Introduction to Training for Ranger Border Collie

Although I haven’t quite mapped out all the goals or even all the problems I am going to keep his blog going so I can monitor progress, fingers crossed there is some!

I have posted before on some of Rangers issues however in short he is a very fearful dog that has anxiety and lashes out re-actively or very submissively (lies on his back)  as his defence.

I am doing an obedience instructor course this year and part of our assessment is a major assignment on behaviour change and a plan for how it was achieved.

There are a few behaviours I would really like to have an influence on for Ranger

1. His behaviour toward my cockatiels. See video here : 

2. His behavior when presented with car keys or a lead (hides under the bed)

3. Resource guarding from my other dog (not from me thank goodness).

4. Being able to touch his back and paws without his being fearful: usually get some whale eyes and his nose nudges my hand out of the way.

There is a good change this list will expand but all in good time.

Here goes!My Ranger Boy






When to say goodbye?



Update “There is so way I could now part with Ranger and we have managed every situation in our path. my little sister and he have a mutual understanding that involved tennis balls and treats and this makes her the best in his eyes. When she comes over now he doesnt drop his tennis ball at our feet he goes right to her. It will be a long journey with him but one we are prepared to take”


This is my fear reactive little guy ‘Ranger’. I love this 13 month old border collie like he was my child. He has come a long way however I can never trust him around children. I read a book once on fear reactive dogs from a well respected trainer who said that at some point she had to re home a dog even though she worked really hard with him…. he was better off somewhere else. My 5 year old sister is coming to stay with us for a few months and I’m faced with the heartbreaking decision of trying to manage the situation or sending Ranger back to his breeder who is happy to take him. I cannot say enough great things about good breeders, and she is one of them. I’m trying to resist making a decision however time is ticking by. . . . to part with my soul mate or risk it. Welcome any advice…..

Rangers Journey with Fear Agression (2)


So after having almost “lost it” last week and was even thinking bad thoughts that I couldn’t deal with this dog! (told my husband to ignore me in the future and explain to me that WE CAN DO IT!) I have recovered and am motivated and confident in my dog training and I will never take him to a ‘balance’ trainer again.

It may seem silly but I am sure there are other people out there that deal with the conflicting emotions of owning an reactive dog (I hate the word aggression but when your dog is lunging at the end of a lead trying to attack another dog there is no other word for it). I would love to hear from someone that has taken on this challenge and working through it like I am. I read a lot of information from trainers etc that deal with aggressive dogs but don’t hear a lot about pet owners (non-professionals) that deal with it and their experiences.

Where I left the last post was after Rangers bad experience at Agility, we had to leave early because we couldn’t participate in the class as I was trying to keep him off the other dogs…. sigh.

The next day, he was still distressed and even gave a warning snap to my 5 year old sister. Well this took me into panic mode and I desperately looked for a dog trainer asap. I booked him into the first appointment at the closest dog trainer I could. I asked them what training method they used and “Balanced” was the reply. Being so desperate I took the first appointment.

The lesson started as planned, after a chat and explanation of the problem, we ventured into a demonstration. The trainer put a lovely well natured chocolate dog (maybe lab cross) into a play enclosure and we were on the outside. As expected Ranger went nuts and lunged at the dog, grows, hackles up etc. The trainer had put a chain around his neck and snapped the leash back as soon as he did it. It totally broke my heart hearing my little boy cry and the training didn’t seem very ‘balanced’ to me. I didn’t like the method they used although the desired result was achieved after a few attempts at him lunging. I made sure I took over and rewarded every look away and every calming display he made from the other dog. I think Ranger got just as much or more from the positive training after as from the “balance” training.

This experience motivated me to go home and read everything I could about positive training methods. I had read a lot already but because of this experience I was more determined to search for the right training method for Ranger. For the few days after I focused on gaining Ranger confidence. Instead of walks (which he is afraid of) we played fetch in the front yard. We also did – jump into the car training (which he is also afraid off).

A few days later we were ready (or I was, he is always ready) to tackle an obedience class and although I felt anxious and nervous that he was going to display his aggression  I just kept “I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts” flowing through my mind and we were all set!.

Rangers Journey with Aggression

Ranger is 8 months old now, his fear/aggression started when he was only a very young puppy. Although he has never been attacked he had some uncomfortable meetings with other dogs when he was very young and also may have misinterpreted our other dogs play.

He started puppy school at 14 weeks old (we had just moved house so he started later than I would have liked) and at the first meeting his reactivity to the other puppies was sooo bad that he spent all 4 classes on my lap. I was so upset. I felt so responsible and like it was all my fault. From there he went to puppy socialisation classes (started off outside the class) and by the time he was 5 months old, thanks to some hard work from the teacher and myself,  he was pretty much rehabilitated. He didn’t “play” with other dogs but he could be around them quite happily (he did have one great play session with another dog and it was so lovely to see).

Last week I took him to agility (as we usually do) and he had a massive set back, triggered by being left alone and another dog that was reactive and was tied up near him (wont make that mistake again). He went back to how his aggression was when he was a pup. This was so upsetting to me after all that hard work. I went home early from agility because he just kept lunging at the other dogs and we couldn’t even participate. What was even more distressing to me was that the next day he gave some pretty strong warning signals to my 5 year old sister to stay away. He was obviously in a very bad place and I needed to do something fast.

After reading a few books and checking in with a dog trainer for a session, I devised a plan and have seen great virtually immediate results. Next post will outline his progress and the really helpful books that I have read over the last few days. YouTube had some great clips using counter conditioning and BAT (Behaviour Adjustment Training).

The most important thing I have learnt is that for a puppy who has displayed fear/anxiety aggression their journey and training are never over and as the human of a puppy with this problem I can never be complacent.

The good news is that with some training, time and effort it is manageable and there is always something fun you can do with your dog, even if you have to build your own agility course in the back yard! (yes I have considered it)