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mkdlin

Thoughts on BC intolerance to dogs

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I've had a lot of discussion with other dog owners on this topic lately, and since it pertains specifically to my border collie (female, 1 year 8 months old), I would like to see what everyone's thoughts on the topic are.

Here's a quick overview:

  • Our BC tends to be very intolerant of other dogs, in a few specific cases that we have observed:
    1. After greeting a dog and she does not seem interested in continuing the interaction, if we don't keep walking (and she's leashed) and the other dog keeps attempting to sniff her, she will show her teeth
      • Typically we can tell if she wants to continue the interaction by whether or not she sits down, flips over her stomach, or invites the other dog to play (if she sits down and we don't leave, there's a good chance that a few seconds later she will show her teeth to that dog)
    2. When she's drinking water in the park and other dogs approach when she's not done drinking yet, she will show her teeth
    3. When she's tired after exercising and laying on the grass, if a dog approaches (within say a 6 ft radius), she will show her teeth
    4. After playing with a dog for a while and she's tired and wants to rest, if that dog keeps going up to her, she will show her teeth
      • As humans, our first thought is - "you're the one who wanted to play with her! now you're getting mad at her..."
    5. In an indoors situation, if it's not a familiar dog, she is also more likely to show her teeth whenever the dog walks in her direction or gets too close
  • And in general, she avoids interacting with dogs on walks when they seem visibly aggressive or overly hyper
  • She has no problem being around dogs that treat her like thin air
    1. Especially, the male border collies in our neighborhood who all seem to ignore her completely and don't even look at her
    2. For a few of these male BCs she will keep trying to lick their mouth/face
  • She also has no problem being around dogs that have "put her in her place" when she was a puppy
  • She is not protective of toys, food, water, etc. with humans at all, and she has never tried to bite or nip at humans either (except when she was very young)
  • There was another BC in our neighborhood where on a typical day, our dog will invite him to play. But when she's not feeling well (e.g. on her way to the vet), if he tries to get close to her, she will show her teeth.
  • There was yet another female BC in our neighborhood who's your typical overly playful/hyper dog. Initially our dog would show her teeth to that BC quite often, but nowadays seems completely fine with her (it looks almost as if they're "good friends" these days). We've noticed that the other dog has toned it down a lot and only plays when invited.

As human beings, it's natural for us to wish/want our dogs to be more tolerant of other dogs. For example, we think - why is it that our BC can approach other dogs, but they can't approach her?

But at the same time I also think we do not need to force our dogs to accept the presence of other dogs that they just don't seem to like. It just does cause us a small inconvenience when other owners think that we have an aggressive dog.

So I'm interested in knowing what people think about this type of situation:

  1. Should this behavior of constantly warning off other dogs be "corrected"? (i.e. training them to enjoy the presence of other dogs)
  2. Are BCs more likely to exhibit this type of behavior than other breeds?
  3. What would you do if your dog has this same behavior?

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I have four BC boys. 

One is quite wary of other dogs, and by and large will bark at them to try and keep them away unless he knows them quite well, but it is a "bark, bark, see I am big and scary, please stay away from me, pretty please" type of frightened bark.  He has learned to tolerate other dogs being near to him if we are with him while he is on lead, but he is uncomfortable, and we do not push him to greet or play with other dogs.

Another dog can be quite reactive to certain dogs, i.e. big black dogs (even labs!), boxers and a range of other dogs, especially when he is on lead.  Other dogs he will go up and greet, but then we need to take him away or things will escalate.  Off lead, he reacts better and is more inclined to play, but his idea of play is to chase, which is not every dog's idea of fun, and so we need to be watchful then too.  Overall, he is best with other working dog breeds.

One dog (our entire male) is entirely too fascinated with sniffing the private parts of other dogs.  He will sniff them far past what is polite, and to the point of angering the other dogs, so we tend not to have him off lead with other dogs.  Also, his recall is not the best, so we only let him off lead in enclosed areas.

Our last dog, the youngest, is by far the most even tempered and outgoing of our dogs.  I have not yet met a human or dog he does not get on with.  He has played with a giant breed dog who was climbing all over him, and he was perfectly calm and happy.  He is interested in all dogs, does not react when barked or snapped at, and would, I think, be a wonderful therapy dog for nursing home visits etc, if I had the time for it.  

