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Introduction & fear of heights question

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Hello everyone,

I'm really thrilled to have found these wonderful boards. I have been reading a lot (and learning tons!) and finally decided to join you.
After years of waiting I finally have my own Border collie, Molly( three years old), who used to belong to my mother. My mother and Molly weren't the right fit, although they lived quite happily together. I'd call it a personality clash: Molly can be a bit... stubborn, enthousiastic, not willing to lose control over situations. It is difficult to describe exactly, but she is definitely not everyone's cup of tea. 

So my mother decided I could have her as soon as I had enough time to have a dog. Finally the time has come and it has been absolutely wonderful. She is incredibly smart and I felt as if she knew straight away that she was my dog the moment I came to collect her. My mother has two other dogs who remained lazing about while Molly sat in front of the door as if to say "Come ON, let's go home".

She is such a great dog and a fast learner and we are becoming better partners every day. However, we do have a slight problem: she doesn't like heights. I live on the 9th floor in an apartment building and she doesn't want to be too close to the railing and stays on the wall side, slightly crouching, not too scared but uncomfortable. My mum's other two dogs are not scared at all, but that doesn't help Molly unfortunately. If I let her off leash she sneaks a peek under the railings, but remains distrusting of the depth. 
She has the same thing with most bridges, even some small ones in the forest where there is no real depth. I took her with me on the train the other day, which I think was the first time for her. Jumping on the train was scary, but she did it. She was also scared of the stairs in the train station, both going up and down. The crowd didn't help because she is not used to it.

Now my question is: Do you have any tips on how I can help her get over her fear?

I don't mind her being a bit uncomfortable, but it is of course not fun for her to feel that way. I don't usually use food as a reward, as she is much happier with my praise of a chance to fetch her bumper. I have tried though, as I have seen some advice involving food with fearful dogs. However, I feel I am not using it right nor that I am teaching her there is nothing to be afraid of. 
She is sort of fine just walking on her own to and from the door, but if I try to help her or lure her a bit closer to the railing (without force of any kind) she just wants to crawl under me which I think won't help her get over her fear. 
So any tips are welcome in that department. 

As I have mentioned she didn't like the crowds in the train station, she gets a bit distracted by them and looks around a lot, forgets how to heel properly, so the plan is to gradually expose her to more distracting places. My flat is perfect because it is on the edge of the city, so I can slowly move up to more crowded places with her as she gets more used to it. 

Thanks in advance!


Best wishes,


Flora & Molly


EDIT: I forgot to mention that she isn't scared at all of the agility ramp my mother sometimes used to take her on in her forest. Not an official agility class or anything. Just a ramp on a course in the forest. The ramp is quite high: I think it might be above my head even. 



I added some photos of her :)




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I can’t answer your question about fear of heights but sometimes changing the perspective for a dog can help. Maybe crawl around at dog level and see if something looks different down there. Perhaps moving some things around might help. How lovely that you have bonded so quickly though :)

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Welcome to the Boards. Beautiful dog.

I suspect you just need to be patient and give her time to adjust at her own speed.

I'm not sure where this railing is or why she needs to be near it. It seems like a pretty basic survival skill for a dog to be wary of a sheer drop and want to stay away from the edge. Is there a reason why she shouldn't be closer to the wall than to the railing? Unless that railing's solid, it's not providing much if any protection for her like it does for a person.

If it were me and she's willing to go where she needs to go, even if she's hugging the wall, I probably just wouldn't make a big deal of it at all and give her an "atta girl" and a treat if she'll take it when she gets to the end. Maybe your making a big deal of it is convincing her that there's something to be afraid of.

In many cases I'd say to use whatever motivates her as a reward, but if she's anywhere near a drop off toys might not be a wise choice. Maybe it would be helpful to try some tastier treats, e.g. bits of boiled or roasted meat, smelly cheese, cut up hot dogs, or dried sardines (you can dry them in the oven so they're not messy; use sardines packed in water and if you can find them, without salt). One of my dog's favorite treats is that awful cheese in a spray can or ricotta in a refillable camping tube. If she still doesn't go for any of those things, then use praise and petting. My first border collie found that much more of a reward than any food I could give him, so use whatever you can.

Best wishes moving forward.


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Thank you very much for you suggestions! 

GentleLake you are absolutely right: she doesn't need to be close to the railing (which is solid except for a small slit underneath). 

I feel a bit silly that I thought it would help her see that being high up is okay :) Well, that's exactly why I started the post: It didn't feel like I was helping her at all. 

My goal is to help her feel more at ease, especially because she has to walk there every time I take her out. However, if this is all she can muster- that is absolutely fine. 

I think hot dogs might be high value enough. You really helped me see that I should reward her for walking there at all. Thank you. With time and patience I think I can help her.


ShellyF: Although I can't change anything to the gallery/balcony/whatever the English word is, I now noticed those slits are a lot more noticeable when you are lower down. I am actually quite proud how she handles it! 

I will be out of town for a while, but I will let you know how she gets on.


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  • 2 weeks later...

I thought I'd give you an update, sinds you were so kind to help me!

No major changes, that would be amazingly quick, but she does seem to be ever so slightly more relaxed. Or maybe it's just me and I am more relaxed about the whole thing ;) haha

I give her a small treat every time we go from the front door to the elevator or vice versa. Without making a fuss, just to show good things happen when we walk there. 

Thanks again for your input!


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