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JBgirl85

18-month old half BC starting to snap at other dogs again

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We adopted Bear when he was about 9 weeks old. He is a BC/Lab mix. We've never owned either of the breeds before. We have a beagle who is a few years older than Bear who we also raised and trained from puppy hood. Both are hobby agility dogs (meaning we show fewer than 6 times per year and train with a club weekly for fun's sake).

Bear was not very good with new situations when he was a puppy, probably due to being taken to the vet so much due to an eye issue. He would throw up in the car due to anxiety every time we went anywhere. We still made him go places though, poor guy, and gave him a lot of positive reinforcement. He loves the car now as he knows it means we are going somewhere fun!

When we first started going to the dog park, we took him to the small dog park and he seemed to have a great time romping around. We went 5 or 6 times and he was always relaxed. So we took him to the big dog park which is connected to the small dog park and completely in view. He ran screaming when the dogs came up to him. We didn't think much about it as the same thing happened to our beagle but she quickly got over it.

Long story short, Bear was always uptight when we would go to the park. I thought he was just excited. He was submissive to dogs who paid attention to him but he never played. Eventually, however, he would start lick-attacking dogs that came too close to me. We worked on this by me holding on to his collar and saying ah-ah if he lunged and then saying yes (mark word) when he sat down and looked calmer. Eventually he ignored dogs that came near me and we were good...or so I thought.

We rescued a 6-month old Great Dane/hound/lab pup, Happy, from the road in July. Bear let him know that Bear was allowed access to the porch when Happy became possessive the second day. They have been great friends since, constantly wrestling and tugging. Bear frequently flops on his back in front of the pup when they are playing.

The pup was attacked by a dog a few weeks after we got him. We were desperate and let Bear and the beagle play distraction as the dog, who had slipped out of her collar, refused to get off the pup.

Bear has again begun to lunge and snap at dogs who get too close to me when he is in his crazy state which is caused either by agility happening nearby or water being nearby or balls being thrown nearby. This almost always happens when he is on his leash. However, we went to one of our fairly regular dog parks recently. Bear and Happy had a stand off with two other dogs just a few moments after entering the park. I attempted to diffuse this by running off and singsoning, "Let's go, puppies!" Both followed me as well as one of the stand off dogs, whom my dogs promptly ignored.

About half an hour later, a small dog decided to get snippy with my pup who responded by barking loudly at it, which set Bear off. He came zooming in from behind and growled and snapped at the little dog. the little dog drakes out and ran back to the bench its master was sitting on. My dogs followed the little dog and I immediately walked in the opposite direction and called them. They came to me and we put some distance between us. They calmed down and when the pup walked near the little dog later, he seemed calm but wary. Bear ignored the dog in favor of playing fetch with a little boy.

Yesterday, I purchased new dog food. Bear joined his beagle sister in raw feeding a week ago. He growled at the pup for being near the food bin and then attacked him when he got too close to me on my chair. I grabbed him, gave him a firm no, and then rolled him on his back. Positive reinforcement when he calmed down. I have no idea if this was right but it was all instinct. I have little experience with aggressive dogs. He didn't break skin on the pup, but the rest of the day was pretty miserable with the pup being submissive and Bear doing a lot of posturing.

Bear gets a lot of exercise as we have a fenced in back yard and 10 acres behind that. Also, he and the pup wrestle for hours. We do some sort of training about 15 minutes a day with each dog.

Lastly, I have been doing some research and noticed there are stages of aggression, the first being growling. Bear has never growled before lunging.

What am I doing wrong and how can I fix it? Did I break Bear when he was puppy? Is that why he plays like a maniac at home but won't play at the dog park?

I know he has gone through a lot of changes recently, but I want to make sure he is successful, even if this is just a phase.

Also, I have been researching calming methods, but wanted to get some direct recommendations from experienced BC handlers, particularly those who do agility or dock jumping or have ball obsessed dogs.

I apologize for the long post, but I wanted to be as detailed as possible.

Thank you,

Julie

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If you have 10 acres for them to play in in peace at home then I would quit going to the dog park. His behavior sounds anxiety based and I'm pretty sure the dog park makes it worse.

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He sounds anxious and a little insecure. I wouldn't take him to the dog park anymore, since it sounds like it's overwhelming.

 

You can work on his self-control around action in a more gradual fashion - playing 'Look at That' (he looks, gets a 'yes', then a treat when his head whips back to you) somewhere where you can completely control the distance from the action. Recreational soccer fields are pretty good for the initial steps if he's ball-obsessed - find out how close to the sidelines you can get and keep him playing the game with you - if he starts staring or reacting, you just move further away.

