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Reactivity and Lifestyle changes

Who should we discuss first — Gypsy or me? Gypsy!

So this is what has happened today:  I gave her about 1mg of melatonin and she was very calm all day. My neighbors weren’t home a lot. Gypsy was very sleepy and slept most of the day. That’s not really the result I wanted but I was able to reward her quite a bit when there was a sound because she was slower to respond.  Tomorrow I go back to work so no melatonin before I leave. We have our corgi walk tomorrow after work too.

This afternoon I went over to agility friend’s house to buy a used dremel.  She has a young papillon who is quite friendly and who Gypsy kind of knows but they’d never been face to face. I took Gypsy in their yard on leash. Sunny was off leash and was very friendly. Gypsy and he smelled and sniffed and were great together. I didn’t let her off leash but did reward her quite a bit for her interaction with him. It was great. She greeted him and then pretty much ignored him. It was her all-or-nothing response–either she doesn’t care at all or cares a lot. In this case she didn’t care. It was good though.

This evening we went to a nearby state park where we used to go until now they require a pass. For my birthday I bought the pass because it gets me into other state parks and it’s not too expensive. There are places I want to go this summer, and the park we went to tonight is really nice for after-work walks and training because it’s very close and not too crowded. There were two smaller dogs walking around the park that had some leash reactivity.One was barking and lunging and the other was just pulling. They weren’t aggressive but they were reactive on leash. I’m proud to say we walked by them at a safe distance and Gypsy completely ignored them. She didn’t care one bit that these dog were reacting to her. We kept about 20 feet away since it was obvious we were in the other dogs’ reactive zones. I was really proud of her for not even acknowledging they existed!

So onto me– Not that I don’t have enough going on with work and training and behavior modification — I am starting a new fitness program because I really have to change some of my own health.  I am very much out of shape and at a weight and look I do not like one bit. I started this morning and it’s 6x a week. Thankfully I work out at home. Yet the thought of waking up extra early is already making me sick. However I must do it before work.  My dogs need me to be healthy and have more energy. I know they think I’m a lazy slug sometimes. So I’m making some changes.  Gypsy and I are both going through a transformation.

Today I am thankful for all the service men, women and canine who fought for our freedom.

 

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2012 in week 11

 

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Reactive barking, good progress and my birthday

First, I’ll start out with this week– we’ve done a lot of the Look at That game with objects, not dogs. I know Dr. Yin said to be careful with this game because if the dog is looking at it, they are thinking about it. But using toys or leashes or something completely neutral, I am able to start using this game to teach her she can take a quick glance but the reward comes from me. So that’s what we have been working on this week and it’s going great so far.

Yesterday was my birthday. We went to one of the local islands to a beach and there were 4 dogs total, my 2, one Gypsy knows well and another she just met. Dasher is a 2 year old lab and very active. Gypsy did great with her for just meeting her.  I was really impressed and happy.  We did a lot of walking and playing on the beach.  There were other dogs who walked by on the beach that she had no reaction to either. The distance was way below her threshold but it was great to see. I think a lot of the training we’ve been doing has allowed her to work under threshold a lot longer. This is awesome.

So back to what I don’t like — she’s still noise reactive at home. Every single sound makes her bark. I am having a hard time counter conditioning it because I literally have to click and treat all day long. It is just not possible. The melatonin helps a little — it really just depends on how noisy my neighbors are and what’s going on outside. I am not having a lot of success in fixing it. It’s all noise-related so at least I’ve been able to narrow that down.  Now I have to see how I can work on it with success.

Today I am thankful for another trip around the sun.

Family photo on my 35th birthday.

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2012 in Week 10

 

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Week 10 underway and doing ok

Gypsy and I are plugging along as we’re in week 10. I need to work more on our heeling and leash exercises as we haven’t done much of that lately.  I also need to be more vigilant about her sitting to say please.

Overall though we’ve had ups and downs as usual. She’s still barking at home when even no one is upstairs and all the blinds are closed, as it has become a habit, but we’ve also done some CC in the yard and really working on the Look at That game with windows and lights and non-dog objects. We are also working mat work more and I ordered her a special Mutt Mat which we’ll get in a few days so we can work our mat work outside, at parks, at class, etc.  She doesn’t really have a designated mat in the house so it will be nice to have one she knows is her ‘safe place’ or ‘home base’ as you will.

Nothing really better or worse today.  I guess that’s not too bad.

Today I am thankful for a pending promotion at work so I can afford to play more and train more with my dogs.

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2012 in Week 10

 

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A good week and a great blog

The last few days have been pretty good. Agility class on Thursday went really well. No Thundershirt! Very short ribbon and a tab and she was nailing the course of jumps! I was really proud of her.

Today we went to our Growly Dog 2 class and she did really well with Winston, a little terrier who also isn’t super reactive. Gypsy and him have been working together because they are similar and today Gypsy smelled his butt. She got a click and lots of treats.

Then today we went to Green Lake for a walk. For the most part she was really good. There were two circumstances where we had a leash lunge and both time we weren’t walking. Green Lake is super busy on a Saturday afternoon and also very stimulating. There are LOTS of dogs, people, bikes, skateboards, and smells. Overall she’s doing so much better than she was just a month or two ago. The last time we were there was kind of a disaster with her completely disconnected from me. Today was much better.

