Finding Peace with a Reactive Pup

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Let’s be HONEST here, it’s NOT easy living with a reactive dog, especially when you are first starting out. Now that Oreo and I have been on this journey around 4 years recognizing her reactivity, training, and managing it, we find peace more often than years ago. Although this picture might not look PEACEFUL, it in fact is one of sheer joy for Oreo. Today it snowed more than 10 inches on top of 15 already, creating a winter wonderful for furry fidos. While some dogs don’t like the snow, Oreo LOVES it! What makes this time even better is she & I have no worries-NO DOGS OUT, STRANGERS, SQUIRRELS, OR ANYTHING FOR HER TO REACT TO!

Finding peace can be difficult if you are just starting out or in the midst of training. Peace won’t come to you, YOU HAVE TO FIND IT.  Sometimes, you even need to CREATE IT.

Here are some ways that I found peace in the past or present with a reactive dog, I hope these may help you:

Walking-if you love it, find somewhere your dog will not come in contact with many triggers. I’m not saying avoid triggers forever because as you know in training your dog may need to see a trigger (example : another dog) from a distance and accept treats. However, your dog also needs peace and definitely needs days to calm down after a stressful event.

Where can I go walking, I live in a busy neighborhood/apartment/condo/city?

  • Find an empty parking lot. I’ve walked Oreo around school yards on off seasons, company parking lots, and even parking lots of grocery stores that are out of business.
  • Find a large, open space park. Some of my favorite parks were located near my condo where we used to live. After Oreo got attacked I couldn’t/wouldn’t walk her through our neighborhood. She froze up out of fear and quite frankly so did I walking around our neighborhood unaware when the next loose dog would attack. We found 2 favorite parks. Both parks weren’t super busy, and if one was busy, we went to the other. Both had lots of open fields, sports fields, and many exits. They both had various walking paths but also grassy areas we could cut through to avoid dogs or other triggers.
  • Tennis courts. I’m not saying go into a tennis court that has a sign NO DOGS, but I am saying if you are lucky enough to have a neighborhood tennis court like we did, they are a great place to have your dog off leash if no one is around. Oreo loved her time running free, chasing tennis balls. We also practiced recall, my husband and I on separate sides of the court, calling her and rewarding her.

Inside Your House-Depending on your dog’s reactivity, you may be able to find peace in the home.

  • Close the shades, put up window film, whatever works. If your dog is reactive when looking outside, don’t let them. If you aren’t working on training-don’t let your pup learn to bark at triggers (they will think they made the mailman/squirrel/dog go away).
  • Turn on the tv, radio, a white noise machine or fan. We always leave a fan running at night because our neighbor’s dog that barks. If the fan is off, Oreo will bark. If the fan is on, we sleep through the night.
  • Make a safe place for your dog, especially if you have kids. It could be a crate, a dog bed, or a gated area or room where your dog can go to feel safe and relax. This is also a good place for you to find peace if someone arrives or you feel your dog can’t handle a stressful situation, have them go to the peaceful place.

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My personal favorite time to find peace with my pup is walking in the neighborhood while snow is falling with no one is around. This is a time Oreo and I can do something we loved without fear of dog attacks, while everyone else is bundled up inside we are being adventurous in the snow 🙂

No matter how much stress you or your pup is in, it’s always important to cool down and FIND PEACE or MAKE IT. Reactive dog parents go through a lot of stress, take some time for you and your pup to relax!

GO TO YOUR BED!

Remember when you were a kid, got in trouble and your parents told you to “GO TO YOUR BED (or room)!” Well, instead of a negative thing, sending your dog to their bed is a very positive trick, giving your dog confidence, routine, and a calm corner to relax.

I am revisiting an old trick I haven’t practiced in a while-sending my dog to her “bed”. This can be very important for all dogs, especially fearful dogs. There are many dogs who need a “cool down” or “calm” area, away from kids, stress and distractions. There are many dogs that can be possessive of space-they don’t like when you are too close walking by or need a space where no one can bother them when they are tired. Perhaps they need a space to go when the door bell is suddenly rang by someone delivering a package. Dog beds can be used as a safe space, a place to rest, to eat bones, and to practice routine.