 

With fear-reactive dogs, I try to redirect and encourage escape strategies, moving away from a tense situation rather than holding him in position. He may pick up that a retreat is a better choice than going on the offensive, and you run less risk of flooding him and making him more likely to snap the next time.

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Thanks for the reply! I have been researching the Look at That strategy but am hesitant to emply its use. I see from several reviews where it backfired and caused the dog to actually focus on the distraction more. Not sure if my timing is good enough to use this. Any other suggestions?

 

The dog park anxiety is so frustrating considering how much we tried to socialize him. We went at least once a week, always made it made it a happy time, and made sure he was never attacked during his critical period. Is this a border collie thing or a Bear thing? For a period of 6 months or so we never had a problem. He never played, ran around though checking stuff out, but he also never acted aggressively.

 

I know I am now part of the issue as I tend to tense up when i anticipate potential problems (short leash to and from starting gate at the dog show, loose dog runs up when we are on leash). How can I manage myself? Is there a training method that I need to implement on myself? Lol

 

Thanks again,

 

Julie

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Dogs parks are not good socialization IMO. To many uncontrollable factors. I've had one out of four Border Collies that might enjoy a dog park environment. The other three? Way to much stimulation, unknown dogs and changing dynamics. They were/are happy introverts not social extroverts. It would have set them on edge and led to issues. I'd much rather have good one on one time with known dogs that click well with my dog. And often Border Cllies are much more interested in doing something with you than with another dog.

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Ironically, Bear started out as a black lab and over time his BC traits have begun to show through the wiggles, weaponized tail, and water obsession. After reading your comments, I am beginning to realize that Bear is mentally much more BC than I thought.

 

Besides one on one, how does one go about successfully socializing as best you can a BC? I take them to the pet stores to walk around and see other dogs on lead as well as the local college campus. In fact, at Petsmart a few weeks ago, a dog on leash crept up to Bear while neither his owner nor I was looking. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Bear puppy bow and wag his tail when the dog came within reach. I am wondering if it the overstimulation comes from loose dogs or just many dogs.

 

EDIT: Also, do border collies exhibit overstimulation in a common way? Sometimes the only way I can tell he is stressing out is when he stops responding to commands. ( like look here or sit).

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My GSD (Rem) is perfectly fine around most dogs. He will happily hang out and watch other dogs play. He loves small dogs and if they aggressively bark at him he looks at me as if to say, "What is the problem with him?" He plays nicely with my six month old BC and will just give her a low warning growl if she is bothering him but never overdoes the warning. He despises the "in your face" type of dog.

 

I would never take Rem to a dog park. He would hate it and I think it would make him aggressive. I don't think dogs should be required to "play" with all other dogs. We had an Australian Shepherd spend a week with us while her owner was on vacation and she and Rem got along wonderfully. They never played or really interacted with each other and that was fine with me.

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I believe that 99% of dogs, if given the choice, would rather spend their playtime with familiar people in familiar surroundings.

 

If he gets socialization otherwise, which he seems to with agility, sounds like the dog park is more hassle for you both than it is worth.

 

I think dog parks are for people who have no other place to let a dog run - it is not my experience that they make good socialization centers (no controls). If I have ever had to use one, I tried to use it when no one else was there.

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It sounds like you're doing plenty to socialize him without the dog park. Honestly, the only thing I'd do is a couple puppy classes when young and then not really worry about it and just do out and about everyday life stuff with them (like stores and the campus).

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I know I am now part of the issue as I tend to tense up when i anticipate potential problems (short leash to and from starting gate at the dog show, loose dog runs up when we are on leash). How can I manage myself?

 

 

I appreciate why you are tensing up, but as you say, this will definitely not be helping your dog.

 

I think you have made a major step in recognising that your own attitude may be part of the problem.

 

IMO Avoiding the dog park may mask the issue for the present, but if your anxiety is ongoing then it could continue in other locations and may build into a viscious circle - You worry about how your dog may behave and so become anxious, your dog picks up on this and he thinks " there is a problem here" and so he reacts as you don't want him to.

 

I'm not a professional dog (or person) trainer, but I'm sure there will be forum members here who will have significant experience in helping others who have had similar issues (I would imagine that it is quite common). They may be able to give you some strategies on how to cope.

 

I certainly look forward to reading their comments and wish you every success.

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Thanks for the replies and the encouragement! After reading through others' posts about anxiety, I realize that Bear's issues are pretty low on the totem pole. I am grateful for all of the advice and feel a lot less helpless.

