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I am very concerned about my dog and the problem of Border Collie Collapse. After reading extensively about it I have learned that some dogs show abnormal mental behavior and that is certainly true of my dog. It is also frequently stated that high excitement seems to be a contributing cause in many cases. She is a somewhat reactive dog, and for a long time had fearfulness issues. She seems to be mostly over that now, but another problem has taken its place.

 

There is no doubt in my mind that my dog experiences episodes of Border Collie Collapse syndrome.

 

It is not necessary for her to exercise for a long time to get the “wobbles”, but it nearly always involves some kind of fetch exercise – ball, Frisbee, Wubba, etc. She can be affected by as little as four fetches. Sometimes she can do a dozen or more with no ill effect at all. There are no warning symptoms before she gets “the staggers.” I do not exercise her when it’s hot and sunny. We wait for dusk or go in the morning.

 

But this is the heart of my problem.

 

I have mobility issues and agoraphobia. The only way I can give this dog “hard” exercise is to play fetch with her. I have recently suffered a financial setback that means I can no longer afford a dog-walker. Until now, I have relied on the services of a paid dog-walker to get long, off-leash exercise and play time with other dogs. If it’s me walking her, it has to be within two or three blocks of home, most of which would be illegal and unsafe off-leash. Our “fetch field,” the large vacant lot, a block away, is the only exception. I have a tiny yard, 12” x 6”.

I am increasingly upset by this situation, and my dog seems to be more prone to the BCC problem than formerly. I recently got my ears slapped back here on the Boards when I tried to get help understanding why my dog acts so peculiar when we are on our way home from exercise periods. (She sometimes suddenly changes course and walks into people, wedging her head between their knees.) I try to put her in a sit when I see someone coming down the sidewalk, but when she’s in that state (pre-collapse?) she doesn’t seem to hear me at all, and responds in a sort of dull, erratic way if I try to gently manually maneuver her into a sit. I live in the city, and our only open space within my agoraphobic comfort-zone is about a block away.

 

I am sensitive to the dog’s signs that she is going into an episode, and do my best to get her into the shade and out of the way of people, or to just get her home, since it’s so close. But I’m afraid that she seems to be getting more frequent episodes, and I’m thinking I will have to discontinue fetch with her completely. But how to exercise her?

 

I’m beginning to feel that I am an unfit owner. But I am deeply attached to this dog. Letting go of her would be terrible. I want to keep her, but I want to do right by her. Any ideas are welcome.

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Wow, you seem caught between a rock and a hard spot.

 

Can you try substituting mind games for physical exercise? Instead of intense physical activity, can you work on obedience and dog tricks, which will tire her mind but be easier on her body, yet still provide her with exercise? Do you know anyone who might be willing and able to walk her for free? Can you ride a bike? If so, could you ride very slowly (I do that with my dogs) with her on a leash so she can get some "road work" and you can handle the exercise yourself?

 

My dogs expect certain levels of exercise and certain types of exercise because that is what they are used to, but a dog can be "re-programmed" to anticipate and benefit from other forms of exercise, and mental is the best one of all, so perhaps you can find ways to challenge her mind and limit the stress on her body.

 

Wishing you the very best working this out.

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I would take up a lot of trick training with her. There are tons of tricks you can do to work on conditioning. Lifting legs, backing up onto things, balancing on hind legs in a 'sit pretty', standing on two legs. There are a lot of good videos on youtube from rehab vets of activities you can do with your dog in small spaces with minimal equipment. Impulse control games, like throwing a toy and having her hold a position to then release her to get the toy can be played in small areas and tire her brain out quickly. Basically, I'd try to move away from physical exercise as your main way of tiring her and move towards mental.

 

Is she having a problem with her reduced exercise? My little Feist, as a 1y/o working bred dog has plenty of days where we do nothing but sit to go outside and do some basic obedience in the morning for some of her breakfast. As long as she gets to hang out with me a lot, I really don't see her any worse for the wear in terms of not getting a lot of mental or physical stimulation. She just hangs out and sleeps. Just a thought, you might be overestimating her needs.

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I would take up a lot of trick training with her. There are tons of tricks you can do to work on conditioning. Lifting legs, backing up onto things, balancing on hind legs in a 'sit pretty', standing on two legs. There are a lot of good videos on youtube from rehab vets of activities you can do with your dog in small spaces with minimal equipment. Impulse control games, like throwing a toy and having her hold a position to then release her to get the toy can be played in small areas and tire her brain out quickly. Basically, I'd try to move away from physical exercise as your main way of tiring her and move towards mental.

