for a dog to be suddenly excited is probably hoping for too much). Experiment with lots of great food -- stinky cheese, steak, dog salami, tuna brownies, bacon, hot dogs. I also make sure to never, ever try to inhibit the dog from eating food (food that is "off limits" is never within reach, if I drop a stray training treat and they grab it, too bad for me...leave its and ah ahs with a low-drive eater are likely to have behavioral fallout that will totally frustrate this work, and grabbing dropped food is actually great feedback that the value of the food is increasing. Just in general, I do not find inhibition training especially helpful when trying to build motivation/drive with a puppy).

Once I have some "better than average" foods, I reserve them for special occasions. I wait for times when not much else is happening -- no big distractions, just a quiet time -- and when the dog is relatively hungry (not right after dinner). I get the dog excited in whatever way makes sense to that dog...running around clapping my hands, wrestling a little, or maybe just changing pace and direction a few times and breathing excitedly (for the sensitive dog who is easily overwhelmed!). Then I introduce a little bit of food in an exciting way (again, a way that makes sense to the dog -- no point in freaking her out or overwhelming her with social pressure). I move the food away from the dog, often with my hand on the ground and moving from side-to-side or in a figure-eight pattern. I want the dog to "work" for the food -- but I want the amount of effort involved in "work" to start off really, really low. I might do that once, twice, or three times in a row, then quit...ideally leaving the dog wanting more, but at least before the dog gets bored and quits first. If even that is too much, I'd consider putting the food on the end of a drag line, so there's even less social pressure.

I don't drill, I just train in really short bursts throughout the day. So for me, that's a game I could play maybe 4-5 times a day for a minute or so at a time. As the dog's enthusiasm picked up, I'd make it just slightly harder, but only as long as the puppy's enthusiasm stays the same or greater. I would probably vary the foods, assuming I've found more than one "better than average" item...ideally, I prefer a dog to work for lots of different food, not just one. Over time, the food becomes something the dog earns by training with me, which oddly enough, continues to increase its value (once a dog is happy working for food, that is). There isn't a timeline to this, there's a progression of skills that form the foundation of pretty much all the other training I'm going to do.

In your case, I'd also sometimes train your adult dog in front of the puppy (have the puppy crated or tethered), so that social competitiveness can potentially add to the picture -- "look, the big dog gets treats and loves them, I bet you wish you could get yummy treats like this big dog, yum yum yum," and then say the puppy's name and hand her a small training treat, then back to the big dog with training and lots of treats. Later, you can play the name game with them: say his name, give him a treat, say her name, give her a treat, etc..

Similarly with toys, I start by watching to see if there are any items that the puppy naturally seems to find interesting (and not by scolding or inhibiting her from mouthing items, since again, I am gathering useful information). Since you know she finds interpersonal play with your other dog very motivating, you can also see if there are toys she prefers in that setting (toys she is more likely to try to grab from him, or toys that she is more likely to fight harder for if he has them). That gives you your "better than average" selection of items to start, and also gives you an idea about what kinds of items your puppy finds more inherently appealing (soft, thick, round, whatever). From there, I again start in a low-distraction setting, with low-pressure set-ups, giving the puppy lots of chances to practice chasing and "winning." Since you know she values playing with your big dog, you can also restrict with toys they play with to help make those toys extra-special to her. This post has lots of other good ideas for helping build a tug game: Reactive Champion: Denise Fenzi Seminar: Be the Bunny

Not going to lie: I have never tried to build motivation for reinforcement in a dog while also employing routine compulsion training or corrections, and see a lot of inherent conflict between the two goals...corrections tend to inhibit, which is totally counterproductive to building motivation. I train by first building a huge amount of value for reinforcement, then using that high value reinforcement to motivate intense self-control in the presence of the reinforcement (or other distractions). So taking the time to really build motivation and drive is always, always worth my time, but may turn out to be incompatible with other things you're doing...not sure, but I wish you luck with the new puppy. Nothing like a new dog to challenge us in new ways!
 

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Oh, and I'm all over the place today, but to add to the marker question: when you have a reliably positive response to the unconditioned stimulus (the food, the toy, whatever), then you can add a marker. Oddly enough, adding a marker sometimes increases the value of the "reward," because anticipation adds excitement. But I'd wait until you have a reliably positive response to at least one US.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
@SnackRat, thanks for the great post. I'm definitely going to try some of the things you mentioned with food.

Some initial thoughts though:

"Social competitiveness" is how I've been able to train her so far. She sees how Simba acts and imitates. The only thing is when I offer the reward to her she takes it somewhat unenthusiastically. The thing I'm worried about with your suggestion of having her crated or tethered is that it could have the side effect of making her resource guarding a lot worse.

If I tell Simba to sit, he'll sit and I'll treat and he will wag the hell out of his tail (this is with his uninspiring prescribed sensitive stomach kibble) with Leia I tell her to sit, she sits and I have to pulverize a treat in my hand before she starts licking it tentatively before looking up at me. If I keep my hand there she'll keep eating but if I just stroke her head she seems happier. It almost seems like she's eating to appease me rather than as a reward.

