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rooze

Our Fearful Dog is Slipping...

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Hey all.

Sorry for this rather long post. I'm hoping for some help from people who've dealt with a sensitive and fearful male BC.

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Some background:

Max is a purebred BC, almost 3yrs, who has been with us since September 2017. His first owner kept him in a small apartment, and we don't know much more about him than that. His second owner, who had Max for about one year, was a disabled Veteran. We picked up Max from his home and found him outdoors in a cage in the South Carolina heat. The cage was about 6x4 so he had room to move around, but he'd been gnawing and chewing at the wooden frame and it was obvious he'd been in some distress. His owner admitted that being disabled, he didn't have a lot of time to exercise Max, and that he'd used a shock collar when letting him out in the yard. 

When we approached Max he got extremely excited, jumping up at us and just looking so thrilled to see someone, something to play with. (He still does this now when he meets certain strangers).

So we took Max home and he settled in very well. We had a one acre yard, fenced-in, and my girlfriend and I both work from home, so Max is rarely left alone. He was obviously obsessed with fetch - ball, stick, frisbee - it really doesn't matter what so long as there's something to throw and something for him to fetch.

We took him to obedience class and basic agility, but there were issues. There are some people he doesn't like and if they get close to him he'll lunge and nip. He dislikes all other animals he's met so far and sometimes he'll lunge and nip, mostly he just tries to move out of their way. He doesn't seem at all socialized around other dogs, he doesn't seem to know how to do the butt sniff introduction that most other dogs do.

We had to pull him from classes due to his unpredictable behavior.

Other than that, the only other issues we had with him in the first 10 months was that we just couldn't leash train him - he pulls and pulls. And to be fair, we perhaps haven't tried hard enough to train him on the leash as we really don't go places where he needs to be on a leash too often. We lived near the ocean so we'd regularly take him to the beach and he just LOVES the water and playing fetch.

Max really has been a great dog, he's never done the stuff that many dogs do like getting into the garbage, chewing furniture, escaping when off-leash etc. he just loves to be besides us, waiting for his regular outdoor fetch break or playing games in the house. That said, Max isn't very affectionate, he's a little aloof and likes some space. He's not into petting or hugging, he just follows us around looking forward to playing fetch.

Then we moved house.

We moved from a nice house in NC to a larger farmhouse in VA, with 50 acres. Most of the land is rented out to a local cattle farmer but we have access to it and Max has plenty of space to run around and play frisbee. We never let him out unattended. 

With the farmhouse we inherited a friendly tomcat who soon moved in the house with us. (after a couple trips to the vets for his shots etc). Things have started to go downhill with Max since we moved.

Firstly, there are certain trees on the property that drop burrs. The burrs are about the size of a marble and are sharp. He'd pick them up in his belly hair and under his armpits and they'd obviously cause some discomfort. When we tried to cut them out of him he'd get aggressive with us, snarling and snapping. When we let him go he'd run off and hide in his kennel. We mostly manage to keep him away from the burrs but he's picked them up in his long hair perhaps a half dozen times since we moved here 3 months ago. Each time has been an ordeal. The problem now is that he doesn't seem to trust us anymore, he seems genuinely afraid. 

When we call him by his name, he'll sometimes just run and hide in his kennel. If one of us is just sitting on the couch or whatever and he walks by and we try to pet him, he'll back right off then run for his kennel. Each time we have to deal with a burr issue he gets progressively more fearful. It's at the point now where he won't even let us groom him. He never really liked being brushed much, but he'd deal with it. Now as soon as we reach for the brush he'll run and hide in his kennel.

Aside from that, he clearly dislikes the cat and looks on with a very perturbed expression when we show the cat any affection. The cat tries to rub up against Max and the dog just walks away quickly. Max is very timid around the cat. Max can be eating dinner and the cat will come along and start eating out of Max's bowl and Max will walk away quickly.

Anyway, I feel like we're losing him, like he doesn't trust us anymore, and it's disconcerting. He hasn't needed de-burring in three weeks but his attitude towards us hasn't improved, he just seems to be perpetually on guard and living in fear. I feel bad for Max, he has what seems to be an almost perfect home, with two people who love him, but he isn't happy.

