Anxious collie

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Dominika
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Anxious collie

Post by Dominika » Tue Feb 18, 2020 10:59 am

Hi

My friend has a young collie who they got when he was 8 weeks old. He comes from a farm in a very rural area.

I've been to see them a few times to help and have found out he is a very very anxious dog to the point he is on high alert from about 20 metres away from his house. He barks and lunges at cars, he barks and lunges at people that get too close and he is sometimes dog reactive ( he will greet and interact with some dogs and when he's off leash he focuses very well on a ball )

They have been told by their vet they can't treat him anymore because he's aggressive. I don't know too much detail about what happened. His behaviour does change depending on which vet they see.

He has a great bond with both his parents. He is calmer on walks with his mum ( she does more on leash time) and more relaxed with dad off leash playing fetch ( dad does more off leash time)

The advice I've given them so far is FIRST to change the vets if they can't come to an agreement with their current practice and find a vet he's moderately comfortable with and to get a good checkup at the vets including bloods and thyroid checks.


Because he's so anxious outside the house I've told them if they want to continue with their current excercise arrangement to drive to off leash places and on lead walk in a very small radius around the house. To keep away from triggers so off leash play in areas with a good visibility to make sure they can keep a safe distance from triggers and keep him away from interacting with dogs. On leash to just hang out at the edge of his comfort radius, use some familiar cues to keep him engaged and potentially watch cars and people from a safe distance and reward calm.

Also I've told them to work on "leave it" so they can then use with cars driving by.

To move forward what would be the best place to start?

Many thanks

Dominika
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Re: Anxious collie

Post by Dominika » Tue Feb 18, 2020 11:41 am

His mum said he's calmer on walks at night-time.

JudyN
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Re: Anxious collie

Post by JudyN » Tue Feb 18, 2020 2:55 pm

I think you've given them good advice so far... I'm not sure about using 'leave it' with cars though - how would they train it, and what would it mean to him? It doesn't tell him what he should do, and it doesn't change how he feels about the cars.

As far as the vet goes - is he muzzle trained? If not, get them to train him to wear a muzzle and be happy and comfortable in it. I started by smearing peanut butter on the inside and just letting my dog lick it while I held the muzzle, and we built up from there. He shouldn't only wear it at the vets, as they don't want him to associate it with bad things happening (it should be a style he can pant and drink in, not one that holds his mouth shut).

As for people, cars, etc.... He should be well within his comfort zone, rather than on the edge - they ideally want him to be able to see the triggers but not be bothered by them in the slightest, and then they can pair the sight of the trigger with something good happening (e.g. a treat or his ball). But they shouldn't think of it as 'rewarding calm', because 'calm' isn't a behaviour but a state of mind - they might end up rewarding 'stressed but not kicking off', which isn't what they should be aiming for. There's more info on this approach here: https://www.training-your-dog-and-you.c ... ining.html
Jasper, lurcher, born December 2009

Dominika
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Re: Anxious collie

Post by Dominika » Tue Feb 18, 2020 5:52 pm

He knows leave it already. I've come across " leave it" for car lunging before through positive trainers and I assume it would be used for herding behaviours, building his impulse control. But I guess any incompatible behaviour should work?

*Edited* the edge of his comfort zone was referring to the radius he's comfortable outside of his house in. Find where he's chilled out as far from the house as possible. * I guess I haven't explained myself well with "on the edge of his comfort zone" I meant find a safe distance as close as possible to the trigger. But if they're not familiar with the nuances of stress signals it will be hard for them to work on reducing the distance. Is that where a behaviourist would come in to check on his progress so they shouldn't be reducing the distance unless advised? With people it's easy but with cars I can't think of a place where it wouldn't end up driving by 🤔 car parks?

Their vets currently are flat out refusing to see their dog. I think I have mentioned a muzzle to them before but can't remember what came of it. I've recommended my vet practice and one vet in particular who is quite aware of dog behaviour and she's an angel as it is 😀

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Nettle
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Re: Anxious collie

Post by Nettle » Wed Feb 19, 2020 4:04 am

You've given good advice so far, as has JudyN, but more information is needed.

How old is the dog?

Has he been neutered? This can really affect confidence, making nervy dogs more nervous, so if they plan to do this soon, please suggest they wait.

