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Everything posted by MeMeow

  1. Another thing you can try with the crate is to remove the door (depending on the crate you have). I got my dog from the shelter and she was verrrry hesitant to go anywhere near the crate, and didn't trust bathrooms or closets either. Taking the door off meant it freaked her out a lot less. I started feeding her all her meals near the crate but far enough away she was relaxed, moved her food closer and closer each meal as she got more comfortable, then fed her first at the front of the crate and then moved the bowl towards the back. I only put the door back on when she was totally happy hanging out inside. Then fed with the door propped open, then with me moving it, then with me hitting it against the frame but not actually latching it, then opening and closing it a couple times while she ate. The last step was to actually shut it the whole time she was eating, and then start giving her more and more time before I opened it again. This sounds like a lot but I think the whole progression only took 2-3 weeks, and by the time I'd started feeding her in the crate she'd go running in while I walked over with the bowl. I always escalated a little slower than necessary so that she was really enthusiastic about the whole process, and by the time I was playing around with the door she was completely unconcerned with it. You want your dog to be relaxed and happy to eat, not freaked out the whole time. Mine is a total food hound so that probably helped...
  2. Nala was like this when we got her. She bonded with me and my husband very quickly, and from then on, no one else in the world mattered much to her (although once she got to know our families she greeted them affectionately as well). Then she learned the other owners at agility class have treats, and that the man behind the counter at the pet supply shop has treats, and so does the lady at the hardware store....and now she will often approach strangers with a wagging tail and sit at their feet. I'm glad she's comfortable enough to approach them (she used to be quite shy). But now I do have to keep a closer eye on her since not everyone likes dogs.
  3. I agree with GentleLake--aggressive lunge biting and "something more serious" (?) is a bit beyond the pale, and way beyond what's acceptable from an off-leash dog. I only walk my dog in places where leashes are required because I've worked very hard with her to overcome her dog reactivity. She sometimes doesn't do well even with very friendly off-leash dogs. If I ran into your dog in a city park and she started aggressively biting mine, I would be terrified and furious. Some laws are there for a reason, you know? As far as being able to take your dog places, you should think about what your goals are. Free play at the dog park? That's going to take a lot of work and may be impossible. Hanging out on leash at the local brewery? You might just need to get comfortable saying "my dog isn't friendly". As long as all dogs are on leash and the owners are paying attention, it shouldn't be an issue if you never let the dogs meet.
  4. So glad to hear things are easier now. It's often a long road but getting started in the right direction can be the hardest part! Hope things keep getting better and better
  5. I am probably more risk adverse than most people here, but I would never let my dog off-leash near a busy road, no matter how good her recall was. I never want to be in a situation where overconfidence in my training could cost her her life. All it takes is a moment of inattention from either the dog or a handler, or a scenario you haven't proofed thoroughly enough and there are no second chances. I would keep him on a long line near the road, and look for parks or trails away from streets to give him his off-leash time.
  6. You're on the right track, but expect it to take some time for him to figure it out. I also got an adult rescue who came house trained and "polite" (from day one she would leave food alone if you asked her to) but I don't think she had ever learned sit/stay/come etc. It took a long time to get "sit" consistently--maybe 3 or 4 weeks. Looking back, this was partially my own incompetence, but I also think it was the first time in her life she was asked to do something in response to a command. Once she got that it was off to the races, now she does all the basic stuff plus a bunch of tricks. There is so much stuff a new dog has to figure out that we take for granted--what all the different sounds mean, the layout of a new space, daily routines, how to interact with all the new people, which spots I should/should not sit or lie down in (like deciding that under the desk is a good place to nap but behind the rolling chair is not so good!). If your new dog's getting anything you say to him in the first week he's a rockstar. Right now, management is going to be your friend. Have him drag a leash in the house and figure out spots you can tether him so he's out of harm's way, go ahead and use the crate when he needs to settle down, and maybe get baby gates or one of those x-pens for when you want to give him a little more freedom but still keep him off of furniture. These practices will help him learn the boundaries and help avoid developing bad habits you'll need to fix later. Start training with "sit" and "down", keeping sessions really short and sweet, then build up "stay" and "place". Don't try to use these for actual behavioral stuff until he's really solid on them as fun games.