Today I am watching the 4 DVD set of Leslie McDevitt’s Control Unleashed seminar. Since we finished our first CU class and didn’t sign up for the next class, I wanted to watch this seminar, see Leslie demo the games and see how Leslie talks about reactive dogs and the example dogs in the seminar. There’s some great things in this video. Some things I’ve heard before in a different setting–not related to stressed or reactive dogs. What I’m getting from the first part of this series is that I really need to work on my mat work and I need to change the mat at home. I need a special mat that can go anywhere I go, whether to trials, trips, hotels, other peoples’ homes, the park, etc. That’s not what I have so we’re going to get a special mat and really dig into the mat work.  I will probably use a lot of the CU method but also maybe work Dr. Yin’s method with the Manners Minder. I’m not sure I want to use the MM though so I’ll see what is best for Gypsy.

She’s still reactive at home this week. Last night my upstairs neighbors were being very loud packing for a trip. Gypsy was super hypervigilant. I need to video the next time it happens so I can show Dr. Yin if I ever email her or request additional help. I want to have it to show her. I’m pretty sure it will happen again, as it does  every weekend when their home and I’m home. Today and tomorrow they are out of town and it’s pretty quiet and Gypsy has been better.  She still likes the bark at the neighbor across the fence when the light is on in their bathroom.  I had to have Gypsy chill in her crate with the door closed for about an hour last night so she could cool down. That helped.

Also, she’s still doing some melatonin. I have found it helpful. It’s not as good as I had hoped on weekends, but it’s better than nothing. The Comfort Zone spray is also doing ok too I think. It’s hard to tell because of other environmental factors but it does seem to help.

Finally, Dr. Yin posted a blog today about running exercise with dogs, which I have no interest in but I did click on the link and one of her related links was a great blog from 2011 that I never saw before! It’s called Dog Training Tip: Why Cigarettes are More Addicting than Heroin and How It Applies to Dog Training.

I LOVE this blog. I love the science. I love that there’s research behind the training methods. That really helps me understand my own dogs’ needs rather than just a trainer saying “do this” without offering support. This is why I really trust Dr. Yin. She does much of the research herself and if she doesn’t, she looks into to findings and states her own opinion on the results. Every dog owner should read this blog so they can have more success in their training. Read it!!

Today I am thankful for Control Unleashed, Leslie McDevitt and all the tools I have learned in my dog training progress.

Gypsy at the park today

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2012 in 9th week

 

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Agility trial, hello week 9 and kidney stone update

Wow, hello week 9! How has this happened??

So I signed up for this CPE trial months ago. I only signed Gypsy up for 2 standard runs because I really wanted it to be a test. The trial was 2 ring, which is more noisy and active. It was our first 2-ring trial too. I wanted to focus on her runs and behavior in the crating area.

She did fantastic! She was very calm in her crate. I gave her some melatonin and calming spray in her crate. I think it really did help. Last weekend at the TDAA trial she was really nervous. She wouldn’t even eat her bully stick. Yesterday she was very happy munching on it in her crate. It was also very hot yesterday (I know! Hot is 75 in Seattle!!). It really was warm though in the arena. I know dogs get a little cranky when it’s warm. There is also not a lot of crating space.  The dogs were very close to each other. Going in and out of her crate was awesome! She didn’t make a peep, didn’t really look at any of the other dogs, and was just awesome!!!  The only reactivity she had was with one particular dog in a pretty pink crate who made a large commotion when any dog walked by. Because it was a small dog in a pink crate I think it startled Gypsy more than anything. So she barked at it while we walked by BUT only if it barked first.  When the owner got fed up with its reactivity, they turned the crate around and it was more quiet. When that dog was quiet, we walked by a few times and Gypsy had no reaction!!!

At the ring gates, I didn’t hold her like I had in the past. I had my treats and we played hand touch games and ran in little circles. Inside the ring waiting to run (we were first dog in both runs) we did more hand touches and circles. She was very disconnected from me in the first run, ran over a few obstacles, ran around the back and then we finished the course. It was 11 seconds!! I still gave her treats afterwards but not high value ones.

On her second standard run, again we played more games at the start line. I asked for a sit and she did. I tried to get a lead out but she didn’t let me. Still, we were more connected. She made it almost to the end until my handling got in the way and she went to the gate, then came back, then thought about what to do, then came back, then back jumped a jump where I got her moving again and we finished and Q’d!! It wasn’t a pretty run but it was very successful. She came back and didn’t react or get too stressed out. She looked stressed but then found me for leadership and we finished. She got HUGE praise at the end of the run!!

A friend of mine sells treats and toys during trials. She’s also the only one I know who gets raw freeze-dried tripe treats. It’s magic treats. I had already gotten a few bags of tripe before that last run so she got a few pieces of tripe after that.

I was so proud of her. She did so good and looked relatively relaxed. We won’t do another trial for about 2 months to work more on L2E and everything else. As Dr. Yin said, you want to keep them under threshold while you do L2E. Trials are the closest to threshold you can do and the most arousal you can do so it’s not optimal for L2E training.

