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I posted a few weeks ago re a wonderful, beautiful dog I had gotten from the shelter. Rusty is a red and white split-face male border collie. I will give you some background: He was in the shelter about 2 weeks. He was running as a stray for quite a while with 6 mo. old cattle dog and aussie girl pups - until the dog warden could finally catch them. He was too skinny, thoroughly matted and had burrs through his coat. The shelter neutered him and I brought him home 17 days ago. The first few days here he was recuperating from having pulled his stitches out at the shelter and swelling. I had talked the shelter into giving me him early so that he could recuperate here in better conditions.


Rusty is a very, very laid-back dog (so far) who loves nothing more than to be petted, and my vet guesstimated him to be 3-5 years old due to tarter on his teeth and his docile manner. Now that he has been with me and the tarter is coming off with bones, I truly wonder if he is even two years old yet. I can see glimpses of a young dog when he does get excited, and even though he was skinny, he also looks gangly...like a teenager.


He has been here 17 days. I have two dogs (8 yr. mix boy and 4 yr. BC girl, both neutered.) Within the past week, I think we've made great progress. At first, he did not understand doors (how they open and shut), he could not go up and down stairs, he was cautious of all people (especially men), he did not want to take food from your hand, and he did not acknowledge that people-food treats were special (IOW he almost seemed picky.) Now he can do steps, is understanding doors opening and shutting, is taking food from us (although still cautiously) and is comfortable with my husband and son.


He is off-lead in the house with my other two, he is only out in our 2 acre yard on a lead (since the fence can be compromised and he seems to have a lot of street-smarts as to how to get out of things), he sleeps in a crate in our bedroom, he is allowed to run off lead with my other dogs in a small play area I have for my private boarding kennel....although he never runs with them; mostly just lays down. When we are on lead in the 2 acre yard, he will run with them and try to be part of the gang when they are on a chipmunk-chasing hunt.


Here is where I need input. He just doesn't seem happy. He lays around all day; he looks depressed. He does get a little excited when we go out....or if I put him and the other dogs in the kennel (separate runs) while I go shopping, he is excited when I come home and let him out. He does not play or interact with the other two, but once or twice, when they are chasing a toy, he runs over where they are running...but then stops (I think he doesn't know what to do; how to play) and then just walks away and lays down.


I have thought of different theories about all this and they are:


1. He is in survival mode. He is not sure how the dogs are going to react to him and so he is just "laying low". The BC has gotten snarky once with him and the mix has also done so just once.


2. He does not know how to play at all....so he doesn't fit in.


3. He misses his two girls that ran in his pack. (I did notice him get all excited when he was in my car one day and my girlfriend came over to my car holding her new puppy...he got all excited.)


4. He misses the freedom of the street life and being a stray.


5. He seems to relate more to dogs/pack then he does to people. However he loves people to pet him.


His vet work-up came back good, so I don't think it's health issues. I feel so bad for him as he just doesn't seem to be enjoying life. Am I not giving this enough time??? My first BC was a rescue, but came from a home...so I acknowledge that it is probably different coming from a shelter and a previous life as a stray.


I am also a little concerned about the dogs interacting. My two can play ROUGH ...and love to do that. I am concerned that if (if ever) he goes over to play that the roughness will turn to them picking on him. I do not want this dog traumatized any more than he has been.


I know so many of you have fostered and re-homed many, many dogs and I would appreciate your input or tips for us getting through this stage.


thanks so much



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I'm sure others with more knowledge will post in. But I tend to think that Rusty is still adjusting. This can take a bit of time; maybe a few months. It sounds like he's making progress. It's just alot for him to take in. And it's true he may not know how to play. I brought my girl home when she was a year old. She had been on her own since she was a puppy. Georgia had no idea what toys were. The first months were filled with the ups and downs of adjusting to her new life. But with time and consistency and some training she blossomed into a wonderfull social girl. Keep your head up and try not to get discouraged. :)

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I agree with BeachBCs, he's still in the adjustment period. I know I bring this up endlessly, but it took Shoshone 6 months or more to really show us her true self.


Give each of your dogs separate time w/you and/or your significant other. Read D'Elle's story about Kelso, who was taken from a puppy mill. If he'll respond to a treat, ask him for something first, a sit, a paw, something to get some give and take going.


It might help to keep a journal of his progress and set-backs. I'd say give him at least another couple months.


Good luck, and thanks for taking him in.



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I frequently see what you are describing in dogs I foster for the local border collie rescue. IMO, Rusty is still adjusting - and may be doing so for quite awhile. 17 days, some of which he was recuperating from surgery, is not a very long time for him to figure out where he fits in with a new pack of dogs, a new home environment, and it may be his first positive experience with a human pack. If he's as young as you think, he will probably learn how to play not only with your dogs but with toys; however, some dogs never feel the need for play or toys. My guess, since he is still thin, is that he is still in physical recovery mode. It takes some time for malnourished dogs to regain their strength and muscle tone - this may also be why he's not actively playing as well.


