I was always pretty sure Kirby had been abused based on his behavior but today pretty much verified that for me. I haven't really worked on "down" with him, mostly wanting to get his "sit", "stay", and "come" more solid since those are commands I use regularly. Well today I called him over and asked for "down" and his response was completely unexpected. He actually bolted away about halfway across the room and when I called wouldn't come to me. So I got some treats and asked again with treats in my hand and again he bolted and it took about 5 mintues of encouraging to get him to come. When he did come he crawled over on his belly and he was trembling. I tried working with him a bit and haven't been all that successful. He won't take treats now and he is a real chow hound. I guess I need to come up with a new "down" command since this one clearly won't work. Since doing this he has been sitting as far away from me as possible and will slink over with his ears down if I call him :-( We had a short play session to hopefully put this out of his mind but he is now sitting alone in the hallway looking sad and scared. I'd really like to find whoever had him before I did and throw him/her in front of a train. I have had issues with "sit" as well but they weren't as severe and he was so skittish when I first got him I suspected he was undersocialized or abused. One day I tried to get him off the couch and he wouldn't go so I took his collar to gently pull him off and teach him the word "off" and as I touched his collar he screamed bloody murder. He yelps when you try to restrain him in any way (like for nail clipping or for the vet) and at first any time you touched his collar. He now lets me touch his collar without yelping but he gets very tense. His reaction the first time I asked for "down" was WAY more severe than in the video. Even so after I turned off the camera it took me a good 5 minutes to get him to come over for petting and treats. Usually if I tell him "good boy" he gets reassured and will come over but not this time.
Awwww poor boy! My boyfriend has a Saint Bernard who does this kind of thing. It's because my BF's family always yelled at him to "DOWN!" when he was in trouble. So now he thinks he's in trouble when someone says down, and I've been clicker training a new down with him so he's not scared. I hope you are able to do the same with Kirby!
Oh poor little boy!!!! Something's definitely reminding him of something awful. A different command and gesture might help? Like...'floor' or something? It doesn't sound like 'down' and if you use gestures, a different sort of one. Maybe, since you don't use 'down' so much, hold off on working on that in favor of the bigger stuff (come, sit, stay, yadda yadda). With your love and understanding and his total awesomeness, he'll work through this. Poor Kirby...thank you for giving him his furever home, Jen.
Would switching to a harness help with the collar issues? I don't know...just an idea. I'm glad he's where he won't have to endure such ill treatment anymore!
As far as nail clips, well, I wish I had an answer for that! On one of mine, it's an ordeal each and every time and I've had her since a pup so she was never abused.
Seeing a dog, especially a young puppy like him, react like that to just a verbal command makes my blood boil! Thank goodness he's in a good place with an excellent owner and a great corgi brother.
You will win him over, he is lucky he has you! It doesn't take much to scar a sensitive dog that is why I always recommend positive training to people. The old fashioned "force based" ways are not good for our smart corgis...or any other pets really.
That video was really sad. I hope he forgets all about his other life.
Aw, poor Kirby does look very nervous. Don't be so sure he was abused, though. Sure he could have been, but Jack as a puppy developed an absolute terror of brooms, mops, or anything with a handle. He did not come to us with that fear. He was never hit, chased, or yelled at. The most we did was "claim the space" when we were sweeping and he used to try to chase the broom, but that was all done with simple postures on our part and nothing different than I used to claim my own space.
Anyway, he'd see a broom and he'd bolt as far away as he could get. It took tons of counter-conditioning to get him past it. All I can think of is a broom might have fallen near him, but he had never responded in a similar way to anything else that ever startled him so I doubt it's even that. Something just clicked in his puppy brain that made him say "Scary!!!" If you had gotten Jack after he developed the fear and before we worked so hard to get him over it, you would have been 100% convinced that he was beaten with brooms. He'd plaster his ears back and leave the room as soon as you touched a broom. NOTHING ever happened to him and he was never left with anyone but us before this happened.
