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HELP - We just don't know what to do.

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We have a 2 and a half year old Border Collie who has always been very timid. We've had her from a puppy about 8 weeks old.


She's never liked any noises but recently it really is something we're extremely worried about. The slightest sound sends her into a hiding place, where she'll shiver & shake until she feels safe. Sometimes its in between the radiator and chair but most of the time she disappears upstairs under the bed. The only ways to get her back out is either to leave her to come out on her own or to kid on she's going in the car. Even suggesting going for a walk doesn't interest her enough.


On top of the current building noise, we have noisy neighbours who argue/fight a lot so this is a problem that isn't going to go away by itself. We have explained the situation to them and even had them sit in the livingroom while someone next door slams a door so that they could see how she reacts. Although they were shocked and apologised for the noise they make, nothing has changed since.


She's always been timid and its impossible to judge whether she'll take to a friend coming into the house or whether she would bark at them. We live next door to a school and I don't trust her enough to leave her in the back garden as the kids sometimes put their hands/fingers through the fence - depending on which kid it is, she'll either sit and lick their fingers or she'll stand back a bit and bark at them. Having said that, she spends most of the day in the garden with my wife, so its not like she is stuck in all day.


She is absolutely ball daft. Won't go anywhere without a ball in her mouth and she is always trying to get you to throw it so she can bring it back. However, recently, although she gets all excited when you pick up her ball-throwing stick and races into the field so that you can throw the ball, the slightest noise sends her back to the house. There seems no way to coax her back and even on the odd occasion where she does come back, the next time you throw the ball she just isn't interested.


We really are at our wits end trying to help her but we just feel we're not getting anywhere.


I know collies can be very timid and if theres light at the end of the tunnel thern we'll all get there but there just seems to be nothing we can do to help her. I am going to take her to the vets for a detailed checkup and discussion but wondered if anyone here has any suggestions.




Forgot to say her name is Nala. Will post a pic in 2 minutes

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The weekends tend to be slow in here, don't give up hope if it takes a few days to get some answers. I'm sure lots of people will have some good suggestions for you soon. All I can say is good on you for trying to do the right thing for your dog. :rolleyes:

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Guest WoobiesMom

Check out this group on Yahoo:



Also, get these two books for starters:

The Cautious Canine by Patricia B. McConnell



by Nicole Wilde


Here's some tips to start a desensitization and counter conditioning program:



I feel your pain! My rescued pup is very fearful and getting him past certain fears is a very very very slow process. It takes tiny little baby steps and as my vet forewarned, due to his genetic predisposition (both breeding and the possibility that mom and dad were feral), there is probably a limit to how far he will go. He probably won't ever be a bouncy happy dog that runs up to children and licks their faces (kids are his biggest fear). But, he runs up to adult strangers at the dog park and is more outgoing every day, so I know there's hope. It just takes alot of time and tons of patience.


Good luck!

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I would have to ask, what in her life has changed? She's not a dog that you've just recently adopted, you've had her since she was a little pup. And although you said that she's always been sensitive to noise and timid, it's only recently been escalating. So, what has happened "recently" that could have affected her? You mentioned "current building noise", does that mean that there's construction going on, or are you just referring to the general hub-bub? Are the noisy neighbours new, or any other new neighbours? Anything happening (or happened recently) that could be affecting her confidence? If nothing else has changed it's probably a good idea to talk to the vet.

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I think it's great that you're going to the vet, it's the first step in learning how to best proceed. Ask for a complete blood panel to include a thyroid work up. I have a dog who is very hypothyroid and before being diagnosed he became a basket case, right around 2 years of age, and became afraid of everything and reacted aggressively as a consequence.


Since being on med, he is 80% better. There are some learned behaviors that we are working through but he's a completely new and improved dog.


If you get a complete bill of health then it's on to focusing on what you can to help her deal with her fears and hopefully get over them. Do let us know what the vet says!



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Thanks for the advice given so far.


