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Training and helping an outdoor rescue dog to become an indoor companion.


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Ben, previously named Mitch by the Rescue, is approximately 8 years old and is believed to have been a farm dog. He was handed in as a stray in January. His vision is poor - he is going blind.

The positives

He wants to please and is overall very friendly and affectionate.. Everyone who meets him is smitten!

He has settled remarkably well in the space of a day. He is not freaked out by domestic things so I suspect he has spent some time in a house.

He is happy on a long long leash with freedom to go in and out of the house and garden.

Over 24 hours and he has not yet soiled in the house but.. (see below)

He has not eaten the house but...

He is calm in the car but...

 

The negatives

You can tell he feels unwell even after a car journey of a few miles - though he may not actually be sick.

So far he does not want to spend any time in a crate. Any treats left there to entice him in are brought out to eat elsewhere. It doesn't matter that there is comfy bedding in the crate, he doesn't relate to dog beds etc at all.

He is partial to the occasional hat or slipper (but he does stop when told and looks chastened).

He pulls on the lead. I am working on it by stopping every time he pulls.

I slept downstairs the first night and he woke me up a few times to go out for a wee. Yes a good thing but can I expect that eventually he will be able to go an entire night without needing to toilet? Could it be an effect of neutering 2/3 weeks back?

He loves going out and has a lot of energy - but without cast iron recall it is not safe to let him loose in a public space (he does have recall - so long as there are no distractions).

He has snapped a couple of times. Once when I tried (gently) grooming him and may have inadvertently tugged at some fur. Another when I was trying to encourage him back onto the dog bed and silly me gave him a gentle push. I was careless as he is so amenable.

He tends to snatch at your hand if he thinks he is being given a treat. While I can withdraw if I think he is getting over keen, sometimes it's a done deal. I could just put it on the ground but really he has to learn to accept graciously and gently and not snatch at hands. Especially not good with his vision being off.

 

Just wondered if anyone had encountered any of these things. All the advice I have seen is for a puppy and he is an older dog with learned/ingrained behaviours. It sounds like a lot of issues but really I think he has been amazing for the time he has been here. I just want to start out on the right foot.

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You sound pretty dog savvy. And yes Border Collies usually offer an immediate response, positive or not, to stimuli. One little thing that I have always used to get any of our dogs attention is the gentle transfer of treats from hand to mouth. You mention this as an area for possible attention. I have had great success establishing this relationship and it usually ends with a happy ending.

 

All the areas you mention take dedication and time. Border Collies want to please, its establishing the communication, once found, magic.

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Lucky Ben!

 

Remember that everything is new to him and he lacks good vision to help him find his way in this new world, and I am glad you seem very sensitive to his needs and to dealing with any issues and training positively and kindly. You've had him hardly any time at all so sit back, take a deep breath, and relax! You will probably see major changes initiated by him as he settles in, as well as changes that are the result of things that you do.

 

Car rides - not every dog ever is comfy on car rides but many are. It may just take him time to adjust to this as it may really be something he is not at all accustomed to or that he associates only with unpleasant things (vet visits, transfers to a new situation, and so on). Give him time. Make loading up in the car pleasant. Take the opportunity to load him in the car and give him a reward for sitting for a minute or two, and then let him out with a treat. In other words, make opportunities for him to associate the car with "no worries, mate!" when you don't have to take him anywhere (which is the same thing you can do for vet visits - visit the vet facility just to visit, share treats, get pets, etc., and not just because he needs a check-up or a shot or something else he really won't enjoy).

 

Leash walking and recall - keep him on a leash or long line for a long time. Practice the recall (and the stay) on a long line, starting with no distraction situations and locations, and working your way up gradually with increasing distractions (for recall and stay), duration (time for the stay), and distance (for recall and stay). Take it in baby steps, and take a good, long time before you even consider trusting him off-lead in a location that is not escape-proof. Stopping when he pulls, unpredictable changes of direction on your part, and similar techniques will help reduce the pulling. Also teach him while he's loose in the house or on lead to "check in" with you by giving him a treat every time he makes eye contact with you (or, in his case, indicates to you that his attention is on you by his posture, expression, ears, etc.). I don't know about your blind dog but our deaf dog still pricks her ears because she's wanting to hear what I say, but she can't. He, having been a dog with sight, may still look toward your face (when he's aware of where you are) or seek you, when he (if he still had sight) is trying to "check in".

