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Border Collie Aggression - Need Suggestions!

Bailey_
March 10th, 2009, 11:09 AM
Hi Everyone!

I don't normally do this, but in this certain situation I am starting to get at my wits end and would love some suggestions/thoughts/similiar experiences from any of you.

First of all, (and I do not mean this in any offence to those who are treat-trainers or clicker trainers) I am only looking for BEHAVIORAL suggestions. I am a behavioral trainer and this particular client of mine is not interested in treat or clicker training as *both* have not worked with her border collie's issues.

Max is an 11 month old Border collie that we have been working with for a month now. A few months ago, he was adopted by his current owners from the humane society in our city, after Max had been dropped off by his previous owners due to "too much barking".

Max came to me having all sorts of interesting quirks, common to the border collie traits. He was suspicious of almost everyone and everything that went by (strollers, men, bikes, shopping carts, little kids, women with big colourful purses or bags, wheelchairs etc) and would react by lunging up in the air - snapping, attempting to nip at whatever it was that he was not sure about. He'd bark like crazy, and pretty much scare everyone in ten feet radius.

We addressed these issues by putting him right in the muck of it. (They have two lessons a week, one private and one group.) For the private lessons we would take Max to various locations around the city that I knew to be heavily populated with people and would take our time dealing with the issues that came to us. Our first order of business was to put Max in a calm state of mind before we started our walk.
Long story short, we have tried a number of different ways to keep him from reacting like he does to the public. (Mainly innteruption techniques). He has improved leaps and bounds since I first seen him; no longer reacts as 'red-zone-ish' as he used too, and the barking is completley over with. He still sometimes tries to jump and pull towards whatever is bothering him, and unfortunatley the wife is starting to get really frustrated. I found that things were improving with Max, until she told me that she is at the point where she thinks a shock collar is needed. (The problem is that Max feels he's dominate over the wife, so when she is walking him by herself her confidence is very low and thus Max acts out much more often. We are having a lesson in their home this week so I can hopefully give the wife some MORE tips on how to make sure she's not letting Max walk all over her.)

I do NOT want her to resort to using a shock collar, and the comment really made me aware that we have to really help her instill some confidence - she needs a 'win' (for lack of a better term) and soon.

Another behavior that Max is displaying is a very red-zone aggression whenever someone enters the house or leaves. I actually have not seen this yet, but will this week at our in-home lesson.

Has anyone seen another border collie like this? Any tips are welcome!!

Blackdog22
March 10th, 2009, 11:28 AM
If the owner is willing to use such serious compulsive methods, why don't you try some compulsion on a lower level first?

A thin choke-chain type training collar is often used on very dominant, hard to control dogs. It provides immediate corrections, so timing is always perfect unless due to handler error. This will be one of your biggest assests to get your point across....timing.
(I can post a picture if you like)

Secondly, with using this compulsion. You must not have any grey areas....at all. Do not pollute the lesson with other material for the dog to absorb,until he understands what you are asking him.(I am assuming you have ruled out that this aggression is not fear or health related...if you have not please disregard everything I have said and go back to square one)

Does this dog have an outlet for his drives? BC are very high drive dogs and they need a job to do, I dont think people truly understand how literal that is. Sounds like this dog needs to be drained of ALL physical energy before a lesson to have a successful training time. Infact, I would say that should be mandatory, otherwise you will be wasting the dogs time.

I also reccommend teaching him the 'wait for it' command. This will do wonders for his control and can be used in day to day situations. You need to teach him how to deal with his wonderful drives.

Blackdog22
March 10th, 2009, 11:32 AM
Futhermore, I would never ever condone using an E collar on a PUPPY!!
That is just asking for future issues, including destroying the dog-owner bond before it even has a chance to happen.
I'm glad your looking for other options!

