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Hi everyone - really need some advice regarding my 10 month old border collie pup! Apologies as this will be long but I want to include as much detail.

we’ve had Roo since he was 8 weeks old and we got him from a family (his parents are working dogs) 

Roo is extremely clever and quick to learn. He knows many tricks and commands and will do them 99% of the time with no issue.

he has always been very sociable, seems to love everyone and everything! 

Unfortunately in the past month, there have been 4 instances where he has attacked me (3 times) and his dog walker (once) 

the first time was when we went away to a dog friendly hotel. He didnt seem to like the fact he could smell/hear people in the corridor so began barking loudly (had never previously done this anywhere), his tail was up and puffy and his eyes big & black. I made the mistake of coming off the bed to comfort him, as i went towards him he attacked me (punctured arm, drew blood and very bruised) i was so shocked i didn’t react. I just went into the bathroom where my partner was and had a cry. After 10 minutes we both came out, completely ignored Roo and went out for dinner. Upon our return Roo was back to normal, very happy to see us etc so we didn’t punish him. 

The second instance was on a walk with my partner - he had walked on ahead and Roo was struggling very hard to get to him, I’m the one who walks Roo the most so I was trying to get him to listen to me with treats etc, as he wouldn’t, I stepped infront of him to get his attention, Roo bit my leg and arm, again drawing blood. This time I did shout (wobbled due to shock, upset) and carried on walking, when we got to my partner he took Roo off me (this caused Roo to lunge at him angrily) my partner pulled him away by the scruff and walked home without me (to give us time apart)

the 3rd time, i was home alone with Roo and was sat between him and the front door (please note - since first attack Roo has started barking at the door but we ignore this habit and that seems to work) i was setting up a treat puzzle game when Roo suddenly went for me (barking, puffy tail, big black eyes, lock jaw) thankfully he only got my jumper. I stayed very quiet until he let go and then moved myself back a bit (i was a bit cornered so didnt want to stand up quickly) Roo just went to lie down a few feet away with his back to me. 

The 4th time, we were on a walk with his walker, her dog and another dog. As we got to the park I put Roo on his long line, he seemed very eager to get into the park so I let him go (checked no one was there first) and he beelined for a tennis ball (Roo isn’t really allowed tennis balls as he literally destroys and eats them and gets very angry possessive with them) i managed to remove the ball by bribing with treats, after a few minutes Roo was sat between me and dog walker (seemed happy, tail wagging) as she was putting a harness on him, as she was adjusting the straps he went for her (same reaction - puffy tail, black eyes, lock jaw) luckily he only got her jumper but it was very shocking. It took about 10 minutes for him to seem back to normal (we didn’t punish, we simply ignored him behaviour and put him on a short leash for remainder of the walk) as we went back to van after he bit the walker, he went for one of the dogs and unfortunately came away with a puncture in his neck (healing now) 

 

i know dogs don’t bite for no reason but i’m at a total loss. He doesn’t seem to give me any warnings (i always try my best to read his body language) 

i’ve seen a behaviourist who has told us to muzzle train him, limit my physical contact with him and avoid conflict situations (let him have all his toys, don’t go near him at meal times etc) 

Roo is honestly so loving & friendly most the time, that this has been a really big shock for me. He does seem quite submissive (he will drop and army crawl towards dogs to greet them), he rolls on his back a lot etc but never has he been violent before.

please if anyone can offer any advise, i’d really appreciate it

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Are you scared? I'd be scared if our boy bit me with the intention to hurt and as it sounds unpredictable so how do you avoid getting hurt? Do you think he can see okay? Maybe if he is visually impaired sudden shadows near his head might frighten him.

I have no experience with aggressive dogs but I reckon you are going to get some advice here that you might not like.

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Sorry to hear all this. Sounds like you are having a rough time. I would seek the advice of your vet, given the way you have described the circumstances. 

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Please find a vet behaviorist.  This is not normal for a young dog.  My bc was fear aggressive toward other dogs.  He was put on prozac and went through a process of training that raised his threshold to allow him to be more normal near other dogs.  A behaviorist that is not a vet cannot proscribe the medication.  I was able to have him around other dogs after that.  He was not cured, but I learned his triggers and how to redirect him to stop the aggression.  

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1. Attack; "I didn't react"

2. Attack; "I kept on walking until my partner took him off me".

3. Attack "I stayed very quiet until he let go and then moved myself back a bit"

4. Attack "didn’t punish, we simply ignored him behaviour and put him on a shortleash "

Get rid of this dog. This is NOT going to end well.

