Border Collie nips at guests


Hi! My friend has a 6-month old Border Collie. Apparently, they did socialise the dog. And apparently when he's at his home, he's very well behaved. But my friends came to stay with us for a couple of weeks, and here, he acts very differently. He is very nervous around people and shows a lot of signs of mild aggression when people come in. He's even nipped at a few guests...unprovoked! I'd like to give my friends some helpful advice but don't know what to tell them. One of my friends is quite bonded with the dog and understands him well. My other friend though has never owned a dog and doesn't really understand the concept of positive reinforcement. Could someone help me formulate some good advice? Thanks!

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Hi there! Thanks for getting in touch! Sounds like you’ve got quite a situation on your hands. 

It’s hard to diagnose from afar, but from the few clues you’ve given me, I could hypothesise that this dog’s behaviour comes from the three following problems – this is how I would address them.

1 – A lack of socialisation

Perhaps your friends have started the socialisation process but haven’t gone far enough. Socialisation doesn’t just happen at puppyhood; it can and should continue throughout a dog’s life. Explain to your friends that the more they go to new places, the more they meet new people, and the more they confront their dog to new situations, the more their dog will be prepared for anything. A dog that stays home and sees the same people all the time tends to become nervous in new situations very easily – and this could lead to aggressivity.   

2 – A lack of confidence

Nervousness and anxiety often comes from a lack of confidence. To build up a dog’s confidence, the best thing to do is to work on training. Ask your friends how many commands their dog knows. As a Border Collie, this dog should be constantly mentally challenged. By teaching their dog commands or tricks, they are not only taking care of his mental health, but also strengthening their dog-owner bond – both of which help to build a dog’s confidence. It goes without saying that the training should be based on positive reinforcement methods.

3 – Some sort of anxiety that may be rooted in a traumatic past experience

You mention that one of your friends “doesn’t understand the concept of positive reinforcement”. If this owner has ever used punishment or force while trying to handle or communicate with the dog, it could be that this traumatised the dog (Border Collies are particularly sensitive, too). If the dog has built up a sensitivity to people, you’re going to have to work on de-sensitising him. Tell your friends to go see a behaviourist or professional trainer for this, as they’ll need someone experienced who can see first-hand how the dog behaves.

Hope this helps. Best of luck! 

Justine Seraphin, BSc (Hons) Animal Behaviour and Welfare

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The BC is showing a completely normal BC behaviour - he is herding your friends guests. 

A BC is very sensitive to movement. They are bred to herd and it is deeply embedded in their person. 

First of all the dog needs enough stimuli, both physical and mentally. Secondly he probably need to be taught to relax. Most BCs that lives with "commoners"(nord shephers or sports ppl) are understimulated or the other, without proper guidance. 

So suggestion is 3x10 minutes of mental stimuli . Teach the dog to sit, teach him to lie down, stay on a mat, fetch things. Youtube is a wonderweapon for ideas. 

Exercise - use a long lead and do not allow the dog to practice unwanted behaviour When having visitors, use a lead and gently but firmly disengage the dog if he herds. 
I strongly recommend Susan Garrett btw - she is amaze.  Also the Dog Guardian is really great, and he lives in Britain! 

Also. BSs are not "sensitive" and easily broken. They are working dogs, with lots of nervous energy if they do not receive the correct training and exercise. I do not train positively - I train balanced. It is not possible to train 100% positive unless you have no life whatsoever and want your dog to live in a confined space, only to be let out when you let him. 
A dog needs structure, guidance and firm and fair rules. To punish a dog physically for not training him is unfair on the dog. You can tell your friend that. Any faults in the dog is a reflection of the owner. (usually, however sometimes you do have that nutcase and often it is a BC ;)) 

I am a Norwegian so my apologies for bad linguistics.  

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Hi! maybe this behavior is because of the new environment, they could try prizes for good behavior in certain situations

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