Original Message ----- From: NS - Sent: Monday, March 10, 2003 7:16 PM -
Nearly four years ago you very kindly took on our collie Rosie,
due to her having lots of problems and us expecting our first
Our daughter Sophie will be 4 in June and we also have a second
daughter Robyn who will be 2 in July. We often think of Rosie
and wonder how she is getting on.
The last time I called was
nearly 2 years ago and she had just been rehomed.
If it is not too much trouble I would really appreciate/love an
update on how she is. Thank you so much for all the hard work you undertook with her.
Re: Rosie 1 year 6 months female neutered Border Collie.
Further to our meeting I write to reiterate my advice concerning Rosie and her problems of aggression to strangers, both human and canine.
You mentioned during the consultation that you were concerned about Rosie being dominant, but all of her behaviour does in fact point to a submissive nature which is complicated by a fearful disposition.
There are many reasons for this and, as I explained when we met, it is important to look back into Rosie's early history as well as to consider how the behaviour has developed more recently.
Rosie is a farm bred Border Collie whose mother was of a nervous disposition. The bitch was aggressive when you visited the farm and was very "territorial". The puppies were raised in a very barren barn environment and Rosie had very limited socialisation and habituation prior to 14 weeks of age.
When she first came to live with you she would hide and you commented that she used to hide behind your legs when people approached. Interestingly her behaviour has now changed and she is much more "offensive" in her aggression, but as I explained the motivation for her responses is still defensive.
Rosie is very dependent on your company and seeks reassurance from you, she has learnt to rely on you for security and ironically your reassurance has served to reward the very behaviour that you have been trying to prevent. During the consultation you mentioned that Rosie has had a series of traumatic experiences including a cut pad and a bone in the throat and that these events have appeared to exacerbate her behaviour.
Obviously trauma serves to convince Rosie that life is tough and the world is a bad place and that therefore aggressive
defenses are well and truly justified.
As we discussed when we met it is likely that Rosie's behaviour is exacerbated by a lack of adequate physical stimulation and exercise but perhaps more importantly Rosie has a high requirement for mental stimulation that needs to be met. In addition to the aggression which was the primary reason for the consultation you mentioned various other difficulties including tail chasing, fear of visual stimuli such as joggers, fear of having the lead put on, excessive mouthing to gain attention, stealing items such as towels and socks, pulling on the lead and lack of recall.
Rosie shows very strong signs of emotional problems which are likely to be at the root of her present behaviour and, as you are aware, there is a lot of work to be done to modify her responses.'
Here follows a 22 point programme to overcome Rosie's problems.
The advice is specific to her case and we will not repeat it here as such
programs should only be carried out in conjunction with, and under the supervision of, the
behaviorist who issues the advice. If you have a dog that is displaying problems such as those shown by Rosie, you should seek the advice of a qualified
behaviorist through your vet.
We do not suggest the use of any behaviorist unless it is a through a veterinary referral.
The quality and accuracy of advice can vary according to the experience and qualifications of the person issuing it.
The behaviorist should be available to monitor progress and modify the programme if necessary. This is made clear by the closing paragraph of the report on Rosie -
'I cannot emphasise enough the need for a consistent approach to behavioural treatment.
The success of treatment for Rosie is dependent on your ability to engineer the necessary controlled introductions to people and dogs and you must realise that there will not be any overnight changes in her behaviour.
Rosie's aggression and her general out of control behaviour have been inadvertently rewarded over a period of months and it is important to remember that when these rewards cease there may be an increase in inappropriate response due to the frustration effect.
It is important to keep in touch so that we can discuss Rosie's progress.
An individuals response to the behavioural modification programme may vary, and in the light of its responses the advice may have to be adjusted so that further progress can be made.
It is important that lack of response to any of the techniques suggested, or difficulty in implementing them, is reported immediately, so as to prevent the problem from being compounded and if you are experiencing difficulties you should stop attempting to implement the techniques until you have had the opportunity to discuss the matter by telephone.
