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Unenthusiastic Puppy

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First time posting here :)


My question is how to get my puppy more interested in training (or anything else)?

I got her as a 3 1/2 month old puppy and have had her for over a month.


Her breeder told me that she was very active and very smart, and from she said that the pups from this litter would be "perfect for dog sports, agility or trial work!" The parents are both working dogs, and there were no red flags about the breeder.

Since I planned to go agility with my puppy, I thought this would be perfect.


Surprisingly, she spends most of the day sleeping, has never shown any excitement about going on her walks or getting her food, and seems to dislike any obedience training. She is not food motivated so I have been trying other ways to make walks and training more interesting. I take her to fields and forests, encourage her to swim, and run with her to get her to chase me or her ball. Although she loves chasing her ball, it often feels like I'm doing more running than she is. If we have her on a leash, she will randomly sit down and refuse to move. If this happens, nothing short of walking away from her will get her to move, and sometimes even this won't work. I have been trying to use games of fetch as a reward for learning a new command, but this just seems to distract her.


We take her to puppy obedience classes once a week, and even there she often just lays down and refuses to perform. The trainer usually has better luck at getting her to obey than I do, so I must be doing something wrong.


I know she is still a puppy and is expected to sleep a lot, but it worries me that I hardly ever see her excited about anything. The only time she is visibly excited is when I come home from school, and she acts depressed if I try to train her. I do not use negative reinforcement and I try to be very enthusiastic to show her that training can be fun. No training session has lasted for more than a couple minutes because she just walks away from me. I do not train her if I am getting frustrated with her.


She is also very submissive. Could a lack of confidence be the problem?


We have taken her to the vet so it is likely not a health issue.


Thanks for any advice you may have!

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We have taken her to the vet so it is likely not a health issue.


Bloodwork and other tests (above and beyond a physical exam) are needed to rule out some very important potential health issues (a liver shunt, for example).


What breeder did she come from?

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Yes, I agree with Liz. You and your vet definitely need to do more digging - maybe even a specialist. It is not normal for a BC puppy to be acting this way. Poor girl. I hope you find a reason for her lack of enthusiasm.



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I agree that ruling out a health problem is the number one priority. But...


How much does she love chasing her ball? I'd like to hear a little more about that. What exactly is your routine like when you try to do obedience work with her? How do you train a basic sit or lie down?





Negative reinforcement is not the same as punishment. Neg. reinforcement means that you, the trainer, remove something from the environment increasing the likelihood that the dog will engage in a desired behavior. Its not used very often in dog obedience, but often with horses (bits are a good example).


The best example of negative reinforcement is when you, the parent, buy a toddler, who is screaming in the super market, a candy bar so they will stop. The parent, in this case, has been reinforced for buying the candy bar via removal of screaming from the environment. We consider training methods punishment only if they are intended to decrease the likelihood a behavior.

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...I got her as a 3 1/2 month old puppy and have had her for over a month...Her breeder told me that she was very active and very smart, and from she said that the pups from this litter would be "perfect for dog sports, agility or trial work!" The parents are both working dogs, and there were no red flags about the breeder.


Welcome! Just a few questions - I'm wondering why the breeder still had this one pup (or maybe had more) from this litter at 3 1/2 months of age. Most responsible breeders have pups sold before the breeding is made or shortly after, and certainly by 2 months of age. Is there a reason why she was still with the breeder at this age? Or was she possibly returned by a previous purchaser?


I'm not sure about red flags - some things are very obviously a red flag, and sometimes red flags can be harder to detect (like a large-scale breeder who does not indicate litters on the ground on a website but has pups available when people email or make other contact). Perhaps I'm jaded but I always view a statement like "would be perfect for dog sports, agility or trial work!" as a bit of a red flag. Pups from a litter may "have potential for dog sports, agility or trial work" but saying any pup "would be perfect" tends to set my antennae quivering. Any pup, from the apparently best breeding cross possible, is still a gamble. A good breeder increases the odds of getting pups that are suitable for a particular pursuit by making the best breeding decisions possible, but there is never a guarantee that any certain pup will be "perfect" for any certain pursuit. Am I being confusing?


