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Is my BC testing me?


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I adopted my border collie, Runa, about 5 months ago. She is between one and two years old, a reservation rescue and had spent two months in a foster home arranged by a local BC rescue group. She has completed level 1 & 2 obedience and is one class away from completing agility level 1.

I have been trying my best to meet her needs and still have a sane life. She is totally amazing, but it has been one challenge after another, from the resource guarding, to the worse case incomplete housebreaking (stared at me and squatted, pee and poop in crate, and sneak pees). The foster mentioned the sneak pees after I adopted her. Just when I think we have made progress, some new behavior appears.


First question-

Is Runa testing me? She has known “sit” since I got her. Recently, there have been several times when I asked her to sit and she looked at me like I was crazy. So I put on her gentle leader (it was within reach) and waited and waited. Finally she sat down.

She also loves fetch, but three days ago, she quit bringing the ball back. She knows “bring it”, but now she will bring it one or two times, then parks with the ball about 10 feet away. Is she trying to change the rules of the game? This is a primary physical outlet, two 30 minute fetch sessions minimum. I have been giving her two chances to “bring it”, then saying, “OK, all done”, getting the ball and going back in the house. So I bundle up, (we are in Minnesota), ready for 30 minutes of fetch, throw the ball twice and end up going back inside. We did that four times yesterday and three times already today. She is doing the same thing with basement frisbee. What is going on?


Second question-

In agility class when the other dogs are running, or she hears the tunnel, she goes nuts. I have to leave the gentle leader on her during those times to have any control at all. I have taken her into a separate room and outside numerous times to calm her down, but as soon as she hears/sees the action, she goes from 0 to 10 and I can’t get her back. When it’s her turn on the course, she is totally focused (at 100 mph) and looks like she should be competing at Crufts. But, on the sidelines, me, treats, toys, nothing seems to get through. Have any of you had a BC like this? What did you do?


Thanks for any help you can give me.


Judith and Runa

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Other than telling you your dog doesn't need an hour or more of fetch per day I'm of the mindset if a dog won't play by my rules we aren't playing so keep ending your games of fetch the second she stops brining it back and she will realize that by not bringing it back the game ends.


On the note of agility get a crate and train your dog to be calm inside it. If it's not your dogs turn put her in the crate until it is her turn and then back into the crate covered with a light sheet if need be. Motion sensitive dogs sometimes can't stand watching other dogs run and that's OK. Usually crating them will avoid issues.

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Could she have hurt herself? That could be a reason for the lack of interest in fetch. My dog who has bad hips does the same thing occasionally when she's seriously too sore for more. It's a way of saying "No, I am done, I am not able to continue with this."


If she is bouncing around and jumping and trying to get you to chase her I might think it's changing the rules, but if she's just parking she might be trying to tell you she doesn't want to play or cannot play for some reason.

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I think maybe you're approaching this the wrong way. It doesn't really matter if she's testing you or not. Make it valuable to her to do the things you want her to do. Give treats/praise/play for the right things and end play/interaction for the wrong ones. Don't get into some sort of mental struggle with your dog, just be consistent with what you ask and what you give.

As for the tunnel, I would trick Look At That training. Here's a link:
It's less about the treats and more about changing her mindset while not running a course from "where I see/hear the tunnel it means running time!" to "when I hear the tunnel it means I Spy time!"
Although I wouldn't worry that it would decrease her drive for the tunnel while actually running the course, I can't speak from experience so maybe someone who can answer that for certain can chime in.

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Motion reactive border collies are very common in agility, the best resource you will find is a book called "controlled unleashed" the newest version is the one for puppies, and it is really the same program just written in a more approachable way. Crating is a good way to manage it.

Border collies need mental stimulation more than physical exercise, it is a myth how much exercise they need and the more you do the more than want and need. Try mixing in a 5 minute trick training session into your day.

She could well be changing the rules of the game, but that is not testing you just inventing new rules. One of our dogs who was 3 1/2 when we got him had trained his first family to fetch, so we changed the rules and if he did not bring back the toy we stopped playing, at home we went inside, on a walk just picked up the toy and put it away, took a few months but he evantually played a conventional game of fetch, the one where the dog not the person brings the ball back!!