She's never been comfortable with any noise that she can't see, if you know what I mean. The situation has gotten far worse since all the construction work started. But, even today, when there are no workers about (its Saturday night) she went for her ball once and then ran back to the house. Normally, she'd walk about 10 yards in front but would look around every 10 steps or to see if you were still behind her. But she just seems to freak out and runs home (I say run but its more of a jog). Even if I can convince her to come back to me and I'm clapping her, all she wants to do is go home.


The neighbours have been there since before we had her so theres nothing new there. Only change is the construction work.


Even if this is all down to the construction work, she acts the same when its fairly quiet, like it was tonight. The only noise were branches moving in the wind but this was enough to put the fear of death in to her.


If it is the extra noise happening at the moment, do we continue to try and coax her out or do we keep her in the house as much as possible? I wouldn't want her to associate being scared with going outside.

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Guest WoobiesMom

I can tell you something that worked with me and Woobs. As I said, he is very afraid of kids. When we got him, I would easily say deathly afraid. Two houses down with heavy trees in between are some small children and their playset in the back yard. He can't see them, but he can hear them. When we first got him, if he heard the slightest kid noise in the back yard, he would physically fling himself against the sliding glass door with such force I thought he would break it. At the dog park, if kids came in he would fly to the end of the fenced area and attempt to climb the chain link fence. I could just see a foot caught and him falling and kablam, fractured leg!


In the back yard, I would go out with him when the kids were out. First, I found a treat he absolutely adored (ball park franks) and would get him to stay on the deck and take one treat while hearing the kids. I built up from there and used a combo of treats and frisbee (which he also loves!) and got him to come down the stairs one step at a time, slow but steady and in segments of only a minute or two. Only occassionally can he hear the kids outside when we're inside but if he starts to show nervousness and pacing and hiding, I pull out the treats and distract him. Now when he hears kids, he looks to me for food. He gets it every now and then, but it keeps him out from his hiding spot and has changed his expectations. At the dog park, he just won't take treats, so I use the frisbee. I try to keep him from hiding under the benches by engaging him with frisbee, etc. and he's been helped alot just by seeing his bestest friends getting loves and pets from the kids that he's actually let the calmer, older kids touch his nose!


I would start in the house with your dog. When there is noise that would upset her, you could try treating her with something she's absolutely gaga for. You could also try to mask the upsetting noise with some radio or CD music of something that doesn't upset her. Maybe try introducing the masking music when it's quiet, like at night or on the weekends. What I've done to try to prevent Woobie from developing a fear of thunderstorms (he was slowing getting more anxious with each one) was to say "Hey? What's that? You hear those thunder boomers?" in a very happy, upbeat voice and head right to the frig. He'd also get a Kong filled with treats and peanut butter (another fav) during the big ones. Now he just heads to the frig or his toy box when the boomers start.


If she's food motivated at all, it can be a good place to start changing her perceptions of those things that upset her. Some things I've read say to treat with her kibble and cut back on her regular feedings so that there's a bit of hunger motivating her to remain with you and take the treats rather than running and hiding. If she likes the ball alot, happy encouragement in the yard might help. I found that if I thought "Uh Oh" in my head and had that worry in my mind, he was not as confident as if I had that "Hey! Things are fantastic!" mindset. I got that one from Cesar Milan where he has owners envision themselves in the most confident, most powerful place mentally before they work their dogs and I've found that it really does make a difference. Woobie takes his cues from me and picks up on whether I'm worried about him being worried.


Hope this helps!

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One thing that would concern me is that she could be noise-phobic. Is she fearful of noises inclucing thunder and gunshots or fireworks? There are some dogs that may have a genetic predisposition to this and, for some, it may worsen with age for some reason.


Do please check with your vet. Also, this is a trial weekend for several posters in the mid-Atlantic area so you might get some good advice after the weekend. One family in particular has had to deal with an extreme case of thunder-phobia, and they might be able to respond and give you some helpful advice.


Best wishes! This is not easy for you and sounds quite terrifying for her.

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Obviously no one can really say without seeing the dog but to me she sounds like she might just be generally anxious rather than specifically noise phobic. Where are you located? My recommendation would be to consult with a veterinary behaviorist.

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