 

Is she having a problem with her reduced exercise? My little Feist, as a 1y/o working bred dog has plenty of days where we do nothing but sit to go outside and do some basic obedience in the morning for some of her breakfast. As long as she gets to hang out with me a lot, I really don't see her any worse for the wear in terms of not getting a lot of mental or physical stimulation. She just hangs out and sleeps. Just a thought, you might be overestimating her needs.

Thanks. It hasn't been long since the dog-walker stopped coming, and she's OK so far, but I've been taking her to the field twice a day for fetch. She is generally good about just chilling in the house. We play tug a couple times a day. But I will start to do tricks with her. That sounds like a good idea. Thanks!

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Sue,

Thanks for the reply. I can't ride a bike. I tried to do that awhile back and it was a disaster. I still can't go further than a block and a half from home, (agoraphobia) and I got dizzy.

 

I will try to do more training with tricks and obedience.

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Shaping with a clicker uses up lots of mental energy. Simple nose games are also great. "official" nosework uses things like clove, anise and birch essential oils - one can be purchased for less than $10 online. Or train her to locate a spice. Or just an object. Then you can have hide locations all over your house and you tiny yard.

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I second/third? the tricks option. Not only will they tire her out mentally, but there are tricks that can also help condition her muscles to help her stay "in shape". I also think that playing hide-and-seek may also perk her interest. Hide something in the apartment and tell her to 'find it'. Start close and with only one object, but then as she begins to understand the game, increase the distance (another room?) and bring in other items. Of course, she will also have to learn to distinguish each object by name. Lots of mental activity.

 

Good Luck.

 

Edited to add: I see that Maralynn also suggested the 'hide' option while I was typing.

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Well....I also was thinking tricks.

And as Tory pointed out, some dogs can be just fine. Most of my guys, despite enjoying a good romp, are super quiet in the house and really don't care if we go out or not.

Any way to find a kid to take her for occasional walks?

As a sidenote, I don't believe life is perfect. Sometimes it can only be as perfect as we can make it. So maybe she gets less than the "perfect" amount of exercise. But in return, she has a safe and loving home.

Have been able to do some medical work ups on her. She could have heart issues.

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Ack - had it all typed out and hit return precipitously.

 

Anyway - hide things. If you don't already use a treat ball or kong type things, get some. Cheaper on Amazon.

 

Teach her to help you with household chores - putting recyclables in the right bin, laundry in the hamper, etc. There are some amazing YouTube videos of dogs 'mopping' and 'dusting'. My dear Samantha loved to put things in our front load washer, take them out and put them in the dryer for me. She needed some coaching for sure, but she loved the word 'laundry.'

 

Do you feed kibble? Scatter it in your yard for her breakfast from time to time.

 

Do you and she have any human or dog friends you would feel comfortable inviting into your home? That's always fun.

 

Good luck, hope some of the suggestions help.

 

Ruth and SuperGibbs

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Trying for mental stimulation is a great idea. If you still want to try to get her out for walks though, I bet you could find someone willing to do it. I assume you mostly stay at home, so you could see if a neighbour who works all day would be into you babysitting their dog (assuming it gets along with yours) in exchange for them walking your dogs together. A kid might do it for very cheap or in exchange for something other than money. I'm not sure how you feel about this, but you could contact volunteer organizations for disabled groups or for dogs or a shelter/rescue or whatever is relevant, and see if people working with them might be interested in volunteering to come help out with walking your dog. The thing about it is, it's a job that most people are happy to do. It can't hurt to try things. I find that people are generally willing to help, especially when it comes to something like this.

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I do not think anything you said in your post indicates you are an unfit owner. Not at all. The post itself contraindicates such an idea.

 

So, I officially pooh pooh that notion :)

 

I had to develop a bunch of floor games and low impact/indoor/small space/low exertion exercises to keep a VERY active 4 month old happy during a 4 week crate rest. By happy I mean well exercised, appropriately fed to manage the reduced activity, interested, engaged and sleeping/eating well.

 

We spent about 1/3 of our time learning things - doesn't matter what - anything that strikes your fancy that you might both find fun or useful someday. I taught mine "touch" (paw) and "toss" (a little throw to me - more like a drop at present but getting better) and then presented her with three toys whose names she might not "know" but is familiar with and mixed up the toss and touch commands and only hinted at which toy I meant by looking at it. She got very excited as she got better at it. She'd lay there poised with one paw ready and her mouth hovering - like response time was VERY important :)

 

We spent about 1/3 of our time in exercise. By way of a game which exercised everything but her back legs (you could have your dog standing for this one), I taught her "put away" which allows for indicating what is to be put and what it is to be put in. Using about a dozen tennis balls in their own unique shallow container, we started by playing "hockey" in which she is the goal keeper and I am the skater. I just roll them at her, off to this or that side (I noticed some phenomenal behaviour during this game which seems very related to the sheepdog genes and which was quite fascinating[1]) and she has to not let anything get by her. She likes to gather them all up between her front paws so I don't get them again on rebounds. Then I present her with the container and tell her to put a ball away (which I started with the "toss" command from above and gradually made it into "put away") and indicate the container. After a few games she got the concept and understood to put all the balls away on the one command. She loved that one. And it tired her out. We'd get all excited and loud and silly during the game itself.