As others have said, I'd have this pup thoroughly checked - and that includes bloodwork, fecal samples, and a thorough physical.


But one other thing I'd wonder is if you are trying too hard. Some pups are like sponges, just seeming to want to learn anything and everything you are willing to teach them. Some are not. Some do not deal with enthusiasm with a positive response but rather an enthusiastic trainer can be putting a lot of pressure on a pup that can't handle that.


One dog I had is an example of this with regards to certain training. Too much encouragement made him back off, seem disinterested (a displacement behavior or avoidance of the disquieting situation), and shut down. I had to learn to adopt a more "casual" approach to training him, allow him to develop confidence, and be firm but fair in working with him. When he matured enough to begin to bloom, he then learned quickly. He just was not able to handle the pressure of enthusiastic training (or socialization) at an earlier age.


It took me a while to realize and understand that enthusiasm and encouragement are viewed as pressure by some individuals, particularly those that lack a natural self-confidence.


Best wishes!


Sorry I might not be clear but I'm not on my own computer and am limited in cutting and pasting to quote.

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Thanks for the replies.


The puppies were all on hold before the breeding, but two of the potential buyers never followed through. The breeder (Little Foxx Farms) has a website that details how the puppies are raised and that she is a small scale breeder. She described the other remaining puppy as 'mellow' so maybe this breeding wasn't particularly successful.


I was doubtful at first that it was a health problem because she had a health check-up before being shipped to us. However, I looked up liver problem symptoms in dogs and a few of them match. She vomited up completely undigested food once and has left chicken in her bowl uneaten (rarely). Her stools are dry and she seems constipated (we've been giving her pumpkin puree for this and it is helping). She is small and skinny and developed bad breath a week after we had her even though her diet did not change (both the breeder and I fed her raw chicken thighs). I will definitely ask the vet to test her.


She has definitely made improvements since we got her.(At first she refused to walk at all!)

If the problem isn't a health problem, but that I am being too enthusiastic, how can I build her confidence ? Any training techniques to keep her from shutting down?


Hopefully I can get this sorted out soon. One more question- how much energy should I expect from a 4.5 month old puppy?

She does have bouts of energy, and though she lags behind us on off-leash walks, she will sprint after her ball. She has never been 'hyper' and her bouts of energy are short.

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I really hope you are feeding her something other than chicken thighs. If that's all she's getting, that could be part of your problem.


I would expect a 4.5 month old puppy to have a lot more energy than this. One thing you might consider is a partial blockage somewhere in her digestive system - the lack of appetite, vomiting, no energy. Also, her bad breath might be retained baby teeth. Really, whether she had a health check before coming to you or not, a second vet visit would always be a good idea for a new puppy. And I'd deworm her too.



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I emailed her breeder in the past for feeding instructions, and she told me to give pumpkin puree and chicken thighs. I will email her again for more detailed instructions.


@Cyberdog, I overlooked your questions in the my earlier reply. Her dinner and breakfast is cut up into pieces and we have her perform commands to get her dinner (at least, that was the original idea).


The way we taught her first command, sit, was by holding food out of her reach and waiting until she sat down. I then pressed the clicker, said "sit" and gave her the chicken along with enthusiastic praise. This was during the first week when she was here and she was a bit more excited about getting her food. I taught other commands in a similar way but since she is responding so rarely now, I only make her do about five commands during each feeding time. Otherwise she will just walk away and not eat her food. She is much more obedient during the first 20 minutes of obedience classes, but then goes and lays down under a chair. I am now trying to get her to do a command here and there throughout the day (for example, before we go on her walk she must sit once inside the gate and once outside).


She responds decently to some commands (sit, come, drop it) but for some reason does not do others, even though she has shown that she knows what they mean.

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I think you seriously need to have her thoroughly evaluated by a veterinarian, and seriously reconsider her diet. Something certainly does not seem right here. Even for a more "mellow" pup, her behavior and energy levels are not normal.


There are a number of people here who feed raw diets. Perhaps some of them can offer you their opinions. Raw, like any other diet, can be done well or not well. What you have been feeding seems to be very limited in scope and may not be providing her with the levels of nutrition that a (should be) rapidly-growing pup needs.