 

Crate-training can take time, especially if he has a history of negative associations with the crate. For now, do as you are doing, and get him just to step in it to retrieve his treat. Over time, you will need to step up the game from putting a head in the crate to putting front feet in the crate to having to put all four feet in the crate, etc. Especially since he has snapped, which is not too worrisome to me in the situations you've mentioned, never try forcing or pushing him in or you risk a bite from fearfulness, and a real setback in his adjustment. If you feed dry kibble, how about sprinkling it in the crate so he has to spend a little time in there to scarf it all up? Think of creative ways to help him realize that the crate is his safe and private place. And, if he doesn't relate tp (or understand) the concept of dog beds yet, maybe try the crate empty at first, or with just enough cushion in it that he has traction (a piece of yoga mat, for instance, or a non-slip bathroom mat or bit of carpet) but that it isn't soft and cushy, which is what he's not used to.

 

He may likely not be familiar with grooming as many farm dogs are not. Even my 14 1/2 year old, loves everybody, girl will swing her head around in the precursor to a snap if I hurt her grooming her hind feathers. Super careful and super gentle sound like the necessities here. And treats can make unpleasant things seem much more appealing!

 

Snatching at treats - my go-to for this is to "shut the store". I hold the treat in my hand and if I see the dog not approaching it with a "soft" mouth, I close the hand so the dog doesn't get the treat, and remind him, "Gentle!" And you might be pinched a time or two but eventually he should figure this out. Also remember that with poor eyesight, his perspective is bad and so his snatching may be less of a "snatch" and more of a "I can't quite see this and I'm going to go for the big mouth grab so I don't lose it". Be creative here - maybe teaching him to accept a treat when you touch his nose or something, a way that he can gauge just where your hand and the treat are, instead of rather blindly grabbing for it.

 

Peeing multiple times at night - if he's used to being in a kennel and going during the night, he may need some time to adjust to a new schedule. Pups and dogs (and people) whose bodies are used to voiding at certain intervals may just need some bodily retraining, so just be patient. Plus, it was his first night and he probably didn't sleep all that well. As he settles in and becomes more at home and confident, I think this should resolve itself without any real effort on your part. If not, and if you are certain he has no urinary tract issues (like a urinary tract infection), once he's crate-trained, that can be an aid in helping him learn to "hold it" reasonably.

 

Sorry for writing so much at length but I am really excited for you and for this deserving and needy dog, and wish you both the very best in forging a wonderful life together!

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Thank you so much for all those helpful tips. We did have a worrying moment earlier when I was outside trying to get him to accept treats gracefully. Unfortunately I had forgotten that there was a large disguarded bone close by and he thought I was about to take the bone and lunged out to stop me. Of course I don't know what has gone on in his past plus he will have had a hungry and lost period before being rehomed.But any food aggression has to stop and I have been reading up on how to deal with it.

Just now he has had an unexpected silly half hour playing with a large squeaky ball. Cue mad collie rampaging through house in pursuit of something he can't quite see.

I might sleep downstairs again tonight. Don't want to encourage an 'available through the night' mentality but since we are now on a dry second day I want to try and keep that going a little longer.

Will definitely look at those suggestions.

Cheers!

Chrissy

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I agree with everything that Sue said, and she said it well. His grabbing the treats can be in part because he never learned how to take them nicely but is almost certainly at least in part because he doesn't see well, as Sue said. My Jester was always a bit grabby with treats, and I simply had a habit of always reminding him, "Gently!" when I was handing him something, but as he started to lose his eyesight when he was 15 it got worse and worse. Sue is right - they just figure the best approach, not being able to see exactly where it is, is to make a big glom in the general vicinity. If you can retrain that, good. But if not, don't let it be a big problem. You may just have to put treats on the floor for him, or get a treat dispensing stick device

 

I do want strongly to encourage you not to see his behavior as "food aggression". From what you are describing, it doesn't sound like that to me, and it would be in everyone's best interests to hold off on making that determination at least for some time until you can really observe him.

