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Nervous Collies / bike chasers success stories?

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I am new to the forum and new to dog ownership and so far I have found some really great advise in the replies to some topics on here. One thing that would be great to hear is success stories following up from issues people have had with their beloved Border Collies. Here's a little back story of my puppy Merry and I would love to hear from anyone the progress their dog has made and any tips on how they got there.

We rescued our 12 week old puppy Merry in August from a rescue centre in the UK. Her mother was picked up as a stray, when they discovered she was pregnant she was placed in a foster home where she gave birth to 8 puppies. She was only 8 months old herself so practically being a pup she did not take to her pups and after 2 weeks the fosterer decided it was too cruel to try and force her to feed and the puppies were hand reared.

We got Merry home and we fell in love instantly but within a few days we noticed that she was scared of people if they visited the house. We assumed this was due to all the changes in her little life and we just continued to introduce her to new people in the home.

Once we could take her for walks we realised that she was terrified of almost everything from cars to people. The only thing that she wasn't scared of was other dogs. If someone was stood still she wouldn't walk past them in the street. We also had an incident where a man bent down to stroke her and she growled and snapped. We sought the advise of a trainer straight away and soon learned that we had to be our dogs protector. If she is scared of people then we have to tell people sorry they can't stroke her and to just ignore her as she is scared. I am now an advocate for my dog and I think she knows now that I'm not going to let any scary strangers try to stroke her.


We have been working with 2 wonderful trainers and she goes to training classes where she passed her Kennel Club puppy foundation a few weeks ago. It was lovely to hear from the trainers that she is a different dog to the dog they first met and she even gave one of them a kiss in our last session. After meeting people 3/4 times she is their best friend so I don't think she hates people she is just scared of unknown people.


I understand she may never be a dog that loves people and that does not bother me either way but I want her to enjoy going for walks and I would love it if she could like people enough to ignore them and not be so scared. I have already seen progress with Merry after 4 months but we still have bad days where she will decide that someone is just too scary to walk past in the street. (We always try to cross over but sometimes people appear out of nowhere it seems). It would be great to hear from people who have nervous dogs and to hear how much progress their dog has made.


She is also terrified of bikes and reactive towards them on lead. We were on a field where no bikes ever go (its far too muddy and doesn't lead to anywhere and i also chose a rainy day) so I let her off lead as her recall on a long lead was good. She was great and very attentive towards me and kept coming back and sitting for a treat. That was until a bike cycled past on the other side of the canal at the very bottom of the field. She ran the whole length of the field to the waters edge and I was so terrified that she was going to swim across to carry on chasing the bike. Fortunately she didn't but that means we do not let her off lead any more. It seems that there is no where that we can guarantee bikes do not ride these days so I cannot risk her being off lead as even if she clocked one in the distance I think she would be gone.


We are working on desensitising her to bikes but from some things I've read it seems like the chasing may be a behaviour that is going to be very hard to break. She needs to be able to run and play off lead and I hope that one day I can be confident enough to let her off. She is much less reactive towards bikes on lead now but I would love to hear from anyone who has had a collie that chased bikes/cars and how they worked towards fixing the problem and the progress they have made.


Sorry for the long post!


TL:DR I have a very nervous pup who is scared of everything except other dogs, particularly strangers and one that chases bikes. I would love to hear some success stories from people who have dealt with similar issues and to hear how far their dogs have come. (Pics of your beautiful dogs would be lovely too). Thank you.



Here's a picture of my little girl, although she's not so little anymore!




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Welcome! Sounds like your youngster is improving nicely.


Do you have any friends with bikes? One approach is to enlist their help and treats to teach her that bikes and bikers are a potential source of good things.


Also, teach her to focus on you *before* threshold is reached. There have been a number of topics dealing with car, bike, or people reactivity. Try a search here or perhaps others will chime in with good advice and some links.


Her reactivity is far-away and teaching that helps overcome that and build up her confidence will help. Right now, she's fearful but her actions appear to her to "work* (the bike leaves) and so are self-perpetuating.


Best wishes!

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Substitute names and places, and your story could be my own dog's. She is now in mid-life, and very well behaved. You are doing many good things, and keep it up. Continue to be your dog's protector, so that she remains calm and does not always have to be on guard. But know your dog's limits, so that an inadvertent moment of backsliding doesn't occur. They will happen, but have things controlled so nothing gets out of hand.


As you know, Border Collies are often reactive to motion, especially somewhat unusual things like bikes, skateboards, and sometimes cars. As a puppy, my BC surprised me when she chased a couple cars. We were lucky.


