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tensorgirl

Need help in re-socializing a rescue border collie

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Ok, here's the story. I have to a 3-4 year old border collie who I adopted from a rescue group two years ago. She's a great dog - smart, obedient, and extremely people friendly. However, she's not extremely dog friendly, and I'd really like to change this - at least get her to the point where she can be in an enclosed space with other dogs without causing trouble.

 

She's not too aggressive, but she does display some subtler aggressive behaviors -- for example, she guards the water bowls at the dog park and her toys -- and she tends to be snarky when other dogs try to play :rolleyes: (turns up her lip, growls, and occasionally nips). Most of the time, though, she just ignores other dogs altogether. Part of this problem is probably because her exposure to other dogs has been so limited in the past two years (none of my friends had dogs) but that's beginning to change. It might also be due to the fact that she has a somewhat lame leg (caused by an untreated injury in her previous home).

 

I have no experience in re-socializing a rescue dog with other dogs. All my other dogs throughout childhood were adopted as puppies and given the social skills around other dogs early. Is it possible to change her behavior if it was caused by some incident in her previous home? Could she ever play with other dogs if she gets used to being around them? Finally, what behaviors do I need to correct and which do I need to leave alone? Seems that when it's dog to dog interaction in open I should generally let them sort it out on their own (unless it gets too aggressive, which hasn't happened) but that I shouldn't let her guard the water bowls at the park, etc.

 

So -- anyone have any advice? We are watching some friends' border collie over Thanksgiving, so it would be great if I can at least make some minimal progress by then - they'll have to coexist peacefully in my house then...

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This might not be too much help, but with my dog, I've found he's able to learn to be calm around SPECIFIC dogs, without generalizing to dogs in general. So, he and my sister's dog can stand near each other and eat treats, with no war breaking out. However, if I brought in a strange dog and asked Buddy to eat treats near him, there would be snarking and trouble. (It doesn't hurt that my sister's dog knows not to get in Buddy's face when he's eating.)

 

When Buddy knows a dog, he lets down his reactive behavior and allows the other dog to do things that drive him crazy with unknown dogs: bump into him, get in his face, etc., etc..

 

So, maybe you could work with him and the visiting dogs?

 

Mary

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Some dogs are not social butterflies whether they've had bad experiences or not. Border collies especially do not like other dogs up in their face. Perhaps instead of going to a dog park for socialization, you can invite a friend with her dog (perhaps the one you will be watching?)to take a walk with you. During the walk, give a treat when your bc looks at the other dog. In a controlled situation like this, your dog might start relaxing more around another dog. When your friend's dog visits, you should put everything up that is a resource such as beds, toys, food bowls. The dogs should be fed and played with separately. They also should be crated or in separate rooms when you can't watch them or you are not there.

 

There's lots of experience on this board so I hope others chime in. Anyway, welcome to the board. What is your dog's name and do you have any pictures? We love pictures. :rolleyes:

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Some dogs are not social butterflies whether they've had bad experiences or not. Border collies especially do not like other dogs up in their face. Perhaps instead of going to a dog park for socialization, you can invite a friend with her dog (perhaps the one you will be watching?)to take a walk with you. During the walk, give a treat when your bc looks at the other dog. In a controlled situation like this, your dog might start relaxing more around another dog. When your friend's dog visits, you should put everything up that is a resource such as beds, toys, food bowls. The dogs should be fed and played with separately. They also should be crated or in separate rooms when you can't watch them or you are not there.

 

There's lots of experience on this board so I hope others chime in. Anyway, welcome to the board. What is your dog's name and do you have any pictures? We love pictures. :rolleyes:

 

Ditto, ditto, ditto! Dog parks really are not ideal for socialization. It would seem that they should be, but it's just too charged of an environment in most cases. Even a well socialized dog can get overwhelmed by all the dogs running amok at a dog park. And for a dog that's not particularly dog friendly, it might be way too much to handle. I totally agree with Georgia and Mary, and suggest setting up interactions with friendly dogs that you know and start with small steps, short sessions. Actually knowing a dog might make all the difference. And your dog being in a more comfortable environment might make a difference, too (put away all the resources, like Georgia suggested, though). My Jack is reactive and can't handle too close contact with strange dogs. But, he's wonderful with his packmates, and he's great with our trainer's border collies, because 1) he knows them, and 2) he's comfortable in those environments.