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A solid hour per day of just fetch sounds so boring for both the human and dog. She does not need it. I promise. Try taking her for a walk, it is much for stimulating mentally-she can see, explore, sniff new things and has to perform basic impulse control (not pulling). The gentle leader is mentioned a lot, can she walk on a loose leash with a flat collar? If not, train for it-it is great mental exercise to learn to walk nicely on a leash. Can you take her somewhere to walk off leash too?


As others said, try some trick training or impulse control work (place/mat, long down stays).


As for not sitting when asked, she is not testing you-she probably did not understand what you wanted in that situation. Many dogs know how to sit with a cookie in the owners hand but not when the person is sitting on the couch, on a leash at your side, in a new situation and so on. I would just go back to basics and have fun-ask for a sit from a down or a sit while you're doing something different (at her side, several feet away, with your back to her).

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Congratulation on your new dog and kudos for adopting!


You've gotten some great advice already, but I'd like to second making sure the reason for the fetching issue isn't pain and about the myth of needing all that exercise. Mental stimulation is not only more important for them but can be more tiring than physical exercise.


A wonderful trainer, Shirley Chong, recently said something in another forum that I found fascinating. She said that if you can train for anything for 5 minutes out of every waking hour you'll have what she called a "flat out dog", one who's relaxed and calm most of the rest of the time. Most people can't arrange to train 5/60 for 18 hours a day. We have to go to work and all. But if you can set aside 5 minutes for any kind of training, whether it's tricks or manners or whatever, during as many hours as possible, you'll end up with a dog who's much more relaxed and content.


Another thing you may be seeing with Runa is that the honeymoon period is over and her true nature is showing now. Many people believe that the honeymoon period after adoption is about 2 or 3 weeks, but others believe that it's at least 3 months. When I adopted Bodhi, who'd been a stray for quite some time before being picked up, I noticed that he was showing new behaviors for as long as 6 month after I adopted him. While they're honeymooning they're often suppressing behavioral traits as they navigate the new environment they find themselves in and try to figure out how they can behave.


I'd also like to add that before I abruptly end a game the dog's really interested in with an "all done" I like to give them a heads up and tell them "last one" right before the final throw. In my experience my dogs appreciate getting the announcement that the game's about to end and are much more willing to settle down and not ask for another throw if they know that that last one was actually the end of the game.


Best wishes as you help Runa negotiate her new and improved life.

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Thank you for considering, and adopting, a rescue dog. (from someone who fosters when time allows)


Good advice in the posts above so I won't belabor the points, but will comment on Runa being reactive to the sound of a dog running through a tunnel.


My dog, who values agility above everything else and focuses extremely well on a course, will also react to the sounds of a dog running through a tunnel or going over the teeter (when it bangs down). At an agility trial, if I am somewhat close to the the ring (usually when I am within several dogs of having to run), I try to be aware of when a dog is going over a teeter or through a tunnel so I can distract him with a treat or a toy or by asking for a behavior. I will crate him far enough away from the rings so he doesn't react. I usually also have fabric over the crate. Since we are usually at a trial most of the day, he needs to have some down time too. He doesn't need to be stressed all day long by being crated where he is constantly being bombarded by sights and sounds that keep him hyper. I do try to work on his reactive behavior by taking him out of the crate for desensitization sessions a couple of time per day. At agility lessons, I will also work with him at times to try and reduce his reactivity to the teeter and tunnel sounds. Until you can totally densensitize your dog, you may just have to manage it as best as you can and try to reduce situations where she will react because she is just continuing to practice an undesirable behavior.

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Thank you all. I really needed the advice, some tools, and some encouragement. I have read and re-read your replies numerous times. While I am still digesting the content, I just finished ordering Control Unleashed and The Other End of the Leash.

