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Rescue dog barking and lunging(25 Posts)
Apologies in advance if this is long.
We are fostering with a view to adopting a Border Collie girl from a BC rescue. Several decades experience with the breed, but not had a rescue collie before.
She is five and spent her first four and a half years on a farm in kennels, and was bred from. It seems she never had any proper socialising. She was then rehomed to an older doggy couple who made great progress- training her to walk on a lead, all basic commands, introducing her gradually to new things etc etc. She is the most lovely dog in the house - very affectionate and very well mannered. Loves people.
Her one issue is she will bark and lunge at dogs (and cats) . It is anxiety rather than aggression. She seems fine if they are stationary but lunges when they move, and goes into hyper vigilance mode.She was ok at vets in waiting room for example, but not if she sees a dog on the street. She has also chased my cats ( an accidental meeting) - I am keeping them in separate parts of the house now with a plug in feliway diffuser.
We have been reassuring but firm, but it is very very stressful. Today has been especially bad and she has also been barking at random noises from outside, which she didn't before. Suggestions that we get her to meet a well behaved dog somewhere neutral might help her.
I know it's early days, and to expect some behaviour regression but tonight I feel exhausted and despairing.
Does anyone have any advice?
Honestly? Get help from a good, reinforcement based behaviourist. This is extremely unlikely to get better on its own and introducing her to a calm dog is very unlikely to help. Just as introducing me to a calm spider wouldn't help my fear of them.
It sounds like you've got a fairly realistic view of the situation.
From what you've said, the technical term that is most likely applicable is that she's reactive; if so, this Facebook group is very helpful and sane (and a good reminder that you're not the only one in this situation. Mine is reactive but to weird triggers and not the usual dog triggers!) Reactive dogs are essentially barking to make the scary thing go away and need to be kept away from what they find scary as much as possible while behavioural strategies are put in place. It's a common result of lack of early socialisation. www.facebook.com/groups/1633448230248202/
However, do you know how your dog is off lead with other dogs? If she barks and lunges when on lead but is fine off lead then chances are she's more of a frustrated greeter. When I first met my own rescue dog I thought he was lead reactive (he'd bark and lunge at other dogs on the other side of the road, but be a darling with them in the park) but eventually figured out it was frustration. In other words, he really wanted to go and say hello, was frustrated he couldn't get there at his preferred 100mph, didn't know what to do with himself and so started barking and lunging. It eventually resolved itself with time, copious exercise and lots of doggy social contact.
I'd ask for some professional behavioural support - initially through the BC rescue but if they are unable or unwilling to help then look for an APBC or CCAB accredited behaviourist yourself. All the training must be positive reinforcement / reward based training. Punishment has a nasty habit of making reactive dogs initially too scared to react but then the behaviour problems become much worse, often in different ways (eg you could end up with a dog that is not only reactive to dogs but strangers too). Avoid like the plague anyone who advocates pack leadership / alpha dog / dominance theories as these are the hallmark of outdated, dangerous advice.
Thank you all.
I am concerned about the intro with the calm dog thing too - but it was suggested both by my vet and the rescue we adopted her from.
Her last people had one to one training with her, not sure what kind or whether behaviourist or trainer. She has apparently improved considerably with them. To be fair there have been small signs of progress with us - she already settles a bit quicker than she did after an episode.
She has not yet been completely off the lead - I've had her on two long lines clipped together until I am a bit more certain of her. At some point I will have to pluck up courage but it seems irresponsible knowing what I do - It would not at all surprise me if she would go for another dog off lead. It's not pent up frustration either - in fact she appears not to have much stamina. Not used to long walks. Vet's given clean bill of health.
I am trying to reduce her exposure to stress as much as possible by driving her to quiet places for her walks but I live in an area full f dogs and cats, so it is not always feasible esp for first thing/last thing wee walks. Today she had several shorter walks and I that stressed her out.
Have already researched behaviourists locally. Will look at that Facebook page, thank you.
Any advice re cats?
Grr Facebook issue. Only joined it recently now they have asked me to send a photo to 'review' as there has been suspicious activity on my account?