If you have any difficulties with the treatment plan please contact me and, in any event, I would like to hear from you in a few weeks with a progress report.
Rosie - from Release to Adoption - May 1999.
Interviewing MR. and Mrs. S, the behaviorist involved and Rosie's vet gave BCR much of the background information needed to prepare for her release to our care.
Upon hand-over, the foster carer who initially took her in was also able to meet and speak to her owners.
It was important to gather as much information as possible to aid in her re-habilitation.
BCR foster homes are required to submit weekly reports on the dogs in their care, broken down into a daily diary and weekly summary.
Without these reports and the information on changes and behaviour they supply, the job of fostering is no more than providing accommodation and is therefore relatively valueless if the dog has problems to be addressed before re-homing.
Over time these regular reports form a picture of the progress (or lack of) of the dog and enable any re-habilitation programme to be modified to suit current circumstances.
The hand-over of a dog into a rescue organisation is bound to be a culture shock for them.
For this reason we try to match the foster home as closely as possible to the environment the dog has come from.
Sometimes it is an advantage to make the change abrupt, particularly with dogs who have dominance problems. The change throws them off guard and they take a step back to assess the situation they now find themselves in.
They need to get the measure of the new handler before they can decide what they can get away with and this gives us the edge as they become more amenable to control and subsequent behavioural modification.
Week 1 foster home report.
Initially, Rosie needed firm and careful handling, some space and time to collect her thoughts and an environment that minimised confrontation with the things she was afraid of. The foster carer was aware that they would also be an object of fear for Rosie, being a stranger to her and took a non confrontational approach from the outset to alleviate aggression triggers.
She was muzzled on introduction and eye contact was avoided, the foster carer concentrating on speaking to her owners while she was allowed to investigate him in her own time. She did check him out and even jumped up and licked his hands, but the moment he made eye contact she lunged at his hands and would have bitten were it not for the muzzle.
Her owners were instructed to place her in the car travel crate for transportation to the foster home, the muzzle was left on and the lead was left trailing outside of the crate. She traveled well and quietly with the foster carer talking to her en-route to get her used to the sound of his voice and initialise familiarity.
On arrival she was left in the crate for about an hour to take in the changes, in view of the foster carer, and then taken out of the crate and walked on the lead around the fields and premises. This she accepted, but on her own terms and did show teeth on the initial approach. She was then put on a long leader and they went for a two hour walk during which, the foster carer was able to reassure her that he posed no threat and gain some of her confidence.
This was all done with the muzzle in place and by the end she would allow herself to be touched and stroked occasionally, however the teeth and occasional growl showed her disapproval of such intimacy.
It was noted that when the walk went down country road, she showed no reaction to passing traffic.
Her condition was noted as thin, tucked up and waspish with a coat condition resulting in some loss above her stifle with some scurf present.
This is something often noted in dogs with long term stress trauma.
While on the long leader she was taken through a field containing the foster carer's sheep.
It was noted that she showed interest and curiosity from the outset and made instinctive moves to attempt to go round them. During this stage the foster carer was able to get closer and stroke and handle her without a high degree of adverse reaction.
After this, she was taken back to the yard to be kenneled in a previously prepared outside unit with sleeping quarters and secure run.
Next door was one of the foster carer's own BC's chosen for its lack of aggression and friendly disposition.
Her blanket from her old home, together with some of her toys were placed in the unit to aid familiarity and the muzzle removed.
Her owner had provided her usual diet, and it is normal for BCR to continue to feed on what the dog is used to, however the food supplied was a 30% protein mix - far too strong and inappropriate for a dog with her conditions, so she was fed on an 18% mix.
It was noted that when the food was put down she immediately went for the dog in the next run through the wire.
Up to that point she had ignored him.
This was the first confirmation we had of her food aggression. The foster carer had chosen her neighbour well and he did not retaliate, so she received her first hint that a perceived threat does not always materialise.
