Jump to content
BC Boards

Puppy Fear Aggressive Towards Shadow?

Recommended Posts

This is my first post, although I have been reading on and off for a few months. The information and advice here have been so helpful. Thank you!


I have an almost-5-month-old BC pup who started chasing his shadow a couple of weeks ago. I have gone through the past posts on shadow chasing, but haven’t been able to find anything that really sounds like Tucker.


He started chasing his shadow at the exact same time that he, seemingly overnight, started acting aggressive towards and chasing our cats, where in the past he’d been completely respectful. Also at the same time, he started acting aggressive towards our goats, where in the past he completely ignored them (he doesn’t actually have access to the goats, but he was jumping up at their stall doors and barking at them). In both instances, his body language and behavior made me think this was fear based.


He has also been having fear aggression issues with other dogs. When I read MommaLove’s recent thread about Fear Aggression in her puppy, I thought “that sounds just like Tucker.” We are trying pretty much all the same things that MommaLove is doing, and this a.m. when I started writing this post, I had put in “and he’s been getting so much more comfortable with other dogs!” But then this afternoon he majorly snarked at two puppies in his puppy play class and we had to leave. ☹


I am hoping he is going through a fear period.


I only had to work on the cat/goat behaviors for a couple of days before he pretty much stopped. He still seems unsure about the cats, but usually just gives them a wide berth.


With the shadow chasing, he seems to be much more persistent. I think part of that may be because it went on for 7-10 days before I started correcting it because I didn’t know what he was doing (the lightbulb finally went on when I realized he was running to the west hedgerow and barking in the a.m., and the east hedgerow in the evening…oy….)


Since I figured out what was going on with the shadow, I have been keeping him on a leash if there’s any chance of a shadow sighting. When he starts to show interest in it, I tell him “leave it,” and the minute he redirects to me, I mark it and then give him a high-value treat. In the beginning, I was marking for the slightest head turn, even sniffing the ground, etc. Anything that seemed to indicate he was breaking his fixation. If he doesn’t redirect to me, or I don’t catch it in time and he’s already lunging (the barking seems to be stopping), I put him in a crate, or make him down. It’s pretty easy to redirect him in the house. But outside he is much more agitated, especially at night, or if we are out and about and he catches sight of it. He doesn’t chase his shadow in the middle of the day when it is under him.


This afternoon we tried a new tactic of walking him on a leash, and the minute he started going after the shadow, putting him in the crate in the barn for a time out, without saying a word. After about half an hour of this, we were able to walk back to the house with no shadow chasing (although that might have only been because it was so hot and he was worn out from the long walk we took in lieu of puppy class.)


Has anyone ever dealt with this or do you have any suggestions? I can’t figure out how to do any desensitization, because I can’t get him far enough away from his shadow for him to be under threshold. He only does this with his own shadow, and does not seem concerned by, or even interested in, any other shadows.


Any thoughts would be much appreciated. At this point I am praying for cloud cover.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am not sure about a shadow. But a few years ago I saw a video on u tube of a border collie chasing its tail. It did if for like 10 minutes with the owners laughing while he was doing it.


When Keeva tried to chase her tail one time I made the deepest grunt/growl and she stopped and never did it again.


Try offleash if that is at all possible. He probably wont concentrate so much on the shadow.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just a few short thoughts from me. (I am sure you will get excellent advice from other forum members.)


You are describing behaviors that often take quite a while to change. I am surprised your pup seemed to change his cat/goat behavior so fast, but if it is a permanent change, that is great. His new (good) behavior may, or may not, be temporary so you should be vigilant. Backsliding every once in a while (snarking at the puppies in puppy class) is not unusual, and may be due to trying to move to the next level too fast. Just be consistent and patient, and I am sure he will come around.


Sometimes, OCD behaviors, such a shadow chasing, can be reduced by giving the dog more exercise, both mentally and physically, in addition to redirection off of the behavior. It is not uncommon for bored BCs to start exhibiting OCD behaviors.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you for the thoughts.


Frisbeegirl, I tried your suggestion -- and it seemed to work! Yesterday was overcast and rainy and I was working in the basement all afternoon. I let the dogs out of the house so we could go for a walk in our woods, not even realizing that the sun had come out. Tucker ran several hundred feet, all the way to the far hedgerow, in pursuit of the shadow. He ran around for about 15 minutes, chasing it. I didn't even try to call him, because I could see there was no one at the helm, and didn't want him to learn that "come" is optional (normally he has a good recall). I started thinking about what you had done with your pup, and how this really seemed so much like cat or squirrel chasing. After I finally got him back, we were walking back to the house and he started chasing the shadow again. I stepped towards him and growled "NOOOO!!!" in my most stern voice. This is not a voice he has heard. He hit the deck, looking like OMG. I had to do it two more times on the walk back, but then we were able to walk back without him chasing it. Since then, he seems much more receptive to my now-more-stern "eh eh" or "leave it." I haven't tried it during prime shadow time yet, without the long line, just to be safe. He also seems more attentive in general. I hope it is a case of my needing to be more assertive, rather than my scaring the bejesus out of him. I think he is on the sensitive/soft side.


Yes, I had read about more exercise and that is a concern. I think he was getting plenty of exercise before he started chasing his shadow, but now he isn't getting as much, which is a vicious cycle I know. We have 16.5 acres, set way back from the road, and previously, whenever I was outside, he was outside too, running around with our other pup (8 month Mini Aussie). But now since the shadow chasing, he has to be on leash, or in his crate, if the shadows are out. And our off-leash weeks are often curtailed, depending on the shadow situation. I have been trying to do more obedience with him and started some of the CU games, and I've been doing some "scent work" where I hide treats and he has to find them. Oh, and I got some of those toys where they have to work to get the food out.


I'm relieved to hear that this type of behavior takes time to change. I know I tend to be the type to imagine the worst case if a behavior doesn't change quickly.


Thanks again.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...