Fearful/Aggresive Border Collie

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Member Since
Barked: Wed Oct 3, '12 6:28pm PST 
Hello everyone, this is my first post on this website. I have a one year old Border Collie/German Shepard rescue, her name is Pandora/Panda. She is a great dog but I have a few concerns that I would like to get some opinions on, this is the first dog I have owned and have little experience training. She is fine by herself and in the house etc... The only issues come in social situations. I take her out on hikes a lot and to parks for walks since we both love the outdoors. While we walk she is fine, doesn't pull and is a good walker but as people or other dogs pass, she usually has a different reaction. Her hair raises, she assumes a more rigid stance and begins to snarl or growl. However, it is only until the person or dog begins to acknowledge her or me. Once the person or dog passing tries to talk to me, touch me, or touch her, she reacts in this way. If the person passes and does nothing to her or me, then she goes on her way with no reaction. When people come up to me and ask about her, I have had to get into the habit of telling people not to pet her or get close to her because she acts this way and I want to change aspect. I have continued to take her out to keep trying to change this behavior and tired to bring friends around instead of strangers to desensitize her but to no avail.

On another note, similar to this one, she is extremely affectionate. When I go to bed, she will sleep with me, lay next to me, jump on top of me, lay on top of me, lick my face, nibble on my ears, etc... I am worried that this affection may be construed in her head as dependence or even dominance in some case but I am not sure. Along with this I am worried that her reactions when other people or dogs confront me or her are her way of protecting me even when there is no threat are due to this dependence or dominance.

All in all, I guess I need help deciding if she is fearful or aggressive in her actions as I spoke about earlier and in either case I need ideas and suggestions on how to change and adjust this behavior. Thanks ahead of time for any responses and insight. Much appreciated.

Bossy boots
Barked: Fri Oct 12, '12 4:30am PST 
Border Collies can be protective of their owner's "space" and are often not keen for other people and/or other dogs to come to close to their owners. My dogs went to puppy class, did Good Canine Citizen training, mix often with other dogs and people etc but Garbo did become a bit reactive when she was 1 year old. She has improved as she is moving out of her teenage stage. I make her sit or even down if she acts like you are describing and once she has obeyed and is no longer acting aggressively I tell her that she is a good dog etc. I think that she must know that she cannot flare up and that it is my job to reassure her that I am in control if it is just an ordinary interaction as you describe. One can be firm without being harsh as if the dog is acting out of fear, being harsh/ punishing will not work.

Member Since
Barked: Tue Oct 30, '12 2:06pm PST 
I was able to pull an "unadoptable" 2 yr old border collie from a shelter because I had fostered for a rescue group - he was fearful reactive totally unsocialized did not know about house or outside sounds and was petrified of dogs barking and sick and no one could touch him. Sadly, for him at the time Border Collie rescues weren't interested in him. Lucky for me!
with gentle slow and steady health recovery he quickly learned to trust me and live with a senior calm dominant female.
we worked with a behaviorist and the best technique that has worked with him in all New situations is to keep him in Training Mode. I did keep him on a lead for the first week or so that was new to me but really got him to learn wait and where his okay spots in the house were such as not everywhere !
he continues to be reactive to certain sounds showing extreme fight/flight yet because he has learned sooooo many Words that match what he sees hears and feels he is easy to return to a calm attentive state.
For expanding his trust to others - initially I used small pieces of yummy limited ingredient duck roll : he sits, i praise him with "yes sit" Treat. i tell him say hi and he accepts a pet. Gets a Treat. as i engage in conversation with the other person I say "yes, say hi" then i tell him to wait and say "yes wait".... As he became calmer the other person would give a treat too.

the more guidance that i give and regular praise on simple responses the calmer he is.

Walks /Jogs always involve training so his mind is engaged as he exercises. "Sit" at corners "Wait" I say "No cars" the "Release, nice walk" and we cross the street. He gets lots of sniff time too but always when I say "Sniff" otherwise we stay in motion. "Go Potty" "Yes Potty" "take the trash out" .... all these simple things keep him in tune with me vs. his natural inclination to keep an eye out for what they are bred to do which would be a predator to the herd ... but can simply be a dog, person, skateboarder, sudden noise etc.
I do reinforce "Quiet" so he knows if he barks at the door I can say wait and he stops then I reinforce with "Yes, quiet" and he knows he did a good job
Seeing dogs walking across the street and he looks I tell him doggie walk, leave it the minute he looks forward I say "YES leave it" initially used treats.
Teaching "Look at Me" holding a treat in his view and moving to my nose then say "Yes look at me" was helpful to building other aspects of his social learning.
It takes time but he has evolved to be a pleasure and joy to all the neighbors and LOVES to meet people !!!!
he used to rear up on hind legs bark and look like a crazed vicious out of control dog when he saw another dog. Now, he is more confident and can walk nicely behind other dogs - a bit skittish when dogs are 1/2 a block behind us but tries to keep his head forward which I Praise with "Yes leave it"....
We cross the street off and on whether dogs are around or not so if a dog or - few dogs as the case may be - are walking straight towards us, I do cross the street and keep him focused on Our path which is working well.
He has overcome soooo many fears and Learned soooo much that I do believe slow and steady has been the ticket .
Instead of dog park I use a 30' leash and do simple training to keep him focused as other dogs are on walks in the park. This is the routine: Sit / Wait / Catch (a tennis ball while in sit position) / Touch (a soccer ball) / as he learned the touch I put the ball on the ground so when he touched the soccer ball it moved = now the command is Kick ! / This keeps him busy mind and body while dogs are walking around he is focused and having fun and getting little treats
Border Collies love Fun and Games and can be active and engaged even if their disposition preclude them from wanting to be close to other dogs.

PS: Ross is a perfect border collie and does sleep in bed but has "his spot" a pillow so when I tell him go to bed and he plops in the middle of the bed I can say got to your spot and while he used to not move and I would position him - he grumbled ... its important that whatever I asked and ask him to do that I follow through that he is SUCCESSFUL smile