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Good activities for timid BC

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Hi all! I actually have a few questions I'm really hoping people can help me with...my first one is, what are some good ways to improve the confidence of my extremely timid, clingy Border Collie? Bandit is my 2 year old BC, I've had him since he was 12 weeks old. He was quiet as a puppy, then when he went through adolescence he developed a deep suspicion of people, and he never got over it. If he's given a few hours to warm up to a person, however, he becomes friendly to them so long as they don't make any threatening motions, and he will go up to them asking for affection...so I'm hoping that, even though he is an adult, it might be possible to socialize him enough that he would be comfortable around people to the point that I could even take him to Petsmart(this is actually a goal of mine. Yeah, very silly, I know :D )...or is this too big of a goal?

 

He's naturally friendly, but also extremely submissive, almost manipulatively so (I know it's probably not intentional, but sometimes it feels like he uses the whole 'look how submissive I am' thing to get his way). It's been a challenge training him because 1. I've never had a BC before and 2. all the other dogs I've had have been very dominant and/or hyperactive personalities. So I struggle not to use too much energy/force with him (I never use physical punishment, I am just used to using deep growl-voices, very upright posture, sharp movements, etc. I also usually use clickers, but Bandit HATES the sound and the look of that little square thing...so I've switched to just hand/voice signals.)

 

 

I originally got my pup hoping to compete in agility with him, and do some herding just for pleasure(but herding is really seeming super unlikely at this point)...now I'm beginning to think agility might not be the best choice for him. I'm worried the bright obstacles, cheering crowds, etc, will frighten him too much. I admit this dissapoints me a little, as it was one of the main reasons I chose this breed. But I LOVE my dog, so, for his sake, I'm willing to give up that dream for him. I would really like to find a sport I could compete or participate in with him though, does anyone have any suggestions on sports for naturally timid dogs?

 

I'm sorry for the long post, and thanks to any repliers!

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and do some herding just for pleasure(but herding is really seeming super unlikely at this point)...now I'm beginning to think agility might not be the best choice for him. I'm sorry for the long post, and thanks to any repliers!

 

I have found with shy or reserved border collies, herding is a very good thing for them. If they like working, having strangers around usually doesn't phase them at all; There have only been a couple of super shy border collies that haven't been able to work sheep while people were around. I find it usually brings them out of their shell.

 

One of the good things about UBSCHA type herding is that people don't care if your dog is shy; no one would go out of their way to go pet your dog and no one is ever offended if you tell them your dog is shy, please don't pet them.

 

Sometimes giving them a real job can make a big difference in their confidence level

 

Cynthia

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You might want to try tracking with him. Tracking allows the dog to be the 'leader' since his nose is doing the work. It's not a sport that is crowded with cheering people and it's great fun too :)

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With a savy instuctor agility is great for the timid dog, builds confidence and they actually enjoy it. There are alot of successful agility dogs that started out timid

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You might want to try tracking with him. Tracking allows the dog to be the 'leader' since his nose is doing the work. It's not a sport that is crowded with cheering people and it's great fun too :)

 

 

I want to second KrisK's suggestion! For a couple of my dogs tracking helped build their confidence more than any other activity I tried with them, including herding. It seems that, for these two, the fact that they were 'in charge' and making the decisions was what made the difference. I was just along for the ride(the dope on a rope-LOL).

 

Janet

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My first Sheltie was super shy to the point of phobic from the day I brought him home at 7 weeks. Setting goals is great but make sure to let your dog go at his own pace. Pushing too fast can end in disaster. Try not to become discourage when he has a bad day or seems to backslide. I always talked about being patiently persistent as far as working with my dog to try new things and go new places.

 

Agility was one of the best things I ever did for him and I've seen many a shy dog develop confidence as they learned to do the obstacles in class. However, let your dog be your guide in the sense of finding the activity that he loves whether it is Frisbee, obedience, trick training, tracking, agility, working stock, etc. What one dog loves, another might find no fun at all. You do want to (patiently, persistently) hang in there with a new activity. The first night at agility class, my dog was literally grinding his teeth from the stress and unable to take treats. I'd go slower with a dog now but back then I didn't know any better. But I kept putting treats back in his mouth and encouraging him and within a few weeks, he began to relax and enjoy the new game.

 

One thing I wish I had done with my shy guy was clicker training. I think it is a tremendous confidence booster and makes learning very fun. A book I repeatedly recommend is Click to Calm by Emma Parsons. It is marketed towards aggressive/reactive dogs but works well with shyness or any dog for that matter. And it is a great book as far as explaining clicker training.

 

Good luck. Shy dogs have a special place in my heart. For all their fearfulness, they have their own special brand of courage as they face the big scary world every day and watching them build confidence and skills is especially gratifying.

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You've gotten some great responses here. If your Bandit likes it, herding will work way better for him than you might imagine. Dogs who like herding really, really, really like it, I mean they focus on the stock to the exclusion of everything else around them, and they are really motivated to get to work the stock.

 

I would add that if you decide to try agility, consider starting with just an instructor, you, and your dog, rather than starting in a class environment. And an instructor with a quieter, more sympathetic personality rather than the big boisterous type might be a good choice. We started that way, in a big, quiet backyard field with no other people around, and Daisy, who is shy (actually, I call her "skeptical"), ended up loving it and really getting some social growth out of it. Our instructor Shelly is a college freshman. She's quiet, sweet, and totally consistent with the dogs. I made

a while ago of Daisy with my then 11-year-old niece. My niece was trying agility for the first time, Shelly was supervising, I was filming, and Juno (d*mn you!) was barking. Look how much fun Daisy's having. And how isolated the field is!