SnowDancer
March 10th, 2009, 11:44 AM
You mention the "wife" - is there a husband or kids in the picture who are not following the same training methods? I ask because my husband falls into this category. We have an American Eskimo so as a dog behaviourist you will know what we are dealing with. We had initial training at PetSmart simply because it was the only place with an opening when we adopted him at 14 weeks and the trainer had an Eskie - and then we took private lessons. Guess who was Mr. Congeniality and the prize pupil! But at home a different matter - I would follow the training guidelines; my husband would not. Two years ago I hired a behaviourist who has trained many of the dogs who go to my dog's groomer - and who he sees at his weekly socialization. Of course he was perfect with her in each of our 8 private sessions. After first session my husband took him for a walk following her principles and received many compliments on what a well behaved dog our guy was(?!) But then husband relapsed and refused and continues to refuse to follow even the most basic rules. I can sit on the bed with a steak on my plate and my Eskie will sit there and not utter a peep or make a move; my husband will be at the table and my Eskie will scream for food the whole time - this is how he went from his ideal 22 lbs. to 28 lbs. - he is now 22 lbs. again (of course the vets blamed me since my husband seems logical). The little things like letting us go out the door first, waiting for us to take our coats off before his harness etc. - even the way we hold the leash etc. - they matter, yet my husband refuses to do it. I can tell my Eskie to sit, just once, and he will. I can even use sign language and he will do it. My husband has to say Sit, Sit, Sit, Sit - so of course this becomes the command. So I am wondering if perhaps the wife is in the same situation. I should point out that my dog is an ideal boarder when home boarded and allows all of the dogs to have their way with him at his socialization - but only when he goes behind the gate - on the desk side forget it. It is very frustrating. Re the clicker training it didn't work on my guy - might be because the house next door was being renovated when we got him and the machinery they used all day and all night sounded like a clicker - so he totally ignored it. PetSmart used treat based training exclusively so you know how that turned out - no treat, no "down". I think a combo works best. I can see comparisons between the Border Collie and the Eskimo. Then of course there is always the possiblity that the BC does have a red-zone that will not be controlled - say if another dog is taken in. We went through that with a Beta mini Dachshund who decided one day he was going to be the Alpha and attacked the Alpha Dachshund who was appalled and didn't want to strike back. Turned out there was something mentally wrong with the dog - but we lived in "H" a few years with that situation. It does happen and hopefully this is not the case. Both the Eskie and the BC breeds are very smart - fortunately my 2 special Dachshunds had military cunning so I am slightly ahead. I hope you can solve the problem - we are not people who would ever give up a dog - but others are not the same. Our Eskie is a barking fool as many are and taking him for a walk is not exactly a pleasure. Apparently though, temperament wise, our vet thinks he is great. We use a harness and a Martingale - the one with the cloth at the front instead of the chain.

Bailey_
March 10th, 2009, 11:57 AM
Thanks Blackdog, I really appreciate it.

Actually, that's the other problem - draining Max's energy. He was diagnosed with hip dysplasia a week ago. It was a very disapointing diagnosis for his owners, and because of that, they're terrified of letting him work himself for too long. Obviously, he never really gets his energy out because they don't LET him "be" a border collie as they're concerned it will hurt him needlessly.

I'm not really sure how to broach this. I don't want to be pushy and tell them to do something that they're not comfortable with, especially when it really can affect Max's health. Any thoughts?

I do believe that Maxs reactions are coming from an insecure place. He reacts to a large variety of stimulus, not just one or a few triggers - it's pretty much everything; which leads me to believe that he was very confined in his previous home. Herding breeds are naturally instinctive to be suspicious, and I don't think Max was properly socialized when he was younger, which has led to this behavior.
When you say 'health related' do you think that the hip dysplasia could be having an effect on his reactions? Or are you referring to a more mental state of mind?
As far as the choke collar is concerned, I haven't really considered using anything but the martingale.

SnowDancer: Thanks for your experience! Sounds like you're doing a wonderful job, despite your opposition.

