More dog training questions ... she doesn't like treats or toys!

Hello - in a couple of previous threads, I’ve mentioned that McDeath and I have taken a border collie, Diamond, into our home on a trial basis.

She’s 1 1/2, spayed, housetrained, and she knows some basic obedience (sit, heel, come, down).

But she seems like a very serious dog. She doesn’t like to play (or else she doesn’t know how to), and she doesn’t like doggie treats.

So what do you suggest (besides a ton of praise and love) as an incentive/reward for training? I’m stumped.

We picked her up Friday afternoon (she used to live in a large dog pen at a ranch), and she hasn’t had any accidents in the house, so she’s obviously housetrained.

But now we’re trying to get her to understand the difference between going out for a ‘walk’ and going out for ‘business’. Any ideas? I’d like her to go in the morning before we leave for work, in the afternoon when we get home, and then in the evening before bedtime.

Our fence isn’t fully finished, so she has to be on the leash whenever we’re outside, which I think may be causing her some confusion. In the past she’d only be on a leash for walks or trips to the vet. I’ve put her on a longer rope to give her more ‘privacy’ when I’m trying to get her to do her duty, but no luck.

Ideally I would like her to do her thing in the front yard, so it’s quick and easy to clean up.



Don’t underestimate the importance and effectiveness of praise! For many dogs, especially intelligent and receptive ones (as Border Collies tend to be), that can be enough. In my experience, Border Collies also tend to be finicky eaters, but that’s a pretty limited observation.

If she doesn’t respond to doggie treats, an equally effective “treat” for most dogs is a few pieces of their regular food. If you keep a handful of her kibble in your pocket or a little baggie, you can dip into it and reward her with a mouthful when she’s done something right.

My dog also doesn’t like many treats. The only treat she really responds to is freeze dried liver treats available at Pet Smart and other chains.

My dog is also not playful by nature, but she loves chasing the red dot from a laser pointer, you might pick up a cheap one and see if your dog responds.

To train my dog that it is time to do her business, I took her out to the spot I want her to do it; stood there limiting hermovement with a shorter than normal amount of leash and repeated the command “go pee.” As soon as she did it, she got praise/treat and we went back inside.

It’s important to praise/treat and go in quickly or the dog will become confused about what behavior is being rewarded.

Now she is able to read when we are taking a walk and when we are going for a quick pee.
Good luck.

Thanks … she won’t take food out of my hand at all … it’s not that she’s scared, she just seems completely uninterested.

She wouldn’t eat her dog food either (although it’s the same brand she got at her other home) until I mixed a little rice into it … then she went crazy for it.

But I will keep it up with the praise and the loving and really make a fuss when she does her business … and hopefully soon we’ll get into a routine.

Maybe someday she’ll feel like playing, maybe she won’t. She seems to be settling in fine though (but I’ll definitely be checking with the neighbours to find out if she was howling today while she was alone).

I’ll also try to help her differentiate between walking and potty-time, thanks to madmonk28 for the advice!

What kinds of treats are you using? I don’t know what other’s training experiences have been, but my dogs generally will do anything for a treat that is chewy and meaty, especially if said treat is something that the humans also eat. Dog biscuits generally leave them cold.

And patience is a must. One thing I noticed between training my girl dog and training my boy dog is that girl dogs, lacking the urge to scent mark, do not go nearly as often as boy dogs. Some say that boy dogs are harder to train because you have to overcome the scent marking thing, but I’m not so sure. With a boy dog who pees a lot, there are multiple chances to reward correct behavior, but with a girl dog, not as many. It was one of the things that was and remains frustrating about housebreaking our dear Willow.

As far as playing, I don’t really know what to tell you. Willow is a sweet and friendly dog, but I wouldn’t really call her playful, at least not compared to her brother. I’m thinking of enrolling her in agility, which is something you might consider for a border collie that already knows the basic obedience commands.

