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Schapiro
Dogsey Junior
Schapiro is offline  
Location: Great Lakes
Joined: Mar 2007
Posts: 88
Female 
 
12-12-2018, 03:30 PM

Companionship and Training Heartaches

Hi dogsey!

I have a lot of questions and no idea where to turn with them, so Iím sorry in advance if this is an epic-length post and sincerely sincerely appreciate anyone who takes the time to read it and respond.



Iím the new owner of a 5 1/2 month old chesakapeake bay retriever. Heís my third chesapeake - the first was my parentsí family dog that they brought home when I was about 13 and sort of became Ďmyí boy, the second was my own, which I got after I moved out when I was about 20. My family also had labradors as I was growing up. I lost my last boy to cancer earlier this year, and the lack of dog company was tough for me so alas, here I am starting a new adventure.



This guy came home to me and my husband about 2.5 months ago, at 3 months of age. Heís from a really well known and respected breeder that I, and the breed's community as a whole, trust - she does all the right things (health tests, show and work titles, hand-raises the puppies, takes them to all kinds of places and gives them all kinds of experiences before they are placed in homes, offers a lifetime of support and will take her puppies and dogs back if they can't be kept, etc). Sheís been breeding, training, showing, and rescuing them for over 30 years. I had originally given her a deposit for a litter due in the spring, but she ended up having a guy whose home fell through (so pup had been with her the whole time and NOT gone to anyone else), and felt like heíd be a good fit for us. She said he tended to be very cautious in new surroundings but she expected him to come out of his shell with age and experience so long as we didnít force anything on him and let him explore at his own pace with lots of rewards and encouragement. All puppies and parents, all dogs she had, her home and premises and the dogsí living conditions, were all fantastic. Everyone was friendly, happy, and healthy and we had a blast running around with the big adult dogs and puppies! We spent about 5 hours with her and her dogs, and Iíve met a good handful of people online who have dogs from her and everyone spoke highly of them and her. When our pup met us he came bounding to us excited, tail wagging, wiggling and hopping, and while we walked around her property he stuck nearby - sniffing around but following us along, his tail wagging and tongue out. When the big dogs came out, he ran around and played with them and seemed a very happy, gleefull pup!



So for the first few weeks we had him we just let him get a feel for us and tried to make sure we were Ďfuní to be around. He wasnít overtly affectionate or curious about us, or very interested in playing with us despite our best efforts, so we figured it would just take time for him to settle in. He spends all day with me, so I dropped treats here and there while he was with me, and made sure to give him ample praise for anything good or for showing interest in me. During this time we didnít do any formal obedience learning because it felt like walking on eggshells - I was afraid that it might push him away from me and I just wanted to encourage fun and confidence in him. Just ďsitsĒ for dinner and the occasional treat, which he did very well. I tried to engage him in play with me and his toys but he wasnít interested no matter what I did. So, I let him have his space and balanced trying to engage him with making sure I wasnít being overbearing, and thought heíd come around on his own time. We took short walks around the neighborhood and car rides, took him to family membersí houses, and visited a few different places to try keep him exposed to new stuff and hopefully learn to trust me. He walks great on a leash!



After about two and a half weeks he seemed to begin to be warming up a little bit. He still hadnít sought out attention from us and wasn't interested in cuddles (would take them but, didnít exactly get excited about it), but he seemed to be more tail-waggy and comfortable overall. This has been tough for me because Iím so used to puppies being excitable, playful, and curious - when Iíd sit on the ground every other pup Iíd have would come bounding over at least with curiosity, if not excitement, and happy to engage with toys or play. Theyíd bug me into eternity if I wasnít paying attention to them or they had energy to do stuff. This guy doesnít bat an eyelash whatsoever - he will look at me but no matter how goofy a fuss I make, he wonít budge or will just walk away to chew a different toy. He does sleep at my feet during the day and usually follows me from room to room, but heís just not veryÖ.affectionate, or excitable, or seemingly interested in me beyond food and being in the same room. I just keep trying though - praise for this and that, treats, trying to play with toys, as well as hand-feeding him his food (which is tough because heís just not a big eater to begin with).