 

Remember your girl might not ever be the life of the doggie party, but from the sounds of it, she's not aggressive, just sending out signals that she doesn't want to be pals. And that's ok, too. Don't push her to be something she's not. Hope for peaceful interactions, and anything beyond that would be a bonus. Good luck!

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It's hard to be sure exactly what's going on ... the Internet doesn't always paint a full picture. Your dog doesn't sound frightened of other dogs, just not interested in playing with them. But it's hard to be sure. What does his body language say? Does he lean, ever so subtly, away from other dogs when they approach? Then he may be somewhat fearful of them. Jedismom is right, some dogs are not social butterflies, and Mary (mbc1963) is right too, many dogs just don't generalize; they're happy to play with one or two dogs but not others.

 

What it sounds like, though, is that there are specific dogs you'd like yours to be more comfortable around. In that case I'd try out some of the classical counter conditioning or operant conditioning-positive reinforcement strategies (see Patricia McConnell's recent blog for more details). In other words - you want your dog to associate the approach of this other dog with Good Things. (This will be a lot easier if your dog has special treats he loves). Hopefully this will enable him to relax. Take it in small steps. As soon as your dog is comfortable with the approach of another, you can try parallel walking of them (with the humans in between the dogs, and the dogs at a distance). Gradually you can try to get them closer. Eventually they may relax enough that you can allow them off leash together, and then relaxing around the house together or playing in the back yard.

 

You may want to work on learning to read your (and other dogs') body language, in order to anticipate what may happen next or to learn what is driving his behavior. Turid Rugass' "Calming Signals", and Patricia McConnell's books (she has several) are useful - in the back of "For The Love of a Dog" she has an extensive list of recommendations. (Just overlook the recommendations for any book written by Jon Katz).

 

I have been told that you should never scold a dog for growling. They'll learn to go straight to snapping.

 

Good luck and keep us posted!

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Thanks for all the comments, everyone! I like the idea of positive reinforcement around the specific dogs I'd like her to get along with. I think we'll work on that. It's also good to know what to do when they are in the house together - how to feed separately, etc. I was worried about that. I've actually never owned more than one dog at a time, so the multiple dog dynamics are a challenge!

 

I can accept her not ever being a social butterfly, I just don't want her to be the neighborhood bully :rolleyes:

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Your dog sounds a lot like Mick. Mick is well-socialized with other dogs.

 

He was fostered at a farm with several working Border Collies for the month before I got him (at 5 months). He's been around other dogs his whole life. I no longer take my dogs to dog parks because I've had bad experiences with other owners (last time a guy with a small dog was encouraging his aggressive mutt to attack bigger dogs and laughing about it). Mick will resource guard water bowls, kiddie pools (he's the kid that pees in the pool) and toys there. For the most part, he ignores other dogs that he doesn't know, unless they get in his face. Then, they get a warning. Second time, he'll go after them.

 

He's completely polite greeting other dogs in controlled settings, and is fine with dogs that he knows. He's always gotten along well with his trainer's dogs when I was doing herding lessons with him, is fine with Kelliwic's dogs (she needs to get her ass up to my house to run our dogs together, though), and has always been absolutely perfectly behaved when friends have brought their dogs to my home.

 

He simply does not like other dogs in his face, and isn't really much for directly playing with other dogs. He'll wrestle with Sinead sometimes, but that's about it. There's been a few dogs he's met on the street that he's hated right off the bat, but for the most part, he's indifferent to other dogs.

 

I don't consider it something to fix. Just how he is. Not all dogs are social. Dog parks are unnatural. Dogs are pack animals, but putting a bunch of strangers in a yard doesn't make them a pack.

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She's not just cute - she's gorgeous! (Sorry to have the wrong gender in my prior post; I hadn't had my coffee yet).

