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needy, needy, needy dog!

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

I'm so glad this forum is here; I have a question about our lovely little border collie mix dog. We got her from the animal shelter a year and a half ago, and she is an incredibly sweet girl, very intelligent...but very needy. Neurotically needy. She cannot sit next to you, she cannot even sit on your lap - she must be constantly squirming, clawing, licking your face. I joke that she's trying to climb back into the womb! And who knows her history - for all I know she was weaned too early, her mama died, whatever.

We have tried to let her get all her cuddles in, and it just never ends. She will end up hurting you (on accident) in her efforts to get ever closer. She would lick your face for hours! And now that we have an infant, well, you can imagine that it's harder for us to deal with. She is sweet to the baby, submissive clearly and seems to sense that he is a creature that needs taking care of. However, because she is so licky/needy, I worry about her hurting the baby, and we often get so frustrated with her that we end up yelling (bad! I know!) and she ends up spending a lot of time outside (she's not alone, we have a lab as well).

DH and I both have a lot of guilt after getting angry with her - but she's just too much! We hate to put her outside (although that's better than yelling), but we don't know what to do. We'd love it if she could just hang out - if she was less needy, she'd actually get more positive attention, you know?

Writing this, I feel like a doctor would prescribe her Prozac, heh. Do any of you have any suggestions? We have noticed that when she's really busy and had a lot of exercise, she is better, mainly because she's just too tired to expend the energy...

Thank you!
post #2 of 17
Ohh, you have a 'real' border collie!! They are so neurotic- and that's the easy ones. Sounds like yours goes even further than that!!

Okay, border collie lovers, don't hate me: we had them growing up and they were generally good family dogs, so loveable and smart, but always very high need.

I would recommend (and I'm not the dog expert, I just noticed you didn't have any replies yet) making sure she has her own little 'place' dog bed/corner/whatever that she can go to that's HERS. A little safe doggie place. You could give her your old nightie and she'd probably love it and nest in it....

Also, your dog probably needs some exercise... like as much as you can give her, everyday. Any dog parks around?! She's still young enough, you and your lab could probably teach her how to play fetch. Or sign her up for an obedience class. It will give her special time with you once a week, and a few other times during the week when you practice. You'll both enjoy learning some new skills!
post #3 of 17
Border Collies were developed over centuries of selective breeding to go ALL DAY LONG without tiring, and they are command junkies--they need a job that involves brain work. In the absence of a job, they'll figure one out for themselves--and I think she's decided that her job is to eat your face all day. The remedy is twofold: exercise (tons of it) and appropriate games. There's a series of exercises called "brainwork" that is fabulous for herding dogs--it involves teaching the dog to find things, or do to specific actions, and then hiding the objects of the actions. One trainer I know who has Pulik will hide toys all over the house and then just ask the dogs to find them--the dogs know "there's still another one" and will spend tons of time trying to find the object. It's very much like drugwork, honestly, but it also involves a fetch back to the handler.

Look up brainwork for dogs--you may find some really good solutions for her excess energy.
post #4 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks for your suggestions.

Yes, she definitely can go ALL DAY, and she's definitely neurotic, poor little thing. I wish we had a pasture full of sheep for her, but at least our house is better than the pound, I guess.

I will definitely look up brainwork, thanks for that! And midwestmeg, that's a good idea to give her her own spot. She will sneak up on our bed sometimes - I only find out when I see a spot with black dog hair all over it - so clearly she does want to be snuggling in a place that smells like us. We did have a crate set up for her when we first got her (she wasn't house-trained yet - she's so smart, though, it took her just a few days). I know she felt safe in there, and maybe we should set it back up for her.

Exercise is definitely key, as you said. We have 1/4 acre (small house, big lot in town), and she and our lab do run a lot, but not enough. She LOVES to play fetch - it's another thing that she will do forever without stopping, even if it's 100 degrees and she's foaming at the mouth, or when her back leg is sore. She'll just sit and whinewhinewhine until we throw the ball. Arghhh! We do have quite a few dog parks in our area, and need to go back. I'll be honest, we were much better dog parents before we became 'real' parents, and we both feel guilt about that, as we did make a commitment to them when we got them from the pound.

