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Hi all,

My fiancé and I recently took the leap and adopted a Merle Border Collie female named Rogue. A few months before we got Rogue, her previous owners had ‘accidently’ bred her when she was less than a year. She gave birth to beautiful puppies, but the pregnancy happening at such a young age stunted her growth. She is a little bit smaller than your average adult female BC, weighing in at about 30-35 pounds. We were told she was mildly anxious but warmed up fairly quickly to new people. Of course, we fell in love! We made the two hour trip to get her and bring her home with us. From the beginning, it was very evident that she was not just fearful, she was extremely scared of just about everything but women. She adores people, but is a little weird around men. She also has a continence problem when people touch her. My boyfriend made the mistake of sternly telling her “Rogue, no” when she had put her snout in our cats litter box and was shuffling the litter around, that she peed herself on the kitchen floor and ran to hide under our bed. We have never once lay a hand on this beautiful dog, but it is becoming evident that she has serious anxiety and I am doing everything I can to help her and make her feel at ease. For the most part when I call her name she will come, hesitantly, into the living room for some snuggles and pets. She LOVES being pet. There are some times that she comes up to put her head beneath my hand so that I can pat her head, and as soon as I do her tail will wag and she will pee all over the floor. I haven’t gotten mad at her, though sometimes it can be frustrating. It is as if she knows she has done something wrong and will go running underneath our bed again. Today, I finally got her into the bath. Because she has had some continence issues since being with us, she was well overdue for a scrub. She was scared of the water but once I put shampoo on her and coaxed her good behavior throughout the bath, she seemed to not mind it so much. She has never shown any sign of aggression towards me. She is just really scared and I need to know ways I can let her know that whatever happened to her before, won’t happen at her new home. She has been eating grain-free dog food. When I pour her food into her dish, she does not come right away like our smaller maltipoo. She is very timid. Sometimes I will call her name and she will slowly come to the kitchen and I will shake the bowl to let her know it is there. It isn’t until after I leave the kitchen and turn the light off to relax on the couch, that I will see her walk slowly towards the dish and eat. I am happy she is eating at least. She makes small bounds everyday, like when we visited the dog park. I wasn’t sure how she would do with her anxiety, but she had a blast and seemed like a completely healthy dog! She played chase with the other dogs and greeted them with her tail up and wagging. She approached other dog owners at the park for a pet (mainly females), and ran around and played with the other dogs for a solid thirty minutes. She has done well in those areas, I just want her to be comfortable enough to approach us in our home whenever she feels like it. I don’t want her to be so scared when we pet her that she keels over and pees on herself. This was an extremely long post, but I feel a connection with her and I feel horrible that her previous home might have been abusive. I care about her well-being and want her to enjoy her dog life with our family so that can act just like that: a dog.


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She looks like a real beauty. I had a terrified border collie and the best advice anyone ever gave me was to leave her alone. Coaxing, etc. only makes a dog this fearful and anxious even more fearful and anxious. Ignoring Shoshone gave her room to get to know us in her own way and at her own pace.

I'd put down her food and walk away. I'd toss treats to her and leave the room. My then-husband did the same thing, and gradually she began to trust us. It took a looooong time, a couple months at least, before she'd voluntarily approach us.

If there's something you need to do to her or with her, do it as quickly & calmly as you can without any soothing noises. For some dogs the soothing is worrisome all by itself. For example, soothing talk may have been followed by a bath, or a shot at the veterinarian's office, etc.

It sounds all wrong, I know, to be told to leave her alone. And you're not, actually. You're providing this lucky girl with a safe place, good food, and the companionship of another dog. For a terrified dog, that's a lot.

Please don't assume that Rogue has been abused. Some dogs are just naturally more anxious than others, just like people. She may have been abused, but how you treat her whatever background is the same: let her go at her own pace. Stay out of her way. Pet and play with your other dog, (quietly at first) so that she has an example in front of her that you two humans can be trusted.

The reason I recommend ditching the 'she must have been abused' thinking is that it doesn't add anything to the rehabilitation plan, and can get in the way of applying reasonable expectations for her behavior as she slowly comes to trust you. 

My Shoshone, btw, became a very quirky dog who loved to learn tricks. She trusted both me and my then husband and would do anything for anyone who had food. We had her for about 13 years and were either groaning over or laughing at her oddities. And, we wound up putting her on Clomicalm, which is a doggy anti-depressant. Worked like a charm for her. Something to consider if you don't see any progress in the next couple months.

Best of luck! I'm sure you'll get some more advice from other. Please let us know how you get on.

Ruth & Gibbs

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Congratulations on adopting Rogue and welcome to the Boards.

What Ruth said.

