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We have a wonderful 14 month-old male BC. We have not neutered him yet on concerns that doing so too early might cause problems later on. I have read that we should wait at least until he finishes puberty. He also has an undescended testicle.


He goes to training (agility) camp five times a week, is toilet trained and so has free access to the house. He wags his tail so hard I think he is going to break himself in two when it is time to go to camp. When in his normal routine, he is happy, fun and great.


It is when things change a bit that he goes a bit (or a lot) crazy. When we have guests, he might be ok or he might lunge at someone to attack him. On one occasion, he lunged at a 13 year old boy (we were obviously there to manage him) and the dog peed himself.


We have also tried to take him out on walks but he is extremely difficult to manage. At camp or in our back yard he walks perfectly. Right beside the owner. At camp he even does so without a leash. But the moment we step into somewhere that is not his normal routine, he goes crazy. Part of his craziness is to mark territory everywhere he can. He is also quite eager to engage other dogs aggressively.


My guess is that he is just going through puberty and will eventually calm down.


My plan is to 1) keep pushing forward as best as possible with socialization events, like having guests over, taking him on walks, hiring someone to walk the dog, keep sending him to camp, etc.; 2) to wait until he is fully grown and neuter him (18 months?).


So, I would very much appreciate any comment, suggestion, critique, etc. Are we going about this the right way? Is 18 months a good time to neuter him?





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My dog also had an undescended testicle (and therefore should never be bred IMHO), and I had no hesitation about neutering him at 14 months of age. He had also developed some minor undesirable male behaviors that I felt neutering would moderate. Since I compete in agility, I was aware that it was best to delay neutering until the growth plates are closed. Based on my research and advice from several vets, I felt comfortable that growth plate closure was complete (or at least 90-95% complete) by the age of 14 months. That was good enough for me. If you want to be sure that the growth plates are closed, you can always get X-rays.


As far as other 'problems later on', you should specify what you are concerned about to receive accurate responses.


Personally, the behavior you describe may or may not be related to his hormones. It is hard to know without seeing it in person.

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IMO, neutering your dog now is a good idea. It may or may not have any affect on the behavior that you are describing, however.


I would recommend that you work with, or at the least consult, a good professional trainer about the bad behavior. Having a dog lunge at people, especially children, is potentially very dangerous, as no doubt you know. Also, what you do to manage this behavior may be the correct thing for the circumstance and the dog, or could be making the whole thing worse. since we are not there to see what the dog is doing or what you do in response, a professional who can observe you first hand is required.


Sometimes it is actually the owner who is unconsciously transmitting signals to the dog, causing this tension and behavior, and you won't even know it. Or your way of managing it is telling the dog that there is something to fear in the situation. A good professional can see that and give you advice.


I would not recommend just waiting to see if he outgrows this, as this behavior has the potential to put both you and the dog at risk.

Best of luck.

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Everything D'Elle said. This may not be something you can entirely solve without professional guidance.

Dangerous behaviors are not something to put off and by 14 months, he should be past any fear periods. My now-one-year-old male had some major fear/reactivity issues as a pup, both with dogs and strange people. There was no external cause for it, it was just how his brain was wired, but it took a lot of work to get him settled down. By now he has matured a good deal and is going amazingly well, so I just keep an eye out to monitor any occasions where he starts feeling over threshold or threatened. But again, it took work and time. If he was still reactive at 1 year old, I'd be thinking about seeking help.

Some dogs are just wired a little differently from birth. My advice would be to be exceedingly careful how you press forward with his socialization and new experiences, and pay very close attention to any signals he gives you, telling that he is growing uncomfortable. You can't force or push a reactive dog any further than he is prepared to go. He needs to know that you'll protect and shield him from scary things, not accidentally push him beyond his comfort zones. So .... yes, getting help may be a good idea.

Best of luck! :)

~ Gloria

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Thank you all for your posts.


For now, I can't think of anything that we might be doing "terribly wrong" so as to be the cause of the dog becoming aggressive. He receives a wide variety of positive attention and activities from many knowledgeable and caring handlers, including his family. My feeling is that his aggression is a result of fear. The aggression also started only a couple of months ago. It coincided with a time where he had to go to the vet five times in one month to treat a scratched cornea. He was definitely scared, uncomfortable and aggressive during treatment. He had to have a muzzle on.


So, for now at least, I will bet that he is going through a phase and eventually, as he finishes maturing and gaining confidence, his "true" character will show which, I hope, is what he is when he is comfortable and feels safe. I will have a talk with his trainer at camp to get his thoughts.