Oh yes one other thing. If she sees a dog from the car, it's red alert but no barking or lunging.
Re the car - I have a nervous dog who was dreadful in the car ( barked and lunged at virtually everything).
I started taking him out on more short trips but gave him a kong so he had something else to concentrate on, and this worked really well.
Loads of praise when we did pass one of his triggers. He actually wants to go in the car now, when he sees me getting ready!
Be prepared for a very long journey ahead - also be prepared that this will never be solved but you will learn to manage it and have a good quality of life.
Unfortunately this is extremely common behaviour in collies and can be very difficult to change completely
I would NOT be looking for a calm dog for her to met yet. You need to bring down all the stress levels get her calmer at home and in situations where there are no dogs or triggers around.
Look for a behaviourist who will be able to assess when she is ready to meet dogs off lead and which calm dog to meet BAT would be a way to go here.
There is an amazing group in the south east who specialise in this and has dogs and the space to help reactive .
Good luck but be prepared for a roller coaster ride
Another thing to consider with collies is to fill their brain with other things rather than their anxieties.
So Scentwork and agility would be a good thing to consider.
Scentwork UK is very positive and accepting of reactive dogs. Most agility clubs will have several reactive collies and usually have a lot of collie experience. You may need to start with 1-2-1 lessons to start with.
It is good for you and the dog to do things together which give you both pleasure and helps to balance out the frustration which you can feel at times being the owner of a reactive dog.
Scentwork - not to be sniffed at
That sounds like a really good idea actually.
Feeling a bit more positive today after all this helpful input. Have found an APBC trainer covering my area. Her website also has some excellent resources, echoing what you are all saying.
Hoping for a better weekend. I'll keep this updated.
Where abouts are you?
I've been doing a course for the last couple of weeks in a friends secure dog field.
One of the things we've been doing is trying to keep the dogs calm. We started by just walking in different parts of the field in circles, called the circle of calm. It took literally a good half an hour the first week for the dogs to disengage with the environment and focus on us. Then started treating and clicking in a walk to heal position.
Then last week we started the same way and then started to use upturned washing up bowls we each had our own colour and there's about 6 dogs on the course. Started by just walking calmly between our own two bowls and dropping a treat on each bowl as we got to it. If the dog started pulling or lunging for it we would turn back to the other bowl so eventually they walked calmly between our own 2 bowls, then we upped it to 3, then we could walk to any coloured bowl as long as there was no dog at it. Amazingly all the dogs were walking between each other only focussing on the bowls. Does that make sense.
If you're in SW pm me and happy to book the field with my DDog too and get friend along to help.
PS mine is a collie x and one of the dogs on the course has never been able to mix with other dogs like that at all.
Thanks again. Bag puss am not in your part of the world unfortunately. That group sounds interesting!
However, I have to report the last few days have been much, much better. Yesterday she walked calmly past a Labrador who was fetching sticks from the reservoir, and ditto a spaniel, which was off lead with a large group of walkers.
I am aware there will be setbacks, but I feel much more positive. My plan has been to drive her to open countryside ( ten to twenty mins) then walk her early morning and evening to avoid any triggering incidents. We did over ten miles yesterday and she was a very happy girl ! A little taste of roast chicken for dinner and she was in doggy heaven.
Without being too outing she has come from a very flat place to a very hilly one and I have also noticed her trying to work out why things alarmingly appear and disappear from view. Also things like seeing people walking the other side of a wall - why were there only disembodied shoulders and heads?
Looking back, the day of my OP I was very very tired and stressed from other things ( Following day I came home and slept for 13 hours straight) and I think she picked up on it. Plus trying to walk her locally which was triggering her to such an extent she couldn't settle.
So all in all, I think I'm on the right track.
Any and all advice very welcome.
That's amazing OP. Delighted you have made progress. I have two foster collies here at the moment, both have come from a terrible place so each tiny bot of progress is amazing. When they first came here I got them Adaptil collars and gave CBD oil for stress, which did seem to help.
I saw the Adaptil mentioned on the behaviourist's website. I thought I d try a plug in first? Feliway has really calmed my cats, so we will see. Also supplements might help too I understand.?