From your description, it sounds like he is making excellent progress. He's learning about living in a house and with its occupants. My recommendation would be just to keep doing what you have been doing - give him a few months to come around. I'll bet w/in 3 months, you'll see such remarkable progress you won't believe it. It just takes patience (easier said than done, I know!).

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We have four dogs - all rescues. Some didn't know how to play at all. The most amazing thing is when they pick "playing" up from one of the dogs and try it the first time. You can almost see them saying " is this right?" It takes time. There are some excellant threads about Kelso and Taff under the rescue resource tab. If you do a search and read the threads from the beginning you can see the amazing progress, but also the length of time one needs to dedicate to achieve it. Good luck.

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My new foster failure, Dot, has been with me for just a hair over one month. She frequently has a look about her that makes her appear as if she thinks she's always in trouble. She hangs her head down and she looks up at me sheepishly. Even when she moves, it is often with her head hanging in a very submissive posture. But she also has begun to show me a really big, broad smile. I'm beginning to see the smile with more frequency, and the sheepish look, while still present, isn't her default look as much.


Yesterday, I was walking Jill and Dot off lead together in the big meadow near my house. There was a woman there walking her 9 month old mini-aussie so I gathered up the dogs so as not to overwhelm the youngster who was barking in alarm at us. When I assured the woman that my girls were good with other dogs, we let them all meet off lead and within a few moments they were all three leaping and chasing and tumbling in a heap. It was the first time I had ever seen Dot play at anything, and it made my heart soar. We let them play until they were panting and tuckered out.


These things can take time and sometimes the dogs will plateau before more progress takes place. I look forward to reading a post from you in the future where you describe the same joyous moment that Rusty plays. It will happen.

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First of all, I want to thank everyone who has responded.


Responding to the various suggestions, I have already started a journal. I did this a few years ago when I got Kylie from BC rescue, and found it helped. I have read her journal over again now that I have Rusty. It is helpful...I forgot some of the details until I read the journal again. So I started Rusty's journal the day I brought him home.


I also started reading the Kelso journal on this board right before I decided to get Rusty (I kept looking at those Rescue items since I was always looking for the right dog.) I went back and re-read it so I could remind myself that this is not always a bed of roses.


So now the plot thickens. This evening, we were all gathered in the family room to watch a movie (me, DH, and three dogs.) I was on the couch and Rusty plopped down next to me. I will admit he is attached to me since I brought him home and I am home all day so I am the primary caregiver. He is what I would call a "needy" dog who always wants to be petted. I would normally tell someone to have the dog do something (sit, down, etc) for such petting, however, as a stray, he was never taught any commands that I can see; he is still not crazy about food; and so I really don't think it is the right time to start even small amounts of obedience training. So as he is laying next to me, Kylie (girl BC) comes by the couch for some petting and....he actually growls at her! Did not lift his head off the couch...not a huge growl...but a small growl that both she and I caught. Luckily at this point, he is very responsive to an "AH-ah" correction and he quit and looked away.


I can tell he is becoming attached and possessive of me. When I call or pet any of the dogs...he also comes over to get petted....but then, all my dogs do that. However, he tends to lean up against you to be "stroked" and petted. So I decided to move to the loveseat that is kitty corner to the sofa, and that is where we all stayed for the evening. I have had my son feeding him his evening meal since I feed him the a.m. meal and I have had everyone taking "quality time" turns with him so he could get used to DH and my son. However, there's no getting around I'm the one who takes him out with the dogs all day. So this threw me a bit this evening. I plan on taking a more "happy" approach to his petting, instead of the stroking, and making sure he sees all dogs getting equal pets.


I am worried that I am going to eventually have a dog fight over pack order -- has anyone else had this type of problem? Any tips on what to watch for or how to handle?


You know, I used to counsel people on all this stuff....and I was good at it. BUT when it hits so close to home, and you're too close to the situation, things sometimes look different. Luckily, I have always found that dog people are the BEST when it comes to support. And so I am asking for more advice on this transition. The growling really threw me for a loop...wasn't expecting it from him!!


p.s. on a lighter note, I had to leave the room for a minute and asked DH to keep an eye on the dogs. I returned to find Rusty's nose totally engulfed in the potato chip bag I had left lay on the end table :D DH was totally unaware (of course). Yes, the stray survival mode (gotta eat whatever I can get) is kicking back in and I am reminded that manners and obedience will certainly be needed.