So improvements: 2 months ago, she couldn’t wait outside the ring gates ready to get in the ring. I had to hold her or run to the gate when they called is. Yesterday she was happy doing our warm up exercises.  2 months ago she was more reactive walking by all the crates in small, close proximity. Yesterday, she was focused on me as we walked by.  2 months ago, she ran out of the ring (well into the chute at least) totally stressed out and not knowing what to do.  Yesterday, she didn’t do that. She did her own course out of stress, but then the 2nd run she looked to me to guide her and didn’t react to her stress and we finished with good success!!! I’m so proud of all our hard work. Baby, corgi steps!!!

And today I found out the CT scan is definitely negative for a kidney stone. The doc goes off that more than the x-ray. So no stone. So what’s causing my pain? Not sure yet but doc said everything else on my CT was normal so that’s good news. I’ll find an internist this week and get checked out and have them review the CT film just to make sure they don’t see anything someone else missed. In the meantime the pain isn’t as bad. It hurt a little yesterday but overall was manageable.

Today I am thankful I can play agility with my reactive dog because we’re working so hard on our teamwork!

Gyspy’s ribbons CPE Level 1. 5/13/12 – One 2nd place for the run she made up on her own (because there were only 2 dogs in her category!!). And then there’s a Q ribbon, a 2nd place ribbon and a new title ribbon for her 2nd standard run and finishing her Level 1 Standard title. 🙂

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2012 in 9th week

 

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Busy week, kidney stones and a neurotic dog

Wow, what an interesting week and it’s now Saturday evening. I have neglected this blog the last few days.

Let’s see–Tuesday nothing interesting. We worked on some backyard agility for our online class.

Wednesday – I don’t remember but nothing stands out

Thursday-Gypsy rocked agility class without a Thundershirt. She was really focused, didn’t take off and understood my handling.

Friday — wow what a day. I had been feeling some pain in my back the last few days and decided to call the doctor yesterday (the urologist). About a year and a half ago I had a kidney stone. It passed in a week. The pain I feel now is similar to that pain. Well, the radiologist saw a stone on the x-ray but not on the CT scan. So I don’t even know if I have a stone or not or if this pain is something else. That is what bothers me the most. So yesterday I was at the doctors all afternoon. In the evening the pain was pretty mild and we went to Four Paw to practice our agility handling homework. It was an eye opener, doing a sequence without arms and really mapping out cues.  It was like what Dr. Yin says when the dog feels a sigh or breath of relief because you’re finally speaking her language. That’s the way I feel like the handling session went. Gypsy made more eye contact with me than she has ever done before!  We were both tired after that.

Today: Today she did great in her Growly Dog 2 class. There was only 1 other dog besides Gypsy and he’s pretty low-key. She didn’t cross threshold at all.  Afterwards we went to the beach and chilled in the sand and sun because it was a beautiful day today.  When we got home, the neighbors were kind of noisy and she went a little balistic. CC wasn’t doing any good. It was like I described last week or the week before where she was pacing, whining, being hypervigilant, and barking.  When we got home from the beach I gave her some rescue remedy but her reactivity got worse. So she got about 1mg of melatonin. It took about an hour to help relax her (on top of closing blinds and putting her on leash), but now I think she’s relaxed. I can’t really work the CC now because it’s dark and the noises are gone.

Earlier in the week I talked to the vet about meds and we decided to try melatonin for a few weeks. I think it’s helping. We have an agility trial tomorrow and I’ll be giving her melatonin there to see if it helps take the edge off.  I hope so.

Today I am thankful for good doctors, loving dogs, and Aleve. Ouch.

Gypsy at the beach today. It was a beautiful day.

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2012 in 8th week

 

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Training at the vet — and wow it’s week 8!

We didn’t do much work today at home. After work I took Apollo to the vet for his eyes. I brought Gypsy along because we were meeting a friend for a walk at the park afterwards. Gypsy was a little OCD with a cat in a crate in the waiting area. She stared at it unless I treated. There was only one other dog in the waiting area and I picked her up and she was fine.

In the exam room, she looked perfectly happy! She wasn’t worried at all. She stayed on the floor while the doctor looked at Apollo.  Gypsy was very good and it’s amazing how at home she has a meltdown but at the vet she’s ok. I guess that’s good because I want the vet to be a positive place.

I told our vet about what Dr. Yin said about Gypsy not being able to handle her anxiety and told her I was about to the point of researching meds. She did seem to want to try Rescue Remedy and Melatonin first, which I do agree with since it’s much less harmful. I told her I would try melatonin for a few weeks and if it didn’t help, I would make an appointment and we can talk about meds.  I hope it works. I really don’t want to use meds. But as she said, some dogs really do need extra help. I told her I can’t click and treat all day long and that’s pretty much what I have to do. I never want meds to be permanent if that’s the way we go. So I’ll try some melatonin in the evenings when I get home from work and then 2x a day on weekends, every 8-10 hours and we’ll try for 2-3 weeks.

Today I am thankful we had a nice walk in the park after the vet and there were no reactions.

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2012 in 8th week

 

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