Archive for the ‘Border Collies’ Category

So you want a Border Collie Puppy – here is everything you need to know

09 Aug

I read a ton of information on Border Collies before deciding to get one.  I didn’t read enough!  One big piece of the puzzle was missing, maybe it was there in small doses and I missed it because it wasn’t stressed enough but after I got our puppy and started reading more I found out more information that I wish I knew about – but I am getting ahead of myself here.

I am formerly a Golden Retriever owner.  We have owned 3 Goldens (still have one).  Our first two dogs, Seigel and Tukey were both bought up north, one in New Hampshire and one in Vermont.  They were bought from people who owned the mother and father dogs and had litters and sold the puppies.  They were not big breeders.  We did not want to go the big breeder route because we did not want to spend the money that a big breeder charges and we did not want to sign a spay/neuter contract since we thought we might also like to breed our dogs.  However, I did study up on the breed and we did do testing on the dogs hips for hip dysplasia.  Seigel’s hips were fine and certified and Tukey’s were not perfect but not terrible (she never had any hip problems through life).  Wait, why am I telling you all about Golden Retrievers???  You thought we were going to talk about Border Collies.  Please wait, there is a reason for this discussion about Goldens.  With our healthy dogs, we did have a litter and Seigel also fathered another litter as a stud.  We provided all the puppy parents with crates, food, and information about their new dogs.  We tried to be very responsible about our breeding and the pups were great and all had wonderful temperaments.

So, when we decided to get a Border Collie, we did not think twice about going with a small breeder who just had the mom and dad dog.  (See, this is the reason for the story about our Goldens.)  This as it turned out was a big mistake!  You really can’t go wrong in most cases with Golden Retrievers.  They are bred for their temperaments.  This is NOT TRUE for Border Collies.  Now that I know better, I would NOT suggest buying a border collie from someone who isn’t highly involved with the breed or is a large breeder.  We thought that getting our puppy from parents who were not doing actual sheep herding (but were pets instead) might increase the chances that he would have less herding instincts.  However, a breeder should know how to evaluate the temperament of a new puppy.  Border Collies, as we have since learned, can often be fearful.  If you get a fearful Border Collie, you have a REAL problem on your hands.  (See my blog about Journal of a Fear Aggressive Border Collie).  It was obvious from the beginning that this puppy had issues but the breeder lied to us or was very unaware of what a fearful puppy is.  When we went to see him, this puppy went off by himself away from the other puppies.  He kept going on to the man’s feet and lying there.  Normal puppies should be running around playing, not clinging to someone.  The breeder told us that he was tired from being at a horse show all day and being handled by many people.  He took him and put him on a towel and got him to play for a minute so we thought, “okay, the breeder would know that this behavior isn’t his normal self and that he is just tired.”  So, we trusted in that and took the puppy.  The breeder said he never had any problems with any of his puppies (this was the bitch’s second litter).  The bitch, however, was reserved and didn’t want to meet us.  She was standoffish although once we were throwing a tennis ball for her, she was willing to play.  A good breeder would NEVER have bred a bitch that is standoffish.  After getting Whiskey (our puppy), we have learned how the genes of temperament get passed down and in a breed like a border collie that are already bred to be watch dogs and working dogs, this can create a bigger impact in the puppy’s attitude, fears, and overall temperament.

So, the moral of the story above is if you getting a border collie puppy, it is worth it to get it evaluated for temperament before you fall in love with it and commit to keeping it!  We try to be positive and think that if we hadn’t taken him, Whiskey would probably be put down since we have invested thousands of dollars and hours to helping him get better and the average pet owner would not do this.

Assuming you get a puppy with a sound temperament, what else can you expect with a border collie?

Here is a list:

  1. Your day will be filled with MANY tongue licks!
  2. Expect to have conversations with your border collie, full conversations that go back and forth.
  3. Expect him to look you in the eye.
  4. Expect him to bark at you A LOT to tell you that he needs something, especially when he is bored.
  5. Expect to walk him at least twice a day.
  6. Never expect him to walk in a straight line on a walk.
  7. Expect him to be “wired” and on the “hunt” while walking – looking at everything with great intensity
  8. Expect him to be the star of the obedience class
  9. Expect him to want to do obedience training everyday that you have to buy “Teach your dog 100 words,” and then start watching You-Tube videos to find more things for him to learn
  10. Expect him to be OCD.
  11. Don’t get him chasing after a laser pointer, you will regret it.
  12. Expect that he will love sprinklers.
  13. Expect that he will ask to play and play and play and will NOT take NO for an answer.
  14. Expect to be throwing a tennis ball while watching TV.
  15. Expect company in the bathroom.
  16. Expect a dog that loves to be comfy and will sleep behind the cushions of your couch.
  17. Expect a dog that will try to herd things so you might as well get him a remote control car to herd and sit back and laugh.
  18. Expect a dog that will only need to be told to go to his bed or place once at dinner and then just remembers on his own and does it.
  19. Expect a dog that really wants to please you.
  20. Expect a dog that will handle you having a sick day well.
  21. Expect to find a job for your border collie to do so he doesn’t make up his own jobs to do.
  22. Expect to have the cutest little face in the world staring back at you with a tilted head when you talk to him.
  23. Expect a dog that will probably love swimming (especially if introduced as a puppy).
  24. Expect a dog that is so smart he will “over think” things as he tries to guess what he should do next.
  25. Expect him to grow really fast in the beginning and then really slow down his growth around 6 months.

