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7 mo old BC Chasing Lights/Reflections


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My 7 mo old BC girl is so cool. Maybe I'll expand on that is another post but for now have a question. She started chasing reflections. I mean if there is a reflection from a cell phone screen shining on the wall, she goes nuts trying to get it. She is so intense while trying as she is with other things. She started chasing the windshield wipers in my car and I am able to get he to stop by putting my hand in front of her face and telling her no. Then she lays down in the back seat with her eyes on the windshield. This doesn't seem to work as well on the reflections. Any tips on getting her to stop that or just keep at it like the windshield wipers??

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I would do my utmost best to avoid any situation where the dog is focussing like that.

In the car, crate her in the back so she does not see the wipers, even when she does not chase them she is still concentrating on them. Try to make sure there are no moving reflections etc in her vicinity. No p!aging with laser pointers obviously.

Sounds to me you have a dog on your hands that might be prone to develop OCD behaviour. Even if it is not, you know what they say a out an ounce of prevention!

Are you planning some kind of formal training with her, stock work, agility etc?

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It does sound like some early signs of OCD.

Putting your hands in front of her eyes and scolding her might do the trick for now, but if it is OCD-type behaviour it will need a much more pro-active approach.

 

What do you do with her? Could you tell us a bit about your weekly and daily schedule with her?

What else do you see in her behaviour? Any other weird habits, with her food for example. Is she focused on cars / bikes / running people? How is she around children?

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I don't want to sound alarmist, but this sounds like OCD -- or more accurately, I think, CCD (Canine Compulsive disorder) -- and if it progresses, as it probably will if not dealt with now, can lead to a world of heartbreak for both you and her. I've seen some very tragic dogs com into rescue because their light-, shadow-, movement- fixations were totally out of control.

 

Almost all I've known like this have required medication to help them through it, and an owner (or in the cases I've known foster home) who was able to put a lot of effort into desensitization and counter conditioning.

 

You've done a good thing in asking for help early. I'd really suggest you consult a certified veterinary behaviorist (i.e. a vet who specializes in behavior, essentially an animal psychologist) ASAP to help you get on the right track with her before this gets any worse. Most veterinary teaching hospitals at universities have one on staff and there are others in private practices.

 

My very best wishes as you help your pup with this.

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I re-read my post and wonder if I made it sound worse than it is. I also thought I would give more info about routine and life with Rey to maybe paint a more compete picture and also answer above questions.

This is our first BC. My wife and I have had 10 other dogs in the course of our marriage. Two Gordon Setters, two Cocker Spaniels, a German Shepard mix, and several mutts. We have had as many as four at a time and two cats. Rey, our BC, is a different dog. She learns faster, listens better, follows me around the house and loves to sit near me or my wife. She loves to hop up on the lazy boy chairs with either of us. The intensity when I throw a toy or am about to, with her staring at me, is something our other dogs didn't do, at least not to Rey's level. I see that in BCs on YouTube so it seems part of the breed. She has lots of toys, and doesn't chew on other things except the occasional rug but when we tell her no she stops. She doesn't get after any furniture or other things.

Since her recall isn't the best, we take her for a lot of small walks on either a longer leash or since I am beginning obedience training now (currently 7 months old) a training collar and short leash. Most evenings I add in a 1.5 - 2 mile walk on the long leash so she can run around me, the long leash is nice since she will travel farther than I. I also throw toys for her in the house a lot. She'll get it and mess around with it but eventually bring it to me so I can throw it again. We are working on the fetching all the way to me. We'll do this a lot of evenings, sometimes off and on over an hour or more.

She does sleep in a crate at night and is in there when we are away from the house and not with us. Since I my wife doesn't have an outside job and I work at home some, she's not in the crate during the day much. When she goes in the crate, she lays down and is quiet unless she needs to potty. No separation problems, nothing, she's quiet and lays down until we let her out. I couldn't ask for an easier crate dog.

This morning we did several short walks. I also took her outside in the backyard and I threw a tennis ball for her to fetch. She doesn't bring it back all the way which is another project, so I sit down and wait for her. . . She will eventually bring it to close to me and drop it so I can throw it again but that takes a few minutes and we repeat. I just finished a two mile walk with her and it's 71 deg here so she's now crashed on the floor.