Any thoughts on what we can do? Does anyone have any similar stories they'd care to share, with tips on what they did to overcome the issues?

Many thanks

Rooze

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First,  welcome to the BC Boards, and thanks for taking on this dog and for coming here to ask for help now that you are having serious issues with him.

I have dealt with severely damaged foster border collies and have had some success with them, so I hope my advice is helpful to you, although without being there myself it is not easy to know the details of what will be best.

My first thought is that you need to back up completely and treat this dog as if he were a damaged and fearful dog who just came to you yesterday. This means you don't push him in any direction. don't let him roam in the area where he will get burs in his fur at all until you can gain back his trust, as doing the de-burring is clearly traumatizing him. I would, if I were in your situation, simply leave him alone a lot. don't call him. Don't reach out to pet him. Do not approach him directly. Spend time just sitting on the floor outside his crate if he is in there, or on the floor of whatever room he is in, but a few feet away, not looking at him or reaching for him. Get a cushion. Read a book. If he comes out to be near you, gently acknowledge him and pet him and speak kindly and softly to him but don't try for anything more than that. Let him be the one to choose to come to you and to limit your interactions according to his comfort level. Start from the beginning and work very, very slowly to rebuild his trust in you.

 

In order not to have him get in the burs you will have to take him out on leash. When he pulls, simply turn in the other direction and walk that way. Don't say anything, don't jerk the leash, don't turn so suddenly that the leash pulls him off balance. Just turn around and walk the other way. He runs and pulls in that direction, turn around again. This means most of your walks will be going around in small circles. So be it. Every time he takes even two steps with the leash not taught, praise him and walk in whatever direction he wants to go for as long as he is not pulling. He pulls again, turn around. Repeat. And repeat. In time he will learn he only gets anywhere by walking nicely and not pulling. Make sure to let him go wherever he wants ( not into the burrs) when he is walking nicely, and to keep praising him.

 

As for the lunging and nipping, this is a potentially serious problem and you will need to address this, possibly with the help of a qualified animal behaviorist and/or trainer who uses positive reinforcement methods. But for right now, just concentrate on gaining back his trust and allowing him to relax in the new house. This is the most important thing now, is step #1, because the other issue cannot be properly addressed until he has a relationship with you that you can use in the training. Make sure you are not walking him anywhere that there will be other people and/or dogs, so as to avoid that completely for now.

Best of luck and report back to us to let us know how it is going. This forum is a wonderful resource. 

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Oh yes, the cat. Do not allow the cat to interfere with Max's meals. Don't permit the cat to annoy or intimidate him in any way. If you don't stop this it could potentially build up a resentment in Max that might cause a blowout in the future which could be harmful to the cat. Plus, in no household should one animal be permitted to torment or intimidate another.

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Thank you for taking this boy in. D'Elle gives excellent advice ~ I've taken in one severely damaged bc, and the more I forced things, however gently, the slower she seemed to go. It's got to be the dog's choice to come to you. 

If you've a good veterinarian close to you, consider giving an anti-anxiety drug. It's not a miracle cure, but it might lower the dog's stress level enough that he can learn a little faster to trust you. I was able to use clomicalm for Shoshone, and it made a big difference. Not all anti-anxiety drugs work for all dogs ~ tried Prozac first and it didn't do anything but make her sleepy. The clomicalm (clomipramine) worked very well.

Another thing that might help is to establish a routine for him and vary as little as possible. Dogs like (so do people, really) knowing what to expect. Meals, walks, play time, etc all at the same time in the same order. My current guy as no issues other than normal quirkiness, and it does sort of shock him when something happens out of order in his day.

Best of luck and do report back.

Ruth & Gibbs

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3 hours ago, D'Elle said:

Oh yes, the cat. Do not allow the cat to interfere with Max's meals. Don't permit the cat to annoy or intimidate him in any way. If you don't stop this it could potentially build up a resentment in Max that might cause a blowout in the future which could be harmful to the cat. Plus, in no household should one animal be permitted to torment or intimidate another.

Hi D'Elle,

Thanks for the great advice in this and your previous post. Yes, I'm going to nip the cat situation in the bud by making Max's area a no-cat zone during feeding!. 
I'll take your advice also about the leash practice and keeping him away from burrs. It's sad that he seemed to be doing so well for almost a year, until we moved house, now he's regressed to a place worse than when we found him. Or at least it seems to at times. We'll get him through these trust issues. We'll persevere and never give up on him.