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First I would suggest a thorough vet check, blood work, the works. Dogs can start to show aggression when they have health problems, these range from having an injury to a thyroid inbalance. You need a vet that is onboard to really do a thorough health check, some vets don't always take this is seriously. If there is no health problem then in my opinion you need to contact a vet behaviorist, with what you describe a regular trainer is not going to be able fully evaluate what is happening. The behavior you describe is not normal.

 

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I agree you have a very serious problem on your hands, and that a full vet check up with full thyroid panel is in urgent order. I suspect from some of your word and spelling choices you're in the UK, but if you're in the US I'd send the thyroid panel to Dr. Jean Dodds at Hemopet for interpretation.

Given the severity of the incidents I agree that a consult with nothing short of a veterinary behaviorist -- that is, a qualified veterinarian who is board certified as a behaviorist -- if the initial vet check reveals nothing causative. I wouldn't risk most trainers or self styled "behaviorists" with a dangerous dog. Plus a veterinary behaviorist will have the most up to date information on psychiatric drugs that could be helpful.

9-10 months is an age where some of these things start to show up. About 3 years ago I adopted a border collie puppy from a rescue with the intention of training him as a therapy dog and as a medical alert service dog for myself. He was from an Amish farm so not well bred to begin with and I wouldn't have been at all surprised to learn there'd been a Jack Russel in the neighborhood a recent few generations back. Like your dog he was very smart, learned quickly and was very loving. At about 9 months old he started unpredictably (to me) attacking other dogs and people. It escalated quickly, no obvious medical causes and I really didn't feel I was able to deal with the intensive amount of behavioral work that would be involved for any hope of rehab to be possible, especially not to the degree that would have allowed me to use for either of my intended purposes.  So with a deeply broken heart I returned him to the rescue, where I have never seen him offered for adoption again, though admittedly it could have happened quietly and unbeknownst to me.

One last question: Have you contacted the breeder? Regardless of possible medical causes and equally regardless of how you plan to proceed with him, at the very least they should know about this development.  If it's happened before and they didn't tell you about it, IMO they're at least partly responsible if he ever (again) injures anyone, though unlikely you'd be able to legally hold them so. They should know about it before contemplating any future breedings. And they should offer to take him back and/or refund the purchase price.

Should you decide to attempt behavioral modification you may be interested in Pam Dennison's book Bringing Light to Shadow (https://www.amazon.com/Bringing-Light-Shadow-Trainers-Diary/dp/1929242174) It's not a how to book but rather a diary of her experience taking a seriously aggressive border collie through behavior modification. Not always an easy read and not always upbeat, but it's realistic for anyone who wants to know what it takes.

Finally, just wanted to take note of a few thing you wrote . . .

On 4/18/2019 at 11:56 AM, CInfinity said:

Upon our return Roo was back to normal, very happy to see us etc so we didn’t punish him. 

Punishing him "upon your return" -- i.e after the incident was over and after a significant amount of time had elapsed would have been an entirely inappropriate and aggressive (toward him) thing to do to your dog and about the least helpful thing I can imagine. No way would he have understood why he was being punished -- from his perspective he would have been being punished for whatever he was doing at the moment he was being punished, which sounds like it may have been quietly waiting for you to return. And aside from that, punishing a dog even when the incident just happened probably isn't going to be helpful anyway and could actually make him more aggressive.

On 4/18/2019 at 11:56 AM, CInfinity said:

The 4th time, we were on a walk with his walker, her dog and another dog. As we got to the park I put Roo on his long line, he seemed very eager to get into the park so I let him go (checked no one was there first) ...

Well, actually, there was someone else there; the dog walker was there. And you, whom he'd already bitten three times by then. No dog with a bite history like this should ever be permitted off leash. Even discounting you and your dog walker as "no one," which is unrealistic to do, people and other dogs can arrive without warning and in the heartbeat it takes you to realize it and react, your dog, who is much faster than you, could already have inflicted a serious bite.

You absolutely must recognize that regardless of what you may decide to do about behavior modification, right now you have a dangerous dog, and you must conduct yourself accordingly. If he bites anyone else you will be liable. And it could mean that any decisions about your dog's future will be out of your hands. You could loose him no matter what you plan to do. Please take this very seriously.

On 4/18/2019 at 11:56 AM, CInfinity said:

i’ve seen a behaviourist who has told us to muzzle train him, limit my physical contact with him and avoid conflict situations (let him have all his toys, don’t go near him at meal times etc) 

I'm not sure when in the development of his issues you consulted this person, but you're far beyond the point where simply doing these things is going to be enough. You need a much more comprehensive and longer range plan with more proactive rather than simple avoidance techniques in place than this provides.