Anyway, even writing this has helped me resolve to take action. I've been jogging lately, and I'm going to take little Zoe with me today; I think she'd enjoy it. Thank you!
post #5 of 17
I have a border collie, too... I'm wondering how much training you've done. It sounds like maybe you've been letting her get away with a lot to "make up" for her past, but she also needs to know her place. I don't allow my BC to squirm on me, or lick my face, and she knows those boundaries. I often ask her to do things before I pet her - come, sit, whatever. When she's too hyper or pushy, I have her "go lie down" on her bed for a bit. She sleeps with me at night, but she doesn't come up until I thump the bed for her.

Exercise helps, both physical and mental, but she also needs boundaries...

post #6 of 17
Originally Posted by Dar View Post
I have a border collie, too... I'm wondering how much training you've done. It sounds like maybe you've been letting her get away with a lot to "make up" for her past, but she also needs to know her place. I don't allow my BC to squirm on me, or lick my face, and she knows those boundaries. I often ask her to do things before I pet her - come, sit, whatever. When she's too hyper or pushy, I have her "go lie down" on her bed for a bit. She sleeps with me at night, but she doesn't come up until I thump the bed for her.

Exercise helps, both physical and mental, but she also needs boundaries...

Dar is absolutely right! My border collie/lab mix would be right in our faces all the time if we didn't set some boundaries. We make her sit before EVERYTHING! I guess this sounds kinda funny, but, like Dar, if my dog gets too worked up then she gets sent to her room. I'm afraid that if she was all hyped and we took her out to "burn it off" that we'd be rewarding her for that behavior...
post #7 of 17
"Don't touch me Dodi" is the most common command I use with my aussie.

If you watch Cesar Milans "Dog Whisperer" her deals with people a lot who have a rescued dog who they feel sorry for whatever happened in the past- and they think they can pet and cuddle and love and spoil all that sad history away. What Cesar says is happeneing is that by loving and petting the dog when they are in an unstable and hyper state of mind- you are not calming them down- you are reinforcing the instable state of mind as a great place to be... makes sense! You have to wait till the dog is truly in a good relaxed state of mind before you reward their behavior.
post #8 of 17
Thread Starter 
Huh, very interesting.

So, what would you do, then, say when the dog is squirming up and won't stop? For instance - everybody's hanging out on the living room floor (two dogs, DH & me, and our 9-month-old DS). Zoe has been told to sit, but will scooch ever closer. She will even get up and insinuate herself between one of us and the baby, again trying to get her body as close to us as possible. When this happens, we will constantly tell her to go back, to sit, to lie down - and she will obey, but only for about five seconds. Then it's back to scooching. Eventually we get so annoyed that we end up putting her (and the other dog) outside. This sucks, and though they have a very nice doggy backyard, eventually it's going to be cold and rainy, and not really an option.

She has had obedience training, and was the class clown, unfortunately - she slipped out of her leash and ran this joyous circle around all the other dogs, with a huge grin on her face. Amusing, but frustrating. She really does want to please us, you can tell by her submissive body language (often when I tell her to "sit", she will end up groveling and get on her back). But it's always over the top, and ends up creating more distance.

That said, she also will have times when she's relaxed. Right now, the baby's napping, it's quiet, and she's hanging out in the living room with our lab. I can walk around the house or go see them and it's fine. However, if I got down on the floor, I can pretty much guarantee she'd want to be in my lap.

I haven't seen the Dog Whisperer (no TV), but I've heard about it. We read the Monks of New Skete book, but they didn't take into consideration people who've adopted adult dogs, I thought.

Anyway, I don't mean to sound like I'm blaming her - I know it's a combo of her experiences and my & DH's lack of knowledge about how to help her. I appreciate all your advice, and we're starting to have her sit before we give her attention now. It's also very good to know that it's not just our dog and us, but it's a breed thing!
post #9 of 17
Ochoho, we used to have the same problem with KD. (Red heeler). Still do, if we don't stay on him about it. If we're sitting on the floor, he gets to down and stay where we say. If he inches his way up at all-he has to back up, and down stay again. Took about two nights of constant "back". But, he has it. And if he has a night that he just can't handle not touching us (he's a very touchy dog-he wants to be touching me at all times-head, foot, tail, etc. just has to be making contact), he has to go away and lay at the end of the hallway where he can see us but not be with us. I "banish" him for a while-until he's completely bored, and resigned, and gone to sleep, then he can come back.

