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everyfrog

Questions about re-homing 9 YO BC

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Hello,

 

I have been given the opportunity to be the new owner of my sister and her ex-husband's 9 year old border collie, Diggit. I have not been a consistent figure in the dog's life (except for 2013) but we have a good relationship when we do see each other. (He gets super excited when I show up because he knows I will play with him and take him for a walk! My sister claims he is calm and laidback when I'm not around).

 

The family history of the dog involves basically raising him in townhouses, overseas, and in decent sizes houses with fenced-in yards. However, he is most likely (still) not worked, walked, or played with as much as BC needs, given previous history of my sister and bro-in-law's lifestyles. And he is clearly overweight. He also has food aggression issues (bares teeth when get too close to him while he's eating).

 

The ex-bro-in-law owns the dog and has decided recently to remove it from his immediate family with a new wife due to a baby on the way. Diggit, while sweet but can be hyper, has not been worked like BC should be - I believe the extent of the activity is being let out in the backyard.

 

I, on the other hand, am super active (hiking, running, biking, camping, etc) and would love to keep Diggit in "the family. However, I wonder how easy that is to do with 9 YO sedentary but yet energized BC. (he definitely herds kids, as he nipped at my nephew's heel the other day).

 

I also have a small house (900 square feet) and no grassy yard (all gardens of which are getting fenced this fall, but a potential 10 by 12 foot undeveloped space to create a kennel space for him if needed). I also plan on getting into some professional training to deal with the food aggression issues and possibly better socialization so i can take him on easy hikes.

 

Also, would it be fair or unfair to the dog to bring him into my life for a few weeks to determine if we'd be a good fit? The other option is the bro-in-law will be putting him into a rescue, of which I question how easy it would be to re-home him.

 

Thank you for any thoughts and advice! I only have a few months to make this decision, as the dog will need to be removed from the home by December.

 

Edited: My other concerns are that sometimes my job takes me away from the house for long periods of time (days, rarely overnight), and I'm also in mountain rescue, which also can me away from the house for a day or so. I don't exactly have immediately family around to take care of the dog, like some of my "single dog parent" friends do. I think my mentality with this is to treat him like a kid and have to adjust my schedule with "I have to get home to take care of him" and adjust accordingly. I am extremely single and on the go all the time, and it'd be a big life style change for both of us. The job and mountain rescue (and small property) has prevented me from getting a dog the past few years. I've really wanted one.

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As long as you keep his mind and body exercised, I don't think it matters how big or small a house or yard is. Dogs can transition a lot better than we as humans can. They live in the moment. If you really want the dog and want to give it a shot, by all means I think you should. You obviously care about him. I currently live in an apartment with a bc mix and golden. No problems at all.

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^^ What she said. Plus, the dog probably wouldn't have excessive need for activity both because of his age and his past experience.

 

I don't think it would be unfair to Diggit to do a trial period. It really wouldn't be much different than going into a foster home in a rescue situation and given the amount of moving he's done he's already proved to be pretty adaptable. Plus you have the advantage that he already knows and likes you. ;)

 

You seem to have reasonable expectations about his needs and have already been thinking about ways to help him have a better life (weight loss, slow introduction to exercise, working with a behaviorist or trainer for help with resource guarding), so I'd say give it a go.

 

If you're going to be doing a trial period and there's a deadline with time, I'd suggest trying it out sooner rather than later. If it doesn't work out and he does end up having to go to a rescue, they often have waiting periods for all but the most desperate situations till they can arrange for an open foster home, and his resource guarding will limit the number of FHs that might be available (FHs with small kids, etc.).

 

It sounds lo me like you and Diggit just might be able to have great lives together. Best wishes to both of you that this can work out.

 

ETA: p.s. If Diggit does come to live with you, we'll need to see pictures of him! :D

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Yes, it sounds to me like you'd be a great home for Diggit. Here are my added suggestions:

 

Check into good dog walking services in your area. Ask for recommendations from friends. Also check into boarding kennels. I'm single and am self-employed. My dog-walkers are great about last minute 'emergency' walks, like when I get a job that keeps me away for 10 hrs the night before I need to be there.

 

A good kennel has also been a life saver. I worked a very intense and emotionally draining job the first week of July. By the end of the week, I had Gibbs in a kennel, and it was a good thing for us both.

 

Find a trainer who isn't into yelling/yanking, etc. Never works w/a border collie.

 

Do let Diggit have some time to adjust. Depending on his personality, he might like some time to just chill and get used to his new home/routine*, or he might want to meet the neighbors and go for walks and work on tricks . . .

