Barking Bonanza

Training in the snow today! It was snowing and we had training anyway and I am still feeling cold!! I used Oreo’s coat today for the first time at training. She doesn’t love it, but doesn’t seem to mind it too much either. Today we only had 3 people at training due to the snow so we had lots of training time! We worked by going through the barn today. Inside the barn was another dog at the opposite side being worked by an owner (doing tricks & paying attention to the owner…or supposed to be paying attention). Also, there were 2 people in the barn sitting far apart. Oreo loves them all, but especially the trainer!

So I got her out of the car, brought her to the door, and it was time to learn to pay attention to mom! I opened the door, called her name and she had 10 seconds to respond. Why 10 seconds you might say? Well dogs like to see what’s around them, especially reactive dogs-they need to check things out. When Oreo didn’t turn around when I called her name (or look at me), we went back outside the door. We did this until she finally learned she needed to pay attention. When she did, she got a click and the great reward of seeing the person! She performed for everyone, hand targeting and doing tricks. She then came with me and paid attention to me most of the time-even when another dog was in the barn!

We did this a few times & even gave her a break, but after the 3rd time she stopped paying attention to mom, and just wanted to play with another dog. The trainer mentioned she is learned more about reintroducing dogs to play again with other dogs after being attacked or reactive. So I am hoping I will learn more too. I really would like to reintroduce her again to other dogs, and not be so nervous about it. I don’t think I’ll ever fully trust her, just because she was attacked. What if she is playing and the dog play bites her on her back in the same spot she was attacked before? I think I would react!!

Anywho, we had a barking bonanza today at training. We did triple parallel walking (all walking about 5 feet or a little more away from each other in the same direction). Oreo was okay, but kept pulling and lunging to play with the other dogs. Eventually this worked her up. In hindsight, I don’t think I’ll do the triple walk again. She gets too excited to play with other dogs and works herself up. That wasn’t the real issue though. The dog in the middle started barking like crazy at Oreo. I could see the signs-the lip licking, the frozen stare, then the hopping as we are walking. She didn’t have a meltdown or anything, but she did STOP taking treats, which she hasn’t done for a while-so she was over threshold. We then took a walk around the lake to calm down, she did take treats and also ate some goosepoop (ewwww!). She saw some geese and wanted to jump in the water after them-and she almost pulled me in with her! She’s about 35 pounds, but she is strong!!!

So overall, we had an okay day, a little more stressful for her than I would’ve wanted and Oreo would’ve wanted I am sure. She’s having lots of allergy issues again. She’s been itching so bad she’s missing a lot of hair from her legs. I believe it is food allergies. She doesn’t like raw even though I saw great improvements with it in the few weeks she would eat it (I had to mix it with lots of other things). So I’m starting her on some all gluten-free foods. Trying Sojo and Nature’s Logic so we’ll see. She is actually itching now as we are talking. I believe a vet visit is going to be in order soon 😦  I hope not but the itching is becoming horrible. Her eyes did clear up and all of her hair around her eyes was back, but now shes missing lots of hair. Also, she has some brown spots on her stomach, which I’m hoping aren’t yeast. I’ve started putting water and probiotics on them. I just cleaned her ears & have been cleaning them once a week, but they are starting to smell yeasty!! Oh no please not the ear drama again!

So we’ll see how things go…I just want her to be healthy!

Flower Design

Yesterday, we had another lesson. This time we did calming curves again with a larger dog. She did very well walking towards the other dog. She did okay with turning around and going the other day when I called her name. She did much better than last week, but she still will freeze sometimes when looking at the other dog or person. I don’t think this is necessarily because of fear freezing. It is because she WANTS so badly to see the other dog or person. You many wonder how I know this.