When we brought home our kitten, Maddie was terrified at first and whenever the kitten was downstairs, Maddie would go lie either in the farthest corner of the kitchen near the door to the garage, or she'd hide behind the toilet in the bathroom. We had a cat before this one that she was not afraid of.
My point is, dogs develop fear-based behaviors for unfathomable reasons. Being extremely shy or fearful is a primary reason for people to surrender dogs because it takes tons of training and a lot of people just can't hack it. So it's possible that he's abused, but equally likely that he is just a fearful and submissive dog.
Maddie makes those same ears at me all the time. She's not fearful in general but she is extremely human-submissive and will plaster her ears back and lower her posture for any number of reasons, none of which involve having been man-handled.
You will recall that the poster Ludi had someone insist her shy, fearful dog must have been abused because of how he reacted to people, and he never was.
Yeah, exactly. While it's possible that Kirby may have been poorly treated, I really think the hand-motion, or maybe even the word 'Down', may be something he just chose to interpret as a "threatening" gesture. Ace has never been hit in his entire life, but he did give one lady that impression just based on his slinking away from her.
I choose to be more optimistic about his past, as it always depresses me to think about dogs being beaten. Let's work with that approach! I think it's not very uncommon for a dog to be highly reactive when its collar is grabbed, or even touched. Collar handling is something many clicker trainers work on as sometimes it's just the only way you can make sure to get a hold of your dog in case of emergency, or if a stranger needs to restrain the dog. It's a good skill to have in any case! :)
I know you will do well with him Melissa. He's already come so far!
When I was first teaching Waffle "Bang!", he ran and hid whenever I did the finger-gun motion. Obviously, Waffle has never had a gun pointed at him and no one has jabbed him with a finger-gun. Kirby's reaction sounds very much like Waffle's with Bang!, including running and hiding and being completely unresponsive to cookies or calls. I don't know where that fear came from, or why, but it happened... and Waffle was never abused.
I guess the reason I am sure he has been manhandled is that this isn't the only behavior he has shown. He is very reactive to any kind of "scolding", some arm movements, etc and yet he LOVES people and other dogs. He isn't fearful or shy with strange people or dogs (he does submissive pee, but he willingly greets and jumps on people for petting). I can tell he is a very sensitive dog to begin with but he isn't at all shy (generally). Oddly enough he is so outgoing and wonderful when we are out on walks, but inside the house he gets very nervous and will bolt and tremble if I accidentally make a wrong move in his direction. After having him for over a month he is only JUST learning that he doesn't have to run anytime I walk near or around him. If i pick up messes the dogs make (torn up toys, paper, etc) he high tails it out of the house and it takes a lot for me to get him back in. He may not have been abused, but somebody definitely put fear of scolding into his head. Most of his fearful/timid behavior is consistent with times when he considers himself to be in trouble. He rarely is "bad" but he gets it in his head he did something wrong and will cower, crawl over on his belly, tremble, etc. I never scold for something I didn't witness (i.e. if he peed in the house or chewed up something he wasn't supposed to), yet when I come home and he has chewed something up he gets SO SCARED and runs outside and sticks his nose under the fence like he wants nothing more than to disappear. Hopefully as he is with me longer and longer and receives no rough handling, he will learn that he doesn't have to be afraid of me. I know with stuff like this it will take time, but it was so sad his reaction to "down".
Also, for the hand gesture, he doesn't react to just the gesture (maybe I will use that for down and no voice command), he reacts to the word "down". I can do the down hand gesture until I am blue in the face and he just looks at me or runs over to bite my hand. My mom brought up a good point that since he jumps on people so much maybe his old owners would yell at him "down" and scold him to get him off of people, where I have always used "off" so didn't even think of that.
It seems like his previous owners being generous with vocal chastising is a possibility. Usually it should roll off like water from a duck's back but Kirby appears to be a very sensitive little soul who probably took those punishments to heart. Nevertheless, you're already doing wonders for him and he can only get better. :) Best of luck! And make sure Franklin keeps him in line! ;)