 

*Routine - establish one with him. I make sure that Gibbs gets a morning walk/game of fetch, no matter how brief, and a bit of silly time w/me before I leave for work. When necessary he gets a walk w/a dog walker mid day. If I'm home, I take him our for a sniff & pee tour. He gets another walk before dinner, then a bit more silly time or trick training. He'll be 9 in a couple months, too, so he's fine w/that. YOUR routine doesn't have to be that, it just has to be predictable in nature, so that Diggit knows what to expect.

 

You don't say what kind of work you do, but . . . a couple of my clients love dogs but can't have one right now, for various reasons. I've recently been told that I won't be allowed in to a specific client's home if I don't have Gibbs with me. I don't know if that might work for you, after Diggit is well settled in, just throwing it out there.

 

And THANK YOU for agreeing to take Diggit into your home. Sounds like you have a lot of bases covered already, I hope it works out for you.

 

Ruth and Gibbs

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I hear and read the thing about routine a lot, and I have to respectfully say that I disagree.

 

I guess some dogs need routine, but certainly not all of them. For the last 17 years the only thing routine about my life has been that there is no routine. Some days I'm home all day, others I'm in and out, and still others I can be gone for pretty long stretches (if it's more than about 9-10 hours I'll have someone come in) and now that I'm pet sitting sometimes I'm even gone overnight sometimes. There's no set feeding schedule. Most days I feed within a certain 1-2 hour window, but sometime feeding's way off from any schedule. I've had a number of dogs during this time, including some who started out with me working a routine 9-5 job. They've all adjusted exceptionally well to the inconsistency, and I'm sure if I were to start working a regular job tomorrow the dogs I have now would adapt just fine.

 

Of course YMMV, but I think there's a lot of wiggle room with routine.

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These are all very encouraging words! Thank you! I'm open to all suggestions and ideas!

 

My long days of work (and rare overnights) involve me being in the field, such as in the woods or on the beach, (I know, GREAT for dogs, right?) but trying to handle a border collie AND take pictures and interview folks wouldn't exactly be conducive. Beach would be OK if I had him VERY well behaved.

 

And I'm kind of like GentleLake - my routine is that there IS no routine in my life. The biggest change for me would be coming straight home from work, rather than heading to the city for the night, doing errands, etc. This dog currently has more routine than I do!

 

TR

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I use the word routine very loosely - in that there are basic things my dog can consistently expect from me. He will get fed/exercised/ mentally engaged every day. Some days I'm ill or just exhausted - the morning walk doesn't happen till much closer to noon, then he doesn't get a lunch time walk. Etc.

 

Some times breakfast/walk/engagement takes about 15 minutes, some days it much more drawn out.

 

I think of these things, too, as the basics my dog needs from me. Routine may imply rigidity, and that's not a word that would ever apply to my life.

 

If you want to entertain the notion of taking him to work w/you, you can start by giving him a blanket or mat that he is to go lay down on and chill. It's actually a good habit no matter what you wind up doing with him. When Gibbs goes to work w/me, his blanket goes with us. It's his spot to stick to unless asked to move. Works a treat.

 

Have a wonderful time w/your dog - that's what it's really all about.

 

Ruth and Gibbs

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I've a dog who I bring out to the city with me for lunch, the 'go sit on your blanket' command has been wonderful for crowded rush-hour public transport, restaurants etc.

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I was going to suggest the same thing about teaching the dog to just go to a spot and chill while you're working.

 

When I needed my dogs to do this unexpectedly, putting an item of clothing or even a handkerchief on the ground or floor was all they needed for a "mat" or "bed." ;)

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So border collies are actually capable of calming down? I guess so; I recall him doing that when I'd hang with Diggit at my sister's house in 2013 after he'd get over the excitement of me being there, but it's been a while since I've been around him.

 

I know I'll need him to chill while I'm doing stuff around the house, gardening, needing to chill myself, etc. I guess if I "work" him, with walks in the morning, play time/long walks after work, that should help work out his energy some so he will be able to relax a little while his person is busy doing other things? Aside from trying to figure out other ways he can keep himself "worked" during the day when I'm not there... I'm just so stuck on the concept that he's a "working" dog.

 

I'm talking with his current owners tonight with a loonnnggggg list of questions - from vet visits to routines to exercise habits to responses to other people/dogs, etc. I already put out an inquiry to the Facebook "Brain Trust" for local dog walker suggestions. I wake up each morning thinking, man, if Diggit were here, we'd be getting up and going on a walk and then I have to leave him at home.... :( Our office is welcoming of dogs, but typically small dogs who don't make much noise. I'd probably be able to bring him in when there are few people here, on a Friday, etc. There's a small grassy area across the parking lot where we'd be able to have lunch and play...

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Oh gosh, yes!! They are able to chill! My 7 y/o and 2 y/o were snoozing at my feet for 2 hrs last night after having a fairly quite weekend. The 7 y/o doesn't even want to get up to go potty half the time before I leave for work. Yes, I make her... Lol!

