Jump to content
BC Boards

Puppy Aggression - Seperation Anxiety?

Recommended Posts

My male puppy is almost 13 weeks old, my husband and I have had him since he was 9 weeks old. He came from a litter of many puppies and was very active and playful with all of his brothers and sisters. 

I work from home so he is constantly with me. He is a little timid and gets frightened by new objects and loud sounds easily but is usually fine. We take walks daily around the neighborhood and he loves to meet people and is always friendly but is sometimes scared of big dogs. 

We started puppy obedience class this week and there were about 20 puppies all socializing and he was one of the only ones who was too scared to walk around. He hid behind my legs or laid on my feet almost the entire class. When the puppies were let loose to socialize and they ran over to meet him at first he acted scarrd and when they kept coming he started to become angry and began to growl and bark. He stood in front of me with his paw on my fee and his lips even peeled back as he snarled. I was in shock. The instructor told me not to comfort him and just stand back and let him become comfortable.

My husband thinks I baby him too much and reinforce his timidness or anxiety by comforting him in situations where he is nervous. And that because I am with him 24/7 because I work from home he has become too dependent on my reassurance. I'm really not sure how to proceed and wonder if he has attached himself to me in an unhealthy way and is too worried of experiencing things without me right beside him. 

I really don't want him to act aggressive towards other dogs. Usually when its just one dog at a time he is scared at first but warms up. In this situation I think he was just overhwhelmed by s of the puppies. What do you guys think? What should I do? He has 7 more obedience classes coming up and I want to be prepared. I have heard that border collies are very protective breeds so maybe he was trying to protect me. The instructor said within a few weeks he should feel more comfortable but is there anything I can do in the meantime to stop the fear aggression?

Attached is a picture of our pup. He is usually such a playful friendly dog but was so scared today in class.


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi and Welcome! Your puppy is adorable!

Others on this board have a lot more experience than me, and I'm sure they can give you a lot of good advice. I am not a puppy expert, but I have a couple thoughts about your situation.

If your puppy is scared of other dogs, he needs slow, careful, socialization to help him gain confidence. There are lots of methods to do this, but this is what I do. Find a distance where he feels comfortable and safe from the other dogs, then slowly work from there. For example, if he is 20 feet away from 1 dog, is he acting happy, can he focus on you? If so, good, you are under his 'threshold'. Then you could slowly move towards the other dog, watching your puppy's body language to make sure he is still comfortable. You can play games with him and ask for simple tricks and give lots and lots of treats for calm behavior while you are working around the other dog. If the puppy starts getting worried or barking, etc.., stop approaching and retreat to a distance where he can calm down. I don't try to 'comfort' the puppy exactly, I don't say 'It's ok!" in a worried voice. But I do talk in a cheerful voice, for example, "Oh, look at the friendly dog! There's your friend, Spot!"

Work at your puppy's pace and be very mindful of what he is trying to tell you. If he is getting scared or stressed, don't get any closer to the other dog! I have found that when my dogs understand that I will listen to their body language, and that I won't drag them into situations that scare them, they begin to trust me more. They become more confident and less reactive. If the pup wants to approach the other dog, that's fine as long as they're approaching in a friendly manner.

So in regards to the obedience class, I don't think its a good idea to let the other 20 puppies run up to your puppy. That is way to much for him! I wouldn't expect him to 'get comfortable' while he is getting mobbed by 20 puppies, even if they are lovely friendly puppies. Can you ask the obedience instructor if you can work with your puppy at a distance where he feels comfortable? Maybe you can work in a fenced off area so the other puppies can't approach your puppy? Or at least work with just one other puppy, then when your puppy gets comfortable with that puppy very slowly add another puppy? I hope your instructor is willing to accommodate your puppy so he can gain confidence.

I highly recommend the book "Control Unleashed: The Puppy Program" by Leslie McDevitt.

Let us know how it goes!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Ohalani gives you good advice.

Your instructor is wrong in my opinion, as is your husband. It is not "coddling" to let your very young dog know that you have his back and he is protected by you. This is part of building the bond between you. If it were my puppy I would not allow any situation to get to the point where he is growling or showing teeth. I would not allow him to become overwhelmed, which is what I believe is happening, rather than his trying to protect you. You need to protect him at this stage.

Watch him very closely. A lot. As much of the time as possible. You will learn what his body language means. He will pull his ears back, will back up, will drop his tail or there will be something he does to indicate to you that he is starting to reach the threshold of that feeling of being threatened or overwhelmed. Before he reaches that, not after, you should remove him from the situation. If the class leader objects, do it anyway. Maybe find a different trainer!

