Once I gave up on Toby and decided I needed a border collie, we started fostering for border collie rescue so I could get some experience with the breed and find the right dog. Our first foster was Laila, a very sweet 8 month old tri girl. She was so sweet and so smart, a very easy introduction to the breed. It wasn't a love connection for me, but I loved working with her and Toby and Maxie seemed totally fine with her. Laila was all set to move up to Michigan and start her new life when Toby attacked her.
It happened seemingly out of nowhere. Toby was running in the yard with a toy, Laila came towards him parallel. He dropped the toy and latched onto her head. And shook her. And would not let go. This is another memory that is etched in my mind. I can't say how long it was before my mom and I managed to detach him, but it seemed like forever. Never, ever, ever, in my wildest dreams would I have guessed that would have happened. From my perspective, Toby had never shown any signs of aggression. Certainly the attack was without warning. No growling, snarling, nothing? Laila, ultimately, was fine. I think we can owe that to the fact that Toby is a golden retriever, probably not a lot of jaw strength there.
After this incident, a few things happened. The good thing that happened was that both my mom and I realized that we needed to learn a lot more about dog behavior. The bad thing was that Toby started reacting very strongly to the sight of any and all border collies. The resentment I started feeling towards Toby was awful. I don't think it is a stretch to say that I hated him. He had been around so many dogs without issue, so many foster dogs passed through our home, so why her? And now, all border collies. This one dog stood in the way of what I wanted for so many years.
These feelings, luckily, did not stop me from learning everything I could about stress, fear, and aggression in dogs. I attribute most of my education and Toby's training to a few different sources: Control Unleashed, Click to Calm by Emma Parsons, Protocol for Relaxation by Karen Overall, and Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas. Ultimately, it was my mom who worked with him the most, as at this point we had both decided that I really shouldn't be doing anything with Toby because he essentially could not function without her. Which was fine with me, of course, since I was not very fond of him.
In the time that we've had him, Toby has attacked two different dogs in the same manner, with Laila being the first. The last one was nearly 7 years ago now. My mother and I both have gotten good at telling where his threshold is and how to manage his stress level. We also began to realize just how stressed out Toby was all the time, and I mean ALL the time. We have learned to read more subtle signs of stress and potential reactivity/aggression. Toby, in turn, has gained a much higher threshold for stress and has learned more obvious and appropriate body language for interacting with other dogs.
Panic came into my life about a year after all of this began. For the first few months I had him, I was living exclusively with my father. Panic and Toby never saw one another. The first time we attempted to introduce them, Toby began reacting before he even saw Panic--the thinking being that he had smelled Panic on me and recognized the scent from afar. I was discouraged, but I knew it had to work out. Panic was my dog, and nothing was going to get in the way of that. It took us about six months (and a lot of work) to integrate them into the same household. Today, they certainly coexist peacefully. Definitely best case scenario.
I thought I'd be able to wrap this up in two parts, but there will have to be one more.