Not sure if thats the best way to handle it or not, but it works, and doesn't stress either of us out. And, I don't remember the last time I had to banish him.

post #10 of 17
My boyfriend has a newly adopted boston terrier/beagle mix. He is quite needy as well. I visit there a lot with my dog, and old girl of 10. If Wallace (the boston/beagle) starts getting hyper and trying to jump all over us when we are trying to eat, he is sent to his "box" (his crate) to lie down. He will run right in there, as though he knows he needs to calm himself. My dog does not get sent to a box, since she is not annoying us. Maybe just send the one dog outside when he starts getting needy, showing him that good dogs get to stay around the family, but annoying one go outside.

(Maybe someone can chime in and say if the dog would in fact notice the connection between good dog = inside, annoyingly needy = outside.)
post #11 of 17
I think getting the people off the floor would be a good first step.

Does she have things to do? Nana loves chew hooves and a few toys, so I make sure she has one of those on her blanket. When I tell her to go lie down, she generally goes and chews a bit.

And the other half of the equation would be the frequent walks and exercise, and also some good play sessions where she can get the physical contact, and also some mental stimulation stuff. Nana is allowed to lay at my feet and get rubbed with a toe every once in a while - I only have her "go lie down" if she's being obnoxious about getting close, and she's learned that. If I pet her she always gives one last nose-nudge, as if to say, "Are you *sure* you don't want to pet me some more?" but then she stops...

post #12 of 17
Re: your what do you do about schooching closer--it's working, so it continues. That's a major, major lesson about dogs. If it works, it will be repeated. If it ceases to work, it will be repeated in a big and frantic and maybe even more intense flurry and then it will gradually cease. It's like us turning on a car--if it runs, we'll turn the key the next time. If it won't run, we try turning the key fifty times, pounding the dashboard, doing a little dance on the accelerator, and saying "go, baby, go!"

Now the key to human (and dog) behavior is what happens next. If the car is just dead broken, we give up, leave, and don't go to the car again until it's time to get it ready for the tow truck. But--if it WORKS--if that whole repetition and song and dance works and the car reluctantly turns on--then we will be ready to go through the whole thing, maybe even twice as long, next time. Because we are pretty sure that it will eventually work.

Now enter the dog. Goal: lick your face. She tries it, and is rebuffed. She tries again, no dice. She wiggles her butt a little; you don't really care so she tries it again. She wiggles seventy-five times and manages to get close enough to touch your face with her nose--bingo! Goal achieved. She has now trained herself that the process for achieving touching is seventy-five wiggles, and she's a Border Collie, so the whole process and game is just as fun for her as the actual touching. The whole thing ends up being addictive and self-feeding.

What needs to happen is that NOTHING will get her a touch or any positive attention except her sitting, calmly, and looking away. That means you can't put her out, either; getting up and putting her out gets her attention and it feeds the game. You need to find a short, always negative signal, the equivalent of a growl (you can growl if you want; others use "bah!" or "SH!" or "EH!"). Your time to use it is going to be a long one, so save out ten minutes or so. Then sit down. When she *begins* the wiggle/sneaking ritual--don't wait until she even gets a fraction closer--shut it down with that negative sound. Don't look at her except to angrily say it. And now KEEP doing it every time she even looks like she's thinking about wiggling closer. Be right on top of her. The goal is to outlast her--keep doing it until she breaks, turns her head, and walks away. After that, the next time should be half the duration, and so on until she doesn't even try it anymore.

You'll need to provide her with appropriate methods to get your attention too; that's part of the transformation.
post #13 of 17
What Joanna and Dar have said and I'll add, Border Collies are animals that control their charges with their eyes--how else does a 38 lb dog control a herd of sheep, so eye contact is the ultimate.
For me, breed considered, I would growl (or bah, or eh, or whatever) but I would avoid eye contact until I thought that lightbulb was going off. when that happened I'd reward the dog with the eye contact.
post #14 of 17
Thread Starter 
Great information, thank you. Joanna, what you said about scooching makes perfect sense, and is so helpful. It's exactly what she does - and that's why she'll become more annoying when we rebuff her, of course. Ah-ha.

