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Chasing shadows & feeding

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Yesterday Karo started chasing shadows and I've read a little about obsessive behavior when it comes to this. What should I do? (I am a little worried to be honest)

Yesterday I tried saying "NO" and pulling him away, but he wants to catch them badly. It left me annoyed and frustrated. Today I tried to ignore him when he does it. I know its a short period of time and that it has little no effect, it's just that I am unsure of what to do.

He also had his first windy day yesterday, which made him chase leaves that was blowing in the wind. He would pull like crazy to catch them and be totally obsessed with them. He would ignore commands to come, but eventually come when I called him several times. (He's on leach 24/7)

What to do? :)


How/when should I feed him? As it is now, I have food and water available for him at any time. He eats a little bit here and there, and the eat command helps when I want him to eat before going out. He usually eats more when we get back, instead of eating before we go out.

Ideally I'd like to give him food in the morning and evening. So he learns the feeding pattern, which also helps me schedule his shits, literally. :)

First of all, is this recommended? Should I wait until he is an adult? Is this even recommended for BC's? Second, how do I do it? Should I let him eat in the morning, let him starve a bit and give him food in the evening? In other words, learn it the hard way.



On an another note..

His fur is changing around his neck/head. He has the usual brown/white/black in the face/chin/legs and a white "collar" in the neck.

He is in the process of getting a black/brown pattern on the backside of his head, and gray/black below that again. On his shoulders (behind the white collar), he is starting to grow out some gray/black stripes/areas.

Any idea why this is happening? Is it permanent or is it something that usually happen in puppyhood?



Thanks for taking the time to read and answer, you guys are great, I love this forum. :)

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I wouldn't ignore the shadow chasing. Instead, I'd try to redirect his attention away from it and treat and praise profusely when his attention shifts away from it. You can use a squeaky toy or anything else that's a favorite, or clap and run away from the shadows, etc. The idea is to get him to lose interest in the shadows and find something less interesting to do before he has a chance to obsess.


I don't leave food down for my dogs all the time no matter what age they are. Under 6 months I feed three tines a day. At 6 months I'll go to twice a day. I usually feed adults once a day, though many people stay with 2 meals. The choice is yours.


It'll be a lot easier to get him on a schedule if you feed meals rather than free feeding.


ETA: As far as when, while he's still getting 3 meals, I'd feed first thing in the morning, then around lunch time, and then around 5:00 p.m. or so, so things have tome to work through his system well before bedtime. I'd eliminate the noon meal when her reaches about 6 months. After that, it's pretty much up to you. I tend to feed mid- to late morning, finding that there are fewer night time accidents that way.

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Without a picture, I can't even imagine what his coloring is doing, so I'll be no help there.


How old is Karo? It is definitely recommended to put food down for 15-20 minutes and then pick it up to get your dog in the habit of eating at meal times and to make potty training easier. How many times a day depends on his age. Over 6 months and he is for sure old enough to eat twice a day. Under 6 months and 3 times a day might be better, but if he doesn't want lunch, then go ahead and go to twice a day.


It's important to stop OCD behaviors before they get well established. Distract him and give him something else to do.

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As others have said, I definitely wouldn't ignore the shadow chasing behavior. The more he gets a chance to do it the worse the obsession might become.


As for feeding, when Camden was a puppy I fed three times a day (morning, noon and early evening). At six months I cut it back to two feedings a day (morning and early evening). The key to getting Karo into this routine will be to follow Gideon's girl's advice of only leaving the food down for a set period of time. If the food is down for 15-20 minutes and he hasn't eaten it all just pick it up and don't offer food again until the next scheduled meal time. He'll quickly learn that he needs to eat at these set times and it will make potty training so much easier for you.


FWIW, I also like having set mealtimes because it helps monitor more closely the amount of food your dog is actually consuming. Camden fell very ill in January 2013 and I knew something was wrong pretty early on because he wasn't finishing his food at mealtime. I don't know that I would've noticed the change in food consumption, and gotten that early clue that something was going wrong, if I had been "free feeding".


As for Karo's coat... I'm really curious as to what is going on with your boys fur color!! Def post a pic when you get a chance. In the meantime here are some links to websites that show the wide variety of colors you find in the breed. Take a look and see if you can find your boy's fur coloration in this mix. :)




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First, here is his coat: http://imgur.com/a/RuVZA



I will start feeding him 3 times a day, then in a couple of months when he's 6 months he gets 2 times a day.



Went out with him just now, it's a little cloudy but the sun still shine through. He kept trying to catch my shadow and I said "NO!" and dragged him away each time. No time to treat him since in the next second he looks for it again.

