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    1. #1
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      Slack Jaw Yokel's Avatar
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      Help with previously abused dog training

      Hi everyone I need some help with a lab that I got off craigslist. The previous owners of him said that "he was to much for the family" and they needed to give him up to someone more experienced. I have had labs all my life but always got puppies. All of my previous dogs hunted with me and I hoped to someday have Ben go afield with my other lab Monster.

      When I went to look at him he was a bit hesitant around me but warmed up quickly. I figured that this was because he was not socialized properly and we would get over this quickly. He was 9 months old at the time. I took him for a walk ( well him pullling me ) by myself and realized that he had no basic obedience at this point. I bent down to pet him and noticed scars and some scabs on his face. My wife and I quickly agreed to take him and he was to become a member of our family. I asked about the marks on his face and they said that they did not know anything. Yeah right. They sent me on my way with his paperwork, vet records and that was it.

      The introduction of the dogs went great, he was fitting into our family really well, until my son got his matchbox track out that night. He pulled it out of the box and Ben immediately went into the corner shaking and urinated on the floor. We put the track away and figured that we would sort it out in the morning. Over the next several day our family found out that anything remotely resembling a belt terrified him. I quickly put together the circumstances and figured that he was being hit with a belt.

      Fast forward a few months lots of basic training and desensitivity training. All is going really well, basic commands are adhered to and no other fears..... but the belt. He is a little better, no urinating on the floor any longer but still hides when anything resembling a belt comes out. We work on obedience everyday and we are starting to work on retrieving but I am not sure what to do about this belt issue. He completely shuts down when I take out a belt, matchbox track, ect. Anyone have any ideas besides desensitizing him by having a belt around all the time? Other then this small issue he has turned out to be a great dog.

      Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.

    2. #2
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      Labradorks's Avatar
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      How long have you had the dog?

      Have you done any clicker training?

      How have you desensitized the dog to the belt or belt-like objects? Or have you just given him some time?

    3. #3
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      Wow the poor boy! I don't have any desensitizing advise, but thank you for rescuing him and putting so much effort into his well-being.

    4. #4
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      Quote Originally Posted by Labradorks View Post
      How long have you had the dog?
      We have had Ben for about 5 months now.

      Have you done any clicker training?
      No clicker training. He is to the point on being very good on a long lead so we started ecollar for retrieving geese last month.

      How have you desensitized the dog to the belt or belt-like objects? Or have you just given him some time?
      We are trying to correct this problem as a family so everyone is involved. Once he was under control on a lead I would have my wife or son hold a belt and we would walk by them at a distance until he could see what it was. I believe in rewards for positive behavior so he would get treats if he did not react in a negative manner and concentrated only on me. Any adverse reaction and we would repeat with more space between us and the belt until no anxiety was shown. All this time my family was holding the belt perfectly still. In addition to this we make it a point to handle belts or straps in front of him in our home trying to show him that no further harm will come to him. I leave a belt on the floor and try to get him to smell it. I am trying to use my other dog to demonstrate that there is no risk with a belt in our home. If the belt is still he is ok but the second it moves it is all out panic no matter the distance between him and it. We have tried many other approaches as a family and so far this has been the most successful. I am sure that I am forgetting some important details Maybe I am just expecting to much to soon? He has exceeded all of my expectations with basic commands and very beginning retrieving (just put him on the fetch table last week).

    5. #5
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      I believe it was Fran who adopted a dog, (Archie), that was fearful of a flyswatter. Rather than actually holding the belt or demonstrating non-violent uses try just sitting a belt in an inconspicuous place, not touching or moving it at all for a while. After some time has passed, move it to a different place, rinse and repeat. This may take a long time but will be well worth it in the long run. Hopefully Fran will go over any steps I missed as well as add more helpful hints for this guy. Best of luck to you and thank you for helping this poor baby!
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    6. #6
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      Hmmm...from what I am reading, it sounds like you are treating it like a training problem instead of a psychological issue that was brought on by abuse. I mean, I know you understand and are empathetic for the dog, but it's not something that you need to train or correct.

      The way I would handle this is to not leash the dog and essentially force him to get used to the belt. I would give him a choice. I would allow him to acclimate to the object by leaving it somewhere and ignoring it. I would not put it by the water bowl, the door, his food, on his bed. I would not force it and I would give the dog all the time he needs. I might then sit by the belt with treats and I might play with the belt and talk to it. Get the dog to be curious and come over. Give him treats when he does. After doing that for a bit, I might see if he will touch the belt or sniff it. It might take months, but eventually I might see if the dog would let me touch him with the belt. Just go slow and let the dog guide the process based on his comfort level. You don't really know what happened and if he had sores and scabs on his face, I assure you, it was really, really bad.

