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Introducing Dakota

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My family and I recently (three weeks ago) rescued a 1-2 yr old Border Collie that had been abandoned and found near a train track in rural Colorado. She's already the love of our lives and (for the most part) a very good dog. Obviously nothing is known about her background but she knows her name and responds to some basic commands (come, sit, stay) with a pretty high percentage of regularity regardless of most distractions.


She's definitely on the timid and submissive side. Her default posture when encountering people is to curl and flop on her side looking for some petting. She's got the typical energy of a Border Collie and as we've been socializing her, she now loves the dog park and runs with her favorite dog friends and plays with abandon with them. She's not at all aggressive to other animals (loves our cat even) but doesn't like aggression in other dogs and will snarl and hold her own.


She seems to enjoy herding while in the park- she loves a good game of soccer played with one of us and plays better defense than any human I've ever seen! She does try to herd other dogs a bit when she sees them running.


Things we've identified as "need to work on" items: Leash pulling, a stronger and higher degree of reliability in her recall, getting her to stay sitting after commanded to instead of flopping on the floor when one of us walks up to her, and it sure would be nice to get her to use our (very small) backyard to relieve herself for the rare times when we don't have time for a walk.


She also has separation anxiety and ate her way out of her first wire crate- ripped the bars off their welds and got out but thankfully didn't destroy anything. We've since replaced her crate with a Petmate Pet Porter Giant which she cannot get out of and she seems to be much better with it now. She just loves knowing where her humans are. We've been told she has a strong aversion to loud, gunshot-like noises. The foster had her in rural CO where the sound of guns was fairly common and she bolts when she hears them. We haven't experienced any gunshot noises at our house nor thunder so we haven't seen this behavior yet. Our son plays drums and she is totally fine with that noise.


She's not particularly interested in treats but getting there a little bit so, as of yet, we don't have a strong training reinforcement other than "good girl!" She does thrive on attention and wants to please. I've used clicker training with another dog we had but Dakota is, so far, afraid of the clicker. Since we've only had her for a few weeks and given her history, we're trying to simply reward her for being attentive to us and not expect the world out of her yet.


I did a good amount of reading here before we got her and continue to search the boards for answers to questions. I welcome any first-time owner advice, especially advice for what kind of mental job we can give her (given that she's not particularly interested in training just yet) that can help her keep her mind occupied. We're good with the physical exercise, but don't yet know how to get her thinking and working around the house.





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She's gorgeous, and thanks for rescuing her! Most mental exercise involves some sort of training (tricks and the like), but you could try some of the puzzle toys out there (Nina Ottosen has some good ones, though they aren't cheap).


It will be hard for you all to do, but for the flopping over thing, I simply wouldn't reward it by petting or anything. Instead give her a command (come, sit, whatever) and the reward when she does that. She'll seen figure out that the flipping over isn't necessary and it probably will fade away.


She's still pretty new to you and you may see other behaviors over the next few weeks as she really settles in and shows her full personality. Since you know she's afraid of gun shots, do be careful if you know a storm is coming or shots or similar (July 4th comes to mind) will be making an appearance because such times are when noise phobic dogs are lost. There are a number of things you can do to deal with such noise issues, but first you will need to know exactly what she reacts to and how.


There are lots of folks here who can give you good advice on things you can train her to do. If she has a number of toys, you can start by teaching her their names and then getting her to bring them to you by name. You can go from there to teaching her to put them away in a toy box, basket, or similar.


Oh, when you're out on walks, start putting a command on her bathroom breaks (you can use a separate command for each or one generic command). Once she associates the command with going potty, then you can start trying to get her to go on command on walks and then in the backyard. I put a command on all of mine, and it makes it very convenient when traveling to be able to take them out and say "Go potty!" and get results relatively quickly.


Also, you can use a word instead of the clicker. I have a friend whose border collie is terrified by the sound of a clicker. A marker word like "yes" can work just as well.



Good luck with her!



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My guy used to flop over on his back/side all the time when we got him. If you got his leash, looked at him, asked him to do something simple like sit, etc etc he would do it. We just ignored it. Turn your back, walk away, whatever. It didn't take long for him to stop offering that behavior. Plus doing confidence building exercises (general training, going places, meeting new people, etc) will also help to stop the flopping over behavior. ;)


Also, if she does it a lot when you ask her to sit, make sure to reward her immediately so she does not have time to do it. If she does it even after her reward you can either ignore it or rapid fire reward her (she sits, you reward repeatedly so she has no time to flop, then release her).


She is adorable and it is an amazing thing that you rescued her. :D

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Beautiful girl! Thank you for rescuing her.


I agree with the above advice regarding ignoring her when she flops, and rewarding when she does something (easy) that you ask her to do.


Treats: What kinds of treats are you using? It sounds like she is still stressed and will not take treats. My old girl is like that. If she is slightly stressed, she will ignore ANY treat (even steak, etc.) Try treating your dog when you are not pressuring her to do anything -- and use very high-value treats (steaks, cheese, turkey, etc.), not the biscuit treats. Yuck!


Clicker: If she is scared of the sound, muffle it. I used to put it in my pocket for my old girl. Also, some clickers are louder than others so you may have to change clickers. One tip I heard here was to start the 'click' sound with a retractable pen. Did you 'charge' the clicker before you started training her with it? She will get used to it. My old girl now comes out to interfere with my clicker training sessions with my younger dog because she knows what a clicker means - treats!. I think you are right to take the training slow until she is more comfortable with you.


Good Luck and let us know how it goes.



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Thanks for the welcome and all the great advice! It really helps! We do really feel like she's still in a settling phase- it seems every day brings out a new part of her personality. So for now as long as we're not reinforcing anything bad, I think we're doing pretty well.


I think we can start working on getting her to not flop and teaching her the names of her toys soon. Thanks again for all the tips!

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Instead of teaching her not to flop, put a command to that behavior and you can use it when and if you want it (I have a friend with a very reactive dog that has been taught to flop and relax instead of reacting to other dogs and people that might set her off).


Redirect her by teaching her to observe and pay attention to you when a situation comes up (treats are great for this), and giving her something else to do - like sitting or giving you a high-five or whatever silly pet trick she might learn from you).


I'm sure she will come along as she gets more comfortable in her new family and gains confidence with experience.


Very best wishes!

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