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Formerly abused dogs


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I am fairly new to BC, have had a working dog x 2 years for goats and Scots Highland cattle. Recently I was given the opportunity to obtain a really nice imported Bitch 4 1/2 years old that was abused by her first owner in the US over 2 1/2 years ago, (two teeth knocked out, apparently by a man with a stick) in the meantime she has been used only as a brood bitch by the next owner(and her pups are wownderful working dogs!!) Bell is super smart, even for a BC and picks things up quickly. when we first got her she would only stand in her kennel and shiver, would refuse even bacon out of our hands, but fortunately we found that she is not afraid of children and started with a kid feeding her. We have used only + reinforcement with her and she is now working like a champ for us, taking commands well and enjoys the heck out of working. Couldn't ask for a better working dog, however, she is still very fragile with her trust. Any new humans, new situations (like bringing her into the house, when she usually resides in the kennel, etc.) raised voices, loud noises, sudden movements, makes her very nervous.

I am not a novice dog trainer, and have trained obedience dogs for many years, and collies for stock for 2 years, but I would like very much to continue the rehabilitation of this dog's psyche. She is such a nice dog, but the only time she is "happy" is when she is working. Her son, who is also my dog, is one of the happiest dogs I have ever owned, literally grinning all the time, and I would like to decrease Bell's anxiety and increase her trust where she would be more happy and relaxed rather than continually anxious. Any suggestions?

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Keep working her. Have different people work her if possible. Trust will come. I've seen my trainer bring around abused dogs with just consistent handling and giving them plenty of work and room to breath when not working.


Don't be afraid to correct her if you need to, by the way. Just make sure you are fair. She needs to know the rules, it will make her feel more secure. If you don't have any particular rules, make some up. I'm not kidding, it works. I've brought around many a painfully shy or unsocialized dog this way.

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I have no experience whatsoever with herding, but Shoshone was badly abused before we got her, and we like to think we've learned a trick or two.


Rebecca's advice to have different people work her worked well for Shoshone, she would do agility exercises and tricks quite happily for almost anyone - and she loved it. With your girl's shyness and fear of new things, you could try just putting one new thing in an area she frequents every few days, and reinforcing her for any interaction with that thing - looking at it, sniffing it, pawing at it, walking by it, etc. Other than that, ignore the Thing, and just provide a New Thing every so often. This might help her over time to realize that new does not mean dangerous.


Something that has made a huge difference for Shoshone (and I wouldn't have believed how big a difference if I hadn't seen it) is a drug called Clomicalm, approved for treating separation anxiety in dogs. It's really astonishing - I wish we had known when we got her 6 yrs ago.


Good luck with her - it sounds like she's come a long way already.


Ruth n the Border Trio

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Our dog Bell was brought from Ireland as a pup, then sold to an American, who thought he was a big-time competetion sheep dog man. (and he was NOT) I am not sure if he personally abused her but I know that he put her out "on trial" several times to others to see if they wanted to buy her. About 2 1/2 years ago she was acquired by a wonderful trainer (male) who was unable to work her successfully at that time due to her fear and he used her to raise pups, which were wonderful, my "Boss" dog is one of her pups. We got her about 4 or 5 months ago. At that time, she would only stand in the pen and shake. She somehow feels safe in the pen. She would not work much, but would "chase" the stock, but not take commands. If you even spoke to her she would run cowed to the house and get in her kennel. I wasn't even sure she had ever been trained. She didn't appear to know any commands of any kind, only her name. Slowly, she started working but still would not take commands, though, she worked so well that she actually didn't need many. We worked her on a leash for the down, etc. and so I knew she knew them and slowly she started responding to commands when she realized that a beating wasn't coming with the command. She seldom needs correction either working or behavior now and responds well enough that I have demonstrated her several times at large public gatherings and at one middle school function for kids. She loves kids, by the way.

She isn't so much afraid of "things" as she is men and sticks, though, she is starting to overcome that somewhat. My son and I have both started too carry a pointer stick again when we work her and she seems like she is not afraid of it. Once I even accidently lightly hit her with it as she was going around and she didn't respond at all, just kept working.

She is due to whelp Dec 30th and since it is so cold we are bringing her into the house slowly, and she is starting to relax somewhat. I have her whelping box in my son's room and after he crawled into it, she followed him and now when I ask her to go "inside" she runs into it and seems safe and content. We are working on housebreaking at this time.

She actually taught herself to "heel" a couple of weeks ago by walking around wihtout a leash while I made her son heel, and within a few hours I had two dogs heeling instead of one. The breeder/trainer I got her from says she is the smartest BC he ever owned, and I think he's right, but I want her to be "happy" as well as safe. This is my first "rescue"--rehabilitation, or whatever the term is---. We're a working ranch with cattle and goats and I want her to work and "earn her keep" but at the same time, she is a living soul and I want her to enjoy life and over come her "Post traumatic stress disorder" to use today's catch phrase. Thanks for the encouragement and tips, I will keep you posted.

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