Concerns about our new cattle dog...

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Barked: Sat Jun 1, '13 5:57pm PST 
Hi, looking for a little advice here...

Very recently my family and I adopted a 1 1/2 year old Australian Cattle Dog mix (they said with an Australian Shepherd) after losing our last dog, Kiya, to cancer two years ago. Unsurprisingly she's full of lots and lots of energy, which is great! I have been reading and learning a lot since we got her on the 17th, as I currently am not in school or work. So, I've been working hard to give her routine, three walks a day, and practice tricks with her. She's very smart and picks things up incredibly fast! Her manners aren't great but as a family we've been working on them with her patiently and positively. Already, Lilo has started to grow comfortable around us and is sweet to us. She enjoys being pet and talked to.

However, for only having her for such a short time, there have already been a handful of incidents that have me concerned. As I learned on one of my first walks with her, she doesn't do well with bikes. She will launch herself at them, and if they are at a distance, bark in a frenzy. On that first walk, she pulled a little boy off his bike when he was passing us on the sidewalk and started tugging on his pant leg! :'( She didn't bite him which I'm so thankful for, but I feel so bad for the little boy. It was really embarrassing.

There has been some small progress, and I've tried to redirect/distract her attention on walks when I spy bikes (that I now actively search for) with treats and making a game of having her do tricks as we walk. And then a neighbor pulled out of his driveway with his bike and, though across the street, she tried to launch herself at him. I bumped her side accidently because she has a tendency to get underfoot and she turned around, growled at me, and latched onto my leg and started biting me. It didn't break the skin but afterward she didn't seem to realize she had done a bad thing.

Then, my brother was out in the backyard playing with her. She doesn't understand fetch yet (we're trying to teach her the drop command), but she likes to try and bury toys. My brother went over to try and pick up the toy and she jumped up and bit him, and it broke skin. She's not exhibited any kind of toy aggression (we play with her a lot!) so we're not sure if it was aggressive or her being too rough during play. Which she is culprit of, and very mouthy/nippy to boot. She has "mouthed" me so hard a few times it left a bruise.

And for a last incident which happened just today, i went into the yard with her to practice some tricks (I'd already given her two walks and a play with the kong stuff-a-ball we bought her) and she started running around wildly. I figured she needed to burn off a little of the excitement so I let her do her thing while I watched. Eventually she came over to me and we practiced a sit and stay once successfully. The second time when I released her and invited her over for her treat, she darted past me and started running wild again. Except this time each time she came near me she would charge at my ankles and growl at me before darting away. I started to take slow steps backward, towards the backdoor when her back was turned, watching her. This persisted till I was near the backdoor and she launched herself at me and tried to bite my wrist!

I have had a herding dog in the past (Border Collie mix) but I'm not sure if this is herding or something else? Or both? :'( I'm very concerned for Lilo, mine, my families, and strangers safety. Her energy level can be absolutely insane, to the point she will sometimes hurt herself; blood shot eyes, coughing, choking, because she will bark herself hoarse and strain herself (we are also working on the barking and shes making improvements!). We took her to the vet for her routine check up and had her looked at for these things and the vet said it was likely to be her high energy level that was the culprit.

I don't know what to do, or if what I'm doing is correct; any suggestions? Help?

Edited by author Sat Jun 1, '13 7:27pm PST


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Barked: Sun Jun 2, '13 5:23pm PST 
UPDATE: My brother and I took Lilo outside to play with her (after two walks and a 30min game of hide and seek inside the house already today. As well as an easy puzzle with her kong toy). She was a bit more focused and had an easier time stay attentive while I was communicating with her BUT she kept going over to try and bite my little brother. A few times she succeeded and bit his wrist hard; he's a gentle, shy kid so he tried to downplay it, but you could tell that it hurt him.

