Way back in the summer of 2006 I adopted a 10 month old red Border Collie Mix. Shayne, as she would become to be known, was a very underweight terrified dog. I was made aware when I adopted her that she was food aggressive but other than being timid, she did okay on her temperament test (no flying colors but good enough to pass). After about a month or two in my care her food aggression issues were being managed and worked on but quite a few other issues began to appear.
She began to have issues with other dogs. These issues were exacerbated by two incidents with other dogs coming after her. The general lack of confidence plus the two unprovoked scuffles created a very defensive dog. She wouldn’t generally react while on leash at the sight of a dog, but if a dog got in her space she would overreact and give and over the top correction. She couldn’t greet dogs nose-to-nose, that was way to uncomfortable to her… she would sniff for a second or two, freeze and then react with an aggressive looking forward motion while making a lot of noise (it was all show, she could have easily bitten and hurt the dog but she never did…).
So, over the last four years we have worked on her doggie manners and about a week ago I was absolutely shocked by her reaction to being rushed by a dog. This is a dog she met briefly once before. We were walking through a doorway when we were surprised by an off-leash dog on the other side.
The other dog came right up to Shayne’s face and instead of snapping at him and making a lot of noise, she lowered her head just slightly, turned her head away just slightly and gave a low growl. The other dog didn’t listen so she gave a warning snap….but that was it. No aggressive forward movement while making lots of snarly noises. She gave quite a few calming signals before she even growled and only after that didn’t work did she deliver and totally appropriate correction.
I didn’t think I would get so excited over a snap…but it was really awesome to have her be so appropriate in her corrections. That has been quite the struggle over the years. We had worked on her not feeling like she needed to react and rewarding heavily for calming signals but that’s not quite the same as learning how to react appropriately. For the first time, ever I think, she offered a totally acceptable correction to another dog without taking it over the top
This was definitely a WIN for our work… she’s becoming more and more social and more and more normal every day!