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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My son and I adopted a 5 month old Border Collie about a month ago(6 months old now). It took a couple weeks for him to get comfortable and he was skittish at every turn. Now he follows us everywhere we go.

The problem we're having is trying to train him to do even the most basic of things. He just lays on the floor and intentionally looks away. Nothing rouses him - not treats or toys or attention. If we stand up and walk away he will follow us, but as soon as we try to initiate any training he lays down and won't budge. We thought getting a Border Collie would make for many active afternoons, but the only way to get him any exercise is to run ourselves and let him chase. I've watched dozens of videos, read several books and even hired a "trainer" for two sessions. I put "trainer" in quotes, because after two sessions she said I needed someone with more experience.

As for his health, the Vet said he was in perfect shape with no health issues at all. The Vet's response to his lack of motivation was that some dogs can take a long time to get comfortable enough to train. I'm really hoping that is the case, but I figured I would post here to see if anyone has had any similar experiences and could offer some advice.
 

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He doesn't sound like he will turn out to be the dog you expected. Breed helps but doesn't determine temperament. Herding dogs are commonly very skittish. I do suspect he needs more time. I don't do any formal training with new dogs until they seem to be getting comfortable, try sticking to just house manners for a few more weeks.

I've had more luck 'capturing' behaviors I want the dog to do rather than luring and trying to manipulate the dog. Bucky [EVERYTHING rouses him!] didn't understand he could lay down outside his pen until I leashed him and sat down and waited. After a very long 5 minutes he did and I clicked and treated. For the small handful of treats that's all I did and he was actually laying down on cue in 3 days and napping out of his pen. First time I did this with my first dog she lay down and I just waited. She twitched a foot, click and treat. From that meager beginning we developed a silly pet trick - backwards crawl and she finally figured out the clicker was fun and I wanted her to to try things. She knew good dogs lay down and stay put. Perhaps your pup has figured out the same thing, good pups are quiet and stay out of the way?
 

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He doesn't sound like he will turn out to be the dog you expected. Breed helps but doesn't determine temperament. Herding dogs are commonly very skittish.
This is not true UNLESS you get a poorly bred dog. German Shepherds that are skittish are faulty. Malinois that are skittish are poorly bred. Herding breeds are bred to partner with humans to handle livestock.. and being skittish is faulty.

Border Collies are very very smart. They tend to be very observant and can be very much driven.
One thing about the Border Collie is they learn fast. Usually on the first time. The problem is they learn the wrong behavior as fast as they learn the right behavior.. so it you capture and teach the wrong thing, yup, they have it!

I have notices Border Collies do tend to hang tight to their owners (even in packs!).

I am thinking that you have given this dog no reason to do anything. You have had him a month so at this point you need to find a motivator. Is he interested in food? Try skipping feeding him a meal and see if you can get him to earn his next meal for training. A dog does not need to eat out of a bowl to eat!

How do you get him to go out and potty? If he is stuck to you like glue, does he stay next to you to potty? Where do you feed him, in a room or in his crate?

Again.. this is a very very smart dog. What are you doing to make it worthwhile to him to engage?

You might tray taking a toy and treating the toy like it is the most interesting thing you have ever seen. Talk to the toy.. coddle the toy.. turn your back to the dog and make high pitched conversation with the toy. Do this in a place you know the dog is comfortable (in the house). See if YOUR interest in the toy that EXCLUDES the dog can create interest.

I do suspect he needs more time. I don't do any formal training with new dogs until they seem to be getting comfortable, try sticking to just house manners for a few more weeks.

