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Warning, long winded post ahead:

 

Hi Guys. Hoping to get some referrals or advice for training and behavioral problems starting to pop up with my now 8 mo. old girl Kira. I used the search feature to try and find some referrals before putting up a thread, but came up empty. So here is some background and would love to learn if this is simply adolescent stuff, or even better, if you happen to have an excellent referral for a Utah located trainer w/ breed specific experience. My fingers are crossed that this is just a puppy-stage, but I'm concerned it's something more. I've always had adult rescues (2 cattle dogs in the past), so this is my first go at raising a dog. I was totally prepared for a BC lifestyle of lots of activity, training, and being a consistent leader, but was NOT prepared for just how sensitive and reactive a BC could be. I'm looking forward to Kira being a backcountry skiing and mountain biking companion and taking up agility as a hobby, so she'll have PLENTY to do as an adult. But, we need to get her to a confident behaved adult before all that.

 

BACKGROUND: I got Kira at 8 weeks old (she's now 8 months old) and I have been actively socializing her to everyone/everything as much as possible daily from day 1. We've gone to lots of places, parks, dog parks, trails, mountain hikes, downtown SLC area. She's always with me experiencing new things. She's been a breeze at the house (puppy/nipping stage is gone, LOVES her kennel, has developed an impressive off switch and is good at unwinding, chews legal toys and leaves furniture alone). It's been much easier than I anticipated living at home w/ a BC. She's gets lots of age-appropriate exercise and mental stimulate via trick training, frisbee playing, and fetching. But, regardless of all the socializing I've done, she's starting to get super reactive and that's where our problems are at right now. I'm not sure if it's simply adolescent fear-aggression that she'll grow out of, or a problem that will just get worse. Either way, I want to address it ASAP.

 

TRIGGERS:

1. Obviously anything moving super fast or noisy (bikes, skateboards, sprinting children). She's totally fine with me on a bike and will run beside me. But HATES other people on bikes?

2. Strangers walking up to us too fast or anyone wearing weird things (helmets, big hats, holding umbrellas, a guy with dreadlocks? I swear she notices EVERYTHING.

3. Things that startle her or are "out of place". Example 1: on a hike in the mountains when another person/dog pops up out of nowhere (blind corner, over a hill) or just simply shows up. Example 2: At dog park she's totally cool with people walking all over the place and dogs sprinting all over. She won't herd the dogs or chase them, but will happily play bow and wrestle around with other dogs similar in age. She loves puppies. The dog park we go to is about a 1.5 mile out-and-back with rivers/ponds and provides lots of space for off-leash play). She's great with the other dog and people (both on and off leash). But on quieter days there, if someone is sitting on a rock or in a place where she doesn't expect to see a person, she gets super reactive.

4. Small sprinting/yelling kids (this we work on a TON).

 

PROFESSIONAL TRAINING: We went through a puppy social class (for 8 weeks) and now we are working with a new trainer on obedience who has some great reviews from other dog owners. Kira was VERY timid at puppy class and was easily overstimulated, but grew out of that. We have done 4 classes w/ new trainer who has insisted we use a prong collar for leash corrections and using that we've worked on sitting, heeling, fronts, and stays which Kira is great at so far. This training hasn't been super fun for either of us to be honest, though. It's all about corrections all the time. Trainer keeps pushing me to use a shock collar to correct Kira's fear-aggression, but I am having a really hard time moving that direction because Kira's super eager to please (aside from her puppy short-attention span), pretty sensitive, and I don't want to increase her fear/reactivity when I think she simply needs to learn strange things are not scary and that she needs to have her confidence built up. Honestly, I'm now having doubts that the prong collar is making her more reactive as well? Am I being too concerned that a shock collar could make her reactivity worse and just trust the trainer? I'm not sure if I need to just trust the trainer and adjust MY thinking, or find a new trainer? Trainer also said I should be doing lots of alpha rolls when Kira acts reactive as that will make her see me as a better leader. I do make sure I'm doing all the alpha stuff I've read about like eating first, "nothing in life is free", and walking through doors first/down stairs. So I think I'm doing an OK job on that front. But maybe not? I'm ranting now... I DO plan on starting her on an agility class next week, so maybe that will help with her confidence?