As far as Max's owners are concerned, the husband is active in the training. He attends all my lessons and reports back to me the successful homework they've worked on. Max responds better to the husband than to the wife, which is why I referred more to her. She nurtures Max (as we all love to do with our dogs) but to the point where he walks all over her, and doesn't respect her the way he needs too.

Blackdog22
March 10th, 2009, 12:30 PM
Actually, that's the other problem - draining Max's energy. He was diagnosed with hip dysplasia a week ago. It was a very disapointing diagnosis for his owners, and because of that, they're terrified of letting him work himself for too long. Obviously, he never really gets his energy out because they don't LET him "be" a border collie as they're concerned it will hurt him needlessly.


How severe is the HD? Is it both hips?
It is possible that the pain of HD could contribute to his insecurity, many dogs react to pain with fear type aggression. It's normal. If he is medicated now and the pain is no longer affecting him, it is very likely he has adpoted his behavior from the past (when he was in pain).

If he has only mild dysplasia, it should not bother him to the point of snapping, unless he has a seriously low pain threshold.
For any young dog with dysplasia, no excersise is just as bad as too much. Perhaps stress to them how having extremely weak muscles will affect his HD, scare them in the right direction. If they have access to any water, it would be perfect vigorous excersise for him. Even a good walk and a light daily run wouldn't be so bad.




I'm not really sure how to broach this. I don't want to be pushy and tell them to do something that they're not comfortable with, especially when it really can affect Max's health. Any thoughts? .


In the end, you can't make them do anything. If I were you I would express how much you want to see them succeed, let them know you are confident, with time that this can be worked out. Because it can. If you show confidence in your methods, they will be more inclined to give it a try. Be inventive and don't give up.


I do believe that Maxs reactions are coming from an insecure place. He reacts to a large variety of stimulus, not just one or a few triggers - it's pretty much everything; which leads me to believe that he was very confined in his previous home.

Or understimulated in his new home....
As an owner of a very high drive dog, I fully understand what you are going through. If I do not meet my dogs needs, he literally acts as if he grew up in a box! Everything is greeted with WAY too much drive in one way or another. He gets over the top. This is NOT due to poor genetics or lack of socializing, nor abuse of any kind. It's simply due to handler error!

Lack of mental and physical stimulation is the WORST possible thing you can do to a herding dog. It's simply something you cannot do. Allowing them to get 'full of themselves' results in very very bad dogs and is the foremost reason they end up in shelters.

A combination of age, lack of stimulation, high drives and inexperienced handling seem to be the main issues with this boy.........all easily fixed, which is good:thumbs up



When you say 'health related' do you think that the hip dysplasia could be having an effect on his reactions? Or are you referring to a more mental state of mind? .


I doubt it's a mental health issue. I was thinking more of a thyroid problem perhaps....
As for the HD, it all depends on the severity.


As far as the choke collar is concerned, I haven't really considered using anything but the martingale. .

Don't use compulsion unless you are comfortable and confident with doing it.
If you don't know how, or are not very experienced I would stay away from it.
This dog doesn't seem to need it by the sounds of it. It would likely just wreck the bond your trying to form.

Bailey_
March 10th, 2009, 12:51 PM
Thanks for the encouragement BlackDog! I agree, the owners need to continue stimulating him. I actually did not ask how bad the HD was, however he was taken to the vet because he started to limp. When I felt his hips this weekend, I could feel little pops and cracks. I'm sure that it's on the more extreme side, though I will clarify. It's so sad because he IS so young.

I don't think that the HD is really what's causing the behavior; he doesn't seem to be doing it out of 'pain' or 'frustration. His reactions seem more out of insecurity - but that's a really good point you made - it could've started from the pain, and now it's just a learned reaction.

I know that when Border Collies are puppies, one of the biggest problems is the breeds inclination to 'nip' at everything; coming from the herding line. And when I first met Max, that's what he seemed to be trying to do to EVERYTHING - nip at it all, in order to control what was going on.

I'm actually not a fan of the choke collar which is why I use nothing but martingales on my clients dogs. I absolutley respect those who choose to do so responsibly.

