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Notes on my border collie

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by Laura2207, Oct 20, 2020.

  1. Laura2207

    Laura2207 PetForums Newbie

    Oct 19, 2020
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    Evening all,

    posting again just to list some behaviours i've seen and would like to understand more about. This isn't necessarily a list of behaviours i'm unhappy with just ones I would like to understand more, although if there is a way to help unlearn undesired behaviours i'm happy to take that on board.

    A bit of background information; Glyn is 15 months old and is a failed sheepdog. He previously lived on a farm all his life in kennels never indoors. He's been around various people, cats and children in his life. Never lead trained either.

    1. Constant following.
      • Literally like a shadow. typically right behind me, sometimes so close I don't notice him at first. To the sink, sofa, tv, to tidy up. Anything I do he follows. If he's on his bed relaxing slightly at the sound of a noise he will open his eyes and if I move an inch he's at my side more than any dog i've ever known before.
    2. Strange about his back end.
      • He doesn't like anything near it or even if he is petted there. When he's met other dogs and they're nose to nose his tail wags and he seems happy, until they attempt to go anywhere behind him. He just seems really jumpy about his rear.
    3. Sudden lying down
      • If he does do something undesired, i.e jumps on the bed and i say 'off' in a firm but not angry tone he will just lie flat. No amount of repetition will help, the only way he will move is if i walk off and only because he wants to follow me. This isn't when i'm going to bed, it's when I go up there to do something quickly. He does the same on the sofa. Also I try not to let him bound up the stairs after me if i'm just popping to the loo so we've worked on the 'stay' command which he is slowly learning, however sometimes I come back down and he is by the living room doorway low to the ground and will not budge although he hasn't been scolded just asked to stay.
    4. Doesn't know how to play?
      • It's hard to explain, he's got a wide selection of toys. He's got a couple he likes to chew up, but if I ever pick them up randomly to encourage a play session he has no interest in them (although he does when he just sit alone). If I throw anything to the side of him he seems to flinch more than anything (soft toys, never aimed at him just into an open space he can see), he is like this with every toy I've tried so far and also really hates squeakers.
    5. Won't sit
      • When we've attempted the sit command as we've always done it; gets dogs attention with tasty treat and move it in a way it encourages them to sit but say *sit* just as they do it. he won't sit, he sort of crouches? for lack of better word. he can sit as he sits by my feet, but when it's incorporated into a training session we get the awkward crouch we just aren't sure why.
    These are just a few main points off the top of my head. He seems quite nervous, I know the breed are very sensitive to things so can put some reactions down to this, but obviously if he is scared of things I want to help him not be. We don't play into the anxiousness by overly fussing and saying 'it will all be okay' as we don't want to make him feel like it's okay to feel that way, we try to distract him with something he enjoys so it gets his tail wagging again, that said it's hard to interact with him in a playful manner as all he seems to do is follow anyone around and not want to play with things or interact with us in that way.

    We are aware some things he has never experience due to his upbringing and so are trying to do so gently, but it would be good to know what other people with BCs enjoy, what are their personalities, what makes them happy and excited so we can maybe try this with Glyn.

    He's coming on really well into domesticated life, he enjoys his chews and his bed and a fuss now and again and has slowly mastered lead walking to the point where I think he enjoys a long walk now. But any information is well received obviously. Anything to get him out of his shell and help him relax.

    He also does take treats as a rewards but doesn't seem to be very focussed on training with reward, we are planning to try changing the rewards up to extra super tasty things to see if that makes a difference.

    We did think maybe an adaptil diffuser would help him just feel more relaxed but i'm unsure if it would work in this situation.

