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Need help walking my (occasionally stubborn) BC

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My female BC Mouchette is 3 years old and was spayed last year, just after I acquired her from a sheep farm and breeder.  She is in good health though a bit heavy, so we need to walk her farther distances.  She gets 2-3 walks a day.  She isn't a high-energy BC, more laid back and definitely not an agility-type dog.  She doesn't play with much, never having been played with before I got her (on the farm, she was tied to a dog house most of the time because she apparently could not learn sheep herding with the other dogs).  She is very loving and affectionate, and we are happy to have her in our lives, especially during this pandemic.

Mouchette has adjusted quite well to life in the city, but has occasional fear and anxiety attacks (when humans send firecrackers and fireworks into the air, for ex).  A few weeks ago, we had to suffer three evenings of it, and it took Mouchette a week and a half to get over it, she wouldn't go for walks unless we took her somewhere in the car, etc.

I live in a bungalow in a residential neighbourhood, so our walks consist of the (reasonably quiet) neighbouring streets, and a nearby long green-space with lengthy bike path.  My friend, who goes for walks with us every day, lives in another bungalow around the corner from me.

When all is well, my friend meets Mouchette and I in the street, and we head off in one direction or another from my house (M usually prefers one direction in the morning).  When things are not well, M only agrees to walk to my friend's house where she sits by the front door and refuses to go further.  When things are REALLY not well, M refuses to leave my front porch.

So anyway we've gotten used to her occasional bouts of fear and anxiety, which have possibly been somewhat alleviated by giving her Purina Calming Care for a few months.

Two aspects of walking Mouchette are a source of concern and stress for us.  First, she developed last Fall a taste for eating dog poo, so we're constantly on the alert for anything left by other dogs and that she may want to pick up.  That is manageable, sort of.

The second issue, and this may be a border collie issue (this is my first BC, so I'm not sure), is an occasional and notable stubbornness by M on the walk.  If she wants to go left, she will refuse to go right (sometimes enticing her with treats will work, not always).  She will lock her legs and just stare at us, or look in the other direction.  And if we try to pull her, she will pull back and threaten to pull out of her harness (we use Sporn non-pull mesh harness).  I know dogs can hear and smell things we don't, and may not want to go in a direction for fear of something, but usually these are well-traveled streets.

From what I've read, BC's are bred to be autonomous thinkers, independent in their decision-making.  This dog was never trained, never walked before I got her.  So this may partly explain her stubbornness and insistence on going where SHE wants to go on a walk.  Most of the other dogs we meet (mostly doodles I must admit) seem quite content to follow their masters anywhere, but Mouchette insists on being a bit ahead of us, and as I said, often refuses to go in a direction WE would like to go.  Now some days I don't mind following her wherever she wants to go (she tends to be a creature of habit) but there are instances where for convenience or safety she HAS to listen and follow the master, which is where the issue occasionally arises.

I should point out that a few weeks ago, when walking her alone, I decided to force her to go in the "other" direction, and she fought me almost all the way and I had to give in and turn back.  This also had lingering negative impacts on her walks.  So I've concluded that trying to man-handle her is not a good idea.

If this all rings a bell and you have some tips or advice for me in how to best deal with this behaviour, I'd love to hear.  If I need to involve a trainer I will, but I'm hoping I can find a way to get Mouchette to have a consistently more harmonious walk with us.

Thank you.

 

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A couple things. 
Have you consider medication? Val has a nasty thunder/fireworks phobia and he gets prescription medication to help him calm down. During the storm or Fireworks we play classical music and have white noise in the background. 
 

Have you taught her any manners? Sit, down, Stay, etc? I bike with with Val and taught him directions and getting into my space, going around objects, turning into him, turning away from him. We did a lot of basic on going around the yard, inside the house, and progressed to outside. 

She doesn’t sound stubborn she just sounds like she doesn’t know how you communicate. If sometimes she can lead, other times if she puts up a fight she can lead, How is she supposed to know what you want?

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I don't think this dog is stubborn. She just doesn't understand what you want or possibly she doesn't quite trust you or that she has a place in the world where she is safe.

If you give in to her insistence on going a certain way you are training her that she is the one in charge and you have to do what she wants. Not a good idea.

I would start with a lot of other training as suggested above. Sit, lie down, come, wait or stay and even tricks. Once she has found out that doing what you ask is fun, she doesn't ever get punished if she gets it wrong, and she gets good treats for doing it right, she may trust you more and be more inclined to go where you want to go. Train a "leave it" cue for when you are walking and she wants to pick up something unsavory.