Here's the thread for Keslo: 

2 things I noted in your post are 1) urinary incontinence is a medical condition. It's more likely that what you're seeing here is submissive urination. You really need to put as little pressure on her as possible. If she gets into something she shouldn't, like the litter box, redirect her away from it rather than expressing any displeasure. As she gains confidence it should eventually subside.

2) There's absolutely nothing in her size to suggest her growth was stunted. While there's a pretty large range of sizes in border collies, 30-35 pounds is pretty average for a female.

If you can, I'd strongly suggest looking into consulting a behavior specialist. Not a trainer who says they're a "behaviorist," but a veterinarian who specializes in behavior (aka a veterinary behaviorist). Most vet schools have one on staff and there are others around. An alternative my be a certified behavior consultant. A veterinary behaviorist may suggest anti-anxiety meds to help her through the worst of this.

Very best wishes helping Rogue through her fears.




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Hi there,  Madisonalicia, and thanks for taking in this beautiful dog.

I am the person who fostered Kelso for a year and a half until he was adopted. He was the most terrified and shut down dog I and many others had ever seen and came from a place of horrible abuse, but he is now a happy-go-lucky playful and well loved dog.

The first thing I want to say is to continue to have patience with her. What Ruth says above is good advice. I second the advice not to assume abuse; it is not productive. Even with kelso I schooled myself not to think about the abuse I knew he had suffered, and to look only forward. Do not coax. Don't force her to do anything unless it is 100% necessary. Let her be the one to come to you. Don't make soothing talk; just do things in a gentle, but upbeat matter-of-fact way. 

I would basically ignore the submission peeing. Pretend it didn't happen; don't change your tone of voice or anything else. School yourself not even to feel frustration (I know that's hard!) because she will pick up on that immediately. Just quietly clean it up. If she runs scared don't follow her. Just sit on the floor and wait for her to come to you, then pet her in a very calm gentle manner; no excitement, and no coddling noises either. When you come home, don't act excited to see her -- again, just be quiet and peacefully happy. Let her make all the first moves. And the second ones. Follow her lead rather than leading her. And don't be ambitious for her. Let her take as much time as she needs to come out of her shell, and be aware that it could take months or longer. Be aware that she may never be comfortable around strangers (Kelso never will be), and accept her for who she is right now, and tomorrow for who she is then, and so on.  Love her for exactly who she is each stage of the way. The less you expect from her the more she will feel safe to move out on her own.

Helping a frightened dog to become a happy dog is the most rewarding thing I have ever done in my life and I have done it several times. This dog is worth it, and I am very glad that she is with you because I can see you know that. The most amazing dog ever may be hiding underneath all that fear and submission, and it is like slowly unwrapping a magical gift, to have the privilege of being there to see it.

Welcome to the BC Boards. This place is a very valuable resource for all of us. Please continue to come here for all the help and support  you need or want; I will be here to help in any way I can, as will many others more knowledgeable than I am.


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The non-Border Collie in our household, a female pit mix named Ellie, was similarly fearful when we first adopted her. Everything that everyone else has said here is spot-on, so I won't add much. All I can say is be patient. More patient than you have ever been with a dog. When we first brought Ellie home, she was afraid of everything having to do with being in a home: doorways, stairs, leashes, etc. She peed inside almost daily. Getting her to open up and let her real personality show through is one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had, but it takes a really long time, and 4 years later there are some things about her that we've just had to learn to accept (like still being slightly afraid to go through a door). 

I also suggest you get this booklet by Patricia McConnell. It was very helpful for us: https://www.amazon.com/Cautious-Canine-How-Conquer-Their-Fears/dp/1891767003/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

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Just re-read the original post and a couple more things strike me. Her behavior at the dog park is very encouraging, I think. The willingness to approach people and play with the other dogs is a Very Healthy Thing, IMO. It seems she is more at ease in the open. Perhaps some time spent in your yard with her might help her feel easier in your presence sooner. The same rules apply, though ~ let her choose to approach you. Remain neutral towards her, respond quietly and calmly if she does approach you.

A quick story about Shoshone. We had an informal dog park that I took the dogs to daily. In the afternoon there was quite a group that gathered. Shoshone was a sort of community project with a lot of the folks there. Different people would throw a ball for her, or pet her a bit when she approached them. One day I was standing sort of off to one side of the group, and Shoshone was beside me, waiting for the ball to be thrown for her. I was talking to one of the humans, and I felt a little breeze down by my calves. One of the other humans said, "LOOK! Shoshone's wagging her tail!"  And she was. There were a few quiet cheers and my heart just expanded.

It is an incredible feeling to bring a living being out of the shell of neglect and/or abuse. I'm sure you'll get that feeling with Rogue.

Ruth & Gibbs

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