Oreo, my reactive dog does not enjoy guests unless they are close family she is very familiar with such as my parents or sister. If someone like a delivery man approaches the door the usual reaction is barking and pacing. My goal is to give her something to do-SOMETHING ELSE besides reacting in an undesirable way. This can be very helpful if you have the bed behind a dog gate, once your dog goes in there to their bed, you simply treat, close the gate and answer the door.

Does your dog jump up, beg, or stare you down while you are eating? Mine doesn’t always, but after some trips to her grandparents house where they fed her some food from the table, she developed some habits which are fine, but can be solved with a dog bed. Instead of staring at us, she will learn to go lay down on her bed and relax, that will keep her calm and she will be rewarded with a treat there, but not from the table.

Do you have kids or even a spouse or friend who makes you nervous around your dog? Well, if you are nervous that your dog will react the wrong way-think of how your dog feels! A simple way to solve this problem is to teach anyone who comes into your house that the dog bed area is off limits-a dog gate would even be better so they CAN’T get to them. If you are nervous or you see your fearful dog is nervous-send them to their bed. They will feel more confident for completing the trick.

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Okay, enough with the many reasons, let’s learn how to send them to their bed. There are two different ways.

Way 1: 

1. Decide on what you would like to call your trick-“Go to bed,” “Go to mat,” “Go to cushion” and so on. We always taught her bed is when she travels into our room at night, and my husband’s name is Matt-so that won’t work. We picked “Go to cushion.” Go near the dog bed and say “Go to bed,” and place a treat there or lure your pup with a treat.  Use a clicker or a word maker like “Yes!” when your pup is on the bed (release the treat if you are holding it for your pup to eat).

2. Encourage your dog to lay on the bed by saying “down” or whatever word you use for that trick. When they lay down click or say yes and treat. It’s best to teach them to lay on the bed, this way they can relax and you may want to continue to teach them more to the trick-like staying on the bed for periods of time.

3. Continue practicing having your pup on the bed by saying, “Go to bed” before they actually are on the bed. Use a treat to lure them and they will associate the bed with the signal “Go to bed.”

4. When they seem to get this, start asking them to “Go to bed” without the lure sometimes. Eventually, with practice you can fade the use of luring, and treat after they do the trick. They will no longer need to even know you have a treat. You can practice this from short distances and work your way up to more challenging tasks like having your dog “Go to bed” when you are in any area of your house. Eventually you can have them “Go to bed” with many different distractions happening at once.

Way 2:

1. If you like shaping or “catching your dog in the act,” this is the way for you. When you see your dog do anything near the dog bed (look at it, step on it, sit on it, stand on it, get near it) you click and treat.

2. You continue this “game” until your dog starts to realize good things are happening near the dog bed. Eventually your pup will realize being on the bed is when brings treats. You can continue shaping to add a sit or lay down.

Whatever way you chose, the trick not only helps your dog stay calm, but can help keep your dog safe. I will continue working with my pup on this and let you know how it goes! If you have taught your dog this trick, how did it work out?

Have a Happy Hound at the Holidays

Most of us love the holidays, and we love our hounds. However, some people are VERY busy during the holidays depending on the size of their family. It’s a wonderful time to spend with family & friends reminiscing about the year and holidays past. We also don’t want to forget our pups…we want happy hounds.

  • If you have a nervous Nelly pup it is important to try to keep up with a somewhat normal schedule. Try to talk them at normal time (if possible).
  •  If they are nervous around lots of people/excitement or anything, don’t forget to manage their behavior/fears or use it as a training time. If it is very busy & hectic make sure they have a safe place, whether it’s a crate, a bed in the corner, or in another room.
  • Don’t forget foods that are poisonous to them. If you have that uncle or dad who can’t resist feeding them, remind them these foods are not good for eating:
    • grapes, raisins, currants (in fruitcake)
    • chocolate
    • gum
    • too much fatty scraps
    • alcohol
    • any medications relatives may leave out in bags on the floor or somewhere your dog can reach.