We let her run around to burn off a little steam, and I got some good sit, stay, and comes from her. She seemed to be having fun with it. Suddenly, during one of her sit commands, she lunged up and bit my hand until it brought me to tears. She also bit my elbow earlier while we were outside.

What concerns me is she appeared to feel no guilt that she had hurt me badly enough to bring me to tears, which is something I've noticed in times previous when she's bit to the point of hurting me and my brother.

This can't be acceptable behavior; I'm very angry with the agency that we adopted her from, they gave us no warning of her being a biter and told us she was good with anything from kids to cats (she has chased our cats relentlessly when she sees them, seemingly with the intent to bite). We later discovered (from their website) that they have hardly any info on the dogs they adopt out, because they pick them up from animal control centers then promptly try to re-adopt them without learning anything about the dog they are trying to find the proper home for. I don't know what to do?

Barked: Wed Jun 12, '13 9:01am PST 
I have a cattle dog mix and while mine is older and really pretty calm, I've struggled with some similar issues (though, thankfully, no biting). Bikes have become a small issue, which is hardly a surprise. Any dog with a strong prey drive is going to want to chase/lunge at a fast-moving object. One day I was in the woods and some mountain bikers came by. I stepped off the trail with my dog, and waited as they passed by. She was able to sit and stay for the first few, but there were 7 bikes and by the last couple she was just on overload and she started barking and lunging. This doesn't concern me too much because I know it's just part of a prey drive and I'm careful to keep a wide berth of people on bikes (my German Shepherd did this when I was a kid so I'm used to it) -- but I have worked on just keeping her attention or playing "find it" and tossing treats in the opposite direction when a biker goes by. This seems to work well enough. (I've also considered biking with her, for short distances to get her used to it--though I'm afraid of what would happen if we ran across a squirrel.)

But one of the things I've learned about Cattle dogs is that they can be bossy/controlling. My friend has a border collie and while he's happy to obsessively chase balls and keep a vigilant watch on his family, my dog is trying to herd him (she'll bark rather annoyingly at animals she's decided she needs to boss around, and so the dog park is out... though she does fine at daycare). I've run in to several other cattle dog owners who have confirmed this -- including the daycare owner who has had a variety of dogs...including herding breeds. They need to know who is boss more than most. I also find most of her "issues" stem from frustration. She's dog-friendly but when we're out on a neighborhood walk and she can't go running up to every dog we see, she will pull, lunge, bark, and generally look like a lunatic. (We're working on this as well.) And it only got worse the more it happened because it's all about frustration.

I'd get a trainer in before the nipping and biting becomes a habit. From the sounds of the Mix you've got on your hands, you're going to have a really headstrong dog who needs a big outlet for the brains and energy. Maybe you could try herding classes or agility.

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Barked: Thu Jun 27, '13 5:44pm PST 
you can get some useful ideas from veterinarian.

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Barked: Tue Jul 16, '13 10:51am PST 
I've owned my cattle dog since she was 6 weeks old (she's more than 13 years old now). I agree with the previous poster - these dogs can be VERY bossy and require strong leaders. I sent my dog to 2 different trainers before she was even 3 years old. That helped somewhat but what helped the most was a consultation with an animal behaviorist. I would highly suggest you find a behaviorist to assist you.

I learned from the behaviorist that it's the small things that a dog uses to determine who is "alpha" in her pack. For instance, we couldn't leave toys out where my dog could get them. "Alpha" controls the high-value items. You can give her a toy to play with, but when playtime is over, pick up the toy and put it away. The other important thing to do before giving your dog a toy or any food, is to make her work for it. Even just making her sit or do a trick before you give her anything will help her understand that YOU are in control, not her.

You're doing a great job with getting your dog exercise, but she may need more. She also needs to learn "NO." ANY mouthiness, nipping and biting needs to be corrected with a stern "no." Teaching "leave it" is also very helpful.

Please get help with your dog ASAP before she bites anyone else. Cattle dogs can be incredible companions, but the first several years are very, very challenging. Good luck!