 

Eventually that will get shaped into something useful like putting harvested things away - potatoes can all be tossed into their bin from the barrow, etc.

 

We had a pile of games we would play like that and she got to know all their names and would "assume the position" of whatever game I said we would be playing and throw a bark at me if I was not quick enough in getting my end going. You could invent some games - or look online - or ask here - I am sure people have tons of ideas.

 

And we spent about 1/3 of our time in being together separately. I would read or write and she would play by herself near me. Not germaine to your situation but, honestly, it's *hard* to train a puppy to respect your space when they are so cooped up :/ For a week solid she kept smacking me in the ankles with the heaviest things she could swing around from the little pile of toys I put there when we settled down - looking at me with the baby-browns, head cocked, ears pointed to heaven.

 

Anyway - don't despair. These are smart dogs who adapt well. If her job description has to change, it has to change. I am not much of a kid-glove person and while I am always concerned with how things affect people/dogs, at the end of the day we all have to accept what is and move along and it is my experience that the more you fret it,the more she will think there is something to fret about. There are PLENTY of solutions at hand.

 

At the end of his life my father was very ill. He was the grandson, son and father of stockmen and one himself. His dogs were as much a part of who and what he was as were his people family. The last dog that he really trained and worked spent the last year of my father's life sitting or lying by him. He went out to do his business and ran around a little bit and then went right back in. And this was a working dog - used to a tremendous amount of exercise.

 

They will do what they need to do to make life good. They dislike and are sensitive to "bad vibes" and will work hard to make things good. You can trust that about her, if she is true to her breed. You want to help her and I am sure she wants to help you.

 

Good luck.

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Geonni, here is what we do with Ruby, who is also subject to BCC. She gets a short frisbee session early in the morning before it heats up. The frisbee is thrown gently and fairly low so she doesn't have to leap up to get it. She still loves it. As Ruby got older we noticed that it took less exercise to bring on an episode, and extreme weather conditions, heat or cold, also seem to contribute. Ruby is a very excitable dog, and when neighbor terriers get her all worked up, she starts running laps around our trees. She gets two laps max, depending on her intensity. She knows this and seems to be able to count herself now, often stopping herself after two. Sometimes she hears me shout "That's ONE!" and she will stop then. We do rally and a few tricks. We go for a short walk once a day. She isn't allowed any intense exercise. I would forget the hard exercise completely and concentrate on trick training and other mental exercises, as others have already suggested. You are NOT a bad owner. Your concern proves that. You just need to get used to her limitations. Ruby is almost 11 now, and this has been going on since she was about 6. She is a very happy dog, and we only intervene when we can see she is getting too intense.

 

Kathy Robbins

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Thanks so much everybody, for your input and support. Sugarfoot is the best dog I ever had, and I really want the best for her. She's six years old now, and she's had more episodes in the past two months (about a dozen) than the rest of the time that I've had her - since she was 7 mos. old. She doesn't seem unhappy, and implementing your various suggestions should help to keep her that way. Also, we will go to the vet and have a talk with him.

 

Does anyone have a favorite tricks book to recommend?

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I want to echo what Chene said, about people wanting to help. The last 18 months have been the most difficult of my life. Husband left me, a niece nearly died, an aunt did die, a much beloved mentor/friend died unexpectedly, an acquaintance killed himself, and on and on. AND, I've been unable to work for close to 6 months due to some back problems. The back problems included a pinched nerve that left me unable to wear any clothing that fitted closely or even somewhat closely. I mostly wore tents, and didn't go out very much.

 

My friends and neighbors have bent over backwards to help. I can not believe how much people want to help, still.

 

Ask.

 

Ruth and SuperGibbs

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I am going to say something that may be unpopular- but why do you think she needs that much exercise? I had a very active dog (my first border collie, actually) that also had Border Collie Collapse. She lived to be 16 1/2- had minimal arthritis, chased a ball occasionally or went on a short walk (sometimes on her own fence jumping volition) and worked sheep about once a year from the ages 4-12. She was not my favorite dog- she really was a miserable dog to work because of her reactive style but she was, after the young adult years, a model house dog. I never made any effort to give her "hard" exercise- partly because of her condition and partly because she seemed to do fine without it. She had a long, happy life and she settled into pet dog life pretty easily for a dog that was fairly hyper as a youngster. I don't feel guilty that I didn't do much with her for over ten years of her life. She seemed to think warming the couch was a fair enough deal.

