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So I have a lovely border collie who has always been very dependent on me. However, I have noticed, as from a week or two, that even if he is eager to meet other pups, he gets aggressive very rapidly. His fur puffs up and all, he doesn't growl tho. I was very confused.

He used to be a very social dog and slowly he began to turn into a loner. I did not pay much attention to it because I assumed that he has just changed his style as he grew up, he seemed much more interested in sniffing butts and trying to hump things. He plays with a ball now, and I have been working with him because he gets very possessive over it when other dogs come to play.

And this week it was just any dog that got close.

After a little bit of search, I ended up noticing he is possessive over me. He doesn't like other people walking him (he will freak out if I give the leash to someone else), he constantly jumps on me when excited (but not on other people), and gets very nervous when my cat or my niece (age 3) come close to me.

I have NO idea how to handle this and it is getting hard to find info about it.

Thanks
 

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Border Collies are not a breed generally known for being social butterflies. They are a breed who have been bred to work with others to get a job done, but the stress has been placed on their working relationships with humans and dogs within their social group, not unfamiliar dogs. Most Border Collies I know of at minimum aren't social butterflies, or are very selective about the dogs they get along with, or just do not get along with other dogs at all.

I'm curious- how old is the dog and do you know if he comes more from a working background (as in, from dogs who were likely being worked on sheep) or a pet-type background (from dogs that look like border collies and were bred from dogs that look like border collies). If he's in the 1-2 year old range, it could be that he's just gone from a friendly puppy to an adult dog who isn't a fan of dogs he doesn't know and would like them to leave him alone.

It is totally possible he is guarding you as a resource as well. I have seen a lot of success with just teaching the dog a human is not a resource that can be guarded. Whenever he reacts, you just get up and go away. If he is an actual bite risk, he should be muzzled while this is being done.

I think it is also important to work on separation issues, which if he is freaking out/worried when you give the leash to someone else and walk away, he likely has some of. In this regard, making sure he is adequately mentally and physically exercised and working on teaching him to be alone for slowly increasing lengths of time (like hand the leash off, walk 3 feet away, take the leash back without giving the dog attention. Work up to 4 feet. Then 5. Then 7. etc, etc, etc).
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Border Collies are not a breed generally known for being social butterflies. They are a breed who have been bred to work with others to get a job done, but the stress has been placed on their working relationships with humans and dogs within their social group, not unfamiliar dogs. Most Border Collies I know of at minimum aren't social butterflies, or are very selective about the dogs they get along with, or just do not get along with other dogs at all.
I kinda knew that, but I was not expecting him to become aggressive about it. Since I will start walking neighbours dogs I think it will help him fit better at least with them.

I'm curious- how old is the dog and do you know if he comes more from a working background (as in, from dogs who were likely being worked on sheep) or a pet-type background (from dogs that look like border collies and were bred from dogs that look like border collies). If he's in the 1-2 year old range, it could be that he's just gone from a friendly puppy to an adult dog who isn't a fan of dogs he doesn't know and would like them to leave him alone.
He is 3 and a half, and I really don't know much about his parents. They were from the countryside. I don't think they were used for herding but just expected to naturally do so. They did not seem trained as such. I noticed the change from puppy to adult, but it is getting aggressive now.

It is totally possible he is guarding you as a resource as well. I have seen a lot of success with just teaching the dog a human is not a resource that can be guarded. Whenever he reacts, you just get up and go away. If he is an actual bite risk, he should be muzzled while this is being done.
I think it is also important to work on separation issues, which if he is freaking out/worried when you give the leash to someone else and walk away, he likely has some of. In this regard, making sure he is adequately mentally and physically exercised and working on teaching him to be alone for slowly increasing lengths of time (like hand the leash off, walk 3 feet away, take the leash back without giving the dog attention. Work up to 4 feet. Then 5. Then 7. etc, etc, etc).
What he does is: comes eagerly to a dog, becomes tense, smells, let the other dog smell, then tenses more and starts getting his mane up. It doesn't seem to be an aggressive confrontation at first but I could be wrong. He has never bitten per se, he just mouths and growls, and ends up covered in saliva. I might get a muzzle on him though because people get scared about that and most people in my park know nothing about dogs or training.

What worries me most is how he behaves with my niece and cat. On the cat side, the cat just goes away annoyed and I have nothing to worry, it is a very chill cat. However, my niece is VERY persistent. I am worried he will bite her. I must add she is about the same age he is and the same height, and both have a LOT of energy. Since she doesn't live here I just keep him in my room when she is around, but I'd much rather teach him to be ok with kids. (most likely kids that interact with me because he seems just fine with the ones that pet him in the street)

About separation: I know he gets a little bit anxious, and I am still looking for a way of telling him it's ok. He doesn't get nervous in the way that he wll not destroy my room or bite anything. He just waits. He doesn't whine or anything either (I have taped him). However, I must compare this to the situation when I leave him outside a store. He stares at me so he makes sure I don't go away (I never have, but dogs be dogs), and when I come back I have to tell him to sit till he is chill again because if not he will pull from his leash and start playing.

Extra note on this: Every now and then I have to be hard and strict with him again because he starts jumping on me and pulling the leash again. It doesn't seem to stick, so I am really wondering what I am doing wrong there. Maybe I am failing at some "Do's and DON'Ts"? Maybe something silly like not letting him on my bed? (He sleeps there when I leave him alone)

Thank you for the help
 

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First, I would like to say that it is hard to get an accurate read of a situation over the internet. The information is both biased because it is coming from the owner without the visual ability to see for myself what is happening/ what the dog is saying, and also limited because to some extent you're only hearing about what the owner thinks is most important about the situations/reality but not able to balance that with the visual of what is happening. I'm also relying on breed generalizations more than I otherwise would, since I don't have a full a picture of how the individual dog fits into the breed, only a rough idea of that dog's behavior and the breed context within which to place it. If you want to get the most accurate advise, pay to have a trainer help you on this issue. I can help with ways to find the best trainers, if you would like.