My family has had several border collies, and our most recent is a little girl who’s just reached her first birthday.
Border collies tend to learn patterns pretty quickly. So you need to estabilish a different patterns for a bathroom excursion to the yard vs. a walk. On/off leash is probably the most obvious for the dog, but since that’s not an option for you at the moment, can you leave by a different door, or go in a different direction after leaving the house? Whatever it is, if you do it consistently, she will learn “this pattern means the human wants me to pee” or whatever, usually in just a few days. Border collies also can frequently learn a large number of human words/phrases, so don’t underestimate the value of simply telling her what you want her to do. As an example, we are careful only to say “go for a walk” when the dog is going to be allowed to go along… Now, it’s gotten to the point where if you ask Maggie if she’d like to go for a walk, she will go and find her “walking leash” (which is shorter than the leash she uses most often) and wait by the door. When she goes out the door, she head straight down the drive, there’s no question that she knows exactly what’s on the agenda.
Maggie has 3 outdoor “modes”… the invisible fence collar (for outdoor free/play time), the longer “yard leash” for potty trips when the humans are on a schedule, and don’t have time to play, and the “walking leash”. She knows exactly what she is suppose to do before she ever leaves the house, and it’s pretty obvious that she understands. It took maybe a month for her to separate the three completely, and sometimes she still disagrees (i.e. trying to wrangle play time when she’s on the yard leash etc.) but it’s pretty minor.
Plain old praise really works pretty well for border collies in general as a reward, after all, they aim to please their humans most of the time. Alternatively, we will sometimes offer “human food” rewards for training sessions, especially for feeding by hand. Typically a few cheerios, or kix, or maybe a cracker… nothing that’s going to truely upset the dog’s diet, and we try to avoid sweets (and obviously anything that would be outright harmful to the animal). Some people frown on ever offering a dog “human food” but we have never had a problem.
As far as the not eating goes, most of our dogs have had fairly touchy stomachs. They tend not to eat when they are scared or upset, or when their routine changes. (For example, it’s difficult to get them to eat when one of the humans in away). We typically offer a bland diet, or add rice to their food (which you’ve already seen works) for a few days until they adjust. The food problems may just be nerves from the change of homes, and it may correct itself over time.
As for play, a lot of border collies prefer to “work”. Training sessions are play to them. They also like to run (although if I remember correctly your dog was kenneled in the past, so she may not be used to being able to run). Fetching and chasing are often fun for younger border collies although in my experience a lot of them seem to “grow out” of that behavior. Currently Maggies favorite outdoor games are “chase me around the bush stupid human” and “throw the lacrosse ball” (she’s actually learned to throw the ball against the house herself so she can chase the rebound). Inside, she plays with a plastic bowl, which when turned upside down slides across the carpet very quickly, like an air hockey table… and with a selection of stuffed toys (which she “herds” from room to room).
Good luck with your new pup, I hope she adjusts well for you.

Give her some time. You’re new. The house is new. Everything is different.

Sometimes that will turn off a dog from anything.

Let her settle in, and I’m sure you will find she can be “bought” with food in some way shape or form. I have yet to have even the most non food-driven dog in the world refuse dehydrated liver… Also useful are turkey weiners chopped up into bits.

Since she didn’t seem interested in her food either, I’d chalk her seriousness, for now, to the stress of a move and all that.

Give her a good couple of weeks to settle in, THEN re-evaluate the situation. In the meantime, give her plenty of praise, do stuff with her (go for walks, do some basic obedience stuff for fun) and reward her with liver (freeze dried works wonders too and smells less than if you dry liver yourself)… Also be sure to give her plenty of “personal space” - make life normal, every day routines. It’s so tempting to lavish all our affection on a new dog or pup! The best thing to do is to settle immediately into regular routines. Makes it less stressful for the dog :slight_smile:

BCs, like aussies, can be a little reserved with strangers (it’s even in their breed standard!) Give her time :slight_smile:

Sounds like you’ve gotten good advice so far. Keep in mind that sometimes it does take dogs a while to settle into the new routine. We got our Ivan dog when his previous owners moved away and left him behind in the yard. We figured he’d been a yard dog all his life before coming to live with us. Our dogs are house dogs, but when we’d try to get him to come in, he’d always hesitate at the door and give us this “Are you sure it’s ok? I don’t think I’m supposed to be in the house” look.

But he got over that. Now he’s the one that has to sleep at the foot of the bed every night.

Get her into agility. That might spark her to start playing. She might just be trying to get used to her surroundings right now- it took Auggie a couple of weeks to rally settle into a routine and start playing with us. Now he’s the biggest toy hound ever.

 Auggie isn't big into "training treats", either- he loves bones and rawhides, but those aren't practical for training, so I use Armour dried beef- it comes sliced very thin, in little glass jars in the canned meat section or in plastic in the cold cuts section.  I chop it up, and he'll do just about anything for it!  I use canned chicken, too- I drain it really well first.

Thanks all for the suggestions so far … I definitely want to get her into agility, but there’s not much I can do about it right now until we decide if we’re keeping her.

She has so many good points, but right now she’s got major separation anxiety - she follows me around like a shadow, and as soon as I leave the house, she starts to howl and cry.

I’m thinking maybe I should take a couple of days off work to try to train her that I’m coming back and she doesn’t need to panic.

But she’s shown no misbehaviour in the house so far, and I will find some treats that are more appealing to her.

She’s a very sweet dog and I would love to keep her, but I do wonder if she fits into our lifestyle and if we fit into hers…

If she’s not into treats she might be more into praise/loving. I’ve never really been into using treats for training, always using praise/loving. BCs are extremely intelligent, so I suggest what Pandora said and just ask her what you want her to do. I had a poodle/schnauzer cross that I could do this with. I never had to “train” her, I’d just tell her what I wanted and she’d do it.

Some dogs just aren’t into toys and treats. Claudia the Vunderhund is like that. She will not touch them. We’ve got squishy toys and squeaky toys and rubbery toys and tuggy toys, and she won’t have anything to do with any of them. Likewise, we’ve got soft treats and hard treats and meaty treats and biscuity treats, and she refuses to even lick atany of them. With a lot of urging, she’ll occasionally take one from you, but then she drops it in the floor and looks like she expects you to beat her. Dehydrated liver? She won’t even look at it. Pupperoni? You have to be kidding. Biscuits? What have you been smoking?