  7. I never like to tell people they can't have a certain type of dog, and I think if your heart is completely set on a border collie you could figure out a way to make it work. But, if you have reservations, there are other breeds in the herding family that would be a bit more adaptable and probably make your life a lot easier. I live in the suburbs with a BC/ACD mix who isn't really dog-aggressive but is also not social enough to enjoy a dog park unless it's nearly empty. It comes with some challenges but we've figured out our groove. For us, that involves frequent runs, hikes on local trails about once a week, weekly agility class, and bringing her just about everywhere we go (including work because I'm ridiculously lucky). We do some trick training but honestly, I think talking to her and including her in what we do is more important. I've also become a connoisseur of all the local dog parks, know when the regulars go, know when the dogs my dog hates are usually there, etc. so that she does get some opportunity to safely run loose. Most of the concerns I have for you have already been outlined, but I'll re-emphasize the ones that hit me hardest when I read your post: -What's your normal activity level like? How's your social life? What do you do most Saturdays? Are you someone who gets out of the city once the work week is over to hike, or do you tend towards more of a movies/shopping/bars routine? Are you interested in getting involved in dog sports? -Do you have a good "walking route" for your prospective dog? A walk that has spaces she can sniff, a bit of grass, not-too-heavy traffic, and that feels safe for you to walk early in the morning or late at night? -How much local green space is there? Are you within walking distance of a park, or a baseball diamond? It doesn't have to be a park especially for dogs. -Do you have a plan for the heat? I run with my dog but anything over about 23 C makes me nervous, and it's generally not humid here. When it's over 30 C we limit walks. She's a fluffy black dog and just touching her when she's been out in the sun lets you know how much heat that fur can absorb. I'm assuming that if your summer highs are 38 and humid, it's regularly over 33 for days at a time. How are you going to handle that? Finally, if you do decide to get a border collie, consider where you're getting one carefully. An adult rescue who's lived in either city or dense suburbs and is already well-socialized could be a really good fit for you. Getting a puppy is a bit of a mixed bag, because you'll be raising it in a very different environment than what they were bred for. Sometimes that works out just fine, but there are lots of examples in this thread of behavior that would be very hard to handle in an urban environment that only surfaced post-adolecense. Another option is to look at rescuing a mix--there are no guarantees, but a border collie x lab (or Golden, or generic mutt) will generally be mellower than a purebred.
  8. It depends on the region. Some places actually import rescued dogs from other areas. Our local shelter is moving to "no-kill" simply because they haven't needed to euthanize a dog for lack of space in years. There are huge swaths of the country where this isn't the case, but I really like to think that as spay/neuter and adoption become more and more widely accepted by pet owners, pet overpopulation will be a thing of the past.
  9. Wow, I love the idea of a rescue being so low on dogs they are referring customers to responsible breeders! I hope this is a first taste of the future....
  10. I massage my dog. I don't follow any particular protocol, just start at her head with little circles and stroking and work my way down her body. Rubbing around her ears, chest, and belly really relaxes her. Her back, butt, and legs are a bit hit or miss--I like to spend some time on them to relax her muscles and keep her comfortable being handled all over, but she can be more sensitive about them. I only give her paws and tail the most cursory of touches. She likes it and if I do a good job she looks like she's melting into the floor about halfway through. Sometimes she dozes off. If she's in a fidgety mood to start with, I do long strokes down her side until she settles into it.
