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Everything posted by erikor

  1. erikor


    Thank you to all for your supportive and very kind comments. And I should add that we are so grateful for our brief time with Darcy. He taught us a lot about dogs and ourselves. And although he struggled, his love for us was clear. And to GentleLake’s point, for a while I thought we were “unlucky” and wished we had gotten a different dog. But then it occurred to me that Darcy was going to end up somewhere and I am so thankful he ended up with us where he was loved and patiently cared for to the end.
  2. erikor


    This is a hard post to write, and likely a hard post to read. But I perhaps our story will provide some consolation to other who walk similarly difficult paths. Readers of these forums will know we struggled from the get go with our Darcy. Certainly a part of the issue was that we were new dog owners and needed to learn about setting the right limits on both humans and dogs. But when Darcy's nipping and high arousal began to escalate, we sought the help of a behavioralist and a trainer (who had worked with thousands of border collies over the years). They both agreed that Darcy's high arousal was very unusual. We started fluoxetine, and then clonidine. This helped a fair bit and we were able to get some traction with training and make some progress with counter conditioning stimuli like noises in the house and cars on the streets. However, in my last post I mentioned we were still struggling with resource guarding. Despite a lot of patient work with trading and building trust, the resource guarding became worse and worse and less and less predictable. He lunged and bit my oldest child just for holding his hand out to see if he wanted a pet (at the time, Darcy was just laying on the floor--he did not even have any resources other than his space). I bent down to pick up his leash one day and he lunged and bit me several times. It became clear he was not safe in the house with our children (let alone anyone else's children). It is possible that all of this could have been managed. But since his anxiety and resulting aggression were getting worse and less predictable, we felt he could not be safely managed in our home. Because he was so young and getting worse despite medication, management, and patient and loving training it was the opinion of the trainer and behavioralist that he could not be safely re-homed. The breeder would take him back, but who knows what he would have experienced there? The breeder, despite being well intentioned and a pleasant person, had given us Darcy way too early (less than 7 weeks--which I now realize is crazy) and I knew she used aversive techniques in her training (even with puppies). I have since learned that multiple dogs from our breeder have had these sorts of problems. After consultation with our family, our trainer, and our behavioralist, it was decided the most humane thing to do was to put Darcy to sleep. Our trainer and a veterinarian came to our home and he was put to sleep in our living room surrounded by familiar loving faces. We are crushed. Putting my children's puppy and my companion to sleep was devastating. I would love another Border Collie some day, but at the moment it is hard to see the way from Here to There. Thank you to each of you who helped us along the way. -Eric
  3. Readers of this forum will recall that Darcy, our 8 month old BC pup, and his humans have had some struggles related to over-arousal, resource guarding, etc. Many on this forum have provided wisdom and encouragement, so I wanted to provide an update. A couple months ago we started Fluoxetine (an SSRI, brand name Prozac for the human formulation). That helped some, but he was still constantly over-aroused and it was very difficult to get any focus from him in anything other than the most controlled environments. On the recommendation of both his trainer and his behavioralist, we added clonidine (a blood pressure medication which as a side effect also reduces noradrenaline release in the brain and is somewhat sedating). This combination has calmed Darcy down a great deal. The most important benefit as I see it is that Darcy can now focus on his training. It has made it possible for us to make progress with counterconditioning because he no longer goes from 0% to 100% arousal at the drop of a hat. One of Darcy's big triggers is cars--he barks and lunges at them. Over the past week we have made great strides counterconditioning the car stimulus and this morning he held a sit while a car passed during our walk three times (and was also able to collect himself after playing with another dog for a few minutes and continue a loose leash walk). It is important to understand this is not just the drugs (he was still lunging at cars last week while on clonidine, and unlike fluoxetine clonidine is short acting and does not build up over time). It is the combination of medication and training that seem to be moving things in the right direction. All is not roses. We continue to have issues with resource guarding--both Darcy and his humans need more training in that arena. Darcy is still hysterical when meeting new people (not in an aggressive way, but in a way-too-enthusiastic way). But I feel like the door is now open to real training and real progress. I attach two pictures. One is just fun--he has activated Herding Mode as I get ready to kick a soccer ball for him to chase. The other has a relevance that you can't tell from the photo. Thirty yards behind me is a 4 lane road with many cars going by at 50 miles per hour (80kph). He is holding a sit with one ear calmly half-cocked. Never would have happened a month ago. (Needless to say, he had a sturdy leash and harness on for this training, as he always does). -Eric (P.S. I got a copy of On the Other End of the Leash for Christmas--wonderful! And Click to Calm is arriving today.)