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All dogs need down time. Of course if you keep balls in the living room and he brings them to you and you keep throwing it... he is going to keep getting it.

 

House time is chill time. We have nylabones out for the young one who likes to chew but otherwise we throw nothing in the house. We do trick training inside and that is really the only play we do indoors.

 

I think because dog daycares are all over now, people get this idea that if they work a normal 40 hour or so week, the dog must be entertained while they are gone. It is not just stay at home moms and retired folks who own dogs. Walk the dog in the am before work, and he will chill while you are gone. When you get home, walk again, fetch, training, whatever you end up enjoying with him. You can set the pace for his behavior. If you are always entertaining him, he will always expect to be entertained.

 

The fact that you are asking so many questions and concerned for his well-being and having a good match between you to, shows that you are most likely going to be a great owner for him!

 

I also will go out on a limb and guess that Diggit was not bred from two working parents and was most likely bred to be sold to a pet home. You have already said he has been a pet/companion only for his 9 years. He only knows how to be a pet dog and it seems like he would really enjoy the lifestyle that you can offer (and all the stimulation he appears to be missing out on in his current home). I would not get hung up on the idea that he is a working dog, he is a working breed, yes, but he can definitely flourish in a companion home that is interested in spending time doing 'dog' things with him.

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Definitely what Mara and Waffles said!

 

I believe a lot of people forget to reinforce calm behavior in their dogs, giving the dogs the impression that the only times they get attention is when they're being active or trying to insert themselves into your activities. And it's important to remember that any kind of attention, even being yelled at to settle down, is rewarding for many attention seeking dogs (because it's attention), so they'll be more active in the hopes of getting more attention. It becomes a behavior loop with the dog being reinforced for unwanted behavior because the dog gets the attention it craves when it's being active.

 

But few people think to reward the dog for being calm and quiet. Even the whirling dervish that is a young puppy finally runs out of steam and lies down to take a nap. So from the moment a new puppy (or an older rescue) comes into my home, I quietly praise the dog when it chooses to lie down and chill on its own. Obviously you have to keep the reward low key so as not to get the pup wound up again, but some gentle stroking, a low voiced "good puppy" and/or the appearance of a nice long lasting chewy treat reinforce the quiet behavior so the dog learns that this is behavior that gets rewarded, too. Even a quiet "good boy" when he entertains himself with a chew or a toy helps to reinforce that as desirable behavior.

 

And better than yelling at a rambunctious dog to settle down, it's better to simply ignore the behavior, especially when it's obviously attention seeking behavior. Behaviors that aren't rewarded tend to extinguish. (Some behaviors are self-rewarding, so it's important to understand which you're inadvertently reinforcing and which are self-rewarding, which you'd have to deal with differently).

 

So yeah, border collies can definitely have off switches, though often they do need to be taught, and often owners have to be aware of accidentally sabotaging their efforts to have a calm dog.

 

There's another recent thread where this was discussed. I can't recall ATM whose thread it was. It may be the one where I explained extinction bursts, so searching that term might bring it up. Even if it's not the same thread, being aware of extinction bursts is a good thing to have in your training repertoire if you have behaviors you want the dog to unlearn.

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I think your life style sounds very promising for a border collie. From my experience what border collies need is to be involved with their humans life if they are not working farm dogs, it is not about being "worked" or lots of exercise, it's about interaction. My own dogs have always learned to relax and chill, and everyone of our foster dogs has evantually realized that relaxing is good. During the summer it is sometimes embarrassing how few walks they really get, but the adult dog has a conditioning program we do, that for him is really lots of trick work and the puppy works for his food learning tricks and skills. With the adult dog we have lived in a city apartment with no green space for a summer and he was fine.

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Yes, they can be very low keyed, if that is expected and reinforced, and if they are getting some regular engagement/mental stimulation from their human. For a 9 year old, a few trick training sessions, a good walk morning and evening, plus maybe some social time w/different people through out the week is a pretty good life.

 

The thing about a bc is not that it needs tons of exercise. A bc needs regular interaction with its human(s). They are bred to be part of a partnership. Whatever you enjoy, see if there's a way Diggit, (LOVE the name, btw) can join you. Maybe not all the time, but some of the time.

 

Truly, my soon-to-be 9 yr old sleeps quite a bit. I just got home from work, he's napping w/one eye open after a brief trip to the back yard and a good head rub. We'll do a good walk then dinner, then some trick stuff and some silly stuff, then he'll sleep again till bed time.

 

You do sound like a good owner for a bc. Careful, though, you might get hooked.