 

I also recommend feeding him in the crate. That is the first step to getting him comfortable with it. You can also feed in the car.

 

My Boo, who has to be groomed a great deal (one look at his photo and you can see why) will often reach around and act as if to bite if I pull his hair while grooming. He is the sweetest, most gentle and affectionate dog by nature, but that is his way of telling me I have hurt him. I don't scold him. He never actually connects, and it is his communication. Your dog likely was never groomed, so a very slow gentle approach with lots of treats (put on the ground so you don't have to work with more than one thing at a time) would help with that. Use very high-value treats, such as cooked chicken or what I refer to as "doggy crack" - braunsweiger aka liverwurst. Not the most healthy thing, but spread onto something like Charlie Bears makes it go a long way and most dogs go nuts for it.

 

best of luck, and thank you for taking on an older dog.

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Just a quick update.

Ben is now a dream in the house. After being told to stop he has not touched one shoe or slipper! He is friendly with people and dog visitors. His recall is wonderful - apart from when there is something more exciting happening - farm activity, ducks, dogs... He tried chasing a car once when we were out - fortunately secure on short leash.

He has realised what a dog bed is for and is now sleeping through the night. Last night was the first night I left him alone and went upstairs to sleep. He was free to roam but he settled and was fine.

He is clean in the house - apart from one episode of marking when a friend's dog visited.

He plays like a puppy with a squeaky ball. Unfortunately the squeak is now gone - he killed that ball....

Major issue - apart from better recall - is car travel. But also I discovered that this big bold boy is afraid of parked cars. His distance vision is better than close up and he freaked a bit when he saw my friend's car parked nearby. We had to do a huge circuit to get him round it. Thought it was a one off but encountered it with another parked car. He doesn't want to go near. He cowers, digs his heels in and tries to pull away. Working on that too.

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Great!

 

About the car chasing - this is another reason to get him to focus on you, the concept of "look at me". Before he even reacts to a car, get him to turn and look at you and give you a behavior, like a sit or down, and reward. In other words, be pro-active, anticipate, and prevent it from happening before he even thinks about it happening. Behavior like car chasing can escalate from a one-off to a hard-to-break and dangerous habit in just a few repetitions.

 

Parked cars? Walk him up to one and the very instant he hesitates, stop, get him to focus on you ("look at me"), have him do something like sit or down or any other behavior that he's comfy with, and treat - and then turn and walk away. Doing this and similar approaches, increasing only in baby steps as he becomes more comfy, may be a good way to desensitize him to parked cars. It could be a vision issue or it could also be that he has been bumped by a car and associates cars near him as being threatening.

 

As my husband likes to say, when something worries the dog, throw a party! Turn it from a worrisome experience into a fun time by refocusing his attention on you, giving him something to do, and giving him a yummy (or enjoyable, like a favorite toy) reward for "forgetting" about the car (or other distraction) and interacting with you positively instead.

 

I'm so happy to hear that you and he are doing so well together. You seem like a great person who wants nothing more than to provide this dog with a happy life, and that is wonderful! Very best wishes!

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One scary moment today. He is normally fine confined to a cobbled enclosure bounded by a wall and bushes. Then he disappeared. A farm to one side and a road with farm traffic to another. What could possibly go wrong? Turns out he had got over the wall and legged it up to the barn with the sheep and was stood outside barking and wagging his tail. As an ex farm dog that relates to farm sounds, any farm activity has him wanting to be up that track. Farmers here are entitled to shoot dogs found harrassing sheep so I grovelled profusely, but fortunately I know them well and (this time round) they found it amusing. 'Better up here than on the road' they said. Of course now he has found out how to get over he is more likely to do it again. So from now on he will have to be supervised or tied while I work out how to make it escape proof.

