Adopted Aussie Help
My boyfriend and I just adopted a unspayed 3 year old female blue merle Aussie. She was un-socialized and under exercised - spending 12 - 18 hours a day in a finished basement. We have had her for three weeks now. She is very smart, loving and easy to train - we taught her sit, down, roll over, shake and crawl in one week. We take her for trail runs 2 - 3 times a week, play frisbee and fetch. We also take her to the dog park and around the neighborhood to run and socialize with other dogs and owners.
We have had behavior issues with her barking / lunging at strangers who approach the house or car we are in, including his brother who lives in the house. She also goes crazy anytime she thinks she hears something - like a creak in the house. No nipping or biting, at least not yet. And no issues when we are out in public. We have tried getting her attention / distraction with treats (beggin strip pieces are her jackpot) and then walking her to the brother or neighbor and have them give her treats.
Yesterday she was barking and I thought I would ignore her until she calmed down and then use a "quiet" command. Something outside was bothering her, so I opened the door to show her nothing was there. She bolted out the door and into the neighbor's yard to bark aggressively at them. I immediately tried 5 minutes "time out" in the garage and had to do it 3 more times. She knew by the last time she was going to time out and stopped. But later that night she barked at the brother again. She can be cool with him one minute, but if he moves in the other room or tries to go upstairs, she will try to bolt and bark at him. I now keep her on a lead when we are downstairs in the "living areas" of the house so I can control her when she starts to get anxious and prevent her from starting to bark. I try to walk her to the area of the house where the movement or noise came from to show her in a controlled manner that everything is "ok". Her crate is upstairs in the bedroom and she is perfectly quiet and calm when in the bedroom or the crate.
I don't know if we are doing the right thing, and it has brought me to tears. I want this to work so bad and am willing to do anything we need to. Today I am going to try the squirt bottle with water / vinegar in it anytime she is aggressive. Any other ideas or suggestions? I bought an electric bark collar but really don't want to use it. She is really a timid / scared animal but I don't know if it is fear aggression or guarding we are dealing with. And it doesn't help that she is now in heat. I have even started to give her a homeopathic supplement for dogs in her water that is meant to help calm her down and ease her anxiety to reduce barking. I have been trying to give her as much exercise as possible so she is more calm.