Below is what what has worked for us. She has done so well that I usually do not keep her on-leash on paved trails known for bikes. They apparently are getting quieter or my hearing is fading, but recently when bikes sneak up from behind, she just watches them zip by without a second look. That's good and bad. Bad because most are cruising along 25-30 MPH, and collisions are a possibility. Keep that in mind. A short leash is the best policy for most public situations where traffic is probable.


We worked on a down at the end of a long line in the backyard. We took long-line walks in our medium traffic neighborhood. When a car/bike/motorcycle became visible or audible, I used the line to direct her off the road or to the edge of the sidewalk with the command "car", expecting a lie down. Lots of treats at first, but later almost entirely praise. The ultimate goal was for her to get off the travelled road when a car appears, and lie down on her own without command. Unless on leash, I have never practiced her seeing or hearing a car on her own. When off leash I keep her close and usually use "car" . The cue is for any fast moving object -- car, skateboard, motorcycle, etc. It has been very effective for us. We get broad smiles from bicyclists and drivers upon seeing her nearby in a solid down off the road/path.


The above strategy desensitized her to cars/bikes, and gets her in a secure place when they randomly appear.


Be very careful and on the lookout while training and afterwards. The downside to a mistake or your dog's forgetfulness is just too great. I continue to use "car" command in very controlled circumstances to reinforce her training, but would never put her into a situation where we had to depend on it, unless an unexpected emergency should come up. I can think of a couple surprises in which our training came in handy. The greatest outcome for us was desensitization to fast moving objects. -- TEC

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It sounds like you are doing a great job - and have some very good trainers that have given you good advice. From your description, Merry has come a long way in a short time. Extinguishing such reactive behavior can take a long time - 6 months, a year or more - so just be patient and continue to reward for calm behavior.


Keep up the good work.

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Thank you all for your replies.

Thanks for the advice Sue, we will help enlist our friends although right now it is hard to get them to want to come out in the cold weather but I have a few that are willing to help us in exchange for a few drinks :) I think it is mostly the speed at which the bikes move that she is reactive too as she is not scared of our own bikes. We did a test of taking our bike for a walk alongside us and she was not bothered in the slightest, although that could also be because she trusts us. We are going to start very slowly with the desensitisation and I have found some very good articles on the forum so we are working hard and I can't wait til the day she can be off lead :)

TEC thank you so much for your reply. It is absolutely fantastic to hear how far your girl has come and has given me hope that we won't have to keep Merry on lead forever. Fortunately Merry does not seem interested in chasing cars, I don't think I'd like to give her the chance to prove me wrong though and if we are walking along roads she will be on lead for the foreseeable future. We had 2 days a couple of weeks ago where she lunged at a couple of cars, it came out of nowhere and I was absolutely terrified the first time it happened. She did it for 2 days and then stopped, I'm not sure if it was the mood she was in or if one particularly spooked her but now she walks very calmly on lead along the road and only reacts by stopping if a bus/van goes past that is rather loud. I'm being very vigilant incase she does it again but I think she knew it wasn't going to be very fun to lunge at every car as there are always cars and we weren't going to get to the fun part of the walk in the fields if she stopped to lunge at every one.

The advice of the instant down is great, we're going to be starting training on the long lead in the garden today. For the foreseeable future she will always be on lead on the streets or canal paths as it is too dangerous, the cyclists here in the UK would rather run you down than slow down I think. But hopefully with the instant down we will be able to let her off lead in fields even if a cyclist goes past in the distance. We live near the Peak District so we have so much countryside on our doorstep and cannot wait to be able to let her off lead there one day. Again thank you so much for your reply it is amazing to hear how far your girl has come and I hope Merry can do the same. Your reply has given me the reassurance that hopefully it won't be like this forever and Merry will be able to run off lead like she needs to one day :)

Gideon's Girl it is great to hear that this technique has worked for you too, I really hope it will work for Merry.


Thank you gvc-border we are doing our best and I hope it will be good enough to help Merry overcome her fears as much as she can. This is my first dog and I am 100% dedicated to her and her training, I never realised having a nervous dog would be so much work but it is all the more rewarding when I see her make progress like seeing her approach her trainer and give her a kiss. We still have days where we seem to go backwards but that is not the fault of Merry it is usually my fault that I don't inform someone soon enough that she is scared of people or ignorant people who think they know better even when I tell them and stick a hand towards her, 'I have a collie its ok'. I am working on trying to stop situations like this and I am now at the point where I am able to be very blunt with people, her happiness is by far more important than offending a stranger because I told them they couldn't stroke my dog.

Thank you all so much for your replies, I will hopefully be able to update with good news as we progress with our training. Merry wishes you all a very Merry Christmas.



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