He will run a little bit in front of me, then turn sideways and look at the shadow. Then I yank him away and say "NO!", sometimes he looks at me for a brief second then tries to catch the shadow again.

I gave him his ball and he lost focus on the shadows and fetched the ball. Then when we went back, it was only a short take-a-piss trip after work, he started chasing the shadows again. When the sun was behind me and shadow in front of me, he would try to run up to the head and sniff it.


It's hard to get his attention when he's like this. Yesterday was all fine since it was cloudy, but now that the sun is up he notice shadow both inside and outside.


Edit: I forgot to mention that he looks at it like play, I think. His tail is wagging while he does it.

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I think, rather than yanking him away and giving him a verbal correction (which may backfire and make him even more interested in the shadows, and also leery of you), I'd just scoop him up and take him away from the shadow to do something else if he's too obsessed to be redirected. Then praise and play with him for reinforcement. Reinforcing desired behavior has been demonstrated to be more effective than punishing unwanted behaviors.


Another reason to quit the yank and yell approach is that it has the potential for him to associate the punishment with shadows and make him afraid of them, especially if you do it when he's in one of the fear stages. If that happens, you'll be trading one obsession for another and the fear one will be just as difficult, if not more so, to work with. So, please, rethink your impulse to punish the puppy and replace it with positive reinforcement. (There's lots of information on positive reinforcement training in the archives here and on the internet.)


As far as timing the treat, try to be ready for it. If you scoop him up instead of yanking and yelling, you'll have an instant at least to praise and grab a treat. The timing's tough, and it takes practice, but you'll get it. ;) The action of scooping him up will force him to redirect his attention to you, but in a good way, which is what you want.


In the meantime, start working with attention exercises. Are you familiar with clicker training? If not, it would be a good time to learn it. Start by clicking and treating for eye contact, then lengthen the duration of the eye contact. You can add the cue to "look at me" or "watch me", and when he's really good at it, you'll be able to start asking for it when he sees a shadow (at first, one far enough away that he's not already obsessed with it).


Also look up desensitization and counter-conditioning, and, especially, the concept of working under threshold, which have all been discussed here on the Boards. Working under threshold is a critical concept that you can't overlook. He's already over threshold in the situations you describe, therefore his brain can't function correctly to take in what you're trying to teach him.


It's important to recognize and resign yourself to the fact that this whole process will take time and dedication. ;)


As for his color, my guess is that he's sable. That's also being discussed on another current thread here. http://www.bordercollie.org/boards/index.php?showtopic=36137&page=2


Best wishes figuring this out. It's good that you're starting young, but do, please, try to adjust your approach. ;)

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I agree with Gentle Lake. ^^^^ I prefer a positive approach. It is a bit harder to do sometimes because you have to be more creative. From your post above, it sounds like distraction with a ball works for him.


Now prepare yourself when you go outside. [For me, success with positive reinforcement is directly related to how well prepared I am to distract and/or treat for alternative (i.e. the desired) behavior. One suggestion is to get a coat with big pockets or buy one of those cheap, canvas nail pouches at Lowes or HD. Then stuff it with toys [balls, tugs, or his favorite squeaky) and treats. Keep the pouch or jacket (or vest) hanging by the outside door. Keep the toys in the pockets, so all you have to do is add treats when you go out. Then when he starts shadow-chasing, distract and play with him.


I would also consider playing with him BEFORE he starts shadow-chasing. Don't let him start if possible.


Best of Luck.

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Oh! What a beautiful coloration he's developing! I also wonder if he could be brindle? Either way he's gonna be one handsome fellow with that unique coat.



I would also consider playing with him BEFORE he starts shadow-chasing. Don't let him start if possible.


This is such great advice. You should be aiming to have that toy out and ready to play with him the instant before he starts to obsess. From your last post it sounds like the ball worked well. I'd have one on you at all times while you are working on distracting this obsessive behavior.


I'm with the others who have suggested that yanking him away could backfire. Not only could he develop some strange association with the negative punishment, but he's also a growing baby boy. If you are using a collar (as opposed to a harness) you could risk hurting his neck or spine if you accidentally yank too hard. Just something to keep in mind...


Also, I can't remember from your previous posts, but are you and Karo signed up for puppy classes yet? I feel like you guys were preparing to start a class but I may be mis-remembering. If you are already in a class or starting one soon I'd also speak to your trainer and see if (s)he can observe first hand the shadow chasing behavior and offer additional advice!

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Thanks for the great replies!


Yes, I have started a class with him. It's this weekend and the last day is tomorrow.