What I am more concerned about is neutering. His vet says we should only remove one testicle and leave the retained testicle where it is. But I have read contradicting information. Also, we have no trouble in keeping him under control (away from mating possibilities, etc.) so that the only consideration about neutering is the best timing for his health. Considering he has one retained testicle, I would want to consult a specialist.


Does anyone know of a specialist I could consult online or by email so that I may contrast with the vet's opinion?



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Your vet may be thinking of a couple of things. One is that there's research suggesting that neutering can actually increase rather than decrease aggression. The second is that there are other negative health repercussions to desexing dogs. I believe there have been links posted here on each of the topics, so you may want to do a search of the archives. If you've got a vet who's taking these into consideration consider yourself lucky; many don't. I would also suggest discussing the vet's reasoning with her or him to understand why s/he's making that particular recommendation.


Removing the undescended testicle is sound medical advice. The retained testicle is more prone to becoming cancerous than one that's descended. But leaving the other one intact -- or doing a vasectomy rather than castration on the other one -- will preserve the hormones that he body relies on for optimal health.


Going back to the other issues, yes, maturity may help, but not addressing fear aggression now is more likely to result in the responses becoming more firmly ingrained than just waiting it out. I would strongly recommend consulting either a veterinary behaviorist or a certified behavior consultant to assist you with this problem.


As far as behavior on walks, remember that dogs are situational learners, meaning that quite often they learn that a particular trained behavior is associated with a specific location or situation. They often aren't very good at generalizing that what they learned in one situation is supposed to carry over into other locations or circumstances as well. So while you may indeed have trained him to walk nicely by your side at agility classes and in your yard, it doesn't sound like you've effectively taught him to do this while you're out on a walk. Location matters. You need to train him to walk nicely (and anything else you want him to do wherever and whenever you ask him to) in a variety of locations with a variety of distractions until he generalizes it to mean anywhere, anytime you ask him. Right now he's probably only associating it with specific situations and simply doesn't understand that you expect it everywhere.


Wishing you well as you work through this.

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Definitely agree with Gentle Lake about the location and generalization. Even a highly intelligent dog like a border collie is still a dog, and dogs do not generalize well. I train one behavior to my dog in the kitchen and he won't know it in the living room, until I reinforce it there, and in the yard, and the bedroom and so on. Eventually it does get generalized to everywhere, but not until it has been trained and reinforced in more than one place.


No one suggested that you were doing anything "terribly wrong". I doubt that this is the case. However, how you respond to his aggressive behavior is very important, and even people who are very experienced with dogs need to seek advice on this unless they have extensive experience dealing with aggression. Whether it is fear or something else, you need professional help, since you are not highly experienced in dealing effectively with this issue.


As stated previously, aggressive behavior, especially toward human beings, that is not dealt with effectively early on may very well not go away on its own. And if it doesn't, it will be exponentially more difficult to remove later on, when it has had weeks or months to become ingrained in the dog.

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Thank you all for your helpful comments. I've asked for his trainer at camp to also take him out on walks. He also had his first competition this past weekend and was exposed to lots of people and different dogs. And he has started twice a week walks with another person. We'll also be talking to his vet about neutering him in a few months. We'll see how he evolves.


Thanks again.

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OK, I thought maybe it was just a misreading before, but now I'm not so sure . . .


When you talk about sending him to agility camp, do you go along to do the training or is this a facility where someone other than the dog's owners are actually handling and training the dogs?


If it's the latter, that may have quite an influence on both issues.

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Re-read your post and the comments. Your dog is getting a LOT of stimulation. Consider drawing him back a bit.


My experiences w/border collies, (limited, to be sure, but the 4 I've had have all had different personalities) is that some of them soak the people/new places/intensity like a sponge and never miss a beat. And some of them just get over-stimulated and shut down or get aggressive.


It might be helpful to see how he does with less overall activity.


Just a thought,


Ruth & Gibbs

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There are 2 things that could be contributing to what's going on.


Too often what happens in situations like that is that the dog learns to comply with the person who's actually doing the training, but it doesn't transfer to other people asking the dog to do the same thing. I see it all the time when ppl ask my therapy dog to do something and he doesn't comply, when he'd be doing it in a second if I'd asked him. It's partly the "I don't have to listen to you; you're not my mom/dad" syndrome. Training can be a very powerful bonding experience.


