Posts Tagged ‘fear border collie’

Whiskey is turning 3 – Border Collie / Dog Fear Aggression Blog

16 Nov

Our sweet border collie will be 3 in a few more weeks, wow, how time flies.  It is late so I will keep this update short – but here are our most recent stories:

Whiskey Meets a Lab Face to Face

We have this neighbor who has an invisible fence.  It freaks Whiskey out since all he sees is dogs that are loose.  When she has friends over with dogs, they are often let loose with her dogs.  They may get a collar too but haven’t been trained with it so they still run right through the fence, zap and all.  So, I am walking Whiskey and a Lab comes charging over from their yard (not the first time).  I panic a little (got to stop doing this as I am sure it doesn’t help Whiskey).  I yell that my dog will EAT their dog… okay, I don’t say but I say they better get their dog fast because Whiskey is “not good with dogs.”  She is too slow to get over and Whiskey is face to face with the lab – I wasn’t prepared.  Whiskey didn’t know what to do!  He did nip at the dog but baby nips, no outright attack, nothing the dog even felt at all – it was very minor.  The lab did not even know what was going on.  I was trying to keep Whiskey away from the lab – I should have tried just walking away, I don’t know if that would be better or not but I was trying to just put myself in the way… maybe not smart either but I didn’t think the lab meant any harm and Whiskey wasn’t going to intentionally bite me… so finally, the lady comes and gets her lab and apologizes to Whiskey – asking if she can pet him, HA?!  No…  The good news was that it was not a terrible experience, Whiskey was face to face with a dog, he did not get bit and he did not REALLY bite the other dog.

Whiskey Walks by Dogs Closely

We have also been in more and more situations where Whiskey has had to walk by dogs or have dogs within just a foot of him.  He has handled it very well.  He had concern but was not overly anxious and was able to ignore and move on quickly when I asked him to.

Talking to Whiskey

More people have been talking to him lately, he doesn’t growl anymore when people do that!!!

Bonding with my Oldest

When we got Whiskey, my oldest son was away at college so Whiskey did not know him and he was not trust worthy.  He did come and stay with us so Whiskey learned to accept him in the house but they had an agreement to just ignore each other.  Now if we are on a walk and away from the house but see my oldest away from the house and tell Whiskey that it is “ge ge” (what we call him, Chinese word for oldest brother), he wags his tail and runs up to him!

Called off from the Cat

Since Whiskey moved in, the cats had to move their domicile to the second floor.  Whiskey would chase the cats and I don’t trust him with his high prey drive.  The cats learned they stay upstairs and the dogs always stay downstairs.  Sometimes, the cat comes down on the stairs and sticks her head through the rails to meow at me about something and Whiskey sees her and starts to chase her, running at the stairs – however, I have been able to call him off mid-chase!  This is good so that maybe, if ever needed, I could call him mid-chase from chasing a dog or something.

Final Update

He continues to improve!  We are going to be talking to a new trainer and either way, we will continue our work to make him a non-reactive dog someday!


Updates on Working with a Fear Aggressive Dog

27 May

It is hard to believe that Whiskey, our Border Collie, is 2.5 years old now.  Putting the time, money, and energy to help a dog with fear aggression is a lot for a family to take on.  Now I wish I had some video of how bad he was when he was younger to see how far we have come because our hard work is paying off.  One thing, however, is that different things may work for different dogs and having a large number of different things to try and consistency in using your arsenal of techniques is vital.  The first thing you must have is a strong relationship of TRUST with your dog.  He has to know that he can trust you 100% of the time and that you will protect him, everything else builds from this.  This means that you have to be careful about choices you make in his treatment because certain choices can take away that trust and then the other things you do will not be as effective.

Building trust means that you understand dog psychology, dog signs of stress, and in particular you can read YOUR dog for stress and step in when you see your dog in stress and stop the situation.  Examples of signs of stress include tail between the legs, ears back, certain “looks” in their eyes, yawning, shaking (both literally and shaking off like they are wet), whining, growling, movement away from stressful situation, sniffing of ground or looking away in avoidance, and more.  One of my kids hugs the dog all the time, he tolerates hugs from this child because he is part of our pack but he often shows signs of discontent during the hug and I have to tell my child to keep the hug short.  There used to be so many situations that would trigger all of the above signs of stress but now we are happy when he is able to do a shake (like he is shaking off water but he isn’t wet, I will refer to this as a wet shake from now on but this does not mean he is wet) to calm himself rather than growl and lunge, it is a much better way for him to deal with the stress.  We reward him and tell him “good dog” when he makes choices to use these calming signs rather than let his stress build to aggression.  He has been able to get this point, however, because he knows that I will not put him in a bad situation.  For example if we see another dog or a small child, he knows that I will take him in a direction that walks us a far distance from the stressor rather than keep us right next to them.  Before, he would lunge, growl, bark, or try to bite at the dog or child because he did not trust that he would be safe and felt the need to act on it.  Now, he trusts that he will be safe so he can relax.