So, is a border collie the right dog for your family?  Not if you have young children (that isn’t an absolute but the chances of a problem with a border collie and young children from what I have read and seen in my own pup is great and I would just suggest another breed if your kids are under 10).  I also wouldn’t suggest it if you have cats.  They are high prey dogs.  My cats are scared to come downstairs since we got our border collie.  He has tried to chase them and I don’t know what he would do if he “caught” them.  We have an understanding, they stay upstairs and he stays downstairs.   You also have to be committed to your dog and doing things with your dog all the time!!  Almost anything you read will say this, if you don’t get up and think, “What can I do with my dog today?”  EVERYDAY – don’t get a border collie!  They are HIGH MAINTENANCE dogs!!!  But, if you love having a dog to do sports, training, agility, etc. with everyday – a border collie would love to be your pal!


Journal of a Fear Aggressive Dog – Desensitization Process – fixing your pup – Part 1

05 Jul

This is our journal as we try to help our border collie puppy, Whiskey, (currently 7 months old) with his fear aggression issues that make him growl, lunge, and snap at people and dogs.

I apologize right now for any typo’s, I don’t have time to proof before I hit the post button so just bear with any small errors!

Although we have been unofficially attempting to do this for a while, we now have a plan in place to work with Whiskey in hope of reducing his severe fear and anxiety of strangers and dogs.  His fear of dogs is much greater than fear of strangers although I don’t trust him with either.  We have been working on his stranger fear more often since more opportunities have arose with people walking by, taking him near people, and having people over.  He used to growl at people he would just see in passing and although he is still fearful almost never growls and lunges just at the site of people anymore (except those on his property.)  He will not tolerate being touched by strangers yet and we are gradually working on that but we are also working on building his trust that strangers can be near him and will ignore him.  He believes this more than that another dog will ignore him (which is, of course, true).

Our plan to work on his dog aggression is using desensitization and counter conditioning.  We plan to do that as much as we can using the dog park near our house.  See below.


Day 1:  We went to the dog park and he was visibly shaking at the sight of the dogs when we pulled into the parking space.  We took him out of the car and walked him far away from the dog park area.  There are 3 paths, one that runs right next to the dog park where dogs can actually get nose to nose with each other.  The second path runs about 20 feet from the dog fenced area where he can see the dogs and the third is 40 feet away where you can also see the dogs.  We started on path 3, the farthest away.  There were lots of dogs.  Whiskey was very nervous and would not accept food except at path 3 but even then, he would eat it but didn’t really “want” it.  We first just walked him on a long lead and found that was too stressful.  Once we asked him to walk at heel and had him walking between us, he did much better and soon began to relax.  After doing that path for about 10 minutes, we proceeded to the second path that is only 20 feet from the dogs.  This was much more stressful for him but he was somewhat tired from the other walk and that helped decrease his overall anxiety.  We walked back and forth, first we stayed at the far end of the path where he couldn’t see the dogs as well until he relaxed at that stage.  Once he was relaxed, we were able to walk the full length of the path and he was able to either ignore the dogs or watch them but without intense anxiety.

Day 2:  Today there was only 1 dog at the park when we arrived.  He was very nervous going past the dog who ran up to the fence to “greet” him as we walked away from the fence area to the path.  He calmed down and watched the other dog but without major anxiety signs at the second path.  We let him watch while we fed him raw hamburger for a while, hoping to condition him that other dog = yummy treats.  After some time we went back to our heel walking and he was reasonably relaxed with small amounts of anxiety depending on where the dog was.  Overall, he was doing okay.  Enter dog #2.  When the second dog came in and started to play with dog #1 right near the front part of the gate, Whiskey’s anxiety rose.  We worked on directing his attention to us and feeding him hamburger each time he looked away from the dogs at us.  We went back to our walk at heel and his anxiety decreased.  At one point dog #3 came and Whiskey seemed much calmer with dog #3 entering the dog park.  As we were getting ready to leave, another dog on leash was walking right towards us.  We told Whiskey we were going home and veered off the path towards the car (which is also towards the dog park).  Since he knew he was going home, that became his direct focus and he did not pay attention to the dog that remained on the path or the dogs in the park as we entered the car.

