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New Border Collie and Anxiety

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Hi, I've been reading through some of the posts here and I was wondering if anyone had a similar issue as I have. Three days ago I adopted a 9 month old border collie mix (maybe lab?), whom after talking to his foster mom seemed to be a good match for me. So far he has been a gem, he's slept through the night in his crate so far and he seems to be good at busying himself, either with a chew or a kong I've given him, etc. when I'm busy. Besides some accidents on the first day and some nippiness which can be worked on, he hasn't really done anything to warrant how I feel right now. I was wondering if anyone else had to deal with anxiety (my own anxiety, not his) after getting a new border collie, either because of his breed and worrying over whether he is getting enough exercise, playtime, training, to be happy. Sometimes I feel like I absolutely love him, especially since he seems to be a love bug and wants to curl up at my feet or next to me while I'm doing other things. Other times, if the anxiety is talking, I think knowing the responsibility of having this pup causes me to freeze, sometimes making me forget meals.


Some questions I have that might make things easier for me:

1) How do you find a balance between giving him playtime, etc and finding time for yourself? At the moment I only have one class a day, and no other commitments besides his care. Right now I've structured in two naps during the day but it still leaves the rest of the day and I find myself struggling between when to give him affection, etc. and when to just ignore him and not worry about it.


2) Would trips to the dog park 3/4 x's a week be a good amount of physical exercise for a pup his age, interspersed with his walks which can be 15-20 min at a time a couple of times a day?


3) I know he is going to need a "job", but what can I work on with him at this stage? I've signed him up for obedience classes but they are two weeks away and I don't know how soon he needs a "job". I wish to get him his Canine Good Citizen certification, but that will take time so what do I do in the meantime?


Thanks in advance and sorry about the lengthy post.

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More expert opinions will be given, I'm sure. I'd just advise to take a breath and enjoy your new friend. He will sense your anxiety and really just wants to be with you when he can. There is also great value in teaching him that he needs to also have some alone time and quiet time, as you cannot always be there to "entertain" him.


My border collies job is to go with me and fetch as many balls as I toss for him and he's darn good at it! We do not herd sheep, we do not do agility (tried both, he doesn't like other dogs and he is frightened of the sheep) etc. He is fine. He gets several sessions per day of play time and he loves those. He also has an off button and sleeps very soundly in between.


Relax, enjoy.

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While border collies do need some exercise, they need mental stimulation even more. There are lots of things you can do for him in this regard. Teach him lots of tricks, play hide and seek with him, hide treats or his toys and have him find them (start off with easy finds, then gradually make it harder, just like you would with a young child).


Do some internet searches for crate games and tricks you can teach. There are puzzle toys you can use to make feeding time more fun, interesting and challenging.


Be aware that if you give your new dog all your attention now, he's going to expect it all the time. It's good that he's willing to chill by himself now, and forever, so build that into your interactions with him.


Dog parks are a mixed bag. Some are OK and some are a disaster. And much of it depends on your particular dog. Even a great dog park isn't the best option for some dogs. You might want to search these forums for discussions about dog parks and then see how it works for you and your dog in the particular parks you have available.


But even without dog parks, if you teach your dog a good recall, you may have other options for exercise. Find open areas and trails where you can find him. Make a friend or 2 who have dogs who are compatible with yours and go places together with your dogs. Dogs running and playing together get much more exercise and satisfaction than most dogs do when they're alone.


"Jobs" don't necessarily have to be big things like stockwork or agility (though both are great). One of my dogs' had the job of bringing the toilet paper from whichever bathroom it was in to the one we were using at the time. Silly and simple, yes, but he took it was an important job for him and I swear he felt a sense of accomplishment when he did it (and this was a working sheepdog!).


Now that I have no sheep, one of my dogs' job is being a therapy dog. He takes that very seriously, as well. The difference in this dog from approaching the facility to entering it is amazing. He's excited and revved going there, but the minute he walks in the door, the energy level goes way down and he's working.


So, no, don't worry. It sounds like you're a caring person who's concerned for the welfare of your dog. You'll make it work. You'll be fine.

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I get some anxiety too with my pup. Am I doing right by him? Enough exercise? etc. Finding that happy balance for both of us is my goal at the moment. My vet and other trainers that I've talked to like to scare the crap out of me when/if I call-- "this is a true working dog" "you need X amount of exercise for this breed," etc etc. Coming here and reading the posts by these experienced parents of BC's helps me SO much. Right now his "job" is just like my kids. Learning new things! We were doing some mat work last night, and it was AWESOME when that light bulb clicked on in Jack's eyes when he "got it." It's like kids when they "get" that math problem they've been working on!