  11. As far as designer crosses go, poodles x collies are far from the worst I've seen--both intelligent, active breeds, not an obvious health disaster. Of course it blows my mind that people pay thousands of dollars for dogs they should be getting for a $70 adoption fee at the town shelter. Unfortunately, as long as the market exists, people will pop up like mushrooms to fill it
  12. I don't agree with this at all! Being able to touch your dog while he's eating without stressing him out is a great goal, and if he's ever going to be around kids I think this is especially important. Kids drop food all the time, and if your dog resource guards a kid reaching down to pick up food he thought had become "his" is a perfect setup for a bite. I would just consider that there's some space between desired behavior and normal behavior. You want a dog who's going to accept gentle touching while he eats, but it's normal for a dog to feel insecure in that situation if he hasn't been taught it's okay. Your role isn't really to correct his "bad" behavior (it is normal after all!), but to teach him that you approaching his food is fun, not scary. You can get the desired outcome without punishing him for behavior that's developmentally appropriate.
  13. When we got Nala she was dog-reactive in a kind of similar way, where sometimes she completely ignored other dogs, sometimes she greeted them politely, and sometimes she started barking and lunging. I think in some ways it would have been easier if her behavior was consistent, because I definitely spent too long letting her "try" saying hello and trying to work out a pattern (Was it that she had an issue with big dogs? White fluffy dogs? Was it better if she'd gotten more exercise that day or worse? etc.) Once I stopped trying to analyze the behavior so much and started preventing it (by keeping her far enough away from ALL dogs that she wasn't reacting to ANY of them, and rewarding appropriate responses) we made much faster progress. Since Cricket is so young and since he generally likes people, I think you're going to have really good success if you consistently reward the behavior you want to see. When he has a stretch of days where a car drives by or a jogger comes past and he just looks at it, reward the HECK out of that every time you can! You ideally want him to get to the point where when he sees something startling (like a car, or a person walking swiftly by, etc) his natural response is to look at you for a treat. That's the response the "Look at That!" game is trying to invoke. Somewhat counter-intuitively, once you've gotten to that point the presence of the trigger often becomes way less interesting and Cricket may decide he doesn't even need to check it out. On "bad" days, just do what you can to keep him as calm as possible--no big deal if he has a little outburst, but once it's happened try to get him someplace quiet so he's not getting too worked up. Remember you're looking for improvement, not perfection Good luck. I remember when I was working on this stuff with Nala it was super stressful and scary, and I worried about her getting in fights, someone getting hurt, etc. I think these issues are pretty common, especially with herding breeds that are more or less designed to be sensitive to their environments and react quickly, and once you know what to do it's not so hard to change the behavior. And good on you for being on top of this when Cricket's young and still making his mind up about things! The other thing I'll say is that if you're feeling overwhelmed, hiring a professional for a session or two might be really helpful. I did a lot of reading and found a lot of useful advice on these and other boards, but doing just one session with a very good trainer outside a dog park got everything into my muscle memory. And I totally love the trainer we found, so now I have another contact in case any other "oh my gosh, what now??" issues ever come up
  14. When we got Nala we thought she was just super cuddly, but now that I know her better it's clear that some of that "cuddly" behavior was nervous appeasement. I wish we ignored it but we didn't know any better, so she got lots of attention and cuddles. She's mostly moved on from it as she gained confidence, or some of it has gotten ritualized in a way where I don't think it's a problem (e.g., every morning she wriggles around on her back at the top of the stairs, and I give her belly rubs and if I stop she wriggles for more). She's still a super cuddly lap dog who lives for belly rubs, but the behavior doesn't seem to have that needy anxious edge to it anymore. She used to flinch if we moved too fast, moved things (shoes, boxes, etc) around her, bent over her, etc., sometimes doing a full "play dead" submissive posture. We never worked with her specifically on that either but it disappeared on its own. A month ago she knocked something off a shelf walking by and gave us an "oh no am I in trouble??" look and I realized we hadn't seen that in about a year. And on walks, she used to walk behind us with her head down and her tail between her legs. It felt like such a breakthrough when she finally started sniffing around like a normal dog. Now she pulls like crazy when she see rabbits and I wish she'd heel as well as she used to, but it's way better to see her confident and happy. I think we got lucky--we knew very little about dog behavior, but getting her on a normal routine with play, exercise, training, and affection got her about 95% of the way there. We got some outside help on the last 5% of freaking out about other dogs. I hope your journey goes as smoothly, it sounds like you're off to a great start
  15. Have you tried just leaving him in his crate while you shower and get dressed? He might be okay staying in there until you're ready to focus on him, even without moving him downstairs. Lots of dogs sleep in other rooms with no ill-effects. But I feel like having a shared bedroom is pleasant for a dog and helps him feel like he's part of the family? That said, our very snuggly dog has been occasionally choosing to sleep in the kitchen since its cooler than our bedroom. I might need to see a trainer about my separation anxiety...