      And yes, I think you are expecting too much too soon. He has been with you for five months and was severely beaten prior to you having him. You don't know his parents and their temperament. And, you're already force-fetching and e-collaring this dog that you barely know and was abused? Why??? What are your plans with him? If you're simply going hunting with him he should not require a either a forced fetch or an e-collar. Just some time and training. Give the poor dog time to acclimate to your family, learn to trust you, get trained and get past the abuse.

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    8. #7
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      Labradorks,

      I understand exactly what you are saying about trying to train it out of him. That is not really my goal, I am looking at it from a conditioning aspect. I hope you understand what I mean when I am saying that. I am going to try to just leave a belt on the floor all the time as you suggested. I think he will be good with that, the panic sets in the belt moves. I really appreciate you insight and help with this.

      I do not want to get to sidetracked but I do have all the history on the dog. I got his paperwork from the breeder. I purchased a dog years ago from her so I called explained the whole situation and went to visit. A side note from the visit was that she was planning on telling me that I needed to return the dog to her per the contract that the people signed. We worked it out that he is mine and I believe that I can provide him with the best possible life. I am going to only hunt the dog and I believe that we have the level of trust necessary to lay the basic foundations of retrieving. We started this through play and obedience. On the table he requires only very light pressure and up to this point no compulsion was given with the collar. Maybe my methods are way out of date, I am by no means a pro and learned from my father and trial and error. I am curious though, maybe you could provide some insight as to what tool I would have to correct behavior in the field if I do not properly teach force fetch and my dog drops a goose/duck, refuses to pick up a cripple or finds something more interesting to do then retrieve my bird. My main goal in putting him on the table is to get him accustom to pressure and creating a more pliable dog for steps down the road.

      Thanks again for your insight and help, it is much appreciated.

    9. #8
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      with fears it's not about training. it's desensitization. you have to go VERY slow and always make it positive. if at the end of a "training" session the dog is fearful you haven't really accomplished much unfortunately. You need to have the belt farther away so he can still be calm and take treats/reward/play. never force the dog to get near the belt or whatever he fears. This may take many many months and may never be 100%. have the belt "out" but far enough while you do fun things. meal time, play. you want his body's natural reaction to the belt to no longer be fear. until then you want to avoid the triggers unless actively working on desensitization (if at all possible). Simple exposure isn't going to make him feel better (not usually in cases like that). you need to expose at a safe distance while something REALLY good is happening and stop well before he shuts down or cowers or stops eating.

      always remember this isn't a dog that had a normal upbringing. Be SUPER cautious about your training techniques and always be 100% aware of his body language and not pushing too hard. not saying not to work him and not to gently push but be careful. Baby steps. for a year i'd recommend strictly working on basics and confidence.
      Last edited by Tanya; 12-04-2015 at 08:18 AM.

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    11. #9
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      Quote Originally Posted by Slack Jaw Yokel View Post
      All this time my family was holding the belt perfectly still. In addition to this we make it a point to handle belts or straps in front of him in our home trying to show him that no further harm will come to him. I leave a belt on the floor and try to get him to smell it. I am trying to use my other dog to demonstrate that there is no risk with a belt in our home.
      But then you put him on a force fetch table "to get him accustom to pressure and creating a more pliable dog for steps down the road", while being restrained. If his fear is belts and straps, what are you using as a restraint? How is this helping him?
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    13. #10
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      Tayna,

      Thank you for the insight. This is basically exactly what we as a family are attempting to do. Unfortunately I am doubtful that he we will ever be 100 percent around belts. We have actively tried handling belts on the other side of the kitchen from his feedings and quickly realized that this was not going to work. He would not eat and 100 percent attention to the belt. We needed greater distance between him and the object so a vast majority of our training (desensitizing) has been completed outdoors. I try to keep sessions short with him and we always end on positive notes no matter how small. Today is the first day that I am leaving a belt laying in the hallway, I am interested to see if he walks by it since it will just be an inanimate object laying on the floor. I think that I was just expecting to much to soon. I believe that I am on the right track with this from the responses I got.

      He has taken to basic obedience exceptionally well, that is the only reason that we started the the retrieving routine. I am very aware that it could be a major setback if I push him to hard to fast. That is why I am using very very light pressure. He responds perfectly to this. I really do not think that confidence is a problem with this dog LOL. He is a stubborn piece of work to put it nicely. Really his only hitch is this belt issue. Thanks again for your input, hopefully I do not screw him up to bad.

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