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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Greetings forum! It's been a while since I've posted anything, since Theo has been doing so well! Of course, there are still a few issues here and there, and one that we have encountered is Theo's aggression at having someone hold onto his collar.

This is outside of holding his collar to put his leash on, he's find with that. But if we have to grab his collar, say to prevent him from bolting out the door at guests on the porch, or to get him away from rabbit poo outside, or to separate him and another dog, he bares his teeth, growls, and snaps.

He recently did this to our dog sitter (who had to separate him and another dog) and I realized we need to revisit training on this issue. This doesn't happen often but when it does, it's scary. If we are outside in the backyard, with no leash on, but I need to pull him away from something he's eating (like animal feces), I don't want to get bit. When it comes to these situations, using treats as distractions/training does not help. He will not drop it or leave it for animal feces, or focus on me/dog sitter when he needs to be distracted from another dog getting too close.

What should I do? How can I help him with this issue? What kind of training should I be doing?
 

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Oh, that's not fun at all. Sounds like he has learned that when you grab his collar you are pulling him away from something he really wants (freedom, animal poop, another dog, etc). First I would work on desensitizing the grabbing of his collar. I think the best way to do that is go go about using the Susan Garrett method and play the collar grab game. It makes putting your hands on his collar a positive thing. Your dog should search out your hand and want you to touch his collar (@shandula have more information on the collar grab game).

The other thing is getting him to walk away from what he wants, and not to be reactive when he is removed. Maybe try putting a 2 foot lead on him and when you go to remove him bring his favorite toy or a spectacular treat and as you are pulling him away try to engage with either playing or rewarding. Make him walking away really positive.

That is just my thoughts on the situation. Hope you find something that works.
 

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What is the distinction between you grabbing his collar to put a leash on it and you doing it in situations where he reacts aggressively? Is it that you're coming in higher when you do it in these situations he reacts in? Faster? Are you vocalizing in these situations but not in other situations?

From the two situations you described, I would have two guesses.
1) He is reacting because you're moving faster than normal in order to get him to stop the behavior (door dashing, eating poop) faster, likely from fear
2) he is reacting because he doesn't like that you're telling him to do something he wants to do

I would guess #1 as more likely, especially given I'm assuming he's the herding breed mix looking pup in your profile picture. From what I've seen, it is very common for herding breeds to not like quick movements and to react strongly to them.

I would say this needs a level of management, and then also a level of training.

First, for management, I would suggest having him wear a back clip body harness with a short (3-4 foot) leash dragging on the ground; I'd get one that is relatively narrow so as to be less cumbersome. If he's in a back clip harness, the position of the drag line/pull tab might be such that he feels less uncomfortable about you moving to grab it, as opposed to a drag line on a collar that will still require a similar movement to grab it as would just grabbing a collar normally.

For actual training, I do really like Susan Garett's collar grab game for desensitizing dogs to you grabbing their collar. That said, it sounds like he's OK with it when you do it normally, so I would work on desensitizing him to you grabbing his collar in ways he usually doesn't like. Start small- start with just reaching down and grabbing the collar, hold a second, release, mark with a "yes", and reward. Practice this for a few days. Then, start doing it at different angles, then different speeds. Don't rush it, you aren't trying to make him react, you're trying to keep him comfortable. Use high value treats for it: chicken, cheese, pepperoni, hot dog, hamburger meat. Keep sessions short- I never do more than 10 repetitions with something like this at one time, usually no more than 5-7, but I usually do several sessions a day.

Also work on the verbal commands for these situations. Work on an automatic wait at the door, work on a stronger leave it cue, etc.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the input! What I've noticed is when I grab the collar to get him away from rabbit poo, initially he doesn't react, but it's the pulling he doesn't like. Then, if I have to do it again, he reacts when I grab. I don't know if I come in any faster, because I try to use "leave it" with treats first, then that's my second maneuver.

I will definitely look up the game about the collar grab. When we go for walks, he is in a harness with a 6 foot leash, that has a "traffic handle" at four feet, so I use that mostly to get him away from stuff. But sometimes, I want to let him run around the backyard without a leash and harness on...of course, that's where all the rabbit crap is. So lately I've been putting the harness and leash on and taking him out front (no rabbit crap) or on short walks (outside of our usual walks).

The door issue is one we have always had because we didn't train him well enough, so it's kind of back to square one. He rushes to the door, tries to get on the porch to see who's there, then jumps on the person coming or just rapid-fire barks at them...it's a very exciting time. So working on a wait at the door is necessary!

I appreciate all the input and am going to start training ASAP! Will post updates in a few weeks :)
 

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Collar grab game is the greatest. I use it all the time, and it has paid off huge for Levi who is man-handled at the park by people trying to pet him.

For what it is worth, Border Collies seem to have a tough time in general with people grabbing at them. They are so sensitive to pressure towards them, honestly.
 
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