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Rescued Border Collie's odd behavior

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I rescued Stanley from the shelter a little over two months ago, he was in bad shape so no telling what he has been through -

I'm hoping someone can advise me about his behavior, in the morning and at night he has fits.

The morning time isn't as bad so I'll focus on the night time. 

Around 6 or 6:30 pm he will start barking , crying, howling and at times he basically screams,

while either rolling around in a chair or throwing himself about on the floor. He really seems distressed!

Every afternoon he is exercised roughly around 4:30 or 5 pm and he is fed about 5:30 so I don't see it being play or food he is needing.

I thought maybe he is itching but I have addressed that too, I even thought maybe he is in pain but the vet says he is healthy. 

Any ideas? These fits last about 2 hours.



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Hi I have a rescue BC and have been much luckier than you. I would pay one of those experts from a dog club who study their behaviour to be present and witness this. If you are kind enough to rescue Stanley you won't mind spending a few more shillings. It sounds like flash-backs triggered by something at that time. They seem to be able to tell the time, mine does, she asks for her dinner at 14.15 every day. Obviously there will a few experts joining the thread soon and I will watch and learn. I wish you all the best. Colin & Jess xx

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So your vet has said it's not physical. Have you done any training with him? These dogs NEED something to do, preferably with their human.  For a pet border collie, this can be anything from learning manners to trick training to agility, etc.

If you haven't done any training, try a couple minutes of teaching him those manners, (sit, stay, etc). There are some good places on the web to look for ideas. You'll want to do those brief training sessions at least a couple times a day.

Frankly, one walk a day is not enough for a bc. My guy is 12 yrs old. He gets 3 walks a day,  with morning and noon being about 15 minutes and evening being at least 25. On the evening walk we also practice some behaviors and every now and then add a new one. Most days he gets at least a couple brief trick training sessions as well. Of course there are days when he doesn't get all those activities, but more often than not he does. 

You can also give him a portion of his meal in some sort of puzzle that he has to work at to get to the food. My guy loves his. Give it a try and let us know what happens. he might simply need more interaction with you.

Ruth & Gibbs

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Congratulations on rescuing Stanley. I have an ex working sheepdog who is rescued and was abused before we got him. Mine has what it is easiest to understand as canine PTSD. He is very scared of anything that reminds him of his old farm and farmer and makes the most terrible screaming noise if he hears cars going over cattle grids...it obviously triggers bad memories in him. Mine used to have nightmares most nights and would wake up terrified and snapping his teeth about until he realised where he was and who he was with. However we have now had him 3 and a half years and although he still can't be touched by strangers he is a happy dog and has far fewer fears and no longer has nightmares. When we first met him we couldn't even touch him or look at or speak to him and his rescue centre told us he would never be a 'normal' dog so I just wanted to offer you some hope that things will get better.

We also adopted a now almost 13 year old terrier almost a year and a half ago. Every night he would hide himself away in corners and looked like he had dementia as he went completely absent. If you approached him he would bite. We were told to document everything that led up to the 'funny turns'- any changes in environment, smells, noises, people, lighting, anything that could potentially trigger this state which I thought was good advice so maybe worth trying as things we don't even notice can be so significant to them. Could be a smell or sound or something that reminds him of something distressing? It may well have just been a certain time of day for ours though, we never figured it out. On the plus side, he no longer has funny turns so we think it was just anxiety about being in a new place with new people. Could this be the case for Stanley?

Also are they actually fits, as in seizures, or just like funny turns? My previous terrier had seizures as she had a brain tumour and we were worried about that with our new but old terrier but apparently if they happen at the same time every night it is unlikely to be something medical, more something behavioural or environmental?

I'm not an expert but my two current dogs reminded me of what you have written, so I just wanted to reply to you. May not be helpful but just wanted to offer some ideas, hope that's okay. I read these forums a lot but have never posted before.

Take care, and congratulations again on rescuing! :)

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This is challenging, and I feel for you. Definitely start by giving him a lot more exercise, and start training him during the day. Doesn't matter exactly what you train him to do, it's the interaction he needs (And, of course, use only positive training methods, no punishment). Teach him fetch or tug, any kind of fun interactive game, teach him basic dog manners: sit, lie down, stay, etc.  A tired dog is a happy dog and mental exertion tires them out too. A dog needs both.

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Up to 2 hrs of your dog howling, crying, and screaming every night?   Yowza!.  After about 15 minutes of listening to that and being helpless to do anything to stop it, I'd be howling and crying right along with Stanley.  I have no real idea of what might be going on so I'm just throwing out some random thoughts here.  It's free advice, and worth every penny of it  ;)

Can you videotape a portion of your dog's "fits" and send those to a veterinarian or, better yet, a behaviorist?  It might help if whomever you are seeking help from can actually see what you are dealing with.

