Fearful Rescue Collie


Share one visitor's concerns for her fearful rescue Collie. Can this dog's insecurities and anxiety behaviors ever be overcome? The Dog Expert believes that with loving patience and some professional help, this scared pet can be rehabilitated.

Challenge: Rehabilitating a Frightened Rescue Collie

We have two Collies we adopted from a Collie rescue. The female, Pammy, suffered a severe trauma apparently at the hands of the unscrupulous breeder who dumped her. She is missing the tip of her nose. We don't know what exactly happened, but it must have been bad. Obviously, she is easily scared.

We've had her since March 2007, and she is approximately five years old. She was making great progress with us and would even roll on her back for tummy rubs. She used walk on a leash with us along with Sage, our other Collie.

Suddenly, it is as though someone has hit her "reset" button. She's terrified to walk outside on a leash; she just sits down now when she used to walk on a leash without a problem. My husband literally has to carry her out of our yard before she will walk, but she wants to come back quickly. She is very food motivated and has gained weight because she is so sedentary. We just want her to be able to live out the remainder of her life comfortably. Do you think anti-anxiety medication is warranted?

~~ Parks

Expert Reply

Hi Parks,

First, let me commend you on adopting Pammy. You are giving her a beautiful life she might not otherwise have known. I also commend you on committing to working with her behavior issues rather than taking her back to the rescue.

It sounds as though Pammy had a traumatic history, and she might have seen or smelled something that triggered a memory of her earlier life before you took her into your family. Personally, I shy away from medications in these types of situations and prefer to try to alter the behavior. In my experience, it's usually more effective. Medication can be used as a last resort once you have exercised your other options.

I think that in your situation, you could use the services of a canine behaviorist. This training professional will come to your home and discuss Pammy's history with you, as well as her current relapse into fearful behavior. Next, the behaviorist will observe Pammy's behavior in her home setting as you go about your routine together. To a trained eye, this may reveal clues why Pammy is currently behaving the way she is. From this point, the behaviorist will teach you ways to recondition Pammy to lessen her insecurities. I think you would find this one-on-one service most helpful.

Finally, keep reassuring Pammy with lots of love and kind words when she is stressing out. This too is part of conditioning her to understand that she can always trust and rely on you and your husband.

Thanks for your question and please let us know how things progress.

~~ Kelly

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