 

REACTIVITY: it's a combination of lunging and barking at said trigger OR hiding behind me if trigger doesn't go away. I do not force her to stay in scary situations or coddle her either as I don't want to reward the behavior. Depending on what threshold she's at, we either work on sit/stays, LAT, or just beat feet if she's over threshold. She's never showed growling or teeth showing, just a loud deep barking. I'm actively working on the LAT game which we do a TON and it works really great with cars and watching kids from afar. I've read Control Unleashed and am doing my best to follow those guidelines. Kira totally ignores approaching cars within about 5 feet of us (seeing a car means an automatic sit and look at me) and is good around tons of children at about 10-20 feet so far. She just lays there and watches them or plays in the grass. The watching isn't staring or stalky-ish, more relaxed and laid-back. A few kids have approached us and if Kira is acting relaxed, I've let them pet her (I always tell them to NOT look her in the eyes and that they can only pet her if she smells them first and acts calmly). Then she generally just soaks the kids in kisses. Really depends on how the kid approaches us though. She's lunged at plenty of rude kids running towards us screaming "puppy" in which we simply make a u-turn and I tell the kids that she's in training and we back off a few yards and work on down-stays/LAT. Again, I don't want Kira to be forced to interact with kids if she's scared, but sometimes she's OK with it?

 

Sonow you've read my novel (sorry, had a ton to say), do ya'll think I need a new trainer? Do I need to just relax and chalk this up to typical herding/teenage behavior? Am I doing anything terribly incorrect to make her reactivity worse. I do try and avoid trigger stacking with her so she has ample time to unwind and relax between new things. I guess I'm just kinda bummed that I've put SO much time/energy into making her a well socialized pup that I am a little unsettled to see her regressing into a reactive dog.

 

I guess this is why they make wine and good senses of humor. *sigh, sip, laugh*

 

Thanks in advance for your wonderful advice, this place has been SO informative.

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I have a reactive dog - go check out my 'I have a dog now' post.

That said: RUN FROM THIS TRAINER. DO NOT WALK - RUN. The last thing your reactive/fear aggressive dog needs is more reason to fear things! Which is all correcting her for reacting is going to do... make her fear the trigger more. Just - don't go there. Don't.

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I've gotta run out so will give you only a brief reply ATM and come back later.

 

GET AWAY FROM THAT TRAINER!!!! FAST! Don't look back, just go. Trust your instincts. All that alpha crap is probably making things worse, and you've already seen it's not making things any better.

 

I have a pup who will be 8 months old next week and I'm seeing a lot of the same things you are. This is not my first puppy and not my first border collie puppy, and as far as I'm concerned he needs time to grow up and gain some confidence. I'm helping him to do that by taking him places and redirecting when he starts barking at something and rewarding him when he stops even if it's just to take a breath. IOW, changing his emotional response to the trigger.

 

If you were alarmed by something do you think you'd feel better about it if someone yanked on a prong collar when you expressed your concern? Didn't think so, so why would you (or the trainer) think that's going to make Kira feel better or develop any confidence?

 

With my very first border collie, who was no shrinking violet by any means, I learned very quickly that I couldn't use corrections with him like I'd done with my first dog, a pointer/retriever mix. This was back in the dark ages of dog training but none of those corrections were with prong collar or shock collars. So I stopped and I used praise instead of punishment . . . and it made me rethink my entire approach to training.

 

Look for a positive reinforcement trainer. Karen Prior Academy has a website that will direct you to KPA trainers. Really, you can do much better for Kira.

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Dear Doggers,

 

I train with corrections. I have never trained with a clicker or a treat. Your "corrections" trainer "prong collar on an 8 month old puppy?", "Shock collar to cure reactivity?", "Alpha rolls"? is incompetent and gives a bad name to those of us who know how to use corrections properly. Run, don't walk from this yo-yo before he/she ruins your There-nothing-much-wrong-and-he-ll grow-out-of-it-dog. At your agility class you should meet some "positive reinforcement" trainers. It isn't the best method(s) but is a big improvement on this bullshit.

 

Donald McCaig

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You answered your question about the trainer when you said you are not having fun. Why do you have a dog as a companion? To enjoy each other and if training is not enjoyable for you both then get away! Find a trainer that works for you and your dog. Nothing wrong with corrections but what you describe the trainer tell you to do, isn't the way to go about helping a reactive dog.

 

At her age, I would dial down all of the outings at so many places. Pick the places she succeeds at the most at this age and work there. When she matures in a few months, re-introduce some of the most stimulating places. At least, while you continue to find a new trainer to help guide you through. Your pup sounds pretty normal for that age. My youngest at around 6 months was starting to become leash reactive in some way to a lot of situations-sometimes hackles up, sometimes rooing, sometimes barking, pulling to reach something, etc. We still worked on the situations that brought out those behaviors, but on a much less frequent basis while working on other confidence building skills. Now at about 15 months she just walked through the busiest part of our waterfront area last week with all kinds of exciting activities around and did really really well with some room for improvement (isn't there always?).

