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First time dog owner .... lots of questions to ask!

Discussion in 'Introductions' started by Lisj86, Apr 15, 2019.

  1. Lisj86

    Lisj86 New Member Registered

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    Hi everyone!

    We are first time dog owners and picked up our gorgeous 20month old Bordie collie cross Newfoundland, Bruno, from the border collie rescue Centre a few days ago.

    Considering the upheaval he has been brilliant. House trained, listens to basic commands and sleeps well at night.

    However, there are 3 main things that we know we need to work on with him.

    1. He chases shadows at night or sunlight coming through the windows or doors during the day. We think this may have been something he was doing at the rescue Centre and we are trying different things to break the habit.

    2. He pulls on the lead while out walking, he’s curious about everything and gets easily distracted. Although, we have started training him to heel which has made a slight improvement.

    3. He lunges at other dogs while out walking. We don’t think he’s doing it to be aggressive as he doesn’t normaly bark or growl, it only happens when they get close. We think it’s because he wants to say hello but with him being quite big and strong he can be quite intimidating. We do warn other dog walkers when they get close but not everyone is pleasant about it.

    Any suggestions to help with our big friendly giant would be much appreciated!!
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2019
  2. JoanneF

    JoanneF Well-Known Member Registered

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    Hi, and welcome. With the issues you have, you could try the following.

    1 - shadow and light chasing isn't unusual in collie types but it can be a compulsive habit and one that can be quite distressing for the dog as he could be constantly chasing things he can never catch. You can buy quite cheap opaque film to cover windows that will help make shadow and light less contrasted and use good lighting in the evening. If he starts, try to distract him and maybe also teach a 'settle' (I will attach a video that might help you). You could also do some play that satisfies his innate urge to chase, like using a flirt pole for example. I read something about this the other day, I will post more if I can find it again.

    2 - pulling on the lead is quite normal, it's an instinctive behaviour to pull away from a restraint (called oppositional reflex if you want to read more about it). Again, I will link to a video.

    3 - lungeing towards other dogs isn't great canine manners; especially with his size. Ideally dogs should be dog neutral. I would train a 'watch me' so you can keep his focus on you when other dogs pass. You will need to train this from a distance far enough away from other dogs that he is aware but not reacting. If he starts lungeing it's too late, a bit like trying to steer the car after you have already driven over the cliff edge. Get him into a sit or similar and say his name - as soon as he looks at you, mark the behaviour with a click if you use a clicker; or a YES if you don't have a clicker; and reward. Once he is looking to you reliably you can add a cue word like "watch me" so you can ask for the behaviour.

    I should say as well though that it's really early days and you might just want to spend a few days bonding before you get into any difficult stuff. That might mean not walking for a few days - so it depends on whether you have a garden that you can play in instead.



     
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  3. Lisj86

    Lisj86 New Member Registered

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    Thank you so much for all your advise. We have spent the day at home and in the garden. He is getting better and is shadow chasing and lunging is getting less each day, which is great to see, we are heading in the right direction!
     
  4. leashedForLife

    leashedForLife Well-Known Member Registered

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    I suspect [but of course cannot know] that his shadow-chasing & fascination with glare / dazzle spots from light on reflective surfaces, is a mild form of OCD / Obsessive - Compulsive Disorder; this can be inherited from either parent or from a grandparent, or it can be the result of profound understimulation in puphood.

    For example, puppy-mill pups live on wire floors in small cages, & have zero toys, other than the food bowl, which is usually S/S & not conducive to oral play. They have a very limited view of the world; cages are often inside a building, to help control temps / exposure to weather & limit visibility to passersby. Worst, they have minimal interaction with humans - & most of what little attention they get is negative, as in abrupt cursory exams, injections, hair-pulling to remove hunks of feces or mats, etc.
    Sheer boredom forces mill-pups to use one another or their dam as chew-toys, or they gnaw on the wire mesh or the cage frame, or they eat their feces in an attempt to introduce some variety into their diets / improve their absorption of nutrients. // Such pups grow up deprived of many normal early stimuli, & they constantly search for the few things that CHANGED in their static environs: the movement of shadows [their littermates’, their dam’s, other dogs, passing humans...], & lighting effects as the sun moved, or when lights were turned on - such as glare.