Thanks for the advice! I'll keep you posted!

Lynne_B
March 10th, 2009, 01:49 PM
Hi Bailey,

I follow the same type of training methods that you teach, and I had a similar situation with my dog if that helps. I can't help with how to change the behaviour, but this might help with the lady who owns him. The difference was that this dog seems to want to control his surroundings, mine didn't want me to control him. So instead of lunging out to nip at others around him, he jumped up and tried to bite me, bite his leash, and essentially threw a tantrum.

This went on from him being a few months old, till he was 10-11 months old. It only happened with me, my husband never had a problem, and we never had an issue when we walked him together, always when I was by myself. In fact, hubbie didn't even believe it was that bad until he looked out the window one day and saw it happen. So, of course I was so frustrated, and a little resentful that hubbie didn't have to deal with the same issues, and also frustrated that because of this, I was doing all the walking, and training. I was tired and frustrated with the whole situation.

Then I started to understand a bit more about why he was doing the things he was doing. So I guess I had to change my attitude about it, and I had to let go of some insecurities. I was afraid to take him to an offleash park because I was afraid that he'd hurt someone or another dog. He would always lunge to greet other dogs, and I had to learn that it wasn't aggression, just an eagerness to play. So because of his high energy (he's a lab-poodle cross), we weren't meeting his needs by just walking him. Now I look back and think about his reactions, and realize that part of it was because he just wanted to run, and he was bored out of his skull just walking. He's at the off leash park almost every day now, and when he is on leash, he's absolutely fine.

The next thing is the bond between owner and dog. Because of the behaviour problems and my lack of ability to understand why they were happening, it took a long time to really develop a good bond with my dog. This sounds horrible, but I found it hard to love him, when all he would do is constantly challenge me, and bite me when we were walking when it was supposed to be fun time. Again, understanding more about why he was doing it helped immensely, and now I don't know what I'd do without him.

So I guess if I could say anything to this lady, I'd say to try and educate herself on why her dog could be acting this way, to not blame herself or take it personally, and if she doesn't have the confidence now, to fake it until it comes naturally. It's not her fault that she has the problems and her husband doesn't, it just means that she's going to have to work a bit harder at being more confident with him.

Stuff that helped me be more "alpha" - he was no longer allowed on the furniture, adjusting my posture so I was standing taller, shoulders back, leading more than he lead me, picking up the pace on a walk, and using time outs when he misbehaved. Doing more offleash work, so he had something to burn out his energy level, and he got to fulfill the need of meeting and playing with other dogs more. Then just in general, I educated myself more on why things were the way they were, as it helped me control my fears better, and understand what was happening.

As for the HD, have they looked into anything like glucosamine (sp?). They need to have a sit down with their vet if they haven't already, and have a long discussion of what is acceptable and not acceptable exercise. Swimming would be good though if they have something like that available.

Hopefully this helps!

Bailey_
March 10th, 2009, 05:41 PM
Thanks Lynne. I'll pass along some points from your experience to my client. As someone who's never really had issues getting respect from my dogs, I can't relate well to her. I try to explain everything so that she can mimick how I do it, but she has a very meek personality and as such her bold BC tends to take control and she doesn't correct it when she should.

I will certainly suggest swimming as a form of excercise for them. Thanks!

downtowntrainer
March 10th, 2009, 08:24 PM
Has anyone seen another border collie like this? Any tips are welcome!!

Yup. I recently finished one exactly like this!

First of all, while the past is relevent, lest us not forget that he lives in the present. Therefore when working with a dog with a "hard past" I tend not to let that bog down my state of thinking when working the dog.

With any dog I train using lots of distractions. Joggers, other dogs, trees, garbage cans....these are all things you can use! Remember distractions should be a cue for the dog to pay attention to you.

I just finished that dog and within 12 weeks I now have her heeling completely off leash.

I remember reading this somewhere (it evades me now....damn it!)