Over the first night she was quiet and ate most of her food, however the following day she was wary of the foster carer and showed aggression when approached.
This was predicted and on day two, apart from entering the run to clean, water and feed, she was left to take stock of the situation and re-assess her position.
Day three produced a change in her behaviour and she tolerated the approach of the foster carer without aggression. She allowed herself to be put on the lead and was walked out on 4 occasions that day.
The muzzle was not used. Any indications of aggression to the foster carer or distant strangers was met with a sharp check. When she responded well to these checks she was given praise and seemed a much happier dog.
In the evening she was accompanied on the walk by one of the foster carer's own bitches who was allowed to run free.
Initially Rosie took an instant dislike and attempted an attack, but a sharp check and verbal reprimand corrected the behaviour and she was praised for her response.
This needed repeating once more during the exercise period, but when she was returned to her run she seemed a happier and more responsive dog.
On day 4 she greeted the foster carer with enthusiasm, jumping up in a friendly manner and seeking attention.
This resulted in praise but no over familiar handling. She had not eaten all her meal.
On the first walk she played with a burst football and attempted to initiate interaction with her handler. On the second walk she was taken out with the 'bombproof' dog housed next to her and indicated a wish to interact and play with him.
This was allowed for a short time but terminated by the foster carer after a few minutes.
Indications were that she was seeking greater social contact and was also prepared to be guided by a firm handler.
On the evening walk a young boy suddenly emerged from the hedgerow at the side of the lane in front of her.
She froze and growled, but accepted a check and verbal command and went no further towards aggression.
A little later they passed two loose farm dogs. Predicting a reaction the foster carer checked her before she had a chance to respond and she accepted the dogs passing close by without aggression.
The following three days of the first week passed without incident and Rosie became more trustful of her new handler.
She was aware that he was not going to tolerate any
misbehavior and was aware that she needed to earn any favours by compliance. He was careful to minimise any perceived threat she may have felt from him and careful to ensure that she was not subjected to situations that would allow her to respond out of control.
The weeks summary from the foster carer concluded that she needed one to one with a firm and experienced handler to socialise and educate her. BCR was urged not to give up on her as it was felt by the foster carer that good results would be achieved over time.
A week with her had filled out some of the
gaps in our knowledge and confirmed many of the points that were
covered by the behaviorist, her vet and her previous owners. We
had also had the opportunity to understand some of the
instinctive chase / herding drive she had and observe how this
was interfering with her thinking and producing conflicts which
were adding to her confusion.
Week 2 foster home report.
The second week showed improvements in all areas.
Her aggression to distant strangers was apparent but could be controlled and stopped by a check and verbal command, followed by praise when she responded. It was predicted that she would probably attack if loose so was never allowed loose to confirm this!
Her behaviour towards other dogs improved and she became happy to mix with all the male dogs on the smallholding, but was intolerant of the bitches.
She showed a need to play with her handler and this was exploited as a reward for good responses. In view of her food aggression we had discontinued food treats as rewards. (As a general rule we would not suggest food treats as rewards for BC's, praise and contact usually being sufficient to re-enforce positive behaviour).
She had been taken to sheep on a 30 foot line and shown a natural instinct to go round and balance a flock.
She had been allowed to watch the family children play from a distance and was fascinated by ball games, showing an inclination to join in.
This was not allowed, but her positive responses were met with praise and stroking.
The reduction of her diet to an 18% mix had softened her aggressive edge and allowed her to become more tolerant of new experiences because her mind was clearer and she could think before her body reacted. She was less hyperactive and gave more ground.
On the negative side she was still behaving in an unpredictable manner and showing signs of a more dominant nature underlying her fearful disposition. She was food aggressive and collar shy.
She was also reluctant to allow herself to be groomed or handled, particularly towards her rear end. On three occasions when her lead was unclipped she turned and nipped at the foster carer.