 

I would never force a dog to play. I simply encouraged it because I thought that was their natural state. I equated not playing with some sort of behavioral issue.

 

Also, I thought going to the dog park would desensitize them to loose dogs running up. I love being outdoors and watching the dogs experience new places, so we tend to go to a lot of offleash places that aren't necessarily labeled for dog use but one tends to find the occasional loose dog. For instance, the big park on the nearby lake is mostly horse trails but there are parts that have good swimming areas for the dogs. It's so big that we rarely see another person, but when we do, that person usually also has a dog who almost always runs up to my pack.

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Thanks for the replies and the encouragement! After reading through others' posts about anxiety, I realize that Bear's issues are pretty low on the totem pole. I am grateful for all of the advice and feel a lot less helpless.

 

I would never force a dog to play. I simply encouraged it because I thought that was their natural state. I equated not playing with some sort of behavioral issue.

 

Also, I thought going to the dog park would desensitize them to loose dogs running up. I love being outdoors and watching the dogs experience new places, so we tend to go to a lot of offleash places that aren't necessarily labeled for dog use but one tends to find the occasional loose dog. For instance, the big park on the nearby lake is mostly horse trails but there are parts that have good swimming areas for the dogs. It's so big that we rarely see another person, but when we do, that person usually also has a dog who almost always runs up to my pack.

 

 

Hi there~

 

You've already gotten lots of helpful replies, so I'm just tossing in my two bits' worth. :)

 

It is a common thought among many or most people that dogs should want to play and that it should be their natural state. But here's a thing to think about: in most of the canine world, playing with strange dogs is not normal. In a dog's eyes, strangers are to be approached with caution and wariness. After all, if you're a dog, stranger dogs may try to steal your food or become territorial or try to dominate or attack you.

 

Dogs are most happy and most playful among dogs who are familiar to them. Dogs among their own packs or their own friends can relax, because they've already sorted out the social order, everybody knows each other's signals and quirks, everybody knows who likes to romp and who would be happier with just a passing sniff and tail wag.

 

When strange dogs meet, or dogs who are only occasional acquaintances, they have to re-configure their social playing field every time they meet, and that in itself can be stressful. It's even more so if a dog is suddenly faced with several strangers zeroing in at once. Border collies themselves can be tremendous "breed snobs," because other dogs don't behave like or understand them. Border collies can be totally freaked out by the boisterous, jolly, romping approach of a loveable golden retriever or super-goofy boxer. And they can be really annoyed by bouncy, busy little dogs or in-your-face happy dogs.

 

So, if your boy is starting to "get in touch with his inner border collie," he may be deciding that certain dogs or certain types of dogs are upsetting to him. It's not at all uncommon for border collies to have issues with dogs invading their space, being too forward, being too playful or just generally acting too forward, bossy or boisterous. And they may decide they don't like dogs who tend to posture or dogs who can't keep their noses out of their butts.

 

Dog parks are not always the best place, simply because the dynamics can be way too changeable, electric and erratic for a more sensitive or self-aware dog to tolerate. It sounds to me if your boy is kind of going "over threshold" in some things, he's hit the limits of his tolerance in some situations, so maybe a period of calmer adventures and quieter outings would be best. If he's acting out at the dog park, then the dog park is more than he can take.

 

He may simply not be a dog-park dog. And that's not a bad thing. Not every dog wants or needs to be a party animal. ;)

 

For the future, here's some food for thought. Growling is not always an indicator that a dog is going to bite. There are a number of other, less obvious signals that indicate a dog is uncomfortable, fearful or alarmed. Those cues included standing very still, going up on tiptoes and acting stiff, turning his head so that the whites of his eyes show, licking his lips more than normal, and looking repeatedly the other way. Growling is often the last step before a nip or bite - or there may not be a growl at all. Dogs "speak" amongst themselves in very subtle ways.

 

Per the tiff with your pup, you were right to correct him but I'd advise not to roll him on his back as a correction. I know it was just a reflex reaction for you, in a scary situation. But while "alpha rolling" may stop an immediate problem, if used as a training tool, it also can make a dog much more fearful and stressed, and could result in a frightened dog snapping back, perhaps biting you. You can reprimand his furry butt without resorting to that. :)

 

So ... I'd say mellow things out for him, have fun and continue his training, but avoid the dog park and work on redirecting him or preventing him from things that get him over-stimulated.

 

Best of luck!

 

~ Gloria

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Its the Lab only bring him around large dogs.

 

 

If this dog is acting more BC-like, that could backfire. My BCs get pretty twitchy around large dogs, especially if they are very forward or pushy.

 

~ Gloria

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