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JenJohnston

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  1. Thank you for the response. To clarify- Ryder has never been allowed to charge a fence. We have no fence. Before this problem behavior emerged, all our family (including my Golden) would enjoy sitting on our front porch and front lawn during the summer. Our Golden likes to greet pedestrians (without leaving the front lawn which sits atop a slight rise). Ryder as a puppy also enjoyed greeting passerby's and chewing on bones and 'hanging' on the front lawn with all of us but he was kept tethered. Once the aggressive barking started, this privilege was immediately (happened two times only at 5-months of age) revoked and Ryder is not allowed to be in this space or given the opportunity to charge strangers. Because the behavior originally happened ONLY on the front yard, the first time his 'sense of territory' moved, it came as a surprise. It happened (when Ry was 6-months) at a lake front at a vacation rental. Fine for the first hour (happily accepting or even greeting strangers)- then suddenly rushed a family coming down for a picnic. Needless to say, he was not allowed off leash again that trip. Still, the behavior only happened after he had been somewhere for a finite period of time (never somewhere new). But last weekend we were hiking in the dunes, no one was around, Ryder was off leash (again, he had NEVER rushed or shown this behavior when off leash in new territory before- and he has been on probably 25 hikes thus far in his life), saw someone far in the distance, and took off after far away hikers. Ryder was kept on leash the rest of that trip. That said, please understand, that despite best and responsible efforts, sometimes errors can occur. We live in a pedestrian, urban neighborhood. I have two kids who constantly have friends in and out of our house. Despite vigilant and rigorous effort, it is not realistic to expect that at some point, a dog will not bypass the owner's effort at management (e.g., a door will be left open as a kid runs in or out of it, bolts out of a car before a leash can be put on despite consistent training at sit/stay). I have no ambiguity nor question that I must physically restrain Ryder at all times now, but...that does not mean I can eliminate all risk that he will find opportunity. It also presents a huge obstacle to providing sufficient EXERCISE that is necessary to begin to work on his behavioral issue. Re: breeding, I do not know of or have I ever heard of a Golden Retriever (to pick an example) who growls, lunges or snaps at a human absent experiences of abuse or trauma. I don't believe border collies are naturally human aggressive dogs. I don't know that Ryder's behavior is 'aggression' in the same way that other dogs may be aggressive. But, I do know that there are breed characteristics in Border Collies (e.g., sensitivity, reactivity to sudden movement they can not control, alertness to 'other'-someone or something that stands out as different) that run strong in this dog. I've spoken to a trainer who works exclusively with border collies for livestock work who described Ryder's behavior as adaptive and 'successful' for dogs bred as livestock guardians. So, I'm just trying to figure it all out.
  2. Thank you for the reply. Re: breeding. I am not a geneticist, but...I am believe the assumption that two breeds 'blend' and one ends up with attributes of a Golden commingling with characteristics of a BC may be a faulty one- although that was the marketing of their breeder. From what I am experiencing now of this hybrid, it appears that one ends up with EITHER a breed-characteristic Border Collie OR a representative GR more often than a merger of the two temperaments. Thus, my dog is 'pure' border collie in drive, temperament, instinct. For job of laid-back family pet in an urban environment, I know (and LOVE- had two growing up on a working farm) border collies sufficiently to likely have steered away from that purebred for this role. Not that it can't be done, it's just not the job I would choose for a pure border collie that has had hundreds of years of selective breeding for behaviors such as the ability to recognize an intruder (someone new or different to herd) and drive to protect. I completely understand difficulty over the internet, but I read many exchanges where folks attempted to describe a behavior and others offered advice and/or shared similar experiences. Perhaps I can try to better describe the behavior. When Ryder has been in a place for a certain amount of time and a human he does not know enters his 'territory' (walks by the front yard, walks by the campsite, walks by the picnic blanket), he barks aggressively, runs at the person and will jump at them. Twice he has also bumped them with his nose. No teeth. No snapping (yet). He does not display human directed aggression in situations where he has not claimed territory. For example, I can take him to a cafe, a neighborhood walk on leash, a new swim hole, a new hike- and he is absolutely fine with strangers. Basically indifferent but will accept someone he does not know approaching and petting with NO visible reaction of aggression/fear/anxiety. While he is not anywhere near as friendly as my Golden Retriever, he will wag his tail and sometimes lean in to the person for a snuggle. I will absolutely continue to seek professional help. The dilemma I face stems from the fact that professional trainers I have interviewed (9 of them) have experience with 'aggression' issues but may have little to no breed specific experience. One might say that breed is irrelevant but others argue passionately that it is very relevant in understanding a behavior and in how to respond. Trainers are also equally divided between 'positive only' and 'correction/leader-of-the-pack' schools. I was hoping to get feedback from the BC Community which training approach worked better with border collies. Thank you again, Jennifer
  3. 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. My QUESTIONS: 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
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