I gave her a freaking lamb femur with meat yesterday and she dug in but as soon as I headed outside she dropped it to walk over to where I was. For a comparison, simba barely looked up at me when I walked outside he was so involved in the bone he had already polished to a shine in 30 seconds.

The same thing happens with meals. I have to try to keep Simba from inhaling his food whole like a vacuum cleaner and given the chance, he would happily eat himself into XXL sized doggie coffin. It's been a double edged sowed, initial training has been a breeze proofing in a food filled world has required more work. Leia is the opposite. I will give her food in her bowl and she'll eat but if I walk away while she's eating she'll follow me and only once she's sure that she knows where I am (or accepted that I'm inaccessible) will she go back and eat and then not all of it. Sometimes she'll come up and check on me in the middle, as if she always wants to see where I am.

As for the routine compulsion and correction training comment. I guess that must be my reputation. Like with positive reinforcement, so far (@<3 months) her lack of interest in other things has meant that correction is nothing more than a negative marker. A simple no has worked on everything. As for compulsion, don't worry, I'm not popping an e-collar on a 3month old puppy.

Also, about making food off limits. I have a house that is tempting to rob, I have a dog that is a known vicious guardian. I look at poison proofing as an essential component of her training. While it will be a while before I'm proofing with a Koehler setup, I feel I can't let her eat off the floor or from other people's hand now when I know that she will be punished for that in the future. But again, it's easy because she seems to have relatively little interest in food when I'm near by.

I've tried a nothing in this life is free approach. Making her work for kibble for breakfast but even then, after not having eaten all night, she seems far more excited by the prospect of seeing me (or my girlfriend) than eating the food.
 

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anticipation adds excitement. .

Anticipation is a powerful tool to use for training. I like what SnackRat says.

Esand, Sounds like the dog has some drive no doubt. The tug games with your other dog suggest an avenue to exploit for quality engagement but your version might need to be better than the one your other dog offers plus your dog seems to thrive on your approval, that's a great thing. Too many people have dogs which work for a toy or a scrap of food which is not really a good thing overall. Working for you is the name of the game. If the dog thrives on your approval and attention maybe try and use that appropriately and create anticipation via that reward ( the best one ) because at that point, your dog is truly working for you not some petty toy or piece of food. Sounds like you have a somewhat soft dog which wants to please its human, which is wonderful.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
@DriveDog @SnackRat touched on the problem, even though she likes being with me, it's not really exciting. Which means it not all that motivating. For example when Simba does something he's been trained to do he comes up next to me and Sits with his tail moving a million miles an hour while looking at me like "ok, and?" that is excitement. Leia on the other hand just comes up to me and leans against my leg. That's calm, that's not excitement. In fact i'd say she's one of the calmest dogs i've ever interacted with save for my aunt's adult st bernard. Or maybe not, he liked to play. Leia just likes to watch if she can see me she's happy. When I leave her sight she starts whining (like most puppies).
 

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Sounds like you have a lot to work with, and like she's a pretty normal little puppy. At her developmental stage, companionship is absolutely one of her primary needs, so is likely to rank pretty high as far as motivation. "Approval" isn't really something I can quantify, so I can't say it factors into my training goals at all...the closest I can come is attention, which I'd argue is conceptually different.

Crating or tethering shouldn't increase resource guarding. I don't recommend using either in a way that would frustrate her, so if you're not currently able to crate/tether her while your other dog is worked in front of her, that's a piece I'd pull out and work on first until she crates happily and without stress. The idea isn't to have her mimic your other dog (though that kind of learning is nice too), it's that seeing another dog get a reward can make that reward go up in value. But if it's going to cause her extra stress or insecurity, it's not worth doing!

Just to clarify, my comments about corrections were caused by the training language you're using, which suggests a certain conceptual framework. I don't assume anyone would be putting a punitive collar on a less-than-a-year-old puppy unless they specifically say otherwise, and I don't assume "corrections" consist of violent or shocking abuse. I was expressing the fact that I have honest uncertainty about results, because when I train, I use a completely different training framework and language (i.e. "proofing" isn't usually in my training vocabulary), based on a mostly different set of training skills/goals than most "balanced" trainers I know employ. I use high-value reinforcement as the motivation for enthusiastic self-control, which means that building high-value reinforcement is a piece that fits carefully in with other foundational skills. Example: my dog came to me with a lot of interest in food and absolutely zero self-control around it (to the point of biting me when food was present, compulsively searching counters for snacks, and so forth). Four months later (and far from finished), I routinely leave food out on the counter, can put my lunch on a low table right beside my dog and leave the room, or can drop a piece of chicken on the floor in front of her and trust that she will not eat it until I invite her...but at the same time, her actual food motivation has increased hugely (i.e. she will work longer, harder, and more intensely for food). I don't use corrections, say "no" or "leave it," or set up painful traps along the way, so I honestly don't know what the effect would be of trying to combine increasing motivation with suppressive training (but I can take an educated guess and say there's some inherent conflict and probability of unintended results).

