Border Collie Aggression/biting

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I'll get it!
Barked: Sat Oct 18, '08 4:44pm PST 
Hi my name is Chauncy and I am a purebred Border Collie. My auntie is typing for me - even though as a BC I can do everything better and quicker than anyone!
Auntie will now write in here own words!
Chauncy belongs to my brother and his girlfriend. He 3 years old and fairly well trained.
The living situation is less than ideal for Chauncy. They have an apartment in an old house on the first floor. The landlord who also lives on the property has a Rottweiller.
Unfortunately, because my brother and his girlfriend both work full-time, Chauncy is left alone (with 6 cats) for over 8hrs during the week. In my opinion, this is a recipe for disaster with any dog, but because BCs are so active, especially so for Chauncy.
Last Sunday my family came to my home. We had relatives visiting from Missouri and planned to have dinner adn visit. The Missouri relative included 2 young children, ages 7&4. My brother and his GF brought Chauncy with them, and everyone was throwing balls for him. He seems inexhaustable! The youngest child started playing with him after everyone one had finished. She was trying to use the ball thrower, but was unable to work it properly due to her young age. I could see Chauncy getting frustrated, but felt that I shouldn't say anything since his owners were aware of the situation. I went into the house to finish preparing dinner, and the next thing I knew, people were flying around getting towels and ice!
Chauncy had bitten the little girl in the face and torn her lip! Evidently the girl had bent over to pick up the ball and he lunged.
The little girl required emergency surgery that night to repair the bite and may have to have further surgery in the future.
That evening I was called bythe police 3 times and visited by the police once (at 10 pm) to give statements about the attack - even though I am not Chauncy's owner. To date, my brother has not heard from the town animal control officer- and he doesn't intend to call them. (a mistake on his part, I think)
Unfortunately, this is the 2nd bite report on Chauncy. He bit my brother's stepson earlier this year. My brother said he thought Chauncy percieved the boy as a threat and was protecting my brother.
I have counseled my brother and his girlfriend that a muzzle should be used on the dog several times (after I learned of the bite to the stepson and since then). They are "looking " into muzzles now.
Have any of you ever had a problem like this?
I'm worried that Chauncy may have to be destroyed. He's not a bad dog, just needs further training or behavior management.
Any suggestions that I can pass on to my brother?
Sorry for the long post and thanks for any help!
Nymphadora Tonks

Faster than a- speeding bullet!
Barked: Sun Oct 19, '08 6:36am PST 
They need to rehome this dog before he is put down because they don't know how to handle an active, intelligent breed.

This is completely unacceptable behavior on their part. If the dog had a documented bite it should never have been around children! Good for you trying to find out what the options are, but I don't think they are capable of providing the things this breed absolutely has to have.

Though it is impossible for anyone to tell what the dogs intentions are through an email about the event, it sounds as though the dog was "guarding" it's resource... the ball. I know at any point during play I can say that'll be all, and take ANYTHING, even food from either my German Shepherd or my Border Collie. They get lots of outside time and room to run. We also keep them away from things they can herd, since both dogs have this tendency.

There is more than a muzzling issue right now, the dog needs training NOW!

I'll get it!
Barked: Sun Oct 26, '08 10:11am PST 
Thanks for the response Nymphadora. To date we have heard nothing from the animal control officer. A muzzle has been purchased, but as far as I know, no new trainng or behavior modification has been employed.
The little girl's lip is heling well, there is some scaring, though.
Appreciate your thoughts and advice.

Nymphadora Tonks

Faster than a- speeding bullet!
Barked: Sat Nov 8, '08 11:06am PST 
I hope things get better. Thanks for showing concern.

More Bored- Collies
Barked: Sun Nov 9, '08 8:54am PST 
To be honest, a muzzle sounds about the worst thing they can do. Or at least the lazy, quick route.
A muzzle wont solve anything with the dog. It will ensure that he wont bite anyone, but it will basically involve the dog wearing a muzzle all the time instead of fixing the problem.

It really doesn't sound like he is aggressive so to say. Really it sounds like a matter of lack of training, exposure, and physical and mental stimulation.

The dog would really be better in a home that could give him what he needs. Otherwise this problem could just get worse.

Got Sheep?
Barked: Tue Nov 11, '08 2:05pm PST 
While I think it is not prudent to diagnose such a situation via this medium, if the story is fairly accurate, I do not think this is a case of true aggression. But, that does not mean it can't or won't happen again and it doesn't mean that the bite(s) are any less severe or any less unacceptable.

Having owned Border Collies for nearly 30 years, I'm pretty certain the dog's behavior is herding/ prey drive gone amok due to poor training and leadership over the dog's behavior - along with obvious bad management.

I do not consider the behavior to be "resource guarding" or "protection", either, albeit either of those problems do need intervention when a dog presents with them. They are different - albeit, the way you fix any of these problems can be quite similar.

It seems to me that the behavior is similar to what many Border Collies do when they are impatient (whether when moving livestock - when they take a quick bite / nip at sheep or cattle that are not moving quickly enough for their own liking OR when "demanding" that their owner toss the ball / toy faster. Both of those behaviors, too, are unacceptable (even the using teeth on livestock, most of the time). This does not imply that it is an excuse for the behavior - or that herding of non-herdables (like kids, bikes, people's ankles etc...) is acceptable, either. It isn't.

Unacceptable behavior needs to be corrected with proper training techniques. And, if the owners do not know how to fix the behavior, then they need to manage the dog better so that it doesn't have a chance to present the behavior (which, is not my preference, but sometimes is the best policy until the dog can be appropriately trained).

The behavior can be resolved (it is what I do for a living), but if the dog's owners are not capable of maintaining the dog in the proper state of mind after rehabilitation, the dog can and will revert.