I would take him out of the class, over to a corner or if the room is very small then outside the room, and speak to him in a normal, kind of upbeat voice. Don't say "oh you poor baby it's ok", because that will indicate to him that his fear is justified. Just say, hey, you needed a break, huh? Maybe give him a quick ear scratch, wait a minute, and then bring him back in. And, as the previous post suggests, try working with him away from the other puppies, and never allow them to rush him. He needs to learn at his own pace that he is safe. Also, please know that he may be one of those border collies who will never be happy to be surrounded by other dogs. This is pretty common with border collies, and you  just learn how much he can take and adjust your expectations accordingly. I have never had a border collie who liked to be rushed by other dogs no matter how well intentioned they were.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Maybe it would be possible to have some interactions with 1 or 2 other puppies? Unless you're frequenting super busy dog parks, I don't see a huge need for a dog to absolutely be comfortable with 20 (!! which is a lot) dogs at once, but maybe you can work slowly with a couple other dogs so that he's comfortable with one or two. Sometimes I pet the dogs we meet out in the world to show Kevin that they're nice guys and he can think so too. Also, two of the three borders I've had in my life have really had a positive thing for dachshunds, maybe because they're kind of petite. Perhaps you can make friends with someone with a dachshund! :D 

As for your 24/7 issue, I hear you on this one - I work from home too and I'm with Kevin all the livelong day. But! From the age of about 12 weeks, we've made sure that Kevin has at least 2 hours (well, only 2 hours at that age; now at 6 months he has up to 3ish) of home alone time a day. I think this is really important because eventually, you're going to want puppy to be comfortable while you aren't there. Don't feel guilty! Consider it part of his training. 

I also am accused of being a coddler so I feel you on that front too! But hey, they're our babies :) Trust your intuition!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Welcome to the Boards and congrats on the new puppy.

Lots of good responses above so I'll just add a couple things.

20 puppies in an introductory puppy class is a huge number of puppies! A trainer I like and respect here limits these classes to only about 5 pups at a time so that interactions can be carefully monitored and none of the puppies gets overwhelmed and so that the more confident puppies learn appropriate interactions with others. I'd be very wary of putting a puppy into such a large group and especially after his initial reaction would be having second thoughts about taking him back. What's the trainer doing to control the environment and the puppies' interactions? If the answer's nothing, then think twice about continuing.

Border collies in general are not a protective breed. That's not what they were bred for. Some individuals may be protective, but it's not universal, and I really wouldn't expect it to be especially well developed in such a young puppy anyway.

Link to post
Share on other sites

You've already gotten excellent advice. I'll add that border collies are bred to be very sensitive to noise and motion, and I'd be surprised if he wasn't a bit put off by 19 puppies and 19 humans. Your instructor should, IMO, be offering you ways to make it easier for him to be at ease, not expecting him to just get used to it. I'm noise-sensitive myself, and as much as I like dogs, I couldn't stand being in a group of 20 pups and 20 humans just roiling around each other. Just the idea of it makes me want to hide somewhere, too!

As the others say, be careful to be matter of fact in situations that concern your dog. There's a world of difference between 'oh, you poor dear, how dreadful for you' and 'I see that you're concerned, I'm right here and you're doing great'. 

And he is sooooo adorbs!

Ruth & Gibbs

Link to post
Share on other sites

I had a really -abnormally, needed medication - fearful dog. 

One of the best things I taught her was that if I said 'it's okay' it's okay.  Which meant, I'd go look (or just look) tell her it was okay, offer to let her burrow into my chest for a moment, pat her a bit and then carry on when she was ready.  No freaking out or overreacting myself, but reassurance.  These days (4+ years on) if I say it's okay, she pretty much immediately shakes (stress release) and perks back up and carries on.  It's very useful.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree with everything that is said above as, especially about the suggestion that 20 puppies is probably way too much stimulation for your puppy, and an abnormally large puppy group.  Border Collies are bred to be sensitive to the minutest movement of sheep.  For a little puppy, that much movement must be overwhelming and frightening.  Be his protector; keep things at a distance, let him observe from where he feels safe and allow him to set the pace of his interactions. 

I have also found that my BCs are somewhat 'breedist', in that they get on best with other herding/working type dogs who have the same body language and play styles.  This is not the case with every BC, obviously.  But if there are some puppies that are very boisterous and 'in your face' in the group, or some of the brachycephalic breeds, like pugs, frenchies and boxers, BCs can have difficulty reading their play. If there are some other BCs, Aussies etc in the group, can you maybe arrange a small play meet with one or two other puppies away from the big group?

And your puppy is gorgeous

Link to post
Share on other sites

Agree with above. That’s a ridiculous number of pups to have bounding around. My guy is just starting fun obedience at ten months!

i did socializing one on one with different dogs until he got confident. He’s only been interacting with small groups of pups at the park since about 8 months. 

My guy is with me 24/7 and his confidence has grown. I don’t go ‘there there’ in a high pitched voice when he’s anxious. Instead I lead him gently but positively with a ‘walk on’. 

If my guy had even one dog barrelling towards him at that age I would have blocked with my body. 

I’d take a rain check on classes and pick one where the trainer has a better understanding of dogs!


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...