Rooze

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1 hour ago, urge to herd said:

Thank you for taking this boy in. D'Elle gives excellent advice ~ I've taken in one severely damaged bc, and the more I forced things, however gently, the slower she seemed to go. It's got to be the dog's choice to come to you. 

If you've a good veterinarian close to you, consider giving an anti-anxiety drug. It's not a miracle cure, but it might lower the dog's stress level enough that he can learn a little faster to trust you. I was able to use clomicalm for Shoshone, and it made a big difference. Not all anti-anxiety drugs work for all dogs ~ tried Prozac first and it didn't do anything but make her sleepy. The clomicalm (clomipramine) worked very well.

Another thing that might help is to establish a routine for him and vary as little as possible. Dogs like (so do people, really) knowing what to expect. Meals, walks, play time, etc all at the same time in the same order. My current guy as no issues other than normal quirkiness, and it does sort of shock him when something happens out of order in his day.

Best of luck and do report back.

Ruth & Gibbs

Thanks Ruth & Gibbs,

We hadn't thought too seriously about meds. The vet gave him sedatives that we give him just for his trip to the vets. The last time, even sedated, the vet wasn't able to clip his nails without Max getting really aggressive. The vet told us to take him home and get him muzzle trained. I don't want to do that until we get him back into a more balanced and secure state of mind. I'll do some research on the meds you suggested, thanks.

Point taken about routine. 

Thanks

Rooze

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I had sessions with a Vet Behaviorist.  My fearful reactive dog was put on beef flavored chewable prozac tablets for 6 months as we worked through his issues.  It helped take the edge edge off his anxiety.  He was never cured.  I had to manage him for the rest of his life.  However, we were able to take group obedience classes after that.  We were also able to go take herding lessens and compete in AKC/ASCA/AHBA trials at the started levels.   

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2 hours ago, rooze said:

The vet gave him sedatives that we give him just for his trip to the vets. The last time, even sedated, the vet wasn't able to clip his nails without Max getting really aggressive. The vet told us to take him home and get him muzzle trained. I don't want to do that until we get him back into a more balanced and secure state of mind. I'll do some research on the meds you suggested, thanks.

If your regular vet is unwilling to do a mood-affecting drug, it would be worth it to seek one out who would. The change in Shoshone was astonishing. I had a friend at the time who has Tourette's syndrome, she'd make all sorts of sounds and movements. Shonie would leave the room immediately when this friend dropped in. 2-3 weeks after we got her started on the medication, Friend came for a visit, and sat down on the floor to play with the dogs. (Most of my friends do that) Shonie was on her lap, and stayed there through the tics and noises with no problem at all. Jaws dropped open all around.

Ruth & Gibbs

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Welcome to the Boards.

Definitely good advice above. I wholeheartedly second the recommendation to consult a veterinary behaviorist (a specialization in vet. medicine) or a certified animal behavior consultant.

I've had some success w/ fluoxetine (generic Prozak) for my anxious girl, but there a re a number of meds to try if the first one, or the second, etc. doesn't work. Fear is something that causes the brain to stop working correctly, so anything you can do to help quiet the fear enough that he can access his thinking brain is a good thing, IMO.

You might want to look into the book Click to Calm by Emma Parsons (https://www.amazon.com/Click-Calm-Healing-Aggressive-Clicker/dp/1890948209). Don't be put off by it's being for aggressive dogs, though Max does have some aggressive responses making it even more appropriate for him. I've seen this approach used with great success for other kinds of anxious behaviors. I see in that link there's another book advertised, The Cautious Canine by Patricia McConnell. I have no experience with that one but McConnell's highly recommended so I doubt you could go wrong with it either.

Something that really caught my attention is his reaction to his name. Is this his original name, the one he had before you got him? Many rescues automatically change a dog's name to avoid any negative associations the dog may have with the original name. Even if it's a new name you gave him when he came to you, it does seem that he's developed some negative associations with it. A dog can learn a new name at any time in his life. Maybe it might be worth considering giving him a new one that you can be very careful only to pair with good things, almost like an acknowledgement for both him and you that he's embarking on a new and better identity.