 

Ruth and Gibbs

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I agree with what others have said. My dogs are inside dogs, I work 8 hours a day, and after the 'ohh my god you're home' excitement they are more than happy to just chill. Even my agility dog is good with just relaxing inside all day, but when I want she will go all day without missing a beat.

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Also for entertainment while you are gone Frozen Kongs are great either filled with peanut butter or a mix of wet and dry food (as a partial substitute for breakfast to avoid over feeding).

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I don't think BCs require more exercise than any other breed. I just think they are unlikely to tell you when they have had an adequate amount. It's really more a case of some BCs needing to be taught to settle down and relax. Mine are content to lie around all day every day while it's too hot to be out. They know that there will be plenty of time for play and work later.

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I think you would be great family member for Diggit! He would be so lucky and happy to have an owner that cares this much about him and who is active!

 

Our bc has a lot of energy but settles down great in the house. As long as he gets a good walk or run in the morning he is calm the rest of the day. Sure he would be up for anything if we are (and I usually take him on multiple walks a day) but doesn't act crazy if it doesn't happen.

 

At one point I was working a 10 hour day with a combined 2 hour commute... We hired a dog walker for the boys that came 3 times a day.... They would have been fine with 2 or 1 times just to potty but we chose to do three.

 

Everything of what you said sounds like a very great life for Diggit and probably the best he could ever have... And its obviously better than what he had before. Someone that is willing to care about him enough to ask all the questions and worry this much is clearly going to give him a good life!

 

The one thing I would mention is that if he is not crate trained already you might want to do that for the first few weeks and crate him when you can't supervise and while he is getting In the habit of things. The move and the owner change might be upsetting for him and cause some anxiety/behavioral issues that would not normally be there.

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The more and more I think about this, and also talking in real life with friends who know my extremely never-at-home active lifestyle, I am starting to question if I'm the proper environment/owner for Diggit.

 

I know I'd be a great owner for Diggit - if I had a more regular routine. Then I'd feel more comfortable bringing a dog into my life. However, my life is NOT routine (as much as folks have said that is OK), because I'm literally on the go ALL THE TIME. My house is literally just a place for me to sleep and keep my gear. I get called out on search and rescue missions at 11 p.m. and can be gone for up to 48 hours. By the time it'd be a decent time to call someone to ask them to come look in at Diggit, I'd be deep in the woods with zero cell reception.

 

Bottomline, even if i changed my lifestyle somewhat, it wouldn't be fair to the dog. He deserves better.

 

A friend put it this way:

 

"Are you taking the dog because he needs a new home or are you taking it because you want it?"

 

My answer: "Um, 50/50? Both?"

 

My uncertainty is overwhelming there.

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While this is probably a difficult understanding for you to come to, I think it's a very important and responsible decision for you to make. The additional information about your lifestyle brings me to the same conclusion, an I admire you for thinking this through and making what's ultimately the right choice for the dog's well being.

 

I wish you and Diggit all the best moving forward. And maybe someday you might consider getting a dog to train for search and rescue who can not only go with you but be a great partner for you.

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I think you're overthinking this. You like the dog and want to give him a home. You would have to make some changes in your life to take care of him, but they are changes you've thought of making anyway so that you could have a dog. If you can afford it, it would be perfectly reasonable to have a dog walker come take Diggit out if you're going to be home late. Ideally it would be someone willing to accept a phone call at 11 pm if you get called out on a rescue mission then--yeah it's an annoying time to bother someone, but I think many people would admire the work you do and want to support you.

 

My suspicion is that a 9 year old border collie who's used to nothing more than a backyard to romp around in is going to be less needy than you're imagining. Get him the trainer, build up his endurance a bit, but also be prepared for a dog who is perfectly content with a morning and evening walk and some cuddle time. People emphasize how much work border collies are and no one wants to see them end up in an underprepared home because omg they're so smart, but the horror stories you hear about are mostly adolescent dogs who are severely under stimulated. A nine year old dog--even a nine year old border collie--is really unlikely to need hours of attention and exercise to keep it together.

 

If you're still undecided, take him in but call some local rescues and see if they can help you place him. At least where I am most rescues are happy to list dogs that need homes but are not in the rescue program, and a rescue might be able to help you screen potential adopters to make sure you find a good home for him. You can act as a foster home for him while looking for a good family, and if it turns out he fits into your life well, nothing will stop you from keeping him. It will give you some time to see what the reality of caring for him is like, and if it doesn't work you'll be able to rest assured you helped him find a good home.

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I like the idea of being a foster home to help transition. I'd like to be involved with the process of helping find an appropriate home for him, as I'm not confident that his current owners will do such a thorough job as I would, as they're getting ready to expand their family and deal with being enlisted in the Navy. I have/had plans to take him the last half of September as a trial run, and my schedule kind of winds down a bit and even more so in October (save for a trip to the East Coast)...

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