While you have had replies from her breeder, I think you need to also look elsewhere for assistance since your pup's problems seem rather pronounced.


Best wishes.

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Vet check, vet check, vet check. Can't say that enough.


And, asking a not yet 5 months old puppy to do an obedience routine before every meal seems excessive to me. You might be overtraining and expecting too much of her. The walking away and lack of enthusiasm scream 'overwork' to me.


Put the clicker away for a while. Let her come to you, praise/reinforce moderately when she does. PLAY with her without expectation. I don't mean that you let her bite your hands or poop in the house or destroy things, I mean let her do some zoomies around the yard, do a little chase and be chased, pet her and get her used to you handling her paws and tail and ears, etc.


Your little girl might have some physical problems and some social anxiety. Too much interaction can shut some bc's down.


So, in addition to a more thorough vet check - blood work, fecal, thorough history, even a urine sample - let her be a puppy a bit more.


Vet check!


Ruth and Agent Gibbs

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I agree a trip to the vet for an in depth check is vitial.



Let me just add that I am a raw feeder..have been for over 6 yrs. Have dogs that have never eaten anything but. Your diet is way off. First off your puppys stools are dry because your dog is getting too much bone. The diet should consist of only 10% bone. A basic raw diet is 80% meat (should be beef-pork-chicken-vension-lamb) another words a variety of different meat sources. 10% bone and 10% organ meat..liver, kidney etc.


I also add yogurt, cottage cheese and fish oil.


There are many good raw feeding groups out there with a wealth of info..

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Yes, I can't stress vet check enough. Very thorough, as it sounds like she is not thriving. Also, just my opinion, but ease up on the training and expectations with her. Just let her be a puppy! I'm not saying let her run wild, but ease up. Play with her, build your relationship and bond. If she likes the ball, use that to build play drive and fun.(not to an extreme, of course, she's a growing puppy and you don't want to do too much repetitive exercise)


Best wishes for you both.

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Part of your problem might be, as pointed out, that what you are feeding your puppy is just not supplying her with the nutrients she needs. I know I said that already but I don't think repeating it is over-stressing the issue.


While I have met few vets that seem to have a good grounding in nutrition, I think that more recent training and awareness has made some very cognizant that there are a number of approaches to good nutrition, both raw and prepared. I would avoid any advice that advocated Science Diet, unless for a particular medical condition (like renal issues) that needs to be addressed with a prescribed diet. JMO.


And, again, too much pressure (along with too much encouragement, which may translate to more pressure for her) may be another part of her problem.


I am sure, with the good advice people are giving you, you will be able to help her out. You may find that better nutrition may take care of several problems that you are seeing.

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Without seeing your puppy, it is hard to say, but something sounds very off. The diet could be the problem but I would still want a vet to really go over this puppy because I think lethargic puppies are a reason to be very concerned. I have had a very low energy puppy and another puppy who was morbidly shy/fearful. They still played, got into mischief and acted like, well, like puppies.


At 4 1/2 months, Quinn was a real pistol, leaping onto counters, always into something, having a blast with any kind of play or training I offered, tumbling with the other dogs, and generally making my life very, very active. I know I wouldn't have watched a single 30 minute TV show through if I hadn't had a DVR at that time. Other than the leaping onto counters (which appears to be optional for the breed), that is pretty typical of the Border Collie puppies I have known, though I think Quinn was towards the higher end of busy and naughty. Please take your pup to a good vet and let us know what you find out.

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When you had your pup checked, did your vet do a *complete* blood count? ("CBC.") One that would include a census of red blood cells and also platelets?


Have you noticed any bruises on your pup? Places to check are gums, inside of ears, and the exposed part of the belly between hind legs.


Unusually pale and/or bleeding gums?


Glassy eyes with unusual amount of discharge, possibly dark?


