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New Border Collie Rescue! 2nd Herding Dog, first BC

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Hello all,


I adopted a Border Collie named Herschel a month ago. He's somewhere between a year and a year and a half old.


warning: very long!


He started out in Arkansas, I guess was found as a stray, was heartworm positive, lived in a rescue kennel with lots of other herding dogs in Illinois for about three months, and now is with me in a small city in Connecticut.


He has come a long way since he arrived! Happily, rescue taught him really well to walk on a leash, he almost never pulls. But he was not 'crate trained' as they said -- he chewed up the plastic mat in the crate even if he had something to chew on in there, and then chewed up the horse stall mat I got from Tractor Supply, too. He also managed to pull a blanket underneath the crate up into it (I was trying to protect the wood floors, as he would put a paw out and scratch the floor and even scooched the crate over to the bed and chewed on the bedskirt!


He also would bark unhappily as I was walking away from the apartment, and bark on and off while in the crate, partly in frustration, partly reacting to noise.


He slept fine in the crate in my room before I trusted him to be loose in the room overnight, and is very well behaved in the crate in the car, however.


He's gotten a lot braver about the city stimuli. He doesn't like loud noises -- roofers working, a truck going by close, a motorcycle -- but can manage people biking by, cars going by close. Is not fazed at all by people walking past us on the sidewalk or other dogs, either, even if they are barking at him. He's done great in large outdoor crowds, including accepting petting from strangers, even little children. (I tell them not to pet his head, he doesn't like strangers petting his head, though he just flinches, he doesn't snap or anything).


I've made a lot of progress house training him, and he is not destructive when left alone in the house (He has access to the kitchen, living room and dining room -- he's only in the crate if I came home at lunch and he's done something in the house, which is about once a week)


He also is generally calm while hanging out in the house with me, and is very affectionate. I'm very glad I adopted him.


I plan to take him to a group obedience class, because I don't have any real experience with training beyond 'sit' and 'come.' My last dog, an Aussie-beagle mix, was so well-behaved and easy that I really didn't have to do any formal training past teaching him not to get on the couch. It didn't hurt that he was smaller (28 pounds) so training him not to jump or things like that wasn't as critical. Herschel is 35 pounds, that makes a surprisingly big difference!


BUT... if you have any advice on counter surfing and barking in the house, that would be appreciated! Since he is no longer in the crate in my bedroom, the woman who works nights and whose bedroom is directly below mine is no longer kept awake by his barking.


What I've tried with barking is calling him to me (or going to him) and cupping my hand lightly around the top of his muzzle, while saying 'Quiet' in a conversational tone but with an edge in my voice. Sometimes this stops the barking, sometimes not. I also bought a 'dog corrector' canister that makes a hissing sound when it sprays air (not in his face). I have tried that a few times. It startles him, and he stops making noise right then, but sometimes barks again after that, and it's like spray-'quiet command' pause-bark-spray-quiet-command-pause-bark. (I tried pretending to check out the noise/taking him to see out the window, but that had no effect)


I praise him for being quiet when he stops, and there have been some times (a handful) when instead of full on barking at the noise, he does what I call barking under his breath. I praise that vociferously, because if he were to go from barking to that, it's a solution I could live with.


What makes him bark? Someone going in and out of the front door, one floor below us, which happens a lot, because four others live in this three family house! The upstairs tenant going up the stairs past our apartment. Sometimes the sound of him walking around upstairs (less often). Sometimes people talking loudly on the sidewalk outside. Once in a while I can't hear what set him off.


My friend Tony came over a few weeks ago, and although he had met him before, he barked and barked and would not stop when he came in the apartment, even though I tried to reassure him he knew Tony, and hugged him to show he was a friend. (This is before I had the spray to try). Once we left and the three of us hiked together, he was perfectly fine with Tony.


He visited a friend's country house this past weekend, and it was interesting -- he barked at the owner of the house when the rest of us were sitting around in the living room, and the owner came back in the front door, even though he'd been spending nearly the whole weekend in his sight! But when his wife came in after a briefer time away, he didn't bark.


