I have a beautiful border collie – he’s the larger blood lines, has one blue eye and some days I think he’s actually smarter than me. Okay, if we are being honest, most days I think he’s smarter than me but recently I’ve become concerned that he may be developing aggressive tendencies. So, I began to fret and ask my friends what they thought and they thought “maybe” and by now I’m getting pretty nervous. I’m thinking, “Great! I’ve got the smartest dog on the planet and he’s got aggressive issues.”
So why am I thinking that my border collie was acting aggressive? Well there were a few things. For one, he was beginning to spend a great deal of time nipping at the heels of everyone and that to me seemed like aggressive behavior. In addition, he would quickly show a lip or make a snarl at anyone that wasn’t doing exactly what it was he wanted.
My plan of attack included calling a local trainer that had experience dealing with dogs that had aggression. I was worried. This was my dear sweet border collie, my buddy, my four legged family but what was I going to do if he was having aggression issues? Could the trainer fix him?
The trainer took my Timmie, my border collie, for an evaluation. They were gone a couple of hours. I was getting pretty nervous already. All these horrible thoughts are running through my head as I anxiously wait. The trainer finally returns with Timmie in tow tail held high and wagging. That’s what’s usually going on in Timmie’s world – how could such a happy dog have aggression?
“So what’s the scoop?” I ask the trainer. “What are we going to do to solve Timmie’s aggression issues?”
The trainer lets out a chuckle and replies, “You have nothing to worry about. This isn’t aggression. This is pure border collie bossiness.”
As we continue our discussion, I learn that heel nipping is very common in border collies. It’s how they herd the sheep and it’s also how they heard people. So the first focus is going to be to train Timmie not to heel nip. As for the snarl and curled lip that showed teeth apparently, that was also part of his herding skills. And actually showing the teeth is sometimes simply giving you a big ole grin when they are happy.
It became quickly evident that what I was dealing with were typical border collie traits. That said, I knew I still had to train these traits out. If you have ever had your heel nipped by a dog you know it’s very painful!
One of the things I decided to do with Timmie was actually put him to work. After all, he’s a herding dog and loves to work and I know I haven’t been giving him enough exercise. There’s a local farm here that does just that – takes dogs out and trains them to herd on their farm. The trainer felt that would help Timmie to learn when these traits were appropriate.
In addition the trainer gave me some tips on how to stop the heel nips, like have a person lift their foot and connect with his face (not overly hard of course) whenever Timmie was following too close. As for his talkative nature, well we will just learn to enjoy that!