I do not believe in overly correcting warning behaviour such as growls, so long as they are warnings, not aggression.  I do not want to teach my dog not to react until it bites.  Familiarising my dogs with others? Yes, this is good.  Teaching not to warn, not good.  You can desensitise without correcting the warning behaviour.

I do not think BCs are more prone to display this behaviour than other breeds necessarily.  There are some breeds which are less likely to display it, but most breeds are equally likely to display it, and some, particularly those bred for guarding (either livestock or property), which may well display it more.

So what do I do with my dogs?  I take them to dog club (obedience training) where they may or may not meet other dogs and have either a brief "meet and greet" or a more extended play on lead before class, before working through training alongside other dogs.  But mostly, they have us and each other, and we go to a local sports park, where they get to run around a baseball diamond, chase each other, and, if other dogs approach, they meet through a chain link fence, which minimises risk of injury.  Or we take them to a local beach, where they run around off lead because there is no one else around.  I am a very big believer in avoiding and managing risk rather unless you can be absolutely sure of what will happen.

 

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My dog doesn't enjoy the company of most dogs we encounter. Most dogs are too "in her face" and excited for her taste. Unfortunately these dogs usually don't listen to her when she asks them to back off politely or walks away, so sometimes she raises her hackles and barks at them to scare them off. With some dogs she does this before meeting. 

When she starts barking before we meet a dog I call her to me and if I can we avoid the dog or if we can't we walk past them without pausing to meet. Luckily, this rarely happens. 

I never let her meet a dog while she is on a leash. And because my dog rarely likes to play with strange dogs (and I rarely like to socialize with strangers) I tend to avoid most dogs. I do however try to meet some friendly dogs to practice friendly meetings. I can usually tell from a distance whether it is a dog she will like, the laid back quiet type or most border collies. I keep meetings short, I tend to not pause but walk slowly so she can do her thing. I might stay and chat to the owner if she really enjoys the meeting.

Mostly she does the same thing I do: say hello and walk on. I have to say I like it best this way.

 

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7 hours ago, mkdlin said:

 

  1. Should this behavior of constantly warning off other dogs be "corrected"? (i.e. training them to enjoy the presence of other dogs)
  2. Are BCs more likely to exhibit this type of behavior than other breeds?
  3. What would you do if your dog has this same behavior?

 

1-) No.  Because the root of this is 'I don't want you around, go away'.  Correcting it is not going to lead to an increase in the dog wanting other dogs around. Ergo, it's useless at decreasing the behavior.  You want it to decrease you stop putting the dog into situations where it needs to do the correcting itself.   You prevent the behavior and sometimes, if you get lucky, dogs will mellow some about it because they're not on edge EXPECTING to need to do it every time they are in the presence of other dogs.   You will absolutely not train them to ENJOY other dogss when they don't.

 

2-) Yep!   It isn't unique by a long shot - lots of other herding breeds and terriers and working breeds have this - but it's common in BCs too.   If you want a 'loves everyone' super dog-tolerant, wants to play with other dogs as an adult, you need to look hound or sporting (but only some of both, because there are a few in the mix of even those groups who are not fans).

 

3-)  Both my BC and BC X DO have these behaviors.  What I do is not ask my dogs to play with strange dogs and tolerate rude dogs.  That's... really literally it.  They are AROUND other dogs, all the time - doing various dog sports and training for same - and they're cool.  As long as they're left alone.  That's absolutely okay by me. The BC X used to be a super friendly to all dogs pup.  Then about 18 months he got less tolerant.  No reactivity bu t he's not putting up with other dogs being assholes and that's fine by me. It's just the dog growing up instead of remaining a derpy puppy.

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You've already gotten excellent information and advice. I don't like everyone I meet and I don't expect my dog, (or any dog, really) to like every dog they meet. 

My Gibbs has a sweetness for puppies and small dogs, which is delightful to see. However, he does appropriately correct puppies when they bite too hard or when he's given them signals that he's done playing and they don't agree. He's teaching them manners. With dogs closer to his size, that dog gets one warning. It's up to me, the human, to take care of the situation. 

I don't go to dog parks anymore and I absolutely light up when someone tells me, "Sorry, my dog doesn't like other dogs"  I thank them, tell them I understand, and everybody goes safely on their way.