Another thing we need to keep an eye out for are decorations that may be dangerous:

  • hot potpourri (don’t let them lick/get close)
  • watch they don’t get too close to the fire!
  • snow globes (if they are imported) they contain antifreeze—YUCK!!!
  • lillies, holly, mistletoe

DSCN4117Oh yeah--Don’t forget to get them toys & gifts too!! They love opening them 🙂

Have a happy holiday & happy hounds!

Management vs. Training

Can any amount of training or management be stressful?

Yes!

Managing your dog means not allowing your dog to be in stressful situations. For example, if your dog is stressed out by parents, don’t bring your dog to the party. Management is thinking through what you will allow your dog to see/do/etc and where they will be…basically controlling the situation. When are times I manage my dog? I manage my dog every single day in many different ways without even thinking about it anymore, it comes naturally & part of the routine.

  • Avoiding crowded parks & areas
  • Avoiding big parties
  • Turning away from an oncoming dog
  • Getting more distance between us and a dog while on a walk
  • Bringing the dog to another room or out back when someone is at the door
  • Leaving her alone when she is sleeping

Can some management be too much? Yes, of course. There is a balance between training & management. Some people choose to manage more, other train. I like to have a nice blend of both. Everyone should do what works best for their dog & themselves.

If someone over manages this can lead to stress of the part of the owner and sometimes the dog. For example, if your dog is scared of other dogs that doesn’t mean you should lock your dog in the house and never let them go out or see another dog. You will need to use training in conjunction with management to allow your dog to move forward. With too much management, a dog cannot grow.

Can you over train your dog? I don’t think dogs can get tired of training if you do it correctly. If you use positive training & make it fun, your dog will love it! However, if you push for long periods of time and use negative punishment your dog may only get worse. Training should be in short periods, especially training which pushes them mentally or physically. If you see your dog getting stressed, stop and try another time-training is supposed to be fun!

For example, if you are training your dog with parallel walking with another dog 10 feet away, do a few walks back and forth. Observe how the dogs are reacting and if they are both paying attention to the owner and looking relaxed, move a few steps closer. Do a few walks back and forth (maybe 20 feet or so). After this probably only around 10 minutes have gone by. However, if your training your reactive dog, you know they may not be physically tired, but they are definitely mentally tired. Take a break of at least 15 minutes, but only do this a few times a day. Some exercises are particularly stressful for dogs, you need to gauge your dog’s stress levels.

Training & management=success. Too much of either could lead to disaster. You want to make sure you use management so you don’t put your dog in a stressful situation that may make them regress. Additionally, you want to train so management is easier and less. Both work hand in hand.

DSCN4337Oreo is relaxing here while her grandpa & dad are building a garden. In this situation she is managed because she is on-leash, but she is also getting training since her mom is standing nearby with treats when she sees a dog. Oreo doesn’t love strangers, but with time she learns to be relaxed and enjoy their company.

 

As reactive dog parents, we need to ask ourselves questions constantly that many other people don’t even take a second to think about.

  • Should I take my dog to the party?
  • How can I avoid that dog/person/bike/etc as I’m walking so that my dog doesn’t get over threshold?
  • How can I bring my dog to the vet without causing too much stress?
  • What will I do with my dog when I have people over?
  • Should I consider anxiety medicine for my canine?
  • Do I need window film so my dog doesn’t bark out the window all day?
  • What do I have to cover the car windows so my dog doesn’t lose it?
  • Did I remember dog treats on my walk?

The questions could go on forever and we are always asking them. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as any dog owner will ask and remind themselves of various things from time to time. However, we are often on high alert for things that stress out our dog, especially when there is change or they are outside their normal environment. I wanted to take a minute to thank all of the pet parents out there dealing with reactive dogs. It definitely isn’t easy and we are very stressed at times, but remember you are saving a dog’s life, your dog. You are taking the time to train your dog or manage the surroundings so your dog can have a happy life, even if your dog doesn’t get to go with you everywhere.

Sometimes we forget to appreciate all of the work we do until someone points it out. Recently I was at the vet and got an amazing compliment. My vet told me how amazing of a job we (my husband and I) have done with Oreo. She said it’s made such a difference and Oreo doesn’t need to be muzzled or anything during her vet exam. Furthermore, she told me without us, she knows Oreo would’ve been dead in another family and we have saved her life.