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Oh, wow. :blink: I'll echo and re-echo what others have said. RUN. do not walk away from that trainer. You have a border collie, for pity's sake, not some out-of-control boxer-pitbull-lab cross. :wacko: :wacko: Throw that prong collar just as far as you can and never, EVER look back. I shudder at the very idea of a prong collar on a dog as sensitive as a border collie, let alone an 8 month old pup.

As for a shock collar ... I know what I'd tell that "trainer" to do with it. Shock collars are for trainers who can't train. I mean, honestly, if your child was suddenly afraid of imaginary monsters in the closet, would you let someone terrorize your child to "get over it?" Of course not! If your puppy is afraid, you cannot make the fear go away by force, fear or intimidation. That is not possible. Your instincts are spot on: the prong collar is too much and a shock collar would be damaging, perhaps permanently.

Secondly, at 8 months or so, pups often go through a sort of fear period, where things that didn't bother them suddenly do. The best thing for that, IMHO, is to accommodate them and just ride it out. Do NOT force your puppy to do or face or be overwhelmed by anything that she's currently unable to handle. Saturating them in a scary or overwhelming situation will only reinforce their fears and increase reactivity. Don't overwhelm your pup. If need be, back off on some things and give her a chance to relax and decompress while her mind matures.

Last, some things she may decide she will never be good at. Border collies are not famous for being good with screaming kids or small children: on the contrary, they can be very upset by them. If she decides she can't handle little kids or loud play, follow your gut and keep her shielded from those triggers. My two dogs would freak right out at kids running and screaming "puppy!" ;)

You have good instincts, so listen to them. Don't ever doubt your gut hunch that something is too much or two intense or too harsh for her. Remember, border collies are bred for hundreds of years to have a highly-tuned relationship with their human. They respond to tiny little whistles from a thousand yards away and can guide an entire flock of sheep down a mountain all by themselves. That intellect was never meant to withstand harsh or punishing training methods. Sure, they can survive that kind of thing, but they never thrive under it.

She's not regressing. She's just going through a perfectly ordinary puppy phase. Protect her while she's going through it. Be her safe place. Work with her, not against her. And abandon everything you've ever been told about "alpha" training. Dogs are not wolves and have not been wolves in 15,000 to 30,000 years. All an "alpha roll" would do is teach her that she gets punished for being afraid. Fear is not a voluntary response, so why would this trainer want to punish her for something she can't help? Listen to your instincts. YOU are right. That trainer is dead wrong.

Be her partner. Be her safe place. HELP her when she's afraid or reactive. And again, listen to your better instincts.

~ Gloria

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I can't add any more, really, so I'll just say ditto to what everyone else has said. Get the hell away from that trainer. I'd probably go one step further and tell the trainer exactly WHY I'm dumping him/her, not that it will necessarily change their training philosophy, but you never know....

 

J.

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I have a reactive dog - go check out my 'I have a dog now' post.

 

That said: RUN FROM THIS TRAINER. DO NOT WALK - RUN. The last thing your reactive/fear aggressive dog needs is more reason to fear things! Which is all correcting her for reacting is going to do... make her fear the trigger more. Just - don't go there. Don't.

I AGREE COMPLETELY!!!!!!!! I have a reactive dog, I promise you corrections are the worst thing you could do right now. Your dog is scared of these things that is why she reacts. So what your doing is hurting her when she sees something that already scares her. Please please please find a positive only trainer and create a positive association with these triggers making her look forward to seeing them not fear them.

 

Our dog sounds very very similar to yours! We have lots of wonderful techniques that help but the first thing you need to do is get away from your trainer. Also just for the record training should be fun for your dog and you both should leave feeling good and accomplished and happy tired. Wick gets insanely excited every time he sees we are going to training and he makes leaps and bounds every visit with zero corrections.

 

And no this is almost definitely not just a fear period you are doing the right thing working with her on it already and asking for help!

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Ok so I read through the whole post now (sorry I stopped when I panicked reading about your trainer !). It sounds like you actually know what's best for your dog!! You have great instincts and should definitely listen to them :) Kira and you are going to have a blast she has a great hooman in her corner from what it sounds like, I have a feeling your training is going to go great if you listen to what your own instincts are telling you! Always remember that if you feel like the trainer isn't the best fit or you are questioning the techniques you have the right and responsibility to choose to quit and switch. Not everything works for every dog, and sensitive dogs take very talented and special trainers so never ever feel obligated to stay with someone for any other reason than if they are amazing!