Many humans are not dog savvy. I once had to put a now-departed bc of mine on a chair behind me. There was another person in a small room with me & Shonie ~ with a small dog who kept approaching MY dog. I asked her to please restrain her dog, as the little bit of fluff was barking and yanking at the lead. She got very offended and said, "Ob, she JUST wants to say hi!" 

I responded with, "My dog doesn't like other dogs". I didn't tell her that my dog would likely kill her little bit of fluff, just kept myself between her Fluffy and certain doom. 

We have to protect our dogs AND other people's dogs even when the other people are clueless. Cpt Jack's rule # 3 is spot-on. 

Ruth & Gibbs

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There's almost nothing that blows my mind more than people getting dragged by their barking dog coming full speed at mine saying 'they just want to say hi'.

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Here's a view from an evolutionary perspective. . .

Border collies and many other herding breeds retain more instinctual behavior than some other dog breeds.  This includes social behavior and signals.  When a herding breed dog is approached by another dog, the herder will usually give the appropriate social signal which reflects it's attitude toward the approaching dog.  This may be fear, dominance, caution, playfulness, curiosity, submission, etc.  This usually works well when the approaching dog also has these instinctual behaviors intact--in other words, they can communicate.

But many breeds of dogs no long have these instinctual signals, and can't recognize them anymore.  Think of the Bichon Frise who approaches all other dogs with an aimless, mild curiosity, or the Labrador charging in oblivious to the other dog's reaction, or the bully breed who no longer can even give the facial cues and has, in fact, been bred not to do so.  Dogs with intact social behaviors really do not like any of this!  They give their (correct) signals, but don't receive the appropriate response, or any response, or the opposite of the appropriate response.  It is rather like how we humans feel when a stranger approaches who is muttering, shouting, twitching, staring at us, ignoring us, acting fearful, acting aggressively--in other words, not giving any of the appropriate social signals.

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1 minute ago, Michael Parkey said:

Here's a view from an evolutionary perspective. . .

Border collies and many other herding breeds retain more instinctual behavior than some other dog breeds.  This includes social behavior and signals.  When a herding breed dog is approached by another dog, the herder will usually give the appropriate social signal which reflects it's attitude toward the approaching dog.  This may be fear, dominance, caution, playfulness, curiosity, submission, etc.  This usually works well when the approaching dog also has these instinctual behaviors intact--in other words, they can communicate.

But many breeds of dogs no long have these instinctual signals, and can't recognize them anymore.  Think of the Bichon Frise who approaches all other dogs with an aimless, mild curiosity, or the Labrador charging in oblivious to the other dog's reaction, or the bully breed who no longer can even give the facial cues and has, in fact, been bred not to do so.  Dogs with intact social behaviors really do not like any of this!  They give their (correct) signals, but don't receive the appropriate response, or any response, or the opposite of the appropriate response.  It is rather like how we humans feel when a stranger approaches who is muttering, shouting, twitching, staring at us, ignoring us, acting fearful, acting aggressively--in other words, not giving any of the appropriate social signals.

Absolutely on the nose.

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Also re: Michael's post:

I find it particularly telling that my BC will parallel play HAPPILY with other dogs who are reasonably sensible - she'll even share toys, or back off to let them have it.  She is by and large a submissive dog.


She just really.  really.   gets upset and confused and apparently mad at dogs who are acting 'weird'  or exceedingly rude.  Like the ones who COME BACK AFTER A CORRECTION.  certainly she is not going to put up with a dog trying to jump on her or hump her.


My ACD/BC is much the same with the second point but not submissive and is possessive so that adds some complication to the mix.  

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Interesting. I've never really thought of it that way. I do see the difference in behaviour in breeds, but hadn't thought of difference in instinctual behaviour.

I think owners have a huge influence though in helping their dogs be more social. I have met very polite labradors that my dog liked, which almost never happens because most labrador owners want their labradors to be boisterous with other dogs and people and unable to read social cues. (Or at least the ones I meet)

I've been told by friends my dogs are boring and don't behave like "real" dogs, just because they are polite. And perhaps because they are border collies and are so focused on me. They expect dogs that "do their own thing" and invade their space and be excited ALL the time. I feel a lot of dog owners are like that and the result is you get a very different dog. 

Same with children, they have to learn social cues too and if you don't help them it may end in disaster.