 

My last Border collie wasn't that thrilled with other dogs. Probably my fault for not having socialized her enough with other dogs as a pup. She was fine with smaller dogs or males, was more inclined to be snarky with larger females.

 

What I have found with Border collies is that when frisbees or balls come out in the presence of other dogs - the other dogs may just disappear from their radar screens. They feel they have a Job and any other dog is just a distraction. When I'm walking my 1.5-year-old dog, he's happy to greet other dogs and especially to play the "chase game", but once we reach the stream where he knows I'm going to throw sticks, he goes into Ultra Focus mode. If another dog is jumping all over him yapping at that point, he'll try to get away; if they won't stop jumping on him and yapping in his face, he'll eventually tell them off (in what amounts to relatively polite terms, in dog language).

 

Over Labor Day weekend we found ourselves at the stream with five (!) Border collies, a tricolored Aussie, and two Old English Sheepdogs, all at the same time. It was amazing to see this huge cloud of (mostly) black and white (or grey) sheepdogs responding to the promise of a stick or ball about to be thrown. (And, of course, I didn't have my camera). My dog (the speed demon in the crew) was totally oblivious to any other dog - eyes on the stick (or ball) alone. Some of the other Border collies were more interested in watching the faster-moving dogs than the stick or ball. It was fun watching their different styles. You might be interested in the observation that none really seemed to be into "playing" like the non-sheepdogs present at the time. So - if you want your dog to play with the other Border collie at Thanksgiving, you should probably consider putting up the balls or frisbees.

 

Don't know how ball- or frisbee-focused your dog is, but the photo with the frisbee made me think to warn you that (just like those analogy tests that used to be part of the SATs) frisbee::Border collie is NOT = toy::any other dog.

 

OTOH - I think Border collies get along with other Border collies better than they do with other random dogs. Personally I think there are other breeds of dogs that are put off by Border collie stares; I'm guessing they view it as a sign of aggression. And you do have to be careful not to let a Border collie "herd" other dogs; this is viewed as Extremely Annoying Behavior by many dogs.

 

Good luck and let us know how things go!

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What I have found with Border collies is that when frisbees or balls come out in the presence of other dogs - the other dogs may just disappear from their radar screens. They feel they have a Job and any other dog is just a distraction.

 

....

 

OTOH - I think Border collies get along with other Border collies better than they do with other random dogs. Personally I think there are other breeds of dogs that are put off by Border collie stares; I'm guessing they view it as a sign of aggression. And you do have to be careful not to let a Border collie "herd" other dogs; this is viewed as Extremely Annoying Behavior by many dogs.

 

Good luck and let us know how things go!

 

 

Yes, Mick is extremely ball/frisbee driven. It's his job and he doesn't like other dogs getting in the way.

 

And he does tend to intimidate other dogs with his stare. Honestly, the only breeds I've ever seen him get along well with (aside from his bizarre fascination/love with toy dogs) are Border Collies, GSDs and Pit Bulls. They tend to give him the space he wants. Sinead used to be intimidated by his stare, but she got used to it. They're good buddies now. Actually, she always liked him, but it took about a month before he'd share with her, and he'll now willingly give up toys to her. The bitches get him everytime.

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Lexi does sound a lot like Mick. And she is SO frisbee driven! The second I even put a hand near my bag (where the frisbee is carried during the walk) she's in super focus mode, and won't even go after squirrels. Nothing but the frisbee matters - it's definitely a form of work for her! Hehe. I personally think it's awesome.

 

Weirdly, her best canine friend ever was my cousin's pomeranian. He was a fraction of her size, and not neutered either, but was pretty submissive, and they would just run and play and play. But she's never liked any other small dogs that way. Strange. :rolleyes:

 

She is already starting to get better around my friends' border collie, so we'll see how things go in the next few weeks! :-)

 

She's not just cute - she's gorgeous! (Sorry to have the wrong gender in my prior post; I hadn't had my coffee yet).

 

My last Border collie wasn't that thrilled with other dogs. Probably my fault for not having socialized her enough with other dogs as a pup. She was fine with smaller dogs or males, was more inclined to be snarky with larger females.