The reason I'm asking is that I once had a pup (NOT a Border Collie) who developed a life-threatening auto immune disorder, which caused his immune system to attack his platelets. ("Thrombocytopenia.") This causes symptoms similar to hemophilia (although it's caused by a different factor deficiency): slow blood clotting, and multiple systemic blood leakages, many of which are internal, including areas like joints and abdominal cavity. The dog acts lethargic, because it aches all over and is having trouble getting enough oxygen (anoxia) as the blood losses add up. It can be life threatening if the platelet count drops low enough.


A closely related autoimmune problem attacks the red blood cells ("RBCs") and is called hemolytic anemia. Hemolytic anemia generally becomes critical much faster due to acute oxygen shortage.


It's not uncommon for both to develop together.


Idiopathic (no known specific cause) thrombocytopenia can be very sneaky. Other factors attack the platelets (commonly the rickettsial diseases, such as Ehrlichia; also bone marrow disorders) but when it's just the immune system going haywire it can be difficult to pick up. My dog never ran a fever, his heart and gut worked fine, there was just this notable sudden lethargy -- and slow bleeding from his gums, the corners of his eyes, and deep mysterious bruises ("petechiae") on his belly, gums and the insides of his ears.


In my pup I believe there was a hereditary predisposition to autoimmune weakness; plus strong environmental stresses; plus a very severe and persistent roundworm infestation; plus a good likelihood of over-vaccination.


However, as far as I'm aware, it can appear spontaneously for no identifiable reason.


I hope that this is NOT the matter with your pup. Just one more thing to check, perhaps, once the more usual issues have been ruled out. It's not all that common. In my pup's case, it was treatable, it did not reoccur, and though there were long term consequences of his illness, that dog is still alive and close to his thirteenth birthday.


Good luck to you (both), and please keep us posted.


Best regards,


Liz S in South Central PA USA

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Super lethargic + not interested in food + unenthusiastic = health issue to me. It's been said many many times before but I think it bears repeating: get that pup to a good vet, pronto!



My last dog was a pound puppy BC/golden mix (we think) who was super sweet but within 3 days of coming home stopped eating, acted extremely lethargic, wasn't interested in much, just in general was not acting the way a dog should act. Good thing we took him to the vet immediately, because he had contracted kennel cough at the pound and very nearly died.



Good luck, fingers crossed its mostly diet or something minor!

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I know it's been said by almost everyone else here, but I'm saying it again. Get her to the vet and have her thoroughly checked out. Whenever I have a "mellow" puppy, I immediately worry about his/her health and get him/her to the vet. It's not normal and is usually a sign that the puppy is sick. Also, PLEASE do some research on feeding raw. If all you are feeding your puppy is chicken thighs, she is not gettting proper nutrition. I can't stress that enough. If you can't feed a proper, nutritionally-balanced raw diet, then you are much better off feeding her a high quality kibble.

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Not to pile on, but you really do need to do some reading on appropriate raw feeding. Your pup probably isn't getting enough calories, nor is she getting the essential nutrients she needs for proper growth (neurological and physical) on a diet of chicken thighs and pumpkin. Raw feeding can be very beneficial to dogs, but only if done with care to balance the available nutrients in the diet.


As others have noted there are some very good raw feeding groups (e.g., Yahoo groups) and books that can help you balance her diet. At the very least you need to get a lot more variety in your meat choices, and add things like cheese, eggs, yogurt. Calcium and phosporous ratios are also imporant. Growing dogs especially need good fats in their diets.


While waiting for the new, improved diet to do its thing, I'd also take her to the vet for a full check up, including bloodwork. I wouldn't be surprised if her problems aren't simply from her nutritional needs not being met (and RDM is right that constipation/hard stools = too much bone), but it wouldn't hurt to have the baseline information that a thorough vet exam would give you.


I'm sorry to say that your breeder has let you down. She should know better than to tell anyone that chicken thighs are a sufficient diet for any dog, let alone a puppy. (It's fine to start them on something like thighs, but they really need variety--can't stress that enough--to make sure they are getting all the essential nutrients they need, and this is especially critical for a puppy--the things she's missing now will affect her for the rest of her life).



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After going to the "breeders" site, well, it looks like she follows her own advice on feeding.........the dogs and particularly the puppies she has on her site do not look healthy at all......another case of a "pretty" website and lots of BS...........not much substance.......lots of red flags.

