Mumsnet does not check the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you're worried about your pet's health, please speak to a vet or qualified professional.
This is a Premium feature
To use this feature subscribe to Mumsnet Premium - get first access to new features see fewer ads, and support Mumsnet.Start using Mumsnet Premium
Do I need to socialise my new dog and if so how?(25 Posts)
I rehomed a 1 year old collie yesterday. I am determined to do right by her and have booked into one-to-one puppy and agility training as I'm new to dog ownership. So far she has been a dream in most ways. She is very affectionate but didn't disturb me at all in the night, had free rein of one room while I went out for an hour and didn't mess or destroy anything. She loves fetch in the garden and frisbee in the local park and her recall seems great, though I haven't tested her off lead outside of the home and garden. With a long training lead in the park, her recall was fine.
The only real issue I am having is walking her on the leash. She came from a multi dog household where they didn't really walk them per se but drove them to a big field to run about twice a day and gave them free run of the garden. I was told she sometimes barks at other dogs on leash but is fine off lead.
My experience is that she is terrified of other dogs, growls at them and if they are close, lunges. When an off leash dog came up to say hello at the park, she lowered her body and showed her teeth and he trotted off.
Is this just insecurity at her new home, or do I need to train her out of it and if so, how? Thanks in advance!
If you rehomed from a charity then the decent ones will help you with this.
If you rehomed privately, expect the previous owner to have minimised any issues to make it more likely you take the dog on. "Sometimes barks" could mean just that, or could mean she is reactive and aggressive to other dogs.
If it's the latter, this is a behavioural issue that will, most likely, require help from a qualified behaviourist to to address. It is not at all easy (almost impossible) for someone to train out of a dog, especially with their first dog.
If your trainig classes are with someone decent then they can also help guide you on whether the dog is just a bit barky or if there is something more significant going on.
Join a dog walking group.
Ask owners if she can meet their dog on lead if it's friendly.
Find a good behaviourist.
Have you tried her off lead? I'd be concerned that she'd be similar, although one of mine is great off lead, but feels threatened and has growled when another dog approached, no escape for him so he wasn't happy.
Thanks both. I haven't wanted to try her off lead yet until I feel more confident to predict her reaction to things. I guess time will tell. She was rehomed privately.
I'd say get a behaviourist in before you start with meeting dogs/classes. We regret sending our rescue to doggy daycare thinking it would help socialise him, it made everything worse.
On the behaviourists advice we went back to basics keeping him away from other dogs and giving his favourite treat when he saw a dog (even streets away/through windows) if he looked at us first before reacting. It's taken a few months to get improvement but he can meet others nicely now most of the time
Be careful about socialising him if he's already telling you he's unhappy meeting other dogs.
It's hard to tell what and how severe his worry is, a behaviourist would be the best bet to help with this.
Dogs are often more reactive on lead as they feel restrained against using all their body language and social cues to communicate with other dogs. As such he may well be less aggressive or fearful off lead. That said, I agree with you that it would be more risky to take him off lead at the moment until you know more.
It is nice to have a social dog, but ideally you should be your dog's best friend and favourite playmate.
Collie cross owner here, same age.
We have had Billypup from 8 weeks so I can't comment on the rescue element and therefore would also suggest a behaviourist.
Some of my experience with this age collie:
Be wary about letting him off lead in wooded areas with high squirrel and deer populations, they are bred to herd so instinct will chase them and I've spent far longer than I would like yelling 'come' with no dog to be seen.
Check to see if there is a local secure dog field, these are great and give you at least an hour of fun and safety often with 1-1 training (obv at a price)
We currently have issues with being reactive with rowers, she's fine when they are still on the canal but when they are moving they are inherently evil and need barking at. I've been getting her to sit when they're close and distracting her with sausage, yesterday cost me 7 pieces of sausage for 2 groups of rowers, I think thats quite expensive but getting better. You probably need to try a similar idea with other dogs pre-empt the problem by getting him to sit and distract, it will take a long time.
She also reacts to runners and cyclists in that she tries to chase, I've been using the same technique which is now perfect on lead, still a work in progress off but getting better and with improved recall is becoming manageable.