    “OCD”
    When referring to pets / nonhumans, vets & biologists avoid use of the human OCD label b/c it refers to obsessive thoughts in the human’s brain, which then manifest as compulsive behaviors.
    In a dog or other nonhuman, we can see the compulsive behaviors - but we can only speculate about obsessive THOUGHTS, altho as the same Rx medications are often used in both humans & canines to address stereotypies, there must be a similar brain malfunction happening, with or without what we might label as ‘thoughts’.

    Personally, tho it isn’t scientifically accurate, i use OCD as the label whenever any species performs a behavior, or multiple behaviors, that interfere with the individual’s own life functions - such as eating, rest, thermoregulation, travel thru the environs, etc.
    I figure if it waddles like a duck & quacks like a duck, then until proven to NOT be a duck, it’s a duck, in my view, LOL. // Save money, time, & space, & i just call it all OCD. *shrug*


    I’ve worked with dogs who had lick granulomas / acral lick dermatitis, tics about airplanes overhead, dazzle compulsions, & stereotypies such as running a circuit in the living-room, or a habitual pattern in the backyard, whenever they heard another dog barking.
    Some required psych-meds before B-Mod could be effective; others responded to B-Mod only, with the owners managing their environs & offering enrichment to offset the compulsion. :)
    Something as simple as rolling a large ball for the dog to shove around [a ball way-too big to gnaw or carry] can distract them from practicing their stereotypy, & “break the habit” over time.

    NOTE that just as in humans, it takes a minimum of one month of consistent practice of any “new” habit, to begin to make that new substitute behavior robust & fluent; without consistent practice of the new, desired behavior, & immediate interruption of any rehearsals of the old, unwanted habit, the former habit will resurface. :(
    After all, they've been doing it for however long - it is very fluent, virtually automatic, & requires zero “thought” to begin; it just pops up & starts, effortlessly.

    Stereotypies / OCD behaviors are often made worse by STRESS - so changing house may have popped this out & made it more obvious & more frequent. // Once he settles in, if anxiety is a factor in his OCD, it should taper off, & when U see it happening again in the future, that could well be a clue that he’s stressed.
    Stress can be happy as well as distressing - wedding days are super-stressful for the wedding couple, but they are also very happy events, & make happy memories. Excitement / boredom, strangers [human or k9 or feline], children suddenly arriving in an adult-only household, vet exams, welcome visitors in one’s home, can all be stress triggers.

    Let us know how he & U get on, please. :) I hope he relaxes into his new home, soon.

    - terry

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  5. Lisj86

    Lisj86 New Member Registered

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    Thank you so much for the information. We are starting to get a better understanding of why he does it.

    We had Bruno from a Rescue Centre so we don’t have much history. All we know is he had 2 previous owners, both of which fell ill and could no longer look after him. So we will be his third home before he is 2, poor lad!

    We are figuring out things to do with him to distract him when he does start and his jumping for shadows is happening a little less each day, which is encouraging.

    We know we are going to have to get him socialised with other dogs to help stop him lunging but need to give him a few more weeks to get used to us and ignores the distractions and responds to us.

    All things considered, things could be much worse with him and we know it is still early days. We just want to make sure we are doing the right thing by him, and don’t end making any of these habits worse.
     
  6. JoanneF

    JoanneF Well-Known Member Registered

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    Don't feel pressurised into thinking this. Many people agree that dog neutral is ideal - if you think about it, you don't greet every person in the supermarket. It's much the same for dogs, just having a few trusted 'friends' and politely ignoring the rest is a good goal to aim for.
     
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  7. merlina

    merlina Well-Known Member Registered

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    It takes months for a rescue dog in a new home to calm down and let the anxiety of a big change in its life ease. Sounds as if you're taking a sensible approach to shadow chasing which is often seen in collies (and spaniels) and can improve with good management as in the advice already given. As for socialising I think the thing is not to force it, use distraction when you anticipate a problem encounter (I never went anywhere without the squeaky toy he loved and the treat to reward the shift in attention). Also if you have a friend or two with laid back dogs you can practise meeting them and going on your way. If it happens often enough its a good positive learned experience. Best of luck.
     
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  8. Lisj86

    Lisj86 New Member Registered

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    Thank you everyone for your advice. It has been a good couple of days since last posted.

    Bruno is settling in a little more and we are seeing more of his personality, which is lovely.

    He is starting to sleep and chill more during the day, which means less time for shadow chasing! We can also see now when he starts thinking about it, so we try to distract him with a toy or his Kong.