I'll have DH read this thread and we'll do what you (plural!) suggested. (Cool about the eye contact.) This is what I needed - I know there is a communication breakdown, but didn't know what it is we needed to do. So, we'll outlast her! I have been making both dogs sit before we do anything - going in, going out, getting pet, eating - they are doing well with it so far. We'll also get the crate back out and reintroduce her to it.

As for people being on the floor - well, DB is 9 months old, and that's pretty much where he is right now if someone isn't holding him. We hang out with him there. You are right that when we are on the couches/holding DB, Zoe's in our faces much less, but obviously we can't ban the baby from the floor. I also want to get control of her neediness when we have friends over, as she's also all over them, and that happens when they're sitting on couches, too. But this thread has been very helpful, and I really appreciate the advice. I also appreciate the insight into Border Collie behavior; I had assumed this was just a pound dog neurosis, but clearly it's a breed trait. And perhaps she's less of a mutt and more BC than I'd realized.
post #15 of 17
I read this before, but had no real advice for you (I knew you would get loads of excellent advice anyhow!).

BCs are scary smart : I always wanted one, but am afraid I would not be able to keep up. I read For the Love of a Dog recently, and it was awesome. Perhaps it would give you some more insight into BCs. Be forewarned though, it is a memoir, and it is a little sad.
post #16 of 17
I think that dh needs to take her to a training class. It sounds as if someone needs to establish themselves as the pack leader and they both need training. If you can afford it, you might even want to get a trainer to come to your house to help with the issues happening with the whole family around.

My other suggestion is that you take the crate back out. My 3 dogs are older and were recently acting very anxious. I took the crate back out and it changed the entire atmosphere of the house. When dd was the age of your babe, I put baby gates up to prevent the dogs from coming into the family room, where our dd was first crawling around. I'd put them on the other side of the gate when she was crawling around and we were on the floor or when I needed to leave dd on the floor while I was doing something, such as cooking. Use the crate when you all want to be on the floor w/out being bothered. However, put your dog in there at other times, too, so she doesn't feel like she's being punished and seeing you there isn't a tease to her. Give her something to chew on while in there, too. It's great to use at night (and will prevent her from getting up on the bed).

Good luck and hang in there. This can be a very tough year. The dogs are now down a notch on the attention meter and it may take them some getting used to.
post #17 of 17
Thread Starter 
Hey, thanks for the book recommendation. I'm always looking for new things to read, something to do while nursing DB...

Can I tell you, the suggestions have been so good, we've already noticed a difference. They both sit before anything. They used to come in from outside and tear around the house, freaking out, jumping, etc. Now they sit. I talk to them calmly, but do the AH! thing if they move. Once they've settled, they get pets and nice words. It really has made that transition better. The scootching still happens, but she definitely is checked by that AH!, and she'll stop and move back (I confess, I doubted it would work!). In fact, I was sitting next to the baby on the ground and she was across the room - I called her over to give her some good attention, as we'd been v. vigilant about keeping her off of us, and she stopped about a foot and a half from us and laid down! !!! That's a first. So, it's exciting that this is working, and exciting that Zoe is such a smart girl that she's already getting it. Oh, and for some reason I missed your post, Laurel, but that's interesting about the banishment down the hall - I will try that next time instead of just herding everybody outside.

We do use baby gates and like them, and the dogs don't seem to mind, either. Now that I am better informed about BC personality traits, I feel a lot less guilty - Zoe is very submissive, and just looks kinda sad, and I felt like an a-hole pushing her away. Now I realize that she's just relentless and it's her thing! One good thing about putting this focus on the issue is that I'm really taking extra time and effort to give her good attention when we're inside. As you said, MBTR, the dogs (and DH ) are down on the attention meter since my ever-fascinating DB came along, and it's an adjustment. I do feel like it's good to right that balance a bit, esp. now as the baby is becoming a little more independent (ie able to sit up & move around on his own).

So - thank you all so much. I can't tell you how much better I feel about this situation, and I think our dogs will feel better as well. I'm sure that it's going to take a bit, but I've got your suggestions saved on email, so I can come back to them if I feel we're slipping.
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