How is he on lead for loose lead walking? Billypup is dreadful although much improved, we have had to do a lot of training on this as she pulls like anything, I've used a mixture of a constant stream of treats to walk to heal, stopping dead and calling her back (which she now reluctantly does without the need to call but you can tell she's pissed off) and a halti collar which is the last resort, which she absolutely hates, but some mornings she has been so reactive it was the only way. The halti, was a very short term solution and made a massive difference in a few days so we rarely need it now but I always have it just in case.
We had a much better walk this morning. She barked and lunged at one dog (she really seems to hate shi tzus!) but other dogs she either ignored or just watched, or barked once and move on. She also only growled at one person - though a few she tried to move towards but she was low down to the ground. I had her on a short lead so she couldn't reach them but she wasn't growling or baring her teeth and her ears were up but tail down. Was that submissive behaviour/nervous interest or aggression?
I kept her on the short lead as there were other dogs in the park and she kept trying to chase their balls, so we played fetch in the garden when we got back instead. We also came via our very friendly village vet, who didn't examine her as she was clearly anxious but did weigh her and feed her treats. I think we're getting there.
She's now resting in front of the front door (guarding, I guess).
On the leash, she pulls because she's eager to go but she stops if I say 'wait'. Not sure of best way to get her to walk to heel but I thought I'd ask the trainer when I meet them.
Thanks for all the tips.
I used to have a collie cross (Greek). She had definite likes and dislikes in the dog population (I think all dogs do) but the things that helped were making sure she continued to meet a lot of dogs regularly on walks and, on approach, saying in a low conversational tone, "here comes a nice dog, how lovely, hallo, hallo" (which worked better than nothing being said and leaving her to get suspicious of oncoming dog). If she met a dog and behaved, she would be offered a treat when we were walking away again. The other thing to be careful of is that you are not inadvertently tensing up and getting nervous as a dog hoves into view/approaches along the pavement as your clever dog will sense this immediately and react. The much derided Cesar Millan is right about this even if he was wrong about lots of other things.
I echo the posts above about distraction & treating.
I rescued a 4 yr old beagle almost 2 yrs ago & he hadn't been walked, even tied up & kennelled outside. He was great with dogs once I eventually let him off lead, but a bit nervous. I had him on a long line for a month - I wouldn't recommend trying earlier than that.
I did lots of work with making him sit, letting him see the other dog / jogger then when he didn't react but looked back at me, got praise & a treat. He now doesn't chase joggers & is offlead for his walk.
The one thing I did do that gave me peace of mind when he was off lead (another working breed who turns his ears off when he's chasing a squirrel) was to get a gps tracker for his collar. I tried the Tractive brand, but it was crap in wooded areas (exactly where he ran off), but a fellow beagle owner recommended one called Dog Tracker Nano. It's brilliant! It's not cheap, but I can let him run & just watch on my phone where he goes.
@Dusty thank you for that I was looking at trackers the other day, is it a one off purchase or does it have a monthly subscription and is it ok if the signal is rubbish? ( not that I don't trust my dog!!)
@billybagpuss I paid my subscription upfront for the year. It's now up for renewal & as I'm skint I'll just pay the £6 a month. It's fantastic for areas with bad signal - I got the added roaming SIM which works brilliantly. I also got the speed tracker - refreshes at 10 secs instead of 30, as mine is a fast runner!! Lol I also got the security collar
If they don't have a discount code at the moment, use BEAGLE1 - we got it set up via our beagle group. I can't remember the % though, so try both it & the other one if they have one on the page.
Let me know if you have any more questions.
Sorry this is going to be really negative.
I’m really disturbed to hear as a first time dog owner you’ve been given a dog who is not only dog aggressive but human aggressive aswell and of a challenging breed.
I have a border collie who is dog aggressive and I’m sorry to be a real downer but I would seriously consider returning this dog.
Do not be lulled into a false sense of security by the fact she’s fine with ‘some’ dogs, so was mine.
Now I have so little trust in her with other dogs she is muzzled and never off leash.
Aggression tends to get worse over time and it is NOT an easy thing to fix.
Often, rescue dogs don’t show their true colours for a few weeks, so the fact she is showing aggression already i find particularly alarming and I suspect this will get very much worse, very quickly.
Much as I love my dog the stress her behaviour causes is immense.
If she was human aggressive on top I don’t think I could cope and would have to have her put down, personally.