I do not agree with putting a dog to sleep for ill behavior, because I know it can all be resolved. But, especially behavior that is a manifestation of the dog's inherent genetic code (gone awry in this scenario), does not warrant such an extreme resolution.

Boon's mom

I'll get it!
Barked: Fri Nov 14, '08 12:31pm PST 
Boon's mom,
Thanks for your response. I believe you are correct...the little girl was unable to "play" with Chauncy as he is accustomed to, and I think he was frustrated. He has never attempted to use this type of behavior on an adult and is not, by nature, an aggressive animal.
He is very friendly, but somewhat "obsessive" when playing fetch with a ball or frisbee.
I do not condone euthanization, either. My concern was, since this was the second bite report with in one year on the dog, that animal control might insist the dog was a danger to society and require them to have him put down. To date, animal control has not followed up on the incident, so I would guess the report has been closed.
Chauncy remains in the same situation. They do exercise him daily, but in my opinion the situation is not at all the best for him. His owners are in the process of building a home and in a few months Chauncy will have an outside run, so hopefully that will alleviate some of his boredom.
I will encourage his owners to seek help via an animal behaviorist. We certainly don't want this behavior to continue.
Thanks again!

Aine - Plotting world- domination.
Barked: Tue Nov 18, '08 8:35am PST 
I definately agree with Boon's Ma. My BC has been raised mostly around livestock and older kids. Now she is in a situation where we have grandbabies around and are in a more suburban setting. It is a challenge but I find that impatience is a motive for bad behavior in BC rather than resource guarding. The behavior around stock that you describe (nipping, etc.) is so common and NOT undesirable when you use the dog to move cows or sheep. But it is difficult for a BC to know the difference between work and play. Once you recognize this, you can respond effectively. I don't think that most BC's are particularly good around small kids unless they have been with them since day one and know the difference between them and something to manage.
It breaks my heart to think of a BC being put down for something that is not only a managable trait but one that is pretty inherent in the breed.
Aine's mom
Irena Ted

Got Sheep?
Barked: Thu Nov 20, '08 10:10am PST 
I think that BCs have a bad name for being bad around young kids. Sometimes you do get a dog that just can't handle the pressure. But a three year old dog, properly raised, should be able to resist the urge to fly randomly at things that don't suit him.

I have a two year old dog with a very "hot" nature and it's been six months or so that he's had plenty of self control available to be able to help hold a bunch of sheep for me - with lambs popping around here and there - without randomly flying in and taking hold of something.

So, it's the raising and the training, I believe, that's at fault here. And the good news is that it can still be corrected, though we are approaching a milestone between "moderately easy" to correct and "requiring the help of professionals" both in terms of his age and the number of times he's been allowed to connect effectively.

I'd stop the eternal ball playing. Now. It can come back later. It's time to treat this dog like a dog and not like a Magic Auto-Fetcher.

He needs a routine of exercise, training, and close interaction with the family. No time to himself other than in a crate. To anyone that might demur at this, if he had had a horrible car accident with massive internal damage, the vet would crate him for extended periods to save his life.

This dog's life is on the line. The structured routine, combined with crate rest, is the easiest way for a busy family to modify this complex mix of personality traits (needing retraining) and unwanted behaviors (requiring reshaping).

I tell people to write up a little schedule and post it. Everyone in the house helps with the schedule, even the little ones. For a while, walks need to be on leash, and quite frequent (but not necessarily long).

If there's not enough time to enroll in a training class, purchase a good video or book with a step-by-step progression reinforcing some area of training (obedience, rally, backyard agility). Also, get another book with trick training instructions. This will guide another daily training session. During a third training session, combine the two.

As with the walks, it's more important that these sessions be frequent and very regular with regard to time of day and sequence - but not so important as to length. Five mintes for each session is really fine, though longer is nice too if it can be managed.

In about three weeks, this dog will stop thinking, "What's in it for me?" and will have assumed the attitude of "What will these wonderful people do next?" and because the routine is predictable, Chauncey will actually have the answer! And that makes dogs really happy. They like to sit around and feel like they have answers - as long as Chauncey's brain is working, he won't feel the need to take matters into his own paws. Continued work on simply keeping his life calm and structured will teach him that it's not necessary to make these decisions.

Finally, what about that beloved ball? Possibly in about six months, the ball can be re-introduced. I'd recommend strongly doing this in the context of brainwork rather than blind, brainless fetching. Attach a series of commands that can be done with the ball as a reward - around the legs, through the legs, weave, directional send-outs ("right" "left").

And as a reward for all that work, the family will have, in the place of a menace to society, a dog that everyone envies. But they'll have to be sure to tell everyone how much work that dog was! Does anyone remember Eddie, the dog on Frasier? Eddie was, a pound rescue slated for destruction for aggressive behavior. He is still not a very nice dog. But he's supremely controllable and dependable around high-dollar actors (can you imagine the liability if a dog slashed open the face of a million-dollar-a-day actress?). What makes him a "bad" dog is also what makes him a super-cool dog - high intelligence and cleverness and a heightened awareness of his surroundings. His handler simply replaced that with a heightened awareness of what SHE wants from him, so even if he's covering his eyes, he is ready for and can sense cues from his human partner.

Border Collies are a whole breed that is bred to crave that kind of partnership and when plunked down into busy families with small kids, sometimes that sensibility can go astray for a while.

I hope they can work this out.

I'll get it!
Barked: Mon Nov 24, '08 10:16pm PST 
Thank you for your insightful posts! I will pass all of the information that has been posted here to to Chauncy's owners.
I have always loved Bordier Collies. They are so smart and beautiful!puppy
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