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Struggling with some emerging behaviours of our 6 month old BC. Second fear period?

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Hi BC boards, 

I'm a new member, long time reader. I haven't found any posts that sum up the problems we're having so I thought I'd post and ask for some advice as we're all in a bad way at the moment. 

 Edie is 6 months old and out first dog (I know a BC for our first dog was probably not the best idea, but here we are). She has always been somewhat reactive to objects, sounds and cars. We have worked really hard on cars with her, doing desensitisation training daily for the past 4 months. She's now at a point where she won't generally attempt to lunge into the path of an oncoming car, but they still stimulate her. We worked really hard at socialising her with other dogs, people and a range of objects and sounds in the early stages. She was doing pretty well with things up until about three weeks ago. 

The first thing, and primary thing, is the barking. She has started barking at objects she never paid attention to before, such as the dog door and toilet seat. She has begun barking at elderly women (usually) out on walks. She barks and growls at the front door and windows around the house relentlessly if she thinks something is out there (often there's nothing we can see).  She has started running into empty rooms, like our bedroom, with her hackles up and barking furiously. She does this a lot, even if she had just been in the room. We've tried upping her exercise, she now gets about 45 minutes to an hour in the morning and afternoon of running off lead, playing fetch and general walking, in addition to playing with the other dog in the house, and sessions of fetch and play indoors with us throughout the day. We have tried upping her training, she is super smart and picks up new tricks easily but still struggles settling down. We have tried 'calm' training and are still working on it, but even then sometimes she'll bark in our faces while we're doing it, particularly if we try it at a cafe (where she barks basically non stop, even with constant commands, treats, toys, other dogs for company etc. She also barks when we're preparing her meals and it's really difficult to get her to sit. She has also started barking at visitors if they're too energetic, talk too loudly, dance or anything that differs from how she thinks people usually behave. This is really annoying and I can imagine to be scary if you didn't know her or weren't comfortable with dogs. It appears to me that this barking is some sort of play? She runs at them barking and wagging her tail (I know wagging can indicate aggression but her tail is low not erect which makes me think it's play) and often snapping her teeth which she does when she's excited (usually before a walk or dinner). 

Another thing is crate training/time outs. We have consistently been using time out as a way of getting her to take a break when she's over stimulated. We put her in the bathroom. We also have been putting her in here when we go out to work or something, no more than 3 hours max. She used to be fine and enjoy the space and usually settled quite quickly. Recently she's started howling and barking when put in there, sometimes doing so for over an hour. We usually put chew toys, treats, kongs etc. in there but the moment she's 'done' with them she resorts back to crying. 

She is also obsessed with catching flies. We've tried everything to keep flies outside but we have an old house and it's Australian summer so it's essentially impossible. She fixates on flies to the point where you can't get her attention, even clapping loudly next to her or stomping won't get her out of it. We try just picking her up and removing her from the situation but she's very obsessed. 

Minor new fun additions to her behaviour include stealing food off the bench, forgetting her recall,  heavily backsliding on her leash walking training, running under the bed if we say 'uh oh', which is our word for 'you've done something we don't like' and usually precedes a time out, harassing the cat (she used to not but has now decided the cat is very fun and has begun chasing her), stealing our underwear and the list goes on... 

We are really trying to be consistent with training, getting her to sit and watch when she's displaying a behaviour that's not acceptable, and giving treats for being calm. If she's too stimulated she goes into time out. We're really struggling and it's affecting our relationship with her. I want so much to just have fun with her and communicate with her like we used to about a month ago, but she's suddenly become so extreme with some behaviours and it's really tricky to spend 5 minutes without her going off barking at something. We also can't leave her unsupervised for a minute anymore because she gets into the garden and eats all the plants, digs holes etc. 