The good thing is he did (eventually) come when called so I could hardly be cross with him..

I need a 'farm desensitization program'!. It wouldn't be such an issue if we weren't right next door to one. He is sitting here at my feet looking like butter wouldn't melt in his mouth. 'I found out how to get over the wall and found the sheep. Didn't I do well Mum'. :rolleyes:

Edit - a local farmer told me that when training hounds to go across country and ignore the sheep they would put one in a pen with a sheep and it's lamb. Any funny business and the dog would soon learn not to go near a sheep again. Sounds a bit dangerous though I'm not sure who for.... .

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Lesson learned without any harm done, thankfully!

 

The answer would be never to leave him outside unsupervised (and that's a good thing for many reasons). I would avoid tying him up unless you had to, and then with a chain in a safe spot where he could not possibly hang himself by climbing over a fence or other obstacle. Someone I knew tethered a dog in a horse stall where he would be "safe". The tether was just long enough that the dog tried to jump the stall half-door and hung himself.

 

I have no fenced yard and I often wish I did so I could just put the dogs out for a little time now and then. But not having a fenced yard means I have to out when they are out for a quick potty break or a little play time, and I walk them each morning and evening (which is good for all of us). And they are content to laze around in the house the rest of the day, mainly near my feet or the wood-burning stove (at least at this time of year). A fenced yard is nice but, honestly, I think most of these dogs would rather be asleep at your feet or in their den/crate during the day than be outside where they can get to barking, digging, fixating on squirrels or birds or leaves or shadows, or involved in any other undesirable behaviors. And inside, a good chewie or bone helps pass the time, too.

 

It's such fun to hear about your experiences with Ben! Very best wishes!

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As he has been more of an outdoor dog, I felt the best start would be to fasten about 20 foot of rope from inside the house - keeping the door open so he can go in and out at leisure. But not enough rope that he could get somewhere and hang himself (I know of somewhere where that happened). At first he chose mostly to sit outside. Then it was just inside the door and sometimes now, it's in the house near me. So he is making the transition at his own pace. He is not one for indoor comforts. It took a couple of nights for him to start using the dog mattress. Even now on an evening, he will settle in a corner by the door in a relatively hard uncomfortable spot. I would love for him to sit near me by the stove but I suspect he prefers a cooler spot. Heck he is welcome to a place on the sofa but I haven't told him yet. Sometimes he comes for a fuss and a cuddle then he goes back! I still have moments when I feel sad and down about my old dog.. The last time, he came across and started licking me..

At least he is now choosing his bed late evening and he stays there all night. Just before I go to bed I lessen the interaction and switch down the lights and he settles. Then I creep upstairs.... I leave the bedroom door open with a night light in case he wants to seek me out. But so far he has not even tried to go upstairs.

I do have a garden which would be difficult to fence off but this cobbled area by the door could be made secure. That would give him a safe place to play - he can entertain himself endlessly with a squeaky ball. I think given his background and energy levels, he would go stir crazy cooped up in a house for hours on end.. He does get walks and play of course. But a dog like this could run all day and not tire. So my challenge now is how to give a sight impaired dog, which can't yet be trusted to run free on the open space we have around here, the physical and mental stimulation he needs.

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Good for you, that's all great! Sounds like you have a good, thoughtful approach and this dog is lucky to have landed in your capable hands. Well done!

 

Do be careful with rope as it can get caught around a dog's limbs or neck and, of course, a dog can chew through and be gone! While a chain is not as lightweight or pleasant with its clinking sound, it can be a safer option in some cases. Either way, swivel snap at the collar end and the anchor end can help avoid kinks.

 

Mental stimulation is far more important than physical exercise at tiring a dog and contenting a dog. My Dan is a bundle of energy but during the day and evening in the house, he's usually flat as a pancake on the floor (or couch). When it's time to walk, he's raring to go and is usually very active the entire time we are out, no matter how long that is. But he's got a good "off switch" in the house, and that is quite common with the working-bred dogs. They have been bred, as you say, so they can go all day but also so that they can chill out all day, too, once their needs are met. That's just as important on a working farm or ranch.