This was tolerated without a positive response on the first two occasions, but on the third attempt she was confronted in response to the nip, with the result that she lay on her back in a submissive posture. Although still curling her lip and apprehensive, she allowed her tummy to be rubbed and accepted re-assurance.
The second weeks report confirmed the observations of the first week and it was decided that she now needed to go on to stage two, which would be a one to one, dog and handler situation with an experienced trainer and dog handler.
A vehicle was dispatched from North Yorkshire and she was collected and brought back up to BCR HQ into her second foster home where she was to be brought back indoors for some more serious social re-habilitation.
When the transport arrived, Rosie was to be in her pen and the two BCR members who were to bring her up country were to have the initial meeting from the safety of the outside of the wire. They and the foster carer met some distance away, but in full sight and proceeded to move towards the pen, slowly, talking to each other all the time and ignoring her completely.
All stood with their backs to the pen, just a few feet away and continued talking to each other in quite voices until she settled. Everyone then slowly walked around the pen, continuing to talk to each other until all were facing her and eye contact was made.
Her reaction to meeting two new people was predictably suspicious but they were pleased to note that she seemed to be looking to the foster carer for reassurance rather than reacting with immediate aggression.
The foster carer spoke to her and praised her for behaving well, the two other BCR members joined in and then both walked away leaving her with the foster carer, who gave her more praise and then followed.
The next hour was spent in full sight of Rosie in her pen.
The foster carer, his family and two handlers talked, drank tea and walked around the site - sometimes passing the pen and generally ignoring her. She simply sat and watched it all going on. Sometimes, during the general talk, someone would mention her name (fairly loudly) to keep her attention from wandering. This was kept up until it was obvious that she was quite interested and wanted to join in and participate.
The foster carer went over with the two handlers, muzzled her and put her on a lead. They then set of on the routine walk that she would normally take at this point in the day. Other dogs went along as well - the handlers had brought two dogs with them so Rosie had canine company and support for the journey back.
The walk went well, the muzzle removed part way through and ended up in a secure field where Rosie was let off the lead and had the opportunity to freely make contact with the new handlers.
She was ignored until she initialised contact, only then did the handler acknowledge her presence and only briefly.
By the end of the session she seemed to be able to completely accept the presence of two new people and allowed them both to handle her and put her lead on and walk her off a short distance alone before returning and taking the lead off..
All the interaction had been spontaneously choreographed that afternoon for a number of reasons.
The most pleasing result was that Rosie had turned to her foster carer whenever she felt stressed and uncertain.
She had sought re-assurance from him and followed his directions. She had accepted - to a degree - that if he was not frightened or aggressive towards new people, she need not be either. She had stopped making unilateral decisions and had shown us that she was willing to trust someone else.
She had a future.
The more practical side of the 'show' was to enable Rosie to be introduced to strangers with minimal stress so that two unknown people could put her in a travel crate in a strange van and drive her over 300 miles north - without getting bitten and without traumatising her and get her off safely at the other end where she had to meet more strangers.
She trusted the foster carer enough to allow herself to be placed in the crate in the strange van, obviously against her better judgment, and she didn't shred anyone in the process. She really only became worried when she was driven off but the passenger talked to her continuously and she accepted the reassurance and settled down.
On the journey up, Rosie was in the company of two well trained and sociable dogs and could see and hear the two BCR members talking.
The journey involved stop off for breaks and she was taken out of the crate, put on a lead, muzzled and walked on these occasions.
She accepted this with some aloofness and the occasional curl of the lip. By the time she got to Yorkshire she was quite familiar with her new handlers and it was generally felt (with sighs of relief) that the handover had gone quite well!
A year and a bit in rescue. June 1999 to September 2000.
Rosie spent a 15 months in rescue learning to trust people, to shed her lifetime fears and enjoy life.
It sounds like a long time, but she had to be allowed to do it at her own pace.