I am starting beginning obedience class with her. I have taken the class before, and could do it at home, but the interaction with the other dogs and people is a good thing. I am planning on intermediate obedience and likely the advanced obedience class also. I am planning on agility class later. She also is going places with me and my wife. I take her to Lowes when I go there and the Pet stores etc. We are also thinking about getting a dog trailer for her to go biking with us. So she's going to be part of our life and not just a home body pet.

At class yesterday, which was the first day the dogs were there she did good. When she meets strange people she wants to run up and greet them. While sitting in class she was intently watching in the other dogs but not barking at them except for at arrival to the place and seeing the other dogs for the first time. The guy next to us didn't keep his dog under control and his dog was in Rey's space a lot so that didn't help. I got irritated and told him to keep his dog under control. I won't sit next to him next week. :) After a while, she finally just laid down at my feet until we had to do something. We then went to lunch and she stayed in the truck. When we got home she laid down and rested for hours. She was TIRED! I think more mentally then physically.

I took a trip during thanksgiving with Rey (5 months old at the time). It started raining and when i turned the wipers on she barked at them. Like I mentioned I put my hand in front of her, told her no and she stopped then it stopped raining. When it started raining again, I turned them on and she barked at them again. I told her no with my hand in front of her and she quit. This time it rained for a long time. After watching them for about 10 minutes, she did ignore them and quit paying attention to them and slept like any other dog in the car. So she will leave the wipers alone when I tell her to.

We are 54 years old so our kids are grown. We have had Rey around my daughter's step kids (ages 9,10,15) and Rey is great. She plays, not aggressive, nor herding the kids. She does play with my son's Vizsla, and my daughter's dog. They are all young and play and play.

Rey doesn't like other dogs near her food and she'll get a little aggressive over that. So when my son brings his dog over just put the food up out of reach and all is fine. They play and wear themselves out. Also her toys are the same so we gather them when my son's dog visits.

She is a little skittish of cars going by when we are walking along the same road the cars are on. We have a short stretch along a road where they are going about 40 MPH. I let her walk on the side of me away from the cars and this morning, she stayed at my side but watched them go by. So she's getting better at that. Early on she tried chasing a couple but she hit the end of the leash and I sternly said no. This happened a couple times and she no longer does that. She has only seen about two bikes. There is paved trail we will be walking on as the weather gets nicer with bikes. The first couple she saw she circled behind them as they past but didn't want to chase them.

There really are not any oddities that I can think of. She does get restless at times if I don't get her enough exercise, but then we take her out for a walk or throw toys for her to fetch around the house. Overall she's a wonderful dog. She is loving and plays a lot. I can play with her and if she gets a little over excited or puts her mouth on me, I can stop and she stops and looks at me, and I pet her. She quits when I do. She is very attentive. If I go to the bedroom, most of the time she follows me there. We keep reminding ourselves that she's just a puppy and not a full grown dog! She's so smart and sort mature for her age.

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All this is great! I'm happy to hear that generally speaking things are going well with Rey.

 

It doesn't change my concern about the light chasing being the beginning of CCD. Border collies are prone to OCD type behaviors. It's an unfortunate offshoot of their being bred to pay attention to everything that's going on around them. Lots of people wryly joke that they've been selectively bred to have OCD, and sadly it's sort of true.

 

So I'm still concerned by what you described in the first post.

 

At the very least, each and every time Rey focuses on lights or shadows or things like the windshield wipers you should distract her and reward her (praise is OK if that's enough) when she stops. Hopefully you've caught the tendency early enough and will be able to prevent its escalating into full blown CCD. I sincerely hope this is the case.

 

But if it escalates, please consult a veterinary behaviorist sooner rather than later.

 

Again, very best wishes.

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My 7 mo old BC girl is so cool. Maybe I'll expand on that is another post but for now have a question. She started chasing reflections. I mean if there is a reflection from a cell phone screen shining on the wall, she goes nuts trying to get it. She is so intense while trying as she is with other things. She started chasing the windshield wipers in my car and I am able to get he to stop by putting my hand in front of her face and telling her no. Then she lays down in the back seat with her eyes on the windshield. This doesn't seem to work as well on the reflections. Any tips on getting her to stop that or just keep at it like the windshield wipers??

 

 

Hi there!

