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"Rescue" having a hard time adjusting.

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4 days ago we brought home a little BC named Trooper. He came from the same breeder that my dog is from, and is 9 months old. Unfortunately, he hasn't had the greatest start in life. The breeders sold him to a family, only to have him returned less than a month later emaciated and very sick. He had a fat, injured wrist (either a sprain or a fracture, diagnosed too late), he was calcium deficient, and very thin. But even worse was the fact that he came back absolutely terrified of people. Now, the breeders have had him for the last 6 months, but it hasn't been the environment he needed. The breeder has working, outdoor dogs only so while he did get experience with people around the ranch he was mostly left unsocialized. (There's no need to bash the breeder here, they did what they thought was best).


When we met him at the ranch he was very friendly and social, albeit still nervous around strangers. This attitude continued through his first night and day at home. But we've become quite concerned about him now, as he has had a very rapid decline over the past few days.


Obviously he needs lots of time to adjust! We have no expectations of him being "normal" anytime soon. But his attitude has change dramatically as he's discovered the nature of our household, enough that we're quite concerned that the situation is doing him damage. At this point he is almost entirely shut down. During the first few days he was happy to follow us around and come when he was called, but now he wants absolutely nothing to do with people. He goes out of his way to avoid eye contact and any interaction. We aren't at all forcing him to socialize with us, but he still is very reluctant to do anything with us. He has discovered the couch, so now he lays on the couch and sleeps as often as he can. He does the same when we take him outside, he finds a soft spot on the hay in the barn and returns to his routine of trying to become invisible. When you do interact with him (which he does want at times) he prefers to just go possum and flop on his back.


We're not so much concerned that he's so fearful, but it's becoming apparent that every passing hour he's getting more and more stressed. We have a fairly busy household, 4 other dogs, horses, and 4/5 people in the house. My brother is 20, but he's on the autism spectrum and thus is very loud and overwhelming for people, let alone dogs. Trooper is extremely uncomfortable around him, and there's not much we can do at this point to change my brother. He has gone from friendly and interactive to being a lump on the couch who pretends to not exist. There's just no spark in his eyes anymore. We have a wellness check with the vet tomorrow to check his general health, so they'll see if they think there's any reason to be concerned from a health standpoint. To me it seems that at this point our household is more than overwhelming for him.


So, we have no intentions of giving up on him, certainly this early in the process! We're only concerned that he's declining so rapidly. So, I'm wondering if anyone has any suggestions of what we should do next. We've given him some "safe spots" throughout the house where he could go and hide, but he prefers just to collapse wherever he happens to be. We want to do whatever we can to prevent any further trauma. We just see him getting worse by the second, and that's extremely distressing.

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I hate to say it, but your household may not be the right one for him. Keep that in mind. Sometimes it's hard to do the right thing and admit that you are not a good fit for a dog.


You said you have a barn and that he spent some time living in an outdoor kennel. Can you set up an outside kennel in the barn with a nice dog house stuffed with straw? Some Border Collies just need a quiet space to decompress after working or being around a lot of people. Border Collies are sort of the autistic breed of the dog world. They are brilliant, but sometimes lots of activity and social interactions overwhelm them.

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Yes to what Liz said. Let him decompress at his own pace. Don't look at him, don't talk to him. Put his food down and walk away. If possible, keep him away from your brother.


IMO, if he's going to fit in at your house, he will be approaching you within a few days. IF he does approach, keep everything extremely low key. Let him sniff your hand or your pants look IF he approaches you, but don't offer to touch him yet. Let him follow you around, maybe toss a few pieces of kibble in his direction. Not at him, but towards him.


From that point on, let him go at his own pace, which will likely be a couple steps forward and a step back sort of thing.


If he doesn't start at least looking towards you in a few days, I'd seriously consider sending him to another foster home.


And you need to decide if you're willing to put in a lot of effort over a lot of time to help him. He might surprise you, and simply be a dog who needs a lot of time to himself. On the other hand, he might not get much better.


Good luck with him, and thanks.


Ruth and SuperGibbs

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I agree with Liz. He just might not be the right fit for your home.


I had a foster like this. My home is relatively quiet, but it was still too much for him. I know that curl-up-on-the-couch-and-pretend-I'm-not-alive behavior. It's heartbreaking.


In Wes' case, it was a matter of his going to an even quieter home than mine where he didn't have to deal with much of anything beyond his familiar routine.


Very best wishes figuring out what's best for Trooper.

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