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Discussion Starter #1
Hello,

I'm the proud 'parent' of a 3 year-old predominately border collie mutt named Makenzie. To me and those who know her well, she is the most lovable little creature on the planet (you can probably see where this is going...).

But she has developed incredibly aggressive / territorial tendancies toward strangers in the past several months. I should have seen the warning signs earlier, but, well...I didn't.

What happened was we went through a move--new town, new home, the works--and our first day there, because she was so upset at the move, she nearly bit a friend of mine who got too close to her.

That near-miss naturally put me on edge, and so I'm sure she's feeding off my discomfort, at least in part. But the bottom line is, she's taken the following attitude: if she does not know who you are, then she naturally assumes you have been sent to kill me. And my nervousness, fueled by the prior incident with the near-bite, only re-enforces that attitude, I think.

I don't even know where to start, frankly. If anyone has similar stories, or knows where I can begin, I would be greatly appreciative.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
How do you handle her when she snaps or gets aggressive?
Well, in the house it's not an issue, oddly enough. As long as people don't put their hands out to her, or try to take her toys from her (or something like that), she doesn't pay much attention to people who come inside.

Outside, she's always on a leash. If someone goes by quickly (say, jogging or on a bike) she will literally lunge. When that happens, I just hold on, because I know that pulling back will only increase her agitation--make her think that the jogger/cyclist is something worth getting upset over.

Most of the time, though, her body will just go rigid, that little tuft of hair on the back of her neck stands up, and she 'points'. If someone dares to speak to her or to me, she starts barking. In that case, I tighten up the leash, and give her a strong "sit" command. This usually works for all of 5 seconds before the cycle repeats itself.
 

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1. Make sure you have her on a loose, not tight leash. And make sure you stay relaxed and confident (yes, easier said than done). Teach her to wear a basket-style muzzle if necessary to help you relax. Any tension from you or on the leash transmits to her making her even more nervous.

2. Work on building her confidence in you and your leadership by puting her on a nilif and daily obedience training program. Also work on her attention and on working up to a reliable sit, meaning that when you tell her sit she stays seated until either released or given a new command.

3. Stay relaxed and keep the lead loose. You can keep it a bit short if necessary but it should be loose, not tight.
 

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The only thing I might add to Skelaki excellent suggestions is to teach Makenzie that you will handle the 'problems'...not her. For example, the jogger....she thinks she has to confront it/handle it. Show her that you'll take care of it by getting between her and the jogger.... now ask for a sit and attention. Praise and treat for paying attention to you and ignoring the 'problem'. This takes practice but, she should start to relax.
 

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Changes in environment can truly stress a dog out and often stress can create a reactive dog...movement reactive, space reactive (don't come to close!) etc. She is giving you a definite signal with the "freeze and target" behaviour, you need to work on your timing here as well...to distract, cue a sit whatever BEFORE or JUST AS this freeze happens.

You may want to google Dr. Karen Overall's Protocol for Relaxation, it has a series of exercises meant to develop calm during chaos (movement and sound).

There is also a great book called "Click to Calm" by Emma Parsons. It has exercises for the two of you on how to deal with reactivity, leash handling etc.

I would also consider that your dog is resource guarding you, this needs to be handled before it starts to escalate further. As suggested above NILIF goes a long way as does training and realizing that resource guarding is about anxiety. Stress reduction through consistent schedule, exercise and "training games" along with relaxation work or having someone else in your home work and spend time with her can help her "detach" a bit from you. It's hard to say this is what's happening for sure, so it may be helpful to get a good trainer, someone with behaviour mod experience and who uses positive methods, to assess the actual behaviour and give you some assistance in changing it.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
This is all great advice. If nothing else, it's good to get the reenforcement that yes, my attitude has a lot to do with it.

And I've never thought of the muzzle before. Maybe I should have, but I haven't.
 
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