Also be sure to pair any interactions you have with him with positive reinforcement. Often that will mean some sort of yummy treat. If you don't already have one, invest in a couple easy to use treat bags that both humans can wear all the time. Many are washable so you can fill it with Really Good Stuff like bits of cheese, cooked meat, hot dogs, etc. that he really loves. Toss him a treat if you say his name (the one he already has or a new one if you decide to change it), even if you don't expect anything from him -- and don't expect anything from him at first. All you want to do is make that name something he associates with good things. If you see him relax, quietly toss him a treat. If he's reluctant to approach you, toss him a treat when he looks your way. Later toss him a treat if he takes even one step in your direction. Make no demands of him, don't even act like you're paying attention to him, but reward anything he does that you'd like to see more of and/or indicates that he's gaining confidence or just letting his guard down. If you can learn to use a clicker (I have mine attached to one of those expandable spiral bracelets when I'm working with a dog) as described in Parson's book it'll just enhance the process.

Two of my favorite training aids for loose leash walking are cans of spray cheese and refillable camping tubes like this one sold by Clean Run. https://www.cleanrun.com/product/squeeze_tubes/index.cfm?ParentCat=54 (they also have some great treat bags too). They're also available in many camping stores as well. I'd avoid the GoToobs; they look pretty nifty but in my experience the dogs don't like the hinged cap at their noses. I have a couple that I never use anymore.

You can fill the tubes with stuff like ricotta cheese or thinned liverwurst or peanut butter (be sure there's no xylitol in PB). When you're walking with the dog on a leash you can dangle the uncapped tube at your thigh and the dog can lick tiny amounts of the contents while he's in the perfect heel position. Eventually you'll raise the tube up in front of your waist and lower it for occasional licks at longer intervals.

This isn't really the kind of leash walking that's going to work well for potty outings. You can use a long line for those to give him more freedom, using D'Elle's instructions for U-turns when he gets to the end of the line and pulls.

It's probably going to take some time for this guy to come around, so be prepared to be infinitely patient while you're helping him to learn that the world doesn't have to be a scary place and that he can trust you to keep him safe. And always remember, no matter how frustrated you may be at times, that none of his reactions are about you. He really can't control his fear. He needs time to desensitize and learn there can be a new, non-frightening normal on a day to day basis.

I'm very encouraged by your dedication to making Max's life better. Wishing you the best in this journey together. Please keep us posted on how things progress.

 

 

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Super advice here and hats off to you for committing to this pup. No need to repeat the excellent comments above. I would add that when we want our pup to play outside but there are areas we have to have off limits for whatever reason we get a 50’ training line onto his harness and having clearly established how far he can run within the limit we can throw the frisby. 

If we mis-throw and see he might run beyond the 50’ we let the line go and then casually pick it up as he runs back. It might work to keep him away from burrs with a degree of control for you and some running around for him. 

A cute little game we played with a timid rescue when we first got her was ‘ooh what’s this?’

We’d crawl around looking for treats we’d hidden and when we found them we would say ‘ooh what’s this’ and flick them just ahead of her. She saw we were sharing our finds with her. You could set up cheese or sausage hunt in your yard that can be done on a long training line. Using the nose is great exercise for dogs and can be done away from burrs, cats and other disconcerting things :) 

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21 hours ago, rooze said:

Hi D'Elle,

Thanks for the great advice in this and your previous post. Yes, I'm going to nip the cat situation in the bud by making Max's area a no-cat zone during feeding!. 
I'll take your advice also about the leash practice and keeping him away from burrs. It's sad that he seemed to be doing so well for almost a year, until we moved house, now he's regressed to a place worse than when we found him. Or at least it seems to at times. We'll get him through these trust issues. We'll persevere and never give up on him.

Rooze

This is really the most important thing - your willingness not to give up on him. You gotta believe in the dog; believe that he can learn to trust.

The other thing I learned from my foster dogs is this: don't be ambitious for your dog. By this I mean, love the dog just the way he is right ow, and if next week is different,  whether you see it as progress or regression, love him that way. Don't have in your mind that you have a certain goal for this dog or that you need to get him to a certain point. He may reach that point, he may reach far beyond that point, he may never reach that point. Just love and completely accept him just the way he is. That attitude will definitely be felt by the dog and is the greatest gift you can give to him.

