Hi everyone, I have been lurking around for a while but this is my first post. In July 2013, I adopted an 8 month old puppy from a BC rescue group. I was looking for a running partner, and I did a large amount of research before deciding to adopt a border collie. My family has owned numerous Shetland Sheepdogs, and I am very familiar with the needs of high-energy herding breeds. I have been fostering and volunteering for a local animal rescue group for a number of years, and I am very familiar with basic training.
As soon as I met my dog, I instantly fell in love. He is a classic black and white semi-rough coat BC with extremely long legs. He was fostered with two small dogs (under 15 pounds). At home, he behaves wonderfully. He is not kept in a crate, has never chewed anything that isn’t a toy, and has never had an accident inside. He will sit and wait for hours until I give him the OK to eat. I do tons of activities to practice self-control, such as throwing his favorite toys and telling him to wait before he can retrieve it. He knows sit, down, wait, leave it, paw, and touch (as in touch my palm). He pulls on the leash, but a gentle leader has helped to improve that behavior. We walk 3.5 miles in the morning, play Frisbee mid-afternoon, and run 3.5 miles at night (he doesn’t wear the gentle leader so that he is able to breathe). He absolutely loves all people, and is quite the cuddler. All that is known about his past is that he ran away from home, was picked up by animal control, and was reclaimed by his owner and then neutered. The following day, his owner adopted a second border collie that was in the same shelter, and then the next day surrendered both of the dogs. He is also terrified of long, skinny objects for an unknown reason (i.e. brooms, hoses, yard-sticks).
However, he turns into an entirely different dog on the leash, and he seems to be suffering from an extreme case of leash reactivity. Before I adopted him, his foster mom would take him to the dog park where he did OK. He tends to be mouthy in play, but as soon as another dog corrects him he is very respectful and ceases that behavior. He always chases, and does not allow himself to be chased. I was told that when he arrives at the dog park, he barks and whines at the other dogs while approaching the fence, but once inside, he circles the pack for a few minutes and then will join in. I have yet to take him to a dog park, simply due to the fact that I want to be in full control of him before I allow him to play with a stranger’s dog. When we are outside and see another dog, he starts whining, barking, and his hackles rise. He will turn and chomp on his leash. His pupils are huge, and he takes on an aggressive stance. Luckily, if we are walking with another dog he never has turned his aggression on that dog. During these episodes, I can get him to sit but usually cannot get him to do anything else or remain quiet and calm. I had him evaluated by an animal behaviorist, and he believes that my dog is suffering from fear aggression caused by a lack of socialization. He also noted that my dog is the most dominant BC's he has ever seen. My dog was “bullying” the behaviorist’s submissive dog who was placed in a down stay during the evaluation, and he would go up and nip at him, then retreat over and over again. It is almost as if he gets so excited and doesn’t know what to do when we see another dog that he loses all ability to give off proper dog body language. The first thing he does when he sees another dog instead of smelling them is nip at them in an attempt to play.
I have successfully introduced him to multiple dogs using slow introductions. I foster dogs and kittens, and after meeting them through the crate and going on a walk he is always fine with them. We recently spent a month over the holiday staying with my parents and their sheltie, and he did great with her. She is considerably smaller, and he played with her more gently than he plays with his toys when he is alone.
In hopes of better socializing him, we completed obedience class in September 2013. He spent the entire class whining and being extremely anxious. He normally takes treats gently, but in the presence of other dogs nips them out of my hand. He already knew all of the cues we learned in class, and was able to successfully perform them in front of other dogs. During “lecture” time, he would whine and whine and I was getting phone calls between classes from the instructor saying I needed to get him to stop because he was a distraction.
He also can hear dogs walking down the street multiple houses down, and will bark out of the windows at them. He has also started to bark at people with strollers, bike riders, and people wearing heavy coats. For now, I have been calling him to me and running through obedience cues and giving him treats when he starts to react inside.
He has recently started taking an anti-anxiety medicine, and I am curious about any behavioral modification programs or tips that have been successful for people with dogs with similar issues. He is a great dog, and he is very willing to please. I would love to help him feel more comfortable in the presence of strange dogs, and I am open to any suggestions. I have attached a picture of him for anyone curious about what he looks like. Thanks!