Border Collie snapping and growling

Posted by STEVEPHS
Mar 13, 2008

I purchased your book sit, stay and fetch a few weeks ago which included
some info on dog agression.

We have three children, 6, 4 and 3. The 14 week old border collie pup
growls at everyone and snaps whenever any stranger comes near us. It also
growls and snaps at our two younger children.

We understand that he is being dominant over the younger ones (the 6 year
old has put him in his place from day one) but can you give me any short
advice on how best to tackle the aggression of his behaviour towards
strangers out in the street and espcially to settle him witrh the two
younger kids?

Any help will be appreciated as we don't want to have the dog destroyed.
Posted by Blue
Mar 15, 2008

To speed things along a bit faster, I have copied some information from other posts that have similar issues to yours. Feel free to browse around the forum and see what other dog owners are doing for similar circumstance as yours! There's a lot of useful information on this forum for many different situations!

It is vital that you get your pup obedient to you and the children as soon as
possible, as his roughness/aggression towards children (and other people) is dominant aggression - which as a pup right now is manageable, but as he gets older and his aggression more serious, he could become a real danger/biter.

First off. All interactions between your dog and the children should be supervised, I'm sure you already do that as a parental instinct!

I am going to write about very basics in case this is your first dog so please ignore if you already know about these.

I am glad that you have started training your dog. However, there is more important things than sit, stay, etc. that your dog needs to learn - it is a socialization with people and other dogs. It is a very critical period now for the socialization because if he doesn't get enough of it now, he may develop some unfavorable behaviors when he gets older, such as being aggressive or afraid towards people, other dogs, new sounds, smells, car rides, vacuum cleaners, etc.

Please make occasions that your puppy can meet with as many people, as possible at a younger age. Dog obedience classes are a great way to socialize your pup both with humans as well as other dogs/puppies!

In addition to socialization, you need to establish your pack hierarchy so all members of your family should have read, and understand the techniques in the bonus book "Secrets to becoming the Alpha Dog". For the younger children try have them understand what these new rules are and why they're in place. These are great techniques for maintaining or establishing your position at the head of the household. No matter what the problem is all dogs need to know where the stand in the house for both yours and their peace and comfort. With your children, if they are old enough, try to explain to them the importance of these techniques - but they are not to force the dog to do them without adult supervision.

Here are some ways to reinforce your position-

1) If you come across your dogs while they are sleeping or lying on the floor then you can reinforce your position as alpha dog by making him move so that you can pass by. (for your children, start training the dogs to move on command - adults can apply physically taking the dog by the collar and moving it - children must use verbal commands reinforced by an adult if necessary. Food/treats can also be applied after the dog moves .

2) Make sure that you always go through doorways first. A good method to reinforce your position as alpha dog is to walk your dog around the house on the leash, making your dog wait while you walk through doorways first.

3) At mealtimes make sure that your dogs eat after all of the humans have.

4) Do not feed your dogs tidbits or let it pester you at the table. Save the morsels and tidbits for training sessions instead.

5) Do not greet your dogs straightaway when you arrive home. Make it wait until you are ready and then call it to you.

6) Whenever your dogs want attention or anything wait till they are sitting and being well behaved.

7) When you give a command make sure that you are in a position to enforce the action that you require from your dog, especially in the initial stages of Alpha Dog training. Also, use the Alarm-No-Command technique as described in the Alpha Dog bonus book to reprimand your dog if it does not obey your command.

It is also often good practice to disallow the dog up onto any furniture (couches/beds) as in a pack situation, only the alpha animals get the choicest places to lay and sleep.

This is the first major step. It is very important that everyone at home is also the alpha over your dog.
- cont'd next post--
Posted by Blue
Mar 15, 2008
Now the second step is to make sure the your dog is very obedient. Work with him for 10 minutes twice a day in a quiet secluded area where you can have his full individual attention. Start with the basic commands of sit, stay and come.

Next is structuring reprimands and rewards. When these two components are strongly enforced in the household, they are a huge influence on how a dog behaves.

The next time time he growls, snarls or does anything aggressive he needs to be reprimanded loudly and firmly. Use a loud GRRRRRRRR or AHHHHHHHHH at him. This will give him a fright and let him know what he is doing is not okay. At the same time I would also give him leash reprimand (should he be on a lead at the time) and/or a squirt with a water pistol.

The best way to perform a leash reprimand is to be at the dogs side and pull the leash with a quick and firm jerk sideways - this way the dog is pulled slightly off balance. Pulling backwards or with lots of aggression will only cause the dog to become more aggressive or more fearful of you or whatever you are trying to reprimand him for.

Praise any behaviour that is gentle and calm, even if he chooses of his own accord to lay down in a corner to nap!

When introducing him to new people (especially children), it is beneficial that he be on a leash. If you can have him sitting quietly before greeting any new people that would be ideal. Do not allow him to greet them if he is aggressive, reprimand him as the behaviour occurs and reward only calm behaviour.