 

I love reading how quickly he is adjusting and how nicely you are helping him with the transitions. Keep us posted! And photos, please?

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Thanks Sue. I'll change to chain and review the connections. That said I am around all the time and wouldn't go out and leave him tethered. One other thing I am concerned about is that if he gets agitated over some nearby sheep/hens/ducks he could slip his collar. I've ordered a travel harness and it strikes me he would be safer with this than a collar. Anyhow yesterday a test - I had to go out and didn't want to set back the car training by having him with me at this point. So he was home alone for the first time for half an hour or so. He just settled - no barking or destructive behaviour. That said - I have to lock up shoes and slippers. Slippers are his weak point whether I am there or not and in spite of having toys to play with. I used to have a pair of very expensive slippers. I now have one and a half... He is even interested if I am wearing the darn things.

Yes it's amazing how calm he is in the house (apart from the slipper fixation). But he springs to life if I am in the kitchen or putting on a coat.. One recent thing - as we go out the door he will sometimes leap in the air to try and catch a passing fly. This is a dog which has trouble locating a small ball...... :rolleyes:

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Flies buzz, balls don't! Although you can find whistle balls or balls with things inside that make some noise if they are moving. At least nothing's wrong with his hearing!

 

I would not advise a harness for anything but walking him. A dog can get a foot or even the lower jaw caught in one and, unlike a collar, they can be reached and chewed through. A martingale collar is something often recommended if you have concerns about slipping out of a regular buckle collar. It snugs up if a dog pulls or reverses away from you. When adjusted properly, it can't snug up enough to be too tight, just enough to not be able to slip over the ears.

 

Slippers? Were they woolen-lined? I used to find a puppy or new dog the best thing for teaching the children to pick up all their stuff! Hopefully, as he becomes used to having enjoyable chews of his own, he will learn to leave your footwear alone. A new dog can simply be an adult version of a puppy in a situation that's new to him and simply has to learn the rules and boundaries, and to resist temptation. ;)

 

Very best wishes to you both!

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Rather than a chain that can kink up or be noisy, why not one of those plastic covered cable tie outs? I much prefer them to chains and a dog can't chew through them like a rope. Other cautions still apply.

 

I've also enjoyed reading about Ben's acclimation and join others in congratulating you for adopting a vision impaired mature dog and your thoughtful approach to making his transition as easy as possible for him.

 

But remember, these are still early days, and an older dog may not adjust as quickly as a younger one. I adopted Bodhi, who was a stray who first went to a shelter and then into rescue, when he was about a year and a half old. He was pretty shut down from his experience and while he adjusted and gained confidence pretty quickly, he didn't completely come into his own and was offering new behaviors for a full 6 months after I adopted him.

 

My best wishes to you and Ben as well.

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You know what? Roxanne's right - a cable is the best option. A dog can't chew through it (at least not the inside part), it's quiet, and it won't kink. I wish I'd thought of that!

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Border collies can tend to the obsessive/compulsive. My Gibbs is fascinated with any moving water - streams, the ocean waves, a gently lapping lake. If it moves at all, he's got to take a sip, or 30. I can't take him to the beach, I'd be yelling at him the whole time to Not Drink Salt Water, dammit! or keeping him on leash. He's also started to slide down a steep bank to get to a swiftly flowing stream. He's not obsessive/compulsive about anything else, just moving water.

 

My point is, Ben may have an 'addiction' to your slippers. Continue to be vigilant about keeping slippers out of his sight/smell except when you are wearing them. And allow no funny business when you have them on your feet.

 

I'm loving reading about Ben, it seems you're doing a great job with him!

 

Ruth and Gibbs

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Thank you

I read a tip to spray them with deodorant.

With my old dog I could safely put any food within nose reach and she knew not to touch it but I keep forgetting I can't do that now. Today I heard a clink and found him licking a glass that had contained some Baileys Irish Cream. :rolleyes: Fortunately it was empty with barely a lick left in it

Anyhow he was going bananas with a squeaky ball outside when I kicked it and he shot off like the wind after it - even wheeling and changing direction to follow. I was astonished. It seems if he is already looking in the right direction, he can home in on something from several feet away and follow. He was so excited and pleased with himself we would have been out there for hours if he had had his way. We have a new game...