I have asked about shadow chasing and they said to keep him occupied/distract him with something else, and also see to that he gets his basic need of physical and mental stimulation. It's not a puppy class, it's a "manners" class. Similar to puppy class, only shorter and teaches the basic behavior and stuff like that.

We're doing attention training and I think I will try clicker training.



I just want to say it, because it's been bugging me like crazy. It makes me really angry when I see him watching the shadows. I get angry, I want to punch something, but I don't, that wouldn't be good.

I guess I'm angry at myself for not knowing what to do in that exact moment he focus on a shadow. Until now, I've tried saying no and blocking his view when we're inside. Outside I don't know yet, but I will be bringing toys (and I'm definitely buying a Kong with a leach on it). I've tried getting his attention and it works for 2 seconds, then he's back to looking at shadows. I think I'm also angry for not being able to exercise him enough, I want to but I need the how-to. I guess it also makes me angry knowing that this isn't good for him.

It's a cocktail of angry and I needed to get this out. Hopefully it will go out of my system soon.



As for the yanking. I read your reply the day it was posted GentleLake. Next trip I didn't yank him at all, luckily it was clouded(no shadows). I've gone from a Flexi leach to a leather 1m leach. I find it easier to walk with the leather leach and have avoided yanking him.


Great advice playing with him before he starts chasing the shadows. What worries me is that he goes straight back to shadow chasing after I stop playing with him or that he finds the shadows more interesting. If he goes back to shadows straight after playing, do I need/should I play with him constantly?




Well, this have been a little rant as well, I get a little frustrated, hope you don't mind.

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Working with CCD (or OCD in humans) is very frustrating. But anger is not going to be your friend. It's not good for you and it's not good for him. So before it even starts, before you take him anywhere where he might encounter shadows to obsess over, it would probably do you a world of good to compose yourself and get yourself in a good, solid frame of mind where you can convince yourself that you're going to encounter this and you're going to work with it calmly rather than reacting angrily.


Think of it this way. Anger is just another kind of reactivity, not unlike his obsessing on the shadows. Just like he can't think properly in that moment, neither can you when your mind is under the influence of this negative emotion. You can't do right by him if you're angry. If you're angry, you're not really capable of making good choices about what to do to help him. It's neither a healthy nor productive state of mind for you, either, so best to try to do whatever it takes for you to get past it.


It might also help you to acknowledge that he's not doing this because he wants to. He can't control himself (yet). So, logically, anger isn't even an appropriate response.


Good luck.


ETA: Yes, do whatever it takes to keep his focus away from the shadows. If that means you're playing with him a lot, then so be it.


As I've said, this is a very difficult thing to deal with. I think you'd be well advised to get some professional help before it ruins your relationship with your pup. Your anger could very well make him mistrustful or even fearful of you.


It might be a good idea to look for a veterinary behaviorist, or a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist.


Again, best wishes.

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Thanks for the help and encouraging words GentleLake.


Looking back I could say it was a "dark period", but I think I was just overcome with A LOT of new stuff in a short amount of time. It took a little time until I figured out what works for me and Karo and now things are great. He doesn't go into "mega-obsess"-mode when seeing shadows, he's starting to understand that they are normal and that you don't need to look at them every single minute of your life. :)


Started inside, blocked out the sun as I good as I could (still have it like this, I don't mind) and had a couple of days with lights off. If I saw any sign of him wanting to look at shadows, I tell him "EY!" or "NOoooo!" with a sharp or dark tone. If he looks at the shadow again, I do it again.

When we're outside and he starts watching the shadows, I EY/NO him every time he looks. It's not like I'm yelling, but using a sharp and "demanding" tone.

After he's done his buisiness in the start of the trip, I've taken out some treats and had some attention exercises with him, which keeps him very occupied. Also bought 2 kongs, god he loves those. Even if he just sees the rope on it, he's set.

As I've also gone over from a Flexi leach to a shorter leather leach, it's become easier to walk him. Whenever he pulls, I stop and wait until he loosens up. Every god damn time, hehe. So he's starting to understand that pulling wont get him anywhere, and that he will still get to smell those delicious smells in time when he's walking with me. I do not yank him except for when he goes into the road or might be in danger for hurting himself. It's a relief to not yank, to be honest. I've grown up with many different dogs and we always yanked them when they were doing something wrong.


I took Karo to a basic behaviour class. The club that hosted the class also have weekly "activation sessions", where the dog and owner get to do anything from agility obedience. The main focus is to use our dog. I will start going to these sessions as I want to do something with Karo other than the normal stuff. (PS: I might also be looking forward to seeing him exhausted after each session........ :) )

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