Monday, May 2, 2011

Soul Searching

So, I hit a low point while running yesterday, as it hit me:  I have a problem isn't going to change, and he isn't going to "snap out of it."  I stood in total exasperation Sunday when we were having a nice playdate with Kane...and a bicycler walked past.  Insane, out of control barking, off leash.  Could not get his attention....could not call him off.  The only positive is that he did not decide to solve the problem for himself.  This will not be my dog park dog.  This will not be my "leave him at a kennel on vacation" dog.  Doubtful this will be my agility dog (getting him calm in a room full of strange dogs and strange people seems years away).  So where am I and is this OK with me?

I am angry and bitter we got the seemingly one dog in the litter with problems, but we love him and are committed to him now.   I believe I can get to a point where I can run with Sagan. This is important to me.  I cannot keep a border collie holed up at home. When we are moving, it is better.  

I do not think I will ever be competing with this dog in agility or otherwise.  Possible that rally obedience might be calm enough for him to handle. I would love to at least be able to do agility classes with him, but I also think that is years away.  Must accept this.

I do think I can continue to make progress with him, but I've begun to accept this is not the bulletproof dog I expected/wanted/hoped him to be. I am an informed person.  I know what triggers are, what thresholds are, and I knew what this all meant years ago with Winnie.

Sagan is an extremely sensitive dog.  Whether we have "done this" to him or not is a mystery, but genetics has some say.  His fear is widespread and ingrained and affects all of his new exposures...noises, sights, dogs, people.I think I need to be realistic and hope for behavior management......  His fear, on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being minimal and 10 being debilitating, I would rank a 7.   50% of the time, he is debilitated by his fear. Unable to listen, respond, or cope.  He will be joining our dysfunctional pack at home. :-) We will continue to work with him and help him to be confident.  But after 3 months of this, I am convinced our impact will be minimal, and I have to accept this and stop blaming myself.  From Day one, hour zero, he has been fearful of new stimuli.

High point #1:  He loves Doppler and understands his pack order in our house of 3.  Winnie is Alpha, and Sagan is not challenging this.  Winnie > Doppler > Sagan

He can test the waters with Doppler and get corrected without bleeding.  Plus.

He loves almost all dogs he meets appropriately.  This precludes normal dog park visits, but at least tells me if I need to him to love a particular dog, it is possible.


  • to run with Sagan without him barking and lunging at strangers and dogs (Think there is an 8/10 chance at this)
  • to be to take him to the vet without muzzling (5/10...  will see after neuter appt.)
  • to be able to walk him in most neutral environments (7/10)
  • to take him to agility classes (2/10...not without a lot of calming on his part)
  • to take him to continued obedience classes (7/10)
There is still a chance he will outgrow this, but I need to be realistic so that I can love and not resent my dog.  He is a sweet lovey guy, who wants to please, and loves most people.  Hoping things get better than where they are now.  Constant vigilance of environment is exhausting, demeaning, and confidence-shattering.  I hope I can give him what he needs.


  1. Just wanted to say, your words here resonate with me very much. (I FEEL YOUR PAIN & understand what its like to resent your own dog.) I have a dog who I had (well, still have I guess) lots of hopes & plans for which may never be possible due to her behavior, lots of which was cemented before I adopted her, but a lot is also genetic I am sure, and plenty also learned since I have had her.. Been going through a pretty rough 6 months with her and have definitely had a couple of these "realization" moments. Never feels good but Ive learned to focus on all the positives and be thankful for them. And to be thankful for the people & dogs in her life that she loves and make her happy (my other 2 dogs and friends/family [and their dogs] she has history with). Even if things deteriorated to the point where she ends up being a hermit, isolated to our house & yard lol, at least she has plenty of happiness at home each day & some places she feels safe. Even if her life is not what *I* had hoped or planned for, at least SHE is content in what she has. And Im certainly never going to stop *trying* to make things even better! (Exhausting as it is.) Much luck to you both, & stay strong (you are NOT alone!)

  2. Thanks Margaret, I do appreciate it. It is exhausting being so vigilant all the time. What kind of dog do you have?

    I had similar issues with my 11-year old cattle dog mix. Spent years working with her. She is basically a hermit now, because I realized I could never trust OTHER dogs to be on leash. Fortunately, she was older at the time, and accepted being a hermit just fine. :-)

    Thanks again for your kind words.

  3. I'm cautiously optimistic that Sagan can adapt to stable environments like agility class since he adapted so well to obedience class.

    I will put him on sheep tomorrow while we are babysitting.

  4. Monique, hope you're right. Will be interesting to see in June how he reacts to intermediate obedience...same location, same instructor, different dogs.

  5. I have an american pit bull terrier. She just turned 7 (we guess; Ive had her 6 yrs) and was pretty great early on, mostly normal except some minor fears, but a couple bad experiences combined with genetics and a rocky foundation (zero socialization in her first year) set us up for a total collapse 2.5 yrs ago when she was attacked by a dog. It took me a long time (almost a year) to come to terms with our new reality, but once I did we finally were able to start working toward positive change. Glad to hear you guys had a great week :)

  6. Margaret,

    Hang in there. I did go through the same with my (currently) 11 year old ACD/beagle cross. (Don't let the beagle fool you...she is 99.9% cattle dog). She had some pretty gnarly fear aggression.

    I am hoping with Sagan as a puppy I can overcome some of this faster.... time will tell.....