Day 3:  When we got to the dog park today there was no one there.  We took Whiskey inside and ran him around for 5 minutes until we saw a family pull up with a dog and then ushered him out quickly before they entered.  This worked out nicely as he was tired when we started our training and helped him remain less tense.  We continued to walk at the 20 foot path and he did well.  We would stop and let him watch the dogs.  He watched intently but didn’t show his usually signs of stress but was very alert.  Whiskey’s signs of stress are usually whimpering/crying type sounds and some lunging.  If face to face with a dog he will snap at them.  I continued to feed him raw hamburger the whole time.  The books I read said to feed them something they only get when they see dogs so they associate dogs with this special treat.  At one point, the dogs were far off on the other side of the dog park area so we decided to see how he would do if we went right to the path that is next to the dog park fence.  Although he was okay for a moment the dog sauntered over and he immediately became anxious so we immediately headed back to the other path.  I think we are making an itsy bitsy bit of progress, it is hard to tell but he seems to tolerate the 20 foot area better and we are only on day 3 so I know it will take some time.

We also did some stranger anxiety work yesterday since we had company.  His first response was a growl.  We had him on his “place” (his bed) and he seemed fine to stay there with guests in the house.  He got used to them being there after a while, I did keep him on leash but there was no more growling.  They did feed him marshmallows (which he LOVES and we will use as his special people treat) and he easily took them and licked their fingers clean.  I want to say that maybe they could have even pet him but I didn’t want to take the chance, although my friend pet him while I covered his eyes.  Also everyone hugged me with him on my lap while I had his eyes covered as well.

Well, it has been over a week since my last update.  We went to our dog class, went on vacation, had more company, and did dog park training today.  I will discuss each.

Dog class:  At our dog class, Whiskey is required to sit with many other dogs around.  It is very hard for him but he doesn’t show as much anxiety at class as he does outside of class.  However, at times if a dog gets too close, he will lunge.  He did this once and I stopped him with my leg quickly.  One thing we had to do which required a lot of trust on his part, which was good for him, was walk in a small circle with dogs in front of us and dogs behind us.  Also, there was a larger circle of people walking with dogs around the outside of our small circle.  Therefore, there were many dogs all around him which left him with no choice but to trust in me that I would keep him safe.  He watched me the whole time which is what our goal is.  The instructor wants him to turn to me in cases of anxiety rather than act on them himself.  I was very proud of how he handled it.  At the end of the class, he was very tired after all that was asked of him.  The instructor took advantage of his exhaustion and had him sit next to a calm dog.  He did this without any anxiety at this point.  Here is hoping we can continue to show him that he does not need to be afraid.  I asked the instructor about him growling at guests and he said that if Whiskey makes the “choice” (with the help of the ecollar) to go to a stranger who is calling him, he won’t be growling and will allow the person to pet him.  We were ready to try this with my father or step mother.

Vacation:  On vacation, we didn’t have too many issues as we stayed away from dogs most of the time.  When we did see dogs, it was at a far enough distance that he seemed okay.  We let him run free on the beach with people that were pretty far away (the beach was almost deserted that day) and he had so much fun, he cared more about going into the ocean, chasing birds, and running than even noticing people at a long distance.  He came when called each time.  It was a dream to think that maybe someday we can have him like that all the time where he can be off leash without the worry about aggression.  He got many visits to the ocean and long walks.  I really think he is going to miss the beach!

Company:  Following our vacation, my dad and step-mother, Carol, came back to our house for two days.  I kept Whiskey on leash while they were there.  He would follow me around the house and sit with me.  He growled at first but then got used to seeing them until Carol came down from a shower looking different enough that Whiskey thought she was someone new and started in growling AGAIN.  However, after learning what the dog trainer said we had Whiskey do all his tricks (he knows a lot of tricks) for his new audience and then Carol called him over to her.  We pushed the remote to “transfer” the collar request to Carol (at the lowest level) and he went to her, sat for her, and let her pet him with no problem.  He wasn’t relaxed but she was thrilled and we were glad to see that we were making another step forward.  Hopefully, he will learn that people and dogs don’t hurt him.  She called him another time too and repeated the same.  On the same note, while on vacation, my oldest son and his girlfriend (who are also strangers to Whiskey since my oldest doesn’t live at home anymore) were playing games with us and we eventually let Whiskey free around them and he did fine (I did make it clear that they were to ignore him.)