Our housemate also has always disliked her and has begun swearing at her and being generally unkind, ignoring her when she comes to say hello, and yelling at her (luckily Edie seems immune to yelling and just gives a 'what is wrong with you' look whenever she's yelled at and resumes playing like nothing happened!). Edie isn't generally that friendly towards people aside from us and I'm worried it's because she's been ignored by this housemate since we got her, despite the housemate being 'so excited' about the new puppy. Our housemate also has a dog with a lot of anxiety and difficult behaviours and I have never heard her yell or treat her dog like she treats ours. 

Anyway, sorry for the essay I just wanted to give adequate background on Edie and where things are at. We love her and are on a waitlist for an in-home consultation with a professional, positive reinforcement trainer, but the wait could be a while and all of the challenges are sort of compounding and making life difficult at the moment!

My questions are: does anyone know if this 'second fear period' could be the cause of this, or whether Edie might have some sort of OCD? It seems common in BCs but I'm not sure if her behaviours all together indicate it or not. Any advice on barking would be much appreciated, but I have read up on it elsewhere on this forum. And any general advice would be so welcome. Apologies if this board isn't quite the place for this but I wasn't sure where else to put it


And of course, pictures!!

As a tiny one:


And now: 



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Hi mol!

Edie is gorgeous, congratulations on your puppy!

I always joked that my dogs had a period at around 6 months old where their brains fell out, and they forgot everything that they had learned.  Recall? Forget it, even if it was rock solid before. Loose lead walking - gone. Welcome to dog puberty and their teenage time.

There may also be an element of second fear period as well, given some of the reactivity you have described.

My advice would be, consistency, consistency, consistency.  Keep persisting with the rules, keep expecting the same behaviour, rewarding the good.  Do not allow the obsessive behaviours to persist (and fellow Aussie here - I commiserate with your fly problem - I have one dog who is terrified of flies, also live in an older house and cannot keep them out, resulting in a regularly freaked out dog).

Don't be too worried about Edie not being too interested in other people.  Some BCs are like that - interested in their people and no one else.  So long as she is not hostile to them, I would just accept that as her personality.  Disinterest and ignoring is acceptable.

I am not necessarily a believer in random exercise as being what a BC needs to calm; often you are just creating a more athletic and energetic problem.  You need to give Edie work, something to challenge her mind.  Have you tried looking into nosework?  Or going into more trick training?  Something that requires her to engage her mind and switch on leaves her less energy to be reactive.

Anyway, my advice is just some suggestions, and you may already have tried them.  It is good you are consulting a professional trainer, and I hope things work out for you and Edie.


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Not so much here to be able to offer advice as I am to commiserate, relate, and validate! We are first time puppy parents to a 5.5 month old border mix who is displaying many of these behaviors (hence why I am scrolling these boards!) He has begun barking at random objects he has never barked at before (our bedroom window, a full length mirror). We live in an apartment and he never used to bark at people walking by outside or parking their cars but now he has found his "big boy bark" for those sorts of things. Worse, he's started using his big boy bark at us when he is displeased. He also hates his crate and cries furiously, often working himself up with so much anxiety that he vomits. He seems to be forgetting all recall/training and is becoming more and more defiant in when he wants to listen to us. We also never really conquered the biting issue, and while I feel it has subsided some, it's certainly still prevalent. He has started biting us as opposed to asking to go outside (which, he was so great at barking at the door). I really, really relate to you feeling like it's impacting your relationship! I feel the same that I just want to play with him, love on him, and communicate with him like we did prior but it feels incredibly challenging right now. We are starting intermediate puppy training next week, so I'm hoping that will aid with this a bit. I love this babe, but he is giving me a run for my money right now! 

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Hi Lawgirl, 

Thank you so much for your advice and helping me realise she's probably just going through a teenage phase! We will attempt some more trick training over exercise as you have suggested. We have noticed if we play fetch for a while something switches in her brain and she's super unresponsive and amped up! I think she is just generally a bit ambivalent towards people although she has started barking at people more, such as new visitors to the house and old women on walks. It can be scary for people on the receiving end and I feel awful!  But hopefully with consistency and working within her limits we'll get better with that stuff (particularly hoping the trainer can help us with this!). I did a kind of DIY nosework with a bunch of boxes at home after reading your comment and she loved it, so we'll continue that and look into classes. We also taught her a few new tricks like weaving between our legs as we walk, which she also loves! It's a fun way to enjoy time together and take the focus off the stressful stuff which has been good. Thanks so much for your help! 