You need to find out exactly what happened at the vet's even though it's past tense now. The muzzle training is a necessity, but also at home the dog should be accustomed to being handled all over. Small steps and yummy treats, as in touch, reward, touch somewhere else, reward, not too often and not too much. Start small and stay within his comfort zone.

Owners need to commit to holding dog so vet can examine safely. Vets/vet nurses if approached to assist in this at quiet times, can be very helpful, but be aware vets and vet nurses usually know next to nothing about dog behaviour.

A good behaviourist can be very supportive, and your friends do need professional guidance. Run away from anyone using words like alpha, pack or dominance. This dog is perfectly trainable - frankly he sounds no more than an average untrained young collie - but it's easier with help right there in front of them. And it won't be cheap: really good professionals never are.
A dog is never bad or naughty - it is simply being a dog

SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS

Dominika
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Re: Anxious collie

Post by Dominika » Wed Feb 19, 2020 5:08 pm

He's going to be one in a couple of days. He hasn't been neutered yet and one of his balls hasn't dropped yet. I have suggested to them not to neuter for now and to do some research whether to do it at all.

The fact that vet staff don't generally know about behaviour is the reason I suggested my vet practice as there is one vet there that actively works on the dog being comfortable during every visit. My own dog, who is a lurcher and a collie cross on top of that, is anxious at the vets and we muzzle him because he nipped one of the vets who's not very confident albeit very good and kind. He's visibly more comfortable around the particular vet I recommended to my friends. It's tough though if all they are going in for is bad stuff ( which mine does for the most part 😔 surgeries and bloods and samples). I hope they work on the vet situation I'll do my best to help them.

So would you say skittishness and impulse control are the biggest thinks to work on?

He got very scared of my OH the first time they came to visit, we were in our garden which is quite large. It was a shock to my OH as he's never received such a reaction form a dog. He was full on lunging and barking with barely any attempt form my OH to interact. And he has to be watched very very closely around kids.

He's basically been failed at being socialised hasn't he? They've taken him to puppy classes but he used to need a break in a quiet area quite often. The trainer never suggested the class wasn't the right environment for him and I'm not convinced he was very comfortable there from what I've asked them. I only came into the picture in December so he was about 10 months.

jacksdad
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Re: Anxious collie

Post by jacksdad » Wed Feb 19, 2020 7:04 pm

I am not a huge fan of leave it for situations like you describe with the cars. I prefer the dog learn to do something on their own in these situations vs having to be told. The reason is skill building vs responding to direction.

car moving is exciting or scary or... the or doesn't matter, all that matters is car triggers an unwanted behavior. So, lets give the dog some skill for when a car is around. A simple skills is see car, turn to their owner. But I don't just teach this for cars, but for all kinds of stuff in the environment that my client dog appears to be bothered by or startle by or over excited by.

Not going for the same goals as "look at that", nor am I suggesting ignore or distraction. The goal is disengagement through a alternate behavior.

it starts with training the dog to look at their owner. start in the living room, dogs looks at the owner...yes and 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 treats. pause...dog looks back to their owner, yes and 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 treats. treats are always given one at a time.

now start rewarding with just one treat...dog looks at you, yes and treat, step to the side, or behind the dog, dog moves and looks at you...yes, treat. if the dog is starting to "get it", see how many looks you can get in 30 seconds. if the dog just starts staring at you, move to the back yard, another room, front yard etc. repeat from the beginning.

Notice there is no "cue" or verbal direction like a "leave it". you want the dog just doing it. be on the look at for the dog offering this. reward that. practice some loose lead walking and look for opportunities to reward the "look". this will help the dog generalize it to just the look vs sitting in front of you and looking.

you might use someone on a bike or skate board moving very slow train look away from movement. build towards the car.

Being a dog with a herding heritage, the car thing isn't that surprising...it's movement. have you evaluated the dog with other movement like someone walking by, then jogging, then running, what about a bike various speeds, skate boards etc.

It's about disengagement and doing something else. The disengagement helps break the over excitement and if fear is the issue, adding a turn and lets go for some distance. While I have been known to train a verbal cue (look or watch or me) to signal the dog to look at me or their owner as a tool for some situations, I generally just want the dog to "do it" without being told.