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My sister had a very shy, sound sensitive Sheltie. Agility did wonders for her confidence and really brought her true personality out. Of course it wasn't overnight, but now she's like a totally different dog.

 

Shaping games/tricks with a clicker can be a confidence builder too.

 

Good luck!

 

JoAnna

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Very good suggestions. Also, if your dog is afraid of the clicker, you might try using a ball point pen instead. Its softer click might not be so intrusive.

 

Good luck!

 

Amy

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Agility gave my pup LOADS of confidence!! I can't imagine life without agility! Seek started out as fear reactive from day one! She loves to work and she is happy being around the agility people and loves them petting her! She goes up to them for attention. Even outside of the work environment and with some shaping, she has become a happy dog. Once in a great while she will be afraid of someone, but I know the signs and don't let her get to her threshold. She will however warm up in about two minutes and beg for pets. It's like she needs to get over the initial scare. This wouldn't even be possible a year or more ago. She has had dramatic progress, but we have been working on this since she was 6 months old... she is going to be 3 in March.

 

With your pup, I would suggest private agility lessons. Then it's only one other person around. You will be the handler, so your pup probably won't get scared of quick movements. It's worth a shot... If you're worried about the crowd, noise, etc. you could just do lessons, and not compete. It would help you two bond and could be fun.

 

Good luck!!

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I have three suggestions for you.

 

1. If you can find an instructor in your area who teaches the Control Unleashed program, I recommend setting up some private lessons. The reason I recommend privates instead of classes is that sometimes CU classes have reactive dogs in them and your shy Border Collie might struggle if that is the case. Still, some CU instructors are able to screen and won't have that, so you might find a class you can do, as well.

 

CU can really help build a dog's confidence because the dog learns to interact with the things that cause him to be nervous, stressed, etc. in new ways. CU can also build your confidence in your dog, especially as the dog starts to make progress.

 

2. Get into clicker training. I've found clicker training to be the #1 biggest confidence builder for my formerly extremely fearful dog. Some say that the effect that the click has on the dog's brain can actually create new pathways in the brain and I watched that happen before my very eyes with that particular dog. Even just using the clicker for tricks can help build confidence in general.

 

3. There are some very interesting confidence building exercises at the end of the book "Getting in TTouch With Your Dog". I've used some of those in my own CU classes and they do serve to build confidence.

 

I hope some of that helps. I also second Pat W's suggestion of finding an Agility instructor who has experience with timid dogs. They are out there and an instructor with patience and who really understands timid dogs can really help you find ways to help your dog become more confident.

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I hate to say this, but it sounds like you've kind of fed into his psychosis for the last two years.

 

It is important with any dog, but for this dog in particular you should have immediately enrolled him in puppy training classes purely for the socialization aspect. You should have taken him to PetSmart every single week when he was younger. Getting them out in the world while they are young and making it fun is what creates happy, confident dogs.

 

At this point, I feel that any training you do with him will help boost his confidence. Agility really does make many shy dogs blossom, but you will need to complete an obedience class first if you haven't already (for the majority of clubs). Learning to work around other dogs can be a big deal for unconfident dogs and you want to make sure he's okay with this before starting agility.

 

I like the i-click clicker: http://store.clickertraining.com/newiclick.html It has a softer click and it's more consistent than the box clickers. Many dogs that fear the sharp sound of the box clickers are okay with the i-click clickers.

 

I think a group obedience class is the place to start. If you'd like to try for anything more advanced than that, I would perhaps try to start with private lessons as mentioned above.

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It is important with any dog, but for this dog in particular you should have immediately enrolled him in puppy training classes purely for the socialization aspect. You should have taken him to PetSmart every single week when he was younger. Getting them out in the world while they are young and making it fun is what creates happy, confident dogs.

 

I do want to jump and and say that while all of this is true, please don't feel that what you should have done has cut off the possibility for confidence for your dog in the future. SecretBC, I am not saying that you were saying that, but I know that back when I was first working with Speedy all of the shoulda-woulda-coulda's weighed heavily on me and I felt at some points that I had "ruined" him in some way by not doing what I should have done (but did not know to do) earlier in his life.

 

Now that I am on the other side of all of the confidence building, training, and hard work, I wish someone had told me then that there is an entire world of possibilities and potential for a timid dog, even one who did not get the benefit of early socialization. Even without early socialization, you can help your dog far more than you probably even think possible right now.

 

I got to a point where I decided that regretting what I hadn't done was absolutely useless and that focusing on what I can do for him in the here and now served both of us far better. Almost 10 years later, it is very clear that decision was one thing that I absolutely did right. In fact, I often forget now how fearful he was unless I really stop to think about it. He has come so far.

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Chase is a shy and sensitive dog and agility has done wonders for his confidence. When we first started I wasn't sure if he would even be able to work around other people and in that type of atmosphere. I encouraged him but never forced him to participate and we took it slow. He is now a dog that I can barely keep away from equipment. When he is on the course, he is very focused and seems to see nothing else.

Having had GSD's and a pushy aussie, I was also used to being a bit loud and more forceful with my commands and it was an interesting learning curve for me to figure out how to communicate with sensitive Chase. The clicker helped me alot.

Chase also takes obedience classes and we're in the middle of attending K-9 Nosework classes. All help keep him out and around people.

Chase still does show his shyness in certain situations but his reactions aren't as extreme and he seems to be able to hold himself together respectably :D

It's been alot of work for Chase and for me and continues to be at times but it's been worth it and he makes me proud.

You got alot of great advice here. Good luck!

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