He gets on famously with every dog we have met so far - the neighboursí dogs mostly, various breeds and sizes and ages. He also has done really really well with people; on thanksgiving we went to my parentsí house and had a mess of 25+ loud boisterous people he didnít know in the house and he did great! He greets everyone with a wagging tail and wiggles the same he did for us at the breederís house. I try to take him everywhere with me - running errands, car rides, into the pet store, into the busy dog-friendly cafe up the street, etc. He has been pretty scared of the big wooded park though where we go hiking - we went for a short walk there last week and the whole time he was a bit on edge - head low, tail low, looking every which way at every sound and stick cracking. We just took it easy and I didnít force him into anything or fuss about anything - just mozied along. He wasnít interested in any treats or sticks for fetching (which he loves in the backyard), but he walked alongside me nicely the whole time and did well for seeming to be so nervous.



So anyway, about two weeks ago I decided to start introducing the clicker and teaching him his name as I had with my last chessie, my parentsí chessie, and our family labrador. Itís been a big struggle. Heís not terribly food motivated, even if I withhold breakfast and lunch and itís 2pm and he hasnít eaten since 6pm the previous day. When we try to work he will often sit and stare elsewhere, his ears back as if he hears something behind him, or looking around for our cat - his focus is everywhere but on me, no matter what goodies I bring out (salmon, chicken, liver, pupperoni, cheese, you name it). Teaching him his name has been so so very difficult - I spent days just saying it and giving him a treat or throwing the fetching stick, and not using it in any other situation, always following it with some kind of reward, but heís not quite picking up on it. No matter how many treats or games of fetch or what praise I offer for a response, he hasnít been responding to it (even when there are zero distractions around) and Iím struggling to figure out how to teach it to him and what to give him as a reward that heíd really really respond to. For example; he will be sitting in the kitchen not doing anything in particular while I'm doing the dishes, and if I say his name, only 50% of the time elicits a response - even after days of name + reward. We started at square one with the clicker, just treats and clicking, and even after days of this, the click on its own elicits no response, as if he isnít putting two and two together (or just doesnít care). I even bought a new, louder clicker but, alas, no luck there either.



We started puppy classes last week as well but that was a bit of a struggle too - again, food-based positive reward and he just wasnít engaged the whole time - and we worked mostly on the name, again. He laid on the ground and looked bored, and was far more interested in sniffing around and relaxedly watching the other puppies and people than doing anything for treats or toys I brought with me. He wasnít showing any signs of nervousness and was totally relaxed the entire time - just not engaged. He had a great time playing with the other dogs at the end of class though.



Our vet visits have gone great. Heís in nothing short of good health, eyes, ears, stool, everything got the A-OK. His favorite thing is playing with other dogs, that gets the biggest response out of him. Second to that is our cat, who is sectioned off away from him in our sitting room - he wants to play with her in the worst way, paws and play bows at her when she comes over to him. Sheís curious about him too, but right now he has zero ďleave itĒ or ďhereĒ so she is out of the question. Every now and then she sneaks over the gate though and he thinks thatís just about the greatest thing in the world and Iím constantly having to chase her back into her space. Sometimes he gets excited about games of fetch outside (but hates playing them with me - heíd prefer me to just throw things and then run around and eventually chew them, so I havenít even started asking him to bring them back, I just throw stuff around and let him have fun), but isnít too into any of his toys inside (we have about 12 different ones and I keep rotating which ones he has access to). Heís really mellow overall, doesnít chew up the house or bounce off the walls, and everyone who has met him has remarked what a sweet, easy going, well behaved boy he is.