I wish you and Roo the absolute best outcome, whatever that happens to be. Sometimes the best outcome isn't what we hope can happen, but there's a big difference between what we want and what might be in the best interest of all concerned.

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I would give this dog back to the breeder. Don't expect a refund or anything at all. Make sure they are fully aware of what has transpired and move on before it gets worse and the dog pays the price..

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I am sorry to say that I agree with Journey. Take the dog back to the breeder. Unless you want to spend all of your time and most of your money working with a certified behaviorist and working on this every day with the dog, all the while having to micro-manage him so he doesn't bite anyone else, that is your best bet. He is, sadly, a dangerous dog and unless you are truly in a position to put in the time, energy, and effort, knowing that it might turn out to be unsuccessful in the end, it is best you do not keep him. The degree and level of trouble you could be in if he bites the wrong person is not even calculable. And for him it could be disastrous.  I wouldn't take that risk, myself.

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Agree with the above 2 posts. There is your safety and the safety of others around you to consider. IF you have the money and time to commit to working intensively with her, under the guidance of a veterinary behaviorist, then get that vet behaviorist and get their professional informed opinion. And consider that they might have the same advice that either Smalahundur or Journey & D'Elle gave.

I took in a dog who had been very badly treated for most of the first 15 months or so of her life. It was very challenging, I had to be on high alert for several months before she was trustworthy. When we moved to a home that had a much smaller yard and we couldn't leave the door open for the critters to have free access to the yard during the day, she got worse. As much as I grieved when she died at around age 13, I also heaved a HUGE sigh of relief. And she never bit a human.

I'm sorry that this is what your options are, realistically, and have an inkling of how difficult this must be for you. You must place your own safety and well-being above the your dog's. Bottom line.

Ruth & Gibbs

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Is that actually a thing in your country, returning a dog like this to the breeder? This would not be an option where I live, and nobody would think twice about putting  down a dog with a bite history like this (drawing blood on several occasions).

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9 hours ago, Smalahundur said:

Is that actually a thing in your country, returning a dog like this to the breeder? This would not be an option where I live, and nobody would think twice about putting  down a dog with a bite history like this (drawing blood on several occasions).

Returning our boy to his beginnings wouldn't be an option for us.

I don't know what I'd do if I was in the same position as the OP, I know I would try everything I could to figure out why it was happening and try to fix it. But ultimately I know the advice I got would be what you are suggesting.

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Thank you for everyone's comments. 

 

Roo is the most beautiful little dude so the options of giving him back, up or even euthanasia?! is not an option for us. We love him more than anything so yes, we would try until our final days that he has a happy life.

whilst his attacks seemed unpredictable at the time, I have since been told he is actually quite an anxious pup - something I just didn’t think he was because he genuinely seemed to love meeting/seeing people & dogs. But I’ve been told that actually his actions of; dropping to the floor and crawling towards dogs (something i was previously told was a BC thing) was a sign of anxiety, putting his ears back often (something I was previously told was a sign of love) was a sign of anxiety. His attacks were more than likely that I had perhaps pushed too hard, expected too much and just wasn’t aware he felt anxious this much. 

We have been having a wonderful time together since I’ve learnt this, we walk where there are less dogs, he gets his toys at all hours (used to be removed as he would cry to a ridiculous degree with them but has now calmed down with them) and we’ve constructed a pen/run in the cafe grounds so he’s spending more time outside in his own space but can interact with people of he chooses to. He seems more content in the evenings and is listening better a bit better (i do assume some puppy adolescence comes into play too here with the not listening?)  

Ofcourse this hasn’t been fixed and will continue to be a part of our lives for goodness how long but I really believe he can and still at only 10 months old, surely there’s a chance? 

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All credit to you for looking at solutions. We had a great Pyrenean that we rescued at 9 months and he was a biter. We persevered and he turned into such a wonderful dog who became completely docile. 

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I can understand your desire to work with your pup. Please do it with the complete understanding this this is a dangerous dog as things now stand with him and take full responsibility to ensure that no further harm comes to anyone else. As has already been pointed out, the consequences for your pup could be dire and there'll probably be nothing you can do to prevent it.

For these reasons I still recommend that you engage the services of a veterinarian who specializes in behavior.

Even if you have no intention of returning him, I do think you should still inform the breeders for the reasons in my original reply.

On 4/20/2019 at 4:44 PM, CInfinity said:

...we’ve constructed a pen/run in the cafe grounds so he’s spending more time outside in his own space but can interact with people of he chooses to.

