Training Day 5 – Nose Work

Ranger in action :)

Ranger in action 🙂

I started nose work with Ranger about a year ago to build his confidence. He did so well at it but I called it quits with him when I saw just how hard to was for him to travel there, particularly on his own in the car, I couldn’t fit a crate in my Toyota Corolla and the only place he would go after being carried and lifted into the car was shaking down behind the seat.. for the whole trip. I now have mums car for 3 months and can fit 2 crates in so I can take both dogs. He still struggles with the drive but will voluntarily get in the car as our other dog Syrah is already in.

So last night I took both of them. Ranger is only on the first two odours, birch and aniseed while Syrah is on birch, aniseed and clove. Ranger did really well, his dedication to searching was still there and even though he wasn’t very fast his persistence in searching impressed me so much and he found the hides in the end. I was so happy with him.

Ranger in Action

Ranger in Action

Nose work is great for anxious or reactive dogs as it is a one dog at a time sport. It helps to build confidence by letting the dog figure out things for themselves and as there is no obedience or instructions they only do what they are comfortable doing. Ranger went from being nervous in class with a tucked tail and not wanting to even stick his head in a box to find some food, to now putting his head up on chairs, under tables and paws up on walls to find higher hides of only odour.

For more info on nose work check out these pages:

K9 Nosework in the US and K9 Nose Time in Australia


Training Day 4 – Obedience Class

I take Syrah to obedience most weeks and today as I could fit two crates in my car I decided to take Ranger too. Syrah loves getting in the car, travel and going anywhere really as the drive is the fun part for her. Ranger got in the car without too much fuss, I had put Syrah in first so it might tempt him to jump in. As soon as we started driving though he was back to hiding his head in the corner and shaking. When we got to the turnoff to class he surprised me by jumping up  and sniffing and getting quite excited so that was really positive!

I took Syrah to her usual class then half way through put her away and got Ranger out. We didn’t go into a class but just kept about 5-10 metres away from the class I had just been in. At first he appeared really nervous, tail tucked, ears back, eyes darting and had a small lunge and bark when a lovely Collie just looked at him, we did a quick ‘lets go’ and walked away, returning a little while later. I just kept shoving treats in his mouth, he was happy to take food when he wasn’t looking around (like how we started with the birds). After a few minutes we started a bit of a routine of him looking at the other dogs, to get him back to me I marked the behaviour with a ‘yes’ and he would turn around to get his treat… like we did with the birds. If he had looked at the dogs for a while and voluntarily looked at me I also gave him a reward, we worked on lengthening the time he was looking at the other dogs between every treat and I was really happy with his progress. If I ever thought he was starting to go from a look to a ‘stare’ or it was becoming intense I called him name and rewarded him.

We had to walk away a few times when I thought people or dogs got too close and the whole session with Ranger took about 10 minutes and he did very well, he was gaining confidence the whole time and we ended on a good note.

This is his little vest that he wears which I think is a nice level of warning without making people afraid of your dog.

Training Day 2 and 3

Ranger was faced with some massive challenges over the last two days. I decided on a spontaneous visit to the Hunter Valley and of course the dogs had to come too. Ranger is afraid of the car and the two hour drive was his first big challenge. I fitted two crates in the back, one for each dog so he at least had a safe space to be in when we went into wineries.

Day 2

I had to lift him in to his crate initially to get us moving and on the road. He was terrified and was shaking for a long while, with his head in the corner, this is something we really need to work on. I do realise this is not a great position to put him in but I think it was much more important for him to be with us than left at home.

One really positive thing about Ranger is he has a very speedy recovery time, on arrival at our cabin he was happy as could be and excited to explore. Its great to see him so comfortable and in the bush and with lots of space for him to be off lead he is so happy, his whole facial expressions and body language is instantly joyful. I really love seeing him like that and it makes the scary car ride worth it. When we are not interacting with him he was content to be tethered to a tree with my other dog Syrah (chocolate).

Lots of good smells on the pee tree :)

Lots of good smells on the pee tree 🙂

Its interesting to note that he has little problem getting in the car when we are away and whenever we stopped for a little explore or toilet break he was very keen to get back to his safe crate. The dogs behaved so well over the weekend and its almost like Ranger is a different dog when we are away.


Day 3

This morning we had a good walk and explore around the property we were staying at, including a dam which he walked right into for a dip. Ranger is very good off lead so was allowed to roam freely while Syrah did all her exploring on a long lead. Doggies had a lovely time and we quite happy to chill in their crates while we stopped at a cute cafe for breakfast and coffee. The trip home was once again challenging for him but he is home safe and sound and ready to get back into training tomorrow.

Do I spy a roo?

Do I spy a roo?

Training Day 1- Bird Counter Conditioning

I had great hopes of a strategical checklist of training exercises and videos but so far training has been fairly spontaneous. Today we worked on Ranger and his interaction with my birds. I have two lovely cockatiels, the white one (Bella) is quite happy to leave Ranger alone but the yellow one (nameless although on his death certificate we may write Cosmo) antagonises him and bothers him through the cage. We usually have a coffee table set up close to the cage to manage Ranger and keep him at bay but if we don’t this is a typical interaction: 

Training Session 1.

With the coffee table still in place I started throwing treats to Ranger across the table no matter what his reaction to the birds was, he still lunged and growled at them for a little while. After a few minutes he started to focus on me instead of the birds. I gradually started to space the treats out to when he looked at the birds and before he could react I would throw a treat at him. I was really happy with how he was going and left it at that. For this first training session I used the highest value treat I could find (carob).

Training Session 2.

We started off where we left off the first training session however he was doing so well that I moved the table away, allowing him full access to the bird cage. It was much more challenging for him and the bird started to have a go at him but he still did exceptionally well and im very happy with his progress on day one. For this training session I used Kibble and it didnt seem to bother him.

Video of Session 2:

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…..

Border Collies Playing

Border Collies Playing

Here is a link to a video of my dogs playing. Im interested in any informed feedback as to if this is positive play or not. The red dog (Ranger) has dog/dog aggression and anxiety with other dogs. With Syrah (the chocolate) he copes with life and although might be a little stressed he is relatively happy.