  4. @urge to herd so true. Darcy's humans are getting better every day. He has great hopes for them. (I told one my daughter's this morning that Darcy was making me a better human being. She said I didn't need to become a better human being. I said there is always room for improvement.)
  5. Yes that's the general idea. But the book is better than the movie =).
  6. Yes ^^^^^^. Here's a success story from me, a novice (again, first dog, first BC). We are using this approach with our Darcy who barks at noises coming from the floor above. The idea is to transform the stimulus from a signal to bark into a signal to turn attention to you. Initially I was saying "where's the noise?" (which Leslie McDevitt now recommends instead of "Look at that" I believe) when there was a noise, then I would click for any evidence of attention to the noise, and then give a treat when Darcy turned back to me. That is the official "look at that" method if I understand it correctly. (This is all predicated on the assumption that your dog knows about the clicker. But in our case, "charging the clicker" took approximately no time at all. Click-->treat. Not a hard concept for a BC. So if you haven't been doing clicker training, this seems like a great moment to start!) Our trainer simplified it even more. She instructed us to just click for attention to the noise and give a treat. (You really want her to turn to you for the treat, but at first it seems to be ok to just get her to take the treat any way you can to start to build the expectation of Good Things Will Happen when the click/noise happens). It did not take long at all for Darcy to associate the noise with treats so the noise by itself is starting to cue turning attention to me. Darcy barks less at noises from upstairs now (way less). And when he does bark a click and a treat puts an end to it. (Sometimes we need to repeat the cycle a few times. But so much better than just hysterical barking.) At first I thought this was a little weird because I was marking a behavior I didn't want. But I was thinking about it wrong. The problem is not that Darcy notices things. The problem is Darcy reacts to things he notices in ways I don't want (barking). So, at the beginning, Darcy believed "Noises from upstairs mean I should bark." At the same time, Darcy knew that "The clicking noise means treats". Then, noticing things started to bring clicks, and clicks bring treats. So now noises mean treats. There is another side effect. Sometimes Darcy does not want a treat. So he hears what is now a treat stimulus (noise) and just continues about his business if whatever he is doing is more interesting than a treat. This is leading to more peaceful roaming about the room while I am trying to get work done. But for the first few days I had to literally sit next to him clicking and treating to keep the barking at bay. After a bit of this training we would just go somewhere else less noisy to give everyone a break. Now that the pattern is learned, if I am particularly lazy, I will just click and toss a treat to him from across the room and that does the trick too. Let me come back to asking "Where's the noise?". If I understand correctly (and maybe I don't), the goal here is to be able to use this as a generalizable signal that the pup should turn her attention to you rather than whatever she is noticing. So this can turn into "where's the car?", "where's the person?", "where's the rabbit?". The way I am doing it right now, I would need to always have a clicker with me for this to work as I am not conditioning a verbal cue. As it happens, I do always have a clicker, but at some point I might like to stop wearing that bit of dog jewelry all the time. I was glad to drop that step, as saying "where's the noise?" over and over to a hysterical dog was just further fraying my nerves. Now that I once again have a quiet basement and can think clearly again, maybe I will go back to asking "where's the...." as described in Control Unleashed. Finally, Control Unleashed recommends practicing the "Look at that" (or "Where's the...") game with various items when the dog is calm to teach the behavior. But for us, going right to the stimulus we were having trouble with (noise) worked just as well. (Before all this, we used a different strategy, as recommended by Doggy Dan. When Darcy would bark, I would say "thank you Darcy" and the go back to my business. Then if Darcy barked again, I would come look at what he was barking at, nod my head calmly, and again say "Thank you". If he barked again, I would calmly put him in a quiet room for a timeout. This apparently works great for some people. It worked not at all for us.) -Eric
  7. Yes, I think for me the strategies I would use for an infant don’t work because Darcy can run and jump and the strategies I would use for a child don’t work because Darcy has a baby’s impulse control and understands very little language. I think for the most part I expect too much because he looks like a dog but is in fact just a puppy. Anyway, it is humbling. And that is never a bad thing.
