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Barking at strangers, scaring little children and scared puppy will bite

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I have a 7 month female border collie. I have 3 children which she is wonderful with. Out and about she is especially timid with people trying to pat her, and barks at them when they try to approach her.

During covid we have not had many visitors, but if our neighbours come she is continually barking. The biggest concern is when visitors come, especially young children. She is particularly aggressive in her barking. runs after them and scares them. I'm scared she will bite them.

I am even contemplating giving her to a new home, but my children are devastated, as am I. Please can anyone offer suggestions to help in the mean time, as no behavioural trainer can come at the moment.

Thank you

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  • 2 weeks later...

First of all, if you're scared she is going to bite someone: don't let her get close enough to people so she can bite, which means she shouldn't be off leash. And don't let anybody pet her or even talk to her or look at her. She shouldn't be able to run after children ever. That is an accident waiting to happen.

I'm not an expert, but have some experience with a fear aggressive dog who was very scared of people. The way we managed it was to have a safe space for her where she knew no one would bother her. This could be her crate or even another room, as long as it is a place she can retreat to slightly away from the guests. Guests were instructed to ignore the dog completely, meaning: no touching the dog, no looking at the dog and no talking to the dog. The dog needs to learn that people mean no harm and people approaching a fearful dog puts pressure on the dog, eye contact and talking too. For that dog this helped immensely. It gave her the time to wait and see and decide whether she wanted contact or not. She didn't completely warm up to strangers, but she didn't bother them and they didn't bother her and that was fine. 

Another thing you can do, which I am doing with my current dog, is the "look at that" training. My current dog isn't fear aggressive, but she is insecure around other dogs and completely obsessed with children (loves loves loves them and loses all focus on me). I bought the book "Control Unleashed" by Leslie McDevitt because it was mentioned so much on here. Honestly a game changer for me. Quite an expensive book here in the Netherlands, but definitely worth it. 
So how I started with my dog is from a great distance sit her down next to me and let her look at the scary dog approaching us or a dog that was walking by. I treated her everytime she looked back at me (so later found out when I got the book this is not how you should do it, you treat for looking at the scary thing, but this worked for me). When this goes well you slowly decrease the distance to the scary thing. It is very important to not go to fast, just go far enough away that the dog is able to focus. 
You could do this on your walks when strangers go by, or for instance at your front door - just watching people go by. 
Today there was a school trip in the park so I practised this with my dog, just watching the children go by and sometimes turning around and walking away if she wanted to go up to them. Of course with a dog that might bite you have to be very very careful and know that you have your dog under control. This is where the distance comes in. Set the dog up for success and stay where the dog is comfortable and able to learn.

I really recommend you buy the book (or perhaps your local library has it), Leslie McDevitt explains it all so much better than I can.




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I agree with everything said above by Flora and Molly. The book "Control Unleashed" can be found used on Amazon or other book sellers, and it is excellent.

And clearly, you need to keep her completely away from visitors if she is behaving badly as you say.  But one word of caution: don't crate her in the same room as everyone is in...put the crate in another room. In my experience, a fear-aggressive dog like that will only be made more fearful if crated in the same room with those she is afraid of. Probably because she feels confined while everyone is around her, and she is unable to escape.


As stated above, don't let anyone near her, certainly not to tough her, until this problem is solved.

One other thing:

While barking at and chasing people is never under ay circumstances a behavior that should be permitted, please be sure that it is actually aggression and not just playfulness that is being expressed incorrectly, because your approach to handling it is different if it is really just rough play. Only you can tell that - we cannot. 

Best of luck and come back if you have more questions. We are here to help.


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