From what I have heard thus far, it doesn't sounds like something that I would say you need to get help with now, though it is behavior that you need to address, and doing so is going to require building a working knowledge of dog behavior and why they do what they do, and some further effort on your part, likely including a slight change in schedule.

I still don't feel I have a complete understanding of exactly what the dog does that is troubling to you, though. It sounds like it is
(1) dog-dog interactions
and
(2) resource guarding

I get the dog-dog interaction part, but not the "resource guarding" part.

I'll write in my direct response to each part of the post below to make it easier to respond to each point directly.

What he does is: comes eagerly to a dog, becomes tense, smells, let the other dog smell, then tenses more and starts getting his mane up. It doesn't seem to be an aggressive confrontation at first but I could be wrong. He has never bitten per se, he just mouths and growls, and ends up covered in saliva. I might get a muzzle on him though because people get scared about that and most people in my park know nothing about dogs or training.
In your original post, you mentioned
- He approaches dogs as if he wants to greet them, get sniffs, get usually gets stiff after a moment, he then hackles up. In your original post, you said he "gets aggressive very rapidly. His fur puffs up and all, he doesn't growl tho."
- Not wanting to share his ball with other dogs when he's playing with it and they come over

My remaining questions:
- So the issues with getting aggressive towards other dogs that come close- it is essentially that he'll act like he wants to meet them, go over to meet them, sniff, get stiff after a moment, then his hackles will rise and he gets tense? He doesn't do any barking, lunging, air snapping, or growling?
How is he acting when he's going over- is he loose and wiggly, is he tense already? Is he pulling over? Is he walking over intensely or with happy enthusiasm? What specifically is making you think he wants to meet the other dog? What does the sniffing look like? Is it nose to nose, nose to but? Are both dogs usually sniffing each other both at once? Are they both usually pretty stiff from the get go? Is the leash usually loose? Tight? Is it tight because you're pulling on it, or because he is? Does he have any dog friends he plays with?
- With the not wanting to share his ball- Are these with know or unknown dogs? Where is is this is happening and in what context? What does he do that is making you say that he doesn't like sharing.

Would it be possible to get a video of what you're talking about?

What worries me most is how he behaves with my niece and cat. On the cat side, the cat just goes away annoyed and I have nothing to worry, it is a very chill cat. However, my niece is VERY persistent. I am worried he will bite her. I must add she is about the same age he is and the same height, and both have a LOT of energy. Since she doesn't live here I just keep him in my room when she is around, but I'd much rather teach him to be ok with kids. (most likely kids that interact with me because he seems just fine with the ones that pet him in the street)
What exactly are the situations? What is the dog doing? What is the kid doing? How does she interact with the dog? Would you say she's gentle and good with the dogs, or is she interacting with the dog how she wants to and not how the dog wants to? What is the dog doing to the cat? What makes you worried he will bite your niece?

I will say: at 3, I would be very specific in when and how she was allowed to interact with even a dog that was very tolerant, and I don't think its a bad idea to be having the dog separated from her until you are able to easily control the dog.

About separation: I know he gets a little bit anxious, and I am still looking for a way of telling him it's ok. He doesn't get nervous in the way that he wll not destroy my room or bite anything. He just waits. He doesn't whine or anything either (I have taped him). However, I must compare this to the situation when I leave him outside a store. He stares at me so he makes sure I don't go away (I never have, but dogs be dogs), and when I come back I have to tell him to sit till he is chill again because if not he will pull from his leash and start playing.
This sounds like a pretty typical response to separation, even a fairly healthy one for a dog who is just practicing its natural behavior and hasn't had any specific training on what to do when left outside and tied up alone. It sounds like he's just happy to see you, and isn't able to contain that excitement to be expressed in an appropriate way unless he's given a set of instructions on how to do so (such as holding a sit/stay for a moment until he settles more). This sounds like a very normal border collie response to this situation as well. They do tend to be an impulsive breed when given free reign of a situation, and they also tend to be an intense breed, so even their greetings tend to be intense sometimes (for those who are more happy/bubbly, and less razor focused into working/not working less interested in sharing affection than some of the more intense working line and/or sport ones).

The point of you leaving the situation is that it is a negative consequence the dog is not likely to want to repeat. For most dogs, their owner leaving the situation is a really big deal. I am going to say I think I need more information on the dog and situation before I'd say I 100% think that is the best and safest route to go in modifying the behavior without any risk of potential fallout that might mean worsening the behavior.

Extra note on this: Every now and then I have to be hard and strict with him again because he starts jumping on me and pulling the leash again. It doesn't seem to stick, so I am really wondering what I am doing wrong there. Maybe I am failing at some "Do's and DON'Ts"? Maybe something silly like not letting him on my bed? (He sleeps there when I leave him alone)
A few more questions:
(1) What past training have you done with the dog? What kinds of activities do you do with him?
(1.5) What is the general history of the dog? When did you get him (at what age)? What training did you do at the time? What was the place like that he came from? How did you end up getting him? Was he a puppy in a litter you bought from people with an accidental litter, was he from a breeder breeding their farm dogs/pets, was he from a farm, was he from someone who considered themselves a border collie breeder, gotten second hand from someone rehoming him, from a shelter, etc?
(2) What kind of exercise does he get? Walks? Play? What kind of games do you play with him? What kind of toy availability does he have?
(3) How do you see him- is he a confident, happy-go-lucky dog? Is he a more serious dog? Is he very sensitive to tone, is he motivated by praise? Is he more insecure?
 
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