Day 4 at the dog park:  Today we went back to our dog park conditioning.  We are noticing that Whiskey does not get as anxious when we get there now.  I think he trusts that we won’t take him in with the dogs.  He was shaking the first time.  There was only one dog when we arrived and he was far off in the park and not paying attention to Whiskey so we walked Whiskey on the path that runs right up next to the dog park fence.  Whiskey was alert and watchful but not whining.  We did this walk a few times until the dog started to come over.  I continued to feed Whiskey raw hamburger the whole time.  When the dog got close to the fence, I thought he would be okay since he seemed like a mellow dog but he must have sensed Whiskey’s fears and started barking a “negative” bark.  I immediately turned away from the dog and went to path 2 to let Whiskey know that he could trust me to leave if another dog is not behaving.  He ate more hamburger and we walked that path until the dog went back to the other side of the dog park near his owner.  At that point, we went back to the close path and Whiskey continued to be alert and watch the whole time we walked but did not show signs of anxiety like whining.  After a bit, we brought him into the small dog area and I took him to the furthest distance (still on leash) from the other dog.  We were still separated by a fence between the small and large dog areas.  He was anxious so we sat down far away until he calmed down and ate hamburger.  Once he calmed down, we walked to a closer area with a picnic table but at that time another person was arriving with their dogs so we chose to leave in case they were coming into the small dog area.  At this time now there were about 4 dogs in the large dog area.  One was quite large and very rambunctious.  They were running and jumping and all the movement made Whiskey very nervous.  We went to the second path and walked.  He was alert but his anxiety calmed down.  We continued to feed him the meat.  As we walked more, he would begin to walk with less focus on the dogs for a few minutes at a time and this is what we tried to encourage.  It was getting hot so we decided it was time for him to go home.

Tomorrow it is back to dog class.  He did get neutered this past week on Wednesday.  He bounced back very quickly.  We made him rest Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.  He did a little more activity on Saturday but by Sunday, he was all wound up and full of his usual energy.  All looks well at his incision site.  Hopefully we will notice a difference from the neuter as well.

Dog Class – 7/22/13 :  Tonight we took Whiskey to his weekly dog class.  It was a great night at class as one of the main objectives was learning to walk by other dogs.  We took the whole class (about 12 dogs and their owners) to a local greenway path and practiced (along with the many mosquitoes) walking past each other like you would on a trail walk.  When we first arrived, Whiskey showed his usual whining which indicates a high level of anxiety.  I started to feed him treats and he sort of accepted that we were in class and he knows the “drill.”  He will be with other dogs!  He settled in.  We walked at the end of the line to get to the trail and he did great, no problem walking behind all the other dogs.  At the trail, he had to walk basically in a oval with dogs in front, behind, and next to him.  He didn’t flinch at all.  He also did meet and greets at the end where we went face to face (about a foot away) with another dog and their owner and he also did not flinch.  There were a few dogs that came by that were not in the class and he showed an increase level of alertness with those dogs but also did great.  Now, keep in mind that with these classes, we are using the ecollar as part of the training.  I was able to keep it on a low level (2) and only needed to tap it when a dog was right next to him so that he did not lose focus and begin to fixate on the dog, otherwise, he did not need any collar signals while walking even with the other dogs in front and behind. At the very end, all the dogs weaved in and out of the other dogs and we did the same.  He also did perfect on this task.  It was a very good night for him.  The only negative was when a fellow owner said, “hi Whiskey,” to him and made eye contact, he growled.  I really feel that we are making progress with this dog.  I know it is two steps forward, one step back but at least we are moving forward.

7/28/13 – We went back to the dog park to walk by the dogs today.  During the week we had some bad encounters on our regular walks with Whiskey getting aggressive as we walked by dogs on our walking trail.  We took our raw hamburger meat and the ecollar.  We had some ups and downs.  I tried doing some mild corrections when he would focus on the dogs to redirect his attention away from the dogs.  I felt this was useful.  However, there were times I was successful with this and other times I was not.  We walked the close path since the dogs in the park were towards the back of the park.  As one dog came closer, he got stressed and I tried to redirect him.  We kept walking past over and over until we could do it without him focusing on the dog.  As long as the dog wasn’t AT the fence, even if he wasn’t too far off, he actually did okay.  However, a new dog came in and charged at the fence barking (probably because Whiskey project bad energy), this scared him made him get aggressive.  I had to pull him away from the situation.  There was another mellow dog that he did okay walking near at a distance.  The dog was under a bench but at the fence.  I thought the dog had good energy and was distracted so I pushed my luck and tried walking by.  At that moment, his family got up from the bench causing the dog to get up and be right next to Whiskey (the fence between us).  Whiskey got very aggressive and tried to bite, he actually sort of got me as I tried to push him away with my hand (bad idea on my part).  We moved on and I wanted him to have good experiences after that.  We continued by the other dog that he was having success with.  As he got more tired (and hot) I was able to get him to walk by and look at me as I fed him hamburger the whole time that we walked by.  So, we had some successes and some failures today.  On the other hand, our son had his friends over and not one growl.

