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Issues socializing with other dogs


waffles
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Hello! I am new here and loving this site. I have a 2 year old male border collie. I got him a few months ago, he was previously an outside penned dog and was "bullied" and bitten by other male dogs on the property.

 

Since we have had him we have made great progress with building his confidence, overcoming fears, doing basic and more advanced training, giving him a few jobs (he loves frisbee), etc. His behavior with dogs has improved since we got him but we can't seem to get him to where we want him to be, which is to accept all dogs. He was not neutered when we got him and we have seen a huge improvement with male dogs since having him neutered. His main issue seems to be fear of high energy, anxious dogs. He will growl at dogs on walks who are jumping, pulling, whining, to come meet him (a quick soft "hey" will get him to stop though). He will growl if a dog runs right up to his face off leash, or bounces around trying to play with him. Typically, he freezes, looks scared and growls/shows teeth. He will "snap" and make a high pitched bark if the dog is completely ignoring his behavior and will not leave him alone. If he is playing frisbee and sees a dog (even 50+ ft. away) his body language changes and will stop playing until the dog is out of sight.

 

However, he does very well with almost all polite, well behaved dogs, especially females. He has no idea how to engage in play with dogs or relate to them and shows little interest other than sniffing/greeting. He has been to homes of other dogs and is able to be okay once the other dogs calm down, we frequently take him to a friends and the inlaws. One problem we have is that strangers will see him growl and instantly pull their dog away or not allow them to meet (I feel my dog is also learning that growling is getting the reaction he wants: the dog leaves). It is hard to help my dog when I don't have access to other dogs. We try to be very aware of our behavior and we are not at all nervous or anxious, or tighten the leash or freak out when we see a dog approaching-I actively take him to places where I know other dogs will be.

 

My goal is to have him not growl or be uncomfortable around any dogs and to possibly engage in play with a dog, even just one dog would be great!

 

Any thoughts or experience on how we can continue to help him? We have a great behaviorist in the area and am debating on calling. I would love advice from other border collie owners though. Thanks for reading my long post too!

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http://flyingdogpress.com/content/view/42/70/

 

Read this article in full. If there is any part that isn't clear let us know so we can explain it better. It addresses the issues you are having and our differences in culture (ex: what is perceived as rude by a dog vs a human).

 

 

Yes!! I was just looking for the link :D My Gilly used to dislike obnoxious Retriever type dogs...until we moved in with one. Then she learned to mimic his play style and they got a long fine. IME, some BC's are not into wrestling with "strangers". They are comfy with running & chasing but they only get down & dirty with family & really good friends.

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It sounds like you're doing a fine job so far. Remember, you've only had him for a couple of months, so you're still kind of in the 'honeymoon' period. It may take him a bit longer to totally settle in and trust you 100%. Boosting his confidence and working with him in a positive manner now will help strengthen his bond to you and help him settle in. You may see that once he becomes more trusting of you, his behaviour will decrease faster with good counter conditioning. If there is a good behaviourist in your area, by all means, call them up! Extra help never hurts!

 

One of my dogs (Daisy) is reactive and fear aggressive towards other dogs and strange people and it's been a lot of work. She trusts that I won't let anything bad happen to her and I was able to get to the point of fostering dogs for a rescue and then adopting a second dog. When I take her to the off leash park, she can control herself the majority of the time and I find that watching her body language when other dogs are around her helps a lot. I watch her tail and her ears mostly and if she's feeling uncomfortable with the situation, I just change my direction slightly and call her to me. She's more than happy to come over and walk with me. I give her treats and praise for walking away when she's in a situation like this. She has issues with dogs who stay to say 'hi' too long and dogs who are in her face. I find that stopping forward movement allows other dogs time to come and say 'hi', but if I continue walking she does too and it gives other dogs less time to congregate.

 

Play might be an entirely different thing. Some dogs just don't play. With some of the rescues I've fostered, they didn't even know how to play with people, never-mind with another dog and would never attempt it. Others had no clue what toys were or how to play with people, but had no problems playing with other dogs. I think it really depends on the dog. My second dog (Riley) is 2 and will play from dawn until dusk if allowed. He tries SO HARD to get Daisy to play with him. She will give in once in a while and chase him and every so often she'll offer a play bow, but I'm convinced that she would just rather play with people over dogs.