  8. Yes, and I have been surprised how little child expertise translates to puppies. I am a pediatrician with 5 kids, for goodness sake. But the rate of development and the difference in trajectory of physical vs. mental development are just too different. Also the teeth. It's back to square one from an expertise and wisdom stand point. Thank goodness for this forum, Suzanne Clothier, Leslie McDevitt, Karen Overall, and our behavioralist. Thank you for the perspective! -Eric
  9. Ok great. I have created "Darcy's Trail Mix" comprised of dehydrated liver treats (which are actually part liver, part heart), dehydrated chicken treats, and cheerios. (We had already discovered that Darcy loves cheerios as training treats, but I thought that was our dirty little secret.) -Eric
  10. Thank you all for the kind and supportive comments! I will take it easy on the liver treats--we have other types too to throw in the mix (all of which are less than 1 calorie per treat which is good because we are going through treats like they are going out of style). For relaxation protocol time I use small pieces of hotdog and cheese. I was watching him pace around tonight and thought, "someone just needs to take the weight of the world off this poor pups shoulders". I gave him a hug and a good belly rub which seemed to help some. I am hopeful that more calm capturing will help too. And maybe a little pharmacology. I guess scotch is out of the question (at least for him). I will keep you posted! -Eric
  11. Readers of this forum may recall that we have had some challenges with Darcy, our first dog and first border collie, now (nearly) 7 months old. These challenges included biting the children and resource guarding. After putting in place strict rules and procedures for the humans and an improved training program for Darcy (including The Relaxation Protocol for Dogs, Capturing Calm, frequent practicing of "drop it" and "leave it", etc.) things are definitely improved. Nevertheless, we kept the appointment we made with a board certified behavioralist. That appointment was today. Since some of you asked to keep you posted, here is an update. 1. The behavioralist felt that those specific problems are pretty normal dog behaviors that, while they need to be stopped, are responding well to our training. We all agreed that Darcy is not an "aggressive dog". 2. She also felt that Darcy is more arousable and high strung than the average border collie, though she says she has been seeing more and more of this in recent years. She attributes this to the fact that the dogs are being bred (where we live) more and more for agility and speed and less for well rounded herding skills and this is producing more and more dogs that are just a little too amped up as a side effect. She also said ours is not the first pup from our breeder to come through her doors. Interesting. 3. She advised us to greatly increase the degree to which we are rewarding desired behavior. Basically the "Capture the Calm" we have been doing, but a lot more of it. Lucky I just ordered 4 bags of dried liver treats. 4. She felt that loose lease training out and about is just too much for him. She recommended we keep our walks around the neighborhood and trails unstructured (long lead), and work on loose leash training only in our house and yard until it gets easier for him. Which is basically a variation on what some of you have already told me here. 5. Given that we have a busy household with the homeschooled kiddos always buzzing about, and given that Darcy is rather high strung, she felt medication (an SSRI) would smooth the way for Darcy over the coming 6 months or so, helping him feel better while we continue to teach him how to find and use his off switch. 6. She felt that under all the excitement, Darcy was very sweet. So we will follow those recommendations. There is also a trainer who works out of the same office as the behavioralist who specializes in Border Collies that we will work with. Overall, I am happy with the progress we have made with Darcy and look forward to more progress with the help of these professionals. Also, I do find it strangely reassuring to have confirmation that Darcy is more of a handful than your average pup. Makes me feel like maybe I am a competent primate after all. Now if you will excuse me, I need to go listen to the next chapter of Bones Would Rain from the Sky. Stay tuned. -Eric