Medication is another item that helped a lot.  We had him on just Prozac and it helped a little.  We added Trazadone and it helped quite a bit and then we doubled the Trazadone and got even better response.  For him, he just has so much anxiety, he needs the medication.  We tried not giving it to him to see what would happen and he just started shaking terribly and hiding, he was a mess.  On the medication, he is calmer, wants to play, is loving, and acts like a normal dog with the exception that we still have some fear issues but they are much less severe and we continue to work on them.

Positive training Vs. E-Collar Methods – At first we tried Sit Means Sit as they promote a lot of videos of curing any dog with problems.  We signed up but Whiskey was more than they bargained for.  If it had been the person who created the company instead of a Franchise Owner, we may have had more luck.  I have seen people successfully use the E-Collar with what seems like fearful aggressive dogs BUT with that said you must remember that you are dealing with a dog who has FEARS.  Using a negative tool on a fearful dog might be a bad idea unless you are one of the few experts with tons of training who do this for a living and would take the dog in until he was fixed.  If you just get a package with 3 lessons and some group classes (what is typically sold by Sit Means Sit) this is not a fix for a dog with severe Fear Aggression for even the most dedicated owner!  Whiskey learned a lot of obedience but he is a border collie and knew a lot of obedience before we started and obedience was not our goal.  We want him to be able to play with other dogs and not eat small children and bunnies.  Sit means Sit is not designed to do this, at least not the one locally.  We did learn a lot in general and I do think there is a place for the E-Collar for working with Fear Aggressive dogs, I will get to that in a minute.  After spending almost a year without much progress, we moved on to positive only methods (the ANTI-ECollar people).  I wrote about a lot of things I learned in other blog posts so I won’t repeat that here but that was money well spent overall.  It continued to build trust between Whiskey and I.  It also helped condition him to relax during stressful situations and in combination with the trazadone that was started during that time, we really started to see progress.  Overall, I would recommend this approach if done with someone who really knows their stuff and helps you do it with your dog as a first approach rather than the E-Collar.  I did, however, say I felt E-Collars could help and what we found is that in certain situations where positive training was just NOT working no matter what we did, a negative reinforcement was the only option.  This is not a good first line of defense though since it does not build trust.  Right now, Whiskey still has a problem charging our fence outside when the kids in the next yard over play ball, run by quickly, or if dogs walk by on the street.  We tried over and over with positive reinforcement to stop this but could not get anywhere.  It was also hard to time and be consistent with positive reinforcement in those situations which did not help.  He really needed to have the positive reinforcement EVERY time and it was not feasible with life to catch him EVERY time (you might be in pj’s, cooking dinner, not have cookies on you, just can’t stand out there and do it, etc. etc.)  so we put on the E-Collar and as soon as he charges the fence, the button gets pushed and he is now choosing to ignore the kids in the yard (that was easier for him than the dogs walking by).  He will also sometimes ignore the dogs, he may still whine, or will get a toy for you to throw to distract him but he is coming up with alternatives for you and if you call him when he does charge (when we forget to put the collar on him), he comes in the house right away.  Gradually, these situations will no longer be an immediate trigger for him as we continue to condition him to relax and not get into a state of flowing adrenaline when he views these situations.

Our walks have changed dramatically.  We used to be able to even see people or dogs, now he ignores people, ignores children, and even ignores dogs if we walk around them (he watches them for about 15 seconds while we walk around them but then looks forward again).  He does still react negatively if someone comes up on him abruptly like a jogger and doesn’t give us space because he thinks he is going to be hurt – not sure what to do about that yet but we will have to work on some conditioning of that.  He also does not attack the door when UPS drops of packages and is quicker to accept people in the house.  He even went to one of our regular guests on his own and asked to be pet by her when usually he doesn’t want anyone but family to touch him.  We will continue to work with having people in the house because that is one of our biggest problems that limits his life and our life.  We don’t like locking him up and he doesn’t like it either.  Once he is tired from a walk, he does VERY well strangers walking around as long as they aren’t small children being unpredictable.

I also really want to work on getting him together with other dogs but I need to find a trainer who will do that with me.  We may use the E-Collar for that and consider Sit Means Sit for that again since it worked for that in the past.  However, I need to make sure I keep his trust so that is why I hesitate a little.  He is also listening better with our cat.  If she shows herself, he knows he is not allowed to go near her and will listen to me to get away – if I am not there, that is a different story – which is why he stays crated when I am not home.

That is our update for now, sorry for any typos or crazy sentences – too lazy to proof read 🙂  I will keep you all updated.