To grow more confident and not to be forced, outfaced or put into situations where she felt vulnerable.
She needed time to unlearn everything that life had taught her so far.
The to learn what fun life could be if you included humans in your friendships.
Initially she spent time only with Nicki Oliver who fostered her for the charity.
The first few weeks was spent learning to trust one person.
Her problems were analysed and addressed then, as she grew more confident and began to trust, her circle of 'friends' was slowly extended.
Aggression to other dogs and humans was not her only problem. She also had a variety of obsessive compulsive behavioural patterns she had developed and very little self reliance.
All these issues needed work to overcome them.
When Nicki was satisfied that she was capable of coping she went to other foster homes - initially only for a day or two, but gradually for longer periods. As her socialisation improved, so she was introduced to more and more strangers, casually but also under controlled conditions.
Eventually she started to approach new people herself, tail wagging, seeking attention and showing very indication of enjoying fresh encounters. All the old 'baggage' had been packed away and it was time to find her the sort of home that would continue to give her the friendship, affection and freedom she had come to enjoy.
Choosing a home. 2000
Having got Rosie to recognise that people were not a threat and were, in fact, a source of friendship and affection we now needed to find a home where the work we had put in would not be undone.
Putting her into a quiet environment was essential to enable her to keep calm.
A quiet and non confrontational handler was also needed.
She was certainly not interested in working but needed a smallholding to give her the space and freedom she had never been allowed because of her previous behavioural problems. She had a lot of life to catch up on.
There was now no real concerns about her mixing with people and we wanted a home where she could bond to one individual but mix with many. What we really needed was a quiet, gentle man with experience of dogs, assertive and authoritive without being confrontational a large amount of land, some varied livestock and plenty of visitors, who had the time to spend with her on a day to day basis, who would allow her to live in the house or outside if she wanted and who did not want a dog to work, just as a companion.
Not quite the normal application profile!
But we did have an application on our files that seemed to offer all of that.
A man who ran a farm in County Durham that was largely a livery stable with people boarding their horses and attending on a day to day basis to care for them and ride them out. Stock was kept on some of his land and other parts were arable - a mixed unit.
He lived alone and wanted a companion, on the phone he was quietly spoken but with an air of authority and seemed to offer everything Rosie needed - but did he need a Rosie?
He was told about her in full detail - her background, problems, vices and the work we had done to re-hab her.
This did not seem to put him off so a home visit was organised, the results of which were very positive.
If not for Rosie, this was a good home for another dog.
He was invited to visit us and meet her - and to bring his girlfriend who was an air hostess - and they were duly introduced.
As previously mentioned, Rosie had overcome her fear of strangers and was now very accepting of almost all new people but did retain a certain aloofness with most folk, but this time her reaction was different and she seemed very curious about him from the start - almost fascinated by him as he sat quietly at the table and spoke to Nicki, ignoring Rosie completely as he had been told to do.
Before long she was actually demanding attention from him, which he continued to ignore until Nicki gave the OK.
There was certainly something about the two of them that gelled from the start. Rosie met his girlfriend as well and they got on. Everything looked good for a trial adoption.
They stayed for a couple of hours during which time they took Rosie for a walk on the moors and then played for a while in a secure paddock.
Finally, armed with several pages of information about her past, her behaviour and her training, verbal commands and hand signals they left with her for the farm and a months trial.
We kept in touch with them for the trial period offering advice and some perception into various aspects of the behaviour that Rosie displayed.
Initially she was to be restricted to the house and gardens and only walked outside these areas on a lead.
She was to meet all new people outside the house and visitors were to be told to initially ignore her and not even look at her until she initiated contact.
For a few days she was somewhat suspicious of some people and occasionally bristled a bit, but that was the extent of her displeasure and she took reassurance from her new owner that all was OK and accepted that person.
She had learned to depend on others for guidance and no longer made the rules herself. She trusted the judgment of others.