I see this as primarily a relationship problem, not a problem the dog has. If you can carefully and slowly build a strong, trusting relationship with the dog she will want to go where you go. 

Border collies are not actually known to be independent thinkers in the way you suggest. While they clearly can and do make decisions about their approach to a flock on their own, their training and breeding for over a thousand years has been to work in tandem with and at the request of their handler. In order for that to work there has to be a very strong relationship between the dog and the handler. It's not your fault if you don't have that yet; probably this dog has not had a lot of opportunity to learn about that. Mahybe she doesn't even know, like some foster dogs I have had, that such a relationship is possible. But over time if you are very patient you can teach her.

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Thank you for your feedback, I appreciate it.

The vet prescribed alprazolam to administer before thunderstorm and fireworks to help her deal with it.

I've had Mouchette for a year now.  She knows sit, lie down, wait/stay (I had to teach her all those).  Working on "drop it".  No tricks, I don't have much experience training a dog.  We took her to a trainer/obenience school when we got her, one on one sessions just to get her less nervous and comfortable with toys/objects (everything was strange to her, coming off the farm; where as one of many dogs, perhaps she never had a one on one relationship with a master, she was always many to one).

Maybe as you suggest it's a relationship issue and I need to work on that, be consistent.  My friend and I take her for walks, sometimes she walks Mouchette, sometimes I do.  Maybe that introduces some confusion in the dog.  But when she refuses to go somewhere, I give the leash to my friend, call the dog and she usually follows me.  So we find these ways to get her going where we'd like her to go, and use treats to reward her.  Doesn't always work.

I take Mouchette to my friend's house for a visit every day, she's very comfortable there, loves to go inside, but over the last few weeks is reticent to leave with me to go home.  So maybe the two house thing is introducing some more confusion.  Likewise, we take turns taking our cars to drive her somewhere different for her to walk, the woods, open fields, etc.  Always on leash.  Mouchette never would go anywhere unless I am there with her, hopefully some day she will be comfortable to go for walks with others (if I need to travel, or am sick).

I understand you saying I need to be more consistent (firmer?) when it comes time to leading, but often the only way to get her to walk farther, is to let her lead and pick the way.  Otherwise she just locks her legs and stands there on the sidewalk, refusing to go or respond to my call.  When I walk her alone she seems to follow my directions more consistently.

Anyway, we'll continue working with her, trying to be more consistent.  I might call a trainer and see if they would come and accompany us on a walk, see what's going on, give us pointers on what we can change in our behaviour and how we act with Mouchette.

Once we straighten these things out, Mouchette will be an even better companion than she is now.

Best regards.

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What D'Elle said!

I agree that it sounds like a relationship issue, especially after your second post.

I wonder what kind of training methods you're using. Border collies are a sensitive breed and many won't do well with punishment based training. I'd suggest you ask any trainer you might work with to explain their methods. If they're using corrections, leash jerks, or refer to themselves as "balanced" trainer, steer clear of them. You want someone who's using only positive reinforcement (clicker training is a great method of positive reinforcement)or "force-free" training.

Being consistent doesn't necessarily mean being firmer. You can be very kind and and use no force whatsoever and still be consistent. Being consistent means doing the same thing each and every time you ask your dog to do something, not just when it suits you. Think of it like puppy house training as an example (not that I think this is your issue, but as something easily relatable). If you (general you) ignore the puppy's needs sometimes and it ends up having accidents in the house because you weren't paying attention, then no matter what you do to try to teach the puppy that outside is where it's supposed to eliminate at the time you feel like doing it is going to work. Because each and every time there's an accident when the puppy had no choice because it had to pee or poop and you weren't there to anticipate it and praise appropriately is an example of you're being inconsistent with training.

Another example: my dogs are trained to sit and wait for a release word before going out the door. One of my dogs hates to sit and wait, and I often have to remind her. If I didn't remind her and insist that she comply sometimes, then I wouldn't be being consistent. In this case her reward is being able to go out the door, which she wants to do, so she's also being consistently reinforced. If I'm training a dog to sit, or lie down, or shake or whatever, then I'm consistent both in my expectation that she'll comply each and every time and if she doesn't I'll do something to lure the dog into doing it and then I'll consistently reward the dog. Rewards can vary. Food is great while learning, but a verbal reward or play are rewards too. I always, i.e. consistently, make sure to acknowledge the dog's compliance even if it's just a word of praise.

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6 hours ago, Mouchette said:

 

I understand you saying I need to be more consistent (firmer?) when it comes time to leading, but often the only way to get her to walk farther, is to let her lead and pick the way.  Otherwise she just locks her legs and stands there on the sidewalk, refusing to go or respond to my call.  When I walk her alone she seems to follow my directions more consistently.