  12. So this morning I combined all the above advice. We did a short bit of (attempted) loose leash walking to the wooded trails by our home, then I switched to a longer lead (15 feet, which is the longest I have at the moment) and told him to "go play". He wandered about and sniffed and there was very little pulling (a fifteen foot radius was sufficient apparently, and I stopped whenever he stopped). Then when we got back to the road I put him back on his short leash. On the way back to the house there were several pretty decent stretches of nice walking (pretty fast, but I need the exercise). A passerby at just the right moment may have been duped into thinking a well trained human was out walking his well trained dog. Then someone drove into their driveway and let their dog out and all hell broke out again. But...progress! Just a little progress now and then is all I ask to keep me on the dog train. Darcy and I have also invented a new game indoors called "invisible leash". I walk around the house with a treat enclosed in my left hand held out to my side as if I am Jeeves walking a dog. Sooner or later Darcy catches on and starts to follow me on my left side. I say "heel" a few times as he walks along and then give him the treat. I like it because it teaches him to keep an eye on me in case I am carrying the invisible leash--a.k.a treat--while at the same time producing some nice looking heel walking. Also the kids find it amusing. Now if only someone can explain why deer scat is so appetizing to Darcy. I am pretty sure that is something I will never understand.
  13. Thank you Journey and D'Elle for the excellent advice as usual. Just to clarify one point...I am not shocked not to see results, but after doing it for the first time it seems like quite a bit of effort for both Man and Dog. Which is totally fine but I just wanted to check with the experts that this is a reasonable strategy before deciding to stick with it. I think I will (1) make these training walks shorter and (2) stick with it and (3) continue reading Bones Would Rain from the Sky in the mean time =) Thanks again, Eric
  14. A flat collar, and I have used leashes of various lengths. This morning I used a 6 foot leash. It has always been an issue but I have never done any work on it. I have been focusing on The Relaxation Protocol and Look At That! in an effort to help with him be less reactive, and during that time have not done many on-leash walks (he has plenty of yard to run around in). But I felt that this would perhaps be a good time to start work on the leash walking too. (I know I said "our usual walk" but by that I meant the usual walk we do when we go for a walk, which recently has been not very often.) I know there are other types of harnesses that are supposed to discourage pulling, but I want him to learn to be attentive to me instead of (or at least in addition to) the environment, not simply to not pull on the leash. But that may be misguided or just making things too hard or complicated.
  15. So as I make my way through Suzanne Clothier's Bone's Would Rain from the Sky, it seems to me that appropriate leash walking is one of the next steps in advancing the Person-Dog relationship with Darcy (now almost 7 months old). This morning we made our first concerted effort. We took our usual walk, and I let Darcy for the most part dictate the path and when to stop and sniff. The only rule was that if he pulled we stopped until there was slack in the leash again. Our walk lasted an hour and was almost entirely one step at a time (with sniff breaks). The sniff breaks are completely fine with me of course, but there was very little walking without pulling. So while it was an exercise in zen meditation for me and I can tell I am already a better human, there was no sign by the end that Darcy is a better leash walker. No heartwarming "by the end of an hour of work I could walk 50 yards without pulling!" stories like in Bone's Would Rain from the Sky. So I just wanted to ask if any of you have any success stories with this approach, or any words of comfort as to how long it may take to see definitive progress, or any other advice? Thank you! -Eric
