The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Good:

Over the summer months Oreo’s health and behavior has greatly improved. We can walk by dogs on the opposite side of the street without her caring (most of the time depending on some dogs she is super scared of). We can also walk at the park on the path and people pass us and all Oreo does it look up at me for a treat (yay!!). She got along very well with my husband who was helping out, taking her on long walks after work and feeding her and giving her medicine in the evening. She even greeted the new neighbor with a lick!

The Bad:

I am back at work now, this was my first week. Oreo is home alone around 8 hours a day. I’m a teacher so I can’t come home at lunch and my husband works too far away. A dog walker is out of the question because of her reactivity. She doesn’t destroy anything or go in the house-she is actually great at home and probably sleeps the whole time. However, when I come home she is happy stressed–meaning she jumps all over me nipping at my hands/clothing. That means that she is anxious. Anxious from being home so long and change I am sure. What else has rocked her boat is that we are getting bamboo flooring in the living room. Our townhouse is tiny, so furniture is stacked in the kitchen, we have been walking on a concrete floor and there are only two couches in here. I’m sure that change has probably affected her A LOT. She also eats in the living room, which is a BIG change from her routine.

And the worst and most permanent of the changes: 2 DOGS NEXT DOOR, and you can hear them barking sometimes through the walls. This is what I dreaded since renters are next door. Fortunately, the lady has fearful rescues (Small ones too), so she is understandable. However, just seeing dogs constantly or hearing them when you are afraid definitely will raise your stress. We have also put our home back on the market, hoping at some point we will get that single house with a big yard for her to run around in 🙂

On another note, Oreo has scabs on different areas of her body-I think it may be a bacterial infection so I am using wipes to help, but if it doesn’t improve we are in for another trip to the vet. I’m guessing the infection is caused by all the changes and stress which must have lowered her immune system. We try to spend more time outside with her, but unfortunately she must be allergic to grass or pollen.

The Ugly:

Last night was ugly alright. Oreo was on the ground eating her kong from earlier. She has extra special goodies in it. My husband walked out the door then returned and within one step she snapped at him. Except this time there was no warning, and no fault at all on my husband. He was just walking by-didn’t even look at her and she snapped. It was a very vicious sound too. I thought she got a hold of him or something and was attacking. Thankfully, no one was hurt, just some feelings. Immediately she dropped the kong and licked him. She was told to go to her bed and not allowed to sleep on our bed.

Yes, I understand that resource guarding is a normal behavior FOR A DOG, and very unsafe for humans. I would be more understandable and hopeful if there was a warning, or if it were my husband’s fault, however this was unpredictable since she hasn’t growled or resource guarded for a while. My husband is VERY upset and threatened that if she does it again she is gone. However, I think he said this out of fear/pain/anger right after it happened. He says it is his house so she needs to listen she is a guest. However, she is not a human guest. I have a plan for him to work on so it doesn’t happen again, although I think it may have been redirected stress instead of as much of resource guarding as I think.

So the game plan is:

-less stress by making sure she is walked, spending as much time as we can with her after work, doing some training/tricks with her when we are home to help her confidence

-whenever my husband walks by and she has something of value (start with low and work way up), he will drop treats, and practice trading. He needs to be consistent because he doesn’t stick with it. I will have to convince him-he will probably need more time.

All of this may sound silly to some, but we are young and do want to have kids in the next years to come, we would hate for anything to happen to anyone (including her).

Well, that’s all, wish it were better news. Seems I just need to win the lottery so that I can stay home and spend more time with the pup.

Baby Steps

Classical conditioning is an association between two stimuli. In this case, I am pairing yummy treats with kids. Today we had a lovely walk in the park. As we were nearing the children’s play area, a mom and two children came out of a car. We decided to sit at a nearby bench where I began feeding the dog treats as she looked calmly at the children. They starting running over and Oreo laid down  by herself (yay for her!). Luckily, the woman was responsible and asked if it was okay if the children came over. I told her Oreo was scared and training. She said Oreo is a very cute dog and ushered the children to the playground. The children came within 8 feet of Oreo and she was calm as a cucumber. The “greedy” dog trainer in me wanted to see what would happen if they came over and gave her a treat, however they were very young…probably 2 years old. Even though Oreo has been okay taking treats from some other children, I didn’t want to risk it. Remember-baby steps!

Organizing My Thoughts

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This post is to organize my thoughts and training. I find that writing will help me organize and see things more clearly.