7/29/13  Tonight was our basic obedience test at Sit Means Sit.  I really had no expectations.  Whiskey is great at obedience, that is never a problem – the question was could he pass the stranger and dog test.  I did take him for a walk before we went to burn off some energy.  When we arrived, he looked alert, calm, and confident.  So much so that many people, including Colby, the trainer, commented.  There were only 4 dogs testing.  First we had to have our dog get examined by Colby.  Whiskey is used  to Colby so he did okay with Colby touching him, looking in his ears, and at his teeth.  He showed a little anxiety but not too much.  Next, the dogs had to hold a sit while we stood a few feet from them and Colby made loud distractions around them.  The distractions weren’t the problem as much as the fact that I was not near Whiskey anymore but he watched me and I kept saying, “Stay.” and he did.  We did the same with down.  We then had to call our dog to sit on a place board and walk away while they stayed there, return and then have them go to place on another item like the top of a kennel.  Again, the hardest part for Whiskey was that he didn’t have the security of me right next to him.  Keep in mind there are 4 dogs around him and he is essentially off leash waiting for me.  Normally, he would charge and attack the other dogs.  He also had to sit at a distance, wait for a period of time and then come to me (without veering off to attack the other dogs since he is off leash again).  He had to sit next to me while I talked to a stranger and be held on leash by a stranger while I was out of sight for 3 minutes.  The one area I thought he would fail was when we had to walk next to the  trainer’s dog on a passby but Whiskey ignored him.  He did it all!  Surprisingly, I didn’t need to use the ecollar at all for any of the testing either.  Everyone who knows Whiskey has already said they can see progress so we are clinging to that.  He does better with other dogs in class than outside of class but we are still working on it.  He will be spending a week at the trainers house for board and train in October again so that should be good for him.  We feel that both the prozac and the neutering has made a difference.  He seems to be handling his anxiety better.  He did still growl when someone unexpectedly tried to pet him at class.  He also was called to one of the trainers in training but thought he was going home so ran to our car, but it was the wrong car, and a big German Shephard was there.  I didn’t see what happened but heard a very short “tiff” but called him and he did come to me.

7/30/13 – Today we worked on heeling on our walks.  Although I like him to have his prey hunting time, it gets him overstimulated and he reacts more to other dogs.  So, I have been walking him at heel more on our walks rather than letting him explore for squirrels.  His walking is great!  Overall, he has a very mild reaction to people he sees, he acknowledges them and shows mild tension but walks by without much problem.  Just a glance, not a glare, and no lunging or growling.  Dogs are a different story.  I am still trying to find the best way to deal with dogs.  I tried to walk by them with tap tap tap on the collar but if we are too close, it doesn’t work at all.  He is just too far into the red zone.  I have tried Caesar Millan’s tactics and I can’t snap him out of it, he gets to level 5 too quickly.  But, today I did have success in that I walked at heel for the whole walk so he wasn’t as wound up about his prey drive and when we say a dog, I crossed to the other side of the street, increased my pressure to level 5 and did tap tap tap until we were past the dog and it worked well.  Unfortunately, we can’t always get a good distance (when on trails) from other dogs and I still want to move into being able to walk past them without a problem.


Feelings:  Working this hard with a dog, makes you really get attached to it.  He is so much more involved in your life and dependent on you.  I realized the difference between him and our Golden Retriever, who is great and sweet, but doesn’t connect in the same way that Whiskey does.  I worry that we won’t be able to fix him but I read stories of others who have been successful and although I would love to be at the point where Whiskey likes people and dogs, I guess I have to appreciate the progress we have made.  He is less anxious, he doesn’t growl at people from just seeing them, he can walk next to people on walks.  He can walk near dogs at a distance of 20 feet and manage.  He tolerates dogs and even off leash obedience during training class.  All of these are steps forward.  We still need for him to be able to feel safe with people and not bite if people try to pet him and we need for him to be less reactive to dogs outside of class like he is getting inside class.  I have been reading a variety of books on different approaches people have used and will try each type in addition to what we are already doing.  The Sit means Sit program really has helped us make great progress so far.

