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Cowardly Corgi

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Q: I would like to information on getting a dog to spend time out of its protected place and how to train it to be less afraid in the house. I have a corgi that spends most of her time in a small bathroom and has done this since she was six months old. We know something frightened her, but what? Now it has become habit.


I contacted a trainer/behaviorist who recommended clicker training but Molly is even afraid of the click. I have started giving her treats while clicking when she does anything good or on command to get her used to the sound. Is this correct? I have been doing this for a week—is it time to move on to more training? I was thrilled to hear I could change her behavior and retrain her to be with us and not hiding with clicker training and even though your book says I can't make mistakes with clicker training, I really want to do it right. Two vets said that this is the way she is—a loner, and a dog who just wants to hide—and I should be glad she's so little trouble, lots of people would be happy to have a dog they didn't have to bother with—so you can imagine my spirits and hope rising when I found out maybe I could change her back into a dog who wants to be with her mistress all the time as corgis are reported to be!

A: If she is eating the treats when you click then you can move right on to beginning to click her for stepping toward you, for coming when called, for touching a target, and anything she does that is cute or appealing. The more things she can get "paid" for the more she will learn and that will all help her to come out of her shell.

For details on targeting, I suggest you start with a training exercise that was written for shy dogs in the shelter environment, but will work just as well with a timid dog at home: helping shy dogs blossom using targeting.

I also strongly recommend that you get the new book Click to Calm by Emma Parsons. It deals with aggression but fear and shyness is really the other side of the same problem. You will find many step-by-step recipes for building confidence in your fearful dog. It may be that the dog is genetically fearful, or was kenneled throughout her puppyhood and never developed normal behavior. But even so, you should be able to teach her more rewarding ways to act than hiding all her days. I agree with you that it is not desirable, no matter what the vets said.


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Karen Pryor is the founder and CEO of Karen Pryor Clicker Training and Karen Pryor Academy. She is the author of many books, including Don't Shoot the Dog and Reaching the Animal Mind. Learn more about Karen Pryor or read Karen's Letters online.

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