I've had more luck 'capturing' behaviors I want the dog to do rather than luring and trying to manipulate the dog. Bucky [EVERYTHING rouses him!] didn't understand he could lay down outside his pen until I leashed him and sat down and waited. After a very long 5 minutes he did and I clicked and treated. For the small handful of treats that's all I did and he was actually laying down on cue in 3 days and napping out of his pen. First time I did this with my first dog she lay down and I just waited. She twitched a foot, click and treat. From that meager beginning we developed a silly pet trick - backwards crawl and she finally figured out the clicker was fun and I wanted her to to try things. She knew good dogs lay down and stay put. Perhaps your pup has figured out the same thing, good pups are quiet and stay out of the way?
This can also work. You need the dog to be hungry. You can skip a meal.. even two.. and see if that will interest the dog. Load the clicker first (click-feed about 20 times) and then start clicking and feeding a behavior.. that the dog offers.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
How do you get him to go out and potty? If he is stuck to you like glue, does he stay next to you to potty?
Housebreaking has been a chore as well and hasn't worked just yet. We take him outside, but he just stands behind us. He won't explore the yard or move more than a couple feet from us. The few times he has done his business outside, he did so right next to us. In the house, he will just squat and go wherever he happens to be. I've never seen a dog not sniff around beforehand, so it's hard to know when it's coming.


Where do you feed him, in a room or in his crate?
We feed him in the dining room, but he only eats if we leave the room and he can't follow. It's the same with going outside. If we take him out and shut the door, he will sit by the door for about ten minutes then he will run around the yard and play for twenty minutes, before coming back to the door and whining to come in. We have also tried giving him treats to mark good behavior, but he won't eat the treat unless we put it on the floor a couple feet away and look away.


You might tray taking a toy and treating the toy like it is the most interesting thing you have ever seen. Talk to the toy.. coddle the toy.. turn your back to the dog and make high pitched conversation with the toy. Do this in a place you know the dog is comfortable (in the house). See if YOUR interest in the toy that EXCLUDES the dog can create interest.
I will try that. Some of the books and videos I watched suggested something similar, but they just said to play with the toy and see if he becomes interested. He never did. I guess I need to get a little more involved with the toy.

Couple more things I forgot to put in my first post.

1. In the month we've had him, I've only ever heard him bark while he's sleeping. He will start dreaming and give off a couple subdued barks, but awake we have yet to hear him bark.

2. He completely comes out of his shell if there is another dog around to play with. My son has a Chihuahua/Corgi mix at his mother's house and brought him over to see if the two would get along. Not only did they get along, they ran around the house and backyard non-stop for hours.
 

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My friends took in a BC that sounds a lot like yours.

He is so timid, spends his time glued to his people, took forever to get him to poop in their yard (he would go when out for an off-leash walk, but not their yard and even peeing was a chore), and has zero interest in toys. He is more interested in treats and food, but toys are a no-go for him. It took them a year to teach him to play fetch, and even then he only does it if it also involves swimming.

I can't offer much advice because I have never been able to figure out their pup, but wanted to say I understand it can be frustrating and that it IS possible this is the dog. Do you know what his past was before you got him? If he wasn't socialized at all, or had something happen during a fear period, or something along those lines, it could also be part of why he's so skittish and glued to you and perhaps with time he will become a bit more active.

For housebreaking, I would recommend treating him as the puppy who still needs to learn housebreaking he is -- keep him where you can see him, take him out frequently, heavily praise when he does go, etc.
 

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What's his history prior to arriving at the shelter, and how long did he stay at the shelter?
 

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What's his history prior to arriving at the shelter, and how long did he stay at the shelter?
This is my question. This dog is doing an awful lot of avoidance type stuff that makes me wonder if he was exposed to training methods that were either too harsh, or too much pressure, for him.

I'd probably just leave him alone and throw food to him for anything that you like, even if it's nothing, and maybe move on to things like 'looked at me' and build from there.

He sounds perfectly intelligent, just shut down.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Do you know what his past was before you got him?
What's his history prior to arriving at the shelter, and how long did he stay at the shelter?
He came from an older couple that owned 20 acres of land. They had 4 adult Border Collies and he was one of three in a litter. The gentleman passed away and his wife was too frail to care for herself, so she was moved into assisted living and the dogs went to the local humane society. We had been looking for a BC for a while, so we got a message from the Humane Society about their arrival. We went down the next morning and adopted him. At the time, he was very energetic and was jumping all over my son. He seemed like the best fit, so we took him home.