Make no mistake, the growling and going towards people is aggressive, collies are prone to anxiety/nervousness and most aggression has its roots in fear.
The body lowered at other dogs and tail down would suggest fear aswell.
You mention about the balls, pretty much all collies are ball obsessed, does she exhibit other herdy traits?
To be completely honest, I love the herding breeds and wouldn’t have anything else BUT I would be very hesitant to recommend collies to a first time dog owner, particularly the higher drive ones like mine and a collie with aggression issues, no way!
doggy she's not a rescue, she's a private rehome.
So her old owners have drastically played down her issues then.
OP, hopefully you can fix her problems but you must be aware it is an immensely challenging thing to try and fix.
You've had her 2 days. Give it time so you can get to know each other. Eg when I got our rescue ddog on his first Street walks he would bark his head off at other dogs I was thinking shit how do we manage this. Didn't let him approach them as I didn't know if he would be friendly. I'd find myself hiding in bushes changing direction etc. Now I know him I've found he is desperate to meet any dog he sees and I ask the other owner he has a quick sniff hello and all is well. It will take your dog a little time to settle with you. Just let her chill. We found some nice regular field walks knew who the friendly people were who are often sympathetic and happy to help you. You say you've planned classes - this is great as a safe place to learn about each other.
Get to know her. Get to know what works etc eg I know if my dog has a quick offlead play with another we need to move on before he gets too involved. Otherwise I struggle to grab him, he dodges about and can wind other dogs up so I say to the other owner let me get mine first - often they're happy to help and will grab him for me!! Element of surprise!! We joined a dig walking group meet once a month - lovely as to all get to know each other and each others dogs! I always speak to other owners while we're out. Good to have familiar faces about.
Don't panic yet xxx
All dogs need to be socalised. I have a Collie x GSD. As a pup he hated other dogs, probably due to an over active lab in the park when he was only small trying to play with him and he hadn't a notion of going near the lab. Same lab now he gets on great with!!
The first day I brought him to a socialising and agility class I had to drag him in into it, by the time we were leaving I had to drag him out. It is the best thing I could have done with him. Off leash, if a small dog comes towards him, he lies down, I didn't train him to do this, he just does. The only time he barks at dogs is when we are in the car and he is protecting it. If he was standing beside the same dog he would be all play.
What I would do with other dogs, runners, rowers etc. I would get the dog to sit with a treat held in your hand but that they can't get. It keeps their attention licking your hand, and if they get detracted, show them the treat again, so that they bring their attention back to licking your hand to get it out.
If you do decide to train in recall start where there are no distractions, even in your own garden. Go short at the start, taking a few steps and calling them and giving a treat. Once she gets it, let her wander off and call her back. Hide and call or whistle and see will she come to you. When she is doing well bring her to a large open space where there is no or very few other dogs and do the same. Collies are smart she will catch on quick.
Now I stop walking, or hide behind a tree and say nothing and my fella will come back to me, it took time and effort but so worth it in the end!
Hopefully she eases into it soon. Collies really are a great dog!
She's on a week's trial and her previous owner said she would take her back if we needed her to.
Had a better walk this morning, she met a black lab and barked once but other than that just kept an eye on him.
However yesterday when I took her on a walk along a footpath, intending to go over a couple of fields, she slipped her harness. We got to a stile and she slid under but the lead having gone under meant I couldn't reach to climb over without letting go of the lead. I tried to coax her back under, but she backed away and pulled her head out the harness. Luckily, she only went a few steps and came back when I called, then sat quietly while I put it back on but it could have gone very differently.
Does this mean the harness is too loose or is she just an escape artist? She's never tried to take it off before but I wondered if her previous owner used to let her go harness-free in a field so she expected to be able to.
The vet said to give her a couple of weeks to settle, so I'll do that. If she's still showing aggression to random people on walks, we'll have to rethink whether we're the right home, I guess. But she is so sweet and loving when we are at home and great with the kids. She's shown no herding tendencies but she does love to play fetch and find the toy. And no signs of anxiety at home, she hasn't messed in the house or chewed anything, she doesn't bark or howl or whimper at night. But as soon as we exit our front door, she looks terrified.
I don't want to start a bun fight but I don't agree with Immeant that all dogs need to be socialised. Yes, in an ideal world that is the case, but sometimes it is not that simple.