I don't believe you've mentioned a cafe before, so I'm not sure exactly what this means, but again I advise that you don't allow him to interact with other people. There's simply too great a risk that something will go wrong. What happens if one of these people unwittingly does something to trigger a bite? He's already proven he'll bite under certain circumstances that you can't predict so you will be fully liable and your dog could pay for it with his life.  Even if you believe this to be fear based (it probably is; most aggression is fear based) it doesn't mean he's any less likely to react with a bite simply because you now know what's behind it. Even though it can seem counterintuitive, fearful dog can be dangerous. I've turned down a couple potential dog sitting clients because their dogs were too fearful to be trusted.

This isn't going to be a quick fix, so be prepared for that as well.

I wish you all the luck in the world going forward.

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5 hours ago, CInfinity said:

I have since been told he is actually quite an anxious pup - something I just didn’t think he was because he genuinely seemed to love meeting/seeing people & dogs. But I’ve been told that actually his actions of; dropping to the floor and crawling towards dogs (something i was previously told was a BC thing) was a sign of anxiety,

Ack - is this true?? My 9 month old lays down and waits for other dogs and people to approach all the time! Sometimes I can't even get her to move on until they have approached. She's quite (too) friendly once they do approach, but now I am concerned. Is this her anxiety again (she has other signs: tail hair biting) or a passive/aggressive wait and pounce greeting? And if this is anxiety, what on earth can I do to help her work through it??

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3 hours ago, dananicb said:

Ack - is this true?? My 9 month old lays down and waits for other dogs and people to approach all the time! Sometimes I can't even get her to move on until they have approached. She's quite (too) friendly once they do approach, but now I am concerned. Is this her anxiety again (she has other signs: tail hair biting) or a passive/aggressive wait and pounce greeting? And if this is anxiety, what on earth can I do to help her work through it??

Apparently so! Sounds a lot like my pup too, he tail bites, and is way overly friendly with people and it’s anxiety so i’ve been told. 

When your pup lies down (you need a really good reward like dried liver or hearts) and just do your best to distract her until the people/dog have moved passed, we did it with Roo a few times yesterday and he went great with it, just carried on walking. 

Work extra hard on getting her to sit when greeting people and stay sitting - Roo will sit for like 3 seconds then jump back up in excitement but most people understand to help get him to sit again 

 

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My 10 month old jumped up at me and bit me in the face. I had cuts and a black eye. What was I doing, changing the beds, he came out of nowhere. I immediately told him off, put him in time out and virtually ignored him the rest of the day. He hasn’t done it since and I now change beds when he is out walking with my husband. I did work on hand feeding, by giving him a handful of his food each meal for a while, as I think he has a problem with resource guarding as he doesn’t like us picking up things off the floor inside or out, he will jump up and air bite. This has helped with the issues I have with mine.

I also came across Outback Dog Training Group online, they just about cover anything. Take a look there, I’m sure there will be something that will help.

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How structured is his life? Is he in his cage a lot or does he have free range of the house? He sounds a little fear aggressive. I'd say no dog parks and you need to take 100% control of his life. 

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I would like to hear from people in the know ... With a herding breed, such as our border collies, where does "mouthy" stop and "aggressive" begin?

I have found that my girl requires a lot of structure. I try to give her regular play (short fetch sessions 4 times a day) followed by a 1-hour nap. She is much, much more compliant about going into her playpen or kennel for a nap when she's had a good play session. And she requires treats--lots and lots of treats to keep her from mouthing while being pet, to get her into her playpen without argument, to regain control of a stray sock, etc.

Like several others in this thread have mentioned, my girl is super excited to meet other dogs and people. My girl loves to meet other dogs but after meeting them, she's content to just be around them, preferring to interact with the dog's owner than the dog. I've been told that this is a border collie trait. And like they've mentioned, she tends drop down the floor and let the other dog sniff. BTW, we don't do dog parks. Our interaction with other pets has been limited: dogs in her puppy class, extended family pets or the occasional friendly dog/owner we meet in the local people park.I do believe my girl is submissive, lacking in self-control, high strung, prone to anxiety (happens when crated if she hears me talking to someone in another room), mouthy and sometimes a real brat with naughty-nipping when she doesn't want to do something (go in her playpen, give up a found tissue). But I wouldn't categorize her as fearful or aggressive.

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On 4/20/2019 at 7:07 PM, GentleLake said:

I can understand your desire to work with your pup. Please do it with the complete understanding this this is a dangerous dog as things now stand with him and take full responsibility to ensure that nor further harm comes to anyone else. As has already been pointed out, the consequences for your pup could be dire and there'll probably be nothing you can do to prevent it.

