When I adopted my Border Collie mix, Macy, about 2 1/2 years ago I quickly realized things weren’t quite right with her. She is very triggered by movement and sounds and doesn’t have a great sense of smell, and potentially not a full range of vision. Some of this I have only recently learned by attending another round of Agility classes and sharing my difficulties in training her with the course instructor.
People employ a wide range of cruel and unusual techniques it would seem to solve somewhat simple problems. Border Collies are bred for their eyesight and herding instinct. Poorly bred dogs can suffer from undesirable neurological traits. Or, a dog like Macy who should be breeding sheep as she was somewhat bred too, has difficulty being a house dog. Not that complicated IMHO.
So Macy is prone to barking and lunging at object that pass by windows in the car or house and even though I have employed a variety of force-free techniques I have to finally admit I’m not winning the battle to any degree. I had a few small wins on this front I can build on over her lifetime but I need to let the rest of it go.
It wasn’t very long after we got Macy that we discovered her problem with shiny spots on the wall and the ceiling. She will climb up furniture and break things to get to them. It’s quite a problem. She really thinks they are birds or something that have gotten into the house and wants to chase them. And there is simply nothing to be done about that. It will never improve. I did a fair bit of reading on it and was really upset because the indication was that she needed a sensory free room to have time outs in, combined with medication, and if no improvement then euthanize her. As is my nature, I do not accept things that are unacceptable so I thunk and thunk until my thinker hurt, and came up with an incredibly simply solution…curtains. They were expensive to find a size and suitable style for my taste on my budget, but now as soon as the sun hits the problem threshold and makes the taps or glasses create those scary shiny things on the wall and ceiling, we just close the curtains for a few hours.
Our next step was to cover the dreaded floor to ceiling window by the front door in some translucent window cling. Previously she laid at the top of the stairs barking at everything that walked by, and now no problem and the light still comes in.
Finally I have just as of this week accepted that I’m not going to win the picture window battle. We put up some curtains halfway up the window last night, and it’s our first bark free day in 2 years. Lovely!
Will probably find someone with a sewing machine to shorten them up and drop them down a foot or so (very hard to find curtains shorter than 54″) so my plants will be happier, but this is going to be amazing as a humane solution / aversive-alternative.
As for the barking in the car, I can somewhat live with it with Macy as a solo companion, but if we introduce a second dog down the road, they will simply have to be crated in the car. No way around it.
It’s a bit like the serenity prayer – accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
I see no point in trying to force a square peg into a round hole here, and refuse to do anything cruel or unwarranted.
I love my Macy and hope this helps a dog you know and love to deal with some of these issues. We ask a lot having working breeds live in cities and subdivisions, we have to give a little understanding in return.
These may not have been my first decorating choices, but it’s a give and take to share your home with a living creature.
4 thoughts on “Aversive Alternatives for my Border Collie mix”
I give you a lot of credit, Angela . Your never-ending patience & love for Macy is something to be proud of. She is so fortunate to have you for an owner. I’ve learned a lot from your observations & I don’t even have a dog. There are so many things to consider in discovering your dog’s needs. Keep on, keeping on.
thank you very much Carolyn…we’ll have to give Macy some credit too 🙂
“And there is simply nothing that can be done about that”. Not true. I watched a video of a dog who was triggered by lights and shiny objects, total obsession, never saw anything like it. The owner of the dog used Susan Garrett’s methods, postive reinforcement, games like “it’s yur choice” as well as other games, and eventually the dog has zero reactions to shiny objects/lights. It’s yur choice starts out really small (zero distractions at first) but it builds layers. I haven’t payed for Susan’s course but she offers a free masterclass, which explains a couple of her games. The games are a lot of fun. I have a 4 year old border collie, him and I are going back to the basics of its yur choice and we will work on the hot zone game, to see if I can “fix” his extreme excitement when it comes to people, its over the top and embarrassing. He doesn’t jump on people, he just goes from 0 to 100 in a split second when he sees a human. And once a dog hits 100, there is nothing we can do to calm them down. So, I need to work on it, I’ve allowed it to go on far too long!! You could probably find the basics of a few of her games online, it’s yur choice, hot zone and if you use a crate, she also offers crate games.
Hi Mary Susan Garrett is one of the greats for sure and I’m sure the games would help a lot of dogs in all kinds of situations. We have done three rounds of classes with excellent instructors who use similar techniques and worked on many issues and continue to every day. It’s a lifelong challenge and learning experience. Every dog is so different. Love the Border Collie breed especially now. Glad you are enjoying your Border Collie as well, fun dogs! I’m still a huge fan of my half curtains. Love my quiet house now 🙂 My point primarily was not to be punitive when dealing with instinct (well or any undesired behavior). Removing the stimulus was an easy fix for us and we can work on other things now that we have a break from the window problem.