I don’t know what it is, but I am feeling very stressed lately about Oreo’s progress. However, I keep reminding myself that it will take a long time. I came to accept that she is never going to be “cured”. A dog who is reactive and highly scared will never be 100% “normal” (whatever that definition is…). Many reactive dogs progress immensely within months, while some take years. Many factors impact the progress. I have to keep in mind that only a few months ago we finally got all of her medical issues treated (hopefully). This is the third month she has been on medicine for hypothyroidism so hopefully she will rebound more with continued usage.

There are just so many things to work on it can be overwhelming. Things I would like to work on:

-calm while waiting to go into the vet

-vacuums

-dogs (she shows interest in playing with some dogs, but gets too nervous when they are near)

-people-especially men-tall, heavy, limps, hats

-being able to have people over. It can be very stressful to imagine never being able to have people over. Unfortunately she HATES crates. She was crate trained but hated it and was miserable the entire time. She now can be gated in the kitchen, but it is open concept in our condo, so it doesn’t leave any room for privacy for guests. However, we recently had some home depot people stop by for flooring and I started leaving her in the room upstairs with kongs-perhaps that could be an alternative-but the house is small with all the noises I don’t see that as working very well. Perhaps management would work better in a bigger house-but my hope is that one day we can have friends over. We can have family over whom she is comfortable with, however, people she has not met she will bark at and is extremely fearful of them. I tried using treats and kongs, but I will have to slow it down.

-Greeting people calmly. She has improved and hardly ever jumps up on us, but when over excited she will jump up on my parents and sister.

-Maybe one day grinding nails-we walk her a lot so she is okay, but they are a little longer than should be.

-Being more comfortable with being held/restrained. I would be afraid if we had to hold her in place or scoot her over a bit she would snap.

-resource guarding new toys or toys with food

 

Wow! What a list, but I’m sure if I kept thinking about it I could add more. However, some are more of a priority than others. Some things we are continually working on. For example tonight we (my husband and I), sat outside. We brought Oreo out and watched people and dogs walk by at a distance (past the yard it’s at least 30 feet). As we are all relaxing and watching people and dogs, I give her treats for being relaxed…same thing when we go to the park. However, I would like to up this a little. I would like to take her to a park with kids and sit at a distance with her treating her. I believe she needs more of this. She needs to just be able to relax and SEE more kids and more people. She spends most of her day inside, or in a yard, a few walks, that’s it. She isn’t exposed to that much…because of management, but I believe at the same time she needs to see more and be treated for relaxed responses.

Also, I will continue the protocol for relaxation-which I have been severly slacking on. I did see great progress with it, but for some reason I have been slacking. After figuring out her med problems and driving 4 hours to a holistic vet (which really helped by the way), I felt we both (Oreo and I), needed a break from training. However, I guess I enjoyed the break too much and need to get back into the hang of it.

I also would like to see my husband “trade” Oreo for items. However, since he has been untrustworthy with Oreo in the past with trade (saying trade to get items and she gives it up but he gives no reward), she has learned not to trust him, especially since he used to take things from her a lot without trading. I was thinking of changing the word. Perhaps making it “swap”. Hopefully this may change the association from negative to positive with him.

Something new I would like to start after the protocol for relaxation is to find live bait. What I mean by that is…find someone to practice with! I would like to have them throw treats to Oreo while walking by at a distance, and eventually decrease the distance over time, etc. Eventually add things that scare Oreo like hats and a limp…and get different people to practice with her.

That brings me toward our long term goal…being able to have people over. This would happen after she has successfully enjoyed the presence of people we have walked near, met, and done tricks for. I’m not sure about all of the details yet, but I would like her to either meet the person outside first or have her put upstairs, however, since she doesn’t like surprised (sudden changes to environment), I think meeting outside would work better, maybe even taking a little walk.

Then progressing to having them come inside. I have seen people train their dogs to go into a certain room or behind the gate in the kitchen when the doorbell rings. I think this might be a good idea to have Oreo go into the kitchen when she hears the doorbell ring.However, as soon as I would invite someone in she would lose it, but bringing her into a surprise sitting in the living room doesn’t work either. Perhaps when she is comfortable with people coming in, then maybe I could teach her to go into the kitchen.

Anyways, when they would come in Oreo would have to be fed treats while laying on the bed next to my chair while the person is at the furthest point away on the couch. This will have to be thought through, each step. This can be exhausting, but if it’s done the right way over a long period of time the dog will love when people come in and hang out. People would stay for short periods of time and we could build the time up each visit, and the distance can decrease.

That training is probably months if not longer away until we reach it. She needs to be comfortable with people outside, before we move them inside.