 

 

The above statement got me thinking. I wouldn't allow that. This is what I suggest ~ if my dog regularly refused to go in the direction I want to go in, I'd say to the dog, 'OH! You must want to go home!' and head right back. Without really speaking to the dog after that. Or, you could cue the dog to perform a couple behaviors that it knows well ~ sit comes to mind. you could do a couple of those, reward with a good head scratch or the like. Then, in a VERY JOLLY VOICE, say, 'Let's go this way' and go a different way than the one she's wanting. AFTER she's taken a few steps with you, tell her she's a good dog, pet her or scratch her again where she likes it most. And keep going the way YOU want to go.  I wouldn't give food treats for this, she's likely to figure it out.

You might try walks that are more brief. Quieter, noisier, more people and movement or less people and movement. There might be some sort of stimulation that's too much for her. Do you train her to do tricks, or nose work or anything else? She might be bored ~ these dogs like to do interactive things with their humans.

If she has a favorite spot or spots she likes to visit, then certainly include those every now and then on your walks. There are definitely times I let my dog follow his nose. It's fun for him and I like a bit of a wander as well. But he responds to a tug on the leash to go in another direction if I desire.

Let us know how it goes. 

Ruth & Gibbs

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As to her weight, the only reason she's heavier is you've not managed her intake properly.  Yes, lack of hormones will contribute to weight gain, however, they can't gain it if you don't feed it..between exercise and proper nutrition, you may find she feels better as well.

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I like the suggestion to have the dog  "sit and release word" before going out.

Consistency is something I will strive for going forward.

Ruth, I like your suggestions and will try them, thank you.

About weight, when we brought her in some months ago (she had developed a bit of a cough), the vet who saw her that day said "her weight is perfect, unlike 80% of the dogs we see here that are overweight".  Not much has changed in Mouchette since then so I was a bit taken aback when the recent vet (who had not seen her before) said she was overweight.  Anyway, I'm reducing her food somewhat, and am trying to increase her activity levels.  

There is a good chance that Mouchette is a bit bored, so we'll have to work on stimulating her (something we were doing during the winter, getting her to find treats around the house, that kind of thing).  I've not spent a lot of time trying to teach her "tricks", but should get a good book and try again, now that she's more established in her "new home" and surroundings.  We feel that she's possibly bored with the "regular" walks, which is why she's always willing to get in the car so we can take her to more fun places like a dog park, walk in the woods, open fields, etc.

With summer finally here, she loves sitting outside in the backyard, chasing squirrels, or on the front porch, watching people go by.  Probably what she did on farm, tied to a doghouse for the first 2 years of her life.

I appreciate all the insights.

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On 6/1/2020 at 7:05 AM, Mouchette said:

From what I've read, BC's are bred to be autonomous thinkers, independent in their decision-making.  This dog was never trained, never walked before I got her.  So this may partly explain her stubbornness and insistence on going where SHE wants to go on a walk.  Most of the other dogs we meet (mostly doodles I must admit) seem quite content to follow their masters anywhere, but Mouchette insists on being a bit ahead of us, and as I said, often refuses to go in a direction WE would like to go.  Now some days I don't mind following her wherever she wants to go (she tends to be a creature of habit) but there are instances where for convenience or safety she HAS to listen and follow the master, which is where the issue occasionally arises. 

More from me. I re-read your initial post. If Mouchette spent most of her life tied to a dog house, she's got a lot of 're-habilitating' to do. 

As I mentioned in my previous post, b. collies like to do stuff with their people. I'll emphasize that ~ they NEED to be part of a team. B. collies have that need in their genes, to be 'working' with a human. Giving her something to do WITH you, whether it's trick training, agility, nose work or whatever you can figure out will only strengthen your relationship with your dog. Google 'silly dog tricks' or something like that and you'll find lots of things you can teach her. I think there's a FB group called 'Do More With Your Dog' even. If there are trick training classes close to you, check them out for ideas. If she's really into following her nose, you might look into tracking work, which is different from nose work and harder. 

At age 3, you and she have a lot of years left together. My guy will be 13 in October and he STILL loves it when I get out the clicker and teach him something new. 

Would you mind sharing what you read that implied that b. collies are bred to think for themselves and be independent? Gibbs is my fourth, and I had a heeler before the first bc. All of them have been focused on their person, one of them was VERY social with new people, and two of them LOVED kids. I'm interested in who is saying they're autonomous and independent.

Please let us know how things go.