When he is calm enough to be introduced allow slow calm introductions one at a time. He should be seated throughout.

I know with kids it's hard to control both the actions of the children and the dog, but try to explain it to both your own children as well as visiting children.

I wouldn't encourage your pup to chase the children at all and stop the children from encouraging it also. Play sessions should only be things like throwing balls, frisbees, obedience training, trick training etc. These are games where your pup has no opportunity to become aggressive/prey driven towards the children - especially no tug of war at all. Dogs will chase things that run and scream including children, it is in their genetics and it is not good to have the children encourage it, even though it's fun!

The children should also practice taking the pup on walks (with an adult if they are not strong enough to control him). Walks should be at a good heel and never pulling. Practicing walks where the children are in control will expel some of your pups energy, and also practice alpha position with between dog and children.

All puppies go through phases of pushing boundaries, nipping, barking, pushing, chasing. However he needs to learn that he shouldn't hurt people. What you and your children should do if he nips or hurts you is to make a loud noise like "OUCH!" or say a reprimand as you look into his eyes, then ignore him completely for a while (5-10 minutes at least). You will have to repeat this so that he will learn that he gets to play only when he does not put his teeth on your skin.

Border collies require A LOT of mental as well as physical stimulus to keep them from becoming destructive and aggressive. Reviewing the posts on this website, you will see a lot of border collie/border collie mixes that have procured behavioural problems - most likely from sheer boredom. I recommend reading some of them just so as to note what problems to look for and how to resolve them should they arise.

I'm not trying to suggest that you don't give your pup exercise or are unaware of the breeds characteristics I'm just trying to direct you to potential hazards of owning such a wonderfully intelligent working breed to help you avoid them ! Our own dog is also supposedly a border collie mix and she is too intelligent for her own boots! They are wonderful dogs, but a lot of work - especially from the puppy to 4 year mark!

If you feel like this pup is more than you can cope with, most registered responsible breeders will take a pup back rather than allow it to be put to sleep, please take this into consideration - as well as rescue organizations before thinking of euthanasia.

With children in the house, it is a lot harder to control an active intelligent dog like a border collie then say a more relaxed breed like a lab or retriever. Especially if you have limited experience with the particular breed or dogs in general. Your current dog may not suit your lifestyle or commitment ability (if you work long days and have little time for training in between kids/work etc) and as such he may not actually be an aggressive or mean dog, he's just acting out because you just simply don't have time for him with all of your other commitments! In which case, I would consider trying to find a new home for him as soon as possible so as he can benefit from strong training and obedience that a smaller family might be able provide while he's still young.

Any biting or mouthing behaviour should be reprimanded by the children and adults as soon as it occurs and and the pup given a time out (ignored and removed from the presence of the children) or the biting could become more serious.

You need to be really consistent with him no matter when or where he behaves badly. Once he has been reprimanded for bad behaviour, make him sit. If he responds then reward him with praise, attention and petting. This will help him get the idea that he is not the boss and you are.

While you are training keep in mind that puppies are changing every day so don't get discouraged if he gets better and then falls back a little to where he was before. It is a long way but I am sure he will grow to be very nice obedient dog if you keep working with him every day for at least 2 x 15 minute sessions - with plenty of exercise in between!! Involving the kids in obedience as much as possible is a definite must! Make it fun for both the kids and the dog, set up obstacle courses, or timed obedience work!

Further things to consider if you haven't already - is he (or will he be) neutered? As unfixed animals are more likely to have aggressive territorial issues then fixed ones.

I hope this was helpful! I'm trying to cover a lot of information all at once here, and I'm sure you will have lots of new questions soon! Feel free to post any more questions and concerns you have along the way!

Posted by STEVEPHS
Jul 15, 2008
Thanks for your advice Blue - it was much appreciated.

This is just a quick update to say that on advice from the vet, we had the pup put to sleep last weekend.

The vet advised that neutering a nervous collie will never help with nipping/biting. We spent loads of money on training including a three week boot camp training programme, but unfortunately, although he became a very obedient dog, we could not stop him from biting strangers. We took him into the kennels a few weeks ago when we went on hols, and he bit the dog handler.

Also, a few weekends ago, we came across a collie breeder in a park in South Wales who spent a whole hour trying to calm our dog down and socialising with him, but even after an hour the dog was still going for him big time.

It was a sad day but we had read loads of books (including yours), watched training DVD's, spent loads on training, and although he improved in so many areas, we just could not cure his biting issue with strangers. In the end we believed the vet was right, one day whether in the near future or in ten years time, he was going to bite someone and do them some damage, and that wasn't a day worth contemplating.

Our advice to anyone buying a collie pup is to read up on them as much as possible and consider some of the pre-purchase checklists you often see on the collie rescure centre websites before committing to buying one, as for some homes they are definitely a wonderful dogs but a lot of them need specialist handling/training which your average guy in the street is not going to be able to provide.

It would seem that the majority of collies are better off on farms and small holdings than in inner-city neighbourhoods!

They are wonderful dogs!