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I do think owners can help their dogs not be so obnoxiously rude to other dogs, but mostly it is a matter of teaching the dog that they are not always allowed to play with other dogs and should focus on the task at hand. 


Because let me tell you even the very best well trained I know, with high level obedience, are still rude asses when they do play. 

 

Except one.  And she's not trained a bit differently than the rude ones, she's just a very different dog, bred for a very different purpose. 

 

Playstyle is pretty immutable in dogs.  Ie: If a dog wants to body slam and wrestle you can train until you're blue in the face, the dog wants to body slam and wrestle. Which goes over about as well as a lead balloon with most herding breeds.

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52 minutes ago, CptJack said:

I do think owners can help their dogs not be so obnoxiously rude to other dogs, but mostly it is a matter of teaching the dog that they are not always allowed to play with other dogs and should focus on the task at hand. 


Because let me tell you even the very best well trained I know, with high level obedience, are still rude asses when they do play. 

Yes exactly what I meant! :) 

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Lots of good points made :)

Although I think the one somewhat uncertain observation for me is whether or not the dog that has just been “corrected” by my BC is actually being rude. For example, there are cases where I feel like my BC is warning a dog off just because she’s tired (a minute ago she was just playing and running around happily with that dog). Or cases where my BC is lying there, and another dog is slowly  (really slowly) walking over, but once that dog gets within a certain distance of my BC she will also warn the dog off. In these cases, it doesn’t look at all like the other dog is being rude. So while I totally understand that rude dogs should be corrected, what about these cases where those dogs aren’t really rude to begin with? 

To some extent, it seems like she feels that any approach made by her to other dogs is OK, but not the other way around. 

Perhaps the solution is to be even more diligent on bringing her away from other dogs when she’s done greeting or playing, if we want to completely avoid these situations.

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2 minutes ago, mkdlin said:

Although I think the one somewhat uncertain observation for me is whether or not the dog that has just been “corrected” by my BC is actually being rude. For example, there are cases where I feel like my BC is warning a dog off just because she’s tired (a minute ago she was just playing and running around happily with that dog). Or cases where my BC is lying there, and another dog is slowly  (really slowly) walking over, but once that dog gets within a certain distance of my BC she will also warn the dog off. In these cases, it doesn’t look at all like the other dog is being rude. So while I totally understand that rude dogs should be corrected, what about these cases where those dogs aren’t really rude to begin with? 

Good questions! 'Correction' might not be the exact right word for some dog-to-dog interactions. A dog has limited means of communicating, compared to a human. They have body language and a few different kinds of vocalizations. They can't say, "No, thank you, I don't want to interact with you right now" in a polite way, as I might say to a stranger who approached me in a social setting. They can growl or snap, they can tense up and stare at the approaching dog or try to move away from the stranger dog, or they can attack and drive the dog off. If the approaching dog is clueless, in terms of canine communication and ignores the first options, then my dog is left with snapping/biting and driving the other dog away. 

Early on in bc ownership, I watched my first bc do her best to avoid a dog who was trying to play with her, while she was busy playing fetch. Sam whirled, turned and evaded several times as this other dog sought to engage. And then she turned in a flash and became a small cyclone of teeth, growls and fur. I was appalled, as I was ignorant of what I'd just seen. Today, when that sort of thing happens, I intervene much earlier. I'm always focused on my dog's body language and when he shows anything other than mild interest it's time for me to move my dog away from the irritation.

What seems rude to a dog is different from what seems rude to a human. I also believe that a LOT of dog-to-dog communication is unnoticed by 95% of humans. 

Ruth & Gibbs

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1 hour ago, urge to herd said:

I also believe that a LOT of dog-to-dog communication is unnoticed by 95% of humans. 

Truer words were never spoken, especially because we are largely "blind" to the dog's most important sense:  smell.

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Secondarily to urge to herd's remarks I'd like to add:


If the dog doesn't respond to an air snap or growl by going away, they are rude in continuing to approach.


And in elaboration of dog communication going unnoticed, I'd be willing to bet your dog is at least trying to communicate 'please go away' or 'not now' long before those other dogs are close enough to be snapped at - sometimes by something as simple as turning her head away.   Not necessarily true, but probable enough I'd put actual money on there being something there that's going unnoticed by the humans.


Which means the continued approach is somewhere between oblivious or rude and in either case the dog has resorted to stronger language.

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