My foster dog Kelso, who was the most damaged of all the damaged dogs I worked with, will never be comfortable around strangers or in strange situations. His people couldn't care less. They never ask of him something he is not comfortable to do, and they adore him. The result is that he may not be an outgoing friendly dog but he is a very happy, satisfied, upbeat, well traveled and relaxed dog who is living an excellent dog life in an excellent home. What more could one ask.

It sounds to me as if you are going to do OK with this dog. Come back here with any questions and we will all do our best to help. There will be setbacks. That is what you are experiencing now, after moving house. Don't worry about that. If you go about this the right way you can help him to become a happy dog.

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20 hours ago, GentleLake said:

You can fill the tubes with stuff like...

I forgot to add strained baby food. Meat based ones are always a big hit w/ my dogs.

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On 1/22/2019 at 6:04 PM, GentleLake said:

Welcome to the Boards.

.....Something that really caught my attention is his reaction to his name. Is this his original name, the one he had before you got him? Many rescues automatically change a dog's name to avoid any negative associations the dog may have with the original name. Even if it's a new name you gave him when he came to you, it does seem that he's developed some negative associations with it. A dog can learn a new name at any time in his life. Maybe it might be worth considering giving him a new one that you can be very careful only to pair with good things, almost like an acknowledgement for both him and you that he's embarking on a new and better identity.

Also be sure to pair any interactions you have with him with positive reinforcement. Often that will mean some sort of yummy treat. If you don't already have one, invest in a couple easy to use treat bags that both humans can wear all the time. Many are washable so you can fill it with Really Good Stuff like bit of cheese, cooked meat, hot dogs, etc. that he really loves. Toss him a treat if you say his name (the one he already has or a new one if you decide to change it), even if you don't expect anything from him -- and don't expect anything from him at first. All you want to do is make that name something he associates with good things. If you see him relax, quietly toss him a treat. If he's reluctant to approach you, toss him a treat when he looks your way. Later toss him a treat if he takes even one step in your direction. Make no demands of him, don't even act like you're paying attention to him, but reward anything that he does that you'd like to see more of and/or that indicates that he's gaining confidence or just letting his guard down. If you can learn to use a clicker (I have mine attached to one of those expandable spiral bracelets when I'm working with a dog) as described in Parson's book it'll just enhance the process.

Two of my favorite training aids for loose leash walking are cans of spray cheese and refillable camping tubes like this one sold by Clean Run. https://www.cleanrun.com/product/squeeze_tubes/index.cfm?ParentCat=54 (they also have some great treat bags too). They're also available in many camping stores as well. I'd avoid the GoToobs; they look pretty nifty but in my experience the dogs don't like the hinged cap at their noses. I have a couple that I never use anymore.

You can fill the tubes with stuff like ricotta cheese or thinned liverwurst or peanut butter (be sure ther's no xylitol in PB). When you're walking with the dog on a leash you can dangle the uncapped tube at your thigh and the dog can lick tiny amounts of the contents while he's in the perfect heel position. Eventually you'll raise the tube up in front of your waist and lower it for occasional licks at longer intervals.

This isn't really the kind of leash walking that's going to work well for potty outings. You can use a long line for those to give him more freedom, using D'Elle's instructions for U-turns when he gets to the end of the line and pulls.

It's probably going to take some time for this guy to come around, so be prepared to be infinitely patient while you're helping him to learn that the world doesn't have to be a scary place and that he can trust you to keep him safe. And always remember, no matter how frustrated you may be at times, that none of his reactions are about you. He really can't control his fear. He needs time to desensitize and learn there can be a new, non-frightening normal on a day to day basis.

I'm very encouraged by your dedication to making Max's life better. Wishing you the best in this journey together. Please keep us posted on how things progress.

 

 

Hi GentleLake,

Thanks so much for your comments.

Max is the only name he's had. Since thinking about your comments I do tend to use 'Max' when I'm being authoritative or trying to train him to do something new, and 'puppy' when I'm rewarding him. I'll have to give that more thought and maybe work at being more consistent with some of our interactions.