  16. I've got another dog who would be very unhappy to be approached like that. When we got her she was quite reactive to other dogs, and with a lot of behavioral modification has gotten much better, but she freaked out when a friendly, bouncy lab came charging over to say hello on an (on leash) beach. I don't know if she was the one who started growling or if her tense posture set the other dog off, but before I could even react both dogs were snarling and all over each other. Happily neither was actually violent and I was able to separate them until the lab's (very apologetic) owner could get a leash on her, but my dog was terrified. Her first move was to make a beeline off the beach we were on, and she was shaking with her tail between her legs. For that matter, I was too--I really didn't feel great about yelling at a strange dog and trying to separate her from my dog, and if she hadn't been friendly and disinclined to bite me it could have ended quite poorly. The things I do with my dog that have helped her learn to be calm around other dogs are - spending a lot of time walking outside the fence at dog parks, rewarding her for looking at the playing dogs and then re-engaging with me - practicing walking in parks around other leashed dogs and rewarding her for calmly passing them - group obedience classes - group agility classes, including calmly hanging out while waiting for class to start Working with her is different since her issues derive from being fearful, not playful, but the emphasis I always have with her is that I want her to be calm and be able to focus on me even when other dogs are around. It seems like that might be helpful for you too. As for trails, if you know there are going to be other dogs it's only fair to keep your dog under control, for her safety as well as the safety of other dogs. If her training isn't there yet, you can get a long drag line or try a retractable leash (which come with their own set of issues). There are also so many ways to get your dog mental stimulation without doing off-leash walks. Having her on-leash and practicing obedience commands is great, as is supplementing walks with trick training, flirt poles, nose work, hide and seek, etc.
  17. Alright, you inspired me. This morning I took two of our "weave poles" and a bunch of treats and went to a local park. I practiced telling Nala to "go around" them, first on leash with me right next to her, then off leash, adding in a bit more distance. It is too soon to tell, but I think this might be really, really helpful. When we started out she was in her super excited barking, growling, and nipping mood. But after 20 minutes alternating working on it and giving her some breaks to go sniff around, she seemed to get it, to the point that I could tell her to "go around" from 10 feet away and she'd run out and do it and come back super happy. She was still excited and jumpy and a little mouthy, but the intensity was way down and she seemed so much more focused. I don't know how it will translate to class next week, but this is incredible!! Do you have any resources on the basics of distance handling that you'd recommend? Given our success today I definitely want to learn more. Thanks so much for your help!
  18. I've been following this thread with great interest. A few weeks ago I started taking an intro agility class with Nala and realized pretty quickly that asking her to go over even one or two jumps is overstimulating for her. Nala is a rescue we've had for one year. She's an ACD/BC mix and displays a beautiful combination of sensitivity and hard-headedness. She is probably about four years old. When we got Nala she was quite dog-reactive. She's made a ton of progress with desensitization and counter-conditioning, and can now sit quietly next to other dogs waiting for her turn. This feels like a huge victory, but I know that just being around other dogs is already quite stimulating for her. It's understandable that when she's in that environment and I start moving quickly, it's tough for her to keep her cool. I don't have big ambitions for her agility career, and am mostly bringing her to classes to give her some extra mental stimulation and socialization. The instructor has a lot of experience in agility but isn't that into the behavioral side of things from what I can tell. She has a very nice outdoor facility, does small classes, and emphasizes safety over speed, and I'm not sure I can find a better set-up locally. But it would be less stressful and more fun, at least for me, if Nala could go over a jump or two without getting growly and trying to latch onto my pants, and the instructor doesn't have a lot of advice beyond "try to nip that behavior in the bud, it will only get worse". So, I bought a copy of Control Unleashed and have been following along here trying to figure out a game plan. The instructor is fine with me taking shorter turns to avoid hyping Nala up too much, but I'd like to build up her threshold a bit more. The article about young dogs seems very relevant to her, because I have the sense that she is still developing maturity. But is that even possible for a dog who is well into her adulthood? I feel like she missed out on certain bits of socialization as an adolescent, and we're kind of filling in the gaps as we go.