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Today I heard a clink and found him licking a glass that had contained some Baileys Irish Cream. :rolleyes: Fortunately it was empty with barely a lick left in it

A little bit won't hurt. :)

 

I have a dog that loves to drink beer. I got her when she was 13-14 months old, and one day last summer, we were sitting outside, and DH had put his finished beer bottle on the ground. Next thing I know, she comes and grabs the bottle, runs about 30 feet away, lies down and starts licking the mouth of the bottle. I don't mind her getting the little bit of beer left, but I AM afraid of bottle breakage since she likes to run with the bottle in her mouth. Now, I will take the bottle and pour out the little bit of beer while she licks it. Then I put the bottle out of reach.

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GVC I used to have an Irish setter that liked a drop of Guinness!

Having discovered that Ben can chase a ball - so long as he can see it from mid distance at the start - we have been having a great time. If it's a squeaky ball he reciprocates with puppy-like squeaks repeatedly throwing it in the air and chasing after it. Sometimes he just stops and looks at me as if to say 'Well kick it then'. Today I kicked the ball too hard. Ben careered after it with me trying to hold on and flying spectacularly through the air - landing flat on my face in the muddy field. Fortunately he came back when called - mighty pleased with himself. I do hope nobody saw it.....

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Ben is so very lucky to have landed with you! Reading of your times together and how it's all working out is heart-warming. I have nothing to offer, as your innate wisdom is so much greater than my own. I can only smile in appreciation as I read all you've done. You mention the dog you lost who you still grieve; I have a deep sense of rich love being returned to you now. After all, slippers can be replaced, even favorite ones. Hearts are more precious. :-)

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Thank you though I am sure I will make mistakes! The kennels described him as 'affectionate and kind' - which struck me at the time as an odd thing to say. But once met, I knew I couldn't leave him there. Adopting a dog at this stage could have gone terribly wrong and the fact that it hasn't (touch wood) is probably more down to him than me.

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Apart from the sit issue (another thread) Ben coming along nicely. We regressed on the car training after I had to take him to the vet for the first check but I am discovering the squeaky ball is the key to at least getting him in the car!

It has also helped acclimatise him to grooming - we play interspersed with grooming so now the comb is associated with 'good times'. He can also now be trusted off lead in open space retrieving the ball. The only thing is if I am walking with the ball, he will circle madly till I throw (herding?) so looking at strategies to break that. Also limiting ball play and trying to introduce other things as I think he could get obsessed. I hide balls when not in use!

He has been left in the house up to an hour with no issues. In fact he is great in the house and slippers have lost their attraction after being sprayed with deodorant.

Have changed his diet to store bought in the morning and home cooked in the evening and he just loves everything (and looks better for it). My neighbour said his eyes seem clearer - had thought so too but wondered if it was my imagination.

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Sounds great!

 

Circling when you have the ball is, like many other behaviors, not "herding" - it's just excitement and many kinds of dogs will engage in that when they are excited enough. Border Collies, with their boundless energy, can just give you "more"! You can try a few things - if he circles, stop and stand in one place until he stops and gives you a behavior you want, and then throw the ball. If he doesn't stop circling, put the ball away (and have a verbal cue for that, too - ours is "that'll do" which the dogs know means "it's over for now"). Bring the ball back out in a little bit and throw it if he is giving you a suitable behavior. You may have to resort to having him lie down or do a stand-stay (or sit-stay) with a release when you throw the ball. Think of positive, training ways to substitute a different behavior for the circling and to reward the different, desirable behavior with a ball throw.

 

As for the eyes, maybe there has been something either lacking in his diet or that he needs in particular if that previous diet might have been sufficient for other dogs, but here's hoping that the new diet is a good thing for him all around, as it seems to be. You can't overestimate the value of good nutrition.

 

It's great to hear of his progress! You two seem very happy together.

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