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problem with our car when walking near traffic

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by HilC, Oct 5, 2013.

  1. HilC

    HilC PetForums Newbie

    Oct 5, 2013
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    We have an 8 months old beautiful Border Collie pup. She wz farm bred, the runt of the litter. We were told that she wz being bullied by her siblings n so wz isolated. She is frightened of her own shadow! Practically agoraphobic! We walk her in a small park near to where we live. This park is by a main road n our lovely little girl keeps lunging at the cars as they pass. We believe this could be a form of anxiety so are doing our best to get her tree to traffic. We get her to sit n watch the traffic n is ok for a while but the second we praise her or try to move on she's back to pulling n lunging again! We take her to training classes (which she really enjoys) to help her socialize with other dogs n people n she's coming on a treat!
  2. Sled dog hotel

    Sled dog hotel PetForums VIP

    Aug 11, 2010
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    If she was bred on an isolated farm and not introduced to things slowly and gently from a very young pup and then suddenly introduced to a lot of things she had never encountered before all at once that's likely a lot of the problem and why she is scared of her own shadow. Collies tend to be a very sensitive breed in general too.

    If they isolated her from her siblings and mum at a very young age too, that wouldn't have helped, as they learn vital lessons from mum and siblings and its where they learn interaction and confidence too. If she didn't have a lot of human contact and handling from an early age again that would explain a lot. The first 16 weeks of a pups life they go through a lot of stages of development.

    Anxiety and fearfulness is one of the hardest behavioural problems to "treat" its something that cant be rushed and needs a lot of time and patience. Also the more stressed and anxious they are, the less they can cope or are receptive to training and things you do to try to help them get over the problems. Often for example a stressed anxious dog, wont be interested in food so wont take treats that you would normally use as a distraction and reward for behaviour you do want them to show.

    Firstly is she OK in the car and once away from traffic and things that are scary to her does she relax and seem to enjoy walks more in general? If she is Ok in the car and is more relaxed, with one I have who couldn't cope as a pup with the same sort of things, I first started taking him to areas by car that he did feel safer and more secure in, so he could start to see walks as a positive enjoyable thing again, and not something to be afraid of, and just to get him to build some confidence without having to get more and more anxious as the walk progressed as he encountered more and more things that would terrify him and he couldn't cope with.

    Next step once he was more confident and starting to look forward to walks, was to start introducing him to things, but at a distance he could cope with and wasn't so frightened. Although you are trying this by sitting and watching traffic, you may still be too close to it for her to cope with, and after sitting there for a while she cant cope even more as the anxiety starts to build. You need to find somewhere where the traffic is more distant and she can still see or hear it but its far enough away, so she doesn't feel threatened.

    As explained once they start to get anxious and stressed then the more things they encounter they can cope less and less with, so you need to keep her far enough away so she can cope at first.

    Other things you can do is to teach her to focus on you more, there is no point in trying to do it where and when shes already started to get anxious.
    You need to teach her as a training exercise at home first. A watch me command is useful. You do this by holding a treat in a position so that that she has to look up into your face and make eye contact, and the second she does, you say watch me and treat her. Once she has got that, you can extend the amount of time she has to keep eye contact and focus on you, by adding wait after the watch me and then treating so she has to keep that focus and eye contact for longer. You can then extend the time even more, by slowly pausing longer and longer between saying the watch me/wait and actually giving the treat. When she has learned that well in training at home, you should be able to use it outside, as long as you are working far enough away from the thing that scares her at first. At first you may have to repeatedly do the exercise and rapid fire treats to keep her interest and focus.

    Another good command to teach anxious dogs, is the hide or behind command. A lot of pups when they first go out and encounter new things, will naturally hide behind their owners, so that the owners are between the scary thing and them, so they feel safer. Usually if you watch a pup who does this naturally, they will then peek out and become curious once they feel safer, and then gradually, they creep out and explore as they become a little confident and decide the "thing" may not be so scary after all.
    Teaching a lot of dogs that if they feel scared they can have a safe place to hide if need be, can work in the same way. You can teach her the command, by luring with a treat again in an exercise at home, and pairing it with the command behind or hide whatever you prefer, you should find with enough repetitions and practice, you wont have to lure her, and on the command she will go behind you. Once she has learned it at home, then if you see her getting anxious about something she isn't sure of approaching, you can use this as a place she will feel safer and watch and learn from.

