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Question about BC adaptability

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I'm sorry but this is my first post and it will have to be rather long one. Sadly, our elderly mixed breed girl died in december. Our other dog (rottweiler corgi mix) was lonely and we also had a dog-sized hole in our lives that needed filling.


I've always had mixed breed dogs, and I've never had an interest in purebreds. Nothing against them though. I started to look at Humane Societies locally and as far as a two hour radius. I found a little purebred border collie about 90 minutes away who had been in the municipal pound for seven months. She had been, according to their definition, "Feral". Someone had dumped her in a desolate rural area infested with coyotes. She found a local farm but was terrified to come anywhere near the people. They kindly left food out for her and called the Humane Society in the nearest town which was about 20 miles. It took two weeks to catch her.


They took her to a vet and he pronounced her maybe a-year-old or so. Not very specific. She was so terrified by people that she was impossible to adopt as she would cringe and hide in the corner of her cage. Everybody wants the friendly puppy! Nobody wants the damaged one. They have a no kill policy for dogs, and as far as conditions go, it was pretty nice. She had a cage about 4 x 6, and every day would spend the day time in a private gravel courtyard (supplied with an insulated dog house) about 10 x 40. During the seven months, they sometimes put another dog is with her for company, but they always got adopted and she was left behind.


We went to see her on a day it was -30°, and she was in the courtyard actually enjoying the extremely cold weather. She barked at us continually and it took my husband 20 minutes to be able to touch her.


The Staff had worked as much as they could with her, within the time allowances they had, and she would allow them to touch her. But only a little bit. They had her spayed. They gave her a name but she did not respond to it. They advertised her in the newspaper. When we came along they were thrilled we were interested.


Trying to shorten the story a little, LOL, we brought her home and we've had her for a 9 days. We changed her name and she responded the first day, she has bonded with me because I've spent about 22 hours a day within 6 feet of her. She wags her tail, watches everybody with interest, and some trepidation, comes to her new name, Freyja, and this this morning she opened up and let me rub her tummy while she laid there in squinty eyed pleasure. She relieves her self outside, and has never had an indoor accident. Because the weather has been so bitterly cold she's only been on two walks and she heeled perfectly, loose leash without instruction. She plays with our other dog and they are fast friends. She is very leery of the two men in the house. She goes starfish if they try to interact with more than just a pat.


I have a severely autistic nonverbal 30-year-old daughter, who lives with us. The dog is mildly terrorized and extremely puzzled by my daughter's behavior. My daughter has no interest whatsoever in the dog and would never interact. So my daughter does make odd sounds and behaves in a way that to a dog would seem utterly nonsensical. She's no threat to the dogs except that if they were in her way, she would just walk right over them if they did not move. Do you think the dog will ever do what the other dog does which is ignore the odd behaviour and stay out of the way? Are Border collies adaptable enough for this? Our elderly dog who passed away would always protect my daughter and not let any other dogs come close to her.


I have other questions as well for the experts on this forum but this post is already probably too long!

I have attached a pucture of Freyja.


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Each dog is different, but my experience is that border collies have an amazing ability to adapt and understand. I have taken in dogs from a wide variety of situations including puppy mill survivors and dogs who were terrified of sudden movement or quirky, specific stimuli. Each one of them bounced back and became normal and adoptable. Time and patience is the only thing that I can advise.

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^^This. I volunteer with rescues who have taken dogs in like Freyja. In some cases it's taken over a year for them to become adoptable, and still needing a lot of patience and work at that.


There are several people on these Boards who have worked with extremely shy dogs. I'd very highly recommend that you take some time to read these threads.






Kudos to you for being willing to give this girl a chance at a real life. Border collies often shut down in shelters, what I call shelter shock. I think the progress she's made in just a week is really encouraging.


Give her plenty of time and patience to develop at her own pace and I'll bet you'll see a very different dog emerge in time.


Oh, and she's beautiful.


Very best wishes helping her learn that it's safe to be a real dog.

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I agree with the above 2 responses. Freyja has come a long way in the very short time you have had her. (And she is very beautiful.)


From personal experience (I fostered a puppy mill dog from a socially deprived environment), they can come back. Don't push her into situations where she is too uncomfortable. The best advice I can give you is to be VERY PATIENT and give her lots of positive reinforcement. Her journey could take months or even years, but she sounds like it is worth it.


Also be aware that most rescue dogs will go through a honeymoon period in which they are on their best behavior, then once they become comfortable in their new environment, you may observe some unwanted behaviors. Cross that bridge when you come to it. It is normal and doesn't mean you are doing anything wrong.


And I agree, kudos for rescuing.

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Thanks for responding! Yes, i think she is beautiful as well! Every day I see tiny changes, so I am encouraged by that. I read the links provided with interest.


Several of her behaviours remind me of autistic behaviours. When she is tense or confused she circles the kitchen island repeatedly. My daughter has self soothing behaviors that are not unlike that. I think being extremely familiar with severe autism will actually help me understand what's going on with Freyja. I looking forward to the challenge. I just hope that her "standoffishness" does not permanently alienate some family members.