Life is crazy and there’s always things to worry & stress about, but little reminders of why we do what we do (help reactive dogs) make it all worth it. Okay, the dog kisses, happy wagging tails, and smiles also help! 10371611_10202676837374547_1549858418175138866_n

Should We Care?

Should we are what other people think of our dogs? Only minutes ago I was sitting on my porch while Oreo lounged in the spring-growing grass towards a neighbors dog that appeared from behind a car. The neighbors were taking their dog for a walk and emerged from behind their car with their dog on leash. I wasn’t expecting this, didn’t hear them as I was engrossed working on typing for a book I’m working on and of course Oreo lost it. Her threshold was over and there was no time to call her to attention or tempt her with treats. My laptop rolled off of my lap as I scrambled to pull her back on the leash.

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At this point I knew I couldn’t bring her into the house since she weighs too much for me to drag her in, plus they nearly passed our house. “Attack dog huh?” was the question the neighbor asked through the loud barking as they passed. I was too entangled with my job of keeping my dog in control to answer. When the neighbor’s dog finally was out of sight I the barking stopped and Oreo did a few paces around then laid back down into her casual spot. “No, we don’t want that, ” I heard from the neighbor. I have no idea what they were talking about, but for some reason I think I know. The neighbor is due any day now, and they have been talking about putting a large wooden fence up (which I would love, then we could get a fence and save some money by connecting it!). I can only guess perhaps she was saying she wouldn’t want her child attacked (who would?).

Oreo was scared. She’s reactive, so she reacts. I failed in my job to get her attention before she reached her threshold. However, I’m not going to pine about it-there was nothing I could have done, animals and people always appear from behind objects, which Oreo reacts to the worst. She does not like surprises, especially big scary surprises that remind of her of the attack from her past.

So why did I care what the neighbors thought? Well I automatically felt embarrassed because I thought I looked like a fool as I scrambled to hold onto my dog. I grew up with a mother who definitely cares what people think. I don’t usually care too much, but with Oreo I am more protective. I wish people could see how caring, kind, and loving this dog is. She is all kisses and cuddling inside (with the occasional leave me alone stare or warning if she is sleeping). However, I know people who are knowledgeable about reactive dogs know exactly how I feel. I highly recommend a reactive dog class that is positive. Not only do you learn how to give your dog courage, manage, and train your dog, but you also find companionship and comfort knowing you are not the only one and people do understand.

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Protecting Yourself and Your Dog

Depending on where you live you will have to consider different types of protection.

If you live near the woods or in an environment that has lots of wildlife you might consider some of these tips:-Have a fenced in area where your dog can roam without fear of bears, wildcats, or whatever type of animals go wild in your backyard!
-If you don’t have a fence always check outside for wildlife
-Stay with your dog and hang out or play games while your dog is outside

Most people don’t live in that type of environment, but a more populated one. Here are some tips on protection for more populated areas:

-If you are letting your dog out-again-have a fence. If you own a bit of land you may not have to worry about that depending on how populated the area and how many dogs are around.

My main concern is walks…here are some things you might want to consider bringing with you:
-dog pepper spray
-a walking stick
-billy club
-umbrella
-cell phone

Believe it or not…I have a stun baton, which is a baton that will extend if you press a button then stun anything it touches. Yes, it is a bit overkill, and no I don’t still take it with me on walks-although I might regret that-who knows.
After Oreo was attacked I would do anything to protect her again. If you know the story, you know that the pit bull would not release her even with hitting, punch, and choking. I did research and decided to invest in some dog pepper spray and a stun baton. I still carry pepper spray and my cell phone with me.

I always thought that it would never happen to me, I grew up with a dog that never got attacked. I live in a safe neighborhood where nothing bad happens and everyone is friendly. However, one sunny Saturday it happened when all I wanted to do was go shopping with my husband and take Oreo for quick walk before shopping. I insisted we needed to take her for a walk after my husband said she would be fine at home, she didn’t need a walk. What a mistake the walk was!

