Met a new dog, a Border Collie named Chewie at the dog park yesterday. Nice dog, with some nice people. Mom and two kids had brought him, because he needed off-leash exercise. He belonged to someone who stuck him in a backyard and forgot him, and someone they knew (a dog trainer) convinced them to give the dog up.
Chewie tries to herd the kids, but they're working on stopping that. They've started obedience training, but the trainer feels that they may have to tread lightly because the dog appears to have been corrected harshly. They haven't had him for very long, and he is not all that responsive to his name. A couple of things came up while they were there (it was rainy, so we were the only ones there, and she said that he is much more nervous in a more crowded setting), and I am not sure if there is anything more I could've told her about this.

He doesn't seem to understand play. Khan and Pan wrestling brought out the circle-bark dog in him. From experience, I know that this totally ticks off a lot of dogs and could get him into trouble. Ditto when I was playing soccer with Pan. He will stand there with a glazed over look in his eyes, just staring, if he anticipates that someone is going to play. Although he normally keeps track of his humans, he didn't even notice when they decided to leave. I had to stop playing, call his name in a high pitched voice, and trot over to the gate with him, all happy-clappy, to get him out.
All I could offer was to continue with the obedience training so that he can be called off if he starts obnoxious behavior, to find a distraction that he responds to (he doesn't play with toys when he is outdoors; I didn't have my bago'toys with me, so I couldn't test him out on different types of toys), and to remove his privileges (leash him or remove him from the dog park) if he starts up and doesn't listen.

I'm not sure if there is more I could've told them. Any ideas? I'm pretty sure they'll be back.
Suja
He doesn't seem to understand play. Khan and Pan wrestling brought out the circle-bark dog in him. From experience, I know that this totally ticks off a lot of dogs and could get him into trouble.

Yeah, BCs are often just not good candidates for off-leash parks, particularly crowded ones. It can help to get the dog focused on an activity with the owner, rather than just letting them do their own thing.
Ditto when I was playing soccer with Pan. He will stand there with a glazed over look in his eyes, just staring, if he anticipates that someone is going to play.

This sounds very border collie. That dog is mentally zooming in on the anticipation of movement, and the possibility of being able to control that movement.
All I could offer was to continue with the obedience training so that he can be called off if he ... listen. I'm not sure if there is more I could've told them. Any ideas? I'm pretty sure they'll be back.

Those all sound like very good suggestions, with the possible addition of a suggestion that they may need to forego unstructured playtime at dog parks, at least until they've built more of a relationship with the dog.

Stafford A. Rau, Border Collie Enthusiast
I don't think any of this is Border Collie specific. How old is the dog? If he was neglected, he probably needs to be taught that people are interesting in the first place. If this were my dog I would work on developing a relationship with the dog before bringing him to dog parks. A bit of benign NILIF and lots of people/dog games will help. Then I'd start worrying about any dog/dog issues.

Melanie Lee Chang * (Email Removed)
Canine Behavioral Genetics Project
University of California, San Francisco
http://psych.ucsf.edu/K9BehavioralGenetics/