Vivi displays some confusing behavior while learning basic commands.

Hi all! First off, Vivi is doing great! He is the best dog I could have hoped for.

Lately, I've been teaching him his basic commands so he'll be ready when we take the beginner obedience class later on. He already learned sit and down so far, and I'll be teaching stay, come, drop it, leave it, and some others just for fun.

However, I noticed an odd behavior he shows when I first start training with a new command. If I give him a command he doesn't quite know yet, he looks a little nervous and tries to turn and walk away as soon as the command is given, even if I have a great treat (tiny piece of cheese!) in my hand. He did this with sit at first, and still does it a little with down since it's the newest command. I use a quiet, calm voice with clear pronunciation to give the command and accompany it with a hand sign (point up for sit, point down for down). Anyway, I'm just wondering what might have caused this odd behavior. Could his previous owners have been too hard on him while trying to train him?

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That would be my guess too. In time he will learn that you can be trusted and will not be nervous when he does not understand. It takes patience and a sense of humor to rescue but Vivi sounds like he will be worth it!
It may be that he was handled harshly prior to coming to you. Then again, some dogs are hyper-sensitive to even the most subtle cues that you are not happy (not even mad, just not happy) and, by our own standards, over-react to our postures, so that could be the case too!

If he is a bit sensitive, personally I would keep training sessions VERY short (like, 2-3 repetitions) and do them at unpredictable times and locations so he doesn't start thinking "uh-oh, we are at x spot in the living room which means training is coming". Keep a few treats in your pocket if you can and ask him to sit or whatever at different times. I love hand signals and always use them and most dogs respond better to hand signals than voice commands, but you might just for experiment sake try it without the hand signal to see if you get the same slightly nervous reaction; some dogs are hand-reactive even if they've never been hit.

Fun activities like hiking or swimming or chasing frisbees can also do a lot to help a nervous dog's confidence level. Pressure is low and they can "succeed" at something they find self-rewarding. Try teaching Vivi to catch with Cheerios, for example, and then move to catching a tennis ball (just don't make him leap in the air for it, with that Corgi back).

Those are just a few things I can think of. When you start to work with a trainer, he or she may of course notice something and give you totally different advice!

Good luck. Vivi is lucky to have found you.
It is quite possible that someone was too hard on him, or even that he's picking up some frustration from you, even if you're not showing it. My Lyla is very sensitive, and once when she was a puppy, I was trying to teach her down and got very frustrated with her and gave her a very harsh "No!" Unfortunately, I think she is so incredibly sensitive, this set us really far back. For months after, anytime I would get out treats or sit down to work with her, she would either run away or just lay down and shut off. To this day, if I'm trying to teach her something new, she is hesitant to offer new behaviors and always defaults to the last thing she got rewarded for. (And I have made sure to always make every training experience a super positive one and stop before I start to get frustrated at all!)
I had a problem like this with Livvy and she was super sensitive to stay! I would say "stay" and use my usual hand signal and she would jump and turn the other direction! This was in class and the instructors figured out that my hand was to close and so she was uncomfortable...now I use my finger and stay 3 feet away from her face! It could be he experienced some negative training but he could be very sensitive as Livvy...once she feels comfortable she just is wonderful!

Good Luck and remember he is very new and sounds like he is doing great for a rescue so you might just have to take it a little slow!
Thanks for the ideas everyone!

I do keep the sessions short, about 4 repetitions each, and he seems to learn it in about 4 sessions or so, so he's still learning very fast.

I think he may just be sensitive as he responds very fast to a regular "no." (I only did this when he was peeing on the carpet or going for his stitches.) I was also sick with a fever two days ago, and he seemed depressed the whole time. He didn't really come to comfort me like some dogs would, but he seemed to sleep all day, even when my husband tried to play with him.

I don't really remember being frustrated while training him, but I might have been a little bit annoyed when he wouldn't sit down for anything, and I had to actually push his bottom down (gently of course) and praise him like crazy when he was sitting. He's not too food driven, so he doesn't follow the food's every move and I couldn't train him to sit like I wanted to by putting the food above his nose and moving it towards him. The same happened while training down, but I pretty much expected it and wasn't annoyed.

I definitely won't be harsh on him while training, because I know corgis can be sensitive. I want it to be like a fun game for him.
You may want to look for a clicker-based class for him. Insecure dogs (and he sounds like he's feeling like he'd like to avoid the pressure of training; this is probably just his personality and not evidence of treatment before now) thrive with clicker training because they're the ones offering the behavior. It's their decision about whether to do it and so they don't feel pressured. The command isn't attached to the behavior until the dog is doing it willingly and happily, so there's no negative associations with the word.
Thanks for the advice. I wanted to do clicker training, but I forgot to buy one in my several shopping trips for Vivi's things. I think it would be good for him to gain a little confidence. He doesn't really have any problems with the commands that he knows, only the ones he doesn't know yet or is unsure of, so I think it is a confidence thing. I'm sure he would figure out what I'm trying to teach him a lot faster with the use of a clicker.
Do look into going to a trainer that teaches clicker training as well. A clicker on it's own does not do a lot unless you know how to use it properly. I have seen people do "clicker training" but the clicker timing is so off the dog is never going to figure out what to do. Or if you don't understand the ideas of "shaping" behind clicker training, you might be using the same methods, just with this little clicker taking up room in your hand.

At the very least you can read some of Karen Pryor's articles and/or books on clicker training and get an idea. I do, however, really recommend taking a class that teaches obedience with clicker training to get a good grasp on it before you take it on on your own.
Yes, of course I would take a class as well. I'll have to look into some places nearby that have classes that use clickers. I'm afraid the only one might be PetSmart and I don't know if they do clicker training.
Yes, it can be really hard to find good trainers sometimes. Look at this site and see if there is anyone in your area. Just because they are listed there DOES NOT mean they clicker train or use "positive methods," but I think it's a good start. To my knowledge Pet Smart does not offer clicker training. A good place to start may be to ask vets, small feed stores, and groomers where some good trainers are. Good luck!
Is there any big differnce between clicker and marker word?
No, not as long as you use your marker word the exact same way as you would a clicker and only say it in the same situations as you would a clicker. A clicker isn't anything special, it's just a novel sound that marks a behavior and means the dog is getting a treat. To use a marker word effectively, you still need to understand the principles of shaping and timing though, and you do the same kind of ground work that gets the dog thinking the word means wonderful treats are coming.

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