    How is she with other dogs. Do you know any older dogs, that are calm confident and not afraid of anything, and completely friendly and non reactive to other dogs? Often as long as the pup likes the other dog and feels safe with it, they will often gain confidence and learn from the older dog, like a role model. The dog has to be calm laid back and unafraid of things though, because if you pair an anxious dog with another stressy or anxious dog it will make them worse still, as they learn bad things from each other as well as good things. Often if you start working by following with the other dog in front, and then gradually getting closer behind, and finally walking side by side, the scared dog will follow the others lead and start to become more confident and learn from them.

    You will still need to start working from enough distance to things, at first though that she does feel confident and not nervous with. The idea then is as they can cope and gain some confidence, you decrease the distances to things a little bit at a time. Do the exercises all again, and when they can remain relaxed then decrease the distance a little more and so on.
    You can also use the watch me, to get attention and focus on you rather then the scary thing, so they will look to you for instruction and confidence.
    If she does glace at the thing and isn't fazed inbetween you also praise that and treat her too. In fact as she gains confidence actually encourage her to look at the scary thing, then back to you and reward for it as long as she is relaxed and unfazed. You also have the Hide/behind command in place, so when you introduce her to anything new, you can even act as her safety buffer where she can distance herself and watch safely and decide when and if she wants to venture out and explore at her own speed.

    When she can get closer to moving traffic, its best to start giving her short bursts of road walking in quieter roads, at quieter times of day where you are only going to see maybe one or two cars like a side road, and as she copes with quieter roads then build up gradually to a little busier roads with a few more cars and so on.

    Although she is way past the age of the puppy plan which is a puppy socialisation plan for those first vital 16 weeks of life she should have had, it will give you an understanding of socialisation and why its so important. At the end of the breeders and early caregivers sections and new owners section there is a plan to download, it is meant for the first 16 weeks of a pups life introducing them gradually and gently, but it may give you some ideas to go about introducing her to things.
    The Puppy Plan
    Worse ways it may help you understand her better.

    Some dogs become noise phobic too and its noises that scare them or as much as the visual does too. You can get CDs of noises that you start to play at barely audible level, while the dog is doing something pleasurable, like eating their dinner, having a training or play session, relaxing with a chew or stuffed kong. You then as the dog learns to ignore the sound turn up the volume very slightly a bit at a time, as they ignore the previous level and are not bothered by it, again you can only work at the dogs pace, so it can take days weeks or even longer. If she came from an isolated farm with only natural sounds, then noise may be a factor with her. Details of the CDs on the link.
    Sound Therapy 4 Pets - Homepage

    Sometimes too with a dog that's very anxious and scared, a natural calmative can help, not a drug, but just something to help with the stress and anxiety levels, that in turn can make them more able to cope and receptive to the training.
    Adaptil helps a lot of dogs, you can get a plug in diffuser form for indoors, and a collar from for outside, and there is also a spray form too. Vets and pets at home sell them, but cheaper on line I get mine from Pet Medicine, Vet Prescriptions & Pet Food Cheaper Than Your Vet
    If you want to read more:-
    Adaptil helps dogs and puppys learn settle travel and in kennels

    Zylkene is another thing that seems to help a lot of dogs too, its a capsule supplement that's based on casein a protein found in milk so quite safe and natural. That too you can get on the link above.

    Having said all this, it all depends on how confident and/or experienced you are about working through it and trying things yourself. Another alternative if you haven't, is to maybe think about getting in a one to one trainer or behaviourist, preferably with collie and fear/anxiety issues, they would assess her and give you a tailor made programme and work with you. So that's maybe another route to go.
    CAPBT - COAPE Association of Pet Behaviourists and Trainers is one organisation where you should find behaviourists in your area.
    #2 Sled dog hotel, Oct 5, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2013
  3. Burrowzig

    Burrowzig PetForums VIP

    Feb 18, 2009
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    Lunging at cars is very common problem with border collies; it's related to the urge to 'herd' anything that moves. Some collies also do it when in cars, leaping and barking at other cars on the road if they can see them.

    The 'watch me' command is or other distraction technique usually works (with my collie-cross who used to lunge at cars, I got her to sit and wait). If your dog is interested in a ball or other toy, using one to concentrate the dog's attention can make it easier. An anxious frame of mind makes it worse, so keeping the dog calm will help too.
  4. HilC

    HilC PetForums Newbie

    Oct 5, 2013
    Likes Received:
    Thank you for taking the time to reply with suggestions on how to help - much appreciated. I think it's going to be a while before she overcomes this - she's still so very nervous! We will plod on n hopefully she'll gradually increase her confidence. At training class she loves to socialise with the other dogs n people - really enjoys going. It's when she's out of her 'comfort zone' that she feels uneasy. We try n get her to walk a bit further each time - some days are better than others but I'd like to think we're making progress.
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