  16. Disclaimer: I am a few months into my first BC which is my first dog. I am sure our friends who actually know what they are talking about will be by shortly with true wisdom. On the other hand, readers of this forum will know that I have gone through similar trials with my pup. My general sense is that at this stage, the pup's brain is a churning mess of chemicals related to rapid development, figuring life out, and hormones switching on (although in your case it is probably a bit too early for that). Which is to say, every day is a new one with new challenges, new behaviors, and new accomplishments. The fork incident sounds like classic resource guarding. It sounds "normal", but "undesirable". When we faced that sort of behavior with our Darcy we did two things. First, we practiced many times a day dropping items on command no matter how desirable they were. Usually we would give them right back. But we made it clear that we were in control of All The Things. Second, we made a rule: Never EVER try to take something out of the pup's mouth. If we want or need to take something from him we tell him to drop it and then we calmly pick it up off the floor (initially I had to use some upward leash pressure to get him to drop some items). I told my children I don't care if he has a bottle of dog poison or a bomb in his mouth, they must NEVER try to take something out of his mouth. As for the second snap/bite, I sometimes feel like once our pup has had one negative experience it can lead to more that day. I am not sure if it is him trying to figure out what happened, or adrenaline levels just being up, or it just all being a sign he is stressed or confused by life that day, or what. Also, if I have had a bad experience with Darcy over something, I find myself trying too hard to have really good experiences to convince myself he is a "good dog after all". Dog's can sense they are under pressure from you and the whole thing just becomes a vicious cycle. Part of the journey of dog ownership for me has been learning to accept BOTH my dog AND myself for what we are. That was a very long way of saying that to my untrained ear (eye?) what you are describing does not sound weird or unusual. You definitely need to keep working to get rid of that behavior. But I have seen it in my pup and you will probably see it again in your pup as you journey from Now to Then. Like I said, I am just a newbie, and unlike Owl in Winnie the Pooh, I don't Know Things. But since no one else is here right at this instant to provide a shoulder, I offer what I have. D'Elle and the other truly knowledgeable folks will be by soon enough with better advice =)
  17. Looks like I can go take a nap while he does my work done for me. (6.5 months old here). (I think he is actually shopping for sheep on Amazon) -Eric
  18. @AussieBC, the experienced experts will be here shortly with the real answer, but in the meantime I can tell you we ignored that sort of behavior and now crate time is drama free (except for a minute or two of barking if there is too much noise coming from upstairs). In addition to the 3 x 30 minute exercise times you mention, I assume she is spending additional time outside her crate hanging out with you and/or exercising her brain in various ways? One thing I wish I had figured out earlier is the importance of reinforcing calm behavior. We now do some work with Karen Overall's relaxation protocol before each naptime/bedtime. In addition to helping Darcy wind down, it is just a really nice interaction between human and dog that helps dissipate any frustration I might be feeling with the young pup before he goes into his crate. I think you could start working on it at 3 months if you wanted to. But if you do, just keep your expectations very low--you don't want relaxation time to turn into frustration time. The moment it stops being fun for both human and dog, do one more very easy task, reward, and be done. And while the protocol is in the form of 15 "days" of holding a sit/down under increasingly challenging circumstance, don't see it as a 2 week project. Any given "day" may take practice over several days or even weeks to master--this is especially true of very young dogs like yours and mine. Take all of the above with a shaker full of salt. I am a complete novice and have already made plenty of mistakes.
  19. Thank you D'Elle! I have just gotten started with the timeouts, but I can already tell it is probably going to take a substantial commitment for a little while. So I thought I better steel myself with some good advice from here before I get too far into it. But if it seems to be going nowhere I will try the pause-reward approach. Meanwhile, Control Unleashed is already on its way from Amazon! (Actually, it's Control Unleashed: The Puppy Program. I assume the Look At That protocol is in there too, but if not I will track it down.) What? Darcy excitable??? Lol. As I mentioned we are also doing Karen Overall's Relaxation Protocol, which I am finding both fun and helpful. We call the towel he sits on for the sessions his "Yoga Mat". I think in his mind he thinks of it as "The Towel where the humans give me high value treats for doing absolutely nothing!".
