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Advice requested please


D'Elle
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This may be a bit long, so I apologize in advance

I have a good friend who has a female border collie. I don't know her age but would guess 6 or so. The dog came from rescue, was picked up by animal control in El Paso at around the age of two, and had by evidence of her behavior and on her body been living on her own in the desert for some time, probably over a year.  She is amazing - has been known to leap into the air and snag a prickly pear fruit off the cactus and swallow it without getting any spines in her body in the process. 

This dog is very interesting. She is very excitable and reactive but never in an aggressive way. She has fear reactivity toward unknown dogs (long story, but reasons for that) which her owner and I are working on. She is now best friends with my dogs. She is a dog who very clearly tries hard to be good, to be calm, to be friendly, and to do as she is asked, but at times her over-excitement takes over. You can see the struggle within her, and often I really feel for this dog because she's such a good dog and yet is overcome with her emotional reactions so often. I like this dog very much and have been helping with some training, using only positive reinforcement. She learns well and is very smart, but continues to be overly reactive and hyper. She is never left along for more than a few hours, gets a lot of attention,  gets two long walks a day, but cannot be let off leash unless she is at home, and cannot do dog sports because of her dog reactivity.

The dog has also spent time with a qualified behaviorist who did assist in some ways when the dog was first adopted.

Here's where I need advice. My friend and her dog come to my house to visit. I have a cat, and we are having trouble getting the dog to settle down in the presence of the cat. Even if she cannot see the cat (he of course stays behind the couch) she will bark constantly or whine, or run around looking for the cat. My cat is annoyed but has lived with dogs and had foster dogs come and go all his life and is not afraid or upset, just staying out of the way.

The dog doesn't want to hurt the cat, and this is clear. But she is upset that the cat will not come out so she can (what? chase? play? interact in some way that the cat would probably not want). sometimes the dog sits and barks at length at me, as if she is demanding I bring out the cat.

I have been working with her on a "settle", but she doesn't settle at all well here, although she is completely calm at home. If given something like a chew or a frozen Kong, she will happily settle down with that, with only occasional leaps to bark or search, so at this time we are keeping her on leash and giving her something to occupy her when she comes here. But I would like to get beyond that, so that my cat doesn't need to hide when the dog comes over. The dog always comes with my friend because we go dog walking together.  I am out of ideas and am in need of ideas on what to try next.

I am not a person who thinks medication is a solution most of the time, but I feel after knowing this dog a year that it really would help her, just by giving her a bit more ability to calm down, like a hyperactive child. Her owner is considering it.  But does anyone have a behavioral/training suggestion on this situation? thanks.

 

 

 

 

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I know I've posted this story before, so I'll give you the highlights. Shoshone had been very badly treated, was aggressive towards our cats, and shied away from anything unusual at all. Tried prozac, didn't do a thing. Tried clomiprimine,  "Uses. Clomipramine is used in dogs to treat behavior problems such as separation anxiety, excessive barking and destructive behavior." She became a different dog in a very good way.

We had worked with a trainer and a behaviorist. Nothing changed. If all behavioral methods of changing this dog's response have failed, it's time to try something else.

Ruth & Gibbs

 

 

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Yes, I think that I would try to smooth out the dog's behavior and anxiety with meds so her mind can calm down enough that she CAN think and train. It sounds like that in certain situations, she is over threshold and can not be 'calmed' out of it using traditional methods.

Thank you for help this woman and her canine bestie and thank the woman for sticking it out.

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Thanks. Yes, my friend is completely dedicated to the dog. She is really a very nice dog and very interesting and her problems are not her fault. I like this dog very much and find her fascinating in many ways. She is so very intelligent and expressive.  My friend has a good deal of compassion for her, as do I. You can see the struggle going on in the dog - trying so hard to be a good dog. As for me, I always try to help dogs, any dogs, whenever I can because it's my passion to help dogs live better lives.

I will recommend the medication to my friend.

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Michael's suggestion that the medication might be temporary fits exactly with my experience.  One of my Bouviers was very anxious to the point that I wasn't getting anywhere with her training.  I reluctantly put her on meds, and they just took the edge off so that I could train her.  Once she was able to focus and learn, I was able to wean her off after about 8 or 9 months.  Good luck with this gal.

 

Kathy Robbins

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Unfortunately, the owner is very reluctant to do medication. I don't actually know why. I have told her of the experience with others and their over-reactive dogs, especially border collies, and my own experience with severe anxiety in the past, and what a relief and world-changer it was for me when I started taking medication.

But still there is resistance to it. I really think it's the right thing but of course this is not my dog and I am not going to push it.

Does anyone have behavioral training suggestions to offer? I have used all of them that I know, and while the situation with the dog and the cat is getting better, it is not good.

 

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D'Elle, the only thing I can think of is taking the dog outside the house the second he does anything but be quiet and calm. What worked with one of my dogs, (can't remember who) is that with each successive 'break' in correct behavior the response is a longer and longer period in the 'penalty box'. 

I do remember that it took several sessions to install the calmer behavior, and that the dog needed a touch-up session or two from time to time.

It's a shame that your friend is adamantly opposed to medication. Hope the above is helpful to you.

Ruth & Gibbs

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Thanks, Ruth.

I agree that it is a real shame this dog is not getting the chance to at least try medication and see how it goes. Whenever I give the dog a Kong and she settles down, it looks clearly to me as if she is relieved not to "have" to be frantic and trying to get to the cat, because she has been given something else to do. From this, and other things I have observed, it seems clear to me that the medication would give the dog the room and the peace in her mind that she needs in order to be the Good Dog she obviously wants to be.  I will try your suggestion on behavioral modification, if the owner agrees, and also keep working very gently to encourage her to try the medication. And thanks for the recommendation on which medication to try - I have passed this along to my friend.

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