The walking stick, billy club, and umbrella can be helpful in first scaring a dog that comes up to you and putting something between you and the dog or between both dogs. It also acts as a pry to open up a dogs’ mouth if it locks its’ jaw on your dog. It is almost impossible to open a locked jaw unless you somehow pull out all the legs of the dog to shock it, or cut off its breathing. However, if you have something with you that you can slide in the dogs’ mouth to pry it open, that can save your dogs’ life. Some people have used crow bars, yard stakes, anything that you can wedge in the dogs’ mouth to open it.

The cell phone is for calling for help if needed. I was lucky enough to be walking with my husband who stayed with Oreo after the attack while I ran home for the car. There are many things you can carry with you that might help you on walks, but I suggest you take at least one or two of them with you. I never carried anything with me before, but will always carry protection with us now.

Medication Mania

dog-medicine-bottleA recent post by a friend on a social media site left me wondering…what do people think about dog medications? And why do many of them think they are more harmful than helpful?

Some people still seem to be stuck in the past, thinking dogs are just entertainment to have around. Medication? No way!! People frequently laugh, giggle, or give me weird looks if I tell them my dog is on medications for anxiety/fearfulness. I always get the saying, “Oh she’ll grow out of it” or “She’ll be fine, don’t worry about it.” Well, I do worry about it…or rather I did, before we had a breakthrough with medication.

If you feel like your dog is fearful or has anxiety and you’ve tried training but hit a brick wall, there are other options. Medication is another option, but should be given after extensive training has been tried. It’s not something to be taken lightly, but it’s also not something to fear. It’s also not a magic pill.

With dogs that are seriously fearful and haven’t progressed with the help of a positive trainer, medication is something to talk about with your vet. There are many options for whom to talk to about this. The best person to consult is a veterinary behaviorist. They specialize in dog behavior issues (aggression, anxiety, etc) and medical issues. Many times an underlying medical issue contributes to a dog’s behavior. It is important to get your dog checked for medical issues before considering anxiety medication. Many times simple things such as hypothyroidism could be a cause of many different behaviors including aggression.

There are a variety of medications to treat fearfulness/anxiety. It is important you talk to someone knowledgable about them, as they are recommended for different things. For example, some are used to treat separation anxiety, while others are recommended for general anxiety, and other for aggression. Blood tests will also be taken to make sure your dog will be able to take medications and check ups for blood work may be needed later.

I am going to repeat this again-because it’s not a quick fix–first you must make sure you have tried everything you can with a positive trainer, make sure your dog has adequate exercise, and rule out any other medical problems before even considering medication. I don’t want you to think it’s a bad thing either-because it can help immensely.

For example, Oreo was getting exercise and training for a long time with a positive trainer, but her anxiety issues were getting worse. She had trouble with training activities and seemed like she “hit a brick wall” in training. We could only take her so far. We also found out she did have some medical issues, but those were being treated and she still wasn’t progressing. So we worked with the vet. We started her on a low dose of an anxiety medicine. We increased the dosage but saw no improvement (the medication does usually take weeks or a month to kick in). We decided to wean her off of it and try another. This medication helped her immensely. She was able to progress nicely in training and take walks again. It allowed her to get over that hurdle that was stopping her, the debilitating fear that everyone and everything was out to get her.

If you had anxiety and it was so bad you couldn’t live your daily life, I’m sure you would try seeing a therapist and seeking out medication if that didn’t work. The medicine would allow you to combat your fears, and one day you may be able to get off of the medication. However, not all people or dogs do well off of the medication either. Oreo is still on medicine and we aren’t sure if one day she will be able to handle life without it. Do I like that she is on medicine? No, I don’t like giving her pills, but now I’ve learned that she needs the medicine, just like a diabetes patient needs them. Without them, she couldn’t live her daily life and function. Medication is not something to be feared, but not taken lightly either. Do you homework and read up-but also don’t rule medication out. It helped Oreo’s quailty of life immensely.

Medication can be a lifeline for dogs that would otherwise be euthanized.

