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From Soft to Sassy: Seeking Advice from More Experienced Trainers! :)

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OK, y'all! You were such a huge help in my working with my old boy, Buddy. I know Cricket (the new girl) technically doesn't have much to recommend her as a border collie, but she is most definitely a DOG, so I'm seeking your help now.


I've had the girl 2 months. She was so incredibly soft the first few weeks that she was scared to sit in front of me, scared to get on the couch when invited, scared to touch the toys I'd bought her. She is definitely still tentative in the world, but she's getting much better. She'll meet new smallish dogs happily with only a little nudging, she's learned "sit" and "lie down" very solidly and will immediately go into a "sit" when she meets people, because she's learned that people=treats. She is ALL OVER toys now. Best things ever invented! I'm having friends work on head touches while treating, to get her less hand shy.


So... she's definitely coming out of her shell, and very recently she's going from super-timid with me to having a bit of an attitude. Two issues I've noticed:


1) The last couple days, when she wants to play, she'll actually play bow and get sassy and start barking at me. (Um... she is SO a terrier!) This is DEFINITELY a bossy, entitled little behavior that I want to curb.


2) She's been showing some protectiveness over her "turf." The little boy next door comes over to help train her, and today I had him go into the back yard ahead of us. Seeing him open the gate, she gave a little growl and bark - definitely cluing in that the yard was her territory and he didn't belong there. (I had her on a leash, and I did "happy talk" and just moved her back without making a fuss.) Territoriality is also definitely something I want to discourage! I don't mind her barking a little alert when strangers come to the door, and the dog is solidly crate-trained, so thats an option. But I also want her to be able to calm herself and manage visitors. This is particularly challenging because I live alone and there aren't many people coming and going. I think Buddy could have been much better with guests if I had run a more active household - and I want Cricket to be easier with it.


Thanks in advance for any advice and help. The wisdom of the collective is far greater than my own. :)


(Resistance is Futile.)

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Oh, the joys of discovering what's inside the timid bundle of a shy dog as she gains confidence. ;)


Firm but gentle enforcing of your rules is number one. And I'd approach the the budding territoriality the same way as any other resource guarding. Desensitization and counter-conditioning. The idea is to shape her emotional response into people coming and going as a positive thing to be looked forward to. I don't think it'll stifle an alarm bark if someone comes around when you're not with her, but when you are, she needs to learn that you're the one who gets to decide whether it's friend or foe. Se up as many encounters as you can and play the Look at That game with her.


Have fun!

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When we work with rescue BC's, nearly all of them come in the same, afraid of most everything and anything. It took me 3 weeks to be able to touch one and it was when I was on the floor to watch him and he came to me and licked my face (his terms).


When I went to touch him, he pulled it away. With the many I have worked with, it is always on their terms. If you push it, they are uncomfortable and will draw back. They will come to you, which is what they want in time. Good talk and communication frequently helps. You want to be her friend but in charge. The more you can do, the more she will respond. To her, things are strange and new and she doesn't know how to process it at time. The more places you both can go and the more people she can meet, the better. She needs to KNOW that other people and dogs are good.

Set her up with good dogs and friendly people until she can realize it. Watch the signals from her tail and be pro-active and halt the issues as soon as you see it going up. Build on every little success. You will never get her to come to you by pulling her to you just like you won't teach a dog to dock dive by throwing them in. I've seen both.


"Seeing him open the gate, she gave a little growl and bark - definitely cluing in that the yard was her territory and he didn't belong there."

Give the boy a treat or toy, something she likes and start speaking even before he comes through the gate so not to startle her. Have him show her the treat/toy and "baby talk", make her want to see him and even look forward to him and use several people if possible, the more the better.


But I also want her to be able to calm herself and manage visitors. Watch for her signals when this happens and let her know everything is OK and and call her off. She is trying to be the Alpha and she need to learn that you are in charge.

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