He also barked at a woman cleaning the apartment when she re-entered the room we were in after being out of sight for a half hour, and would not be calmed.


He'll bark a little at noise when we're in the backyard together, but largely isn't barking much outdoors. The one exception was when he was on leash on a hike and we were taking a lunch break, and a strange dog arrived at the peak off leash. He was lunging and barking like he was going to tear the dog limb from limb, and my friend who was hiking with me, her dog got the same treatment when he came close off leash, though they had been hiking together with her dog off leash with no problem for a couple hours before that. (I was holding his collar, so there was no danger of an actual encounter)


So! That's it for barking. Thoughts? I will keep trying with the spray in the apartment if the quiet/good quiet sequence doesn't work. (It did work just now.)


On counter surfing -- he got into the trash when he was bored alone at home, and then I bought a simple human latching dog proof trash can. Not dog proof when he knocked it over and got into it again while bored alone at home. So now it stays out on the landing.


He will try to get to any food that's not straight up vegetables (he's not interested in those) that's on the counter, unless it is way far back at the wall/on top of the toaster oven and he can't get to it. He doesn't do it in front of me, though once I heard him trying to bother a pan of tomatoes with cheese while I was eating in the dining room.


Today he ate a half a loaf of bread b/c I forgot to put it back on top of the toaster oven after the toaster oven cooled back down! Argh!


I can't close the kitchen off from him, because it has a swinging door between kitchen/dining room, and even though it has a latch of sorts, I found it didn't work to keep him in/out.


So is my only hope to improve my vigilance on where I leave tempting food? I'm not used to this, my old dog wasn't tall enough to do this!


And by the way, I have tried leaving him toys that promise hours of stimulation -- starmark brand -- but they do not. :) One is shaped like a tire and you put an edible chew disk in it; he makes short work of it. I do feed him always in their puzzle balls, and that works well, though one hasn't held up well and now isn't as challenging as it started out. :)


If you're still reading, thanks for spending so much time with this Border Collie newbie!



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You need to get in touch with a professional. Not because his reactivity/barking is impossible to work with, it isn't, but because in order to train THIS you need some good understanding of training and behavior beyond what you have, and a professional is going to help you get that faster. You need some solid communication with this dog, and that means understanding why he's barking (fear, frustration, excitement) and the means of saying 'YES THAT' and rewarding the daylights out of him in a way that means something to him, at bare minimum . Once you've got that, you'll have a better means of getting into his head. Once you can get into his head, you can teach him.


Obedience commands in general need to be fluid, too - and frankly, he's a BC, he needs to learn, so class is a good thing. That means obedience, tricks, sports, whatever, but he needs his brain worked. Every day, for at least a few minutes, at least right now. That spray can thing and anything else unpleasant to try to make him be quiet ALSO needs to go until you have a good clue of why he's barking (because if it's the 'wrong' reason, you're just making this worse).

And, yeah, you're going to have to not leave food in reach. Yes, teach a leave it, yes, teach him to do that when you tell him, but he's not going to NOT eat food he can reach when you're not there to tell him not to. Some dogs won't bother. This one will. There's no training you can do that will make him not when you aren't even there to issue a command.

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Dear Doggers,


The best trick I know to end counter surfing is to stack many tin cans next to/in front of food the dog will want. Don't let the dog see you setting the trap. Dog surfs, cans fall/clatter, all hell breaks loose. Dog is taught surfing is dangerous and unpleasant


Donald McCaig

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We've got cats, so most techniques to halt counter surfing aren't usable. We've got Kuvasz along with the Borders, they can surf silently regardless since they're tall enough to see what's on the counter and surf around it. The class trainer put it in perspective for us. Set them up for success. Don't leave anything enticing on the counter. None of them counter surf now when we visit people because they aren't aware that a counter might have something marvelous on it. When we visit, they aren't left alone to find out differently. The 'set them up for success' works well in every training scenario I've tried - I wish I'd be told it sooner than I was.

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One of the best basic training philosophies I know: make it hard if not impossible for the dog to do wrong, set the dog up for success by making the wrong thing unenticing, and praise when the dog does the right thing.

P.S. Spell check says "unenticing" is not a word. But I think it is.

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