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My dog has emotional issues I just can't understand


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Sorry in advance if I am in the wrong place on the forums. Never seem to get it right.

I have been reading lots of the posts from the past to see if I can figure out my 5 year old rescue dog, but so far no luck. I have had him about a month now. At first he was fearful of leaving the house to go for a walk, but if I kept him on the leash, he would stay and enjoy his walk. I have had some great long walks in the woods. I have another little dog, and those two are starting to interact. In the woods Bobby follows me, no leash, and we have a great time. I need to keep him leashed till we are away from the road, but then i let him off. Last night, as we were walking to the woods he just lay down, When I tugged the leash, he rolled on his back and just stayed there. I couldn't move him. He was almost comotose! I spoke very softly too him, he wouldn't look at me, and then I just carried on with my small dog and walked away and left him to see what he would do ( there is no traffic on the road, it is a country side road). Eventually he got up and caught up to us and we walked in the woods a bit, but he kept laying down and was not feeling safe, so I put him on the leash and we went home. I thought he was getting more confidence, but this was a setback. Any ideas?

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Dogs are amazing in their ability to move from home to home and adapt perfectly, but sometimes the instincts that allow them to do that, get overworked for whatever reason. Dogs are pack animals and will work hard to fit in the pack and please their new packmates, and the perceived leaders in particular.

 

Some dogs may feel insecure in their new home for various reasons. Sometimes they don't recognise a routine they can fit into. Sometimes they are unsure of who the leader is. Sometimes the rules aren't clear. Sometimes there is positive reinforcement, mistakenly given, for insecure behavior (soothing a frightened dog only makes the dog think you want the dog to act MORE frightened).

 

These dogs demonstrate various placating behaviors that can break our hearts. Surely this dog was abused! we think, watching our new dogs grovel, flinch, and go belly up. But in the vast majority of cases, the dog has NOT been abused. He's simply telling you that he is confused and needs some gentle but clear direction.

 

It can make you tear your hair out, I know. You want to crawl in your dog's head and tell her she's OK, really. But you can't. What you can do is reinforce confident behavior, establish a routine and training opportunities where you can give her a chance to demonstrate confidence to you, and, hardest of all ignore the groveling.

 

You can't even really analyze the situations that make your dog uncomfortable too closely - there might not be a clear cause and effect relation between the situation and the dog's reaction. Who knows what makes your dog squeamish, really? It might have been a scent association we'd never understand in a million years (literally), a shade of UV we can't see, a sound above or beyond our range. All you can do is give signals to your dog that you have it under control and aren't worried about it, and that it's her job to do her bit in your quiet routine.

 

Good luck. I do know how frustrating it is. It can take a long time to establish confidence in enough situations that you'll look back on all this as a bad dream - but the time WILL come if you are patient and consistent.

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Hi! I am a foster home for rescue border collies and I can tell you honestly that it takes time for them to settle in. Unfortunately for them they cannot tell you how they ended up in a shelter. It is quite possible that his previous owner simply put a leash on like they were going for a walk and then dumped him in the woods. Now he associates taking a walk and leaving home with being dumped. Lots of patience is called for if he is treat motivated I would fill my pockets with lots of yummy things to eat. If he stops mid walk stop with him and wait. Talk to him quietly reassure that you are not leaving him, offer a treat and when he takes a step or two toward you praise and treat make it a party. Let him know that even though hes going out on a walk he will be coming home again. You might want to walk your second dog separately so you can concentrate primarily on reassuring him that all is well. I would not leave him off leash anywhere until you are positive of your recall and definately dont simply walk away from him if he quits on you. That is just asking for him to make the decision to take off since you are in my mind giving indications that you are leaving him there.

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Dogs are also sometimes aware of circumstances of which we humans may not be cognizant. There may be something in those woods that is spooking your dog. In another thread, this issue was addressed. Some cited cases of dead animals nearby, others of unseen predators; in my own case with Annie, it involved a coyote that had taken up residence in our neighborhood. Others have far more experience with BC's than I do, and can speak more authoritatively; but I have noticed in my own experience, as well as in posts on this board, that almost every BC seems to have its own neurosis. As Pat indicates, it takes time; combine this with love and patience, and you should be okay in the long run.

