Hello BC Community-
This is my first post. I have read hundreds of yours. I was hesitant to start a new post. I suspect that what I am experiencing is not unique, yet I simply have not been able to find a thread that matches exactly what is happening with Ryder. Since I am nearing a heartbreaking decision of perhaps having to re-home, I decided to take a risk and throw out my case study to see what I can learn from your expertise.
The DOG: 9-month-old Border Collie x Golden Retriever (three-quarters BC). I purchased him from a 'breeder' and have had him since he was 4-months of age. Whip smart (of course), highly responsive, very affectionate (a cuddler) with his herd, super-glued to his alpha (me), high drive, high energy, not seemingly timid or anxious. Beautiful- RED bc markings. Obedient in low-to mid stimulation environments (sit/stay, down/stay, "bed", "watch me", loose leash, plus a few tricks).
The BEHAVIOR: 'Aggression' toward humans he does not know only in certain, specific but unpredictable situations. Aggression expressed as fierce growling/barking, rushing, leaping to shoulder height and 'porpoising' (bumping with nose) if especially aroused. He has not (yet) bitten nor snapped nor shown any nipping behavior in play. Behavior first started at about 5-months when people would pass our front yard. But over the past few months, it has spread to other areas (a vacation rental, a lakefront picnic spot, a sand dune area where we had been hiking/picnicking, a campsite). Most interesting to note- the dog does NOT exhibit this behavior in new situations. If he is entering new space anywhere (a new neighborhood walk, a park, a new hiking trail, a cafe, a Saturday market) he does not show any aggression or anxiety toward strangers and can be approached and touched with growling, crouching or showing any distress. Also, once the 'intruder' has been introduced into the herd, he accepts strangers easily with no further signs of anxiety or aggression. Last, he has recently begun to show high reactivity to cyclists.
The ENVIRONMENT: We are a family of two adults; two older kids and one elderly Golden Retriever. We live in an urban neighborhood (lots of pedestrians, cyclists). I am not inexperienced with animals and started Ryder on basic obedience early. He has never been allowed to wrestle with our kids, resource guard, lie on furniture or show any dominant behavior with our family. He has had an average amount of socialization for a family pet (likely not too much, not too little). I'm sure he is not getting as much exercise as a full BC needs but he gets more than the average pet. It consists of a 45 minute jog each morning with 2-3 additional frisbee sessions a day. This is normal routine but we also take the dogs to the river (he loves to swim) at least once a week, take them hiking whenever possible, etc.
Last- I have interviewed 8 trainers and paid for a two hour consult with one (worthless). One camp (positive only) tells me I must ALWAYS do what the other camp (pro-correction, strong leader, pack leader types) tells me I must NEVER do (and vice versa). Aggression towards humans is a dead serious issue and I am terrified that I will do the wrong thing and make the situation irreparable.
- Has anyone experience this very specific type of stranger directed aggression ( a term borrowed from James Serpell)?
- What are thoughts on use of the e-collar (maybe even Vibration only stim) in a situation like this in order allow the dog off-leash freedom while maintaining safety for all involved? If yes, any favored resources for HOW to do e-collar training the RIGHT way?
- Do you think this is a TRAINABLE issue or one that realistically will need to be managed (on leash, making sure to avoid triggers/situations the dog can not handle) the rest of his life?
- Last, if this behavior (fierce protection of his herd against intruders) stems from hundreds of years of selective breeding and is part of this dog's deepest breed imperative- is it FAIR or RIGHT to ask a dog like this to be forced into the job of urban family pet? Or, is the most loving thing to do (yes, it would break my heart) to look for a home where this behavior would be an asset (e.g., livestock guardian) versus an unacceptable liability?
For anyone still with me after this lengthy missive, THANK YOU. I would be extremely grateful for any counsel this group would be willing to offer.
Jennifer & Ryder
Ryder at 9 Mo.JPG 159.33K 26 downloads