Over the four weeks of the trial she behaved pretty well as predicted with no indication of her previous patterns of behaviour re-emerging. Things actually went a bit faster than we expected and progress was excellent.
After two weeks it was decided that she should be walked around the livery stable area of the farm on a lead and allowed to familiarise herself with the sights and sound of the horses and people and this should be done a couple of times a day.
Her responses were good and she showed curiosity and interest - with no indication that she wanted to chase the horses or bite the people and after a few days she was introduced to people individually - some she had already met in the house.
By the end of the third week she was confident enough in her new owner and the surroundings to be allowed to accompany him as he did his daily round, off the lead and free.
This was what we had dreamt of and worked towards for Rosie - freedom.
By the end of the four week trial period she was behaving like she had lived there all her life. Everyone was her friend, anyone could approach her and stroke her or walk past and simply ignore her.
She knew the rounds and the routines so well that she could walk them on her own, (and often did as here owner got caught up in talking to someone and she got impatient) going to each stable and greeting horse and owner before moving on to the next.
The first 4 photo's at the start of this article show her doing exactly that.
She stayed within her territory and showed no inclination to cross gate thresholds unless taken.
Her new owner was rather emotional about her progress and achievement - and to be honest - so were we.
The adoption was concluded and she has been there ever since. We keep in regular touch and on occasions we visit or she comes to visit us. We have been to visit her in Boarding kennels when her owner was away.
Her life is now that of a dog with a normal temperament - a full and varied life filled with lots of friends and activities - never bored, always busy. She can be trusted to behave in a predictable manner - a far cry from the Rosie we first heard about.
4 years on - February 2005.
Since being re-homed, Rosie has had no problems.
She has never looked back and there have been no occurrences of any aggressive behaviour.
She has learnt the value of human relationships and has been able to meet new people on an everyday basis, treating them all as friends.
Being homed to a livery stables has given her a relaxed environment and people around her who understand animals. She has had all the freedom she has wanted or needed and has been able to roam around the land without restraint.
In 2004, her owner decided it was time for him and Rosie to retire from the livery stable business.
He wound down and closed the stables and rented out his fields to other farmers and started to take life easy.
Rosie went along with this quite happily.
Although her owner kept most of his land, the land the stables occupied was sold to be turned into a small, exclusive housing annex and Rosie found a new group of friends - the builders.
The fact is that these days she sees everyone as her friends.
She now loves people and can't get enough of them - what a turnaround!
The original farmhouse is still her home and she still has plenty of land surrounding it for exercise and recreation.
She made so many friends in the stables and they still come back and see her. That's what her owner says. He says they say they come to see him and then spend all the time playing with Rosie.
They bring her gifts and drink his beer!
BCR still keeps in touch and we were there in April 2005. Rosie is now coming up to nine years of age and is a wonderful dog with all the good qualities you would want in a companion Border Collie and no vices.
She is obedient, kind and considerate. She is loyal, faithful and a good companion.
She is worth all the work it took to get her from a snarling monster to what she is now.
Rosie is still alive and still thriving and has still not bitten or attacked anyone!
She remains a faithful, loyal and loving companion in her new home and we hear from her a couple of times a year.
She never forgets to send a Christmas card and, occasionally, she comes back to visit.
Looking at her now you would not believe she had ever had any issues. This year she will be a fourteen year old "lady".
She has been very lucky to have had the chance of these last 11 years of life. She came so close to being PTS before she came to us aged
Rosie is a good example of what can be done to turn a dogs life around if you just invest a bit of time and patience.
Surely this is what 'Rescue' is about?
We are pleased to have played our part in achieving this for her and hope she will enjoy a few more years of pleasurable, comfortable 'retirement' - happy in her own skin and enjoying what life offers.
If you are interested in adopting a Border Collie from us,
please phone 0845 604 4941 during office hours.
(2 pm to 5 pm Tuesdays to Thursdays)