 

There is a good yahoo group for reactive dogs that would likely be useful to you, there is a ton of information in the files and some really, really helpful and knowledgeable people there.

 

http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/Pos-4-ReactiveDogs/

 

Good luck.

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http://flyingdogpress.com/content/view/42/70/

 

Read this article in full. If there is any part that isn't clear let us know so we can explain it better. It addresses the issues you are having and our differences in culture (ex: what is perceived as rude by a dog vs a human).

 

Greatest article ever. Having a dog that doesn't always tolerate rude behaviour I wish this article was a prerequisite for dog ownership.

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I had my dog for some months before I read that "He Just Wants to Say Hi" article, and when I finally read it, it changed my perception of my dog.

 

Buddy's early history sounds a lot like your dog's - except Buddy actually pinned a few dogs in the first few months I had him, before I figured him out a bit. He doesn't want jumpy, twitchy, or overly excited dogs in his face. Period. Knowing him now, I can tell exactly when he's getting stressed and wants the other dog to back off, though early on it looked to me like he was just snapping. I can also tell from a good distance if the other dog is savvy enough to behave well with Buddy, and encourage him to greet those dogs, so he gets practice with appropriate dogs without going over threshold with knucklehead ones.

 

I gave up my dream of having a dog who could go to the dog park and run with the crowd. Buddy will play one-on-one with a few dogs. (One in a hundred he loves on sight, and he remembers these dogs even if we don't see them for months and months.) He will never play with more than one dog - even if he loves both dogs, he always seems to want the fun to be controlled and on his terms. It's as if he's scared that boisterous play will lead to the inappropriate nonsense that stresses him out. Let a pack of silly frolicking dogs approach, and he looks like he's being mugged - and will strike out if he feels the need. I can train Buddy to tolerate almost any single dog - but a great lesson to me was dogs' inability to generalize. Just because I trained Buddy to tolerate Pebbles the lab doesn't mean he'll understand that he should also tolerate Bo the lab. ::Sigh::

 

I'd say know your dog very well, and don't ask him to be the kind of dog he's not. If you can walk him near other dogs, and he can live his life contentedly without fighting and without playing, he's fine.

 

Mary

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That article is spot on with what I already feel! Most people don't get that their dog is "misbehaving"/being rude as well. I definitely can see that my dog is not aggressive towards other dogs but has what I think are inappropriate coping mechanisms at times. For the most part he is just trying to communicate to the other dog to leave him alone or get out of my face. The problem comes when the other person sees my dog as aggressive and pulls their dog away. We have been lucky enough to live near knowledgeable dog owners who do not panic when my dog snarls at theirs. I just wish he could be more relaxed. Once he has gotten to know a dog or if they stay away from punching him in the face, he is content to play with his frisbee or watch the other dogs run around. When we first got him he couldn't even see a dog from a distance without getting fearful and snarling. Like I said before, a calm polite dog is totally okay to him. I hope to someday get him to be more relaxed around even the most obnoxious of dogs!

 

Thanks for the advice and personal stories. I will keep you posted if I actually work with a behaviorist. My ultimate goal is to just have a confident happy dog in all situations in life.

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I hope to someday get him to be more relaxed around even the most obnoxious of dogs!

 

That might be a tall order. If there are obnoxious dogs around, I'd remove mine from the situation. That is my job. They trust me to take care of them so I don't put the in a place where they'd have to deal with rude dogs

 

It sounds like he is on edge because he thinks he'll have to deal with other dogs

If he is playing frisbee and sees a dog (even 50+ ft. away) his body language changes and will stop playing until the dog is out of sight.

 

For now I wouldn't put him in a spot where he needs to deal with/worry about other dogs. When you go out he just needs to interact with you. Don't take him places where you know there will be lots of other dog as it sounds like it really stresses him. I'd want him to be thinking that he's going to have so much fun with you that he doesn't even need to think about other dogs. When you go out do clicker work or basic OB work with high value rewards.

 

If he doesn't feel the need to deal with dogs, he'll probably relax more and quit reacting so much towards them.