8/2/13  We had my son and his girlfriend visit.  They have been to the house about a half dozen times since we got Whiskey so he doesn’t know them very well but when they come they do stay for a couple days.  As Whiskey has gotten older, I have actually had less trust in him in the house with people off leash so I usually put him on leash and he follows me and growls as he sees fit when someone he doesn’t know walks by.  He initially growled at my son and his girlfriend and I had him on leash but as we were talking he went to them and started to investigate them on his own.  I told them to ignore him.  He seemed satisfied that they were safe and we tried him off leash with it just dragging.  He did fine.  He accepted them and no more growls.  It was very nice.  I felt happy with the progress so I didn’t want to ruin it with having them try to pet him.  They did try to put their hands out to him (which he finds threatening) but I told him kisses, so he licked the hand and then I rewarded him so that worked out well.  Baby steps.  Our dog walk yesterday was good , today not so much.  Yesterday we only saw one dog.  I pulled him to the side and used the ecollar to get his attention and it worked and the dog went by and all was good.  Tonight, however, was “walk your dog night.” It seemed that everyone was walking their dogs.  As soon as I would calm him down about one dog we would see another and he got very stressed.  I did try to remove him from the situation, get his attention, and walk away from oncoming dogs as much as I good but it was very hard for him.  We continue with two steps forward, one step back.  He is doing great with the new command come, stop, come.  He has stop in the middle of a come and sit.  We need to proof it with distractions, in fact all this off leash stuff needs to be proofed with distractions.  I hope Colby is up for the challenge.  He continues to be such a sweet dog that interacts with  people so much more than I have ever seen.  He  is not afraid to communicate his wishes either.

8/5/13 We had another Sit Means Sit dog class and Whiskey continues to show progress there.  Everyone is commenting on his improvement.  He acts less scared and seems to be tolerating the presence of the other dogs more.  His obedience is great but it is working when he is nervous brings on a new level of effort.

8/9/13 I continue to see progress with Whiskey.  He is acting “aware, alert, and nervous” when he sees other dogs on walks but less aggressive.  He seems to be willing to walk by and just keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t come near him but he doesn’t pull at the leash, lunge, or growl to get at them.  We make sure that we keep our distance from other dogs whenever possible but even today we had to walk right next to one and he handled it well.  Another dog initiated a lunge and bark at him and he did lunge back but was quick to get under control and move on.  I feel that he trusts me to keep the dogs away and this is helping his anxiety about it.  Small steps.  We still need to do more people work but I find it hard when you just can’t ask people to pet a dog that might bite them to pet him.  One guy at our dog class did pet him, Whiskey was nervous the whole time and “eyed” him, as I like to call it, but he still was petting him.  We need to talk to the trainer, Colby, about facilitating that more for Whiskey during class time.

I really hope to plan a walk with my friend and her dog where we can walk together with Whiskey.  Trying to get that scheduled.

8/12/13 Tonight was dog class.  The class was filled with about 10 dogs so we didn’t get to do as much as usual.  We mostly worked on putting the dogs in stays and then leaving them alone and leaving the room.  Whiskey had to sit around other dogs and wait for me to return.  He was anxious  but did well and didn’t break his stay.  We did recall and he was also fine with that.  Michael, the trainers new helper, did go into the room with Whiskey and pet him and Whiskey tolerated it and didn’t growl, so that was great.  He also played a little ball with Michael.  Usually he won’t play with someone he doesn’t trust.  He still did a lot of cowering and showing signs of anxiety and Colby is hardcore on that.  He doesn’t want any of that and wants him sitting in the center of the room and not allowed to cower down.  It is hard to watch him in such a stressed situation but you have to balance it with the long term goal of getting better.

8/14/13  Whiskey seemed to be making progress and I was feeling more optimistic about his behaviors so I tried giving him a little more freedom as I talked to a dad with 3 kids on a walk today.  The boy had caught a butterfly in a net and was telling me about it and showing me.  I don’t know if it was the kids or the net that spooked Whiskey but he got scared and lunged and growled.  It scared the dad a lot.  The cute kid still asked if she could pet my dog!  Later on the walk, I actually wanted to see them again so that Whiskey could have a positive experience near them.  They were anxious about seeing  us again but I pulled Whiskey off the path, had him sit and watch me the whole time.  I used the collar and was successful at keeping his attention on me the entire time the dad and kids walked (ran, dad was nervous) by.  He did seem to notice my efforts and said, “Thank you,” which I appreciated hearing.  Shortly after that we came up behind a man walking 2 dogs.  I kept Whiskey at heel and attention on me as much as possible with the collar.  He did fairly well.  He didn’t while, growl, or lunge.  He showed some mild anxiety but it was very reasonable.  All in all, we had some successes despite the initial lunge.  As Caesar Millan says, “you need to have the dog make mistakes so you have the  opportunity to correct the mistakes.’  We also started working on doorbell training.  I have treats in Whiskey’s crate and then have someone ring the door bell, he goes barking at the door but we redirect him to his crate where he finds tastey treats.  Eventually, we hope that the doorbell will signal “go to crate,” as a first response.  He is a smart dog, so hopefully we can get there.

