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Hi all.

I am back again with a question.

 

Is it normal for Border Collies to be highly reactive to EVERYTHING! Lilli absolutely hates it when my son plays around the house with his toy guns and particularly the one with the laser pointer on it. She goes completely nuts and when our friends dog is here she goes him quite aggressively.

 

Also, when Lukas is out playing with any kind of ball she barks a really high pitched bark almost constantly. I tell her off for barking so she goes and finds something to put in her mouth and still attempts to bark but not to the point where she gets in trouble.

 

Just now, my son is watching a sci fi movie on tv and she went nuts during the imperial star wars march. Stood at the TV barking her head off.

 

When this happens I try to calm her down by giving her a whole body hug until she comes under that overexcited threshold. I am not sure if this is the right thing to do.

 

It is at the point where I don't allow Lukas to play with his guns inside or anywhere around Lilli and we have to put her inside with the dog door closed when he wants to have a kick of his soccer ball or a hit of tennis, basketball whatever it is he want to play. What is the best way to handle desensitizing here reactivity.

 

Sharon

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Yikes, I think your environment has just about every trigger there is for a border collie. I am sure others will chime in with advice, but just want to say that using a laser pointer around a border collie should NEVER be done. I am glad you are managing the situation - for Lilli's sake.

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What Jovi said! Never, ever, use a laser around a Border Collie. Toy guns that make loud noises? No! Children who are very loud, moving fast, etc., are all triggers for the drive that can result in chasing, nipping, etc.

 

No time for anything more but I'm sure others will give more detailed advice about your dog who sounds more "normal" for a Border Collie and less "reactive" which, in this situation, results in behaviors that seem reactive.

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Honestly, I agree with Sue. In this case I'd not be looking to desensitize because your dog is acting like a fairly typical border collie. She's barking at fast movements and excited about the balls and games. Management is probably the only answer you have, here, because she's not going to stop being stimulated by those things. You can use standard LAT protocol to make it easier, (which is basically create distance, ask the dog to glance at a thing they find stimulating, reward when they look back) and gradually close the distance, but. Mostly I'd just keep asking your son not to play gun games inside and bring the dog in when he's playing ball.

 

Make sure she's getting enough physical exercise and mental stimulation/training, but eh.

 

My dog's reactive. By that I mean she acts like cujo when faced with another dog. She doesn't want to eat them - she wants to play with them or meet them - but she sure sounds like she does! Lunging, growling, barking, totally incapable of focusing on me. We've been working on it since Jan. We've made some really good progress, but honestly the stuff you're talking about? Is mostly just what I associate with her being a BC. Yeah, she barks at stuff on the TV sometimes, other people playing ball can work her up, and she'd sure as heck respond to anything running fast and screaming, including kids.


That stuff doesn't even hit my radar, anymore. She's a loud, intense dog. Just barking at stuff that's moving fast and/or exciting her is a thing she does.

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I just wanted to add that when it does happen, no, hugging her is not a good idea. Dogs are not as a rule comfortable with being restrained and it could easily make things worse. I would redirect her attention to you with treats and ask her to lie down, then reward her for staying like that at whatever rate you need to to make her stay lying down.

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Just going to echo what others have said. It sounds like your house is full of about every trigger a border collie can have. They are born and bred to react to movement - that's what working livestock is about. That reactivity varies in each dog, but it does not go away in the absence of livestock.

Bottom line, toy guns, laser pointers, loud noises and active, busy, noisy play are pretty much guaranteed to set off a young dog. Removing her from the triggers is a good idea. It's more stimulation than she can handle and that's why she goes off on her barking jags.

Maybe someone else can help you with advice, but meanwhile, continue keeping her away from the balls and toy guns and definitely the laser pointers.

~ Gloria

 

P.S.

Editing to add that reacting to the TV is definitely a brainless behavior. My 7 month old pup wants to hyper-react every time our cats do something interesting like jump onto or off of a piece of furniture in the evenings. So, I'm asking her to come lay quietly by my feet instead, and that is settling her way down. Giving your girl an alternative behavior like that may help with the TV noises.

But separating her from the kids' rowdy play is the best solution I can think of for the rest. My grown dogs are fine around our house, but if someone started playing with balls or toy guns, the dogs would just go ballistic. It's too much stimulation.

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OK, I'm going to go ahead and say what no one else has said yet.

 

It might be kindest for your dog to consider rehoming her. The sad fact is that border collies aren't a fit for all homes. One of the most common reasons border collies end up in shelters and rescues is because they couldn't coexist calmly with young children. As others have said, there are just too many triggers that are keeping her over threshold. They can be neurotic like that.

 

Definitely give desensitization and counter-conditioning a try, but I think it's a good idea to go into it understanding that your environment might just be too stimulating for her to live in calmly. When that's the case the kindest thing you can do for them (and probably yourself and your family) is to find her a quieter home, or if you can't yourself, relinquish her to a good rescue that can.

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I have an EXTREMELY reactive gal, a mixture of being fearful of people (she went from tail-tucked fleeing behavior to lunging and barking at scary things). With dogs she wants to play and used to be like the tazmanian devil - spinning, snarling, barking, foaming at the mouth, when on lead, now she's more of an obnoxious barking dog. I have a list of everything she has reacted to since I started fostering her last summer, I think food is the only thing she hasn't reacted to!

 

Been doing a lot of desensitization and counter-conditioning. It's been a slow process, but I'm seeing process. The teapot, blender, hair dryer and vacuum cleaner are no longer evil. TV is basically ignored as well, except the sound of very excited dogs, but now she will check in with me.

 

I agree with everyone else, keep her separate from the kids playing, and give her something to do when you are watching TV. It can be as simple what Gloria said, have her sit/lay quietly by you in the evening, reward for that behavior. When Bett first came into my house I simply put her in a down by my desk and randomly treats miraculously landed at her feet, she quickly learned that being calm was a good thing. I do the same thing with her bed in the living room when we watch TV.

 

This site has some good info on counter-conditioning: http://careforreactivedogs.com/

 

Good luck!

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I'm not sure if it is normal but I know mine is extremely sensitive to sound..loud noises or a lot of commotion and she slinks down into a cower like position. She was a rescue so I'm not sure if it is a breed trait or just part of her past issues.

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Thanks everyone, Gentle Lake, I appreciate your honesty and straight forward comment and I have thought of that but just cannot bring myself to do it. My son absolutely adores her and he understands that certain things can't be done around her. As a family what we have decided that When Lukas wants to kick a soccer ball he uses Lilli as his opponent. She is better at soccer than he his but it helps his skills. Also if he doesn't want to play with Lilli it is a good excuse to take her out for a walk, same when he wants a play with his guns with dad or a friend Lilli and I go out for a walk. There are ways around everything. I love my girl so much and these solutions seem to be working.

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If you're able to reduce her reactivity through desensitization and counter-conditioning and/or management (realistically probably a combination of the 2), that's great.

 

But it's important to recognize that reactivity can be a quality of life issue for the dog, making some dogs' lives truly miserable. If that happens, hard decisions have to be considered. (I bring this up again keeping in mind that these topics are archived and other people may read them again later.)

 

But it sounds like you're making some headway with management, and that's great. Continued best wishes with Lilli.

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