Behavioural Advice

for a happier life with your dog

Just like we humans, all dogs have their own personalities and preferences, but there are some steps you can take to give your Collie the best start in their new home.  

At home, your dog should have a safe bed where they can lie down and not be disturbed. It is important that your dog feels secure in the home in general but particularly in this safe place where they know they can take a time out from socialising and no one will intrude into their space. Some dogs value this more than others, and if your dog has a history of abuse, living as a stray, or a long time spent in kennels then they may choose to spend more time in this safe place.  

Being a bouncy Collie is thirsty work, so it’s important to make sure your dog has constant access to clean, fresh, water as well as regular feeds.  

 

Both in the home and out and about, any dog will feel happier and make a more harmonious companion if they know their boundaries. From the beginning, make sure to spend time patiently teaching your dog what they should and should not do by using positive reinforcement, i.e. rewarding good behavior. This can be a fantastic learning and bonding experience for both of you and lays the foundations for a happy partnership with your dog.  

Collies are very clever, which means they can get bored very easily and make their own entertainment. That may involve stripping the wallpaper, chewing furniture, or scratching feverishly at doors. 

To prevent this kind of behaviour, it’s important to keep your Collie occupied, both physically and mentally. This requires plenty of exercise and play outdoors, lots of human interaction in the home, and interesting toys to keep their minds ticking while you’re out of the house.  

Many Collie owners find that they and their dogs benefit hugely from involvement in activities such as agility and flyball which are excellent for stimulating the mind, exercising the body and building that all-important relationship between you and your dog.  

Collies are sociable dogs and love company.  If they are left alone for long periods, they can develop separation anxiety. Their worry and anxiety when left alone may well result in destructive behaviour, and this can make life with your Collie difficult. It is important not to lose your temper with an anxious dog (or any dog, for that matter), but to work to understand them and address the problem from its source. The answers below may help to shed some light on the issue of separation anxiety.  

Although we would never expect an owner to spend every waking moment at home with their dog, it is worth really asking yourself whether a Collie is right for you if you’re out of the house a lot. If everyone in the household works full time or you often find yourself spending very little time at home, a Collie may not be the right dog for you. All dogs need lots of human interaction and companionship, but Collies can be more susceptible to separation anxiety due to their energetic and sociable nature.  

We’re always happy to talk about your individual circumstances and whether a Collie is right for you, so feel free to get in touch if you have questions about this.  

Generally, households with more than one dog find they face fewer issues with separation anxiety, as the canine company helps to keep both dogs calm and occupied.  

However, getting a second dog should not be considered a first option or quick fix for problematic behaviour. It is important to address the root of the issue, otherwise, a second dog will simply learn the same destructive behaviours and the problem will be twice as bad.  

Separation anxiety can put a real strain on your relationship with your dog, but there are steps you can take to start addressing the problem: 

1) Leave the house and return within a few minutes, then leave and return within ten minutes. If your dog is behaving, reward them, or if they are not, ignore the bad behaviour.  Repeating this provides positive reinforcement for good behaviour, and helps the dog learn that when you leave the house, you will always come back to them.  

2) Don’t say goodbye.  Dogs are smart and they know that when you put your coat on, pick up your and keys and say “see you later” that they are being left behind.  Try to vary your routine so that they don’t pick up on these signals which can induce anxiety even before you have left. Try ignoring your dog for ten minutes before you leave so they settle down and are relaxed. 

3) If you have an energetic Collie, try wearing them out before you leave the house.  Do a little training, and leave them a chew toy or bone as a reward.  Hopefully, this toy will be much more interesting than you leaving the house- they may not even notice you’re gone! 

4) If you have to be out of the house for long periods of time, get a friend or neighbour to come in and check on your Collie, perhaps even to take them for a walk.  A little contact during the day will help keep their mind off you and any mischief they may get up to while you’re out. It will also give you the peace of mind that your canine friend is not at home worried sick all day.  

5) Get an expert to observe your dog’s behaviour. If your work at home doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere, it’s time to call in the experts. They may well be able to see issues or aspects of your dog’s personality which you haven’t picked up on and will be able to offer valuable insights.  