You say you feed him around 5:30.  Experiment and try not feeding him at that time and see if he still has his episode.  I promise he won't starve if you have him skip a meal, and maybe he's reacting to something in his food?   Or the combination of exercise followed by a meal?   If he still has his fits even without the food, then maybe try not exercising him before he eats.  Really think about your daily routine, and try changing just one thing at a time, and see if any of it makes a difference.  It could be something really subtle, but what the heck, go for the obvious first - when he eats, when he exercises, when you eat... 

Another possibility is that something is routinely happening at around 6 that you aren't aware of, but that is triggering the outburst.  I once had a dog who would run to the window and start barking uncontrollably (and she was normally a pretty placid dog) at 7:30 every morning.  I finally figured out that it was the arrival of the school bus about a quarter mile away that was causing the barking. I could only barely hear it myself if I listened very carefully and the windows were open, but she could hear it everyday, and got to where she would start pacing in anticipation about 10 minutes before the bus even arrived.  I have no idea why she reacted that way to a school bus, and I only figured it out when the behavior gradually diminished over the summer, and then suddenly came back with a vengeance in the fall.  In retrospect, the fact that she did the pacing, and some mild barking, but was less intense on weekends should have been an obvious clue as well, but I can be pretty dense.  Once I identified the bus as the culprit I started taking my dog for a walk about 15 minutes before the arrival of the bus, and as long as she was outdoors and engaged with me, she didn't care much about the bus, and after a couple months she stopped reacting to it even when she was indoors.  It was just a  habit she had gotten into, and once I broke the habit, she never regressed back to it.   If your Stanley is being triggered by something like that you may never figure out what it is, but if you can be doing something completely different, in a different location, maybe you can break the pattern.

Another possibility is that the trigger is the time of day itself.  Pretty much every living being, including some bacteria, fungi, and probably every plant and animal has an internal clock.  If something traumatic happened in Stanley's past early in the evening, then he just may become really super stressed by the approach of early evening.  His behavior stresses you out, he senses that, becomes more stressed as the "evil hour" approaches the next day....   Consider better living with chemistry and consult with a holistic vet about possible medications that could calm him.  Melatonin comes to mind because it is involved in maintaining daily internal rhythms, but there may be other sedatives that would help, and don't limit yourself to "natural" remedies.    You don't want to drug your dog forever, but there may be tranquilizers or other medications that could be used short term to break the probably self-reinforcing cycle he's now in, and then he could be weaned off the drug.

Best of luck with this, and keep us posted.  I know it would drive me bonkers to have to deal with this, so I applaud your efforts to find a solution.

Edited by Hooper2
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Hi Broken Glass

If my dog was doing this, I would be tempted to take him somewhere else or do something else with him at that set time of the evening.  I would be curious to see if he still reacted that way, or if the behavior did not manifest itself during this time.  IF he does not react in the same way in a different location, or while doing a different activity, then I might continue to keep doing that in hopes that it would extinguish that behavior.  If he still exhibited this behavior, then I might look into the cause being physical such as food or a medical reason.  My gut says it is attached to something in his past.  No matter how long I have had dogs, I always long to know WHY a behavior exists.  However, when it comes to rescues,  I have come to realize that sometimes we will never know.  I will follow this thread as I am as curious as you as to why he is doing this.  Two months is a relatively short time;  I'm sure he is still adapting to his new life.  I had one dog that took a couple years before I felt she had completely adapted to her new life.  Stanley is a lucky one to finally have an owner who is concerned for him and cares. 

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  • 4 weeks later...

I thank everyone who replied and I apologize for taking so long to get back here, I have been dealing with a lot.

Good news on Stanley though! It turns out that much like a little kid that is overly tired Stanley is just acting out— he wants to go to bed. LOL

He sleeps on my bed with me and doesn’t want to go to bed alone so he tried to put me to bed. No, I won’t be going to bed that early...we are working on his behavior and trying to find a good solution. I can hardly believe this but it is funny.

Thank you all :)

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Thanks for the update! It is pretty funny, he doesn't want to fall asleep alone, poor baby:wub:   And good for you to be dealing with it right now. I've got a dear and long time friend who got a small breed dog about 4 years ago. Delightful little girl, BUT ----- my friend, who has consulted me frequently about dog stuff, has not trained the dog to be by herself. I suggested several times that she a) take her to a reputable doggy day care and b) take her to an overnight kennel just a few times so that this good dog could learn that it is no big deal, her human always comes to get her.

Friend has declined to do these things and now she can't leave her home for even a few minutes if she doesn't take her dog with her. It's sad, as this friend's only family lives in another state and she can't go visit them any more.

You are definitely doing the right thing by a)figuring out what was going on and b) dealing with it directly. Good work!

Ruth & Gibbs

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