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Jane Lefler
Jane Lefler, Animal Behaviorist
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 20178
Experience:  Dog breeder/Trainer and Behaviorist 18+ years
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Hello, my partner and I have just bought an 8 month old collie

Customer Question

my partner and I have just bought an 8 month old collie puppy from a couple who were no longer able to look after him. He has only been with us for 4 days, and is loving and seems to love his new home. He has been great on walks, especially off the lead, good with commands most of the time, and seems to be settling in fairly well. He does however seem to have a problem with strangers and especially children. He barked and nipped at my dad, and today when we had a few friends round he barked and almost wouldn't let them in, and then repeatedly barked nipped and growled at a toddler with them, to the point where I had to put him outside. I'm aware of herding behaviour and also fear aggression in collies, but as this is our first one, I'm unsure how to handle it. I really don't want to make the situation worse, and am aware he may also be scared as he has only been here a little while and just moved house. He didn't have children in his last home, and I think he is a little unsure as to what they are. I think he feels fairly safe here, but he gets scared when the door goes and there is someone there, unless he knows them. Hoping it is partially because he has only been here less then a week. After a little while he was fine with the adult guests, even asking for cuddles and attention (I think after they had let him come to them) but obviously little ones don't have that understanding. It was worse when the little one first entered, or if he ran or climbed under the table etc (where he likes to sit and cool down). its strange as with us and people he knows he is so good tempered, letting you take food away or touching treats etc, and sitting under the table with him etc (I tried it last night to see if he was being overly protective of this area etc). He did the same with another dog, a german shepherd pup who is roughly 8 months too, but after she backed off and stopped jumping he was fine and they ran around together playing with and sharing balls.
What should I do to correct this as he didn't listen to the usual commands?

Many Thanks
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Dog Training
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 4 years ago.
Hi Jacustomer,

My name is Jane. I've professionally worked with animals for over 16 years dealing with both health and behavioral issues. I have over 14,000 satisfied customers. It will be my pleasure to work with you today.

I need to ask for some additional information. Once I receive your responses, it will likely take 30-40 minutes to type my response. I hope you can be patient.

How long have you had your new pup?
Is he neutered?
What commands does he seem to know?
How long does it take him to "know" people?
How much work have you done with training your dog?

Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 4 years ago.

I was hoping to get some responses from my request for more information. I don't want you to go without any information however, so I will give you some general information on the subject.

He may be an alpha dog, it is the alphas job to protect their territory (the home) and other pack members (you). Many fearful dogs will also be aggressive in reaction to situations that they find stressful. They usually do this by barking or growling at the people entering the house. Many smaller dogs or fearful dogs will tend to sneak up or move quickly to nip and scare them off.

There is an easy solution to this but you need to take control of the situation. As soon as the dog see you as the boss of the pack, they will relinquish the roll of protector and stop nipping and guarding their territory because it will be YOUR territory and your job to defend it and your decision who is allowed into your home. Now they will still help protect the house, but only if you indicate it is necessary and then they will help YOU protect it.

In addition, owners sometimes make the situation even worse by tensing up and worrying about what will happen. The dog senses the owner worry and feels that he is justified in his aggressive stance because you are obviously worried about the people. They don't know you are worried about them attacking, they just feel that you are worried and assume it is the people.

Many dominant dogs are described as well behaved until you try to get them to do something they do not want to do, and then they reprimand you either with a growl or bite if you don't heed the growl. Things like taking away something they want, making them move when they don't want to, waking them up, etc can cause them to reprimand (bite) you. I don't know if your dog is dominant since I am not around him, but you should know if you have seen signs of him attempting to reprimand you.

Dogs that are allowed on furniture (even if put on the furniture) tend to feel that since they are elevated to your level or higher if on your lap, they mentally feel elevated as well in the pack order and thus are the boss. Keeping them on the floor can help lower them mentally back to a submissive position in the pack. So the first thing is to not allow him higher that the humans or even on the same level. In addition, humans shouldn't be on the floor with him either. A small short stool is enough to keep them higher than the dog when petting the dog. You can use corrections in the form of short tugs on a leash and firm low toned "NO" to help stop behavior such as jumping on the couch. So if you do let him on the couche, I would not do so in the future.

The easiest way to establish yourself as the boss is obedience training again along with the NILF program. Both of these programs also helps fearful dogs gain self confidence sine they realize what humans expect of them. I suggest that you enroll him in an obedience class at a minimum. Before you can get into classes, I am including links to a couple of other sites that teach some good methods of training. Be sure and read both.

Unfortunately, the site does not allow me to make clickable links to supporting websites at this time. So where there is a site listed, you may have to copy that to a separate browser window or tab to access the data there.

The following site is helpful. Be sure and click on the link to the page on obedience at the bottom. and links on subsequent pages leading to detailed instructions.

Training works best if you train at least 30 minutes a day (two 15 minute sessions). I would start making your dog work via the Nothing in life is free program (NILF). It is outlined below.

I know this is a lot of time to devote toward training, but when someone knocks on the door and you can tell your dog to sit and stay when visitors come in the door, you will be so proud that you won't regret one minute of the time you devoted to training.

You will also want to keep a leash on your dog at all times initially to grab if there is any disobedience. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how well your dog does with additional training and practice. Dogs like knowing what is expected of them and they love the little paper thin slices of hotdogs that I use for treats while training. They also prefer the owner be the alpha as it takes the stress off them. Give this a try and see how it works for you.

There are some things you can do before your dog is obedience trained to aid in stopping the behavior. For barking, as crazy as it seems, you may want to teach the speak command and then the quiet command. It seems easier to teach the quiet command after your dog has learned the speak command. The following site explains teaching speak and quiet commands.

If this doesn't work, you may have to try a citronella bark collar. For a dog that is nipping or jumping at the pants legs and ankles, visitors need to adopt an exaggerated walk with the heals coming up on the back swing until your dog is totally obedience trained again. If they walk in this manner, when the dog gets too close to their feet, they will end up getting the shock of a heel coming up and possibly catching them in the jaw or chest. Since the person is just walking, it will surprise them. It usually only takes a few times before they stop jumping at the ankles or biting them.I think you will find most people willing to help.

If you have someone they try to do this to on a regular, this person could be elected to help with training allowing you to work with him several times a day when you know they would normally do it. Once they stop ankle biting, reward them with tasty treats and praise. For each person he doesn't do this to, reward them. He will learn that strangers mean treats and are a good thing and that should help stop the biting.

In addition, if you are present when this is occurring, you can give a correction using the attached leash(good reason to keep it attached) when he looks like he wants to sneak up behind them or nips at them. A quick tug and firm NO will help teach him that you find it unacceptable.

When first teaching him to sit at the door when visitors come, you can slip the leash under your foot, have him sit and use the leash to keep him in that spot in a sit or down position as you open the door. Initially he will fight it, but soon will realize it doesn't do any good to try and move away and will stay. When he does that reward him. Have visitors reward him as well.
In addition, if the situation is not improving using the techniques I describe, you may have to consult a professional behaviorist. You can usually find a behaviorist by asking your Vet for a recommendation or you may be able to find one using the following site.

I hope this information is helpful to you and you are satisfied with my response. If you would like any additional information or have more questions please don’t hesitate to press the reply to expert or continue conversation button so I can address any issues you still have .
If you have questions in the future that you wish me to answer, you may click here and bookmark the page or make it a favorite. It is best to put my name "JANE" in the question as well. Please recommend me to your friends and family members if they have any problems with their dog as well. I would truly appreciate it.