With Runa, it has been about impulse control from day one. I had forgotten our first few attempts at a walk and the first two obedience classes were complete chaos. So maybe there is hope during agility. She is very familiar with the crate, so will definitely try that at the next class. I was starting to feel like a monster, with the amount of force it took to hold her on the gentle leader. I finally resorted to picking her up and carrying her outside last time. I must admit, I shed a few tears out there in frustration, desperation, and sadness at seeing her in that state.


Very little of what the foster told me about Runa was true. Had I known I never would have adopted her, but once you fall in love with a dog, you do everything in your power to make both of you happy.

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Very little of what the foster told me about Runa was true.


That's a real shame.


It isn't in a dog's best interests for whomever's placing or selling them to withhold any information known about their temperaments and not to be completely forthcoming about what they know. If you hadn't been so committed to her you might have sent her back, which would have just unsettled her more. Or you could've been someone who'd have mismanaged or mistreated her and made her worse.


I'm really happy for Runa that you are committed to her and looking for the best ways to help her without breaking her. I suspect that she needs more time and perhaps less pressure (i.e. fewer expectations -- not that I'm saying you're pressuring her) to just have time to come into her own at her own pace. Dogs who don't have early socialization just don't always know how to interact with people and it can take some time for them to learn the value and rewards that come with that kind of relationship.


Again, very best wishes.

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You've gotten some great suggestions, but I'll add another congrats for going the rescue route!


Another consideration: You might think about joining the NADACForum.com, and joining the seminar list. I can't remember at the moment how much it costs for a "newbie" to join, but you'll get more than you ever thought you wanted to know about RELATIONSHIP and MENTAL CONNECTION with your dog. You can submit videos, and get input, and watch others' videos and read those comments. It isn't about "how to do agility" much at all - but extremely valuable info.


I won't say that anyone can teach agility - but many can (that shouldn't...). I've been competing in agility for over 15 years; but I wish I knew back then all that I know now - not just about handling and such, but making that connection, impulse control, the mental state of the dog and so much more.


Good luck in your quest for perfection!



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I just had another thought.


I wonder how useful it is to think in terms of Runa's possibly tasting you. It kind of sets up an adversarial quality to thinking about it that probably isn't there. You know, Runa against you.


It's much more likely that whatever this is is more a stage in her development from a possibly mostly feral reservation dog to becoming an owned dog in a long term relationship and it may be her figuring out how that's going to work and trying different ways of behaving. If you can think of it more as helping her discover how to behave in ways that please you and strengthen your relationship, it just might alter the way you think about this whole thing in a way that's easier for you to navigate as well as Runa.


Just a thought.

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As an adjunct to Gentle Lake's post, I came across this saying on FB a few days ago. Just substitute 'dog' for 'child". (I am not saying that you are punishing your dog, I am just posting this as general advice for owners of trying dogs, and most puppies/adolescent dogs.


"Thinking of your child as behaving badly disposes you to think of punishment.

Thinking of your child as struggling to handle something difficult encourages you to help them through their distress."

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I have had a total of six dogs in my life. Number five was a BC puppy and I loved her so much that when she was a year old I adopted another BC from a rescue. I was thinking that I wanted another dog but not a puppy because they are so much work....I'll get an adult dog, that will be easier. I love my Mattie and I wouldn't trade her for the world and if I had to do it all over again I wouldn't even think about it, I love her so much. But she wasn't easier.


From what I have been able to piece together with my observations, the information I received from Mattie's foster Mom, and the observations of a trainer at the doggie daycare center I use when I need to be away all day we all think that for the first nine months of her life Mattie must have lived in a kennel with very little interaction. Mattie is so sweet and she works hard to understand how to live in our human world but everyday life is often overwhelming to her.


I think the foster did a horrible disservice to Runa by telling you that she "sneak" pees. I was assured by Mattie's foster mom that she was completely housebroke but there were lots of accidents in the beginning. We were accident free for months until a couple of weeks ago when Mattie had two accidents within a couple of days. I didn't see her but I knew it was her. At first I couldn't figure out why, after so many months, we were having accidents. I finally figured out that on both days I had been gone all day running errands (Mattie was home with my son and daughter). Mattie is my dog and she gets very stressed when I am gone so my conclusion was that she is experiencing separation anxiety and that is the cause of her accidents. If I thought of Mattie's accidents as "sneakiness" I would have never realized what the real issue is.


