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It is with so much sadness, tears and heartbreak that I am approaching you all for your help and advice. We have an 8 month male (neutered) border collie puppy, who I love ever so dearly. I attended puppy classes as soon as I could after his vaccinations. He was very shy there to begin with but eventually built up enough courage to interact with the other puppies and their owners. I have also arranged for different kinds of people to come and visit eg, tall, short, coloured, people wearing high visibility clothing, and small children etc.


It took a very long time to get “Rocky” to walk out side of our yard. He would always lie down and not budge. With lots of persistence and effort I finally encouraged him to walk up and down our quiet street. However whenever a car came along he turned the opposite direction and try to run away. Again with many agonizing attempts several times a day, day after day, he is now able to go for walks around our neighbourhood. I have also attended weekly obedience classes with him, where he has been very responsive to the basic teachings.


When I take him to the park he loves to run, chase balls and interacting with other dogs. He is not so good at following commands in this environment, but from what I have read and been told, this is normal for a dog of his age. Unfortunately, when anyone gives him the slightest bit of attention he jumps up and I have to go and pull him off. We can manage this at home because we either turn around or raise our knee so he can’t get close. Both of these techniques are very effective. However when strangers approach him and he jumps up, they usually go into panic mode. I have to add, that he has never hurt anyone, it is just playful, happy, and excited behaviour.


Now, for our problem. When my teenage son has friends around, he goes absolutely psycho! This is one of the types of people he has been introduced to numerously but has not got used to. He barks, growls, shows his teeth etc and I either put him outside in his run or in his crate inside. Unfortunately today, Rocky was chilling in the lounge when my son and his friend emerged (quietly) from the bedroom. Before we could do anything, Rocky jumped up, ran across the room and bit his friend on the hand. It was very very frightening! Fortunately my husband was able to respond quickly and grabbed him and put him straight outside into his run giving him a severe telling off .


What do we do? My husband does not want to risk this ever happening again because it could have been so much worse and I would hate to think what would have happed if we hadn’t been there. It gave all of us a terrible fright and it has taken me all evening to talk my husband out of the idea to rehome in. Please, please, I would love any suggestions you are willing to share. Has anyone else had this experience? Sorry to waffle to begin with, but I wanted you to get an idea of his lovely but stubborn nature and the time and energy I put into him. What has gone wrong?

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So sorry this happened. I know how stressful it can be. My old boy was fearful and reactive, and I live alone so was able to manage him for ten years. But I often used to think that if he had been adopted by a family with a bunch of kids and a noisy, busy household, he would have bitten someone within a week.


Smarter people will come in and give you excellent training advice. But my initial take is that you have a naturally fearful and reactive dog - as witnessed by his persistent shyness and fear of new things. These behaviors can be managed, but it's really difficult and requires constant awareness of what's going on. Even 18 months after I lost my old reactive dog, I still find myself excessively watchful and leery of things while I'm out with my new dog: I learned to be constantly on the lookout so I could manage behaviors and avoid triggers. The management did get much easier with time, but it was always management - it was never a "fix." I could never let children charge at my dog. I could never relax when someone let a loose labrador charge at my dog. I paid vet bills twice when he bit other dogs. I got three stitches when he got into a fight with another dog while he was leashed to me and I foolishly put my hand into the fray.


Think about your home, your family, and your lifestyle. You may be able to do a beautiful job with your boy, or it may make more sense to rehome him.


Good luck!

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If it is at all possible for you, get the help of a good qualified trainer to work with you on this. Your dog is still very young, and may very well be going through the "fear period" that many dogs experience at his age. If you work with him in the right way, it may be possible to overcome these problems and not end up with a dog who is always reactive and fearful.


I would also recommend that you protect the dog from coming into contact with the things that set him off, such as the teenagers, until you are working with a professional and know the best way to handle it. You have clearly been doing your very best with this dog, but a fully qualified trainer will know techniques that you do not, and may be able to point out areas in which things you have done have not been as helpful as you have intended.


I would also highly recommend the book "Click To Calm", which you can find in libraries or on Amazon. It tells you in detail how to train a reactive dog, and I personally have used the techniques in that book to great positive effect.


No doubt others will add good advice. I am glad you came to us for help. This is a great forum with a lot of knowledgeable people, and we will help you as best we can.

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Sorry I don't have a lot of time to write ATM, but do want to say punishing (including "a severe telling off") the dog after the biting incident may be one of the worst things you can do. It can lead to increased aggression and suppression of warnings, like a growl.


As others have said, you're dealing with a fearful dog and most aggression is fear based. Punishing fearful behavior makes it worse, thus increasing the dog's feeling it has no recourse other than aggression.


If this were my dog I'd be looking to consult with a qualified veterinary behaviorist. You don't say where you're located, but I'd contact the nearest university veterinary teaching hospital. Most have behaviorists on staff and/or can refer you to someone close to you.


Did the bite break skin? Either way you have an obligation to reveal the bite history if you try to rehome him and if the bite broke skin many rescues can't take a dog with a bite history for reasons of liability.


My advice is to get help. From someone qualified, not just on the internet. Fast!


ETA: Yes, your pup is probably in a fear period right now and how you deal with these incidents can affect him for the rest of his life. Please, no more punishing him for reacting out of fear!!!

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