And Hi dc1727, 

I feel your pain! Edie also barks at the mirror but we have never experienced anxiety vomits, that must be really difficult :( It's so hard dealing with constant barking and crying and forgetting all training, but I can't imagine throwing biting in the mix too, that really sucks. Have you thought about getting a trainer to come to your apartment to offer one on one advice? It will cost about $150 for us and we've heard that it can be really helpful when someone comes to your environment and can see how the dog is at home.

Sounds like you are also having a really tough time, I hope that it's also just a weird fear/teenage phase and that he settles down soon! One thing that we've been trying the past few days is recall training at the park using an extender lead. Even if she ignores us we can shorten it and make sure she eventually 'comes' (even if it's basically forced) and then we treat her with her favourite treats and get really excited and happy. We've always done this but have ramped up the frequency and now recall training makes up about half of her walks and she's actually noticeably better! Anyway, I'm sure your puppy training will have better advice, I hope that goes well and he settles. Good luck and I hope you can reconnect with your boy! 




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Yay mol for early success in different types of training!  That effect you have noticed where her brain switches off after too much fetch is not good, and to be avoided at all costs. 

Nosework is a really good way to work the mind.  You can work up to hiding a toy or treat somewhere in the room, or in the house/apartment and having her go searching to find it.

Another suggestion is to google agility foundations.  These tend to be game type activities, which, even if you never intend to train her to compete in agility, will work her mind and build up core strength, hind end awareness, etc, which is all good. 

There is also "101 things to do with a box", which is a range of tricks to train using captured behaviours around a box, again which works her mind.

Then, after a short training session (do 5 to 10 minutes only, but you can do it several times a day) and her brain has been worked, then train her to stay on a mat, or in a crate, or anywhere that can be her designated place, quiet and still.  This is training her off switch.  Work is done, time to turn off and relax.  SOOOOOO IMPORTANT!

Good luck with your gorgeous girl!

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Thank you! The advice about fetch is golden. We always thought fetch would get her energy out and giver her a 'job' to do but we didn't consider that perhaps the switching off on walks was because of it! We have removed fetch from walks (for now) and have noticed a massive difference in her responsiveness, thank you!

And we will get started on agility foundations, we're isolating at the moment and have plenty of time to do stuff at home but can't go out on walks so this will be great. Thanks :) Teaching relaxation is and has been such a challenge, we can get her to lie down and rest her head, but she's always on high alert for treats! The specialist is coming tomorrow so hopefully we can work on it then. 

Thanks again for all your help, it's been so useful. 

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If fetch is a very high value reward, you can use a couple of throws of a ball or toy as an extra special reward when she has been very very good, or to signal that this is the end of a training period, but it is very important to be consistent with whatever you decide to do.  And you must control how long you play for.  A couple of throws, and then the ball or toy goes away, and does not come out again until you decide it is time, not in response to her puppy dog eyes, lol.  This is also because fetch involves a lot of sudden acceleration and deceleration, and twists and turns, which is not always good for a growing puppy's joints.  I would consider teaching her to tug rather than to fetch, if you can.

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You can use a few ball throws as a reward, but playing fetch is not a job. A job involves brainwork and there's none involved in playing fetch, which is a mindless repetitive and often obsessive physical activity.

And, yeah, there's the risk of joint or paw pad damage if overdone.