    After doing a little more research, we are trying to walk him with his lead clipped to the front of his harness. This has been working much better. He is still pulling but we have much more control and are able to turn him back to us if he starts pulling too much.

    Lunging at other dogs is still an issue, but we are managing it. We are going for walks in places where it’s quite and if we do see another dog, then we move in the opposite direction or move across the field/road. It is easier to distract him with something else when there is some distance between us and the other dogs. We do intend on meeting up with other friends who have a dog but won’t be for a few weeks.

    We think some obedience classes might help, but not sure if anyone would allow him to if keeps lunging at other dogs. Does anyone have any advice on this please?

    Thanks again everyone for all the info!
     
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  9. JoanneF

    JoanneF Well-Known Member Registered

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    I'm not sure I'd be considering classes just yet. If he is so stressed at other dogs, he won't benefit. Any stressed creature can't learn (you might have come across Maslow's hierarchy of needs). Can you find a wide open space with good all-round visibility where you can just sit on a bench and watch other dogs from a distance? He will have an invisible radius of space around him where he feels secure . Try to find out what that is and keep him far enough away from other dogs that he is aware of them but not reacting. Reward his calm behaviour. Gradually (maybe over weeks, it's likely not to be just days) work on reducing the distance. But - be aware that if your dog has had a stressful episode the stress hormone can stay in the body for up to 48 hours so a distance he was comfortable with the day before might be too close that day. So the safe distance can change, watch his body language.

    Trainers describe behaviour like this with reference to the three Ds. Distance, as above but also be aware of Duration (your dog might be tolerant for 10 seconds, but not 15) and Distraction - how distracting the stimulus is; a calm dog might not trigger any reaction at a given distance but a bouncy one might.

    When you go to classes, do you have a Dogs Trust anywhere near you? Their classes have a very good reputation. For any class, you could ask how they would manage a reactive dog, they may have an area far enough away that you could sit with Bruno at first until he gets used to being there, without him reacting.
     
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  10. JudyN

    JudyN Well-Known Member Registered

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    A problem with training classess is that they can set your dog up to fail. As you've found, you can distract him when the other dog is at a distance, but being in close quarters, as you would be at an obedience class, and you could end up reinforcing 'see dog = go loopy' and when he's over threshold, the best you could hope for is to suppress the behaviour rather than change his mindset to 'see dog = no big deal'. Suppressing behaviour is never a good idea, it's like sticking your finger on the steam release valve on a pressure cooker.
     
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  11. Ari_RR

    Ari_RR Well-Known Member Registered

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    I would consider attending a class without the dog. In any case - those classes are supposed to train humans to train their dogs.
     
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  12. Mad Murphy

    Mad Murphy Well-Known Member Registered

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    Can you find a wide open space with good all-round visibility where you can just sit on a bench and watch other dogs from a distance? He will have an invisible radius of space around him where he feels secure . Love this from @JoanneF
    I used this method to stop my dogs from chasing ducks..
     
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  13. leashedForLife

    leashedForLife Well-Known Member Registered

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    I’d erase the word “obedience” & all the related terms from yer vocabulary, re dogs - leave “obedience”, obey, command, GOOD dogs / BAD dogs, etc, entirely out of any discussion, & try to avoid using them, even in convos or observations that are inside yer own head. // Labeling a dog’s behavior “good” or “bad” does nothing to fix unwanted behaviors, nor does it increase the likelihood of desired behaviors. Instead, when we label & phrase in this way, we taint the accuracy of our own perceptions, & we also damage our relationships with our dogs. :(


    For dogs, a behavior is simply that - a behavior; it either advances the dog’s desires of the moment & proves rewarding, or it has an undesired effect, or it has a neutral effect. “Good”, “bad”, & “indifferent” don’t mean a thing, to dogs. They aren’t ethical or moral beings, nor are they subject to either internalized shame, or guilt engendered in them by external judgements.
    Behaviors either work & achieve some desirable goal, or they don’t work - the ones that prove rewarding are repeated, the ones that don’t pan out are increasingly less likely to occur again, & can be extinguished entirely if they are unrewarding over a longer period of time, & despite repeat attempts.

    I prefer to use “cue” rather than command, & “comply” rather than obey. That gets rid of the emotional undertones that say any failure to obey a command is an open rebellion, an act of dominance, or violates our reasonable expectations of our dogs.
    Dogs are not infallible, nor are humans - despite Descartes, we are not “biological machines”, we are sentient beings with emotions, preferences, & memories, & our behavior in the here-&-now is shaped by past experiences at least as much as it is shaped by past or present learning. We all make mistakes, have bad days, or simply mishear a spoken word, which causes no end of confusion until the misperception is cleared up.