 

Please keep us posted.

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Not much to add except another vote for "run, don't walk" from this situation. Your dog needs your support, and needs to know the world is less scary, not more scary than how she's feeling it is right now. There are lots of good resources out there for ways to handle reactivity with positive reinforcement. I really enjoyed reading "Click to Calm" and found a lot of the theories and methods used there really helpful for a variety of things, and "Control Unleashed" also. Let us know how it's going, and what the next move is. This board is a great resource.

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I use corrections in training. And also food and lots of positive reinforcement. Using prongs and alpha rolls and shock collars on an 8 mo that's most likely just going through a very normal insecure phase is just... STUPID. Bc's are very aware of the world, and at that age it's normal that she finds some things frightening. As the others said, she needs your support to gain confidence, and for that she has to trust you got her back.

Tess will be 3 yo in 2 weeks, and today at a dock diving event, when a chair fell with the wind, she went into "Oh my god what was that?" mode. So I told her, it's just a chair, you silly sweetie. She doesn't understand the words, but understands the tone. She stretched her neck, sniffed it from 2 feet away, walked to it and made a thorough inspection, and then told me: Mom, I'm glad to report it's not a grizzly bear, just a chair that fell on the ground. Good girl :)

All the rest, lots of dogs and people, loud music, barking, kids running, she was perfectly comfortable with. But she wouldn't have been at 8 mo. She would have been a reactive mess so she wouldn't have gone there.

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Just ran across a post by Pat Miller in The Whole Dog Journal where she offers some other resources for behavior modification with positive reinforcement trainers: ccpdt.org and trulydogfriendly.com, or my own trainer referral lists at peaceablepaws.com

 

Again, best wishes finding someone suitable to help you with Kira.

 

ETA: The trulydogfriendly.com site has some links to articles addressing the problems with trying to modify behavior with punitive techniques.

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Agree with the others. You need to leave that trainer ASAP. I would also leave the prong collar and the alpha rolls.

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If training isn't fun for everyone involved, I recommend that you take a step back and reassess. (Which is exactly what you're doing -- kudos.)

 

Your dog is not in competition with you, and is not lunging and barking just to be bad. Your dog is struggling with coping with her environment and is doing what comes most naturally to her. When a dog is stressed to a high degree, the part of their brains that is associated with learning shuts off (in a manner of speaking) and they rely on instinct and fight-or-flight responses. Basically, you don't need to punish your dog for something that she has little control of.

 

Punishment has its place in some training, with some dogs, and some handlers, but I posit that it's not necessary (not in your situation, and not in many others). I'm good friends with many trainers who choose to use prong collars and e-collars as part of their training plan, but you know what? They use oodles and oodles of play, food and other means of reinforcement to build behaviours long before corrections enter the mix.

 

My dog is reactive, though you wouldn't be able to tell to look at her. She can interact, shoulder to shoulder, with other dogs in intense, distracting environments and doesn't miss a step. Leashes aren't necessary, and working with her is fun pretty much all the time. Honestly, I'm pretty dang proud of how far she's come. I've accomplished everything via motivational training, lots of food, an understanding of environmental reinforcement and making everything into a game.

 

Good luck with your pup. I agree with just about all of the advice offered above.

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Really, you probably don't need to hear it again, but I agree completely with the others. That "trainer" is incompetent in the extreme. Run.

 

It is also very important for you to know that what your dog is going through may be nothing more than a completely normal "fear period" that a lot of dogs experience as they start to grow out of babyhood. If you research that topic you will understand it better, and know that it doesn't require drastic measures.

 

Most importantly, be your dog's best friend and safe place. Be reassuring, without coddling or encouraging the fear reactions; make sure she knows you have her back. Imagine how you would want a grown up to deal with you if you were a child and afraid of things.

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A MASSIVE THANK YOU to everyone who's responded. I'm glad that I paused in my training for a moment to reach out and ask your advice and opinions. Much appreciated. I try and follow my gut instincts, but sometimes I need to be reassured that I'm not losing my mind. SO again, thank you for everyone's input.

 

I've read in detail almost every thread on here about other members reactive dogs, so thank you for sharing your stories on the boards. Super helpful. I may get another harness with the patches saying "don't look/touch" so we don't have people approaching us without our permission. Then we can work on the manners of the people/kids who approach so they move slowly and allow her to greet them if she wants.