She’s really easy to train, though. She’s an absolute fool for attention. I taught her to sit before I put her food down in roughly three meals, just with praise and hugs. By meal number four, I didn’t even have to give her the command. Never underestimate attention as a training tool.

If she’s totally upset when you leave, you may want to consider crating her. It may be the security blanket she needs (she was penned outside in the past) - that familiar den feeling - so she’s not totally anxious.

Your vet can prescribe doggy drugs for anxiety. With my guys, I actually use a natural remedy called “Rescue Remedy” - some people swear by it… it certainly seemed to take the edge off my separation anxious dog (who, by the way, still clings to his crate… even when I’m home, if he wants to chill, he goes into his “box”… in fact, he’s there right now, right beside me, as I type this post!)…

G’luck with the girl. Give her some time to settle. It’s a BIG change. New people, new lifestyle… New way of doing things… everything she has known has been turned on its head. Do fun stuff together. Poop her out completely before you head off to work. Then, crate her, and don’t make a fuss about leaving… same about coming home. Let her out, no fuss…

… then go off to do some fun stuff together! :slight_smile:

Stainz I’m really not trying to be a bitch and I know you’re just trying to see if you can give the dog a home, but…

you know this dog has problems, it follows you constantly and you are only test-driving her and thinking of giving her back???

Don’t you think she’ll get worse and be less adoptable if you just give her back?

It doesn’t see that there are any problems with her and that she’s obviously very attached to you so she can only become a more loving affectionate dog so WHY WOULD YOU GIVE HER BACK?

(In case this is over the top, and I’m not sure it is, I’ll point out I’m PMS’ing out the yin yang)

BottledBlondJeanie - I’m pms-ing as well, so I’ll take a couple of deep breaths and explain …

She belongs to a friend of mine who owns a ranch and who also breeds border collies. Diamond was originally purchased for breeding, but she had to be spayed after she got pregnant by the wrong dog (an uncle of hers I think).

The friend has no problem keeping her as a pet, but when she found out we were looking for a dog, she thought right away that Diamond might be happier with us because we’d have more time for her and be able to give her more attention and love.

We haven’t committed fully to keeping her because we’re not sure if it’s fair to her to move from a large pen at a ranch with other dogs and animals for company to a small house in the city.

She’s smart, sweet and very nice to have around. But if she’s unhappy, it would be selfish of us to keep her. My friend would happily take her back and keep her until a ranch-like home for her comes along.

I don’t think we’re being cruel or selfish or “test-driving” her, we’re trying to determine the kind of home that is right for HER. There are a lot of dogs out there that need loving homes, why would we keep one that needs a different environment?

ANYWAY, she’s settling in quite well now. Still some bathroom issues (as in she rarely goes!) but she’s been great in the house, she met the softball team last night and was very friendly and popular, she’s stopped the howling when we leave (I checked with the neighbours) and she seems quite content to leave me alone when I ask her to (mainly when I’m eating or getting ready for work). We’re giving her lots of love and fun and affection.

**CrazyCatLady ** - yes she definitely responds best to praise. In addition to the stuff she already knows, I’ve already taught her “get back” (as in get the heck out of the way so I can open the front door) and “wait” (as in don’t push me out of the way to get outside first) and “that’s enough” (as in please stop chewing yourself!). She also knows to sit when I want to put her leash on her.

And she likes peanut butter, so she’s obviously quite brilliant and has great taste !!! :slight_smile:


Given your explanation Stainz I apologize. That sounds perfectly acceptable. I thought she came from a not-very-happy home and you woulld be sending her back and that they might not want her back—that type of thing. Sorry.

As for the bathroom thing, my dog does that, too. She’d be fine going once in the morning and once in the evening. I still can’t understand why she doesn’t run out to the yard first thing in the morning when I let her out–instead she “stands up” and looks through the window of the door like “I can’t believe you woke me up and threw me out here.”

Here, have some salt and vinegar potato chips. MMM bloating!

BBJ - cheers! I think I’ll chase my chips with some chocolate … perhaps some Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups … yummmmmmmmmmmmmm :slight_smile:

Many years ago I had an Australian Shepherd that was the smartest animal I’ve ever owned. He didn’t like doggy treats, but we didn’t find this out until we started finding the treats standing on end in various corners of the house. He would accept them politely from my hand, then walk away with it and stash it in a corner, almost like he didn’t want to hurt my feelings.

What he loved, though, were the rawhide chews.

He did like to play, but it was usually some form of “herding” play, that being in his nature. He would race back and forth, brushing against you and dodging any attempts to grab him. You might try something of that nature.

Damn, after 30 years I still miss that dog .

… I understand. Aussies simply ROCK.

Case in point: My Aussie Terror

He’s a beauty. Mine was named Shadrach and was hit by a truck (we lived on a farm at the time, where traffic was sparse). The guilt and grief was overwhelming and if I let myself think about it overly much even now, the tears threaten to come back.

Okay, I’m not coming back to this thread.