If you’d like advice on your Collie and their behaviour, feel free to get in touch. We are more than happy to offer free advice over the phone to help more Collies live happy home lives.  

First, we need to decide if this is an actual “bite” or a “nip”.  When a Collie is rounding up or guarding his flock, he often ‘nips’ at the sheep to move them. If your Collie has started to regard your children as his flock, then he will be using his instincts to ‘nip’ them.

The best course of action is to seek professional advice from a breed specific collie rescue such as Wiccaweys, or from a behaviourist with border collie experience, because it is very important that the behaviour is assessed correctly and addressed in the right way.

If you think he is being aggressive and is really trying to bite, then please in the first instance take your Collie to the vet. Collies are not predisposed to aggression, and on the whole are friendly dogs.  If your dog seems to be aggressive in this way, or they seem to have had a change of personality, your vet will be able to determine whether the problem is due to a medical issue.  

Collies are prone to several conditions which can cause pain, confusion and disorientation. Unsurprisingly, if your Collie is suffering these things they may well demonstrate it through increased aggression and changes in personality. 

Whatever their background, a Collie is a ‘working dog’. Bred over generations to herd sheep, all will have a working instinct of some kind and all are very active. The commitment to owning a Collie is a commitment to keep a very energetic, intelligent (and fun!) companion stimulated for many years.  

If you think your Collie is over-active, the problem may lie in their diet. Some foods have a lot of additives which have a similar effect to sugary drinks on children. We recommend a wet food diet (fresh meat, tins of Butchers Tripe, Forthglade or similar), with plenty of fresh vegetables added.   Cook for your dogs, and you know exactly what is going into them.

If you’d like advice on feeding your Collie, feel free to get in touch. 

 

Just like people, dogs learn at different rates and while some may be top of the class, others may need more time and patience to learn what you are asking of them.  

To have a healthy, successful relationship between you and your Collie, he has to respect you, and this is where the time and patience really comes in. 

Some people try to demand respect by using outdated and often cruel techniques. This is not a good way to build a relationship with your dog and often results in a frightened, anxious, or even aggressive dog. We recommend only positive reinforcement techniques when training your dog- such as giving them a small treat or belly rub when they do what you’ve asked of them.  

Sometimes, the kindest owners with the best intentions become frustrated during training because they don’t fully understand how their dog thinks. This might happen when you verbally ask your dog to do one thing, but unbeknownst to you, your body language is telling them to do another. For example, in agility sessions we sometimes see trainers asking their dog to ‘stay’, before walking forward and prematurely pointing to the first obstacle in a course. The trainer has done this subconsciously and doesn’t understand why the dog won’t stay, but the clever Collie has picked up on subtle body language and flown off to the first jump.  

Similarly, if your dog is playing in the park and refuses to come back no matter how much you call them, you may be tempted to scold them when they come back. However, to the dog, they are not being scolded for running away, but for coming back- so next time you call your dog in the park they might be even more reluctant to come back. Instead, it’s important to let your frustration go and praise the dog for coming back (however long that may take).  

It is often a good idea for the owner and dog to go on a training course together – it means you both learn the right things together and form that all-important bond in a really positive, constructive way.

A Collie’s natural instinct is to run ahead of their master to investigate and round up sheep, so it’s only natural for them to try and pull away. Some behaviourists suggest stopping when your dog pulls, so they learn that they will get nowhere fast by pulling.  

However, you may well find that when you stop, your Collie is even more determined to go! For this, we highly recommend you try a ‘Walk-Eze’ harness. This focuses resistance on the dog’s chest and can help prevent your dog from taking you for a walk, without harming their delicate neck.  

Never use a ‘choke’ or ‘check’ chain.  These contraptions are dangerous and can seriously damage a dog’s windpipe, and often their only results are to make your dog afraid of you or even more resentful of their collar. 

If you have questions beyond these FAQs please get in touch. We are happy to help and all advice is offered free of charge.