Training Border Collies – My Border Collie Bitch is aggressive towards other dogs & almost impossible to distract her before it happens

by Anthea baker
(Northampton, England)

Our Border Collie bitch Bess is two years old. We had her as a puppy (not a farm dog) so she’s had no adverse experiences. We have three other rescue border collies and they all get on really well and are very respectful towards one another. However, Bess cannot stand her personal space invaded by some other dogs while we’re out and is very aggressive towards them.

We’ve tried watching for the signs very early on, distracting her one way or another (she’s not interested in food when she’s out as she’s ‘working’), but nothing helps. At first we thought it was ball-obsession as she likes to carry one around with her on occasions, so we took the ball away from her or didn’t even bother giving it to her on a walk. That didn’t help either – if a friendly dog or puppy comes over to say hello she jumps on them, pins them down and really does bite them.

We like to think we’re experienced with rescue border collies, especially those with traumatic pasts, but this one is a mystery to us and she’s been with us from a pup. We’ve tried every humane punishment we can think of (putting her on a lead, going back home, so ending the walk, etc), but we’re at a loss. On one occasion when we attempted to get her away from a small dog my husband got bitten quite badly. We love her dearly but this is a potentially dangerous situation. Any advice would be most gratefully received.

Hi and thank you so much for your question – it sounds like you are at the end of your tether. In this situation I would strongly advise you to get a dog trainer to work one on one with you and your dog. Due to the potential seriousness of the situation this is one of those problems that really needs the expertise of someone who can work with you and your dog on a regular basis over a period of time. I also say this because it is not as though you have not owned dogs before so you have a wealth of experience at your disposal and you have tried many of the dog training techniques that I would have recommended. It might be that the trainer recommends more socialization through gradual exposure where a dog is gradually introduced to other dogs in a safe environment where positive behavior can be rewarded and negative behavior corrected. However, this needs to be done in a safe environment. I am sure that you have considered this but is your dog exhibiting behavioral changes at specific times – if she is in heat this might explain erratic behavior especially any sudden aggressive behavior.

Hope this helps – and try choosing a dog trainer that comes with a good track record and one that has good feed back from previous clients that have used heir service. Check out a couple of links below.