 

What I have found with Border collies is that when frisbees or balls come out in the presence of other dogs - the other dogs may just disappear from their radar screens. They feel they have a Job and any other dog is just a distraction. When I'm walking my 1.5-year-old dog, he's happy to greet other dogs and especially to play the "chase game", but once we reach the stream where he knows I'm going to throw sticks, he goes into Ultra Focus mode. If another dog is jumping all over him yapping at that point, he'll try to get away; if they won't stop jumping on him and yapping in his face, he'll eventually tell them off (in what amounts to relatively polite terms, in dog language).

 

Over Labor Day weekend we found ourselves at the stream with five (!) Border collies, a tricolored Aussie, and two Old English Sheepdogs, all at the same time. It was amazing to see this huge cloud of (mostly) black and white (or grey) sheepdogs responding to the promise of a stick or ball about to be thrown. (And, of course, I didn't have my camera). My dog (the speed demon in the crew) was totally oblivious to any other dog - eyes on the stick (or ball) alone. Some of the other Border collies were more interested in watching the faster-moving dogs than the stick or ball. It was fun watching their different styles. You might be interested in the observation that none really seemed to be into "playing" like the non-sheepdogs present at the time. So - if you want your dog to play with the other Border collie at Thanksgiving, you should probably consider putting up the balls or frisbees.

 

Don't know how ball- or frisbee-focused your dog is, but the photo with the frisbee made me think to warn you that (just like those analogy tests that used to be part of the SATs) frisbee::Border collie is NOT = toy::any other dog.

 

OTOH - I think Border collies get along with other Border collies better than they do with other random dogs. Personally I think there are other breeds of dogs that are put off by Border collie stares; I'm guessing they view it as a sign of aggression. And you do have to be careful not to let a Border collie "herd" other dogs; this is viewed as Extremely Annoying Behavior by many dogs.

 

Good luck and let us know how things go!

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Well, Lexi and Brewer are actually in the same apartment now (Brewer's, rather then Lexi's). They're doing ok, as in not killing each other, but boy is my Lexi snarky. She instantly took over all the toys around (we moved food and beds, but forgot about toys) and she wouldn't let Brewer play with any of his toys. If he went to the toy basket, she'd go over and intimidate him away with a stare and raised lip. A couple of times she nipped at him when he was trying to play.

 

So I know I shouldn't correct growling, as it's a warning sign and I don't want her to think she should go right to the bite, but should I correct the nipping?

 

Other than that, not much we can do with this pair, other then try to get them used to each other. They're somewhat okay once Brewer realizes that Lexi won't play with her and stops trying to, but Lexi gets really upset if he's getting any attention when she's not (petting, etc.). Is that normal? Can I do anything to make it less stressful for either dog?

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Well, Lexi and Brewer are actually in the same apartment now (Brewer's, rather then Lexi's). They're doing ok, as in not killing each other, but boy is my Lexi snarky. She instantly took over all the toys around (we moved food and beds, but forgot about toys) and she wouldn't let Brewer play with any of his toys. If he went to the toy basket, she'd go over and intimidate him away with a stare and raised lip. A couple of times she nipped at him when he was trying to play.

 

So I know I shouldn't correct growling, as it's a warning sign and I don't want her to think she should go right to the bite, but should I correct the nipping?

 

Other than that, not much we can do with this pair, other then try to get them used to each other. They're somewhat okay once Brewer realizes that Lexi won't play with her and stops trying to, but Lexi gets really upset if he's getting any attention when she's not (petting, etc.). Is that normal? Can I do anything to make it less stressful for either dog?

 

Mick did that with Sinead at first. I corrected it. "Hey, knock it off" works for him. I'd go with whatever works on your dog. He did eventually learn to share (mostly) with Sinead.

 

He was never really concerned if another dog got attention over him. He just doesn't want other dogs messing with his stuff.

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Ya know, there are tons of adult herding breeds that really don't do well or need to be at dog parks.

to work on 'dog-dog' issues it is much better to have a controlled environment...

how about seeing if there is a reactive dog class nearby or a positive trainer that is versed in reactive dogs/

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