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That article is spot on with what I already feel! Most people don't get that their dog is "misbehaving"/being rude as well. I definitely can see that my dog is not aggressive towards other dogs but has what I think are inappropriate coping mechanisms at times. For the most part he is just trying to communicate to the other dog to leave him alone or get out of my face. The problem comes when the other person sees my dog as aggressive and pulls their dog away.

 

I've found that it is helpful to take two things into consideration when working with a dog who is uncomfortable with other dogs in his space. 1. I can never assume that anyone else with a dog knows to keep their dog out of my dog's space. 2. I do not allow my dogs access to dogs who will treat them rudely. Especially not when on leash and their choices are limited.

 

I know you are concerned about your dog learning that growling will cause the other dog to go away, but there are ways that you can work with him and help him relax more around other dogs. Out on a walk you have no control of other people and their dogs and those people have no investment in what you are trying to do. So, setting up training situations, especially at first, with dogs with whom your dog is comfortable, is really important.

 

One thing you might try in the meantime is tying a bright red bandana on your dog. It might serve to help other dog owners take you more seriously when you say, "please do not bring your dog closer". The key to teaching your dog that you have her back is for him to consistently see that you are going to make sure that others respect his space.

 

I don't "panic" when someone else's dog growls at mine, but I do move my dog off immediately. Think about it - why should I insist that my dog stand around and get snarled at so someone else can try to teach their dog that snarling won't work? In addition, the polite thing for a dog to do when another dog signals "close enough" is to increase the space between them. It would be a disservice to my own dog to insist that he or she stay in close to the dog that is clearly signaling discomfort.

 

Just some things to keep in mind.

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I've found that it is helpful to take two things into consideration when working with a dog who is uncomfortable with other dogs in his space. 1. I can never assume that anyone else with a dog knows to keep their dog out of my dog's space. 2. I do not allow my dogs access to dogs who will treat them rudely. Especially not when on leash and their choices are limited.

 

I know you are concerned about your dog learning that growling will cause the other dog to go away, but there are ways that you can work with him and help him relax more around other dogs. Out on a walk you have no control of other people and their dogs and those people have no investment in what you are trying to do. So, setting up training situations, especially at first, with dogs with whom your dog is comfortable, is really important.

 

One thing you might try in the meantime is tying a bright red bandana on your dog. It might serve to help other dog owners take you more seriously when you say, "please do not bring your dog closer". The key to teaching your dog that you have her back is for him to consistently see that you are going to make sure that others respect his space.

 

I don't "panic" when someone else's dog growls at mine, but I do move my dog off immediately. Think about it - why should I insist that my dog stand around and get snarled at so someone else can try to teach their dog that snarling won't work? In addition, the polite thing for a dog to do when another dog signals "close enough" is to increase the space between them. It would be a disservice to my own dog to insist that he or she stay in close to the dog that is clearly signaling discomfort.

 

Just some things to keep in mind.

 

Thanks for the input! I don't expect people to continue to allow their dog to be in my dogs face when he growls, but to do what you said-pull them back and control them. Then maybe stand for a second or two and then continue on their way. Most people panic, get anxious, and feed into the commotion.

 

The way we have gotten him to improve so much is by seeking out dogs I can trust and setting up positive situations. I think that is why a professional might be of some help since they would have access to many dogs. I just don't know if his behavior really warrants a paid professional but I don't think his scared/uncomfortable behavior around certain dogs is something we should just accept. After seeing him come so far we know that it is possible to help him grow even more-to me there is always room for improvement and we owe it to our dogs to try everything to help them.

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One thing you might try in the meantime is tying a bright red bandana on your dog. It might serve to help other dog owners take you more seriously when you say, "please do not bring your dog closer".

 

Is this some kind of dog-aggro code among dog owners? I'm serious ... this is not something I've ever heard of. If I see a bandana on a dog, I just assume the owners have atrocious taste in canine neck wear.

 

One thing that I think we BC owners forget is that our border collies tend to be less tolerant of dog-dog interactions they find inappropriate than many other breeds. I often hear from owners about how "stupid" other owners are for letting their dogs behave so poorly toward their border collies, but if you've spent enough time in off leash areas you come to realize that the "rude" behaviours of many dogs is not only well tolerated but also welcomed by many, if not most, other dogs. In-your-face type greetings that irritate any of my dogs don't seem to bother lots and lots of other dogs, who accept them as invitations to play and socialize. It's not uncommon for me to be a dog park with 30 canines wrestling and playing chase, and my dogs standing around looking irritated - and my dogs are very well socialized. They just aren't interested in that nonsense.