I think he'll come around too. Since getting feedback here we've already started to address some basic things, such as minimizing his exposure to the cat, particularly during feeding times - that poor cat just wants to cuddle with Max (and eat his food!), but the dog sees him as a major irritant!

We've tried some different things with using treats to incentivize/reward certain actions, and that does help with some things, but hasn't so far with the leash. When he get's out in a public place and there's people and noise and new distractions, he just goes into a zone and wants to head off to wherever at full speed. It's hard to break his concentration and he just doesn't react to his name in those situations. I've seen Caesar give dogs a tap on their hind quarters with his foot to snap their minds back to attention, but I don't like to do that, particularly in a public place where people are quick to judgement.

We'll keep working with him and he'll get better.

Thanks again!

Rooze

 

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4 hours ago, rooze said:

When he get's out in a public place and there's people and noise and new distractions, he just goes into a zone and wants to head off to wherever at full speed. It's hard to break his concentration and he just doesn't react to his name in those situations.

What's happening here is that he's over threshold, meaning that he's passed the point where his reactivity has kicked in and he's not able to engage his thinking brain. What you've got to do here is to keep him under threshold so that his brain is receptive to desensitization. Watch him for the subtle clues that tell you when he's reached that point so that you can become aware of what his triggers are and catch him before he reaches that threshold. The distance for dogs to be under threshold will vary from dog to dog. Some will be able to be fairly close before they start to react while others will have to be pretty far away. You have to work with your dog at whatever point is appropriate for him, before he begins to react.

4 hours ago, rooze said:

I've seen Caesar give dogs a tap on their hind quarters with his foot to snap their minds back to attention, but I don't like to do that, particularly in a public place where people are quick to judgement. 

I wouldn't worry nearly so much about other people's judgement as the fact that it's just not the most effective way to approach it. By letting the dog get to the point of reaction you're missing the opportunity to preemptively intervene while he can still engage his brain, which allows him to actually change his emotional response to whatever the trigger is. By interrupting the reaction the brain is already solidifying the reaction as the go-to response. By keeping him under threshold and rewarding for calm behavior the brain can begin to disengage from its habitual response and retrain itself to have a different, less agitated state of mind. Millan really doesn't know nearly as much about psychology and behavior modification as he'd like you to believe.

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Agree with Gentle Lake, above. The effective way to work with any reactive dog is to work in the place where the dog has not yet reacted, and then build up very, very slowly from there.  So, don't take him out to those public places at all. Take him instead to a place where there may only be one person coming alone every few minutes, or work with someone you know to practice. You can find out where the threshold is by having the person approach, and seeing how far away they are when he starts to react. Then, have that person stand three feet or 6 feet farther away than that, and start there with a lot of praise, calm voice, and treats, and have the person move closer only very slowly and over the course of several days. If there is no such place, then take him to the public place, but stay in the car and work from there.

I would also stop immediately using his name in anything other than a friendly calm voice. Using it alongside a correction will cause him to hate hearing his name. I would go a step farther and change his name completely to something with which he will have not negative associations, and never use the name alongside a correction or in an angry or frustrated tone of voice.

(JMO--Cesar Milan is an idiot.)

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I'd like to emphasize that the 'threshold', (that point at which the dog goes from sane to crazed) is slowly raised as you work with your dog and he gains maturity. So you won't be watching him like a hawk for the rest of his life. He'll get more used to more stimulation of more types. Some dogs, perhaps many dogs, will remain frightened by things like fireworks, but for the most part, as they mature, those thresholds become much higher.

Ruth & Gibbs

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This may also be slightly helpful..

My reactive pup reacts badly to strangers when they look different.. if they are very tall, he reacts. If they have a hat on, sunglasses, or anything foreign in their hand forget it.

In my own troubles with a reactive pup, I've got a thunder shirt and someone working on tellington t-touch.(which you wont be able to use until he trusts you).

Before my pup would trust me to grind his nails, I had to pick up his paw and reward many times before I even attempted. Then would hold the trimmer to him without doing anything and reward. Months later he puts up with it knowing hell get treats if he sucks it up. You can use this method with the burrs in his hair.

