Hiding at home

Posted by trevort
Aug 5, 2010
I have a 4 year old Border Collie that i got from a shelter about 7 months ago.

She is a sweet dog who is generally well behaved (except when she gets into hurding mode... different problem). In fact if we take her to friends places for BBQs or out camping she is unbelievably well behaved and responsive to commands.

At home however, she will hide in the bedroom beside the bed. She only comes out when its feeding time or exercise time. If you go to see her in the bedroom she is happy to see you, but she refuses to come out for anything less than treats or a walk. If you call her when she is walking in the house she will look at you then slink off into the bedroom anyway. If I try to force her out of the room by pressing her space or telling her to go she will start to bark, snarl and get upset very quickly.

We try very hard to use pack dominance with positive reinforcement to train and deal with her. She even waits at doors for us to go through first, we feed her after us and she waits patiently to eat. In fact, even when she is snarling at me for forcing her out of her little safe spot she often will lie down and roll onto her back on her own while doing it. She also gets very aggressive if you try to pull on her collar with your hand, however she is a very polite leash walker and never gets upset with the leash.

Can anyone suggest a direction to help break her of this odd behavior?
Posted by kjd
Aug 6, 2010

Other people may have a different reading, but this is how I see it. She's a rescue dog. You don't know her background so you take her as she is. Right now, she seems to be very afraid. Don't force her to leave her safe spot. It is OK to tempt her out, but forcing her will not help her confidence. You might start by getting her to expand her safe spot to the whole bedroom. Spend time in there having fun. Well, something that she would think is fun -- rolling a ball between people. Act excited and upbeat, but don't force her into it. Once in a while the ball might "accidentally" go near her. At first, when she comes out, ignore her. Don't make it a big deal. Just keep playing. At some point, I think she'll want to join in. Look up some doggy games you can play in there. One might be hiding from her and getting her to find you. There are books on dog games that should give you some great ideas. When she feels safe enough to chase the ball around the room (and we may be talking weeks here), sometimes set her up when she is near the door so it rolls past her into the hall.

As for her acting obedient when out of the house, is she happy and playful or just obedient? It is possible she is afraid to make a mistake outside and thus is "unbelievably well-behaved." In these situations, does she do any yawning or licking of her lips? It may be that she actually feels safer at home, where she can go to her safe spot!

Having disagreed with Cesar Milan, the "dog whisperer," up to this point, I am now going to agree with him: don't fuss over her. Don't pet her unless she comes asking for it. Try ignoring her in the house until she is more comfortable.

You say she only comes out for food and exercise. Does she ever have any fun? (I'm not talking about your playing with her or not, but her playing.) She sounds like a very frightened little girl.

When she starts feeling safe with your family, she'll probably start misbehaving outside the house. It will be a sign of more confidence in you.

Please be patient with her.
Posted by KOPCaroline
Aug 6, 2010
Hey trevort,

Poor girl, a lot of rescue dogs have problems like this in new homes, and it does just take patience and sympathy on your part.

When you're near her, speak in quiet, but happy tones. Try not to make huge movements or loud noises. As kjd said, you're trying to make her as comfortable as possible in the house. You could try taking some things out of the bedroom and putting them in the hall outside the room door, like a blanket or pillow, to spread the smell and "feel" of the room a bit. Keep moving these objects further and further away as she makes progress with being comfortable in new areas.

Even if she is well behaved on walks and such, you should make every effort to bond with her on a "real" level during these activities. Look for excitement in her eyes and tail wagging, or general interest in the big outdoors, not just settling for being somewhere. Speak to her quietly, pat her lots, take time to just sit with her, away from other dogs, people, and noise, while watching the world go by

I think she's going to turn out to melt your heart, even more than she already has, but it might take time. Shelter dogs go through a lot, and it can take time for them to realize they won't be sent back to those conditions. I hope you two can expand your friendship, I think she'll come around as long as you show her you want her to
Posted by trevort
Aug 6, 2010
Hey guys, thanks for the replies!

I do definetly agree with your advice, but I guess I should point out too that she is generally a very happy, outgoing, playfull dog.

When we first got her she had never been allowed indoors, she didnt know how to deal with other dogs and the shelter didnt even think she was house broken. She had been raised as a herding dog, but just didnt have the focus or drive the owners wanted, so they surrendered her to the humaine society (Thank god, alot of herding dogs that dont work out are not so lucky!)

She was at the shelter for only about 2 weeks before we got her, and since then she is the star of the dog park playing with anything, loves to go mountain biking and even makes a great caddy for disc golf. She bounces all over the house when its time for walks, runs excitedly to meet every new person who comes to the house and is generally just a great wingman.

You are probably are right about her needing a safe spot or downtime zone and we generally just leave her to her thing. If we want her out of there we will grab the leash and take her for a walk. It just seems like such a flip from her normal personality, and she has been so quick to adapt in everything else.
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Aug 6, 2010
Hi trevort,

I have 3 border collie mixes myself so I am so happy that you rescued such a wonderful dog!

I have a little different view from kjd and KOPcaroline. I don't think your dog is hiding because of her shyness or unsecurity. I think it is more like a resourse guarding/protection. There is something that she wants to protect about the room.

The fact that she is happy and playful in the parks or on her walks makes me think that way. Does she bark or be alert when someone comes to the door? How does she behave when you have guests in the house?

I would suggest you stop allowing her access to the bedroom. Where does she sleep now? You can set up her bed somewhere else in the house and keep the bedroom door closed. I am very curious how she would do when her hiding spot becomes unaccessible. Have you tried this already? If not, I think it's worth trying...
Posted by trevort
Aug 6, 2010
I will have to try this for a few days perhaps. As it is now, if we close the bedroom door she will go hide in the next best spot, a quiet bathroom or another bedroom. Sometimes we will close the bedroom door because she comes in wet. We don't normally keep her out of there for to long though.

She runs to the door when people come over but always with that friendly farm dog way, and she rarely barks at anything unless really worked up. When guests come over she will be freindly and mingle, however if we get boring or stop paying attention to her she will go back to the bedroom.

I will make her sleep in the common space of the house for a few days and see what happens.