As for greeting people calmly, that is something we can work on as it comes up. I tell my relatives to ignore her when she’s jumping, however some have reinforced it, so that needs to stop.

Other issues will have to be dealt with at another time, or along the way. I have trained her so that I can vacuum, however it’s more like playing a game throwing treats to her while I’m doing it. Not exactly what I planned, but I wasn’t patient enough (yikes!).

So…

-Work on liking dogs/people with treating at parks & sitting around

-work on “swapping”…well have my husband work on it every evening or so

-have relatives ignore jumping for more polite greetings or offer incompatible behavior such as performing tricks

-find bait to do people work, vary people, clothing, etc

-final goal: people inside

You may wonder about dogs. For a long time I really wanted Oreo to be able to play with other dogs…because she wanted to play with them too. She used to LOVE playing-it was the best thing in the world to her. Maybe it could be again, however, I don’t trust her with other dogs, as she doesn’t trust dogs now. I did bring her to training, and think maybe one day she will play with dogs, but it’s not at the top of my list. We need to work with things that make things less dangerous for people.

Taking the Scare Out of the Hair

Today’s blog post is a review of a product called the Scaredy Cut Silent Clippers. As you see above, it is basically scissors plus an attachment combs.  When you order the product it comes in either blue or pink, with 6 attachments from very long to very short.

When Oreo was under a year old she would get groomed (hair cut) at a local pet store. I was told she was very good during trimming. Eventually she would throw a fit when she saw us leaving (like a 2-year-old barking throwing herself on the ground, etc). Still, after a few minutes the groomers would take her in the back and she would be fine. After being attacked, her fear of dogs came about so bringing her to a dog store is not a great idea. I thought of alternatives, maybe having someone come to the house or a traveling groomer or even a local one with no other dogs there.

However, her fear of people had increased and other reasons added to our decision to do her hair ourselves. For one, we paid over $45 each grooming session. Cutting her hair ourselves would save us some money. Additionally, she has come back from the groomers with cuts before. We have tried a few groomers and days later each time we would find cuts and scratches on her that were not there before.

So I decided to take things into my own hands. My mother always groomed out west highland terrier herself with an electric razor. So I brought Oreo to my moms and we plugged it in to get started. Immediately the humming vibrations freaked her out! She would not come anywhere near it and was scared to death. Well, that was out of the question unless I wanted to go through weeks of training to have her adjust to the humming noise. Plus the thing was big, heavy, and bulky…I wouldn’t want that coming at me if it was around the size of my head either! Great, now what was I going to do?

Internet! Yes, I am an avid user of the internet and finding answers on here. I searched no noise razor, silent dog groomer, quiet haircut for dogs, etc until I came across the scaredy cut. I said hey, I’ll give it a try. I was skeptical knowing that Oreo is afraid of almost everything new, and thought it would take FOREVER to give her a haircut. However, I read reviews and took the advice of others.

My amazon purchase arrived shortly later that week and I opened the package to be surprised by how easy it looked. Everything looks easy until you try it right? Wrong! I spent some time having Oreo touch the scissors and treating her so she knew it was a “good thing”.  I progressed to taking her outside and running it along her back (not cutting), and treating. I was trying to get her to think it was a positive thing. I read many other reviews from people on amazon and some used similar techniques with their scared dogs or cats. Eventually I cut a piece of her hair and treated her immensely. Yay! We did a little at a time.

The first time I gave her a haircut I will admit it took a long time. Not because of the product, but because she was scared. I probably cut her hair for about 10 minutes, then gave her a break. I focused on one section of her body, then we took a break. Sometimes we came inside and played or did other things then returned to cutting later so she wouldn’t be anxious.

The scissor attachments work great. I started with a longer attachment but found the shortest one the best for most of her body except her face and lower legs. All I had to do was run the scissor with the attachment up her back and snip snip snip. I was amazed at how quick I could cut her hair, if she wasn’t afraid. The hardest area for her of course was her paws and face. That took much longer because it required more stopping and more treating. However, I am happy to say now she is hardly bothered by the trimming of her face (however she seems annoyed at me sometimes!). She is MUCH better with me trimming around her legs and feet, especially when she is tired (that is key!).

Overall, the Scarey Cut is a great tool for people who want to save money or have scaredy dogs or cats. She actually loves it now and will lay down and sleep while I am cutting her hair! Well, I can’t say she loves the scissors, but I know she loves the treats that come along with them. I can probably cut all of her hair (back, belly, feet, legs, trim ears, face, etc) in an hour or less depending on how perfect I want it. It has been a wonderful gift for us and can’t thank the inventor enough!