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We got a rescue dog, vet told us he has a lot of border collie in him, he's about 1 and a half years old. The problem: it seems as if he can't get tired or get calm, it happens everyday. We've had him for 4 months.

First we started to go on short walks, all OK, he urinates and defecates, we get home and he turns into a completely different dog: he starts zooming, biting (me and my wife), biting his bed and his pillows, pulling from his leash when we go upstairs.

When we noticed this we thought 'Hey, maybe he needs more exercise', so we started taking him to a park where is a designated space for dogs and their owners, so they can play there; he runs, he plays, he urinates and defecates, we walk back home, all OK, we get home and he turns into a completely different dog: he starts zooming, biting (me and my wife), biting his bed and his pillows (this lasts for about 20 to 30 minutes until he lies in the floor).

So we turned to a 'trainer' who told us to use a spray and water to correct bad behaviour, it worked for like a month, one day he got the spray thingy and destroyed it as an act of rebellion. So we decided not to do it anymore.

We got a bike, so we take him on bike rides so that he gets a little bit more tired than just the park, sometimes we take him to the park on the bikes for extra exercise. Nothing, he comes back at home and it's the same behaviour.

This makes me feel betrayed because I feel like I've been doing my best, but he just keeps insisting on behaving like that, sometimes he bites really hard, he's even bite my mom once.

I've tried positive training with treats and small bits of sausage (he loves those), but when I run out of treats, he forgets it and goes back to bad dog mode.

I don't know, or, we don't know what else to do. It makes me feel sad because I've even thought of giving it back and forget it, but I don't want to give up on him, so I come to you in ask for help.

Update: As of today my dog has been behaving so much better when it comes to coming back home. As I said, I started day 0 with giving him treats after making him stop biting the leash. Also give treats when going up the stairs to put his attention on going up rather than biting the leash or us.

Yesterday it was rainy so we couldn't go to the park. Caressing him and giving him treats when we noted his anxiousness seemed to work enough.

We having been riding on the bike lately as it seems the park is enough now, he even started to play with his own ball and comes back to us, he also responds to the call faster. It's been about 2 weeks when we started feeling we had another dog, maybe it's part of him growing up but it seems he behaves better now. Thanks. I'll keep updating like this!

P.S.: I forgot to mention our vet told us that he's allergic to mostly everything. He scratches himself A LOT, he's even hurt himself badly once (we treated that). Our Vet recommended us some shots of CYTOPOINT to treat his skin allergy. We recently heard by an animal behaviourist that these allergic dogs are the ones that present more behaviour difficulties.

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The important things to understand here are:

  • You did a very good job of exercising and entertaining your dog. You've been a very responsible dog owner who cares for their pet.
  • Your dog does not behave badly out of betrayal or rebellion and even more exercise won't solve the problem. There is a different problem underneath that causes this kind of destructive behavior.

Your dog is triggered by returning home. Something must have happened in the past in connection with coming home that caused him physical or emotional pain. Since Boder Collies are rather exteme high energy dogs, I'd wager the former owner was struggling with all this energy, gave up on some point and did something bad like hit the dog or lock him in a small room alone.

Now, returning home reminds him of these past experiences and causes him stress. The biting and leash pulling are coping mechanisms that alleviate the stress. Discouraging the behavior by spraying the dog with water makes the stress build up inside and is not an ideal solution.

Obedience training works better, as you already noticed. Collies are very social animals and they absolutely LOVE being praised. That's why obedience training is something fun and positive for them and a common way to keep them balanced and entertained.

There's a plethora of commands and tricks to teach an intelligent dog, like stay, high five, play dead, turn in a circle, slalom through my legs and so on. Start teaching your dog one command after another and don't overwhelm him. I suggest you start simple obedience training right before you reach your front door when returning from a walk and continnue while walking through the door and for another few minutes after comming home. You don't even need to feed him sausage as treats, use either your voice or common dog treats (or both combined for added effect) to reward him. This will hopefully distract him from being triggered, but it won't magically change him from the first day on. Keep in mind that every family member that walks the dog should adhere to the same routine.