Ruth & Gibbs

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Thanks for the additional thoughts.  I can't recall where I read or heard about BC's being "independent" thinkers.  I might have misinterpreted or conflated a few things together.  Probably stemmed from someone saying "a border collie has to be a resourceful and independent thinker, when s/he is sent off into the hills to return a flock of sheep, and has to think for her/himself in how best to get them back".

Mouchette loves to be around me, but also has independence, which I like about her.  By that I mean that she doesn't follow me everywhere I go around the house (like my previous dog did, a labradoodle).  She will gladly find a spot to lie down, a bit removed from me, though always within eyesight or hearing distance.  When I return from the walk, she likes lying on the front porch of the house (tied), and observing the goings on the street.  Or she likes spending time alone in the back yard, on the deck observing the yard, occasionally chasing a squirrel vigorously.  

I am retired and am home all day, but do a fair amount of research and writing, or working on small mechanical hobbies in my basement shop.  She sometimes comes and lies down near me, or lies somewhere else in the house, but comes to find me and nudge me when it's time to do some petting, brushing, going outside or for a walk.  So we appreciate having time to ourselves during the day.

She loves to sniff on the walk (quite good at finding hidden dog poop! - though she is starting to avoid it more and more which is encouraging).  So nose work or tracking work would be a natural for her.  I'll contact the local BC club and see if they may have activities (once Covid distancing rules allow) that would be suited to her.  

Yes, given the start of her life, she has been a bit of a rehabilitation project, and has come a LONG way, with a few quirks popping up from time to time.  Indeed, I hope we have a long life together, her and I.

Oh, the clicker.  I bought one when I was going to take her to a group obedience class last Fall.  But she was so afraid of the sound of the clicker around the house, that we agreed to take her to private lessons instead.  Maybe I should pull it out and try it again.  I suppose it's what turned me off the training videos that I did see on youtube at the time: many of them were clicker-focused, or seemed to rely on profuse handing out of treats.  I know some people have said they never feed their dog in a bowl, but rather make them work for their kibble all day long.  So maybe I could try a bit of that, used to throw small treats in the grass and let her find them, for example.

Regards.

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22 hours ago, Mouchette said:

understand you saying I need to be more consistent (firmer?) when it comes time to leading, but often the only way to get her to walk farther, is to let her lead and pick the way.  Otherwise she just locks her legs and stands there on the sidewalk, refusing to go or respond to my call.  When I walk her alone she seems to follow my directions more consistently.

Definitely not Firmer. But 100% consistent. If you allow her to lead and pick the way then you are training her to behave in the exact way you do not want her to behave. Instead, take the suggestion made by Urge To Herd, and take her home, end the walk. Making the walks much shorter distance away from home will make this possible.

If she follows your directions better when you walk her alone, then only walk her alone until you have solved this issue. Make it easier for her to learn what you want her to learn. always make the learning as easy as you possibly can, setting up the dog for success.

Consistency doesn't necessarily mean that it always has to be your car or you on the other end of the leash, although if you see signs that doing otherwise is stressful to her, then that's a sign something should change in that regard. Consistency refers to the consequences of her actions. If a sentient being, especially one as intelligent as most border collies are, tries something one way over and over and over and NEVER achieves what they want, they will stop doing things that way. On the other hand, if it SOMETIMES works, that will only reinforce the attempt again, because this time it might work, since it sometimes does. Do not ever let her decide which way you are going.

I had a rescue who was afraid of the clicker, too. I did a desensitization program with him, starting with the clicker inside an oven mitt, under a pillow, so the sound was very muffled and could hardly be heard. So, I did very muffled very quiet little click sound, and treats. Lots of treats. Did that three times a day for maybe 30 seconds each time for about 3 days, then took the pillow away, and repeated. Then I took the oven mitt off, but I clicked way over on the far side of the room. Many treats. Then I got a little closer. And so on. It took about two weeks for the fear to stop entirely, during which time I had to go back a few steps and do over a few times, and I didn't start using it as a reward marker in training for another maybe  week after that, but he ended up being a dog very responsive to clicker training.

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Try wrapping the clicker in some masking tape or even duct tape, or simply make a clicking sound with your tongue,  and toss her a treat right after you make the sound. You might be able to de-sensitize her to it that way.

And on the other hand, (sometimes I need 3 hands!) you don't NEED to use a clicker. If you're able to say 'YES!' quickly enough to whatever it is she's doing in the moment and then give her the treat immediately, that works, too. I know folks who swear by a clicker. Personally, it's a lot easier for me to say 'YES!' than it is to click right when I need to.