From what I gathered, he seemed to spend the vast majority of his time with the other dogs and the couple that owned them probably only interacted enough to feed them. Would explain why he loves other dogs, but still won't play with us. I guess I was hoping he was still young enough to learn new traits.

On a side note, I did as suggested and gave a lot of attention to one of his toys. It's a stuffed hedgehog that squeeks. He stared at me while I did it, but didn't seem at all interested. After fifteen minutes, I put the toy down and sat on the couch. He waited a couple minutes, then walked to the toy and picked it up - but only to take it under the pool table and hide it.
 

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Alright, so he is severely under-socialized with people and with the world. Honestly, your dog sounds like a lot of the dogs I've seen from reservations. They weren't necessarily abused, but were free roaming with very little interactions with people, lots of interactions with dogs. The word 'feral' comes to mind but I don't want to misuse it.

His 'friendly' behavior at the shelter was likely due to stress. Anything is better than just sitting in a kennel, you know? Stress can cause hyperactive and frantic behaviors at times.

Genetics play a huge role. Who knows what the parents were like, and it sounds like with such a secluded lifestyle the couple might not have needed dogs who were social with people or adaptable to stress or change.

My GUESS (it is impossible to say how your dog will develop) would be that your dog will warm up to your household and lifestyle over time, but will always be fearful in some regards. New situations will probably stress him out. He probably wants his world to be small. I don't imagine he will ever be a 'normal' family dog that can go on outings and social events and love the attention of friends and neighbors.

Regardless, it is important to work with the dog in front of you. If I were in your shoes, I would not be treating this dog like a normal family dog, because he's not. Fetch, play, and walking wouldn't even be things I'd attempt at this stage. I'd be hand feeding (or tossing, if the dog won't eat anything from hands) ANY/ALL food that this dog gets. I'd be heavily restricting his freedom to a lounging area and potty area, so that the dog feels no pressure to interact and also has no ability to be evasive or have accidents. Once the dog shows more trust, I would have him dragging a light line when more freedom is given. I would not use any punishment, scolding, physical manipulation, or forward pressure. All interactions should be positive and zero pressure on the dog. Right now, I know you are trying your best but all the 'trying' is putting a lot of pressure on the dog, which is causing him to shut down. It is not surprising that when you move AWAY (opposite for forward pressure) the dog is comfortable enough to follow.

Best of luck. You have a bit of a project on your hands.
 

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I'll tell you my experience. We had a border collie for 12 years and she was the most exasperating dog I've ever had. I find them to be extremely smart, extremely
head strong and totally anti-social when they want to be. Couldn't do a thing with her. Our neighbors called her "psycho dog" and were frightened to death of her.
I love dogs and have always had one in the house, and always will. But I'll never have another border collie.
One piece of advice. If you allow it, yours will take over the house. Let it know who the boss is while it's still young or it will run your life......LOL.

Regards,
Len

I couldn't leave this post without at least one positive piece of advice. I am told that they need some sort of work to do, something to challenge them intellectually.
To keep them busy. I hope you are successful finding one. Good luck with that!!
 

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Hello! I had to comment after reading your post about your lovely boy. I have adopted rescue dogs before (I currently have one now) and it is one of the most rewarding things you can do. Yes, it is hard work but so worth it. ?

From reading your post it sounds like your boy is undersocialised where people are concerned and with human interaction. BC are highly intelligent, and with all dogs, can 'shut down' when afraid or nervous. As he previously lived on 20 acres with a elderly couple, who is to say he was allowed inside the house and had cuddles on the sofa or taught how to play? ? All this will come in time. What I would suggest is you teach your dog to trust you and enjoy being in your company. Whether that is by showing him affection any chance you get, or by 'sharing' tit-bits of food from your meals and/or feeding him from a spoon or throwing his food on the floor to get him to eat it while you are still there. At the minute I would say it's about establishing a bond of trust with your dog and reassuring him that everything is ok. Also arrange 'play dates' with other dogs as he seems to come out of his shell and have fun. Ask your son to bring his dog round a few times a week and join in with the play sessions with them. When your BC sees that the other dog is enjoying you playing with them, he will follow his lead.

