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So my wife has a friend who works for the 11th hour rescue who asked us if we could foster a 2 year-old smooth coated BC or possibly BC-mix. We have six year-old twins and three Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, but we figured we'd try it for a couple of days and if it works out we'll keep her for a couple of weeks to keep her out of the shelter. You see where this is going? :)

 

Well, of course our new black-and-white, long-snouted friend stole our hearts from the get-go. She seems so happy to have a family again and loves to snuggle with us and just enjoys our company. So now we're considering adopting her permanently.

 

But... I know that BCs can be pretty challenging dogs and that this isn't a decision you should jump into just because a dog swept you off your feet, so I'm trying to go about this the right way.

 

About our family: We live in rather big house with 6-yo twins, my in-laws and three Cavaliers. Our house has a fenced-in backyard (6ft dog proof fence) of almost an acre, perfect for dogs to run around in. I grew up with boxers and my mom was very active in competitive obedience and tracking, so I think I know the basics of dog training.

 

About the dog: The shelter said she could be a mix, but our vet (who's also a dog show judge) is almost certain she's 100% BC. Her temperament is surprisingly well-balanced. In the five days we've had her, I've seen very few bad tendencies. She cries a little when people leave the house, but she quickly gets over it. The herding instinct is definitely there, but we haven't seen anything excessive. She did try to herd one of the cavaliers, but she immediately stopped when we told her to. She's extremely affectionate and loves to snuggle up with our kids. Now the kids are like you'd expect 6-yo kids to be and has a problem leaving her alone, but she's very patient with them and seems to enjoy the attention. She seems to have some basic obedience, but needs more work. When it comes to "creative play", we've tried some basic "hide and seek" and she truly enjoys it and is eager to learn more. After she's had a nice walk or a good play session in our backyard, she simply relaxes and takes a nap.

 

We took her to our own vet for a second opinion and she checks out OK physically and the vet thought her mental state and personality was very nice.

 

I've noticed a couple of bad tendencies: First of all, she's very submissive to men. It's much easier for my wife to train her. When I try, she gets down on the ground in submission as soon as my voice gets too harsh. Maybe it's just a matter of her gaining more confidence and trust. I have a feeling a male person has been overly harsh to her in her past.

 

Second, she has a tendency to playfully nibble people and out cavaliers. Her teeth barely touch, but I know from experience that this is an unacceptable behavior we need to work on immediately.

 

Other than that, I can't really see anything I don't like about her.

 

So now is here is the question: Given what you know about this little girl and our family, should we permanently adopt her? Giving her back will break our heart, but not being able to give her what she needs and deserves would be a bigger tragedy.

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You are still in the honeymoon period, so some more bad behavior could show up. Are you prepared to deal with that? I think your family sounds like an excellent home for a BC.

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Re: submissiveness to men. She may not have ever been treated harshly by anyone. Some border collies are just plain sensitive. If a harsh voice from you upsets her, then you may simply need to modulate how you speak to her. What she's telling you is that your tone is too much for her. If it makes her cower, then clearly it's overkill in the correction department. In other words, you will need to train yourself to train your dog. ;) Sometimes border collies can be great teachers.

 

If she responds well to a voice correction, I would simply continue to do that if she gets mouthy with any of you, including the smaller dogs. She will soon figure out that nipping is unacceptable if you are consistent with your corrections (and this means it can't be allowed around or by the children either).

 

As Gideon's Girl said, you are still in a honeymoon period and her true personality may not have emerged completely. But if you're fostering her now, why not just ask if you can foster a while longer and see what happens?

 

J.

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Thanks for your advice! Yeah, I think we're going to foster her for a few more weeks and see how things go and take it a day at a time. But so far so good. Also, our vet told us about a group of BC owners in our area that are into obedience and agility. We'll probably try to hook up with them and see what we can learn there. I've always thought agility looks like a lot of fun!

 

I think you asked the main question I had: Is our family situation suitable for a BC. Sounds like you agree it is!

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I agree with Julie ^^^ regarding the overly harsh voice corrections. It is not uncommon for people who are used to training other breeds of dogs to overdo the strength of voice corrections. Because many BCs are very biddable, a simple "Ah Ah" may be enough. Start with a minimal correction, and if she responds to it, then you don't have to ramp it up. Save the harsher corrections for when it is REALLY important. Because you are a male, you do have to work a bit harder to make your voice soft.