For these reasons I still recommend that you engage the services of a veterinarian who specializes in behavior.

Even if you have no intention of returning him, I do think you should still inform the breeders for the reasons in my original reply.

I don't believe you've mentioned a cafe before, so I'm not sure exactly what this means, but again I advise that you don't allow him to interact with other people. There's simply too great a risk that something will go wrong. What happens if one of these people unwittingly does something to trigger a bite? He's already proven he'll bite under certain circumstances that you can't predict so you will be fully liable and your dog could pay for it with his life.  Even if you believe this to be fear based (it probably is; most aggression is fear based) it doesn't mean he's any less likely to react with a bite simply because you now know what's behind it. Even though it can seem counterintuitive, fearful dog can be dangerous. I've turned down a couple potential dog sitting clients because their dogs were too fearful to be trusted.

This isn't going to be a quick fix, so be prepared for that as well.

I wish you all the luck in the world going forward.

^^ this. Just about what I would say. Most important, do NOT allow this dog the opportunity to get anywhere near people you do not know, or children.  You will be liable, if he bites, and this could cost you a great deal of stress and money and your dog would probably be taken from you and incarcerated if not killed. You need to keep him protected and keep others protected from him.

Most aggression is fear-based. I would like to slap the person who gave you such ridiculous misinformation about the dog's body language! It is very helpful for you to know this and good for you for working with him. Nevertheless, you need to have professional help due to his bite history. Don't think it will just go away, or even get steadily better, simply because you know the root of it and are working with that. If he had never actually bitten anyone, but had just growled or air-snapped, you might be able to do this on your own. But with his history, it is extremely unwise of you to tackle this without help. 

The fact that you did not know what his body language meant (no criticism! You don't know what you have not yet learned) tells me that you are not well-experienced with dogs and dog training.  You have a dangerous dog. He can possibly be turned completely around and I applaud you for wanting to do that, but you are not experienced enough to do it on your own.  You need help from someone who is.

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7 minutes ago, D'Elle said:

...I would like to slap the person who gave you such ridiculous misinformation about the dog's body language!...

Seriously! I think I forgot to mention that.

And ditto to everything else D'Elle added.

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Ok so a little more backstory 

we got Roo in august as we had the opportunity to own our own cafe (its not a big cafe but it sits on some land, is secured with large double gates and lots of fencing around it. So since we’ve had him he’s been going to the cafe almost every day. He was with me during the 5 month building/renovations and now comes to work with us.

his daily routine is a 15 minute walk to work, an hour or so playing on the grounds with his toys and us. As the weathers been so nice we’ve enclosed a section off (with shade, water & toys) so he can sit outside -  some customers ask to see him so i go over with them and just ask they put their hand down and if he wishes, he can come greet them. I’ll bring him out on his leash periodically through the day for socialising/training to meet people properly. He has a dog walker that takes him out for an hour during the day. He gets the play when we’ve closed on the grounds and then a 15 minute walk home. Once home we generally try to wind him down, will play a game for a while but he sleeps a lot anyway.

we are seeing a vet behaviourist but have only had one visit so far

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On 4/20/2019 at 2:36 AM, Smalahundur said:

Is that actually a thing in your country, returning a dog like this to the breeder?

I was thinking the same thing! And where are all these "farms" that un-wanted and un-stable dogs always seem to be jettison off to? 

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1 hour ago, CInfinity said:

Ok so a little more backstory 

we got Roo in august as we had the opportunity to own our own cafe (its not a big cafe but it sits on some land, is secured with large double gates and lots of fencing around it. So since we’ve had him he’s been going to the cafe almost every day. He was with me during the 5 month building/renovations and now comes to work with us.

his daily routine is a 15 minute walk to work, an hour or so playing on the grounds with his toys and us. As the weathers been so nice we’ve enclosed a section off (with shade, water & toys) so he can sit outside -  some customers ask to see him so i go over with them and just ask they put their hand down and if he wishes, he can come greet them. I’ll bring him out on his leash periodically through the day for socialising/training to meet people properly. He has a dog walker that takes him out for an hour during the day. He gets the play when we’ve closed on the grounds and then a 15 minute walk home. Once home we generally try to wind him down, will play a game for a while but he sleeps a lot anyway.

we are seeing a vet behaviourist but have only had one visit so far

I’m with you on this. You have consulted a vet behaviour combo person and you are taking precautions and not giving up on your guy. I for one am rooting for you :) 

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