 

In your subsequent post it sounds like she's a wonderful girl and you're doing very well with her. Keep up the good work! :)

 

So I will simply echo what others have said: do not let her fixate on light or shadows, period. If she is willing to take a verbal correction and go lay down, that's terrific! But be diligent about it and make sure you redirect her each and every time.

 

It is a fact that border collies can be highly susceptible to obsessive behaviors. I'm not sure why that is, but I imagine it's rooted in their genetic instinct to react to movement. Herding is entirely based in the dog's response to the movement of sheep, and sometimes when there's no proper outlet and that reactivity is not guided or shaped, their brains can kind of blow a circuit. Once those OCD behaviors are in place, it can be heartbreaking to see and very hard to deal with.

 

So, your instinct to stop or divert that behavior is spot on. Stay with that and be consistent about shutting it down before she starts. You'll both be much happier in the long run! :)

 

~ Gloria

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Sounds like you have a lovely girl.

 

Your second post doesn't describe any behaviours that would point to OCD.

 

However, chasing light / shadows or inanimate objects, is a bit of a red flag when it comes to this. It's not something you should overlook. So luckily she ended up with you, because you've noticed and are prepared to work on it!

 

Great advice from everyone here. I have one more thing to add:

 

The fact that she shows chasing / focusing behaviours already might indicate she needs an outlet for this. Obedience is great of course, but it offers less of an outlet for this behaviour than herding. Is it possible where you live to go herding with her? If so, it might be very good for her. And it's incidentally also one of the best ways to train and bond with your dog.

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Just to follow up on the reflection thing . . . This morning I had my cell phone in my hand and turned on the bedside light. That in the past has been the cue that the reflections will begin. She runs on the bed to the headboard/wall and gets ready to chase them. I am watching her do this so I put the phone behind my back to make sure it wouldn't reflect on the wall, then said "Rey NO!" She looked at me then laid down on the bed with her facing me and watching me. I am starting obedience work/class with her and part of the class is working on her focusing on me (click/reward etc). While she was looking at me, I used the phone to put a reflection on the wall and it got her attention, and I once more told her no. She stayed laying down watching me and never went for the reflection. I then turned off the bedside light and put the phone down and stopped there since it turned out to be a successful impromptu training session.

 

So I think this might be easier to solve that I originally thought.

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Tess is my first bc. When she was that age I was forever seeing signs of beggining fixations that could well develop into ocd behaviour. Licking herself or me, chasing her tail, playing fetch, etc, it seemed everything had the potential to be ocd with this dog. I was very on top of things, making clear what I didn't want and redirecting and distracting. Happy to say that at 3,5 years old she is very well balanced and shows no signs of ocd behaviours.

 

From my very limited experience borders easily indulge in obssessive compulsive behaviours but can be oriented away from them if the owner is aware of the potential problem.

 

Do you people with more experience think this attention to the dog's behaviour is crucial while the dog is growing up but can be relaxed when the dog is grown? Meaning, as a rule an adult dog has formed his character and if it hasn't developed ocd behaviours while growing, it's not likely it will as an adult? Assuming the dog has a fulfilled life.

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Great!

 

Wayne, I can't say this emphatically enough -- Kudos to you for identifying this early, asking for help and following through with advice given! It may well make the difference between her becoming a well balanced dog or one who might have gone into full blow light/shadow chasing obsession.

 

Do you people with more experience think this attention to the dog's behaviour is crucial while the dog is growing up but can be relaxed when the dog is grown? Meaning, as a rule an adult dog has formed his character and if it hasn't developed ocd behaviours while growing, it's not likely it will as an adult? Assuming the dog has a fulfilled life.

 

Honestly, I think that would depend entirely on the dog and believe that owners should always be attentive to any new behaviors that may develop. Because they don't always start during the formative periods.

 

Definitely it's probably most important to be proactive during the formative puppy and adolescent stages, but being tuned in at all ages is crucial IMO.

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  • 1 month later...

I thought I would drop an update. She's doing great Just turned 9 months old. Her and I went through beginning obedience and started intermediate obedience this weekend. I plan on taking her through advanced, them get into agility. My wife wants to go through the therapy dog class with her also. Saturday is class day and she is completely wore out after class! So she's doing great and we love her!

 

On the light/reflection chasing. It's really not a problem any longer. If she focuses on a light, or a reflection, I am able to tell her "NO" and she leaves it alone and gets back to me or what we were doing. I do stay aware of it and make sure she doesn't get that chance.

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