You could also try saying his name in different tones and giving him treats as you do this. It re-associates his name with good things.

The snapping sounds fear related and not true aggression.  When you have a reactive dog, it seems they're always on high alert. If hes getting to that point of snapping, his anxiety has reached a level he can no longer cope with.

I also noticed I tried to socialize my pup to everything as quickly as I could when he was young, and it clearly made him worse. They can take a long time to decompress from a stressful situation.  I would keep him in a comfort zone for now until he starts to be more relaxed. If hes chillin in his crate or if hes walking by, just drop treats. No pets, dont look at him. Hell associate you with good things 

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~A quick update on Max~

Thanks again to everyone who has commented. We've read through all of your ideas and suggestions and are working out how we can implement some changes into Max's routine. Changes involving exposure to the cat and managing feeding/sleep routines have been started already, along with a few other things we've gleaned from you wonderful folks!

A few days ago Max hurt his paw - he's actually split a toenail lengthways through the nail and it looks sore and nasty. Again, this has spotlighted the issues we have with him. He won't let us near him to provide any treatment. The best we've been able to do is hose his feet down thoroughly after a walk (which he deals with, reluctantly) and spray his paw with an antiseptic wash. The vet won't deal with him unless we bring him muzzled, and we haven't begun to try to get him adjusted to wearing one of those things. 

My girlfriend tried to look at his paw more closely by approaching him from the front, petting him and offering treats. When she touched his sore paw he lunged and hit her face under her eye, she now has a nasty shiner and a sore bump. So we just can't get near him. He's become so timid now that if we even look at his paw he'll run into his kennel and hide.

So things are getting really strained. He's becoming more and more 'odd' with his reticence and defensive behavior. 

Last night Lisa communicated with a border collie trainer who has given us advice in the past. There's a possibility she may help Max with some one-on-one behavior training/adjustment, but she's a 4 hour round-trip from us so it's going to be limited. (We're near South Hill, VA if anyone knows of a person within an hours drive of here who might help).

So that's just an update. We'll keep trying and hopefully things will turn around soon.

Rooze

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So sorry to hear about this. It must be very difficult to be living with this dog. I hope that the trainer you have talked with can help you, and I applaud your efforts, being willing to make such a long drive.

Not at all meaning to place blame, but your girlfriend pushed Max too quickly and too far. You have not yet reached the point where such a thing can be attempted, and she paid the price for that. It is understandable, since Max is injured, and she only did it to try to help. But this dog is going to take some time and the only way to get there is very slowly and very gradually. If you jump ahead, even for an understandable reason, it will not be successful, and it will make him go backward in his development, as  you have already noted. Perhaps it would be helpful if you think in terms of taming a wild animal. Of course that is not what you are doing, but it will take the same kind of time and patience, and progress that is so slow and incremental that the dog has time to get thoroughly used to each step before anything more is attempted. 

Please keep us informed, and I hope someone here can recommend a trainer who is closer to you.  I wish you the best of luck.

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@rooze- everyone has given you such excellent, helpful advice here, have learned just by reading along.

What stands out in my mind is the sad awareness that all of his formative days as a pup were spent in isolation, largely (caged) - and when he WAS allowed small bits of freedom, he was shocked for containment. It truly explains the aloofness, unattachment, fear and insecurity. 

You’re wonderful to devote yourself to helping Max.

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You've gotten lots of excellent advice on dealing with Max's issues in general, but specifically regarding the split toe-nail, can you tranquilize Max enough to have him accept a muzzle so you can have it treated?  Split toe nails hurt like hell.   I know this because my most stable, trusting, trustworthy, stoic, pain-tolerant, rock solid dog in the universe just about went through the ceiling when I touched his split nail.   Left to itself, the nail often will just keep re-splitting, and being in pain is not going to help Max deal with his other issues.  It's a tough situation, and I understand why your vet doesn't want to try to treat Max without him being muzzled, but there has to be some way that he can be treated.  If your regular vet can't/won't do it, call other vets, and be completely forthcoming about what Max's issues are,  until you find a vet who can work with you to treat your dog without further traumatizing him.

Here's a link to a pretty good description of broken nails in dogs. Bottom line - it's not an emergency to get treated, but some types of splits are very painful, and need to be treated when the dog is under sedation.