8/16/13 We tried inviting a friend and her dog over to work on building Whiskey’s ability to tolerate people and dogs up close. It didn’t turn out as good as I had hoped. He was fine with going near the other dog to eat treats and would take treats from my friends hands but it stopped there. We tried taking him off leash with a muzzle and twice he attacked the other dog. We also tried having my friend pet him and ignore his growling to see if that would help, but after we didn’t respond to moving away after the growl, he went to bite (he was muzzled). So, the experiment proved to be too much too soon. I don’t know how to make that leap to actually trusting people and dogs up close. We seem to be doing better at a distance and we do well in training class that it seems like we should be able to work on building trust with other dogs and people but it isn’t working yet.

8/17/13 Today we took Whiskey on a 2+ mile walk at Bond Park. We had to walk by many adults, children, bikers, and dogs. Whiskey has learned that when he is at full leash extension and he sees people approaching that he should sit and wait for me to have him walk at heal. I was impressed that he just started doing this all on his own whenever he saw people coming. He had no reaction to seeing people except maybe a watchful eye on a few. We saw a few dogs, one was hard to pass and I had to step up the collar level to get him past the dog who was reacting towards him. Another dog, he did great, he walked by calm with little anxiety. A couple other dogs, he sat and watched at a distance, ate treats, and seemed okay. We did see a hyper puppy that made him very nervous though and he did his whining thing that he does when he is very nervous. We would walk toward the puppy and then walk away and repeat. This seemed to help. It was also hard since our other dog, Ares, went to meet the puppy. Overall, today was a good day and Whiskey gets a B+. Tomorrow is dog class again.

8/27/13 – It has been 10 days since I last updated and we have had some great training opportunities.  We had our regular Sit Means Sit dog class.  We went to the greenway and Whiskey had to do a lot of walking very close to other dogs.  He did a lot of meet and greets (this is face to face at a distance of about 10 feet).  He walked with dogs in front of him, behind him and next to him.  He did very well and seemed very relaxed (for Whiskey) about being with his classmates.  He seems to have learned that class time is safe and although he still shows anxiety, his ability to handle being around the other dogs has greatly improved in that context.  He also does sit and stay with other dogs nearby where I leave the room and he waits off leash for me to return with another dog nearby during class.  We had some friends over and although Whiskey growled and stuff at first, within 30 minutes, I had him off leash in the house with them.  I told them not to pet him although one kid (19 year old – not little kid) did through the ball for him and he caught it and took food from him.  They had good energy and didn’t show anxiety about his fears which made a huge difference.  When my father was here, he projected an energy that just made Whiskey nervous the whole time so the ability for a person to be confident around a fear aggressive dog is very important as you are rehabilitating.  I also took him to our local pond, tied him to a tree and went out of sight and had him wait for me.  He did well with that.  We took him back to Bond Park and we see huge improvement with his ability to ignore people and an increasing ability to ignore dogs.  I have done a little BAT training with him when I get an opportunity for a setup (read about BAT if you are not familiar) and at first, I really didn’t think too much of it but one thing I am learning is that the key to helping Whiskey is that he realizes that I will intervene and protect him.  This is not done in a way that babies him as in, “it’s okay,” but instead that I keep people from him and dogs at a distance.  Today we did a two mile walk and we saw quite a few dogs and I had him sit while the dog passed by and then we went on our way.  At one point that wasn’t possible and we had to walk by two dogs but we walked confidently by and he did very well.  I think stopping to sit is a good behavior for him to learn.  He begin to offer a sit automatically when he sees people coming at him since he knows he will need to be close to me  (and I will often let him walk at full leash) when we walk by.  I am hoping that he learns to do that with dogs also.  Overall, I can see his confidence building very slowly.  It seems like he is starting to figure out that if I just ignore people, they will ignore me and he trusts that I will let them know the, “No petting rule.”  He is almost 9 months old, we have been working on his issues for 7 months and we are making progress but it is a long road.  I am trying to call other trainers to see if I can find anyone with some fresh ideas that might work on building up positive experiences of moving closer to people and dogs.

9/5/13 – We haven’t had any dog classes due a testing and the holiday which is a bummer since I think they really help.  We haven’t done any real active training due to not having any opportunities, however, we still have the “practice” on each walk.  We continue to use the process of telling Whiskey to sit, wait, and then heel whenever we see a person coming on a walk.  He does well with this and doesn’t react.  He has also been better about seeing dogs on walks.  He still gets nervous but he has stopped reacting, lunging, and acting aggressive.  Yesterday, we had an incident when a dog off leash approached Whiskey.  I stood between him and the dog while the owner was trying to catch up and catch him.  The dog got close but not right up in his face and he did not react, I was very impressed.  He only seems to react if the other dog acts aggressively towards him first.  However, we are still a long way from letting him be face to face with a dog or be off leash near dogs or people.  We do see progress though.

