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Question
We have a two year old who came from a mother and father that are working farm dogs. We have become increasingly aware of aggression issues as he has gotten older. He will growl and show his teeth even at my wife and I for just touching or petting or loving on him. It has gotten worse over the last two months to a point I have to find a solution. WE have had two Border Collies over the year and have been in love with the breed, Tucker is my best friend in my mind and we love him to no end and am sad at the situation. WE have done some obedience training which helped but now the situation has turned worse. My vet said he has seen it before and usually it does not change. Please help. I love Tucker but dont know what else to do

Answer
Hello Preston,

In handling many Border Collies and other types of breeds over the years, I can say that I have seen this before too... just not from a Border Collie.

If it were my dog, I would try these things before giving up on Tucker:

1.  Get a muzzle that fits Tucker
2.  Learn how to change his behavior to a positive one using the muzzle
3.  Be consistent and have everyone practice the same techniques when handling Tucker

OK, so now here is how you would apply those 3 things.  When you get a muzzle for Tucker, help him associate it with a positive thing right away.  Entice him with treats or cheese through the front of the muzzle so that he is actually having to stick his own nose into it so you can fasten it.  Do this repeatedly whenever you know you will be handling him further (like for grooming or bathing) until he gets used to putting his face in the muzzle without treats or cheese.

Next, I would only touch or pet him while he is in the muzzle ONLY if he is NOT showing his teeth or growling when you are not having to groom or bathe.  If he DOES show teeth or growl, give him a firm, verbal "NO!"  When he stops showing teeth, give him verbal praise with only two words, "Good boy."  Reach out to touch him and give him a quick pet on the head or shoulders and if he doesn't show teeth, use verbal praise again.

Sit next to Tucker as opposed to sitting in front of him when you do this exercise.  Do not stare into his eyes as he may interpret that as a domination challenge.

I would do this for about a month and take off the muzzle during this exercise only after I see progress (meaning no teeth showing and growling when you reach to touch him).

Let me know if you give this a try and about how long it takes for him to get used to your handling of him with the muzzle on.  Gradually, start trying to touch and pet him without the muzzle after you've seen marked improvement.  Remember to only reward Tucker with praise, treats, cheese, or petting when he is doing right and is not growling or showing teeth.

Do not show fear at anytime during this exercise.  It is better if you keep an attitude of being in charge but in a non-aggressive or fearful way.  Tucker will notice the difference.

Make sure everyone in the family does this exercise the same way.  Repetition is key.

Thank you for your question.  Keep in touch.

A. Jordan  

Collies

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Ann Jordan

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I raised, trained, competed and sold purebred Border Collies for about 13 years. I can answer any questions relating to Border Collie behavior, pup selection, sheep dog training issues, obedience training, stock dog trials and competition, obedience competition, what judges judge, sheep showing, sheep selection, Suffolks sheep, Cheviot sheep, the difference between aussie trials and border collie trials, dog care, traveling with your dog, how to house and feed your border collie, border collies as pets, border collies with children, breeding, assisting with labor and delivery of border collie pups, why some border collie owners don`t like AKC, what you can expect with your new border collie, the different types of border collies, and a whole lot more.

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