Ruth & Gibbs

PS ~ there's tons of ways to hide kibble for her to find. 1) Use an old bath towel, scatter some kibble over it, roll it up and let her find the kibble by unrolling it. 2) Take a cardboard tube from a used up roll of paper towels or toilet paper. Fold over one end, pour in some kibble, fold over the other end. Give to dog. You have to pick up the cardboard pieces afterwords but the 'toy' is free and all of my dogs have loved that one. 3) nest some boxes inside each other, with kibble scattered between the boxes. Again, a bit messy, but fun for the dog.  Gibbs gets some medications with each meal, so he gets half his meal in a bowl and the other half in some sort of puzzle that he has to work at to get the food.

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You can also use a ballpoint pen as a quiet alternative to a clicker.  The important thing, as mentioned, is that you 'mark' the desired behavior at exactly the right moment.

I have a just-turned-two year old Border Collie who was basically cared for but not interacted with very much for the first seven months of her life.  You could describe her behavior as 'independent' but it's really that she never got hard-wired to 'partner up' with a person.  We've been working on that partnership for a year and a half now, and it's very, very much improved but not where I want it to be yet.  I'm working her on sheep now and I hope that will solidify the bond.  We'll see.

Good luck with Mouchette (love the name!), keep us posted, and don't forget....we LOVE photos!

Amy

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Thank you for the tips on "taming the clicker" and I'll try to reintroduce it to Mouchette at some point down the road, as I can appreciate the benefits it can bring at fostering desired behaviour.

Amy, the story of your 2 year old gives me hope and encouragement for Mouchette, whose period of "basic care but not much interaction" may have extended to much of her first two years.  So I can see that developing a partnership can be a long, patient process.  And that makes me feel less stressful about quickly working out the remaining wrinkles in her behaviour, or being overly critical of myself as an owner and "trainer".

Attached is a photo of Mouchette from last summer, a couple of months after acquiring her, and after much much brushing to remove two years' worth of un-groomed farm-dog hair.

Thanks again everyone.

IMG_5547.jpg

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Mouchette is beautiful!  She's very lucky to have you in her new life.  Here's Bonnie, not too long after I got her.  You can see in her eyes that she's not totally trusting yet.  She's come a long way and the journey has been enlightening to say the least!

Continued good wishes and good luck with your lovely Mouchette!

Amy

IMG_1527.jpg

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1 hour ago, Mouchette said:

...Mouchette, whose period of "basic care but not much interaction" may have extended to much of her first two years. 

I've just had Sunny for 6 months now, and she was in a rescue foster home for 3 months prior to that having been confiscated for neglect from a hoarding situation. Probably at a similar or perhaps slightly older age than Mouchette was when you got her. I very definitely noticed a very stunted learning capacity in her at first. She's smart as a whip and learned many things really quickly, but really struggled at first with the whole concept of training. She'd apparently never had any (and I'm not sure how much formal training beyond house training the FH did) and she just didn't understand the concept of learning. Despite an innate intelligence and ability to learn, both people and animals can often struggle with the act of deliberate and conscious learning through instruction if they're not introduced to it fairly early in life and actually have to learn to learn.

As for the poop eating, I'd teach Mouchette a reliable "leave it" cue (you can use whatever word you like), first at home away from your walks and then proofing it in other locations. Once you've got this well established you should be able to give her your cue whenever she finds a tasty morsel on your walks. As an aside, you may want to discuss this with your vet the next time she has a check up. Sometimes it can be nutritional, though it's more often just an unsavory (to us) habit.

BTW, Sunny's doing much better now and I'm ready to get back to formal training with her (she'll be a therapy dog), so I'm sure with some patience and persistence Mouchette will continue to come along nicely as well. She'll come along in her own time, so don't set any expectations for a timeline you think she should be following. Positive reinforcement training without aversives is definitely the best way to train a dog like this -- or any dog, really.

 

 

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Thank you Gentle Lake, those insights you shared about dogs and the concept of learning are very useful to me in my reflections about my relationship with Mouchette, presently and going forward.  Patience, persistence, managed expectations, positive reinforcement, all good elements to apply consciously in my approach with her.

Best regards to all.

 

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Mouchette is adorable! Look at all that fluff! :wub:

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On 6/3/2020 at 9:43 AM, amc said:

You can also use a ballpoint pen as a quiet alternative to a clicker. 

SS Cressa - this is BRILLIANT!! thank you dnb

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Yes to the above. When I got Jester, he was scared of the click sound and I used a ball point pen to gradually accustom him to the sound. Once he was used to that, and that it signaled reward, the transition to a soft-sounding clicker was easy. Later I could use any clicker, even loud ones.

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