Progress with Whiskey – Border Collie Fear Aggression

27 Apr

April 27th 2015

Onward we travel in our quest of helping a very fearful Border Collie escape his demons.

Whiskey is over 2 years now and we have spent lots of money on different trainers, training techniques, and invested much time into learning these many methods.  We have had some great gains.  If you consider Whiskey at 10, being the most aggressive Cujo attack dog who wants to attack and bite any person or dog he sees, we went from a 10 to 6.  This means we still have a long way to go as the goal would be to get to a 0 (not going to happen) or 1, maybe 2.

Here are some of Whiskey’s old traits / Progress in red.

  •  Just seeing someone, would start aggression.  Sees people nearby, does not react.
  • Anyone talking to him, would start aggression.  Shows some mild stress when people say his name but does not get aggressive usually.
  •  Any dog, in sight would start aggression, whining, fear.  Can see dogs on walks and ignore them.
  • Any person entering home would be an outright attack.  Can be guided to deal with strangers entering to house and watch calming – inside crate, tied, or on leash.
  • Anyone touching him = bite.  Still a problem, does not like touch
  • Anyone near him = tries to bite.  People can stand near him now and ignore him and he is fine.
  • Wouldn’t even play games with strangers.  He will play games with strangers.
  • Could not be distracted from his fears.  He can play ball and avoid things that scare him like a dog walking by.
  • Would see children and always lunge and attack.  Children still make him nervous but he does not try to lunge and attack by default anymore.
  • Would see kids playing in yard next door, would try to attack through fence.  With ecollar, will ignore kids running around yard, up to fence, and playing ball.
  • Would see dogs walking near fence, would charge fence, bark, and whine.  With ecollar, will just watch dogs walk by fence with no barking, charging, or whining.


So, you can see how much progress we have made.  We have found that using the ecollar with the really tough situations is helpful.  We use it just with the charging outside (kids playing and charging after dogs), he actually doesn’t even get “zapped” much anymore because he knows he is not supposed to charge the fence and will usually remember and just stop himself or listen as I give him a verbal warning first, if there is time.

We also try to continue with the positive reinforcement rewards for everything as well.  We even pair the ecollar with treats, “dog walks by, Whiskey chooses not to charge, bark, or whine, then comes inside, he gets a treat.”

With nicer weather coming up we need to start finding more scenarios where we can work with getting closer to other dogs and practicing people touching him, those are our two biggest hurdles.

We did have to take him to the vet and had to totally sedate him for the exam.  It worked out okay.  We also increased his trazadone to 200 mg am and 200 mg pm in addition to his prozac to see if we can lower his anxiety more.



Fear Aggression Rehabilitation Continues

26 Aug

August 26, 2014


Whiskey is now a year and 8 months.  He has more confidence and thankfully that has helped him.  It is such a challenge to have both a people and dog fear aggressive animal.  We have had to put his dog fear aggression on hold for the most part because making him safe around people is much more important than making him safe around other dogs although we use our methods in both instances we have more control of people behavior, they usually don’t go to the end of a leash and start lunging at him as we walk by so that is probably another reason why we have had more success in that area.

We continue to make progress.  Here are the things that have helped the most for people who are committed to fixing their dogs:

1.  Know the breed.  For Whiskey, he is a border collie, I know what makes him tick from the standpoint of his breed.  He has innate instincts that work for him and against and things we can use that were working against him that we can switch to work for him.  He has an intense drive for prey.  So, if he is fixated on something he shouldn’t be – like a dog or a person, we can redirect by using his prey drive against him.  If a dog walks by, we tell him to look for bunnies.  If we want to redirect him from a person, we carry a ball and direct him with play.  Border collies and balls are inseparable.

2.  Know your dog.  Trainers can tell you lots of things but what they can’t tell you is what will work best for YOUR dog because you know your dog best.  Take in all the information, try everything.  Know the breed but also know what things your dog likes best.  Whiskey likes balls but he likes soccer balls better than other balls.  There are times he would rather have play as a reward than a treat as a reward, some trainers don’t believe this and think treats are the only or the best way to reward, sometimes play outweighs food.  Whiskey gets tired fairly quickly for a border collie.  We can tire him out in 30 minutes – 1 hour depending on how hot it is.  Once he is tired, he is much more receptive to EVERYTHING, this is true for almost all fear aggressive dogs, see #3.

3.  Exercise your dog before exposing them to their fears.  If you are going to do something that is going to stretch them, make your dog tired first.  Also, make them tired in as fun of a way possible so they feel very happy and bonded.  You will be really surprised at the results!  Ceaser Millan shows this trick on his shows all the time, it makes him look like magic.  The problem is that we can’t keep our dogs exhausted 24 hours a day in real life, it isn’t practical so we have to use this as a tool, not as a magic bullet.