  19. Hang in there! I was in your shoes about a year ago, although my dog was less intense. I am definitely still learning but can tell you some things that helped for us. First and foremost was getting a trainer we really liked. The first trainer we saw was okay but not great--spending time with her seemed about equal to reading through threads on the internet. Some good ideas, but no real chemistry. The second one we hired is amazing. She is so sensitive to small changes in our dog's facial expression, posture, etc. and points out what she sees to us. She makes really clear plans for what we should work on, how often, what to look for, asks us to send her videos, etc. I know you said you already have a trainer, but if you're still feeling really confused, it might be time to interview a new one, or look into getting a behavioralist. The second thing I'll point you towards is the CARE for reactive dogs site: http://careforreactivedogs.com/start-here/ I didn't know about this when I started working with our dog, but the protocol they outline more or less lines up with what we did, and it was really effective. It is designed to be a program you can work through on your own, but having a professional help you with the first few sessions could be really helpful. When it's your first time doing something like this there is a lot of learning involved for both you and the dog, and it's very useful to have someone demonstrate what you're supposed to do and notice when your timing or attention are getting wonky. As for stuff like how much exercise, rest, etc., I honestly don't think anyone can tell you that without spending significant time with your dog. Ideally, you'd want to get him as much exercise as he needs, in a way that doesn't expose him to any of his triggers, but that might be easier said than done. At some point you need to weigh the ill-effects of him not getting enough exercise against the ill-effects of overexposing him to triggers, and that balance is always going to depend on the individual dog and where you are in training. You could try experimenting with walks early in the morning when the world is quiet, or, if possible, driving him out to a low-traffic area where he can unwind. If every time he leaves the house he has a full-blown reaction, it might be best to give him a few quiet days at home while you work on gentle desensitization. But if you can find a quiet time when he enjoys going on walks, that's probably a better option.
  20. I don't know why, but Nala loves these ducks: https://www.amazon.com/Duckworth-Large-Yellow-Duck-Dog/dp/B000084E7Y She can be destructive with plush toys, but she likes to just carry these ones around, shake them a bunch, and then suck on their butts. They are pretty sturdily made (although I'm sure she could get through them fine if she tried).
  21. I'm sure this isn't what you want to hear, but as someone who really really wanted a dog in college, but waited until I'd been out for a few years, I'm really glad I went that route. Even if you are completely committed to the dog and manage to be a great owner as you transition out of college, it will likely end up being at the expense of other things you would like to do. There are a lot of things that make sense for someone who just graduated that are really hard to do if you've got a dog--things like doing an internship where you make little money, working long hours at a new job to get up to speed, doing a master's or professional degree program, etc. Not to mention you will likely be moving, searching for apartments, finding new roommates, and all of that. It's way easier to get settled in and then work to make your lifestyle accommodate a dog than it is to go through a big transition like that while taking care of an existing dog (e.g., many bosses will be happy to let an employee they know and trust work from home, but might be more reluctant to let someone who just started, if you need temporary housing while you check out a new city you don't need to worry about what to do with your dog during that time, etc.). And of course there is the financial side of things--being able to work for six months or a year and establish some savings might be really helpful before getting a dog. There are all the routine food and supplies expenses, but there are also things like emergency vet bills (mitigated if you get insurance), fees for training or behavioralist visits, cost of arranging care when you're traveling, plus if you want to do stuff like herding or agility lessons that adds up fast too. Even knowing this I was absolutely shocked at how much we spent on our dog in the first year we had her. Make a budget, and then allocate about twice that much, because you really never know what's coming down the line. It sounds like you're going to be an amazing dog owner, and a border collie could be a great fit for you. If you do decide to do this now, I'm sure you can make it work, since it sounds like you're fully committed. But another option would be to volunteer with a local shelter or rescue and get your doggie fix that way for the time being. This can be a great way to get more experience with the breed and a better understanding of what you're looking for in a dog. Foster homes are hugely important in saving dogs' lives, and you get a lot of experience without taking on the longterm time and financial commitments. Then when you graduate, you can take a few months to get everything lined up, so that once you get your own dog everything is in order.
