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New Training, New Progress, New Problems...

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Hey everyone! Tama is now just over a year old and I'm doing my best with his training... a friend who has an older dog has suggested the "shaping" method of getting him to walk nicely on a leash. That is, not expecting perfection from him, but rather keeping him close to me and taking him everyone on leash (despite his pulling, which is futile because we still only go where I want us to go), and then rewarding him the INSTANT he loosens the leash, or looks at me, or whatever. We've been doing this and I think he's getting the idea more this way. Previously, we spent about a month only on our block, doing short walks and I wouldn't let him pull at ALL, so we'd get absolutely nowhere. Ended up being frustrating for both of us. He was getting very little time outside and very little exercise this way, too, since we don't have a car (live in a city) and he's too heavy for me to carry.

Now, I take him out for an hour every morning and we go to the park. The park is a block away, so as soon as we get there, get gets put on a long leash I exercise him until he's tired and more cooperative on leash. Then we walk and yes, there is pulling, but he gets rewarded every single time he slows or looks at me. 

Here are our issues now: 

- he CHOKES himself to get the to park. I have him in a martingale collar because A - I could not find a harness that I felt confident he could not slip out of (I've tried six) and B - I made sure I didn't get a slip leash because I was scared he'd actually suffocate himself in one of those. With a martingale collar, I know that he can't slip out and he can't suffocate himself; however, it's painful to see him choking himself on it as we walk. 

- he's gotten WAY more reactive. It used to be bicycles and skateboards. In the past two days, he's started barking and lunging at cars, completely losing his mind. Obviously this can't work because we live in a city and we cannot even leave our house without seeing dozens of cars. He will also lunge and try to attack people that he categorizes as "odd" - elderly people, people with canes, people with jingling keys, people who walk strangely. Other items include strollers and rolling bins. 

What I started doing the moment he started getting reactive was keep him FAR from his triggers to keep him under threshold. I now reward him every time he sees a trigger and doesn't bark and generally just steer clear. If I see a stroller appearing three blocks away from us, we're gone before he can even know it's there. However, he's been getting much, much worse. 

The funny thing is, also, that his reactivity seems to be selective. He doesn't always reactive the way that he does even to these same triggers. Oftentimes he lets a bike go by and doesn't care too much. Same with cars. Then, out of the blue, he snaps -- and once he snaps at one thing, he will snap at EVERYTHING because he just seems to be in a "snappish" mood. 

Another concerning thing -- when I place myself between him and the trigger to stop his lunging and barking, and drag him away from it, he bites my arm. He's never actually injured me but he definitely snaps at me. Not sure what to do about this. 


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I've loved reading about him! Pictures??

I totally sympathize with having a border collie in the city - I have two right now, a 3.5 year old girl (Zucchini) and a 6 month old puppy boy (Fennel). They are hard dogs to have in the city. Not really because of the energy levels, but because of the sensitivity to evvvvverryything. Zucchini became very very reactive around a year old to dogs and to some extents cars and trucks, particularly when it's raining. I've worked for two years to resolve the issues and she's mostly calm and happy now. I credit pretty much all of it to Leslie McDevitt and the book Control Unleashed (and the sequels).

I think their brains just get overwhelmed and they have to think and think and move and move. And if there's not enough directing their attention the rest of the world creeps in and overloads everything, which I'm sure is scary. Two different things worked for the two dogs. Zucchini was at the point where stepping outside resulted in tension. She might have looked calm, but she was ready to lose it at any point. I did BAT (behavior adjustment training) with her and encouraged her to sniff as much as possible, because sniffing let her tune stuff out and relaxed her brain. We also did a lot of pattern games from Control Unleashed.

For Fennel, he's not reactive but he IS a crazy puppy. He definitely wants to pull and race to the park! Pattern games have REALLY helped with him. As long as walking near me is a fun game and he's engaged, he's happy to interact with me instead of the world and doesn't want to pull ahead. Examples: we do hand touches all over the place as we walk along, rewarded with kibble - down low, up high (jump for it!), behind me, on the side. I'll ask him "ready?" and then throw a piece of kibble behind me for him to find as I continue walking along (this is easier with a slightly longer leash, like 8 ft instead of 6 ft). He's learning leg weaves with a tug toy reward. My goal is for the walking part to be as fun as the park. We are at the point where I'm starting to fade out the constant playing and he's still happy to stick with me. That said, I'll probably continue at least a little bit because it's fun:)

Hope any of this helps!!

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if the choking-himself issue is only on the way to and from the park, have you considered a headcollar (halti, gentle leader, etc - I forget the name of the one I have, it is a goofy-sounding name but the item is out in my car and it's snowing and I'm not going out to check it right now :P) ... if you can fit and use it correctly (NO jerking on it EVER) it can be a useful management band-aid. Some dogs don't mind it too much, others (like mine) hatehatehate it but still benefit from its use when you have to get from point A to point B without chaos and explosions.

Rather than trying to interpose yourself between him and his trigger, it would probably be better to turn him away from it or get him somewhere he can't see it (behind a corner or garbage can or whatever)

good luck... my guy still pulls considerably but not nearly as much as he *used* to, mainly due to a) maturing and b) every time he starts to pull to hard we circle, like longeing a horse... I only walk him on forest trails and can't IMAGINE having to deal with a dog acting like he does in a TOWN  :P

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Thank you both! Glad to hear that I'm not alone in this. I'm going to be looking into BAT, and also love the idea of letting sniff around as much as possible. I also did consider getting a head collar but I'm a little scared that he'll hurt himself with it, he pulls so recklessly and I'm scared it would jerk his head...

Yes, having him in the city is a huge challenge -- there are triggers EVERY where we go, from skateboarders to strollers to people pulling around carts and moving boxes, etc... for now, our walk routes are not so much planned ahead as they are just an avoidance of every trigger that we come across :rolleyes:

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You are able to live in a city with border collies.

I didn’t have a car for a bit either. Also we would walk or bike to different places and do training sessions. So walk and then tricks or manners(sit/stay/down), then continue to walk for a bit. I have a no pull harness which worked wonders. Tbh all I needed to do was put it on my let’s go... Go... GO! Border collie and he wouldn’t pull. We also got Ruffwear front harness which so far has worked wonders even with my terrier who is willing to strangle himself for a quick sniff and would slip from other harnesses love his so far. 


Its best if you stick with one training method so as not to confused your dog or yourself. At least that is my experience. 




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