4.  Use medication – we used just prozac for a while without seeing too much improvement but adding trazadone made a HUGE difference, so give this combination a try.  Don’t be afraid of medication for dogs, it is better than them biting someone and having to be put down.  Will they need it for life?  I don’t know, stay tuned.  Whiskey has made some nice progress over the last year, if we continue to make progress like this, maybe some day he will be well enough to taper off and he will trust the world enough.

5.  See the right behaviorist – don’t mistake a dog trainer for a behaviorist, they are not the same thing, although you also need to make sure your dog is fully obedience trained for success.  As for the cost, I wish I could start a fund and maybe I will put this in my will or something that there is a fund for people who can’t afford the cost of behaviorists but want to save their dogs, it is so unfair that there isn’t a “welfare” system set up where people who are willing and dedicated to helping these animals can get free help if they are willing to put forth the huge amount of time and effort it takes to rehabilitate these dogs.  I can’t imagine being as fearful as they are!  Hopefully, you can afford to see a behaviorist and learn some techniques if not, read about the games and techniques I was taught in my other posts and practice, practice, practice.  Remember just like with a therapist, if the first behaviorist doesn’t seem like a good fit, keep looking, I found so many have different philosophies and I interviewed about 10 before I picked the woman I chose.

6.  Remember that progress is SLOW!!!  I can’t stress that enough.  It has been a year and half and here are some examples of our progress:

  • Whiskey growls at EVERYBODY he sees, would run at strangers and aggressively bark, growl (even at 4 months)
  • Whiskey would run up a stranger and bite, would snap at people near him
  • Couldn’t see a person without him crying, whining, growling, shaking
  • Couldn’t see a dog with crying, whining, growling, shaking, lunging, attacking
  • Whiskey wouldn’t even play ball, his favorite thing, with a stranger


  • Whiskey ignores people he sees in public 95% of time, may growl/bark if he is in car and they approach or if they get really close to us
  • Whiskey can be loose in our house with adults who are willing to ignore him after the initial 2-5 minutes of adjustment of the transition
  • Whiskey still struggles and will growl/bark at people coming into house – must be grated
  • Whiskey still not trusted around any children (they are too unpredictable, loud, quick)
  • Whiskey will let a 13 year old girl outside the family pet him
  • Whiskey has let “acquaintances” let him in and out of his crate
  • Whiskey will play games with all strangers
  • Whiskey will go up to a semi-stranger and take a treat from their hand or “touch” their hand
  • Whiskey can be on a long lead but not held in a park (e-collar) back up and chase ball, so focused on ball, doesn’t even care who is around
  • Whiskey went into vets office today without shaking and let people make eye contact with him
  • Whiskey still cannot have a regular vet visit
  • Whiskey still cannot be around other dogs



Fear Aggression in Dogs – How to treat

12 Aug

Dog Fear Aggression is one of the most difficult behavior problems to deal with in dogs.   There are different types of aggression in dogs and it is important you know what type of aggression your dog is showing because how you treat dominant aggression vs. resource guarding (a type of aggression) vs. fear aggression  are different.  Dogs that are showing aggression because they are afraid and lack confidence usually will not improve if they are then treated with a heavy hand.  The idea of PACK LEADER is well known and is often thought of as THE method of treating all behavior issues in dogs.  With the show Dog Whisperer by Caesar Millan, it appears that everything CAN be fixed with pack leader mentality.  This is not to say that the concept of pack leader is not important, it is, but how it is used with a fear aggressive dog has to be done carefully or you can make things worse.  If you start doing the Caesar “touch” or the alpha roll with a fearful dog, you will just make them more afraid and will therefore not get to the root of the problem.

It is NOT POSSIBLE to fix fear aggression in a day or week.  If anyone, including Casear Millan thinks he can come to my home and fix my dog in one session, then they don’t understand serious fear aggression.  In serious cases, fear aggression can take years to fix.  We have been working for one year now and we have made a lot of progress but we still have a fear aggressive dog and it may take a year or two more to hopefully get to the point where he begins to resemble somewhat of a “normal” dog, although he may never be there completely.