    If you've read this far thank you on behalf of us and Glyn!
  2. Sarah H

    Sarah H Grand Empress of the Universe

    Jan 18, 2014
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    How long have you had him? I'd give it time. My collie came to me at 18 months having had a bit of a bad start and knowing nothing at all. He was (and still is) a sensitive soul who would lie down flat at any loud noise or shouting, and even wet himself if he thought it was directed at him. Luckily he loved his crate so he used to go in there as a safe space if he was worried.
    I just spent time bonding with him, taking him on little walks round the fields, getting him to eat better (he was skinny), just sitting with him and giving him treats (he didn't understand taking treats), getting him to chase after the food (the beginning of training and learning to work for food).
    In terms of toys I expect he just isn't used to playing with them, again give him time and build your bond and trust and I'm sure he will play with you eventually. Collies live for play so he'll get there.
    I'd not be worrying about teaching 'sit', it took my collie a year to do it on cue. You could always capture it instead of lure it if he sits nicely at other times. Basically if he sits of his own accord reward him for it, and eventually he will offer it where you again reward heavily. Then you can call him over and say 'sit' pre-emptively and he should do it. Remember he has no idea what the noise you are making means, he doesn't speak English.
    If he is scared then you should comfort him. He can't help feeling scared and he needs to know you have his back. You can't reinforce an emotion only behaviour, so if he needs reassurance give it to him, and in time he won't feel as scared as he knows you'll be there to make sure everything is OK.
    Following you is normal with a nervy rescue, they can become your shadow for a bit until they have a bit of self confidence.
    Laura2207, Twiggy, LinznMilly and 2 others like this.
  3. Lurcherlad

    Lurcherlad PetForums VIP

    Jan 5, 2013
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    Again, how long have you had him?

    It sounds like he is looking to you atm for comfort and reassurance so I’d let him follow tbh.

    Have a tasty filled kong to divert him from you briefly, if necessary.

    Once he’s more settled, he’ll probably become less needy and will gradually become more confident and independent.

    TBH Jack tends to track me down if I’m out of his orbit for too long, even now, nearly 9 years on. But he’s not motivated by anxiety, rather that I’m just his favourite person ;)

    I’d avoid doing the things which are making him anxious as much as possible, for now.

    If previous training has overwhelmed him, there could be hang ups from that so he needs to learn to know and trust you a bit first perhaps?

    If he’s on the sofa, maybe rather than the “off” (which bothers him) try calling him to you across the room in a happy voice for a treat/praise.

    Once he’s more settled, start adding the “off” command, which by then won’t cause any anxiety.

    It took about 6 months for my rescue to settle and longer before he started to play (even now he only plays occasionally and mostly prefers we don’t join in tbh ;)).
  4. Ian246

    Ian246 PetForums Senior

    Oct 27, 2018
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    I’ve seen very nervous ex-farm dogs and one that was absolutely terrified of everything (God knows what the farmer did; I’ve never seen anything like the state if that poor dog). I live in Cumbria and numbers of farmers, I do know, have a ‘robust’ approach to their dogs - especially if the dog is not doing well (and my in-laws are also farmers). Yours sounds nervous and unsure. Following you around is fairly standard practice for rescue dogs and it sounds like he’s doing the same - he may still be just very unsure if what’s going on; you’ve provided kindness and some stability and so you are his safe place - he’s going to stick to you like glue! With time, he should relax, but BCs are sensitive dogs (as intelligent dogs). Has he been left alone, yet?
    Sudden lying down is a nervous reaction, of course, and - to me - it’s classic BC behaviour - I’ve seen working BCs do it when they’ve been told off. As his confidence grows he should start to relax.
    He has probably never played before - not with a human in the way we think of it. I have had my rescue Sprocker for three years now - he’ll chase a ball (or anything I throw) and retrieve it wonderfully forever if I let him, but beyond that he doesn’t really know how to play. I’m trying to get him to play tug, but it’s a challenge at present (unless I throw the tuggie!) Give it some time, but it may be that your dog never ‘gets’ it.
    Rear end - I could speculate that he was used to getting whacked there if he’d done wrong, but it would be pure speculation (so probably unfair). Some dogs are just edgy about being touched in certain places (feet, ears, etc.)
    Sitting - I’ve never seen a sheep farmer tell his dog to sit - it’s always “lie down” (often increasingly loudly!) It could be your fella just never gas - again, some dogs don't tend to sit naturally, they either stand or lie down. It’s something you could work on, but - again - you may need to give him more time. I certainly wouldn’t pressure him, given the fact that he is (he sounds to be) quite nervous. Just be with him, be good to him. For example, if firmly telling him to get off the bed is making him anxious, close the bedroom door so he cannot gets into the bed and then you’re not faced with having to tell him to get off the bed (and ge doesn’t get stressed).
    I hope that helps a bit. :)
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