    As a trainer, i prefer to believe that any errors are MINE, not the learner’s; i didn’t teach it so that they could comprehend, or i failed to proof a given novel stimulus or circumstance, or we needed more practice... whatever, it’s mine, & it’s always fixable. :)
    A consoling bonus is that retraining always goes faster than initial training, often cutting time-to-criterion by half or more. // So don’t despair when a cued behavior doesn’t quite gel the first time; they will learn it much, much faster & better, on the next attempt.


    Dogs cannot be punished for something they do not know & understand well - so naive “new learners” of whatever age, can never be punished for getting it wrong - whatever “it” might be, at the moment. Also, punishment is much harder to deliver correctly; it’s easy to give punishment at the wrong time, wrong intensity, with the wrong tool, & so on, while REWARDS are far more user-friendly & forgiving. If we get a reward wrong, so what? —- nothing is damaged, it’s an easy fix.
    Punishments, in strong contrast, can warp dog / human relations irreparably.


    Trust is crucial for a good bond & long-term healthy relationships; don’t damage Ur dog’s faith in the early, critical days, weeks, & months, of what may be 15 years or more of life partnership. Build trust, goof-proof their living circs, manage intensively, & reward what U want, so U get more of it. ;)

    Happy training, please let us know how U both get on?
    - terry

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  14. leashedForLife

    leashedForLife Well-Known Member Registered

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    Re classes -
    U might be able to find a training club that has a more spacious area, indoors or outdoors, where U & Ur dog can work within earshot, but beyond his threshold of reactivity. :)

    Many trainers will also provide a visual barrier on request; something as simple as an 8-ft long folding banquet table, laid on its side, becomes a 3-ft high privacy wall in that church basement where the local club trains, & that barrier, by blocking out the sight of other dogs, can allow a reactive dog to focus & learn. It lowers their stress, & makes it easier for the handler to get & keep their attention.

    Working 50-ft away from the group in an open field can also be very beneficial; U can watch & do as they do, or simply work on yer own goals with a built-in habituation setting.

    - terry

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  15. JudyN

    JudyN Well-Known Member Registered

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    Good post, Terry:)
     
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  16. leashedForLife

    leashedForLife Well-Known Member Registered

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    Thanks, @JudyN -
    it’s surprising to me, how many dog-owners think “it’s just a word!”, when they use ‘command’ rather than cue, or announce, “he’s being bad”... referring to their dog’s current behavior.
    The N word is “just a word” when used to refer to a black person in the U.S.A., but riots have been started by that word, as have fist-fights & even murders. Words MATTER - because they color how we think & feel about that event, person, circumstance, or concept.

    It’s analagous to the sinner & the sin - we can condemn the sin, without hating the sinner; we can train the dog without labeling her / him as “disobedient”, dumbinant, stubborn, rebellious, etc.
    99% of the time, the dog is making a good faith effort, & the trouble is caused by either miscommunication by the handler, confusion on the part of the dog, or simple lack of proofing.

    I’d much rather claim mea culpa even if i’m wrong, than blame the dog for unwitting errors on their part, or worse yet, blame the dog for my own poor communication. Back up & punt - there’s always tomorrow, don’t sweat it. :)

    The niggling bits are often the very details that get us into trouble - such as being blissfully unaware that we LOOK AT THE DOG’S BUTT when we cue, “sit”. // We unconsciously do this all thru training our pup - then, at the final exam during the fun match, we cue our young dog verbally to SIT... & being self-conscious in the arena, we DO NOT look at the dog’s butt. We stand upright & rigid & unsmiling, gazing beyond the dog nervously, & everything is different; the setting, our posture, facial expression, & tone of voice.
    And guess what?... without the familiar glance at their bum, the dog is lost at sea. S/he’s instantly doubtful of what’s the right thing to do, pauses & waits for further clarification, & points are deducted. :(
    BECAUSE for the dog, “my person looks at my butt” is a salient part of the whole cue - we’re watching for that rear to sink, but the dog doesn’t know that, they just perceive that specific eye-gaze as part of the whole signal, & without it, they’re at a loss to know what we want, exactly.

    Words matter because thoughts matter, & thoughts become actions. :) How we phrase our thoughts & our speech carries enormous significance.

    - terry

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