So what do you need to do?  First, you do need to be a strong leader for your dog.  Your dog needs to know that you are its protector and that you have his or her back!  Your dog needs to be fully bonded with you and have full trust in you.  You need to be an advocate for your dog and not put your dog in situations where he will be overly stressed, worried, or fearful.  You need to tell people to back off, not touch him, keep him away from anything that frightens him such as people, children, or other dogs.  You will gradually increase him in controlled situations to his fears but first he needs to know that you are his protector before the rest will begin to have real strong positive impacts.  If your dog is afraid of other dogs, then whenever you see another dog, you turn and walk away and increase your distance as much as you can from other dogs.  YOU move away ALWAYS.   If you cannot for some reason, you find some way to distract your dog.  Our dog likes to look for bunnies, so we bring him to the side of the woods and tell him to look for bunnies and other dogs can pass by and he won’t pay attention because we keep saying, “where are the bunnies?”  You also build trust by playing your dog’s favorite games, teaching him obedience in a non-stressful obedience setting (if he is afraid of strangers, this means you do it at home by yourself, watch Youtube videos, there are lots of great videos out there… and if you have a border collie… lots of which are fear aggressive, it will be easy, border collies are soooo smart, get a clicker and some treats and your border collie will be doing Calculus in no time).

After you have full trust and are very bonded with your fear aggressive dog, you begin to work on his fear aggressive issues.  You do this in POSITIVE ways.  You never want to treat fear with a negative stimulus (chain jerks, yelling, poking, alpha rolls, etc.)  You also need to remember your dog cannot learn if they are very stressed, so you have to go PAINFULLY SLOW.  This is why it takes so long to make progress.  You have to keep your dog very far away from what he is afraid of, just close enough that he notices but feels far enough away that he feels safe, then he can learn.  You begin to de-condition him.    There are many different “games” you can play and there is something called BAT that seems like it wouldn’t work, but it does, it is just SLOW.

I will tell you that I am a type A person and an overachiever type and now I have this adorable dog that I love, who is so smart that I want to take off leash and run and play with but can’t be around people or dogs!  Here I am trying to read and learn about how to fix him.  I read these CRAZY things like BAT… I will admit, my first response was not positive… there has to be a better way or a faster way… and we started with the SHORT CUTS… but they didn’t work and when we tried a bunch of the games, they all helped but he actually seemed to respond to BAT a lot.  For those who don’t feel like looking it up right now and don’t know what BAT is, I will give you a very short description…

There is BAT and BAT 2.0, I mix the two… but what I do is have someone with a trigger (or I find a trigger, i.e. a dog, on a walk) a bit down the road, we walk towards the trigger, when my dog, Whiskey, notices the trigger, I guide him (gently) to a stop (we are at a nice distance – as you get better you decrease the distance) and let him just watch the trigger (not obsessively stare) and then choose to do a positive response (usually walking away from the trigger but could be sniffing, yawning, shaking, or licking), I click (or say a loud YES) and we walk away from the trigger (his reward is walking away from the trigger).  Then we repeat.  If he doesn’t choose a positive response soon enough, you guide a turn and reward at the turn, if he reacts negatively (stare, growl, bark, lunge) then you are too close and you do it again and don’t get as close to the trigger.

If you read some of my other posts on my journal of fear aggression with Whiskey on this blog, you can read about some the games including “Autowatch”, “Throw a Party,” “Four Steps to Focus,” etc. that you can do as games to work on aggression.  You can also use touch to help work on his fear of people and the better obedience training you have, the more control you have in general.

If your dog is very fear aggressive, you will probably need medication.  Medication has been a huge help to Whiskey.  We started with just Prozac and it helped a little but we added Trazadone and that made a huge difference.

Whiskey is less afraid / aggressive when out in public.  When he is in our house, he has some territorial aggression in addition to his fear aggression but we are now at the point that he has to be created when adults (we don’t trust children) first come in the house we crate him but after they come in the house and are there for a bit, he can be let out and as long as they don’t try to touch him (he is very afraid of touch) he does not react anymore.  This is a huge improvement over a dog that acted like Cujo anytime he saw a person in any situation from the time he was a baby.  He wouldn’t even play ball with strangers as a baby, now he will play ball with any stranger willing to play!

I can’t stress enough how severe he was and how far we have come in a year.  Some people would look at where he is now and think we are crazy to keep a “dog like him,” but he has come so far and we see progress on a regular basis so I don’t see any reason that we won’t continue to see progress if we keep working on his issues.  I know of people who have managed to pass the Good Citizen/Canine Test eventually with a fear aggressive dog, so that is our ultimate goal.

He is a wonderful dog with his family.  He is very loving, playful, cuddly, and bonded.  If you have a fear aggressive dog and are working on rehabilitation, good for you!  It takes special people to do it.  Most of world (since we hear it a lot, even from family and friends) would just put the dog down.


