Idgie, we thought she was perfect, but alas, she is not.  I have often thought that border collies have high-functioning autism, and a lot of dog people agree.  This is not a joke by the way, most experts do think dogs can suffer from autism and I believe I have met dogs that did.  I also think dogs can have schizophrenia but since that is so impossible to diagnose correctly in humans (who can tell you their symptoms for christ’s sake) we’ll probably never know.  Anyway, back to the point.  Idgie is a resource-guarder, we know this.  I have worked hard on this since I saw her muzzle-punching her food bowl at the age of 8 weeks, and she no longer guards her food bowl to humans (this has not been thoroughly tested, but we’ll dive into that project later).  She will also give up bones and chewies (although she did freeze on Kass the other day, so back to the drawing board) and toys.  But human-directed resource guarding is a well-documented, “easy” fix.  There is so much literature on it it’s overwhelming.  The treatment works and it’s not too labor-intensive.  It’s a really rewarding behavior problem because it goes from dogs snarling, snapping, lunging, ready to rip your fae off to fuzzy-bunny dogs that willingly give their prized posessions up without a thought in weeks.  So when Idgie presented with this issue as a baby I was almost excited for the chance to practice the therapy on my own dog. 

Dog-dog resource guarding is an entirely different issue.  Not well-documented, almost no literature, and most trainers treat it as a “non-problem.”  But it is a problem.  And it’s kind of a big problem if you need your dog to eat treats and play tug in the presence of other dogs like I do.  Idgie will snap, and even lunge at another dog if it approaches while I am treating her.  Ashley and I have devised a protocol that we will carry out in the next few weeks, meanwhile I am practicing treating her during daycare with other dogs present (mild guarding sometimes occurs in this setting, probably because she is off-leash while all other incidents occurred on-lead or in confined spaces) and I pop her in time-out if she shows even the mildest guarding.  The protocol that I will be carrying out will involve Idgie tethered, and also on a leash I am holding, while I am treating her from the ever-valued treat pouch.  Ashley or Kass will approach with a leashed neutral dog that she is unfamiliar with.  At the first guarding signs I will NRM, toss my leash down, disgusted, and storm off (treats in tow), while the neutral dog will stay near, but out of striking range.  When she neutralizes I will return, the other dog will retreat, and we will try again.  I want to carry this out in as many situations with as many dogs as possibe.  I will blog on our progress.  The good news is that she doesn’t guard to dogs in our house.  She doesn’t guard against Kelso or Strauss, even when they appropriately guard against her.  So all is good on that front for the time-being.

Her other issue (yep, we’re not done) is one that I believe contributes to the dog-dog guarding.  She has started having fear-based reactions to strange dogs when we are out walking on-leash.  To remedy this we have been going out and playing the look-at-that game with other dogs (which she will default to if a dog makes her uncomfortable, yes!) and I am walking her on a Gentle Leader (which we did some shaping with to make sure she didn’t dread it) so that I can redirect her physically if I have to.  I didn’t take her into the trial up in Casper last weekend, in an attempt to avoid her having an explosion of fear in relation to agility.  I am hoping this was a good idea.  We are trialing this weekend in Castle Rock and I’m debating leaving her at home, my other option being crating in the car and working on her issues outside of the trial, taking her in if I feel like she’s ready.  I know that one of my biggest issues is the whispers that will ensue the second an agility person sees my puppy losing her head.  I should not be concerned about this, but I’m fucking tired of being a pariah, so shoot me.  I know Idgie is just going through a fear period and she *will* come out of it, I just have to be on top of it.  The thing that bothers me is that “normal” breeds of dogs come out of developmental fear periods, whereas border collies (here’s that high-functioning autism theory again) don’t always come out of them.  Kelso, for instance, never came out of his sound-phobia period, as is extremely common in the breed.  I am focusing on the good stuff again, though, and Idgie will be the stellar dog I know she can be.  She went to PetsMart the other night and did great, recovered from a pomeranian barking and lunging hysterically at her until we got clear across the store.  She is brilliant, and she will continue to be brilliant.  She has to.

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