 

As you have found out, she loves interacting with you (hide-and-seek) so continue to engage her in mind games. BCs need mental activity as well as physical activity to be 'fulfilled'.

 

Enjoy!

 

Jovi

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I adopted a 1.5 year old BC nearly 3 months ago from a working situation. She hasn't changed too much from when I got her, just more confident and outgoing. She's never really exhibited challenging behavior (except for some separation anxiety when she's alone, which is a work in progress).

 

I also can't speak harshly at her or she'll melt. She's not a submissive dog, though, just very sensitive to correction and really wants to do the right thing. I "discipline her' with a simple, stacatto 'ah' sound. That's all it takes - she gets the message.

 

As far as family, I'm no expert but your dog sounds temperamentally fine for the situation he's in. I have 3 kids as well, including twins, though they're older than yours (10). My dog gets by with normal, daily walks, a couple/several trail runs a week plus about an hour/day romping with other dogs at our off leash park. She also takes sheepdog lessons every week or two. She seems content, mostly just follows me around the house and watches me or sleeps. She does get a lot of attention and interaction from me and the rest of the family. I actually think she's an easier dog to live with than the Golden Retriever I had years before her (field bred).

 

As far as the nipping other dogs, keep in mind dogs play bite each other when horsing around, it's part of the game. As long as he's appropriately inhibiting her bites (and the other dogs will let her/you know if she's not), I wouldn't worry too much about it. My dog also loves to "herd" other dogs, she likes to head off other running dogs and she's fast enough to get around in front of them. I will occasionally put her in time out for this kind of behavior if she's getting obnoxious (I put her in a down/stay for a few minutes), which usually is enough to get her to stop. Some dogs like getting chase, however, including her. They don't play like labs, but I don't see how their games are any more cause for concern unless they're bothering other dogs or their owners.

 

Don't want to steer you wrong, but I'd go for it.

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You sound like a wonderful family for this dog! :)

I agree with the advice so far: keep her a while and see, and if she responds readily to voice, then you should be able to correct the mouthing with just a "ah-ah!" or "leave it!" or something similar.

Per your voice ... it may have nothing to do with her past. My girl, Gael, has been loved and cherished since we got her at 8 weeks old, but the minute ANYbody raises their voice over anything, she's outta here. Sometimes they're just sensitive little flowers. :rolleyes: So, you might have to work on how you modulate your voice when talking to her and just work out your own "language" for her.

She sounds lovely! Give it a bit more time, but so far sounds pretty good.

~ Gloria

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I agree w/ what others have said said so well, especially about her sensitivity and your learning to modulate your voice.

 

The one thing I'd add is that a very experienced trainer (he's actually a Karen Pryor Academy faculty member, training other trainers) once told me that the honeymoon period is actually more like 3 months than the 2 weeks that most people cite.

 

One of my rescue dogs was still offering new behaviors for 6 months after I adopted him. It took him that long to really gain confidence and allow his entire personality to come through.

 

As for the nipping, you might try instructing everyone in the family to cry "Ouch!" immediately when she nips and stop whatever they were doing with her, withholding attention for at least a few minutes. This is how puppies learn bite inhibition while still in their litters. When they get too nippy, the other puppy yelps and stops playing. They quickly learn that this leads to the end of the fun they were having and so they learn to control themselves.

 

The same dog I mentioned above came to me with no bite inhibition when playing. Actually, he came to me not knowing how to play with either a human or another dog. My other dog and I each taught him how to play with us, but we both had to teach him bite inhibition.

 

It sounds like this dog may just end up being a "failed foster" (a foster who ends up getting adopted by her foster home) and making a wonderful addition to your family. Good for you for asking thoughtful questions that will help you all make the transition easy and successful . . . or in making her more adoptable if that's the way it ends up going. Either way, you're doing a good thing. :)

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The one thing I'd add is that a very experienced trainer (he's actually a Karen Pryor Academy faculty member, training other trainers) once told me that the honeymoon period is actually more like 3 months than the 2 weeks that most people cite.

It can be longer than that as you say, but I've found 3-4 weeks is usually enough for a reasonably confident dog to let slip suggestions of behaviour I'd rather not have.

 

However, let's not be too negative about the "honeymoon period". Over that time good things can emerge as well as bad.

 

This dog sounds willing to please and the family have started right by letting her know what is not acceptable.

 

As long as the twins especially understand that they can't necessarily treat the new dog like they are used to treating the cavs and that they need to give her space and respect it all sounds fine. I'd give it another couple of weeks and if the rescue has a take back policy I'd go for it if things continue as they are.