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I thought of there being a physical reason this morning. There was no thunder or rain, but the sky was overcast, and the lighting a bit weird, and it did eventually rain, so I wondered if maybe he had a headache. It is the sort of weather when people get headaches.

All this feedback is so helpful. I am a horse person more than a dog person, at least in understanding behaviour that is a bit off the regular course.

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There was no thunder or rain, but the sky was overcast, and the lighting a bit weird, and it did eventually rain
This is an interesting insight that may help to explain the issue. As we all know, a dog's hearing is far more sensitive that that of humans, and dogs can also detect subsonic vibrations that are inaudible to humans; in some locales, they are effective as early warning systems for earthquakes. Annie is terrified of thunder, and sometimes responds to sounds that are so far away we never hear them; it is only afterwards, when listening to weather reports, that we are able to figure out what was happening. This might explain why you BC acted so strangely. (And then again, it might not...only he knows for sure.)
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The overcast skies may be a clue as to what is going on. Our Nellie is very in touch with the weather fronts as they make there way through Ohio. She will act a lot like this as the fronts approach and usually it is anywhere from 12 to 24 hours before the front makes it to us. Apparently she can sense the change in the pressure and does not want to go outside and when we first got her if we tried to take her on a walk she would do the same type of things and will still stand in front of us and look like "You realize we will die if we don't get back in the house NOW".

 

It probably took us a few months to totally put this behavior with her fear of thunder and realize what was happening in her doggie mind.

 

Is Bobby afraid of thunder?

 

Hope this helps.

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I have had him through one thunderstorm and brought him inside ( he lives on the front porch and normally doesn't try to come in) . He was terrified and vibrating, so we all sat on the floor keeping him cheered up. So yes, hates thunder. That I do know.

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I have great luck with dog bonding by keeping treats in my pockets at all times and finding lots of opportunities to treat. You look at me when I call your name? Treat. You come to me when I call? Treat. You think about getting in the garbage, but don't? Treat. (Be fast on this one!) You pick up your toy to chew instead of my shoe? Treat. etc. This makes the dog your best friend ready to do anything you want, FAST.

 

I am with Maria, you may have trouble gaining a best bud who follows you anywhere, even scary places, if you are separated by a porch.

 

This may not work on all dogs, it worked best with moderately submissive dogs who are not plotting a takeover at any moment.

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I've been worried about Meg's confidence a lot lately. Especially since here boot camp trainer looked at me like I was clueless when I said that she was a 'little' shy. Meg's been woofing and barking at the dark and the woods a lot lately. At first it was easily identifiable as birds, or the neighbors/stream protection people running through on the easement, but finally she refuses to go outside at night to the lit yards without us and sounds alarms pretty regularly.

 

The other night I tried to go out with her when she was alarmed and saw a coyote. I suspect it was the same coyote/brood member that killed two sheep and a kitten a few neighbors away. That's about a square mile area.

 

The minute she actually saw the coyote she ran back inside at lightening speed to the downstairs bedroom with a long continuous violent bark. It wasn't her imagination. She's just very keen on hearing and the world of sounds is generally frightening. Now that fear is confirmed and she won't go out at night.

 

Patience and confidence building and keeping them close (off the porch, on a leash etc. ) is what I'm hearing here.

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It sounds , from the response,like I am doing something wrong by having the dog live on the porch/deck/ front step, (whatever term works)!? He picked the spot where he sleeps, so I bought him a bed and a nightlight( the kids thought he needed the light). I have the door open a lot and the way the house is set up, I see him all the time. I am in and out all day, so is my little dog and my kids, so he is not isolated during the day. I have a bench beside where he likes to sleep and I sit there with him. Like I said, he stays close to home. I only put him on a chain ( and it is long and he doesn't move anyway) when we all go to bed. A real homebody. In time he won't have the chain either.

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I should add that he was found in the back of a cattle transporter covered in cow poop and I was told by the vet who ended up caring for him that he was an outdoor farm dog in another life, and that is what I am going on. I live in the country and he really really doesn't want to be in the house. My little dog is, but Bobby just stands at the threshold, not wanting to come in.

