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Canine Behavior/overprotective border collie


Hi, I have a 5 year old border collie.  When I had my twins (who are now two) I thought that it was nice that my dog lay beneath the moses baskets/cots and seemed to be trying to protect the boys.  However, as the boys have gotten older the dog has become so overprotective of them that nobody can tell them off or give them into trouble without her barking and running around.  She has never attacked or went for anyone, what she does is bark at you and then run around to find a toy she can grab and toss about.

It has gotten so bad that as soon as you say one of the boys names or stand up to give them a row she goes mad.  We have tried ignoring her and putting her out the room, but she just barks from the other side of the door.

As you can imagine with twins going through the terrible twos they are getting quite a few rows but with this the dog is getting worse, which is not only causing us stress but also the dog.  We are concerned about her being so stressed all the time. The only time she really relaxes is when the boys go bed at night and then she goes upstairs to lie down, like she has finished her shift.

We appreciate any advice on how we can address this issue and resolve it.

I agree with the approach of placing her elsewhere when you know she is going to react. She will bark, but she needs to realize her behavior is not needed and inappropriate.

Also do simple steps including not allowing her to be by the boys' side at all times if not very seldom. As her breed, she is doing her job, we just need her to understand that it's okay to back off just a bit.

For the times when you separate her, also reinforce the good behavior by praising her when she is responding to the command. Such as, when you put her elsewhere, give her praise/treat when you open the door or simple walk over to her. And make sure it's calm attention and very casual as the last thing you want to do with an anxious dog is make it more anxious.

Another step I want you to do is reinforce that you are the head of the household, not her. This includes making her earn her food, treats, attention, etc. And do not give in until she is completely  performing the command. This both places you back as alpha and reminds her her position in the household as the commandee not the commander.  

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Melissa Burg, RVT/Behavior Consultant


I have experience with multiple obedience issues, including anxiety, different types of aggression, introductions to a new pet and basic obedience situations, such as housebreaking, excessive leash pulling and excessive barking. There are several approaches to each behavior issue, depending on the animal's environment, as well as the breed, sex and age. I can also help you decide whether the problem sounds medical or behavioral.


I recently graduated with a Veterinary Technician degree with an emphasis in behavior and obedience training. I spent 5 years working in animal shelters where I trained shelter dogs in basic obedience and corrected behavior issues and educated adopting owners how to continue the training at home.

"Pawfect Pets;" a weekly column on canine and feline health and behavior tips.

Associate's Degree in Veterinary Technology from Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny, Iowa.

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