Sorry for this rather long post. I'm hoping for some help from people who've dealt with a sensitive and fearful male BC.
Max is a purebred BC, almost 3yrs, who has been with us since September 2017. His first owner kept him in a small apartment, and we don't know much more about him than that. His second owner, who had Max for about one year, was a disabled Veteran. We picked up Max from his home and found him outdoors in a cage in the South Carolina heat. The cage was about 6x4 so he had room to move around, but he'd been gnawing and chewing at the wooden frame and it was obvious he'd been in some distress. His owner admitted that being disabled, he didn't have a lot of time to exercise Max, and that he'd used a shock collar when letting him out in the yard.
When we approached Max he got extremely excited, jumping up at us and just looking so thrilled to see someone, something to play with. (He still does this now when he meets certain strangers).
So we took Max home and he settled in very well. We had a one acre yard, fenced-in, and my girlfriend and I both work from home, so Max is rarely left alone. He was obviously obsessed with fetch - ball, stick, frisbee - it really doesn't matter what so long as there's something to throw and something for him to fetch.
We took him to obedience class and basic agility, but there were issues. There are some people he doesn't like and if they get close to him he'll lunge and nip. He dislikes all other animals he's met so far and sometimes he'll lunge and nip, mostly he just tries to move out of their way. He doesn't seem at all socialized around other dogs, he doesn't seem to know how to do the butt sniff introduction that most other dogs do.
We had to pull him from classes due to his unpredictable behavior.
Other than that, the only other issues we had with him in the first 10 months was that we just couldn't leash train him - he pulls and pulls. And to be fair, we perhaps haven't tried hard enough to train him on the leash as we really don't go places where he needs to be on a leash too often. We lived near the ocean so we'd regularly take him to the beach and he just LOVES the water and playing fetch.
Max really has been a great dog, he's never done the stuff that many dogs do like getting into the garbage, chewing furniture, escaping when off-leash etc. he just loves to be besides us, waiting for his regular outdoor fetch break or playing games in the house. That said, Max isn't very affectionate, he's a little aloof and likes some space. He's not into petting or hugging, he just follows us around looking forward to playing fetch.
Then we moved house.
We moved from a nice house in NC to a larger farmhouse in VA, with 50 acres. Most of the land is rented out to a local cattle farmer but we have access to it and Max has plenty of space to run around and play frisbee. We never let him out unattended.
With the farmhouse we inherited a friendly tomcat who soon moved in the house with us. (after a couple trips to the vets for his shots etc). Things have started to go downhill with Max since we moved.
Firstly, there are certain trees on the property that drop burrs. The burrs are about the size of a marble and are sharp. He'd pick them up in his belly hair and under his armpits and they'd obviously cause some discomfort. When we tried to cut them out of him he'd get aggressive with us, snarling and snapping. When we let him go he'd run off and hide in his kennel. We mostly manage to keep him away from the burrs but he's picked them up in his long hair perhaps a half dozen times since we moved here 3 months ago. Each time has been an ordeal. The problem now is that he doesn't seem to trust us anymore, he seems genuinely afraid.
When we call him by his name, he'll sometimes just run and hide in his kennel. If one of us is just sitting on the couch or whatever and he walks by and we try to pet him, he'll back right off then run for his kennel. Each time we have to deal with a burr issue he gets progressively more fearful. It's at the point now where he won't even let us groom him. He never really liked being brushed much, but he'd deal with it. Now as soon as we reach for the brush he'll run and hide in his kennel.
Aside from that, he clearly dislikes the cat and looks on with a very perturbed expression when we show the cat any affection. The cat tries to rub up against Max and the dog just walks away quickly. Max is very timid around the cat. Max can be eating dinner and the cat will come along and start eating out of Max's bowl and Max will walk away quickly.
Anyway, I feel like we're losing him, like he doesn't trust us anymore, and it's disconcerting. He hasn't needed de-burring in three weeks but his attitude towards us hasn't improved, he just seems to be perpetually on guard and living in fear. I feel bad for Max, he has what seems to be an almost perfect home, with two people who love him, but he isn't happy.
Any thoughts on what we can do? Does anyone have any similar stories they'd care to share, with tips on what they did to overcome the issues?