  20. So after a little drama which I posted about last week, with all of your help Darcy (6 month old pup) and the Humans have chilled out so it seems Darcy is here for the long haul. So now on to a more mundane training question... Darcy barks at noises coming from the floor above him (which are pretty much always my children tromping around.) I have tried saying “thank you” and checking out the ceiling he is barking at (as Doggy Dan suggests) and then quietly putting him in timeout for a couple minutes (bathroom) if the barking persists. He quiets right down in timeout but then the barking starts again with the next clunk he hears. So before I go and do a hundred timeouts, I wanted to check with you, The Wise And Experienced, if you think I should persevere with this approach. I have seen others here post that their approach is to simply reward any pause in barking and then slowly require longer and longer pauses. Any reason to choose one approach over the other? (Meanwhile we are also working with the Relaxation Protocol to help with general chilling out.) Oh, and we have an e-collar but we don’t use it. My sense from this forum is that we should continue to not use it for this or just about any other training challenge. Right?
  21. Ask and you shall receive...in the spirit of Halloween I include a picture of him posing by a bag of deck railing spindle brackets he recently “killed”. I hope that isn’t too ghastly.
  22. So not too much to report since it has only been a few days, but... First a minor detail: Both myself and Darcy are male. (Yes, "erikor" is non-descript, my first name is Eric. And yes, Darcy is usually female, but he was named after Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice.) It seems to me there is truth in all these posts. After reading these posts, talking to the breeder, and friends, I have come to the conclusion that my youngest daughter smothered Darcy, and Darcy innocently gave her a nip on the nose to say "stop that". I was not supervising the interaction, and that was a mistake. My daughter had been told not to do that to Darcy, so doing it was a mistake on her part, but she is just a child. So that is on me too. I think Ruth and D'Elle are basically on the same page here: what Darcy did was not concerning by itself, but if I can't control the environment, bad things will happen for all involved. I can and will supervise all interactions between Darcy and the girls from now on until I am confident both Darcy and the girls are old enough to have good judgement. And yes, before this we had issues with resource guarding. That problem went away easily with training (frequent practicing of "drop it whether you want to or not"). So it is indeed possible that we are simply not smart enough, disciplined enough, or wise enough to own a border collie like Darcy. Nobody thinks of themselves that way. So perhaps you will not be impressed to learn I do not think of myself or my family in that way either ;). Journey is concerned our home is not a good match for Darcy. You may be right. But I think, with changes we have made, it is. Of course I am both the most informed and the most biased on these points so only time will tell. And it is possible that Darcy is a biter and is going to hurt one of my kids no matter what we do. Now how much of a risk should I tolerate there? If I can only accept zero risk, then I guess we should not have gotten a dog. My kids are put in harms way every day--they might get in a car accident, or catch COVID by going to cross country practice, or....or....or. Is the risk posed by Darcy to my children higher than these sorts of every day risks? If I don't learn from my mistakes then I think the answer is clearly "yes". But if I do learn from my mistakes, then I think the answer is "no". I might be wrong. If Darcy mauls one of my children I will regret it forever. And wouldn't it be simpler just to get another dog? No. If we can't do right by Darcy, I see no reason to think we would do better with the next dog. So Darcy stays with us. We have set new rules for both adults and children (and dog). We have an appointment with a board certified veterinary behavioralist in three weeks. I hope this serves as an illuminating example for other rookies like me in the future. I hope to report back in the coming months that all is well and progressing as expected. If something terrible happens, it will not be for lack of people here warning me. Let me just say, again, THANK YOU to each of you who have taken the time to share your wisdom and perspective with this first timer.
  23. Thanks Pearson’s and Ruth and Gibbs. I am actually very relieved to hear these perspectives. I am perfectly willing to take the blame! I can certainly fix the environment (child behaviors, level of supervision) so we will press on with this delightful pup. And yes, we have an appointment with a respected, DVM trained behavioralist in three weeks to make sure we are doing all we can for this creature.
  24. Thank you D’Elle. And I agree. This is harder than I anticipated, but I see in Darcy a wonderful dog. (I mean, he IS a wonderful dog, doing his best with these weird upright creatures. At least they have treatos!) It is a huge help to have this community to level set expectations, keep it real, and give perspective to these situations.
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