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AnnaKat

Training Older(ish) New Dog

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Has anyone found any resources that are useful for training rescue or rehomed adult border collies? This one is around a year old and we don't have serious issues but there are a couple areas where she has trouble.

1. Grooming: we have gone from her refusing to come near me if I'm holding a brush to she will let me pet her with the brush beside me. If I pick up the brush, she gets suspicious and if I attempt to touch her with the brush she will bite it and get jumpy before retreating to another room. It has been slow progress though and she has a mat on her belly that I need to cut off. Additionally, cutting nails is not happening and I need to get them under control soon! I'm feeling discouraged and worried that I will not be able to groom her before her coat and nails get worse. I had hoped to not have to force the issue but they can't wait much longer.

2. Putting a collar or harness on her causes her to growl and run. She is not an aggressive dog but she is very skittish and will growl when she is not comfortable. Once the collar or harness is on then she is fine. I just need to find ways to get her over her fear of it being put on her. 

3. She is terrible about pulling while on leash! I cannot take her for walks right now because I'm afraid she will hurt herself. 

She is doing very well considering. She also spends about three hours a week at my vet's office getting used to the smells and people there. She was absolutely terrified at first so we've taken it very slow. She will take food from staff now, but that's all they are able to do with her. The vet put her on gabapentin for now to see if we can bring her anxiety levels down enough to work with her on some of these issues. It has definitely helped, but she is still occasionally (well, to be honest more like frequently) like a feral dog.

My apologies for the long post. We have made a lot of progress in some areas (she loves to snuggle and be petted by me and she seems to prefer to be with me all the time now) but in others areas we are struggling a tad bit. It's more difficult by the fact that she will only allow my husband and me near her. No one else is able to touch her.

I love her dearly and she is a wonderful girl. But I could use a bit of help if anyone has any advice!

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I took in a semi-feral dog who had been in rescue for several months. I was advised to go super slowly, and told I was asking too much of her even when I thought I was already going slowly.

So, slow down even from where you are. Decide what is the Number One Most Important Thing to deal with and work on that, and that alone. Spend the rest of the time getting her used to living with you and hubby. 

If it were me, I'd back off on the vet visits, (those alone might be using up whatever capacity she has for dealing with new things) The ONLY thing I'd work on right now is building her trust with humans. Does she let you  and/or hubby pet her? If she does, you've got a great start. Has she bitten either one of you? If she's bitten you you need to find a veterinarian behaviorist. They are not thick on the ground, but some will do phone consults. Do Not Work With Anyone Who uses leash pops or choke chains. 

Work on getting her to enjoy being handled. That can become the basis for everything that follows. Take it very, very slowly, 2or 3x slower than you think you need to.

I'd work on handling issues first. Pet her, figure out where she likes to be scratched or petted firmly. Do that. Do A LOT of that. Make sure you scratch her neck and chest area, where a collar or harness will fit. You can gradually transition to approaching her with a collar/halter and laying it on the ground a distance away from her, very gradually moving it closer to her.   I'm talking weeks, not days. When you need to put a collar on her,  do it quickly with no fuss and no baby-talk, very matter-of fact. You might also think about getting her accustomed to a muzzle, perhaps do that first.

You can try using very, very high value treats with the harness. 'Prime' the treats first. Show the harness, give a treat. Put harness away. Do this for a while, several days at least. 

If you want further suggestions, let me know. ETA - if you're not seeing good results with the gabapentin, you can try clomicalm ~ clomipramine. It worked absolute miracles with my Shoshone

Ruth & Gibbs

 

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Yeah, baby steps. Just let her live and acclimate on her own time with no avoidable pressure from you.

I also wonder about the advisability of spending that much time at the vet's office. It's not exactly a low stress environment in general with lots of stressed and fearful animals coming and going. Dogs can smell fear, even if they can't see the animal.

I'm hearing that integrative vets are having very good results with microdosing CBD oil for anxiety. PM me if you'd like contact info for a vet who I think would work with by phone.

 

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Thank you all for your comments.

Re: peanut butter... oddly enough she does not like peanut butter! She does like hot dog and cheese but even they aren't high enough reward for her to do just anything.

Vet visits: I hadn't thought about that being too much for her. It's separate from the vet itself and is a daycare they run. The times I take her they only have 1 or 2 other dogs and she gets to work with a trained behaviorist so I thought the benefits would outweigh the negatives. At first, I just walked her through and then we left. She didn't like going inside at first but now she runs in. I may try skipping those visits though and see how she does.

Handling: she is doing wonderfully with this! I can handle her without issue and she seeks out petting from us. I can even pick her up if necessary and she is fine. I can play with her paws, move her around, and she is fine with it. It's holding something (like a brush or nail clippers) that creates an issue. The anxiety isn't generalized to anything else though--books, sticks, cups, phones, etc. do not bother her so the anxiety about me holding an object is focused on the items directly related to her. Ex. brush, nail clippers, harness. She is fine with a leash being clipped on, but something about the harness or collar worries her. I tried a harness that did not have to go over her head first (thinking it was having something above her coming down towards her that upsets her) and wrapped around her body but she did not like that either. 

Urge to herd: Thank you! I feel better knowing that slow progress is normal. I suppose I was feeling that her slow progress meant I was not doing something correctly. But looking back, she has made so much progress! I need to remember that.

GentleLake: my vet hasn't mentioned CBD oil. I need to look into that and ask the behaviorist if she has any experience with it. If they don't then I'll PM you for the contact info. Thank you!

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Just some suggestions to try for really high value treats - have you tried something like liverwurst, or blood pudding?  Smelly and messy but that may be attractive to her.  Otherwise roasted chicken, crispy bacon, pieces of tuna or sardines (ideally baked into treats so less messy - there are several recipes on here and on the internet).  My dogs go nuts for cinnamon donuts and homemade Anzac biscuits (Chewy oatmeal and coconut biscuits - an Australian and New Zealand tradition).  Obviously sugary things are very much in moderation, and require tooth brushing!   Maybe try several things until you find whatever is the highest value treat for your dog; they will all have their own tastes.  And maybe she will not be terribly food motivated, but at least you can say you tried lots of things.

 

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2 hours ago, Lawgirl said:

Just some suggestions to try for really high value treats - have you tried something like liverwurst, or blood pudding?  Smelly and messy but that may be attractive to her.  Otherwise roasted chicken, crispy bacon, pieces of tuna or sardines (ideally baked into treats so less messy - there are several recipes on here and on the internet).  My dogs go nuts for cinnamon donuts and homemade Anzac biscuits (Chewy oatmeal and coconut biscuits - an Australian and New Zealand tradition).  Obviously sugary things are very much in moderation, and require tooth brushing!   Maybe try several things until you find whatever is the highest value treat for your dog; they will all have their own tastes.  And maybe she will not be terribly food motivated, but at least you can say you tried lots of things.

 

Thank you for the suggestions! I hadn't thought of most of those and I'm sure they will tempt her. 

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