But it can also be (and often is) that there are lots of nuances in the ways each person delivers their cues and the dog, being much more attuned to those subtleties than we humans are, simply doesn't recognize it as the request s/he was taught. For instance, I have to teach the kids who read to Bodhi at school all the little steps and even tone of voice for them to be able to get him to hold a treat on his nose and then catch it. It seemed pretty simple to me the first few times. I showed them how to do it, then they tried. But Bodhi usually wouldn't sit still to hold the treat or when released to flip and catch it. I had to dissect each step of the seemingly simple process into components and teach them the subtle non-verbal cues and even tone of voice I used for the release word before it worked for them.


So, remember the situational learning thing? It's quite possible the things your dog's being taught at an away camp by someone else simply haven't transferred to you and/or in places away from the camp. And it's also possible that you simply haven't learned, or even been taught, how to train your own dog. The great thing about classes where the trainer teaches you how to train your dog is that you are actually doing the training, both strengthening the bond between you and your dog and also creating the situations in which he responds to you giving the cues. Win/win, IMO. Right now it's quite possible that the dog's kinda confused about who's really in charge and/or what your expectations are for him.


The other concern is that you really don't know how the dog is being treated and trained if you're not doing it yourself. I'm not making any accusations about the facility you're using because I don't know anything about it, but the sad fact is that a lot of these places paint very rosy pictures of happy dogs being humanely trained when the reality behind the scenes is altogether different. Some of these facilities use some very harsh methods and even harsher "equipment" that can lead to aggressive behavior. I doubt he'd be so enthusiastic about going to this camp if it were one of the more extreme facilities, but it's still possible that he's experiencing situations that are contributing to his aggression at worst, or at least that they're simply not competently dealing with.


Of course this all leads back to my earlier recommendation to seek the advice of a veterinary behaviorist or certified animal behavior consultant who can teach you to work with these issues yourself.

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Thank you, again, for the very thoughtful and valuable post. All great content.


About your first (very valid) point. Although I do not attend the training meetings, I do train my dog, mostly at nights and on the weekends. From me, he's learned quite a few tricks, toilet trained, not to jump on furniture (though he loves that), etc. I have also gone to the training facilities and spent time with Mack and his trainer, though not very much. I have no complaints when he is with his "family". He is great. It is when his environment changes (walks in different places, different dogs or different people) that he is acting out. My guess is that he does so out of fear.


Your second point is of more concern and it is a thought that has been troubling me since he started acting out. I mentioned in my original post that he is very happy when he goes to camp precisely because that is a cue I was looking for as a proxy test of how they were treating him. So, if he's happy, he does not associate going to camp with mistreatment. For now, that is my working theory.


As a puppy (before camp) he used to drop to the floor in extreme submissiveness (head down, slightly tilted to one side, completely still) when a stranger approached him. I ignored him when he did this and thus reinforced "normal" greeting behavior. But, with the person who picks him up for camp, he is still like this. He wags like crazy until he gets near, then drops completely to the floor in a very submissive way and then walks away with him, again wagging his tail very happily.


I don't like this behavior but can't say it is negative consequence of camp. That is the way he's always been. My guess is that he is quite nervous to begin with and overreacts with strangers. With some, who he met as a puppy, he is overly submissive. With others who he meets as a young adult, he is frightened and reacts aggressively. That is my theory for now...


As for the veterinarian, I have consulted him as well. Although cagey about vouching for other professionals, he did say he had heard good things about this camp in particular. The vet was also surprised at how aggressive our dog had become from earlier visits and thinks that it is because he associated pain and discomfort at the vet's office when he was being treated for a scratch in his cornea.


We'll continue to monitor him over the next few days and weeks and see how it goes. I will keep an eye out for anything that might seem relevant in the context of your comments and post here if relevant.


Thank you all, again.

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I wonder if your dog is a little like my Dan in terms of the "stop and drop" behavior. Dan is, however, overly friendly and outgoing in general but when he wants something, he is prone to drop flat as a pancake, head on the floor between his two front legs, hopeful that he's about to get what he wants (play with a toy, perhaps), and maybe just a little bit trying to be oh-so-good (submissive) so that the object of his behavior just has to say that it's okay and time to play. Not always, but sometimes, this is his go-to behavior in that situation. Like your dog, he can be all wiggly beforehand and after, but offers this up in between. I think that, for Dan, he is just offering another behavior in the hopes that it will be the one that gets him what he wants.


Good luck working with your youngster. These dogs can be very quirky. I was reading about geniuses the other day and was struck with how many of them have some real quirkiness, not unlike these geniuses of the dog world. Sensitivity to their physical and social world can be a big part of that quirkiness.

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