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New pup doesn't like dogs

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Hello! I recently adopted a 5 or 6 month old border collie. I had a female border collie prior to her so I didn't expect to have a dog who loves other dogs but Winter is (I think) extremely fearful of dogs. She is fine with my Chihuahua, and has been since the moment she met him, but every other dog has been a challenge. 

I adopted Winter 10 days ago. I don't know her early history but do know she was purchased from a breeder and she lived with a dog in her first home before she went to a rescue. While in rescue she was fostered in a home with four dogs, one of whom she was 'best friends' with.

In both her first home and her rescue foster she was rarely/never socialized outside of the home. 

When we see a dog far away she will bark, if the dog comes closer she will growl and bark, if the dog gets even closer she will snap at it. I haven't really had her around many dogs, you can see the challenge in doing that of course, so I'm not sure if she'd ever just relax. These aren't dogs rushing up or anything, just a dog on a leash casually moving past us on a walk.

I have been feeding her before she can bark and moving to where the dogs can get by. While she's eating and receiving praise, she does much better and will only grumble a little if I didn't plan well enough to give her about 4 feet between her and the dog.

She will also bark at people we see when we are on walks. This has improved a TON since I got her using the same technique I described with dogs. With people when they get close she greets them happily and wants to be petted right away when they are within reach. She's never been anything but sweet to a person near her.

We start a group obedience class soon so I am hoping that will help and I have a friend with a dog who's just the best with other dogs that we'll arrange some playdates with to hopefully get her a dog friend, I can tell she misses playing with a dog, and my chi isn't going to play with her haha.

What are your thoughts/suggestions? I don't need/expect her to love dogs or play at the dog park or anything. I just want her to keep quiet and have the good sense to move on as she matures. Is there hope?


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Welcome to the Boards. Beautiful pup. I'll refrain from saying what I think of the ^#&^%$^#&*)&*^ former owner and foster home.

As someone who has a fear reactive dog, I'll warn you that the class will, initially at least, be a challenge. Have you spoken to the instructor about it? If not, I'd call and have a frank discussion about this and find out exactly how s/he works with dog like this. If there's ever even a hint of any kind of aversive methods, steer way clear of that trainer. Positive reinforcement only, and a specific plan in place before you walk in the door. Ideally there'll be a separate room where Winter can hear and smell the other dogs but not see them. At the bare minimum there should be solid barriers that you can be behind but will obstruct her view of other dogs.  I'd suggest 3 mg. of melatonin or some kind of calming treat before you go. You may have to experiment with several formulas before you find one that works for her.

Do a search her for LAT or "Look at That." It's something you can start working in with her even before the class begins. Your instructor should be familiar with it and even use it or something similar.

Don't set yourself up with expectations about learning much in the realm of actual obedience during this class. Again, this is something the trainer should be explaining to you too. Your first lessons should be about learning how to keep her under threshold (something else to do a search for here if you're not familiar with it) because until you can clear that hurdle you won't be able to do any training for other behaviors anyway.

As far as setting up playdates w/ your friend's dog, you may want to familiarize yourself w/ LAT and start by introducing the dogs at enough of a distance where Winter doesn't react. Time, patience and baby steps are going to be your biggest friends.

There are others here who've worked with this kind of fear reactivity. I'm sure you'll get some great advice.

Good luck.


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I know. Her past is so frustrating. I'm just glad she's younger than I initially was told, I thought she was 7 months old, but the puppy teeth I keep finding dropped all over the floor make me think she's more like 5 maybe 6 months. Honestly I almost returned her over all this but I couldn't send her back ...

Thank you so much for the advice! The class is 100% positive and in a very large space. Visual barriers are available and will be set up before class so each dog has a safe space, I think, though I will confirm that. I am meeting with the trainer in person on Thursday. I certainly have no goals of obedience. And if the class is too much we'll either bail or I'll just take my old man dog, he'd love the breaks from her and 1 on 1 attention :-).

I think we're basically doing look at that, although right now I will feed her for continuing to look at me as well so I should look it up and see how it compares. 

Before even doing a play date the plan was to walk the dogs together, but at a distance where Win is under threshold the entire time, and do simmilar things until we feel like they're ready. The other dogs owner's last dog was very reactive and they did classes and workshops so she's more knowledgeable than me. But we're in no rush at all. 

Thank you again, I really appreciate the advice! (Even if I was hoping to hear she'd just magically grow out of all this hah hah...)

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The very best program I have found for fearful dogs is Grisha Stewart's Behavior Adjustment Training 2.0.  I have used her methods to help a friend with a Border Collie pup who had fear reactions to many things.  It worked like a charm and this dog is now an Agility Champion and Social Butterfly.  She is adorable, by the way, as if you didn't know!  Good luck.


Kathy Robbins

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Hello! Just a quick update! Turns out that likely all of this was her insecurity with me I think. As she's bonded with me and gained familiarity with our routine her anxieties have vanished one by one and she's blossoming into a very sweet confident dog! 

She's met lots of dogs and people and absolutely is loving almost everyone. The ones she doesn't love she has the good sense to avoid, quietly! We'll continue to actively socialize of course but I am just so happy and thankful! 

The photos are her and her best friend Baxter, a fellla we happened to meet at the park one day and now make time to meet up with regularly. however, every photo of puppy rough housing I have looks like a vicious dog fight is happening or about to start. They really are great together I promise haha

She's been the start student of her class and we graduate next week.

She still barks once in a while at dogs and people but the huge majority of the time she's frustrated not mad or scared. 

Thank you all so much for the advice! It certainly came about with a lot of hard work and TONS of treats!



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