With regards to training; house break him like a puppy. Take him outside to the toilet 10-20 minutes after a meal (you will figure out his time frame for toileting as time goes on) and praise him very enthusiastically. If he doesn't do anything, go outside with him after 20 minutes and walk round the garden for 5 minutes with him; if he goes praise him up, if nothing happens try again in 20 minutes. It wont take him long to learn as he is a BC.

I hope this helps ?
 

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I see some great advice above!

I'll have to agree with what's being said about your dog being under-socialized, but there are a few other things that could be adding to his discomfort. He may be use to people, but perhaps not use to being inside with them. Try spending time outdoors with him, going on walks or just sitting together. Try different environments, a field perhaps instead of just a yard.
He grew up around other dogs, his siblings and parents it sounds like, and if he isn't around other dogs a lot he may just need encouragement from a K9 friend. Set up a doggy play date with a dog that likes toys. Dogs learn from watching, so seeing another dog play with a toy and have fun around people should help your boy figure things out.

Lastly, and you may not know the answer, but if after his owner passed he was kept in a crate or at the kennel for more than a day or two, he may still be decompressing. The stress of the shelter often makes dogs seem excited and fine when you first get them, but than the stress of it all hits when they get out of it and they take a while to just catch their breath. It means they feel safe, but often times they sleep a lot. It's been a month, and your dog is young, so he should be over it, but some dogs do take longer than others.

Hope this helps! Best of luck! And don't give up on the little guy, each dog is unique, no matter the breed, shaped by their own personality and life experiences. It may take time, but you'll find something he loves, whether it be walks outdoors, agility, a special toy, or something else.
 

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Echoing all the suggestions that this dog is overwhelmed and shut-down, and will probably take time, patience, and gentle handling to come out of his shell.

Now I'm not an expert on this, but I did want to suggest looking up information on littermate syndrome, especially dealing with dogs who've been separated from their bonded partner. A major tenant of littermate syndrome is bonding with other dogs more than or instead of people, and therefore being less interested in interacting with humans. It's usually something that only comes up when people adopt two puppies of similar age, but since your guy spent so long with his littermates and parents, and likely not much time with humans, he may be dealing with some of the same psychological fallout of being suddenly cut off from his doggy support network. Hopefully his young age means the transition will be easier, but borders are sensitive dogs.

Best of luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Ten days later and my dog has turned into a dragon. Seriously though...

I started paying special attention to his toys and he watched me like a hawk. At first, when I would put the toy down and walk away, he would sniff it and resume following me. Did that a couple times the first day with the same results. Following day, the toy was nowhere to be found. Figured it was a good start, so I picked another toy and did the same thing. This toy disappeared by the end of the day. Another day, and another toy, but this time instead of sniffing it, he picks it up and hides it under the pool table.

Over the course of the last ten days, all of his toys have disappeared. I thought maybe he was eating them, but that wouldn't make much sense. Then I caught him sneaking out of my son's room with a sock, which he took outside. I watched as he disappeared through a fold in the trampoline skirt - a skirt put there to keep kids from going underneath when people are jumping. Apparently the dog is smarter than most 8 year olds. I pull up the skirt and find a huge pile of dog toys - and a bunch of household stuff I hadn't noticed was missing. He had been hoarding treasure like a dragon. I guess the problem with him not liking toys has been solved.

As for housebreaking, it turns out that was rather easy. He really seems to understand when I'm upset and learns quickly. Rather than punish him for going potty in the house, I just acted like it was very upsetting for me while I cleaned it up and would take him outside. He hasn't had an accident in the house in almost a week.