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Quinn has BCC and when he could play fetch, I would give him short fetch sessions throughout the day. The length depended on the temperature/humidity. I always had water and shade immediately available for him. Last summer, he couldn't play fetch or go to the beach due to a partial cruciate tear. We did lots of hide and seek and trick training instead. He did fine.

 

Don't sell yourself short. If you could ask Sugarfoot where she would most want to live in the whole world, I know she would say with you. I once took care of a friend's dog who lived in a house with only a very small yard. She spent her day inside while her family was away. At my house, she had her best dog friend to play with and a dog door leading to a fenced in yard that she had access to all day. As far as I could see, she had a blast the entire time she was with us. When my friend came to collect her, the dog wouldn't move from her side, clearly worried she'd be left behind at my house. All the fun she had with us didn't matter a bit. She just wanted the family she loved.

 

You will figure out ways to keep Sugarfoot exercised mentally and physically without lots of fetch. Sugarfoot just wants you, the most important person in the world.

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Kyra Sundance has a book "10 Minute Training Games" and I like a lot of the games in there a lot. She repeats a lot of the tricks from her tricks book, as well.

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I agree that you may be underestimating Sugarfoot's ability to adapt.

 

Several years ago I had a summer where I reacted badly to a medication for months before realizing what was causing it and literally slept an average of 18-10 hours a day for several months. Tilly was a middle aged dog at the time (7-8ish, IIRC) and an only dog. I was and am still amazed at how well she did, getting little attention and no exercise at all. She was lucky to go out to relieve herself a couple, three times a day, and a few times I think she missed getting meals, and all without a complaint from her.

 

I suspect Sugarfoot will be fine with what you can give her, and it's obvious you'll give her as much as you can.

 

Best wishes to both of you.

 

ETA: I suspect Bodhi has a mild form of BCC. I suspect it won't be an option for you, but if by any chance it is, you might try exercising her in water. Bodhi can swim to fetch a ball for an hour when a few long Chuck-it tosses in hot weather make start to stagger.

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I am going to say something that may be unpopular- but why do you think she needs that much exercise?

I'm not sure. It's just that when she's out, off-lead, she's full-tilt boogie the whole time. And when she's tearing around like that she just seems so darn happy. I admit that I may have overindulged her with the fetch games, but she loves it so.

 

She's good for down time too. She doesn't pace or pester. Maybe I just need to retire the Chuck-It and try to get her out two or three times a day for walkies. They will have to be short ones, it's all I can do. But perhaps that and more tricks/training indoors will be enough.

 

I'm also thinking of looking for a different place to live. Someplace not so inner-city. With more options for me to walk her off-lead close by, and maybe a real yard. I have so many limitations of my own it will be tough to find something that works, but I can try...

 

Tess's girl -

I ordered the tricks book. :)

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I am under the impression that BCC is currently a diagnosis of exclusion, so if the symptoms suddenly worsened, it is a good idea to take the dog to the vet or even better have the vet examine the dog during an episode, listen to its heart, do a glucose stick, etc. If your vet doesn't have the space to get the dog rolling, you may be able to find a mobile vet that will observe your dog in that empty lot and on the walk home.

 

In addition to the excellent suggestions of the other posters, you could also do tracking and obedience routines in that empty lot and develop a feestyle routine in your living space (or that empty lot). You can also do 1 jump work in your living space (use a carpetted area, so the dog doesn't slip) and perhaps set up a few jumps in the vacant lot (jumping towards a food target may not excite your dog as much as chasing a ball). PVC jumps break down easily and are lightweight, so are easy to carry short distances.

 

You are in a tight spot, but the situation sounds workable. I certainly would not give up the dog over this.

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I've never understood why lunging isn't used more with dogs. I've never had a horse, so never learned how with them, but the few times I tried it with my dogs I always just ended by confusing them. They were fine with moving out to the end of the line, but never seemed to catch on to moving in a circle. If I tried using pressure, walking into them, they would either come to me or down. Do you know where I can find a tutorial on lunging dogs?

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I am under the impression that BCC is currently a diagnosis of exclusion, so if the symptoms suddenly worsened, it is a good idea to take the dog to the vet or even better have the vet examine the dog during an episode, listen to its heart, do a glucose stick, etc. If your vet doesn't have the space to get the dog rolling, you may be able to find a mobile vet that will observe your dog in that empty lot and on the walk home.

 

I am taking the dog to the vet next week. I'll see what he says and go from there.

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