  22. From a training perspective, I completely agree that there are better methods, and finding a new trainer who can teach some of those is a great step forwards. When I recommended a prong collar, I did so thinking of it as a management tool rather than a training tool. Putting a prong collar on her dog is not going to teach the dog anything about walking on a loose leash. What it will do is physically prevent the dog from pulling so hard she causes injury to her owner. I know there are harnesses designed to do this but in my experience (walking large shelter dogs with them) many dogs are able to figure out how to continue pulling even with front clip harnesses. Using a prong collar in this context is like using a muzzle on a dog who bites. The muzzle isn't there to train the dog not to bite, it just physically prevents her from chomping down on someone while using other methods to train the desired behavior. There are a lot of great recommendations in this thread, but most of them are probably going to require consistency over weeks or months to really cement the behavior. Prong collars can indeed cause injury (which is why I would certainly not use one without getting it fitted by a trainer who knows how to do so appropriately). They aren't unique in that. Sustained pulling against a choke or buckle collar can also be very dangerous for a dog. Normally I would recommend a harness to avoid injury to a dog who pulls. But the disadvantage of a harness is that it allows the dog to pull without putting all that strain on their neck, which in turn allows them to pull harder. In this case, the owner is already injured because her dog is pulling. Avoiding human injury is important too.
  23. I can't believe I'm typing this, but in your shoes I would go straight to a new trainer and a prong collar. Yes they look like medieval torture devices. No they are not positive. But what you're currently doing is causing your body damage. The only way for a dog to pull that is healthy for it is if it's in a fitted harness designed for pulling. If you let your dog pull in a flat collar, head halter, front-clip harness, etc. she's adjusting her posture and putting pressure on areas that are not designed to bear load. The huge advantage of the prong collar is that they are uncomfortable enough that the vast majority of dogs are not willing to pull very hard against one. That saves your back and it also saves your dog's body. You want to use it with a trainer's supervision because you want to make sure it's fitted correctly and that you're using it right. You can still continue with positive reinforcement training. In fact, positive reinforcement will be most effective if you never let your dog perform the undesired behavior, i.e., pulling. So make it a goal that she never actually finds out what the prong feels like when it tightens. Having it there can just be your insurance against making your back strain any worse than it already is. You could also try teaching your dog to heel. This was actually easier for my dog to get the hang of than consistent loose leash walking. I think because there is a clear expectation of what she's supposed to do and she's able to just focus on that.
  24. For now I would hold off on running with her at all and work on leash training at walking pace. Once she has a solid heel, you can try jogging for very short intervals while she heels and then build up to longer runs when she's done growing. Every time she starts herding you is very rewarding for her, and you don't want that to be her association with seeing you run. If you get her heel really solid, short jogs are unlikely to trigger that drive since she'll be focused on keeping pace with you, and once she gets into it she will probably understand that it's not play/herding time. My ACD/BC mix does 5 mile runs with me and will stay at my heels for short sprints. But if I take her into a field and just casually jog around she thinks it's play and will start herding and nipping.
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