Journal of Rehabilitation of a Fear Aggressive Dog – Part 2

10 Jan

A quick Reintroduction – you can skip this first paragraph if you read part 1:

We got Whiskey, a 9 week old border collie puppy, from a breeder and he was fear aggressive from the day we brought him home.  We had so much to learn (still do) about Whiskey and about treating fear aggression.  I am not even sure it is the same for all dogs as each dog has their own personalities, threshold levels, insecurities, and ability to trust.  We searched high and low for trainers and each one tells you the same, ‘all the other trainers are wrong and they are right!’  Or something like that.  I don’t know who is right and who is wrong.  I think some trainers will work for some dogs and others will not.  We did not like the first trainer we tried.  She was a Caesar Millan personality and I liked his show but now I watch his show with my new experiences and realize what is portrayed in one session may work for the moment but does not permanently fix the dog.  The second trainer we tried was after a lot of research and videos that DEMONSTRATED success with dogs with aggression.  So, I had great faith in the method.  The trainer did a demo and actually gained Whiskey’s trust in 20 minutes, not an easy feat.  But, there is always more than meets the eye with a fear aggressive dog.  We signed on and worked with him including two board and trains for 8 months.  It was up and down and we saw success but not huge success and we reached a point where we just did not think long term change was going to happen for Whiskey.  The method involved an ecollar and more than one trainer I talked with promoted the ecollar as the way to fix a fear aggressive dog if done properly with a trainer.  As I said, Whiskey seemed to actually be back sliding and we knew that long term change wasn’t going to happen after giving it our all for 8 months.  At this time I called and interviewed almost every trainer who works with dogs in our area.  I had some interesting conversations.  Most wanted to come do a 2 hour session and then leave it in my hands with a “follow up” if needed and phone support.  They were going to teach me to read Whiskey’s body language.  I agree that learning to do this is important and although I am hardly an expert, I had already become more than a novice in this department especially when it came to my dog.  What I wanted was someone who was going to work with me regularly, someone who had done this before successfully, and someone I felt had a good knowledge base.  I took a leap of faith with a new trainer and I admit I was hesitant for a few reasons I won’t go into but we have been working for about 3 months now and I will share our work and successes to date.

At 9 weeks:  If Whiskey saw ANY person at any distance – would growl.  Any person who tried to touch him, he would try to bite.  We couldn’t even walk behind a person or dog on a walk.

At 5-6 months:  Learned how to walk on walks without growling but if let off leash would run up to a person barking and possibly biting.  He would try to bite anyone who would try to touch him.  He would growl at anyone at too close a distance.  He would lunge and growl at dogs.  He would growl at people in our house, bark aggressively, or pee depending on situation.

At 10-11 months (end of time with first long term trainer):  He could do walks fine and ignore people on walks unless they spoke to him or made eye contact, in which case he would growl or rarely lunge.  He would try to bite anyone who would try to touch him.  He would growl, pull towards (to attack) dogs on walks, he would react to anyone walking by our fenced yard very aggressively (people and dogs, dogs would be much worse).  He would act very aggressive to new people who entered our home, trying to lunge at and attack them.

Started with new trainer at 11 months old.  We see her about every 2 weeks.  Each session, she gives us new games to play.  She also encourages us to keep Whiskey successful (non-aggressive) as much as we can!  The less he can practice aggression, the better.

Game 1:  Whiskey parties – Anytime we see a trigger, we throw a party.  We make a big fuss and very yummy food falls from the sky.  As soon as the trigger goes out of sight the party stops.  Sometimes we do set ups where we have someone be the trigger, this is where they come out from around the corner, we throw the party until they walk back around the corner.  We repeat at different time intervals.  Other times, it is just real life whenever we see a trigger.  If we see someone walk by the house when we are outside, we throw a party and have food fall from the sky.  If someone comes over, I use the word “friends” and throw food at him and have the person throw food at him.

Game 2:  Touch – This is the usual touch one would teach for obedience.  We had already taught Whiskey it but to keep encouraging it so we can use it to have him eventually touch a scary person’s hand.  We actually had him touch my son’s hand (scary person) this weekend since Whiskey was getting used to him being at the house.

Game 3 – Focus games – teaching Whiskey to “Watch Me,”  show him food and get him to look at me for the reward, even when the food lures him to a different direction, he learned to keep his focus on me not the food.

Game 4:  Auto watch – this game is where you stand like a tree with the dog on a leash and say nothing.  You have a bunch of treats behind your back and wait (for a long, long time sometimes) until the dog gets so bored, he sits or lies down and then looks at you.  You reward only when the dog is sitting or laying down and looking at you.  Each time they look back at you, you reward again, throwing the food at their feet.  This teaches them to calm down and relax.  This is good in stressful situations when new people come over.

Game 5 – Where’s the dog / stranger?  This game asks the dog to look at the trigger.  You click and reward at the head turn and then they look back at you for the reward.  It is sort of a strange one, Whiskey did well with it in set ups but not well with it on walks yet.  He doesn’t take food well on walks.