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^^Agreed. Lots of colorful dogs for sure. Lots of red flags is an understatement. I'll keep my opinion to myself. I never knew there was so much merle in cow dog lines.


To the OP: I think you'd be better off seeking the advice of a nutritionist than asking for more feeding advice from the breeder.



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"there were no red flags about the breeder..."


REALLY?!?! The fact that there doesn't seem to be a single dog on their website that is just black/white or plain 'ol tri is beyond scary to me (oh, wait! There was that one split face, right?)! Merles, an abundance of white, dilute, and all the other candy color combinations should have been a HUGE clue that this breeder is NOT breeding for working ability. Anyone who says their dog "herds" their children is NOT a working dog person. Nor are there any accomplishments listed for what their dogs have done, work-wise.


So what does that have to do with your issue of your poor pup who seems to exhibit a way-less-than-usual energy level for her age? Plenty (in addition to that fact that chicken thighs and pumpkin are not a balanced diet for any dog, especially a growing pup). This pup needs a complete work up with a reliable vet, and a much better, more varied diet. But there also may be other genetic issues at play here as well.


Sorry to be such a wet blanket, but I think you got really taken with this pup,




ETA: Oh, and, Julie--merle in cowdog lines? Not that I know of (but then, what do I know?).

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From the breeder's website: **Starting in 2011 I have switched our dogs and cats to an All Natural RAW (Prey model) diet.. I understand that this is not an option/decision for everyone. I will need to know ahead of time if you would *NOT* like your puppy exposed to a RAW diet. In the past I have had puppies raised on Blue Buffalo Wilderness/mixed with the puppy formula. This is my second choice and it is usually widely available at most Big Box Petstores**


It does not say that she is only feeding chicken thighs and pumpkin. Lots of red flags though with colors of puppies and that "our dogs can do it all" bullsh!t without any proof that backs it up.


Please take your puppy into the vet for a full check up and blood tests. eta: At almost 5 months your puppy should be a bundle of energy. Hopefully it's something that's easy to fix and good luck!


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OK, color me slow today but.....


1. Did I miss the working history on the dogs? Either on a farm or trial?

2. What venue does she compete in (herding) and what placing in Open or similiar standard?

3. Breeding fair hip to good.....well, maybe you might have a reason to do this IF, both parents are superb and other siblings don't make the grade as in working. I have yet bred to a fair hipped dog but I would not rule it out but the dog has to be superb in all other areas. Color doesn't count.

4. When did working children become a criteira for breeding? Or I might be wrong, why post that?

5. If a breeder has a "colored dog" then I expect that dog, if used for breeding, be superb.

6. I am quite familiar with top cattlelines (as well as Ann) but yet never saw a merle or colored one like she has. Trust me, if there was an outstanding merle cattledog, out there, we would know about it. The Cattledog Finals is in a couple of week and I would bet, that there is NOT a merle running there. And those that know me, I don't bet. But I would make an exception. I might be wrong but I sure would like to see who the cattle lines are....

7. Feeding? RAW would be fine IF you know what you are doing. I would LIKE to see her RAW diet plan.

8. ABCA vs AKC...she breeds the toned-down lines to herding lines to have a more mellow dog? Damm, I must be doing it wrong as my top of the lines Open dogs, have an off switch and are mellow. Maid is snoring next to me on the couch as I type this.

9. What is her track record? on anything?



Maybe, I might be all wrong and she can clarify details...I would like to know more details but if I am buying a dog, I want one that has proof behind them.

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I want to point out antoher board member was looking for a pup. She did her research and found a good breeder. She asked me about the breeder, just to make sure. She got a good pup. Hopefully, she will chime in as she might read this. By asking member of this board, you can learn a lot before you buy a pup.

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While I think that we all see red flags..Please lets not turn it into just about that and make the op feel bad and stop posting.


As far as the "breeder" goes (and I use the term loosely) that damage is done.


I'm sure the op loves her puppy to death and will in time if not already realize she's made a mistake dealing with this breeder.


But the fact remains she has a puppy that we need to keep our focus on. Hopefully the op will continue to post and we can help her the best we can.

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