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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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It’s been a rough evening

I’ll start with yesterday since we didn’t post. It wasn’t too exciting, though. We went to our Growly Dog 2 class and it was ok. There were only 2 of us in class and it wasn’t very effective to what Gypsy needs. We were able to help the other dog though, so that was good. But for Gypsy, it wasn’t much help. It was still good. We mainly did BAT setups in the classroom and I worked with Gypsy off leash in our little boxed in area.  Then I had to run some errands and in the evening she was pretty quiet for a weekend.

Today was a different story. We got up early and went to a TDAA trial about 90 minutes away. It was her first TDAA trial in 2 months and I wanted to see if anything got better. In a nutshell— yes and no.  Yes, she was much better with the dogs around her. She saw dogs while she pottied and we walked around, as well as going up to the entry of the ring. I didn’t carry her in this time.  She was much better with that. But once in the ring, she was not thrilled for the most part. She didn’t even want to get out of her crate, which is very odd and disturbing for her.  I don’t know why that was. She even had a bully stick she didn’t finish. She ate a whole one in class the other day but today didn’t want to chew on it much.

I did have her Thundershirt on, and sometimes she thinks the world is coming to an end when that happens. It could be a factor.  The runs didn’t go great, but I did experiment with a few things, she was better with her startline stay, she nailed in contacts (running too!!) and had fun. The most fun she had was when we ran FEO in a beginner’s run instead of intermediate. She’s technically an intermediate level but the courses weren’t too fun for her and so I dropped her down for FEO and she did fantastic!!

On that beginner FEO run, a person at the trial had a border collie about 5 feet off the gates. Gypsy spotted him and started freaking out. She was totally fixated. She would not sit for me at the startline or connect with me. So I had her ribbon, just ran in circles with me, back and forth and got her ramped up, and then I just said “GO!” And she didn’t look back at that BC again!!! It’s interesting because when I did the startline stay I wasn’t as ramped up as I was with the BC incident and she wasn’t feelin’ it much. I guess I was too concerned about the stay so I didn’t look fun.  I think that was our revelation of the day.

Back home, it got worse. We fell asleep on the couch and I thought all was good. But then she started fixating on noises outside. I took her outside and my landlord was in the front yard gardening. We did do a lot of click/reward and some recalls but she was still very hypervigilant and stressed out.  She looked really stressed out.  We came inside and she still looked really stressed out. I tried to calm her but it wasn’t working. I tried to click and reward and it didn’t work. So I put her in her crate, with the door open, and just pet her. She stayed in there about 20 minutes and that did calm her down. Then I took her near the couch on leash and sat with her on the floor. She found a squeaky penguin toy and just went to town on it like she was releasing all of her stress. She was squeaking it like crazy and then proceeded to try to remove all the stuffing. She didn’t pull out much. We even played a little tug with it. Whether the intention for her was stress relief or not, I tend to believe it was since she doesn’t usually get toys out of the blue on her own, let alone this penguin one.  She just went crazy with squeaking it like she was beating the hell out of it like a punching bag.

After she calmed down I gave her a rawhide to chew while I did a few things around the house. I don’t know if it was the anxiety or the bone or both, but Apollo came up to the x-pen barrier and she stared and then lunged at him. He ran away. She couldn’t have gotten to her because of the barrier but I wasn’t happy with that behavior at all since I think that’s what happened the other night because there was a rawhide on the floor in the bedroom when we had that incident the other night.

So after that, I don’t know what to do. I’ve been thinking today of trying some melatonin this week to see if it helps take the edge off. Apollo goes the the vet tomorrow for his eyes and I may talk to the vet about some anti-anxiety meds. I don’t know her stance on them, but after she was so overthreshold in her own backyard just by seeing someone through the gate (she also reacted when my mom and dad were standing outside the gate last week and I went to let them in, so it’s not just people she doesn’t recognize right away), plus the anxiety in the house and hypervigilance, I just so badly wanted to help her feel better. She was panting, moving every which way, and just very very anxious. I really don’t want drugs, but I would like her to be able to feel “normal” while we work through the fear and so some CC and OC because it’s not really working on it’s own. She treats it as a game or a training session and when the session is over, so is the work. She hasn’t yet transferred it to real life and I honestly don’t know how to make that happen.  I can’t just click and treat all day. She just can’t eat that much.

If anyone is reading this, please let me know if you have any experience with anti-anxiety drugs for your dogs, like Prozac or Xanex.  I found this blog today — it’s a little outdated, but interesting nevertheless and something to talk to my vet about.

Today I am thankful I worked hard to get through to my dog and try to show her that she can lead a calm life.  Someday I’d like to be thankful it actually happened, and not just a wish.

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2012 in 7th week

 

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Classical Conditioning neighbor noises

Here we are… week 6…

Today we got a lot of sessions in classically conditioning/operant conditioning neighbor noises. I was able to click and  treat noises and then she looked in the direction of the noise. I clicked and treated that when she didn’t bark. Soon she was doing a head whip waiting for the click. I think I need to use the clicker more than I have been with this game. So far so good. And the SHHH is going well too. No naughty behavior chains yet.

We also worked on our contact training tonight. She did really really good!! She had fun, was focused back to the table and didn’t jump more than just a handful of times of more than 20 reps. It was really nice. Tomorrow I may move the Manner Minder to the side a little and see if she can still run off the contact.

Today I am thankful for a beautiful sunset, when Gypsy and I were in the front yard working on our rapid sits and taking photos.