Although we haven’t been officially taught this, we also do BAT by Grisha Sterwart as that seems to really help Whiskey.  When he sees a trigger, we let him “take in the information,” and then make a wise choice such as a head turn (or sniff or some other calming signal – for Whiskey, it is usually a head turn) and then we click and walk away.  We then sometimes extend the reward by letting him check out something he wants (where there are squirrels or something) and then walk back towards to trigger and repeat.

My gut feeling is that the parties and BAT have been the two most successful things so far, that and keeping him in a non-aggressive state as much as we can.

His progress:  Things go up and down, of course, but right now he has been showing positive movement!  Here are improvements we have noticed.  He is only reacting to people walking by our fence (on the sidewalk) about 10% of the time.  The big problem we have is that he got our other dog to start barking at people and Whiskey will react if Ares (our other dog) reacts so we now have to make sure Ares doesn’t react and then let Whiskey make the choice on his own not to react.

He is choosing at times, not to react to dogs walking by when outside.  He used to react 100% of the time.  Now (if we keep Ares from reacting), he can be distracted from reacting (by playing or being called over for a party) – while before NOTHING would stop him from reacting.  His first reaction is to react but he is learning to control it.

He is learning to accept new people in the house.  My son and his girlfriend have been at the house more for the holidays and we had to have Whiskey on leash the whole time.  Whiskey is now off leash with them and we feel pretty relaxed.  At first it was off leash only while they were sitting.  Then we were able to move to off leash when they were sitting and if they got up to do things.  Now, we only deal with when they first enter the house and we throw food at him and he adjusts in 1-2 minutes.  We need to try it with other new people soon.

He is also less reactive to dogs on walks.  He watches them closely but then turns to walk away like we do in BAT.  He knows I am not going to approach them.  He never growls or lunges and I think he would only if the other dog did (that was what he was doing previously but I don’t know as we haven’t seen a dog growl and lunge at him in a while).  He is projecting better energy towards dogs too.  Dogs used to react much worse towards him since he projected very fearful aggressive energy and now we don’t see that as much.  Little dogs can be a  pain, they often pull and bark!

He still struggles with running children next door.  He will sometimes just watch but if they get too close to our fence, he loses it but I understand that is where his threshold is at.  We just can’t always predict when they are going to do that!  We are going to try some BAT perhaps next time they are running crazy near our fence so he can learn to make better choices.

More Updates – PROGRESS!!!

We continue to invest a lot of time and money into our PROJECT DOG.

Whiseky 7 mo








However, we have finally been seeing more success lately.  We went in for his 1 year vet visit and saw a different vet.  She suggested adding Trazadone and increasing his Prozac.  Whiskey is now taking 30 mg of Prozac and 100 mg of Trazadone.  The trazadone has made a big difference.  I think we might need to increase it more but here are some of the changes we have seen:

  • Whiskey would see people walking by and run to the fence barking.  He almost NEVER does that anymore
  • Whiskey would see a skateboarder go by and run to the fence barking.  He might run to the fence to watch but not bark and sometimes ignores.
  • On walks, he is even more relaxed about people he sees on the walk (remember that he used to be aggressive at the sight of a person on a walk when he was 4 months old).  Now, he barely notices people.
  • People have talked to him and he doesn’t growl, some will even say his name and he won’t growl.
  • A dog will walk by and Whiskey used to go nuts, running up and down the fence, very upset.  Now, he will run to the fence and just watch.  Sometimes he will react but it used to be every time.
  • We can easily distract him from a dog walking by with a ball or frisbee game and he won’t even pay attention to do the dog.
  • On walks, he will see a dog and sometimes be able to remain calm, other times, get “watchful” but less reaction than before and is learning to go in another direction when he sees a dog.
  • Relaxes much sooner when we have company.
  • Was able to be near a “stranger” without issue by his choice after only seeing her for a few hours.
  • Is more willing to let us necessary evils (brush, wash, cut hair) without as much stress or growls
  • Acting more relaxed and calm in general.

Our trainer, Karen, is on maternity leave so we have been going to a new class where they work on BAT 2.0 through Teamworks.  Today, we had Whiskey right up close to the trainer and had him do all his tricks including roll over right next to her and he was fine with it.  Next time, they will bring a dog to practice BAT 2.0.  The vet said she had a dog like Whiskey that she couldn’t touch (and by the way, she couldn’t touch Whiskey) who can now be handled by the vet after being on Trazadone so I am hopeful that we might get there.  Will he ever be trust worthy?  I don’t know but other dogs have gotten there, so why can’t Whiskey?  He is such a sweet lover, so full of fun, and has such a funny little personality.  I will keep you posted, I hope the next time I write, I have another list of big strides in the right direction!