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i believe NOW is the time for obedience training. from the minute you bring the dog home, he has to learn the house rules. i think you do the dog a dis-service by "giving them a break" because they are a rescue and new to the situation. they should understand right away that this is the way we behave here. to let them get away with things now, then change the game later, might be a bit confusing. when i brought nova home, twitch would growl at her when he was sitting with me on the chair. that earned him a push off the chair. he doesn't share the chair, but he doesn't begrudge her her petting time.

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I don't know if you'll end up with a dog fight - I think that really depends a lot upon the dogs - but I will tell you how we're dealing with this same situation right now. We brought in a new Basset hound from rescue a little over a week ago. Sherman, nee Deisel, had been through 3 other homes in the past year before coming to us - and had some "aggression" issues according to the previous owners (which I really haven't seen, yet).


When he growls at the other dogs, I read this as "testing/creating boundaries" - I simply push him off the bed (which is where this happens) or, if he's persistent, he goes in his crate. I do not allow this to escalate. It is my job to set the boundaries, not his and not the other dogs. When/if he growls, good things are taken away. He also needs to work for things (meaning he must do something for me) - so no treats without a sit. And he's petted at the same time as the other dogs (not alone) - so good things happen when other dogs are getting attention. This is a very confusing time for a dog - they're NOT part of the pack and they don't understand "the rules" so this is your major role now. Once the rules/boundaries are established or understood, in my experience, dogs become much more comfortable and the growling stops.



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Lots of structure and NILIF. This will help give him a clear picture as to what is expected of him (something that insecure dogs love). He hasn't had rules so he doesn't know what yours are. He's trying to figure them out and the biggest favor you can give him right now is to teach him what they are. Rules and boundaries give dogs security.



And what kind of food have you tried? Cooked meat? cheese? If nothing else it sounds like he likes potato chips :lol:


ETA - Was posting at the same time as Kim!

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Thank you, thank you, and thank you.


I agree...I think the little growl was my wake-up call -- time to get back to structure. This morning we began learning the word "sit" when we got our morning cookie with the other dogs (who always need to sit, or shake, or do something for their cookie.)


Rusty will rub up against you for petting...he did that when he was in the shelter, too. When you came to his cage, he rubbed up against the fence (like a cat) for you to pet him. Petting (for the time being) is now dispensed across the board and is regulated to what I would call "patting" (a pat on the head) as opposed to stroking. I think up to now we were all in the "feeling sorry" mode for him, but how we are going to really work to incorporate him as one of the gang.


I really do know this is all part of the dog hierarchy and everyone finding their place in the new pack. Like I said before, it is just a little harder to see when it's so close to home. I also appreciate hearing from Kim since she is going through the same thing....it helps to know you're not alone! :)

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Just chiming in, here.

I think there's a grey area between the "feeling sorry for the dog" approach and treating the dog the way you would a "normal" dog who can simply be easily trained with food. All foster dogs who come to my house immediately learn the House Rules (no fighting, no resource-guarding, no jumping, wait at the door to come in or go out, and walk nicely on a leash, among others). But I do not always start on obedience training right away.


By obedience training, I mean heel and stay and recall, sit, down, and so on. some dogs need some time to learn how to learn. This is the case with Kelso. I have had him for 4 1/2 months and he doesn't know "sit". That is because he still cannot handle any direct interaction of the type that would be required to train him. But he has excellent manners in the house, and is working hard on his leash manners.


It definitely sounds as though your new dog just needs time to adjust. Give him lots of time, within appropriate structure and boundaries. He will come around. ;)


I also second the suggestion to pet him at the same time as the other dogs, which sends the message that we can all be good dogs together and everyone gets petted.


Just an aside: My Kit dog is a major growler/snarler at the other dogs, especially new foster dogs. She sounds as though she is going to take their faces off, and mine too, if I get in her way. But I know this dog, and there's nothing but air behind all her threats. Unless she is attacked, she will not actually engage....she is all talk. I simply treat this with humor and don't make too much of it. That works well with her. But, as I say, I know her very well and I know the growl is not going to lead to an attack on her part.


I also have had the experience of taking a growl dog-to-dog too seriously, and ended up creating a more serious situation by my response than there would have been if I had stayed out of it.


My greatest teacher is always the dogs themselves. I believe strongly in very, very keen, close, and constant observation of them and how they interact, especially when one dog is new to the mix. If you really study them you will learn a lot, and can frequently be aware of a potential problem before it arrives, giving you time to deflect it.

Hope any of this rambling is helpful. :)


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I'm so glad you responded, D'Elle! I have read and re-read your Kelso story and it is especially of interest to me now that I am in a similar situation. I feel pretty good that we are on the right track here,now, and especially since I can post and get input from others, like yourself, who have more experience with this. Thanks so much, and lots of love coming from us to Kelso. :D

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