10/31/13 – It has been over a month since I have had time to come back to the journal.  I know there have been a lot that we have forgotten.  Early in October we decided that we needed to try a different approach with Whiskey.  I interviewed many different trainers.  There are different “camps” and as one trainer put it, putting a whole bunch of dog trainers in one room is like putting a bunch of cats in a room.  I found 2 that I liked, Karen from Alldogsallowedinc and The Raleigh Dog Trainer.  I got into a somewhat “heated” discussion with the Raleigh Dog Trainer.  It didn’t bother me though and I respected his passion about dog training.  However, for now we decided to go with Karen from All Dogs Allowed.  The reason was that she does regular sessions with set-ups which is what I believe Whiskey needs rather than the approach that seems common from all these other trainers – a long 2-3 hour session then phone support and then maybe a few months later another long 2 hour session.

Before we scheduled with Karen, we were going on vacation so we were going to continue with Colby as he was taking Whiskey during our trip.  Right before the trip, we went to group class again and it turned out to be a small class so Colby decided to work on exposing my dog and one other dog to more “close up” time with other dogs.  I guess professionals would call it “flooding” (which our new trainer is very much against) and I will admit it did not feel right for Whiskey and it seemed to set him back.  He was shaking as he sat next to the other dog although we did wait and he relaxed, which is “the point.” It is very difficult to have two professionals tell you completely conflicting things about what will “fix” your dog!  Whiskey then went off for a week and I think some good and bad came of that week.  He seemed more relaxed and better to tolerate some things and other dogs once he got back.  He had been successful living with a pack of dogs and playing them.  However, he seemed very afraid we would “leave him again.”

So, off we went to see Karen.  It was actually our second meeting.  Our first meeting was just a “lecture based lesson,” which I admit was not very appealing to me after all we had already been through but we pushed on anyway.  Our second lesson we were getting ready to work.  The main thing was to create these set ups where a “Whiskey party” (lots of excitement, treats falling from the sky, petting) happened whenever he saw her (or her dog) enter and would abruptly stop when she or the dog left.  We are to continue this “game” and Whiskey is to generalize that these scary things turns on the party.  We are to throw the party regardless of Whiskey’s reaction (growling, starring, etc.) until he begins to expect a party and then we can “push him a littler further” by moving a little closer.

She said that she saw progress in just the few set ups we did and feels he is not the most serious case she has seen.  We have been working on this at home although we don’t have anyone to really “help” create set ups, we do it when people walk by outside and he begins to react and we stop the party when the person is gone.  He has responded positively to these in house parties and looks and enjoys the party rather than the trigger.  We have seen dogs (too close) on walks and I throw a party but he doesn’t respond since he is too stressed and doesn’t eat or will barely eat the treats but we have the party anyway.  We will continue and I will keep you posted.  We will stop the Sit Means Sit program for now since we are going 100% with this new trainer and her ways and Colby’s work doesn’t align with that.

11/2/13 – We continue to work on the “Whiskey parties.”  We have done MANY.  My son and his girlfriend are staying the weekend and it has been insightful.  First, Whiskey used to be more relaxed with them.  He is obviously getting more stressed as he gets older or it is possible that the work from the other trainer is impacting him negatively or both.  When someone enters the home now, he is VERY aggressive, much more so than ever before.  He used to be able to be off leash with my son and right now, I am not sure if I can do that.  When they walk in and out and catch him off guard, it freaks him out and he gets very stressed although can be fine if they have been in the house for a while and he sees them there.  When they first came him, they threw him meat.  He was nervous about taking it directly from their hand and would not get too close (which is a step backwards as he used to take food from hands of strangers fine, although this was usually outside the home and he definitely reacts stronger inside the home).  We then began the Whiskey parties.  They seem to help with them.  My son’s girlfriend seems a little fearful of his “strong behavior” and hence he senses that and reacts stronger to her than my son.  One or both of them leave the room and then return, we throw a party when they are there.  He will ignore them and eat the food.  They will leave.  He got to the point where he seemed to be looking for them like he got the connection that there arrival signaled the “party.”  Although it did not include a tail wag.  After party sessions, he does much better for a while but of course, we can’t throw parties all the time and they are just “around” sometimes so Whiskey will get nervous after a bit if they leave and come back – it is frustrating.  The longer the gap between the party workout and the new stimulus the worse the reaction.  On the other hand, he has gone outside and seen strangers in the yard across the street and “watched” but not barked which is progress.  On walks, he will see dogs and if too close, we have a party but he is too stressed and ignores the party with just a nibble or two on the food.  He is usually looking for squirrels (his favorite part of a walk) so as soon as the trigger (dog) is far enough away, instead of going to the food, he redirects his attention to the trees (his own reward) to look for squirrels.  We will continue to practice for another week and then we report back to Karen with an update, more practice with her, and more instruction.

Since it has been a while since I have written, I am going to continue this journal in an updated post with the date 12/22/13.