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Discussion Starter #1
How do you train a dog with no known motivator? I've tried food, praise, fetch, toys, play (with me), and just plain old repetition. This is the first dog I encountered that I don't know how to teach a simple sit or crate manner (sit or wait before being invited out).

He is a german shepherd, 1.5 year old. I don't know what to do. I could seek out a trainer later but want to see if anyone has some advise to offer? He is currently a foster but I want to adopt him if I think he's trainable for every day life obedience. Right now he is not trained in anything, zero house manner, but thankfully house broken. He is sweet natured and loves to play with dogs.
 

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I couldn't find my dog's motivation until I took all the food and toys away, and started with hand feeding for attention. Did that for a couple of weeks before even starting training.
 

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Have you tried really high quality food such as home cooked beef liver, etc? Or one thing that worked for me with one dog was one of those toys with no stuffing - the prey drive worked for me as the dog thought it was alive when I pulled it slowly over my arm. Also, I always train when the dog is hungry, never after a meal. If he will sit outside the crate, maybe starting with a different location will help when training the wait part. I always train each command in many locations. Also, have you ever tried using a clicker? Let me know if any of these ideas help. I can find more.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
The rescue told me he needs to gain some weight (though I think he's at perfect weight) so I didn't think to skip meals. Maybe I will try that tonight because he's also chewing his raw meals quite slowly, same speed and lack of interest as he chews the treats.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
My own dogs are fed raw and gets liver treats and he has shown interest in eating those but just not with much intensity. It's more like - he could eat or not eat. I could go buy some cheese or sausage to try but based on the personality I see... I think he is very low in drive in general. When I try teasing him with things, he doesn't seem much interested. He is however, very interested, in following other dogs around, doing what they do. For example, I throw a stick for my dog, my dog runs after the stick, he runs after my dog. He is blind in one eye but I don't think that is an issue. He is strong and will use it to get to what he wants to get to so I have to leave the pinch on him all the time in order to hold him back. He also managed to chew thru his leash under 15 seconds. I watched him do it too thinking nothing will happen to it but... he surprised me.

As for the clicker - I marker trained my own GSD with "yes" so I was trying to charge the marker with him. But that didn't work because he doesn't care for the food, he'll take it, chew, spit, put back in mouth, spit, back in mouth, then finally swallow. I did it for a while but gave up as he wasn't focusing, but more in hanging out mode. Then I tried playing with him, petting him, running around with him. He enjoyed it, but won't train.

Do I need to bond with him first for a few weeks? He'll follow me around and ask for petting. But this training thing really got to me...

Thank you guys for all the suggestions.
 

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Wow! He sounds just like Jack when I got him at eleven months. I struggled just to keep weight on him, and getting him past some steep fears...I couldn't even think about training, because he was literally not motivated by anything (same as yours, would drop even a bite of pizza and walk away!) and on top of that he would shut down from fear.

We worked through the fears with a little too much success, and a year later I had an entitled, untrained dog, lol. Shows my inexperience. But yes, my trainer evaluated him and confirmed that he has low drives.

I was also feeding raw...mainly because that's what I ended up doing just to get him to eat at all. Crazy how well it worked with him, taking that away. Put him on Wellness CORE kibble, and started with just the hand feeding. Then continued hand feeding to associate Yes...then on to commands. If the only food he gets comes directly from your hands, and he has to be paying attention to you to get it, you'll see an increase in his focus. It took us a few weeks, and we still have lots of room for improvement, but before that advice I thought I had a hopeless case.

Unless there's an underlying medical issue, toothache or something, that's causing him to not want to eat. You've checked for sores in his mouth and such?
 

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Discussion Starter #8
He will eat fine just slowly. He'll chew on the antlers at his own free will. I looked in his mouth and it seems fine. He looks healthy, will run and swim and play bite with my dog. He has a lot of young dog energy.

Maybe like you said, it will just take more time with a low drive dog and requires a bit more patience and starvation. =)
 

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Don't withhold food from a rescue, particularly one that's underweight. These dogs have often had to rely on their own smarts for far too long to bond and trust a person right away - their survival mode of sitting back and not knowing how to respond can take - as long as it takes.

Too often these dogs have been trained to shut down - do it right or else. They stop offering behaviors. They basically have given up trying to figure out what it takes to please a person.

My advice is to leave him alone for a while. Let him settle in, let him learn who you are and what you are about. Watch him and see when he looks to you more, approaches you - he's offering behaviors then - but make sure it's consistent.

Take off the pinch. It's not necessary, truly.

If playing with the other dogs brings out his happy, that's how I would train - when he's ready - and if my dogs are cool with group obedience. It's probably not going to be "pretty" obedience, because it's a group, but first let him watch you with your dogs - if you are a yank and cranker, don't do that. Keep it positive, motivational. High and happy voice.

Keep him on NILIF throughout - that's always good for them - not the isolation thing but maybe he has to touch your hand for his meal, sit to go out, mix it up, and use your dog/s to help with this too.

Finally get the clicker out. The great thing about the clicker is the dog learns more quickly than by marker words (science!) and they learn that it is okay to offer a behavior.
 

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How long have you had him? I agree with Jean. He's probably still shelter shocked. Take it slow, do not withhold food from him.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
He is pretty easy going guy, plays easily and doesn't have fear problems with me or people (approaches everyone happily) and follows me around the house from the get go and puts his heavy head on my lap. My dog is in about the same shape/weight ratio as he is so I thought he looks fine. He doesn't have signs of neglect, good coat, teeth, etc. The pinch is just to make sure he doesn't bolt, to walk him and to hold him back when he's about to get in trouble. He's a very strong dog and makes it easier for me to control him.

I'm trying to do NILIF, it just tests my patience because he isn't getting it and sometimes it felt like an eternity as he's still not offering the behavior after a long while that I just stopped because I didn't want it to become unpleasant for either one of us. He sorts of shut down if I'm too patient. He just stands there waiting for me to do what he wants.

I agree it is too soon to tell how he's really like but based on how he interacts, he's for sure a mellow low-low drive dog. He is happy go lucky with every dog and person. I'm just in a bit of a rush to know for sure how easy he is to train so I can decide whether to adopt him or not. But seems like time is what he needs and that makes sense. Thank you guys.
 
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