Sunset - 4/23/12

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2012 in 6th week

 

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Fun adventures

Today was fun. I wanted to go somewhere because the sun was out and it was going to be warm.  I had been wanting to go up to the snopark for a few weeks before the snow melts and my pass expires. So today we started out at the snopark. There weren’t many people there. Gypsy was very good and had fun in the snow. She loves snow and had a good time, and seemed very relaxed. She caught a few snowballs too.

Gypsy catches a snowball - 4/22/12

 

After the snopark, we went to one of my favorite parks with a really nice lake. There were a lot of people there and a lot of dogs. Gypsy was so good. She didn’t bark or lunge or do anything inappropriate at all. A few times a dog looked at her and she looked back at me and she got cookies! I was very proud. We sat in the grass for a while and she was very relaxed. I didn’t see any signs of stress at all. She was rolling around, laying comfortably, ears were nice, no scanning the environment, etc. She was nice and calm. I gave her lots of rewards.

When we got home, she noticed one of the windows upstairs open. That got her barking for whatever crazy reason. I started to think about how to stop her barking with something else. I am hoping this doesn’t create a bad behavior chain, but when she barks, I do a loud SHHHH!! she looks at me and I give her a treat for being quiet. I hope she doesn’t bark just for the SHHH!  So far though it’s stopping her in mid-bark in the house and drawing her attention back to me when I give her a cookie for being quiet. I’ll see how it goes.

Today I am thankful for a beautiful day and fun with my dogs in the park.

Fun in the snow

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2012 in 5th week

 

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Reality check: I have an awesome dog. Pity party over!

My pity party of one and debbie downer syndrome is gone…for now. Gypsy needs me to keep going, be strong, be consistent, be a good leader and good trainer and just be. I have an awesome dog I love so much. Despite her DWI conviction (Dog With Issues), she is still awesome and always will be. She’s a great pet and companion and nothing will change that.

So today, we kept going. This morning I woke up a little late so we played a little tug. It’s something I’m working on as well not part of L2E. However, tugging is a game in Ruff Love and Gypsy has fun tugging when she’s in the mood. She doesn’t always tug nor likes to tug. There are specific times she’ll tug, so I’m working on building that up and making it super fun so she’ll want to play more tug with me. I like it too!

Tonight we went for a walk with 3 other friends we walk with often. I didn’t walk with them like I usually do nor did I try to keep up.  I worked a lot with L2E on the walk, which was about an hour and a half (about 3 miles or so). Gypsy was wearing her Wonder Walker but still pulled a little because she likes to be in front of Apollo. Apollo is slower and never leaves my side. But when Gypsy pulled, I stopped. I waited for her to come back to me and sit and look at me, just like the rest of our L2E permissions. We did have to repeat this a lot. When we walk by ourselves she doesn’t pull so we never have the issue. But with Apollo and in a different environment, it was something to work with. I am glad because she needs the other environments to work with.

So as we walked we stopped a lot. She came back, sat and we continued. I praised her and released her from the sit but didn’t treat, but then treated a lot as we walked and she was with me and focused and checking in at me often. It was like the gambling game. She may get one treat in a block or she may get a treat every step of the block. The fact that she could potentially get tons of treats made her want to walk with me. Of course I did treat often because she’s not an experienced gambler yet. She is still learning there could be a great potential of getting cookies after one step or one block, just like what Daisy told is in our lesson last week — she may get one treat for going over a jump or she may get one cookie after 3 jumps. The thought of winning makes her want to do it.  I’m turning my dog into a gambler.

So we did a lot of stopping on this walk. I know it wouldn’t have been so without Apollo. But that’s not going to happen. Apollo loves his walks and I love Apollo. As Susan Garrett says, adding a dog is like adding a distraction. You still need to work through it and you do so like a distraction. It was more difficult tonight because the environment (city streets with lots of smells) was distracting enough. I can’t say we were totally successful but I was very consistent. We stopped, I released, I treated, I rewarded and we did good.  I’m glad I’m able to take this on the road because we need to add the next level to our training and this was it. It wasn’t too stimulating where we couldn’t work through it. We could and did. And it was just distracting enough where when I stopped she started to figure out what to do as our walk went on.

So tonight I’m back on track.

Today I am thankful for the awesome dog I already have.

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2012 in 4th week

 

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Dancing in the rain

So, yeah, it rains here a lot in the Pacific Northwest but today was very rainy. It rained all day. It made for a new environment to play our games. I worked from home today so I got a few extra sessions in and I’m working from home tomorrow.

No, we didn’t get drenched outside but we did play Leave-It games outside. Dropping treats on wet mud made for good successes and teaching her that those things aren’t as good as she thinks they are. We played inside too after we got just a little wet. We did more of our sits and stuff in the yard.

I tethered Gypsy next to my desk while I was working today and she got a lot of rewards for being really good. My upstairs neighbor’s office is just above where mine is and he can be quite noisy. Gypsy often barks at any move he makes. Today she was really good and stayed calm! Lots of rewards!

We also had agility class tonight! The sequences were really good for Gypsy. It was nice clear lines, no sharp turns, and a friendly tunnel and weave poles. She did really well. I rewarded her highly, did some hand touches at the start, and was able to end the sequence and have her walk with me back to the start with our sits from L2E!! And she was off leash! That was actually the highlight of my class! I was able to end a sequence, she was still focused on me, we walked 10 feet back to the start with some sits/rewards and did it again! I’ve never been able to do that before! I’ve always had to releash her, set her up, take it off, hope for a startline stay and go for it. So I’m really proud of her focus. She was really excited about it too. I could definitely see the joy and comfort in her demeanor. She looked relieved!!!!  It was awesome to see!!

Today I am thankful for a rainy day, changing our environment without having to leave the yard.

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2012 in 2nd week

 

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