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Thinking Caps, Please

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Hi Everyone

I would really like to collect some opinions on my little girl's behavior - and especially would like opinions on how you would  react/handle/train in these situations.

I realize that it is hard to diagnose anything with a dog when not witnessing it in person over an amount of time, so I've tried to give examples and be objective about what I am seeing when relating it to you. I've separated it into 3 situations I have observed in the past couple months. 

6 months - female - BC

Sees people - outgoing, friendly, loves people whether they come in the house or if she is in other places

Other dogs - outgoing, friendly

TUNNEL - Both puppies have been exposed to tunnels since they came home.  I have a short, solid one in puppy play yard that they ran through while playing.  Once I started some play training, I used 6 foot play tunnels.  They have been at the agility building since about 4-5 months of age, and she goes  through those regulation tunnels with no problem...loves them.  Recently purchased 18 foot tunnel.  She immediately balked at going through it and will still not go through it. I realize it is a lighter material and therefore different than the building tunnels.   Now I simply put it up with the other equipment to get her used to it, but I ignore it and do not even attempt to make her go through it. Sort of trying to desensitize her to it. 

STAIRS/STEPS - We have 16 carpeted steps to the upstairs bedroom where we sleep.  They have gone up and down them from a young age.  However, she will not go down our basement stairs (which there are fewer steps and they also are carpeted.  There are 16 wood, uncarpeted steps to the play yard and kennel.  She had no trouble learning to go up them, but she is fearful to go down them.  She will back up from them and refuse to move to go down them.  Once again, have chose not to push this on her, as that seems to make it worse.

TOENAILS -  Started handling paws and cutting toe nails from the first week they came home (at 9 weeks old.)  Would do this weekly.  Then, one week, about 6 weeks ago, she (actually both of them) flipped out when trying to cut them.  So I have tried to go slow and have started with handling paws and nails with her just at night when watching TV and her laying next to me.  So last night, she was having nothing of it!  She jumped off the couch, went under a chair, and remained there until I said "lets go out!" and she came bounding out from under the chair. 

NIGHT TIME - She sometimes appears to be weirder at night.  She will act strange and act like a different dog at nighttime vs daytime.  Not always, but many times.

Could she be going through a fear stage?  However, some new things she adapts quickly too and others not so much.

Could this be hormonal?  She has not come in season yet.

Could this just be her personality?  I already have one quirky BC and wondering if this might just be her personality. 

Once again, curious as to some opinions on what we might be going through and what you would do in handling these situations. 

Thanks in advance!!

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Could be a fear stage. But if it were my dog I wouldn't spend any time trying to figure out what stage it is or why she is reacting this way to those things. I would just deal with each thing without making it any big deal to the dog. So in other words, I would simply work whatever desensitizing protocols seemed to be appropriate and let these things pass on. 

It is not clear to me if she needs to go down the steps to get into the play area or to get out of it. either way, I would just make the area she needs to go down stairs to get to very, very inviting, and encourage her to come, but if she didn't come nothing happens, no pressure on her but she just doesn't get the good thing and so it is her choice. Eventually she is likely to give up her trepidation in order to get to the good things -- food, treats, play, walk -- that are offered to her if she comes down the stairs. And if it is not really important for her to use a certain set of stairs, like the basement, then I would probably just ignore the issue.

Nails - go back to the beginning of training a dog to let you trim her nails, work up in baby steps with lots of treats, and perhaps try a rotary tool to see if that works better for her. I have found many dogs will accept that but not the clippers.


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This is a long shot but if you live somewhere where there is a vet optometrist within driving distance you might consider having her eyes checked.  Some vision problems are more obvious at night.  Not everything you describe is related to darkness, but I'm thinking about the basement stairs possibly being less well lit, and her literally not being able to see the light at the end of a longer tunnel in a location where she's not navigated a tunnel that long before.  Plus, of course the fact that her issues seem more intense at night. Will she do the stairs to and from your bedroom if you really dim the lights?  Could just be a fear period as D'Elle suggested, but those don't usually last for months.  If you think a vision problem could be a possibility, it really is worth seeking out a vet optometrist.   General practice vets just don't have the specialized training to detect many possible vision problems.

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Could be a fear stage. But if it were my dog I wouldn't spend any time trying to figure out what stage it is or why she is reacting this way to those things. I would just deal with each thing without making it any big deal to the dog. So in other words, I would simply work whatever desensitizing protocols seemed to be appropriate and let these things pass on. 


Ceile just did a similar thing, going from fearless to scared of nearly everything.  Two months of crazy and now she's back to almost completely fearless; there are one or two things we are trying to still get back to normal but no big deal; it will come. 

If you just act like nothing she's worried about is a big deal and entice her with fun or tasty treats she should come around.  

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I agree with the above.  All of my Borders experienced a fear period at six months.  My male did the outside steps but wouldn't do basement steps.  I'd get toys out and turn it into a party.  My male loved it when I bounced toys down the steps.  Get your other dog involved.  My female balked at agility equipment until she saw my male dog doing it and getting praise, then she'd run along behind him.  Shorten the tunnel and have someone hold her at the opposite end, then crawl into the other side so she can see you and call her.  I would get her eyes checked since some conditions start out with night vision issues.  With the nail trimming do one or two nails when she is tired out and then have a party, toys, treats, praise.   Make it fun.

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Thank you, everyone for your input.  Felt a little better with the comment about not worrying about why it is happening;  just dealing with it.  I had thought of eye problems, but ruled them out when witnessing he in low light and everyday behavior.  I actually see improvement and changes in her behavior over the past week.  And the nail trimming....well I know that is going to be a long term problem;  I ordered a new dremel tool since mine is over 40 years old.  lol

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