 

I had to smile at the idea of a 6ft fence being dog proof though. That would be no barrier for an escape artist and my 16in mongrel would have had no trouble getting over before she got into her teens. But give a dog enough reason to want to stay at home and it will. Our BC could get over most of our fences but he's never wanted to.

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I agree with Julie ^^^ regarding the overly harsh voice corrections. It is not uncommon for people who are used to training other breeds of dogs to overdo the strength of voice corrections. Because many BCs are very biddable, a simple "Ah Ah" may be enough. Start with a minimal correction, and if she responds to it, then you don't have to ramp it up. Save the harsher corrections for when it is REALLY important. Because you are a male, you do have to work a bit harder to make your voice soft.

We see many BCs in rescue here that are really terrified of men and I'm not convinced that it's just because their voices are harsh. The dogs seem to associate the tone of voice with something to be really scared of. I doubt that many of them will have been trained by someone unused to BCs.

 

There is a difference between that level of fear and just being wary of a bigger and louder human being. I've seen dogs give the lie to the claim that they are afraid of men by willingly going to a small quiet and non threatening guy. On the other hand, dogs don't seem scared of a guy I know who is 6ft7in, bulky and roars at his own dog. They are a good judge of character as inside he's very gentle.

 

So if it's just wariness rather than abject terror then with sensitive handling by everyone I'm sure the prognosis is good.

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I've also seen dogs who won't work in the presence of perfectly harmless women trainers (i.e., ones who would never beat or otherwise deliberately scare a dog) simply because of presence, as Donald notes. I have a dog who is extremely sensitive and yet came from a very large, very loud man. If you raise your voice (even to call her if you can't find her, which made things very tricky when she got lost), it's enough to make her hunker down and not move. The large, loud man who originally had her never laid a hand on her (and his wife said she was amazed she worked for him given how sensitive to loud voices she was), and I have never laid a hand on her, and yet she is what she is. It's been something of a pain (because she's also the one who will bolt if she hears thunder and then you have to be very creative about finding her without calling for her loudly).

 

I've seen many border collies start to slink around with an "Oh, someone's in trouble" look on their faces when they hear raised voices not even directed toward them. I honestly think it's a double-edged sword that we've created by expecting these dogs to take evey subtle commands at great distances. Some of them are generally just plain sensitive to loud or harsh tones.

 

My main work dog was working at the Bluegrass this year when someone came out to run their dog. They screamed "lie down" repeatedly (blow your hair back loud). After her first yell my dog stood up, turned back up the field (away from this person), and then tried to sink into the ground. I raised that dog from birth. If you knew me, you'd know I have a very light voice and almost never yell at my dogs, nor do I raise a hand against them. This dog's mom was also sensitive to voice.

 

I'm not saying that at least some of the dogs you see have not been threatened, cowed, whatever by men, but because I've also seen plenty of dogs, some my own, who are extremely sensitive to loud, harsh, or angry voices, I just don't think I'd generalize that a majority have been treated badly. No doubt some have--I've certainly seen that too, but I just find it hard to believe that it would be a majority. Unless the UK is just full of brutal shepherds. We have some in the US and I don't doubt for a moment that life with them is pure hell for a dog, but they are not the majority.

 

Just my opinion of course. (But then again, I really wouldn't appreciate anyone who met my dogs and saw them cower at a loud, harsh voice coming to the conclusion that I've ever been cruel to my dogs; that conclusion would be way off base.)

 

J.

 

We see many BCs in rescue here that are really terrified of men and I'm not convinced that it's just because their voices are harsh. The dogs seem to associate the tone of voice with something to be really scared of. I doubt that many of them will have been trained by someone unused to BCs.

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I don't think you'll be surprised to hear that we ended up "foster failures". We recently decided to permanently adopt our new friend. Her personality HAS changed over time. She's gotten calmer and more confident.

 

I've been out of town for a few days, but when I came home I could definitely notice a different in personality and "pack dynamics". Our dominant female cavalier remains the clear leader (it's not size but presence, as someone said). Things have simply settled down and I'm very optimistic about this!

 

Starting next week, we'll get some help from a professional trainer. Looking forward to that!

 

seanna.jpg

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How cute! A word of caution though, be careful who the trainer is and make sure they know about sensitive BC's. I had one once come in to train my girl (he trains german shepherds) and he jerked her up by the collar, to "get her attention" needless to say, our lesson ended after 5 min and we never had him back again. I found a fantastic trainer (with 7 BC's of her own) and things were great! They really are different from other dogs!