A great way to end this "coming home obedience training" routine is to settle down and cuddle in a calm way. Tune the excitement in your voice down towards the end of the training. If the dog is allowed on the sofa, sit or lay down, call him to you and just pet him for a while. If he's not allowed on the sofa, send him into his bed or crate, sit down next to him and pet him for a while. The goal is to get him into a calm state of mind, just like you would calm a child before bed time.

Since he uses biting as his coping mechanism, you could use a tug toy to reward him. That redirects his destructive biting to something that is safe and intended to be bitten. Please have a look at this Youtube video that explains how to teach your dog to bite the center of the toy instead of your hands. After your dog learned to reliably bite the center of the toy, you can use it instead of treats to reward him during your "coming home obedience training" routine. Be aware that it probably will be hard to teach him to let go of it, since it's his coping mechanism. In the end, him biting the toy is still a vast improvement from him biting you, so I think he can have some leeway and not obediently release the toy for a while (we're probably talking months here, depending on his progress).

Another safe target for his biting could be a Kong or a chewing bone or some dried hide. Most dogs aren't interested in food right after physical exercise, but you can use it if he starts biting after a short time of rest.

You need to understand that your dog isn't naughty, he's maladjusted. The other trainer tried to discourage naughty behavior, but what you have to do actually resembles therapy. It won't be successful in a few days. It might take months or even years to fully change his behavior and he might relapse a few times when something triggers him. But I assure you that each success will not only make your dog happy, but you as well.

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    Thank you I'm starting today with this. We went to the park, he played a LOT, he even got into poodles, came back tired AF and dirty AF. We cleaned him out, all good, when we finished...hell broke loose again. I tried to apply what you told me, praised him with treats by his bed, get him to chew the Kong toy (we have the black one) and reward him everytime he bites the toy instead of my hand or legs...he finally calmed down and went to sleep on the floor. It was about 1 hour until that happened but it was better than the other times. Will keep this for as long as necessary. Thanks! – David Merinos Aug 19 at 1:43
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    @DavidMerinos You have better chances of redirecting his biting to a somewhat softer tug toy. There are dedicated sturdy textile "rods" with handles available, or you could make your own by tightly rolling up a wash cloth or piece of an old towel and sewing the end shut with a sturdy thread. Is your dog neutered? In some cases neutering can have a calming effect, though I'm honestly not sure it would work in your case. Maybe consult a vet you trust or get a few oppinions from a few vets. – Elmy Aug 19 at 4:11
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    And maybe not tiring him out completely would be better. It honestly sounds very stressful... He has a huge walk or hours at the dog park and comes home physically and mentally tired and then something we don't fully understand forces hin to throw a tantrum despite him being tired and requiring rest. It's hard for a tired dog to learn new stuff like biting the toy instead of you. And his mood hopefully increases as well (we all get kind of cranky when we're tired, don't we?). – Elmy Aug 19 at 4:20
  • @DavidMerinos I'm glad you've had such a success. Concerning the scratching: that could also be a sign of nervousness. I heard that Border Collies and Aussies are especially prone to nervous scratching when they don't know what to do (read: when they don't have a task to keep them occupied). See if you can distract him with some simple obedience training. Of course, if he's allergic there's no guarantee that it works. – Elmy Sep 9 at 15:50
  • We've used the black KONG toy with his own dog food, we put them in warm water for about 15 minutes, once its absorbed and they're bigger we put them inside the toy and then we freeze it. He chews on it for about 1 hour which keeps him calm but we've taken him to the vet many times for his scratching and self biting; we've discarded grass, food and other agents. He even bites/scratches himself at 5am (we feed him at that hour) before he goes back to sleep (we wake up at 7). We will try the CYTOPOINT to see if it works. Thanks for your interest! – David Merinos Sep 10 at 23:39

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