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Border collie crouch and charging when greeting dogs

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Hi border collie folks,


I was here years ago with my two previous border collies, including my Skye-dog who lived 5 1/2 years after a diagnosis of lymphoma. With chemo and care, she lived to 14 and we said goodbye last summer. I miss her terribly. Her pic is the black and white one below.

Anyway, I am familiar with the bc crouch and eye, but not to the charging and growling. My new dog is primarily bc, with lab, Rottie, GSD, Staffie and whippet thrown in!

She is very exuberant, which likely comes from being kept in a crate for most of her first two years. We adopted her from our local Humane Society last Labour Day and she has been blossoming.

However, our primary challenge is the crouching and then charging new dogs...esp little dogs, which I believe is perhaps from her somewhat limited sight hound DNA, or perhaps just pushy dog. She is not aggressive, rather wants to initiate play.

I have been teaching her 'slowly', even holding her back or walking alongside her with a treat in my hand to have her approach new dogs with respect, but sometimes she gets away from me.

Do you think I am approaching this correctly or is there something else I should be doing? I could certainly leash her up, but the locations we go to have walking trails and many dogs, so leashing would make her walk a lot less interesting.

Thank you for any insight you may have!

Ailsa, with Scoutie



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It isn't what you might want to hear, but I would stop taking a dog like that to an off-leash dog area until her behavior is more appropriate and she has a solid recall. At the very least, she should be able to get called back before she engages another dog.


Imagine if you are the little dog owner, walking your dog, and a large, strange dog charges you while growling.


Your dog's right to have a 'more interesting walk' should not supersede someone else's right to peacefully walk their dog in a public space.

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I agree. Our girl likes other dogs, but is selective and does not like her space invaded by them, especially when she is on leash and they are not. (She has a special dislike for golden retrievers who really want to be friends and don't pick up on her cues.) We are often accosted by off-leash dogs with owners yelling out from a distance, "Don't worry! He/she is friendly!" to which I respond "Mine is not!"

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I will echo what the others have said. It doesn't matter what she thinks she's doing, what matters is what the other dogs - and their owners - may perceive. You would not want to see your dog charged by a "friendly" growling mastiff, so don't be "that person" to little dogs and their owners.

I would say put her on leash and let her drag it as a long line. Don't ask her to approach slowly, instead ask her not to approach at all. Let the other dog initiate contact if it wants to, while you teach her to just walk calmly with you. I understand wanting to let her have fun, but it's totally not fair to the other dogs.

Plus, what if that dog she's charging at playfully is fearful? What if it's reactive? What if it's been hurt or frightened by other dogs who charged with bad intent? How would you feel if that other dog suddenly screamed and yanked the leash out of it's owner's hand to bite in fear or run away into the woods in terror? Or what if that other dog is dog aggressive and it decides to greet your dog's playful charge with a genuine attack of its own?

Remember, the border collie stare is easily misunderstood by non-border collies. A direct stare among dogs is often read as a threat and/or a challenge, so for her to greet a strange dog with a stare and a charge could easily be seen as an attack. The other dog or its owner may well respond accordingly.

This is not good behavior, no matter what she intends by it. Work with her and teach her to not greet other dogs unless they want to be greeted. Put her on leash, let her drag a long leash, work on walking at heel when meeting others - whatever it takes.

Best of luck!

~ Gloria
Edit to add, my old border collie, Jesse, was terrific with almost all other dogs - except little dogs. He thought they were strange little yappy rodents and I've no doubt he would have bitten one to hurt it, given a chance ...

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Yeah, I'm just going to agree with things already said and add that if another dog did this to 3 of my 5, there'd be a pretty instant dog fight. One of those dogs is a BC that I had to teach to knock that crap off with the other household dogs - but is also fear reactive with strange dogs and that crap's threatening. One's a 15lb fluffy little thing that's got no tolerance for rude behavior, and the third is a 100lb shepherd mix who starts no crap but also TAKES none.


Knowing that there'd likely be a fight of various degrees of severity that I can't know since I don't know the other dog, my immediate reaction would be to try to intervene. Which means, ultimately, any unknown off leash dog rushing mine while growling is likely to get the snot kicked out of it - I'd hate it, but it's better than the result of a dog fight and potential damage there.


I don't go to dog parks, though, so any strange off leash dog rushing mine is a off leash dog that shouldn't be off leash.


Not trying to be edgy, not trying to be mean, but that behavior doesn't *fly* with dogs. It's not a good thing to let happen. And if my dog did it to someone else, I'd fully expect them to get the snot kicked out of THEM. Heck, if my dogs did that to another dog, *I* might be kicking my own dog just to prevent a fight - I'd rather be redirected onto than the consequences of a full out dog fight. Legal, medical - euthanization. Not worth it.

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Thanks everyone for your input and 'tough love'. I appreciate it and it is good to be reminded of the other side as well as possible repercussions.

And thank you for your compassion Gloria.

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I've got another dog who would be very unhappy to be approached like that. When we got her she was quite reactive to other dogs, and with a lot of behavioral modification has gotten much better, but she freaked out when a friendly, bouncy lab came charging over to say hello on an (on leash) beach. I don't know if she was the one who started growling or if her tense posture set the other dog off, but before I could even react both dogs were snarling and all over each other. Happily neither was actually violent and I was able to separate them until the lab's (very apologetic) owner could get a leash on her, but my dog was terrified. Her first move was to make a beeline off the beach we were on, and she was shaking with her tail between her legs. For that matter, I was too--I really didn't feel great about yelling at a strange dog and trying to separate her from my dog, and if she hadn't been friendly and disinclined to bite me it could have ended quite poorly.


The things I do with my dog that have helped her learn to be calm around other dogs are

- spending a lot of time walking outside the fence at dog parks, rewarding her for looking at the playing dogs and then re-engaging with me

- practicing walking in parks around other leashed dogs and rewarding her for calmly passing them

- group obedience classes

- group agility classes, including calmly hanging out while waiting for class to start


Working with her is different since her issues derive from being fearful, not playful, but the emphasis I always have with her is that I want her to be calm and be able to focus on me even when other dogs are around. It seems like that might be helpful for you too.


As for trails, if you know there are going to be other dogs it's only fair to keep your dog under control, for her safety as well as the safety of other dogs. If her training isn't there yet, you can get a long drag line or try a retractable leash (which come with their own set of issues). There are also so many ways to get your dog mental stimulation without doing off-leash walks. Having her on-leash and practicing obedience commands is great, as is supplementing walks with trick training, flirt poles, nose work, hide and seek, etc.

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I was walking Cricket in a busy park yesterday. I've been known to go rogue and let her off-leash when there aren't people around, but yesterday definitely wasn't that day, so she stayed on leash. Young guy with large pitbull-mix puppy let his pup charge us. The pup was only about 4 months old, but already outsized my little girl. I called, "She might get snarky!" (though she doesn't, too often), and the young guy kept assuring me that HIS dog was super-friendly, wouldn't do anything.


Too soon, that pup is going to be a VERY large dog, and is going to get into a pretty serious fight. I probably should have put on my teacher hat and tried to explain that to the kid, but really - just out enjoying the afternoon.

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