I don’t usually foster dogs, but Crumbie stole my heart when I very first visited! When his owners said that they were thinking of rehoming him (a decision I support) but that all rescues are full, I just wanted to make sure that he has the best chance of finding the perfect forever home!
Crumbie is a friendly, very loving, 10-month-old border collie who I am currently fostering, while I find him a forever home. Crumbie found living on a busy road in Leicester very difficult, and became very worried about traffic. He lived with a family with two young boys and not much space or garden, with family and friends coming and going a lot. He started to get very over-aroused and stressed, both in the home and on walks, which resulted in a lot of frustration and anxiety. After contacting me and trying everything they could, the family made the decision to rehome Crumbie, which I think was the right decision.
When Crumbie arrived, it was after a weekend on a farm on trial, then a week’s stay in kennels, so we were the third new place he had been left at in two weeks. When his owners left he was very anxious, and worried. However, by the second day, he was starting to settle down and now, after 10 days here, he is like a different dog. He can relax and settle well with the door open into the garden, and can be left in a room or outside pen for up to 2 or 3 hours while we are working (we work from home) and can settle well. When with us in our lounge in the evening, he can mostly relax and snooze but sometimes he may settle for short periods but then starts to become anxious and will bark at noises he can hear outside or on the TV. This is much improved and is continuing to improve, although he is always much happier with access to the outside. It will be a case of teaching Crumbie that he can relax and not worry about these things, and I can provide a full training plan for this.
Crumbie is very clean in the house and sleeps well overnight in his crate. He settles quickly and is happy to go into his crate with a lickimat at bedtime He hasn’t chewed or caused any damage in the house, but he will need to be kept well-occupied, like any collie puppy of his age. He is very toy and food motivated and easy to train – he naturally checks in with me a lot on walks and loves being with me above all else.
Crumbie, like any dog that has been rehomed, has a number of issues:
- Lunging, barking, and spinning at passing vehicles on walks.
- Barking at occasional sounds he can hear outside the house – mow much improved since he arrived here 5 days ago.
- Getting very anxious when people leave rooms – barking and frenzied jumping up – also much improved.
- Pulling on the lead, especially when he is anxious. He can walk nicely in very quiet countryside.
Crumbie needs the following features in a new home:
- A quiet location OR owners who are willing to drive him somewhere for quiet, traffic-free for walks every day.
- No gardens running parallel and close to a road – he will fence run and this will make his traffic issues worse.
- Someone with time to work on his traffic fears – I will provide a training plan.
- No very young children living at the home (he is very good with children but just becomes overstimulated around the movement and noise)
- No cats – he will chase cats.
- He would enjoy being with other dogs – he is very good with other dogs, and reads their body language well.
Training and Behaviour Plan
I will provide the new owner with a full training plan for Crumbie which will include:
Helping him to cope with passing vehicles:
This is a REALLY common behaviour problem with collies and usually occurs because they have been exposed to busy roads, very loud traffic or have experienced traffic whizzing by at high speeds. As a breed, the best collies for sheep work have been bred from for many generations. The best collies for sheep work have sensitive hearing, to be able to hear the shepherd’s commands from very far away, and also great eyesight, to be able to spot sheep from far away in valleys and on hillsides. Vehicles that whiz past appear suddenly and are very loud, which for sound-sensitive collies can often be more than they can bear and they are terrified. They are also very aroused by the sight of movement – collies find all movement very stimulating. Traffic ticks both of these boxes. So when traffic passes, which means they are usually near a road, and therefore on a lead to keep them safe, our collies are scared, and their fight or flight instinct kicks in. They can’t “flight” (get away) because they are on a lead, so they are forced to “fight”: they lunge and bark at the vehicle in an attempt to get it to go away. So cars approach, collies bark and lunge and the car goes away (because it was going away regardless of what the dog does). The dog, however, learns that their barking and lunging behaviour works and the traffic goes away. This reinforces the behaviour and makes it more likely to happen in the same situation the next time, and so on. Over time, as collies become more confident that their behaviour will work, then the behaviour actually starts to become fun – they can control the situation and chasing anything is intrinsically reinforcing. Chasing is fun, especially when the “prey” goes away. So we have a mix of underlying fear and adrenaline, and intrinsic reinforcement. That’s a lot going on in a collie’s brain and they just can’t cope.
This is what has been reinforcing Crumbie’s behaviour for the last 8 months, since his owners took him to live in Leicester. So it’s going to take a long while to retrain Crumbie to behave differently when he encounters traffic. During this time, it’s important to try to prevent him from practising the behaviour, because the more often a behaviour is reinforced, the more likely he will be to continue to perform it. Therefore he will need keeping away from traffic completely.
As well as preventing him from practising the behaviour, Crumbie will need desensitising to traffic by taking him to locations where he can observe traffic from a distance at which he feels safe, gradually working close until he can cope at closer distances. He also panics when he hears car engines start up, so there will be some training to do around this. This will be quite time-consuming and could take up to a year to improve, but Crumbie hopefully has many years ahead of him and helping him with this now will reap great rewards for him and his future owners in the long term. Keeping him right away from traffic for a good 6 months will be key to any improvement and is the most important part of the training plan.
Helping Crumbie to relax
Crumbie will need help with learning to relax when he is with you in the house or garden. He can currently settle for a few minutes, but then may bark at external noises or noises on the tv. He will need to be taught that he is safe and doesn’t need to panic when he hears noises.
There will be work to do on lead training and I will provide a training plan for this.
Please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org if you think you would be a good home for Crumbie.