I honestly think that as he's giving you signals that he's uncomfortable with some dogs, you are better to take it slow and not push him to socialise.
It's tricky if you feel you have just a week to make up your mind- maybe contact them and discuss an extension. Tell them you have concerns and would like to be given a chance to work on them.
A behaviouralist would be invaluable to try to decipher what your dog is telling you. Ideally they would come out with you and observe during a walk- a one on one session in a confined area won't give the dog the chance to communicate any issues, and a group session would be too much at this stage.
It is the case that many people have Happy relationships with dogs that cannot socialise. It's not for everyone, and I have only had social dogs but I know plenty of people whose dogs are not ok in company either because the find it stressful, are aggressive- or both. Yes, maybe technically they could be trained out of it but some of them have tried and tried with no success. TBF they are all rescues, but are licked dearly and their owners wouldn't change them for anything.
Collies are wonderful, they really are.
Mine is lovely and tolerant with children too.
I’m not necessarily saying you have to give her back, I am saying to just be completely prepared for what you are getting into.
Be prepared that nervousness is a big problem in the herding breeds, it’s often genetic and enhanced by environment/experiences and training.
Be prepared that aggression, can and often does get worse over time and is not an easy thing to fix.
With the right training you can probably help her over her nervousness to a large degree and fix the aggression but it won’t be a quick and easy thing to fix and if her nerves are genetic she’ll probably always be a little shy.
I think the confusion comes from the differing meanings of socialisation.
Meaning 1: the process by which young puppies learn about the world they have been born into. During the first few weeks of life they are programmed to readily accept a wide range of experiences as being "normal" and non threatening. This includes learning that dogs, people etc are a normal part of their world and not to be feared. For this you DO need to expose puppies to a range of experiences, humans, dogs and so long as those experiences are not scary, all should be well.
After about 16 weeks of age the development window all but closes completely and so it becomes infinitely harder to do this with an older dog. Maybe so hard as to be practically impossible for us normal pet owners.
Meaning 2: giving an adult dog the chance to hang out with and enjoy the company of other dogs. For sure, this is only really beneficial to dogs that enjoy this. A dog that didn't enjoy it would be undoubtably happier without it.
Agree that collies are often a special case where it comes to nervous aggression. Their neurological wiring is often at the extreme end of the range and would appear to make anxiety a vulnerability in the breed. I think this is probably why they constantly crop up as one of the most intelligent and trainable breeds but also why they can get into such trouble. A double-edged sword, if you will.
The fact you’ve taken on a young collie as a private rehome is far far from ideal for a first time dog owner.
For now you need to stay away from other dogs. Your dog doesn’t want to socialise with other dogs and is telling you so quite clearly.
The socialisation window closes at 14 weeks. What you have now is a dog with a particular kind of reaction to other dogs, by the sounds of it, a negative reaction towards at least some dogs. That is, you have a problem.
You cannot and should not get advice on the internet for such a problem. No one can really tell you what is going on, how serious it is and how to react to it without seeing the dog and seeing the dog interacting with other dogs.
Please get a qualified behaviourist asap. They should be able to assess the dog in your home, on walks and, if possible, with one of their own dogs loose. There are a lot of techniques to overcome dog aggression, e.g. distraction, counter conditioning, gradual exposure, etc., but they take months to implement and, some dogs, will never get better.
You need to decide whether you have the time, patience and dedication to take on a dog with dog aggression problems. It will be a long road, with setbacks and without a guaranteed happy ending.
Be careful seeking out a behaviourist too. It’s not a regulated industry. If you’re on FB dog training advice and support is run by experienced and positive dog trainers. They can recommend someone in your area.
Thank you all. She seems to be improving a little as she becomes more settled - she can be distracted from another dog by a treat, for example and barking at strangers is now restricted to frenzied barking at old men and people with their hoods up and a single bark at people who try to talk to her. If anyone else walks past, she just looks at them and carries on.
Before she lived in a multi dog household, so I guess she has been 'socialised' to a degree but maybe she feels insecure now she has lost her playmates.
I have booked a home visit/observation from a trainer recommended by the vet, who specifically states he uses positive training methods on his website etc. He seems to be well thought of but if anyone in Bath/Bristol/South Glos area would like to PM me with names of people they'd recommend, I'm happy to try someone else on recommendation.