 

I think that Maralynn was absolutely correct about not putting the dog in situations where he needs to feel anxious about other dogs. I don't worry too much about a border collie who makes ugly face at other dogs who run up to them, but if he stops playing games when a strange dog is 50 feet away, he's not really at a place yet where he can be around strange dogs.

 

My TWooie, who is VERY dog aggro (there is no stiffening, showing teeth etc - there is just fighting) has come quite far playing variations of "Look At That" where I set him up to look at strange dogs who are outside of his discomfort zone. When he looks at them calmly, he is rewarded. Over the months we have gotten closer and closer. I can now take him to one of our favourite off leash hiking areas (he remains on leash) and he can walk right past dozens of dogs - he just looks at them, and then looks at me and wags his tail. It's a work in progress though, and one error can undo a lot of our good work. Late last night I opened my front door to let my dogs out for a final pee, and it seems my neighbours' had company visiting, with dogs. A black Lab was standing on my porch when I flung open the door! This is something I did not expect. Fortunately I grabbed TWoo before he went out the door to disembowel the Lab. But I know that for the next few days, he will be more anxious than usual around strange dogs ... however, he will calm down again. Like I say, a work in progress.

 

RDM

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  • 1 month later...

I wanted to give a little update to my original post a month ago. I have taken some of the advice from here and continued to work with Levi on his dog interactions. I took his favorite treats with me on walks and when we encountered another dog I would reward him for looking and not reacting. Then if they met and sniffed, I rewarded the second the sniffing was over. Usually that would be the moment he would start to snarl or get uncomfortable. If we had a set back and he snarled or growled at a dog I tried to see it as a positive moment to see where we needed to improve.

 

I also set up small playgroups with friends and family and their dogs. Levi already had a border collie mix who he was able to romp around with a little but now he has been able to politely socialize with dogs of various energy levels and temperaments. Meeting dogs inside has always been easier for him so I think doing more of the playgroups has really helped us on our walks where we had the most trouble. I try to take the "set them up for success" way of dealing with this problem. I think coming to this board has made me really motivated to keep helping him. I am very hopeful that he can become more confident around unknown dogs, I have seen so much progress so far! Thanks again for all the helpful advice.

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I am a behavior modification dog trainer in OR who does a LOT of work with reactive dogs. I too have a new border collie rescue who has reacitivity issues with other dogs. I strongly suggest Lisa Mcdevitt's book Controlled Unleashed, as well as the books "click to calm" , "scardy dogs" and "feisty fido" if you are a reader. The basic premise that has helped us and many of my clients SO much, is getting your dog around other dogs, but do whatever you have to, to keep him UNDER THRESHOLD. This means no staring, "eyeing", growling, whining, or refusing food/toys. I go to a quiet dog park that has a huge field beside it, and we started on the far side of the field, throwing her ball, training, etc (whatever she was comfortable with), and slowly moved closer to the dog park. I found that if I went during the week, there were the usual one or two dogs there who were pretty quiet, just playing fetch, sniffing, etc. If I ever went when there were too many dogs there, or they were being too vocal, we just went home. Its not worth it. You must set your dog up for success.

 

I also pair this with reaction to sound training. I sit down with very high value treats, squeaker toy, remote control and clicker, and play a dog training dvd. At first I clicked and treated any sound that related to a dog: heavy breathing, collar tags clinking, etc. The squeaker was for if she did react I was able to get her back by squeaking the toy. Now I only click barking, and I can watch videos of agility trials where the dogs are going crazy...I cant believe it =)

 

If you are planning to compete in any dog sports, I stronly suggest the Contol Unleashed set up. We have not worked all of the way through it yet, but it is a good combination of the books listed above, as well as new information on this topic.

 

Good Luck!

 

www.positivefirstdogtraining.com

 

Mandy Miller BA, CEI

Positive First Dog Training

www.positivefirstdogtraining.com

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