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Hi y'all

The shelter I volunteer at seems to be having a rash of BC surrenders around the age of 6 months to 1 year. Is this the usual age the owners (who have various excuses, none of which I really believe any more) start thinking, "OMG, this thing has no off-switch"? Actually as far as I can see, they most certainly do have that switch but it is usually only accessible after you have worked their brains and body enough...just wanted to be able to give color why they might be being surrendered when I talk to potential adopters.

 

Also...as I am totally falling for the breed (had been a GSD/Mal afficionado all my life) I was looking for some advice on how to manage their shelter time. My observation has been that they deteriorate very rapidly in the shelter, go OCD quickly and drive everyone around them nuts. I have been handling this by just breaking them out of jail and taking them out all day to trail run with me, chase balls and do as much obedience/trick work as my rather questionable mechanics will allow. The current one is sleeping quietly at my feet after a 20k run (probably 40k in his case with all the fetch we played along the way)...but I know if I move I will get that intense "What's next?" look I am falling in love with.

 

Anyhow... Any thoughts and advice on how to manage the shelter time and prepare them for being adopted would be helpful as, despite all the farming in this country (and sorry I don't know any sheep either), there aren't any BC specific rescues around here (and I don't think I will survive the required trail mileage, fun tho' it is)...

 

Thanks, Tim

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Around 6 months a dog stops being an adoring, adorable puppy and becomes a teenager: aka a mischievous tornado in a full-sized dog suit. So yes, you're basically right. People realize exactly how much they signed up for when they adopted a highly intelligent dog with no way how to handle them.

As far as handling the dogs, I would absolutely not be taking them for 20K runs. Dogs learn to expect what you give them. If you get them used to making the most out of short walks and mental games, that's what they'll do. If you get them used to long runs and a ton of attention, then the second you can't give them that anymore (either because they got adopted, fostered, or you left) they will fall apart and no one wants a dog that needs a 20K run each morning to be calm. I know that it's hard in this situation - physical exercise is an easy fix and there's a fine line between keeping them from going crazy and setting them up to be crazy in the future. But you really need to focus on giving them the kind of activity that wears them out by making them think, teaching them to entertain themselves, and most importantly teaching them that it's a good thing to have down time.

The most vital thing you can teach these dogs right now is how to be happy with peace and quiet. When you do any activity with them, separate it into chunks with periods of time crated/penned with a stuffed kong or good chew toy. Praise for quiet behavior. Teach them "last one" (exactly what it sounds like, when you're throwing a toy, doing a trick, etc) and "all done"/"that'll do" or some other word that means "good work, now we're done, we aren't playing anymore, i'm going to go do my own thing" (this is when you put them away).

 

If you are going to work them out vigorously, make it an occasional treat, not the norm. I wouldn't throw balls for them, again you don't want to start creating a ball-obsessed dog any more than they already are because you never know what the new owner is going to want. When you go on walks, hide treats or toys in the grass or behind treats and let them sniff them out. Teach them some adorable tricks to show off to potential adopters (a super easy super endearing one is teaching them to give a kiss - either a lick or a nose touch on a person's cheek). Things like that - mind things.

Thank you so much for working with these dogs. Good luck!

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Thanks for caring and for trying so hard with these dogs. I will second what chene says above about not conditioning them to expect long runs on a daily basis, but I doubt that you are doing that on a daily basis with all of them. As an occasional treat, it is a great idea. Just getting them out of the shelter is a good idea.

 

As for teaching them to fetch, there are different schools on thought on that. Some people won't do it because they don't want a fetch-obsessed dog. I deliberately taught Jester, my male BC, to fetch first thing, so that I would have a way to exercise him no matter the weather, the place, or my health, and I have never regretted it. Is he obsessed? Of course. Does that make him hard to live with? Of course not, because I also taught him that we play fetch only when I say we do, and we stop when I say stop and then the toy is put away and it is time for him to chill.

 

My very best advice for you, though, is to get those dogs out of the shelter and into a good border collie rescue as fast as possible. I don't know where you are, but I hope that there is a border collie rescue nearby. BCs do tend to deteriorate fast in a shelter environment, but letting a rescue inexperienced with border collies take them, or people who don't understand border collies adopt them just to get them out of the shelter is just as bad, because they may just bounce back again.

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Yes! Kongs are great for all dogs, but especially border collies! If you can stuff and freeze them it's even better because they have to think about how to get out all the food.

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It's very common to see people dumping border collies that were Christmas gifts starting at about this time of year.

 

What the folks have said above is correct, and you're also right that they tend to shut down in shelter environments pretty quickly.

 

Can you get any of them into foster homes? It would be ideal if you could get them into border collie rescues, but foster homes would be an alternative if possible.

 

You don't say where your shelter is, but maybe some of the people here who volunteer with BC rescues may be able to help you network. But it would be good to know where you're located.

 

I'd adopt one in a heartbeat if I hadn't just adopted one in January.

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Kudos to you for going above and beyond the call of duty for the sake of these young dogs!

 

I would reiterate what others have said, that mental exercise is really more important than physical exercise. If you train them to expect high levels of activity, they will require high levels of activity.

 

Also, remember that these immature animals are still too young for such extensive repetitive activity (the running, and also the jumping that may accompany ball or Frisbee play) as their bones and joints are still growing. Their growth plates don't completely close until up to 15 to 18 months of age.

 

These dogs are very fortunate to have you as a volunteer!

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Thanks very much for the advice. It was very helpful. I will modify my approach.

 

I am in New Zealand. Does anyone know if there are any BC rescue organizations over here?...can't find any

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Well, I'm afraid a quick search didn't yield any rescues in NZ, but I didn't find this fairly new FB page: https://www.facebook.com/bordercollierescuenz/timeline

 

Perhaps at the very least your shelter would be able to post the dogs you have.

 

Of course, you could always start a border collie rescue. It sure sounds like one is needed. ;)

 

Thanks for doing what you can for these dogs.

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