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I love the picture! Everyone looks to be really enjoying the situation. What have you named her?

 

And Kelleybean's advice about trainers is important and true. Make sure it's someone who will understand what kind of dog she is.

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That is terrific news and the picture proves it! Many dogs do not like to be surrounded like that or have faces by their faces, but she seems to have a very happy face about the whole situation, and that says good things about how she feels about your family.

 

Very best wishes!

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Yeah, I was telling the kids to stay away from her face with limited success. But, she keeps coming back to the kids and like to snuggle up with them. She's just really patient with them. And that's fortunate, since telling kids to stay away from a dog is next to impossible.

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You probably have this figured out, but I'm going to say it anyways in case someone else in a similar situation reads this thread.

 

Your dog looks extremely kind & patient with your kids, which is awesome. My older dog is like that. He adores little kids & babies. A friend of ours has 6 yr old twins, and Nick is in heaven running around with them, even though they're loud & rowdy. He thinks a kid being close to him is a good excuse to lick their faces. So, even though a lot of dogs *don't* like children, some genuinely do. Even so, I've found that my dog runs out of tolerance for kids before they tire of him. He won't get snarky; he'll just remove himself from the situation. I ALWAYS make absolutely certain that he CAN get away, and that the kids understand that he's in "time out" and wants to be left alone. (With the twins, I phrased it as "how do you like it when your sister/brother won't leave you alone?" Even little kids get that.)

 

Bottom line, make sure your dog has a safe place to go to get away from it all & that your kids know to leave her alone there. Since you already have dogs in the house, I'd guess your kids already have a good understanding of dog behavior.

 

Thanks for giving her a home! That's a photo of a happy dog.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I figured I should check in and tell you how things are going.

 

Someone here asked shat her name was. Well, the shelter called her Seanna, supposedly pronounced "Shawna". We misread it as Sienna, and that name stuck and she listens to it. So Sienna it is!

 

As you all told me, her personality is emerging over time. I can't say it's changed a lot since we got her, but there are definitely some subtle changes. I'd describe her personality as follows:

 

* Sensitive

* Emotional

* Intelligent

* Attentive

* Patient

* Fun-loving

* Obedient

* Eager to please

* Affectionate

 

We hired a dog trainer that specializes in working with the entire family and not just the dog and so far it's working out great. In fact, the first session, our trainer said (half joking) "This dog is amazing! What do you need me for?". Well, we need her because I want to get this right. I think we have some phenomenal material to work with and I want to try to get the obedience to a higher level. My experience (mostly with my mom's dogs) is that an obedient dog is also a happier dog and a dog with more freedom. I told her what someone here said, that this dog needs a softer tone because of her sensitivity. Well, it turns out that this particular trainer uses a "99% positive reinforcement method", meaning the "NO!!!" is strictly reserved for emergencies. I know there's probably a lot of different opinions around this, but it seems to work with our girl. She's clearly a very smart dog and eager to please. She picked up the basic commands (sit, down, stay, heel) in almost no time. I think it's intelligence combined with a will to please.

 

Walking her on a leash is a delight. We try to give her a 1 mile walk in the morning and another 1 mile walk in the afternoon. She doesn't pull unless there's wildlife around (we ave a lot of deer where we live), but I'm working on that. I'm trying to distract her from the wildlife with treats and we're making progress!

 

In terms of the family dynamic, she still has some minor quarrels with the dominant Cavalier female. It's mostly Sienna attempting to play, but it sometimes turns a bit nasty. However, the Cavalier snaps at Sienna and it's over. We're working with the trainer to try to minimize this. "High value" toys, like rawhide bones are still not a good idea. We tried and it's a sure way to start a fight, so we just avoid them.

 

The kids and the dog get along great. The kids are, well... kids. They don't always listen to us telling them to leave Sienna alone, but she's got a lot of patience with them and it usually ends up with her snuggling up with them. We definitely need to work on the kids respecting Sienna's privacy a little more. Hopefully we'll get there with them!

 

I realize I paint a very rosy picture. We're probably still in the honeymoon stage, but I think I'm starting to see her personality being more defined. So far, there's very little I don't like about her.

 

Oh, there's one thing: She doesn't like cameras. As soon as I can get a good picture of her, I'll post it!

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