"distractions are the focusing cue,
corrections are the re-focuing cue
Praise is the principal point of focus"

cell
March 10th, 2009, 08:48 PM
What about hydrotherepy/excercise? If his hips are a concern maybe finding indoor dog pool or outdoor water activities as swimming is no impact and drains a lot of energy. Also once he is comfortable and "in the zone" in the water you could introduce some of the stimuli he normally reacts to so it is associated with a relaxing exercise.

Gail P
March 10th, 2009, 10:27 PM
Nothing at all against this wonderful board and all it's members, but if you're looking for more insight into border collie behaviour I'm going to suggest you also post your original message here: http://www.bordercollie.org/boards/index.php?act=idx There you will find several different forums, you'd probably be best to post in the general border collie discussion. The "training discussion" forum refers to training the working stockdog. Regarding tiring him out, most BC people will tell you that you will more quickly tire him out by working his mind than his body. If he hasn't already, he should have his thyroid checked. I've heard of several cases of thyroid trouble causing aggression. I don't think the basic test is enough to pinpoint the problem though, I think there is a specific type of test that needs to be done. I've read about it several times but can't recall the details. If you go to the BC boards and do a search for thyroid or aggression you should be able to find more. Good luck with him. BC's are wonderful dogs, I have 4, plus a couple of my others are BC mixes.

Bailey_
March 10th, 2009, 10:28 PM
Thanks Gail! I appreciate it! :thumbs up

erykah1310
March 11th, 2009, 07:53 AM
Has anyone seen another border collie like this? Any tips are welcome!!

I thought for a while you were working with my BC Meiko ( well the way he was around the ages of 1-3)
I don't really have any suggestions but do want to offer hope. We had a behaviorist working with him after he bit a kid and an elderly man ( well he took the mans cane from him and when he went over to Meik to get it back he bit his hand)
I just really want to offer hope.
It takes dedicated owners and A LOT of work and repetition but can be "fixed" I don't trust Meik 100% around kids or new people, he still has some aggression issues but nothing like he did. NOTHING at all.
As for the hips, I would suggest they find out how bad it is. Exercise is great for joints, unless its severe HD. Most BC's I know love to swim. In the summer fetch from the lake is the best exercise I could do with Meik. I'm not sure if there is a hydrotherapy pool around these people or not, but if I were them I would find some way to get their BC swimming. to Keep joints moving low impact and drain some energy.

A lot of Meikos "rehab" had to do with keeping his mind stimulated. Just teaching him new things, names of toys, puzzle things, following a scent ect.

downtowntrainer
March 11th, 2009, 08:56 AM
If the owner is willing to use such serious compulsive methods, why don't you try some compulsion on a lower level first?

A thin choke-chain type training collar is often used on very dominant, hard to control dogs. It provides immediate corrections, so timing is always perfect unless due to handler error. This will be one of your biggest assests to get your point across....timing.
(I can post a picture if you like)

Secondly, with using this compulsion. You must not have any grey areas....at all. Do not pollute the lesson with other material for the dog to absorb,until he understands what you are asking him.(I am assuming you have ruled out that this aggression is not fear or health related...if you have not please disregard everything I have said and go back to square one)

Does this dog have an outlet for his drives? BC are very high drive dogs and they need a job to do, I dont think people truly understand how literal that is. Sounds like this dog needs to be drained of ALL physical energy before a lesson to have a successful training time. Infact, I would say that should be mandatory, otherwise you will be wasting the dogs time.

I also reccommend teaching him the 'wait for it' command. This will do wonders for his control and can be used in day to day situations. You need to teach him how to deal with his wonderful drives.

A very good suggestion.

I use choke collars to teach my class, however in private sessions I will use a variety of collars-everything from martingale to the e-collar or heck if I think the dog is ready for it-a flat!

I also use contrast. Infact with the BC I recently did contract was a focal point.

For example; confine the dog for 1 hour prior and one hour after training session. Why? Because I want the dog to believe that the training is fun and I want her to experience the difference.