For people with dogs that aren’t seriously anxious in only certain situations-there are many natural medicines or remedies for you. Look in chinese herb medicines, thundershirts, chamomile, and essential oils.

Smith Ridge Veterinary 3 Hour Trip!

As you all know Oreo was having BIG problems with allergies. She started acting weird too! She had a panic attack at reactive class when my husband disappeared. She also screamed and pulled me all the way to my sister’s car when she came to visit. I usually know she’s very sick when she is laying on me or near me all the time, which has been going on. So, I decided to try something different.

Marty Goldstein is famous for doing holistic medicine with lots of supplements. He has a book entitled, “The Nature of Animal Healing.” This book was recommended by Oreo’s trainer. She told me to read it and if I was interested, seeing him might be worth a try. Goldstein believes that dogs and cats can heal themselves. They discuss how vaccines are very hurtful, especially to dogs that have bad immune systems or are fighting allergies. Many times dogs are prescribed antihistamines (Benadryl etc) or given steroid shots to treat the symptoms. Unfortunately, it doesn’t treat the problem and get to the root of the problem.

Oreo has had behavior problems, repeated bacterial ear and stomach infections, skin infections, and yeast infections. She was so miserable she would itch around her eyes all day and rub them against the couch, floor, or anything she could find. She was miserable. She was sleeping all day and seemed depressed and irritable. Her behavior was more anxious and upset.

So I decided to take off a day and drive her all the way up to the Smith Ridge Veterinary Center. My mom volunteered to take the trip with me. The drive was almost 3 hours and was surprisingly nice. We went all the way to the edge of Connecticut and New York. Trees were copious on our ride and gigantic mansions surrounded the town of South Salem New York. We stopped and had sandwiches at a park.

We arrived to find the vet center off to the side of a shopping center. I arrived to find homey waiting room and a wonderful receptionist. I was VERY concerned about getting her in and out of the center without seeing other dogs. I also did NOT want her to be in the room with me when I was discussing issues with the vet. If she waits in that room she will usually hide and shake under the chairs and snap if the vets come near her because she is so afraid.

However, they insisted. The room had a nice bed for the dog and a bench for us to sit on. Oreo went in and laid under the bench while I gave her a kong full of treats. I think I was more nervous than her, which I am sure rubbed off on her.  Anyways, when someone would come in the SMALL room she would get up alert, bark, and even growl. The vet was very nice and gave her lots of treats. Then Oreo would return under the bench. She would STARE at the vet and then start growling or come out a little. She was torn I think-couldn’t decided if the vet would prick her with needles or give her treats. It wasn’t like her to growl like that, but the place was strange, so were all the people.

We discussed how vaccines are bad, her behavior and allergies. The vet did a round of blood tests and an allergy test. Yay!! We will FINALLY learn exactly what she is allergic to! This will take 2-3 weeks to get results, but I have been staying away from chicken since that is the number one allergy for dogs. I have found that since I took her off the chicken her itching has decreased 60% which leads me to believe I was making her sick by giving her chicken! That is also what I fed her at training-yikes!

The vet had us leave the room so they could do all the tests in the room. In the back they have too many dogs back there so she would be too anxious. They said she was very good and a vet tech even came back to give her a treat! Excepttttt she came in and scared Oreo then came close and bent over. Oreo didn’t like that, but later happily accepted a treat from her.

I have a few supplements for Oreo and also a natural steroid just for 2 weeks to calm her eye irritation down. We are working on building her immune system so eventually we can start taking some supplements away.  However, the vet didn’t want to recommend too many supplements until we find out what she is allergic to (so that means maybe more?).  Right now she gets a calming supplement, and immune system/cleansing supplement, and probiotics. I have been cooking turkey meatloaf for her with brocoli and ordered a calcium supplement.

Her behavior hasn’t been as strange, although she still seems more anxious than normal. At the park a bug startled her and birds flying out of trees scared her badly. The other day I moved a blanket on the bed and she got up looking around in a panic and started growling. Perhaps she was sleeping, but still-that’s not normal for her. However, she has been much more active lately and wants to play. Additionally, I have been taking her to the park instead of walking around the dog filled neighborhood. She has been happy as can be at the park and pulling (which is much better than her geriatric walking she was doing lately-and she’s only 2!).  Her itching has improved and the area around her eyes are starting to get better. I’m not sure if it’s the supplements, walking in the park, home cooked meals, or not eating chicken, but everything seems to be helping!