"The Other End of the Leash" is one of my favorite books. It really helped me understand how to communicate with my dogs. Thank you for adopting Runa.

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I was starting to feel like a monster, with the amount of force it took to hold her on the gentle leader. I finally resorted to picking her up and carrying her outside last time. I must admit, I shed a few tears out there in frustration, desperation, and sadness at seeing her in that state

My husband came to agility class and was holding our reactive dog, I told him to be careful and how he reacted to fast dogs. He was stunned when he turned into a lunging mess and then took of after the other dog because he was not holding him tight enough. With time and patience we could compete without him lunging, in fact at his last competition he got a belly run while waiting his turn at the entrance.

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I wonder how long the foster home had the dog before she was adopted. Sometimes the foster home doesn't keep the rescue dog long enough to be sure of the dog's behavior or temperament, and that could be why the information was inaccurate.


Of course, if it were simply a case of the foster person being misleading, that is utterly reprehensible.


The concepts of "sneak peeing" and "testing you" are not helpful and I would definitely encourage you to throw them out. Dogs really do not "test" us. If the dog doesn't do what we ask, it is for a reason: the dog doesn't know the command, the dog doesn't know it in this particular environment or circumstance, the dog is distracted, the dog is overwhelmed, the dog is in pain, the dog is confused, etc. etc. Best approach, I think, is simply to continue to train.

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I want to thank you all again for the advice and suggestions.

  • I checked out the link that chene posted and downloaded the full document “Dr. Karen Overall’s Relaxation Protocol”. I will start the “I Spy” game with Runa.
  • I have ordered “Control Unleashed”, suggested by alligande, and “The Other End of the Leash”.
  • I joined the NADACForum, as suggested by diane allen. Looks interesting. Had to smile about the “quest for perfection” line, because the dogs I have lost have all been perfect (at least in my memories).
  • Comments by gcv-border and alligande give me hope there is light at the end of the (agility) tunnel (okay, bad pun). As several of you have suggested, I will try crating her at the next agility class and see how that goes.
  • A special thanks to GentleLake. Your thoughtful comments reminded me of the challenges for Runa during her adjustment period, and to reflect and realize how far Runa has come in just five months.


I have a lot of reading ahead of me.


I was surprised that so many of you said she didn’t need that much exercise (she is high drive/high energy). I expected to do a minimum of an hour and a half of walks and play daily, as I did with past dogs. I enjoy it and I don’t mind the time commitment, but am still trying to figure out the change in her behavior on not “bringing it” back to me. Last night I found that when she doesn’t bring the toy back and I lean over to pet my other dog (ignoring Runa), she is at my side in a second, with the toy?

I was not surprised at the suggestions to do more training and walks (always a good thing).


I have been doing the “nothing in life is free” approach with Runa, with special attention to impulse control. I use “try again” as my correction. It is my gentle reminder that she is always trying and if I find myself saying that too often, that I need to look at what I am doing wrong. Impulse control had been a challenge since day one. Runa will now down-stay while I dance, sing, step over her, yell, and throw her frisbee. I have been asking her for calm behaviors, like “sit” and “down”, when she is in her most excited play mode. So, not being able to get her back at agility was a surprise and had me feeling a little defeated.


Level 1 obedience started three weeks after I brought Runa home. We’ve been training every since. After the first two classes, she calmed down, and we breezed through level 1 & 2, and then started agility, where she turned into a wild child. I am always looking for things she likes to do, that we can do together. She evidently LOVES agility and is really good at it. I can have her down-stay at the entrance to the tunnel, lead her the length of the tunnel plus to the first jump, and she stays till released and flies through the whole course, totally focused. I would love to continue with level 2, but at this point, if the crating doesn’t work, I am not sure what to do.


I have been asking myself if this is all too much, too soon? Maybe we should take a break or just do level 3 obedience?


You have all given me lots to think about and much to read. Thanks again.


Judith and Runa (and Shade, the aussie fursister)

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