Dominika
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Re: Anxious collie

Post by Dominika » Thu Feb 20, 2020 4:18 am

Yes, thank you. We'll work with stooges when some more solid behaviours are in place.

I teach this to my own dog. To look at me when triggers are around and he's done this a few times now when we've come across a suprise which felt amazing.

So since dogs aren't supposed to be able to generalise behaviour when do you think it happens that they get this instinctive reaction? Or is it a choice? Combination of both? I know they make choices all the time but their dog is so tense at the moment almost the moment he walks out of the door that I don't feel like we can even teach him loose leash walking. Shall we work on that straight away with the behaviour of looking at his parents?

They can't afford a behaviourist right now and I have said it would be a good idea to save up for it since it will cost several hundred but I want to help them feel good progress until they get a professional.

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Nettle
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Re: Anxious collie

Post by Nettle » Thu Feb 20, 2020 12:42 pm

You are a lovely supportive friend.

Some things to consider that are observations NOT criticisms: There is no timescale on this. We all want problems to be solved by yesterday, and most of us think in terms of goals. But take the pressure off by confirming that there is no schedule, and everything has to go at the individual dog's pace.

He is a collie, with collie characteristics on top of what any dog feels in certain scenarios. At present, he doesn't feel safe. That's the up and down of it. He is trying to drive away those things that perplex him as well as the collie herding instinct taking over his logical thought processes. So he gets a double buzz when trying to drive away those things he fears.

Helping a dog feel safe is quite complex, and while I understand not being able to afford a behaviourist right now, this is why we suggest one. If the owners are willing to empathise and think of themselves in the situations the dog is in, they might better understand the need to take pressure off by giving the dog distance from those things that scare him, and at the same time building his confidence using the interactive 'games' mentioned on a pinned thread we have - somewhere - that I'm sure a fellow Board member will find for you. Helping a dog feel safe does NOT mean fussing him, letting strangers or acquaintances touch him, letting other dogs get in his face etc. It means giving him physical and emotional space, and letting him choose when to interact.
A dog is never bad or naughty - it is simply being a dog

SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS

jacksdad
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Re: Anxious collie

Post by jacksdad » Thu Feb 20, 2020 9:41 pm

Dominika wrote:
Thu Feb 20, 2020 4:18 am
So since dogs aren't supposed to be able to generalise behaviour ....
Dogs have zero problem generalizing behavior/training. They do it all the time. For example my dog paid no attention to skateboarders zipping until a less than skillful one almost ran us over. Just that one experience changed his awareness and reaction to skateboarders. He generalized based on one very, very brief life experience. Dogs that no longer pull have generalized not pulling/walking close to their person. dogs that sit in the living room, the park, the beach etc have generalized.

But it does take some time to change what a dog has generalized to something new, particularly if fear is involved. The time it takes create a new generalization has a lot of factors. how intense the fear, how many scary encounters the dog has experienced, their ability to bounce back, the skill and knowledge of the human working with them etc, etc.

Dominika
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Joined: Mon Apr 19, 2010 7:25 pm

Re: Anxious collie

Post by Dominika » Fri Feb 21, 2020 4:43 am

Thank you.

Yes I have explained to them that some things might go quickly , some might take a long time and some things he might never be completely ok with. They're prepared for that and they're very dedicated but I hope they don't lose the motivation.

The most important thing I have actually suggested is to keep him a safe distance away from triggers to keep him stress free as much as possible and if they feel like being outside is too much a day at home keeping his mind busy is totally OK. He loves hide and seek and they have some puzzle toys, too. I will look for the games.

I will mention a behaviourist again. Oh those sensitive collies.

I think people will forever keep on choosing dogs based on an ideal in their heads rather than really considering the fit 😏

JudyN
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Re: Anxious collie

Post by JudyN » Fri Feb 21, 2020 7:45 am

Here's the thread Nettle mentioned for exercising a dog's mind: viewtopic.php?f=6&t=1135 You might find some more useful links here: viewtopic.php?f=4&t=11503

My dog often generalises - he initially got treats whenever we passed dogs I thought he might react to, and also 'scary' dustbin lorries, and pretty soon generalised to 'Mum, I've just seen a small b!tch/cyclist/balloon/random person - do I get a treat for that?' :lol:
Jasper, lurcher, born December 2009

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