I am sad to have her stop reactive training, but right now we need to work on her health. I do think she was almost done with reactive training and we would move on to something else. I couldn’t think of activities to improve on with other dogs or people since she loved everyone there. However, in the future when this is all sorted out I am sure I will go back whether for reactive class or another class with her since she enjoys it so much. The reactive class was my support group which makes me sad to have to leave but Oreo’s health was impacting her behavior and she regressed immensely when her health was down. I have met some great people who also have reactive dogs with the blog which is great! I will continue to work on relaxation protocol and activities at home, however I am taking a much-needed break. Her health issues have had me constantly stressed and a mess lately and there is some relief knowing that I can take a break for a little.

Valentine’s Day at the Vet

I came home yesterday to find Oreo had red in her left ear, some yeast, and a pimple or blister looking bump. I knew it was time to take her to the DREADED vet! Oh no!!! Needless to say, my Valentine’s Day was spent at the vet! We got there, rushed Oreo in the back door to avoid the waiting room, and directly into an exam room. I was asked by a tech to swab her ear, which I promptly responded, “She won’t let me.” Ha-all you can do is laugh. Oreo is okay with cotton balls, as long as I warm the witch hazel I use to clean her ears. But anything new like bottles, pens, anything will scare her to the point where she will lift her lips and then give a warning nip if you get to close with it (to her ear).

That’s what a reactive dog is…they react! When they are scared and over their threshold (the point of no return! I’m sooo scared & upset my mind isn’t really thinking, I’m just acting), they usually growl, bark, bite, etc. Anyways, in the waiting room she went directly under my husband’s chair and was shaking & panting. I got her to do some targeting & tricks, but as soon as someone else walked into the room she went back under the chair. I managed to do some hand targeting to get her weight taken on the scale.

However, the vet came to take her in the back to check her ears & her skin since she was so itchy. This was a different case. We had to almost pull her out of the room. Usually, once she is out of sight from us she trots happily into the back. Today it took her longer. She was holding her ground. Luckily, the vet got her to move with some treats eventually. They of course muzzled her for safety (she doesn’t like her ears touched when they are hurting, plus she remembers all the painful trips to the vet).

The vet came back to tell us we are doing a good job, she has seen some improvement with Oreo’s behavior (yay!!!). However, shortly after Oreo was hiding under my chair and the vet came over to hand me a medicine, and Oreo went to bite her. My belief is because Oreo thought she was reaching down towards her & it was a sudden movement. Still upsetting.

Turns out she has a yeast/bacterial infection in her ear. Luckily it is just on the outside, and not the inside so I can put the medicine on a cotton ball and use it. As for her skin, on a level 1 (the lowest) to a level 4 (the highest) of a bacterial infection, she was a 4+, so she is taking an oral medicine to help. She has brown spots and bumps all over her belly. We believe it is because of allergies, more specifically fleas.

We have had lots of flea drama. I didn’t think I’d have a dog with fleas. But…she is allergic to the drops (itches nonstop spreading it all over furniture), allergic to the collars (loses all the hair on her neck), and just about everything. So I was just using a comb to get fleas out whenever she would get them. Unfortunately, I learned a while ago fleas are all over our neighborhood! We live in condos so there are tons of dogs, people, and houses smooshed together. One flea bite will cause Oreo’s whole body to go out of wack. So we are trying a new heart worm medicine that is a combination with flea medicine. I know it might not be the best, I wanted to go all natural since tick & flea medicines are very harmful, but I believe the new flea medicine will be the lesser of 2 evils.

So needless to say my valentine’s day was spent at the vet. Oreo was okay with the first time I cleaned her ears with the new medicine, but this morning she was snapping at me, so this may get interesting. I know her stress level is over threshold, and I may be seeing her stress for a week or two from the vet, but it was needed. Oh the drama of having a reactive dog!!