Tbh I just did everything. Skullcap and valerian tablets as well, and TTouch!
Hope I can join this thread- we have just got a collie cross from a rescue. He is about 7. In lots of ways he is fab but he is terrified by passing cars. Luckily I live on a quiet estate so our walk is Not too bad but maybe 5-10 cars will Pass us in 30 mins. He barks and lunges and then remains hyper alert. I’ve worked out it’s the movement as he will happily walk around a car with its engine idling. He jumps into our car with no problems but barks at all the other cars he sees through the window!
We are working with a behaviourist and she suggested high value treats throughout the walk. Tbh it doesn’t seem to make any difference but I am happy to persevere......
As we don’t know his background we are working on recall on a long line and he is getting better but goes selectively deaf if there’s something much better. Today when we were out he spotted another dog and he wouldn’t come back at all. Fortunately the other dog and owners were relaxed about it as he is friendly to both humans and dogs when he approaches but I don’t want him running up to people/dogs.
Any advice would be gratefully received. I tried the adaptil collar but it made no difference. Is the CBD oil worth a go??
@Localher0 tbh If you've just got this dog I would avoid road walks for a while until you are more confident he'll focus on you. Collies can have an overwhelming instinct to herd cars (for lack of any other herdable things in their environment ). In the car try giving him a kong or licky mat with something really tasty. Better still, if he's crate trained then cover the crate so he can't see the cars.
CBD won't change his behaviour as such - only training will do that - but it may lower his anxiety levels to a point where you can get his attention. IME the key to controlling his car herding is getting a really good 'look at me' type command so his attention goes to you ( for a reward) when he sees a car coming.
Another positive update. Things improving all the time. Has met a steady family dog at gradually reducing distance on lead, and has played happily off lead in same field with him. Greeted each other politely.
When out and about I generally either take her away from other dog or walk her firmly past. The other day she was surrounded by a posse of standard poodles bumbling around and only reacted when they got very close.
I still have to keep her apart from my three cats though which is doable but a pain. If she meets one accidentally she either barks or tries to chase. They then scarper, os as far as she is concerned it's job done, which might be a difficult issue to break. She has tolerated being in the same room with the most confident one, without getting noticeably stressed, but was being held firmly at the time.
Can you teach a look at me? So cat there and you get attention of dog to look at you and a treat until cat gone. The idea is to get the dog to look at you when it sees cat and not fix on the cat.
You MUST prevent chasing at all costs. Longline on dog?
Ultimately I’m afraid not all dogs can live with cats.
Hello everyone, thanks again for the good advice.
@Wolfiefan - she has a great 'look at me' behaviour and can now be in the same room, off lead with cat, focussing on me, when doing it as an exercise.
Issues arise when she is surprised by them - eg if I open a door and one is there, or somebody sneaks in and I don't notice- then she will instantly bark and chase. This happens very rarely as I am trying to keep them separate still.
The dog thing is generally improving but still a bit hit and miss. She picks up on my mood very much, more so I'd say than my previous collies, so if I am energised and enthusiastic there seem to be fewer problems. If I am preoccupied or tired, that's when issues are likely to arise.
We have a 90 min session with a highly recommended ABTC behaviourist in a week's time at home to give some initial pointers re the dog thing, cat thing and initial barking at visitors thing.
Hi @Grinchly - will be interested to hear your update re the behaviour therapy. We have a rescue dog (now nearly 2) who wasn't socialised as a puppy, and whse mum was a street dog in Serbia.
He definitely has some border collie in him, and is quick to learn and respond to treats, but is unpredictable around strange dogs and people. (And not good with our cats either
I get him to sit to one side and give a treat every time we meet people/dogs on a walk and he does this very well - believe me a big improvement on the desperate barking and lunging we started with!
However - I have not the courage to let him off-lead as I worry he may bark and go nuts at people if not next to me. The lesson plan that the other poster suggested with 6 dogs sounded ideal - but we live in the NW so no good
That all sounds really positive. Good luck.
@outreach29 - I will keep you posted. Good luck with yours!