Our other dog, the amazing Bogart is a dog completely without neuroses. I've never met such an even minded sensible animal! Freyja watches him quite closely and I am hoping that she will imitate his behaviors and lack of fear.


Just for fun I am attaching a picture of the two of them sleeping on the love seat. Hard to tell where one stops and the other begins! Lol


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From my foster dog experiences having a confident dog role model can be one of the best recovery tools available. We recently had a young foster dog, who was terrified after his time in the shelter, he was instigating play with Rievaulx well before he wanted to interact with us. Good luck, and I love that photo of them together

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Thanks for the encouraging words! Every day I see little improvements. This morning she was watching out the front window and barked and growled at the neighbor kids going to school. Bogart joined her. This seems natural behavior in the spirit of "hey you kids get off my lawn". She's decided that this is her place to guard. She has a funny high-pitched bark and growl. Up until this point she's been silent. She barked at us when she was at the pound, but has not made a peep since.


She also played with Bogey in the same room where my daughter was watching television. Until now Freyja has just sat carefully watching while she was in my daughter's presence. I think this is a big step.


She is still very afraid of men, but my son, a large man, sat on the floor and she gingerly approached close enough to be patted. She fled when he stood up though. Sometime she will not come in from the backyard if my son or husband is near the door.


Oh, she also chewed up one of my slippers while we were out. My fault since I left it in reach. It definitely seemed like natural puppyish behaviour though. We own a crate for transport only so my dogs are free when alone at home. I'm okay taking my chances because we are only gone for a couple of hours at the most. There are numerous toys and chews lying around but my slipper was the most attractive!


I think she is doing great!


Attaching a picture of Bogart where you can actually see him, not just his underpinnings. Lol. Freyja has made his life happier and more exciting. I had to tighten his collar because she has run some weight off him in less than two weeks. He just turned three.


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Wow, what a kind family you are to take in a dog that needs some extra love and attention! I don't have any advice because I neither have a troubled dog nor a family member with any difficulties, but I wish you the absolute best of luck and all the happiness in the world with your wonderful family.

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It definitely sounds like she's becoming more comfortable and gaining confidence.


Two things to consider . . .


With the barking/growling at the kids outside. Is this something that's going to be acceptable behavior for you, especially if it escalates? If not, then she needs to learn now that it's inappropriate and won't be tolerated. Don't let her get away with things you don't approve of because you're feeling sorry for her. She needs to learn the rules now. It'll just be harder later when the behavior's become well established.


Same with the slipper chewing. I'm glad you see it as normal puppy behavior because that's what it is and it's an encouraging sign in that sense. At the same time, allowing her too much freedom when you're not there to supervise gives her the opportunity to practice self-rewarding behaviors that'll be harder to break her of later. Better not to give her the opportunity to engage in them in the first place. Let her earn her freedom when she's shown that he's trustworthy. Preventing inappropriate behaviors is so much better than having to correct her for them later. Using a crate now to do that isn't a punishment or in any way unkind. In fact, it may just be kinder to her in the long run to use it now. As you said, it'd only be for short periods, so it's not going to hurt her little psyche any. ;)


Glad to hear she's doing so well. Dogs are incredibly resilient creatures.

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I will keep an eye on the barking and Growling. I don't mind to an extent, as I don't want those kids on my lawn either! When she looked back at me to see how I reacted to the Growling, I said " okay, thats enough" in a matter of fact tone. I'm not sure that was sufficient, any suggestions? It worked. I allow Bogart to bark at the kids and anyone who is coming up the sidewalk. He sounds scary and it keeps sales people and religious proselytizers at a distance. If I let the person in the house he quits immediately and loves everybody. Do you think this is a problem? He knows when to stop, do you think she wont catch on?


I tried to put her in the crate the first night we brought her home. She absolutely refused and went limp. It occurs to me that she might've thought the crate would be the method of taking her back to the pound. How will i get her to go in there? She isnt very food compelled.

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There is a lot of information out there (on the web) about crate training. Just search "crate training".


How does she eat her meals? Is she picky or with gusto? If the latter, I would start putting her food bowl near the crate and moving it a little closer (like 1 or 2 inches closer) each day and eventually start putting it in the crate so she has to gradually enter the crate. Leave the door open.


When you say she isn't very food-motivated - how does she react to steak, hot dogs, etc. i.e. high-value treats? Some dogs wait for the good stuff. ;)

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If she is in the crate, how will i know she is trustworthy? Serious question.


She doesnt seem very hungry in general and picks at her food. I dont think she was fed from the hand much, if ever. She seems to have trouble eating a treat if her head is upwards, not pointed at the floor. She takes the treats very slowly and cautiously then drops them to eat.


I havent found anything that she really loves. Bogart is the same. If he does a trick, it is for praise, not food.

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