I still have days (like, every other, HAHA) when I wonder if I'm doing this right. But, then I notice, his bite inhibition is coming along, he sits when he wants something I have, and he no longer pitches a fit when it's time to chill in the crate. It's noticing these little things that makes it great.

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I think anxiety and feeling overwhelmed when getting a new dog is very normal. I have felt that way with every dog I've gotten for the first couple days. 'Should I have really gotten a puppy? What if I mess this dog up? What if.... What if.... what if....?' I even had this brief panic with my older papillon, who I got as an adult and knew for four years prior to getting her. I knew she was already trained, already good, easy, etc and I still had this panic attack because suddenly I was solely in charge of her well being and care.


In my experience it all works out and the two of you figure each other out and build a relationship. :)


I'm a chronic over-thinker and planner and sometimes it's not a good thing!

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Thanks for all of the replies, they really help to ease some of my worry. It's day four and I'm feeling a bit better. We have made a trip to the dog park, and it was actually a pretty good experience for him, a few well adjusted dogs that didn't give him any trouble and between chasing his ball and chasing them he wore himself out. His foster mom had other dogs and I want to make sure he still gets that socialization every now and then so I think this will work well. I'm going to try and let go of the anxiety and just go through my normal daily routine and start looking for some more puzzle toys and ways to interact with him that will get him thinking. I can't wait for his obedience classes to start, I think they'll be good for him and for me, but I'll do what I can now in the meantime in terms of training.

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I just wanted to let you know I have been there! When I got my first dog, as a 10 week old puppy, I went through several weeks of these anxieties. I'd even go so far as to say I went into a mild depression (which had never happened to me before). I remember the anxiety and it could get pretty overwhelming... I also missed more then a few meals during this period. Some people call them the "puppy blues" (which can feel like quite an understatement when you are going through it, lol). I compare it, loosely, to postpartum depression in new mothers. Obviously a new dog owner is not having the same hormonal responses as a woman who just gave birth BUT there is one huge similarity: shock. When you get a new puppy or dog your life changes overnight. You lose all semblance of what "normal" means and any old routine was escorted out the door the moment your new addition came through it. I believe the stress from such a dramatic change in your life, so suddenly, can cause anxiety, depression, etc.


I'm here to tell you that it gets better! A LOT better! I'd say I was a pretty big mess for about 2-3 weeks. After about a month the new routine started to feel manageable and I also started to feel a real bond developing with my pup. Two months in and it wasn't disruptive anymore... I had just found a new normal and everything was OK. Sure, there was (and still is) a lot of work to do with my boy, but it became easier to handle and manage.


You'll find your new normal, I promise! In the meantime take a deep breathe and try not to worry too much (easier said then done, I know). Enjoy your new dog. Do brief training sessions, play with him and continue to build the bond between the two of you!

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm right in the same boat with you on this one. I brought home my 8-week old about two months ago. It has been, what feels like one of the most trying times of my recent life. I think what everyone is saying here is true, which is that my life and routine changed dramatically when she came home. I tell people that when I open the crate door in the morning I feel like I'm punching a time card and I don't punch out until 10pm when I crate her again. In between it seems like I am "on" with her non-stop. Regardless of work, cooking, chores and self care (which have all suffered in the past couple months!) I still have to make sure she's safe, fed and being directed toward being a good pup.


This morning I went in the house for a couple minutes to make up a quick breakfast. I do this every morning and luckily have a big yard she can play in safely. I caught her out of the corner of my eye and within a minute she had emptied and ruined 3 potted plants and chewed the lower limb off an old maple of mine. I was shocked and honestly pretty pissed off but I had to go out make a loud clapping noise to break her attention and then keep my patience while I lured her to some more productive activity. In my mind I thinking "AHHHHHHH!!!!!" She moves on to chewing on her rope toy and I'm left sitting on the lawn thinking how I don't think I can manage this for 15 years (I know I won't have to by can't seem to convince myself of it) I think back longingly to the evenings when I used to lie on the floor with a beer and just read or watch TV or how I could just go out for however long I wanted. I get sad thinking that freedom is gone. But then I have to remind myself that i brought this dog into my life for a reason. I had an unbreakable attraction to border collies. I knew it would be hard, but I need to stay focused on the fact that I did choose her for a reason. I'll be better for it in time.


Hang in there. The crate is definitely my friend and she's completely comfortable in it now. Some mornings it seems like she learns something new literally over night. For a week I worked on heeling with her and she wouldn't get it. Then one morning I tried it and she hopped right into position. Blew me away. I also cherish the 15-20 minutes that pass when I give her a marrow bone from the butcher shop (she's chewing one right now!). She chews with complete joy and focus and I try to pick up the pieces of my life, which seem to have exploded in every direction. =)

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