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1 hour ago, D'Elle said:

So sorry to hear about this. It must be very difficult to be living with this dog. I hope that the trainer you have talked with can help you, and I applaud your efforts, being willing to make such a long drive.

Not at all meaning to place blame, but your girlfriend pushed Max too quickly and too far. You have not yet reached the point where such a thing can be attempted, and she paid the price for that. It is understandable, since Max is injured, and she only did it to try to help. But this dog is going to take some time and the only way to get there is very slowly and very gradually. If you jump ahead, even for an understandable reason, it will not be successful, and it will make him go backward in his development, as  you have already noted. Perhaps it would be helpful if you think in terms of taming a wild animal. Of course that is not what you are doing, but it will take the same kind of time and patience, and progress that is so slow and incremental that the dog has time to get thoroughly used to each step before anything more is attempted. 

Please keep us informed, and I hope someone here can recommend a trainer who is closer to you.  I wish you the best of luck.

Thanks, D'Elle...you're right, of course, that we're trying to jump ahead. I think that's why we're resigned to needing the help of a qualified behaviorist...it's more about training us than it is about training Max, at this point.

17 minutes ago, Ranchhand said:

@rooze- everyone has given you such excellent, helpful advice here, have learned just by reading along.

What stands out in my mind is the sad awareness that all of his formative days as a pup were spent in isolation, largely (caged) - and when he WAS allowed small bits of freedom, he was shocked for containment. It truly explains the aloofness, unattachment, fear and insecurity. 

You’re wonderful to devote yourself to helping Max.

Thanks Ranchhand... 

15 minutes ago, Hooper2 said:

You've gotten lots of excellent advice on dealing with Max's issues in general, but specifically regarding the split toe-nail, can you tranquilize Max enough to have him accept a muzzle so you can have it treated?  Split toe nails hurt like hell.   I know this because my most stable, trusting, trustworthy, stoic, pain-tolerant, rock solid dog in the universe just about went through the ceiling when I touched his split nail.   Left to itself, the nail often will just keep re-splitting, and being in pain is not going to help Max deal with his other issues.  It's a tough situation, and I understand why your vet doesn't want to try to treat Max without him being muzzled, but there has to be some way that he can be treated.  If your regular vet can't/won't do it, call other vets, and be completely forthcoming about what Max's issues are,  until you find a vet who can work with you to treat your dog without further traumatizing him.

Here's a link to a pretty good description of broken nails in dogs. Bottom line - it's not an emergency to get treated, but some types of splits are very painful, and need to be treated when the dog is under sedation.

Ok, thanks for this, it's helpful. We'd read a lot about the problem with split nails and it looks a lot less severe than some of the cases we see online, but it must hurt like crazy and we need to bite the bullet and get him some attention. We have a call scheduled with the behaviorist this evening so we'll discuss the best way to get him sedated and treated.

Thanks again.

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Hi Rooze!
You've gotten tons of awesome and practical advice above, and I'm not the expert that a lot of these other great posters are. However, I am about to throw my froofroo/hippie dippie, but perhaps useful, two cents into the mix: along with the conscious decision to love your pup as he is today, I would add that I think dogs and especially border collies are super sensitive to our emotions and attitudes. So I would also think about (prepare for hippie dippie advice in 3, 2, 1...) consciously cultivating within yourself a mindful sense of "this is where we are right now and that's ok!" optimism. It will take some of the pressure off of you to fix it all now-now-now, and if you feel less pressure/stressy, Max might too. Celebrate every little win you get!

Wishing you all the good things!

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I agree w/Kev about being upbeat and positive. Not in a gooey, everything-is-roses-and-ice cream way, just matter of fact and pleasant about it all. Whenever I've had to do something unpleasant to my critters, I took the 'Get In and Get Out' approach, with a wee bit of soothing mixed in and a nice treat very quickly afterwards. My Gibbs is taking 2 meds for his knee right now. Grab the treat, grab the meds, pill him, hand him the treat. He's showing no hard feelings.

Ruth & Gibbs

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I read on another border collie website, that to get to touch their pups paws, they spread peanut butter on the wall, for them to lick while they tended to their paws, maybe worth a go.

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