 

Today at the dog park we go to (her favorite place) we worked on structured fetching (she's ball obsessed) and her recall. She also played with another 6 mo. old aussie pup for about 20 minutes (talk about 2 completely filthy mud covered puppies, they loved it!). It was nice to just go out and relax and have some fun together. She was super exhausted by the time we saw a 5 year old blond boy ahead of us and by the time he got close, she was too tired to react and simply just threw her ball at his feet. He got covered in some kisses as he picked it up to give to me. Lots of praise was given all around. Kira's currently passed out on my feet, still very much needing a bath.

 

I've put the prong collar away in a box and will be focusing on clicker training and lots of BAT/LAT till we land on a trainer who can help us. We will likely sign up for some focus and impulse control classes, too. I shot out a ton of emails to other trainers in the area and will make sure we find a better match and will make sure training techniques are ones that work for US, not other dogs.

 

I've read a ton on fear periods and am hoping it's just a combo of her needing more confidence, learning her triggers aren't actually scary, and adolescence/fear period stuff. But if not, I'm totally in her corner so we can built trust together, regardless.

 

Based on much of the collective advice, I plan on building her confidence in spots she's already really relaxed in and will work much more gradually in "new" places that have more triggers. I promised her that we'll take it slower and I'll be much more patient. As she is ready and on her terms, we'll broaden our experiences.

 

Will keep ya'll posted as things progress.

 

Oh, and here is a pic from Kira saying "thank you board members for the advice!"

 

8-months.jpg

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Fantastic news!

You are on the right road now and your beautiful girl will profit by it. :) She is lovely and it's wonderful that you are so very attuned to her needs and keen to be proactive in what's best for her. Well done and best of luck! :)

~ Gloria


A MASSIVE THANK YOU to everyone who's responded. I'm glad that I paused in my training for a moment to reach out and ask your advice and opinions. Much appreciated. I try and follow my gut instincts, but sometimes I need to be reassured that I'm not losing my mind. SO again, thank you for everyone's input.

 

I've read in detail almost every thread on here about other members reactive dogs, so thank you for sharing your stories on the boards. Super helpful. I may get another harness with the patches saying "don't look/touch" so we don't have people approaching us without our permission. Then we can work on the manners of the people/kids who approach so they move slowly and allow her to greet them if she wants.

 

Today at the dog park we go to (her favorite place) we worked on structured fetching (she's ball obsessed) and her recall. She also played with another 6 mo. old aussie pup for about 20 minutes (talk about 2 completely filthy mud covered puppies, they loved it!). It was nice to just go out and relax and have some fun together. She was super exhausted by the time we saw a 5 year old blond boy ahead of us and by the time he got close, she was too tired to react and simply just threw her ball at his feet. He got covered in some kisses as he picked it up to give to me. Lots of praise was given all around. Kira's currently passed out on my feet, still very much needing a bath.

 

I've put the prong collar away in a box and will be focusing on clicker training and lots of BAT/LAT till we land on a trainer who can help us. We will likely sign up for some focus and impulse control classes, too. I shot out a ton of emails to other trainers in the area and will make sure we find a better match and will make sure training techniques are ones that work for US, not other dogs.

 

I've read a ton on fear periods and am hoping it's just a combo of her needing more confidence, learning her triggers aren't actually scary, and adolescence/fear period stuff. But if not, I'm totally in her corner so we can built trust together, regardless.

 

Based on much of the collective advice, I plan on building her confidence in spots she's already really relaxed in and will work much more gradually in "new" places that have more triggers. I promised her that we'll take it slower and I'll be much more patient. As she is ready and on her terms, we'll broaden our experiences.

 

Will keep ya'll posted as things progress.

 

Oh, and here is a pic from Kira saying "thank you board members for the advice!"

 

8-months.jpg

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Dear Kiras mum,

 

I have only had an issue with my boy after 6 dog attacks.

Prior to that I trained Elwood using a book called "Puppy start right" after failed training from Caesar Milan. I also used Victoria Stillwells methods which worked well with Puppy Start Right.

It is written by guide dog trainers so you get a lot more than your average training book.

As for noise desensitisation I used an app that has recorded sounds which I played him everyday also exposing him briefly to machinery and tools, be careful as you still need to protect their sensitive hearing.

 

Elwood Was frightened by bush turkeys so I used clicker training for that which worked a treat, substituted for the bike and children. You may like to go onto YouTube and search for Training Positive. He gives the best clicker training videos that are avail in Australia.

Good luck !

Ps. If your biking with her, you may want to check out the "Spiringer" it's fabulous to keep your dog safe and absorbs pulling suddenly .

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