Praise is always a secondary reinforcement, so never ends up being my first choice for training...and I'm always skeptical of claims that it's "superior" to have a dog who works mainly for secondary reinforcement. Food and play are used by the most competitive trainers in the world for good reason -- if we're trying to transfer the value of reinforcement to the act of working with us, it helps to start with incredibly high-value primary reinforcement. I'm fortunate to have a dog who has adored attention/engagement and play with me from the start, but I've still made sure to increase value for those things by incorporating many kinds of reinforcement, because I want to keep growing our game.

But if praise is the only thing you've got that generates a positive response, use it to build a conditioned response to other forms of reinforcement. Feed her an impossibly delicious slice of meat, and praise her in the most meaningful way possible after she eats it. If praise is really a motivator for her, then she will learn to eat treats more eagerly to earn praise, and as she does so, the value of eating treats will rise...she'll be eating eagerly in anticipation of the coming reward, and the food will be associated with all those happy feelings. If this doesn't happen, then praise is probably not the motivator you think it is...not a bad thing, just more valuable data for your training endeavors. Dogs are full of great feedback.
 

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So how do I create anticipation for approval?
If you treat approval like any other reinforcement ( food, toys, play etc) you might find benefit.

If the studies are accurate which I have read, it would seem that the potential ( anticipation ) for reward is a stronger motivator than the actual reward itself. Studies suggest animals as well as humans had higher levels of dopamine released when an opportunity was available to receive the reward rather than the dopamine being released once the subject earned or acquired the reward. I had seen this displayed over and over especially with my current dog but I was too dense to connect the dots. For example, when the verbal cue " Wanna go for a walk? " was given, my dog would exhibit many times more excitement than the excitement of the walk itself. I finally used this excitement generator towards other behaviors such as all of our training sessions as I would say " Let's train " and the dog would get excited with the anticipation of what was to come. The longer I stretched out ( withheld ) the reward for compliance, the better the dog performed because I tried to harness the anticipation factor rather than rewarding the dog frequently as I had done previously. Basically, the dog had to work harder to get the reinforcement. However, when we work on new skills, I reinforce much more often in the beginning.

Fading the reward is a process which many people never work on and they end up with a dog which only works for food treats or a toy. This ingrained process created by the human conditions the dog to act exactly as trained so it comes as no surprise.

Since your dog thrives on your praise, maybe you might start to fade the reward of praise and have your dog work longer in between your rewards of praise. Try a training session with minimal praise maybe just using a verbal marker briefly, so the dog knows it's in compliance and then after a duration of proper execution give the dog a praise reward which eclipses any previous versions. If this works then start to stretch the duration or at the very least make the praise reward sporadic and its occurrence less predictable as to when it might take place.

I'm a bit envious that you have such a praise oriented dog as my current girl certainly enjoys and seeks praise but her prey drive seems to be a very strong motivator which is understandable due to her breed.

IMHO, at the end of the day, one needs to find forms of engagement with the dog which creates anticipation. In my case, I certainly use praise but the real reward comes in the form of engagement ; a spirited tug game with some hardy rib slapping and wrestling thrown in, all while I am verbally praising her. I haven't used food treats as her reward for a year or so and she works so much better now rather when I was bribing her with food.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Here the thing I dont know if she's working for praise or not. I Just gave her breakfast it's been over 12hrs since she last ate. I opened the shutters on the back porch and she came running up tail wagging. I walked down to the garage to feed her and she came down and sat at my heel, like Simba does. I then walked her over to her bowl and told her to sit, and she sat. I told her very good and offered a treat. She licked at my hand but didt eat the treat, just stared up at me. No tail wagging. She then didn't eat from her bowl she rather followed me up stairs leaving the food untouched and sat down next to me.



Content looking but not excited. There is a bowl full of her food downstairs. She hasn't eaten all day but she's hanging out here.

While I was writing this she moved over to the corner
 

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I'll carry on with other things, but one last note: if you make her choose between food and being with you (as in the lamb femur example and the meal description in your last post), you're probably decreasing the value of food with each repetition. The choice to leave/ignore food is being reinforced by the opportunity to be in company, meaning that choice gets easier over time. Personally, I'd probably sit and hand-feed, making the food-and-companionship pairing stronger and turning food into a game as much as possible, and make sure that my absence is not predicted by the appearance of something to eat (for now).
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I was wrong it took over 30 min. She just now went down ate some food and came right back up
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 · (Edited)
I'll carry on with other things, but one last note: if you make her choose between food and being with you (as in the lamb femur example and the meal description in your last post), you're probably decreasing the value of food with each repetition. The choice to leave/ignore food is being reinforced by the opportunity to be in company, meaning that choice gets easier over time. Personally, I'd probably sit and hand-feed, making the food-and-companionship pairing stronger and turning food into a game as much as possible, and make sure that my absence is not predicted by the appearance of something to eat (for now).
I've hand fed entire meals before and while she eats, sometimes more slowly and sometimes more quickly but its always fairly unenthusiastically.

Ill try to do it more often. Ill go hand feed The rest of this meal.
 

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That's how it's going to be at first. Building value is not an overnight thing, it takes time and builds on itself. I'd still stop making her choose between company and food.
 
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