Regular training is still non-existent. Every time we try to teach him to do anything, he just lays there and looks the other way. However, if we seem extra excited about something, he will participate to a point. We got him to walk on a leash by just acting like it was the greatest adventure ever. He still lays down when cars approach and tries to chase them after they pass, but it's slowly getting better. The biggest problem with walks is when we see other dog walkers. As soon as he sees another dog, he wants to play and will pull extra hard on the leash trying to escape. We just plant our feet and wait for him to give up, which usually ends with him laying down and refusing to move for five minutes.

Hopefully the progress continues. My friend insists the smarter a dog is, the harder they are to train, because they become stubborn. It seems to hold true for us, but I might be biased. lol
 

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Ten days later and my dog has turned into a dragon. Seriously though...

I started paying special attention to his toys and he watched me like a hawk. At first, when I would put the toy down and walk away, he would sniff it and resume following me. Did that a couple times the first day with the same results. Following day, the toy was nowhere to be found. Figured it was a good start, so I picked another toy and did the same thing. This toy disappeared by the end of the day. Another day, and another toy, but this time instead of sniffing it, he picks it up and hides it under the pool table.

Over the course of the last ten days, all of his toys have disappeared. I thought maybe he was eating them, but that wouldn't make much sense. Then I caught him sneaking out of my son's room with a sock, which he took outside. I watched as he disappeared through a fold in the trampoline skirt - a skirt put there to keep kids from going underneath when people are jumping. Apparently the dog is smarter than most 8 year olds. I pull up the skirt and find a huge pile of dog toys - and a bunch of household stuff I hadn't noticed was missing. He had been hoarding treasure like a dragon. I guess the problem with him not liking toys has been solved.

As for housebreaking, it turns out that was rather easy. He really seems to understand when I'm upset and learns quickly. Rather than punish him for going potty in the house, I just acted like it was very upsetting for me while I cleaned it up and would take him outside. He hasn't had an accident in the house in almost a week.

Regular training is still non-existent. Every time we try to teach him to do anything, he just lays there and looks the other way. However, if we seem extra excited about something, he will participate to a point. We got him to walk on a leash by just acting like it was the greatest adventure ever. He still lays down when cars approach and tries to chase them after they pass, but it's slowly getting better. The biggest problem with walks is when we see other dog walkers. As soon as he sees another dog, he wants to play and will pull extra hard on the leash trying to escape. We just plant our feet and wait for him to give up, which usually ends with him laying down and refusing to move for five minutes.

Hopefully the progress continues. My friend insists the smarter a dog is, the harder they are to train, because they become stubborn. It seems to hold true for us, but I might be biased. lol
That's good that you are seeing some progress!

I would, however, not act upset when he has an accident. YOU might not think you're punishing him, but border collies are extremely sensitive, and their owner being upset can be extremely upsetting to THEM and be a form of punishment. He may also not be connecting that the potty mess is what you're upset about, and he could be connecting it to something entirely different and unintended, like perhaps he looked at you or tried to play with a toy at the moment you became upset. Your goal should never be to make him understand something by making him feel bad, especially since he is a rather shy, unsocialized dog.

Also, always remember that dogs do not think like humans. They can't make connections like even young children do, such as "When I make a mess and mommy has to clean it up, mommy is upset." Dogs make connections instantly, in the present. So if you find an accident after the fact and act upset, the dog will not understand that you are upset because he had an accident. He's probably going to connect it to something that happened immediately before you became upset. Even if you catch him in the act and act upset, he might not make the connection, which is why we never suggest punishment in any way, shape, or form. Theres just no telling which behavior a dog is going to connect the punishment to.
 

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Yay, I'm glad to hear he is making progress! I know there is still a lot to do, but he is already learning.

And yes, the smarter the dog the more stubborn they are and the more they try to out smart you. : )
 

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Hoarding toys/things is herding behavior.
Too bad you don't have a BC sheep herding trainer near buy. Your dog might be an ace at that job.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Hoarding toys/things is herding behavior.
Too bad you don't have a BC sheep herding trainer near buy. Your dog might be an ace at that job.
We spent the morning putting away his hoard of toys. He spent the rest of the day in and out of the house returning them to his lair. Had to stop him a few times when he tried to take shoes and remotes.
 
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