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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My partner and I recently adopted a 10 month old Border Collie mix. She came from the Humane Society and was obviously never socialized as a puppy. She finds anything new anxiety provoking. New dogs, new people, new objects, new places, all illicit an anxiety response. In her that looks like ears back and hackles up.

I've slowly been trying to get some positive experiences happening with new things. Part of that has been taking walks along the river in my town. She gets treated when we approach something new. For example, if a jogger/walker/biker goes by, she gets a treat. I'm trying to get her to associate the new experience with a positive experience. New person = treat. That's essentially the association I'm trying to reinforce. Today when I thought about it, I was hit with a realization that I might be reinforcing the anxiety response. I'm afraid that instead of getting the result I want, I'm instead teaching her that there's a positive association between being anxious and getting the treat.

I've only done this on a few walks, but I'm worried about continuing to do it if I'm reinforcing the wrong association.

Thoughts?
 

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Make sure that you're far enough away that she is able to stay in control of herself and its her choice to encounter new things-and reward for her choosing to go to those things. Forcing her into a situation she hates and giving her a treat is much slower.

You also can't really reinforce fear the way you're talking about-if you're having a bad day, and someone gives you 50$...you might not appreciate the 50$ the same way you normally would, but it's not going to make your day worse.
 

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Make sure that you're far enough away that she is able to stay in control of herself and its her choice to encounter new things-and reward for her choosing to go to those things. Forcing her into a situation she hates and giving her a treat is much slower.

You also can't really reinforce fear the way you're talking about-if you're having a bad day, and someone gives you 50$...you might not appreciate the 50$ the same way you normally would, but it's not going to make your day worse.
I agree with this. I would keep doing what you're doing, but make sure it is slow, safe, and she is a good distance away and can move closer willingly at her own pace. Stay patient, keep trying, keep treating, and she will become socialized. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks. I appreciate the feedback. I'll keep doing what I'm doing and I'll post some updates on how things are going.
 

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I agree with @Kwenami. Also don't be afraid to speak with trainers or vets about her anxiety, sometime they may suggest adding medication to your training to help keep her calm.

Sometimes you can do all the training and work in the world and still need to medicate her to help get her over that hurdle. My dog will be starting meds for anxiety next month, she's also a border collie mix. Everything to her that is new or changes is worthy of an anxious response, which is very similar to yours - hackles up, ears flat, and usually a loud, whiney bark. We've tackled a large majority of her triggers, but it's like we've met a plateau in our training that we can't over come. That is why we are starting meds to enhance her training.

Not saying every bc mix, or every dog for that matter, needs meds to help them but they are an option. I'd look into it if, in the event, your dog's training also needs to be supplemented.

Good luck! Reactive dogs are exhausting, but they're the sweetest souls - not that I'm biased at all lol :whistle:
 

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I think you're doing the right thing, but like others said make sure to keep her in situations she can handle. It's very easy to see a dog improve and then go full speed ahead several steps past what she can handle. It's a good idea to make sure you also walk her in areas and times where you know there will be minimal exposure to scary things. This can be difficult because you never know when a jogger or mom with 4 kids might come by that certain day. But just keep up what you're doing, and remember to go slowly. If she doesn't seem to be improving, make it easier. It would also be a good idea to consult a trainer as well if you want to make sure.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I think you're doing the right thing, but like others said make sure to keep her in situations she can handle. It's very easy to see a dog improve and then go full speed ahead several steps past what she can handle. It's a good idea to make sure you also walk her in areas and times where you know there will be minimal exposure to scary things. This can be difficult because you never know when a jogger or mom with 4 kids might come by that certain day. But just keep up what you're doing, and remember to go slowly. If she doesn't seem to be improving, make it easier. It would also be a good idea to consult a trainer as well if you want to make sure.
We are starting her in obedience class with a small number of other dogs on Dec 27th. We're hoping that the controlled interaction with other dogs will help with the fear of new dogs, and that she'll gain a little confidence with the training as well. When we took her in to meet with the trainer to set up the classes she gave us some tips about helping her get comfortable with new situations. I'll ask her when we go back in if she might recommend something that might work better or to keep doing what I'm doing.
 

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Keep up updated on the progress!
 

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This YouTube video page has been a life saver for us!

https://youtu.be/OMLrYaoxNOs

Awesome explanation of desensitization and counterconditioning. I will say we do need meds, we have a Cattle Dog... But I got a real pat on the back when we went to the University to see a veterinary behaviorist. They were impressed, not only with my initiative, but how much I accomplished without meds... But they also told me to take some time for myself, do some yoga or meditation, lol!
 
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