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Hi! She's soooo adorable. I have a border collie puppy (turns 11 months on Thursday!) that is also obsessed with fetching/chasing a ball. I use it as a reward for engaging with me. So, I'll take him to the park and he has to heel to get there, then lay down, then sit, then turn in a circle, then I'll throw. Then more heeling, perhaps a throw and a 'leave it!' then touch, then released to get it. The older he gets the more tricks and criteria I'm adding for him to get the throw. We had some arguments right around when he was 6 months old wherein he thought if he stared at the ball and stood there and ignored me that eventually I would throw it. His record of ignoring me after I asked him to sit was 7 minutes (I timed it so that I could laugh about it instead of dropkick him to the moon). We stood still in the middle of the park, him staring at the ball and occasionally barking, me holding the ball and standing perfectly still and waiting. But eventually he figured out that that he has to listen and engage to get what he wants, and now our fetch games are physically and mentally taxing for him. Side effect is that now I can call him off annnnnything by asking if he wants the ball - motorcycles! dogs! drones! I wish my older one was as ball crazy as him.

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Thanks for the advice everyone. Basically since we got her we've been trying to teach her fetch and she's just not willing to drop and leave it. She's perfect with low value toys but will rarely drop a ball, not even at home. So I suppose we've been trying to teach her that every day but perhaps that hasn't been the best decision. 

Fetch is paused indefinitely now and the trainer is coming this afternoon so hopefully we can get some information on how to help reduce her anxiety and barking/growling at everything  :). Throwing the ball as a reward is a good idea, as is using it for tricks! That might be the only way we can do it, but I think we'll have to build up to it to make sure she doesn't 'switch off'.  Though I think balls might be a good way to call her off from some of her challenges, maybe even the barking at ghosts, who knows! 

Nosework has been the best thing we've done so far. We did some agility and whilst she picked everything up immediately, it seemed to overstimulate her? Afterwards her barking was much worse. Nosework seems to be within her threshold as it's not as physically active (maybe)? 

This morning we spent 30 minutes doing desensitisation of a stationary bicycle helmet left on the ground.  She also freaked out at her empty food bag which had fallen onto the ground and some weighing scales - both got a very thorough talking to haha. 

Thanks again, hopefully we can undo some of our mistakes with all of your advice + the trainer today. 

Edie says thank you too!


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  • 3 weeks later...

Hi! Just thought I'd post an update that may help people looking through these boards in the future.

Edie's has been diagnosed as anxiety and canine compulsive disorder. We assumed that she was going through a new fear period but as time wore on it escalated and we realised there was rarely five minutes we weren't focusing on her to try get her to stop barking. Turns out she's reactive to reflective surfaces like windows, tv screens and mirrors, but also to movements such as the tv when it's on, doors closing, the dog door being used and other things. She's also fearful and reactive to objects like bags, or anything new in the house.

It's apparently uncommon for pups to display canine compulsive disorder so early but it is possible. So we've had to start her on some medication. I must say I was very apprehensive about this and fearful we were just drugging the problem out of her, but coupled with lots of positive reinforcement training, in two weeks we've seen a remarkable difference already. For interest, she's on trazodone and fluoxetine. The trazodone is only being used until she's adjusted to the fluoxetine which can take up to about a month to work. 

Just thought I'd put this out there for anyone who may be dealing with similar stuff and feeling like they've failed as a dog owner! The vet told us that anxiety can be genetic, and that BCs are known to have obsessive tendencies and are prone to these conditions because they're bred to be hyper aware of their surroundings (and they're super smart/perceptive!), so if you feel like you've done 'everything' and your dog is still having a hard time, I'd really recommend booking in with a vet behaviouralist who can assess your dogs physical and mental health (there are underlying physical conditions that can cause anxiety symptoms that are also worth ruling out).  

Good luck to everyone! 

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Thank you for the update, and well done for looking for help!

There are others on these boards who have used medication when it has been needed, and have found it has been a huge help, so no problems here.  The important thing is that your dog is getting what she needs, and a loving family who have not quit on her is the most important thing of all.

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^^ What she said.

Good for you for dealing with this quickly before it's been so well ingrained that it's become habitual and even harder to work with, and for being open to possibilities that may not have been your first choice. Although often over prescribed, psychotropic drugs can be a lifesaver for the dogs (and people) who need them allowing the brain to be receptive to training and counter-conditioning than it might otherwise have been.

Hope things continue to improve. Do please keep us updated.

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