Why Does My Border Collie Hate Other Dogs?

If your border collie hates other dogs, rest assured you are not alone. Many border collie owners deal with this issue and often have a hard time walking their dogs in areas frequented by other dogs. Fortunately, there are several effective methods to use in order to work on this issue.

While there are many dogs who dislike being around other dogs, in the border collie breed, this tendency may be exacerbated due to this breed's history of being selectively bred to herd animals. Fortunately, there are several steps that can be taken to reduce the behavior of border collies barking and lunging at other dogs on walks.

An Eye for Movement

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Border collies "give eye" and stalk to control the movement of sheep

Border collies are herding dogs, and as such, they were used to control the movement of sheep as a living back in the days. As herding dogs, border collies are strongly attracted to movement, at a much greater extent compared to dogs primarily bred for being lap dogs and for providing companionship.

Anything that moves can potentially trigger a border collie's interest and instinct to chase and herd. Border collies tend to stare intently at sheep, and the same behavior can be seen upon spotting a dog at a distance. 

The staring behavior is known as "giving eye." The purpose of this stare it to control the flock of sheep. Apparently, upon staring sheep, the sheep respond to it naturally because it mimics a wolves' tactic of selecting a victim in the herd before chasing.

The inability for a border collie to herd can cause frustration which can lead to the border collie "venting" by barking and lunging at moving stimuli, and that often includes other dogs. 

The behavior to herd and drive away is instinctive and more likely to be seen in border collies who aren't provided sufficient outlets for their high levels of energy and instinctive behaviors.

  "Barking is a self-soothing behavior that some dogs engage in as a way to expend pent-up physical energy."~Dawn Antoniak-Mitchell, Teach Your Herding Breed to Be a Great Companion Dog: From Obsessive to Outstanding

A Matter of Fear 

A lot of dog barking and lunging at other dogs is triggered by fear. In this case, the barking and lunging is a distance-increasing behavior. In other words, the dog is asking for space because he's not comfortable having other dogs around.

This may stem from a lack of socialization, a negative experience, but it can also be genetic. Some dogs may be predisposed to being more fearful compared to others. This can may start even before being born. 

If mother dog is stressed during pregnancy, the stress hormones circulating in the bloodstream may lead to alterations in the brain structures of the developing puppies leading to behavioral deficits such as excess reactivity and the inability to cope and adapt to challenges and threats.

In border collies though, there may be an exacerbating element due to this breed's instincts. While lunging and barking due to fear can be pretty common in any dog, it must be considered that in a border collie the behavior can be highly reinforcing because its often coupled with the strong instinctive herding behaviours described above.

A Matter of Barrier Frustration

 And then you may stumble upon border collies who bark and lunge at other dogs once again because they are frustrated, but this time because they want to meet and greet any dogs they see. 

These dogs may at a first glance appear aggressive, but then, if you let them off leash, they love playing with other dogs and demonstrate proper social skills.

Barrier frustration is therefore seen in dogs who are very excited and can't contain themselves. If they are restrained by a leash or a fence, window or other barrier, they will therefore get frustrated causing the explosion of barking and lunging.

Unlike dogs who are undersocialized and fearful and bark and lunge to increase distance, these dogs bark and lunge because they want to decrease distance and wish to engage in affiliative, social behaviors. Often, the dogs acting this way are older puppies and young dogs. These border collies do not hate dogs, although it may look like it.

A Few Behavior Quirks

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Rude dog behaviors may warrant a snarl or snap

Many dog breeds have some quirks and border collies may have their own. Of course, this doesn't apply to all  border collies as all dogs are individuals, but this may be worthy of mentioning.

Some border collie may have a lower tolerance of rude or overbearing dog behaviors and can be quite quick in telling the rude dog off. Dogs who are very bouncy and all in your face, may get a snarl from a border collie to tell them to back off. This may be perceived as aggression, but it's actually a way to prevent aggression if the other dog understands what it means and backs off.

In a sort of way, it's like walking down the street and a complete stranger comes up to you and gives you a big bear hug. Of course, such level of confidence will likely put you on the defensive: "who in the world are you?"

Border collies may therefore dislike it when a big bouncy happy-go-lucky Lab or golden comes up to them and tries to jump or put his face too close to theirs. These to the border collie are all obnoxious, ill-manners that may be worthy of correcting. We are talking about a serious all-business working dog here after all!

Some border collies may enjoy playing with other dogs as puppies, but then as they start maturing they get more discriminative over who to befriend. Some just aren't comfortable mingling and wrestling with unknown dogs and do better with a few well-known friends.

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Now That You Know...

Now that you are aware of some possible reasons why your border collie hates dogs, you may be wondering what you can do about it.

  • Watch your behavior. Many leashed dogs feels more vulnerable when on leash, and if you are shortening the leash every time you see another dog approach, you may be communicating your feelings of impending danger through the leash, causing your dog to go straight into alarm mode.
  • Instead of tightening the leash, try training your dog to perform an emergency u-turn the moment you see a dog coming your way.
  • Keep your dog under threshold. If your border collies gets nervous when other dogs are nearby, provide him with more distance. Find a distance where he is less likely to react or reacts with less intensity and he is more responsive to you.
  • If your border collie barks and lunges from fear/dislike of other dogs, work on creating positive association by using high-value treats. A great behavior modification exercise for reactive dogs is the "Look at That Dog" game.
  • If your border collie barks and lunges because he wants to meet and greet other dogs, it helps to work him under threshold and train alternate behaviors upon seeing other dogs and rewarding these behaviors generously. For example, it can help to train your dog to make eye contact with you or do several steps of attention heeling as you pass by other dogs.
  • Have a behavior professional guide you for safety and correct implementation of behavior modification. Look for a dog behavior consultant using force-free behavior modification techniques. 
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