Update:  Whiskey continues to make progress.  He seems less stressed.  He ignores people on walks.  His ability to deal with dogs he sees on walks is better.  He can walk away,  he will stare but not aggress.  I am ready to decrease the distance between him and people and work on people giving him more treats.  The trazadone has been the biggest help.  We are doing BAT 2.0.  He is doing well with that.  I need to do some friendly vet visits.

May 2014 – Whiskey is almost 1 year and half.  It is hard to believe we have been working on his issues for this long.  He is continuing to make good progress.  Today we brought in a potential pet sitter to meet him.  His first reaction was to get aggressive but she started throwing treats to him and he immediately calmed down and an expression of anticipation rather than aggression on his face.  We went for a walk and he was a little nervous but did well.  After the walk, we went back to our house and threw the ball for him in the yard.  He chased the ball when it was thrown by me and the “stranger,” Abbie.  He was off leash with a new stranger and did great.  We went inside and he was tired but not stressed with Abbie in the house.  We talked for a bit and he was fine the whole time, relaxed and happy.  She was able to walk around him without him stressing out.  She continued to feed him food and he was happy to take it.  We are going to meet every other week where he will hopefully associate her visits with great food, walks, and ball time.  We also did BAT again today and he did very well with another dog in view.  He was watchful but able to turn away and not focus on her.  He also did a bunch of training and activities in the presence of Siri, another border collie who was there for BAT.  He had a great day and the progress he has made in the last year and half is promising.  The biggest change happened after the trazadone, so I highly recommend that to others.  He still has a ways to go but I wasn’t sure we would ever make it this far, so hopefully we can continue to move forward.  The goal is to set him up for success and try to keep him from having any experiences that trigger him so he learns what it is like not to be stressed and anxious all the time.  He also has solid poop now, for his first year, he was so stressed that his poops were runny every day.  He will still be runny for time to time but it is nice to see that his body is settling down and his anxiety is significantly less.

Lesson learned – well, maybe… so, it was suggested that I bring him to the vet’s office when he isn’t going to see the vet so they can throw food at him so he can associate vet = good things.  We tried that today.  Ugh!  I didn’t factor in the fact that vet techs think they know how to work with a fear aggressive dog and one size fits all.  Our plan was to have one person toss food at him from a distance.  It was working fine until another lady decided that she was going to try to and now two people were focused on him and she was a little more demanding so he wasn’t willing to get the food from as comfortably – THEN, another lady was “instructing” the first two how to do it.  She was walking right up to him even though he was clearly going over threshold and was under the impression you need to  just not look at the dog and walk towards them – she reached her hand out further to “encourage” him to come closer, which set him off more since now hands were moving in his direction (a big trigger), he started shaking and I knew I had to shut the whole thing down immediately.  I grabbed the bag of food and sat on the floor, ignored the people and just started feeding him, hoping to offset the “bad” experience he just had with some good, “mom is close, giving me treats, people are now leaving me alone.”  I fed him until he calmed down and wasn’t shaking and then we left.  I don’t really know how to go back without giving them a lesson on how to read dog signals and working with a fear aggressive dog.  The third woman, clearly thought she was “educated” in this situation and you always walk the line of advocating for your dog and pissing people off who think you know nothing about dogs since you are just the pet owner and they are a vet tech and know EXACTLY what one should do.

May 15, 2014 – Today we had our second “play date” with our future dog sitter.  We are working on building a relationship between them and also hopefully working on his stranger anxiety issues.  I gave him an extra 50 mg of trazadone about 30 minutes before she came.  I played ball with him for about 15 minutes before she got there (he had not had any exercise all day as it has been pouring rain).  We started outside and he had an initial negative reaction.  His reaction set off Ares (our Golden) which made things worse for Whiskey.  Abbie started feeding Whiskey food right away and he calmed down.  We went for a walk to get out some energy.  When we got back she gave him some more food and we entered the house together.  Initially upon entering, he was a little unsure with some small woofs.  We got out the ball and she started to play with him.  I would return the ball to her so she didn’t have to get close to him.  She would also throw him food from time to time.  She would ask him to sit and he would.  She asked him to go to bed (go in his crate) and he did.  She gave him two cookies while in there but he did become nervous while the gate was closed and he could see her.  We didn’t keep him in long, just long enough to give the two cookies and then let him out.  Another time she told him to go to bed and we didn’t close the gate at all, just threw food inside after he went in.  He then “asked” for more ball time so we did that some more and then played frisbee for a little bit also.  She then threw him a lot more food (fairly close).  My last idea was to play hide and seek, which he loves.  At first, Abbie and would hide together.  Whiskey would wait with my daughter.  We would say, “Find Abbie.”  He came right up to us and would get a treat.  He even licked her hand.  Then I tried it where just Abbie hid and I sent Whiskey to find her and she would throw a treat at him when he found her.  He did very well.  It was a great ice breaker.







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.