So itís been a month and a half and heís getting bigger and stronger by the day, and itís heart breaking that all of my attempts at winning his affection or trust havenít exactly paid off, nor has he shown much excitement or interest in anything Iíve tried so far - like I said, other dogs and the cat are about the height of it, and fetch outside every once in a while. Iíve been communicating with the breeder and she has no idea why he seems to be having such a hard time adjusting and was actually worried that we had done something like, strike him or had some kind of accident but nothing of the sort has happened. I havenít raised my voice even once to him because Iím terrified it would wreck whatever little trust he has for me and I know it wouldnít mean anything to him. Iím afraid Iím going to have a 90lb dog I canít control and who doesnít enjoy my company.



Iím just at a loss. Does he just need more time to get used to us? I was in tears last night because it just seems like he wants nothing to do with us at all and Iíve never had a pup who was soÖ.just, disinterested in anything I had to offer. I have no idea what to do other than keep doing what we are doing - praise, positivity, and lots of experiences, with hopes that he will come around, but heís growing fast and Iím so afraid of what lies ahead if we donít build trust and a foundation. My husband has said that if he hasnít come around by the end of the year, he wants to consider returning him to the breeder because we paid an awful lot of money for what we hoped to be an affectionate, engaging, family friend, and maybe we are just not a good fit for each other as he doesnít seem to be enjoying us very much.



Other details: I work from home and so heís with me 24/7. He sleeps in his crate in our bedroom at night and has never had an accident in it (nor any accidents in the house since black friday). He goes on virtually every errand with me except when I have to do longer shopping trips, in which case I crate him for an hour or two while Iím out. I have a gate set up between the dining room and sitting room so the cat can have the sitting room to herself and we get the dining room and kitchen. Our backyard isnít fenced in so when we go out I have a long 30ft leash attached to him and am with him the whole time - usually I let him drag it around so he can wander a bit but keep it attached so I can catch him if he starts to wander into the neighboursí yards (he is fixated on *something* in the neighbourís ivy patch but I cannot figure out what it is) or see him start to eat something (we have a lot of wildlife and stray cats in our neighborhood). I try to get him to play games of chase-me which works sometimes but most of the time heís more interested in sniffing around and finding sticks to run around with, so I let him and just keep an eye on him. My husband hasnít really Ďworkedí with him because his workdays have been so long lately but he has taken him on a few walks.

I started trying to work on ďcomeĒ but stopped pretty quickly because, like I said, treats arenít big motivators, neither am I no matter what I have, and Iím terrified to ruin any hopes we have of getting a reliable recall going until I can figure out how to move forward.


Any help, reassurance, suggestions, anything at all, would be appreciated.

We have puppy classes but I cannot afford a private trainer or behaviorist right now (which makes me feel terrible and like an irresponsible pet owner who canít do the ABSOLUTE best for him). I just donít know where or how to start with this guy as he is SO vastly different from every other dog Iíve had. My dream is for him to be like my others - happy to be with me, to go on adventures, and not listening because he HAS to but because he wants to and associates me (and the stuff we do together) with good times and enjoyment =[ My life has always been oriented around my dogs and doing things with them, and I donít know how toÖjust, I donít know what to do.



Is that just not the kind of pup I have on my hands? 


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Trouble
Dogsey Veteran
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Location: Romford, uk
Joined: Feb 2006
Posts: 14,264
Female  Diamond Supporter 
 
13-12-2018, 10:59 AM
Tbh I'd be asking the breeder exactly why she thought he'd be suitable for you when it's clearly proved not to be the case. I'd be talking to them about returning the pup and getting what you put your deposit on originally. Let them take responsibility for the pup that seems totally uninterested in their humans because as you say it's clearly not what you expect from a pup.
Although I'm quite mystified as to why you put off teaching him his name as we always do that from day one and the same with basic commands.
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Schapiro
Dogsey Junior
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Location: Great Lakes
Joined: Mar 2007
Posts: 88
Female 
 