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Its just that, I can not imagine a BC being content to lay out on a step all day. My girl (and I imagine most others on this board) would go nutts being seperated from her "pack". Not to mention the mischief they tend to get themselves into when they are alone/bored. Is he a mix?

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He sounds like he tends to be fearful. Is it possible, he's just uncertain of the new environment(being inside), since he was never exposed to it in his previous home?

Im not saying you have to let him sleep in the bed with you or anything like that, but bringing him into your home will build trust and help you form a stronger bond.

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As far as I was told by the vet, Bobby is 5. The vets brother is a serious border collie trainer, and takes his dogs to sheep trails, etc. It was actually the vets brother that ended up with the dog as he would seem to be the guy who would know what training the dog had.Bobby has some training but because he is so fragile, it is hard to know what it is. So the vet helped his brother find a home, and they both tell me Bobby is a BC.

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Yes, by fragile I mean emotionally. He has moments when he is playful and happy and demonstrates that he has been trained to be really in tune with his owner. I guess what I am saying is that I think it will take a while till he will repond like that all the time. But overall, I am not complaining about Bobby. I just love him. It is in my nature to ease him into the house. I am sure by the winter things will have changed. I am in British Columbia, Canada, and our winters are long and mean.

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Bobby sounds very similar to Nellie in their actions during a storm. What we have done for Nellie is give her a crate that she can sleep in and when a storm comes she is either in the crate in our room, in the bathtub or behind the toilet. We also try to ignore her so we don't reinforce the scared behavior.

 

Nellie is also very soft emotionally. If there are any raised voices or upset tones of voice, she will jump up and run for her crate looking very disturbed.

 

Bobby probably has not ever been in a house, if he was a farm dog, but could probably be trained to come in the house and be more comfortable in the house. I haven't had this issue with a dog, but I think you could get him to come in with treats and have a major party when he comes in.

 

I don't know how long you have had him, but it took Nellie around six months to feel comfortable in our house after we brought her home.

 

As you build a better bond with Bobby, he will have more trust in you and feel safer when you are around.

 

Good Luck with this boy and thanks for taking him in. Don't hesitate to ask more questions or search the boards, there is a tremendous amount of information here.

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I think it is coming up to four weeks I have had him. I will use this forum next time he has an episode. Gotta keep a pocket full of treats. Always have sugar cubes for the horse, so it is only fair.

 

Thanks for all the help

 

Seona

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Seona,

 

You might want to take a look at this article by Dr. Karen Overall on Storm Phobias . If you are interested in reading more of Dr. Overall's articles about dogs with anxiety disorders (and other things), there is a list of them here.

 

Hopefully Bobby will settle in with time. My suggestion that you read the article above is intended only as food for thought.

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I have always felt that Kate has emotional issues. I call her my MelonCollie for that very reason. She's very withdrawn at times, and usually keeps to herself. She'll play and interact, but the least little unforseen event (a cup dropping or a paper bag rattling, a motorcycle going by, whatever), sends her scurrying back to her bed. It was so bad after an old dog and its owner moved out, that I took her to the vet that prescribed Clomicalm. We used it for a short time during this separation and change, and it helped. Weaned her off of it and she went back to her normal state (still a little withdrawn, but better). She doesn't lay with the pack (us, and two other dogs), comes out mostly at meal times or when we're going outside to play or for a walk. Sometimes she doesn't want to leave her crate even when we are all outside. I've come to accept this as her personality and reserve the medication for when it's really affecting her quality of life. It is an option...

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I have been walking with healthy dog snacks in my pocket, and that is really keeping Bobby's focus from whatever demons lurk in his head. And by accident my son found out something that makes Bobby very happy and playful. He was watering something with the garden hose and Bobby stared jumping at the water. My son took a bunch of pictures of Bobby in mid air with his mouth wide open snapping at the water. He has a very active border collie and the two dogs had a ton of fun. If I knew how to send a picture I would.

I will check out the references that were recommended. Thanks so much. Till next time....

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