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Friend or "sheep"?

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As you made have read on a different thread, we rescued a lovely BC girl a couple of months ago. Everything is going fine, but I had a little incident this morning.


Normally, Seana friendly and a bit submissive with other dogs, so I usually let her "say hello" to dogs on our walks. This morning, however, was a different story. We approached a dog that's known to be very friendly. Seana would normally just keep a fairly low profile and participate in the normal sniffing and greeting ceremony.


But this time, as we approached about 30 feet away from the dog, she went into the typical "herding crouch" and locked her eyes on the other dog. Unfortunately I ignored this and let them say hello, which resulted in my dog growling pretty aggressively and snapping at the other dog. I was able to pull her away before anything bad happened.


As I'm still learning BC behavior, I'm wondering what happened here. Was the "incident" a result of her turning on the herding behavior and considering the other dog a "sheep" rather than a potential friend? Is the crouching at another dog a cue that I should stay away?


...or was she just plain naughty and needs to have her behavior corrected?

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It is fairly normal with rescue dogs for them to not show their whole personality for quite a while after adoption. This may be her deciding she is more confident and can be the boss or any number of different things. Your building bond with her is still new, so you don't want to correct in any way that might scare her, but you do not want to let her think that this new behavior is OK either. Try making sure that you bring a high value treat along on walks and when you see other dogs, start having her do what you would rather she do, like watch me or sit, or turn around and walk the other way, but distract her from the bad behavior and encourage the good.

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Yup. I've come a long way in building up her trust. In the beginning, I had to whisper commands or she would wet herself. Literally! I think we have to work on "leave it!" a little bit and I'll make sure to bring training treats to distract/reward her with!


For the most part, she's working out beautifully! She's a very affectionate and really fun to work with!

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I guess "mistaking" isn't the right word. I more meant projecting the instinct on a dog, just as they can try to herd children, cars and other things that certainly aren't sheep.


But as you pointed out, it's probably not the case here. She's simply coming out of her shell and realizing that she can try to be a little more dominant. I'm just going to nip this in the bud.

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Dogs don't mistake children, cars, vacuum cleaners, cats, or other things for sheep - but their instinct to control movement and balance can kick in so that they look like they are working inappropriate individuals and objects. It's our responsibility to channel that instinct.


I love reading about how she is progressing with you, and you with her. Very best wishes!

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Ditto the above that she's not mistaking the dog for a sheep.


It's possible as others have said that this is an aspect of her personality -- specifically reactivity to other dogs -- that you haven't seen yet.


It's also possible that there was something about that dog that she didn't like.


From your description, it sounds to me like it was a dog that she hadn't met before. See if you can recall what was different about this dog from others she's met. What breed/type was it? How did it approach her, especially in regard to the ways other dogs she hasn't reacted like this to before. You may be able to identify what it was about this dog, and if so, to be able to prevent this kind of thing from happening in the future by simply removing her from the situation.


Many BCs do not appreciate the bouncy, goofy, overly friendly greeting style of some dogs. Labs tend to be in that category. In dog etiquette, they can be downright rude the way they approach other dogs, and some dogs just don't take it well.


Heres' an excellent article that might be very helpful in trying to figure out what's going on: http://www.suzanneclothier.com/the-articles/he-just-wants-say-hi


Good luck!

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It sounds like she gave you a pretty clear signal (tense crouch and hard stare) that she wasn't entirely comfortable approaching the new dog. It makes me wonder if she's already been giving more subtle signs that might have gone unnoticed? I'd take some time to bone up on dog body language and communication. It's very useful for understanding your own dog as well as the intent of unknown, approaching dogs. It will also help tremendously with training. IOW if she gives you even the most subtle stress sign when she sees another dog, you'll know it's time (or almost time) to distract or re-direct her as Gideon's Girl suggested above.


There's no shortage of great info on the internet (one quick search of "dog communication" or "dog body language" will give you days of reading material) but here's a decent link with pictures: http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-behavior/canine-body-language


The "He Just Wants To Say 'Hi'" article that GentleLake linked is a must read!! Boy did that change my perspective on the dog world when I first read it!


Anyways, this sounds totally manageable, especially since it's the first you've seen of the behavior. The more you understand about her language with other dogs, the better you'll be able to prevent a repeat occurrence AND you'll be better prepared to protect her from dogs that she doesn't wish to interact with. Listen to her as best you can.


Good luck, she sounds like a wonderful dog and I loved the pictures on the other thread. You ALL seem very happy! :)

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