13-12-2018, 04:28 PM
Sorry Trouble - I didn't mean to imply that we hadn't been calling him by his name from day one. We had - gleeful "Rocco rocco rocco!", trying to praise him and give him rewards whenever we'd use it. It's just that I hadn't tried to sit and use it in a structured or intentful way. Surely there's a difference between casually using his name around him, like when playing or just going about the day, and sitting with him for a few moments and intentionally using and rewarding it - say the name, wait for a response, reward, repeat, vs "rocco rocco!" during play. Usually by the time I start doing it intentionally like that, the pups have learned enough from a day or two of our casual use and reward of it that I get a response immediately because they already know somethin' good is coming from the play and engagement - not so with this little fella despite my very best efforts =[

He knew "sit" really well from the get go so we ask for that quite frequently such as before meals, before going outside, or before I throw a stick or toy for him, and he's done well with it. He sits at the door without my asking before we exit, and waits for me to go first.

Seeing as he's not interactive or playful with us at all, it's been hard to introduce new things casually throughout the day as I have done in the past, from day one with all the others. Yet when I try to sit with him and teach him something like down or paw, he gives me uncomfortable body language (looking away) and disengages no matter what treats or toys are on offer. Eventually he will just walk away and stare at me from the other side of the room, or just lay down somewhere else. I am stumped as to why, after weeks of praise, treats, and positive encouragement, he is still so uncomfortable with us and unresponsive to anything we offer. That first week, I talked to the breeder about it and she said he just needed more time to get comfortable with us and perhaps not to push him too much, so I suspended any "formal" training times and just tried to continue to encourage him to play and be comfortable with us, trying my hardest to convince him that hanging out with and interacting with us was GOOD. But here we are, still, with no success.

And you're right. With every single one of my others, from day one they started learning, and they responded so well. They learned fast that good things come from their humans. But they were each so focused on us from the get-go, they loved food and games and playing and praise and cuddles with us, were affectionate and silly and barrels of fun. It's so hard to read this little fella as a result because his reactions are SO unlike the ones all my other pups have given me - it's been such a struggle to figure out what we're doing wrong or what is going on in his mind.

At the moment, it feels more like we have adopted a rescue dog from a bad situation than a fresh, clean-slate pup like we had anticipated. As time goes on, despite his lack of affection or enthusiasm, I'm continuing to get attached to him and just have no idea what to do =[
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brenda1
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Location: Lancing West Sussex
Joined: Aug 2014
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13-12-2018, 08:51 PM
Ok for what its worth I have been a dog trainer and behaviourist for many years. Now retired. I have read and taken in what you have been saying and I think you are trying to hard and the dog is over whelmed by your affection. Start to ignore him more. If he comes to you get up and walk away. When he is resting, not sleeping, call him to you. Make a small fuss of him and then let him go back to what he wants to do. Do this on a daily basis for a few days/weeks and you will soon find him changing towards you. Don't expect miracles, it won't happen overnight. It will come but he is obviously one of those independent type of dogs. Keep in touch. Will be interested to know how you get on.
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Trouble
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Location: Romford, uk
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13-12-2018, 11:12 PM
I understand you're becoming attached but he's nearly six months so you need to decide if he's staying or not, you can't still be thinking about returning him so make a decision and commit to it.
You do know puppies have very short attention spans, so training should be in 5 minute spurts. Also don't do the same thing over and over, chop and change the commands to keep him interested.
I just tell them to sit every time I open the fridge, amazing how quick they pick that up. Just using their name casually should get results, you certainly shouldn't have to use it meaningfully. You don't need to attach a command to it.
Just make training fun, pups having fun learn so much faster. OK we all interpret the word fun differently but you'll know when he's enjoying himself. Try to lay off the cuddling a bit. When out walking with him change pace without warning just move without speaking, break into run and chop and change direction without a word, he'll soon learn to keep his eye on you and stick with you. When he's done all that just sit down and let him be, let him sniff about and after that casually walk off and see if he sticks with you. It's all about him learning to focus on you without being prompted by you all the time.
Then just remember no two dogs are the same, breed may guarantee looks and temperament to a degree but they're all individuals in their own right.
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