I know this because she whines and wags her tail, sometimes she even play bows. Still haven’t gotten her a playmate. A little apprehensive like her I guess. I know someone from her puppy class, and she got along very well with this dalmation, but I’m not quite ready. I will have to work my way up to it. I’m still afraid that if the dog bites her in the back or jumps on her that she will react to it, because that is where she was attacked before. I have seen her before get snappy and defensive if a dog tangles in her leash (they shouldn’t really be playing with the leash on for this reason-they get scared).

Anyways, she did well with the flower design. The other parents of fellow doggies formed a circle and everyone looked in toward each other, talking. I approached with Oreo walking on my side. She would have to walk towards the people, and before reaching them I would call her name. When she turned, I would click and throw treats a few feet in front of us. She got the reward of distance and treats-DOUBLE! But really, she doesn’t need distance too much from these people-she used to be afraid of them, but now she LOVES them! So really, we were working on her and I working as a team. If she wants treats or to greet someone, she needs to perform the desired behavior. After the first few rounds of this we did so much better! Next time we will be doing the flower design, but people from the circle will be greeting her, asking for a sit, treating, then sending off to me where I will click and treat her for returning to me.

By the way, the only thing to do when something bad happens is LAUGH. These 2 women came to observe the class. Of COURSE they parked right in front of my car where Oreo was getting all nervous. I went to feed her treats so she wouldn’t get over the threshold. These 2 women were old, slow moving women. They started getting out of their car, meanwhile I’m in the back with the dog feeding her treats making her target my hand to keep her attention. Otherwise, she would be barking, lunging and losing it completely. So these ladies take their time, put their jackets on, then FINALLY they look like they are going to get walking. OOPS! Forgot the coffee, so they go back. Then they start walking RIGHT BY THE CAR (come on ladies, this is a REACTIVE class, dogs are going to REACT to you, think about it-I’m not in the car feeding the dog for fun!). Then of course again they turn back to the car to get something else. What seemed like forever was probably 5 minutes, but finally they realized they should walk AROUND the car in a large arc after the trainer told them to. DUH!!! All I could do was laugh at how people do not think!

It’s A Miracle!

It’s a miracle! Oreo is approaching 2 years old (next week), and today was amazing for her. She had a major breakthrough.

Let’s first start with 3 weeks ago. 3 weeks ago when we did “treat and retreat” (someone throwing treats to her from 10 ft away-starting that far away, then taking stepsback) she barked and started to lose it when the woman was 10 ft away. So the trainer, who Oreo trusts, stood next to the other woman throwing treats (she was a stranger). Oreo caught on, but didn’t show much trust.

2 weeks ago she made a best friend with one of the women who threw treats to her. She wouldn’t leave and go back to the car without her. She had to walk her back (walk next to us) for Oreo to move. Last week, Oreo woke up sick, wouldn’t take her medicine, so I knew it was bad. Then on the walk, she was eating grass, and threw up a few times. I think it may be due to allergies, so the training was out for the day.

Today, we did “treat and retreat” and Oreo did AWESOME! She was okay with 4 different women, did tricks for them, jumped up to them, pulled to get to them, and loved them! She hung out with a group of women around her, completely cool and relaxed. This would never have happened, even 2-3 weeks ago!!!

Not only was she comfortable with everyone there, she was comfortable with the dogs there!! We did “calming curves” and Oreo wanted to meet a mini pincher, so she did, sniffed and was amazing!!! She actually sat 1 foot away from the dog, and just watched, waiting patiently. She was so good! Then she wanted to play with him, but unfortunately, he wasn’t ready for that yet, so Oreo needs a new friend. We then did parallel walking with another dog and Oreo romped around trying to get to play with the other dog. She really wanted to play but I couldn’t let her 😦 The other dog doesn’t get along with dogs. Soooo the trainer said it is time for Oreo to find a play partner. She had one…the neighbor, but they moved. So I’m not sure. It’s scary to let go.

I’ll have to take baby steps with her. However, today she took a LEAP!!! Next time I want to work on her with men, that is her very big issue. However, today a neighbor at my parents (who she never met) was less than 10 feet away and she did amazing. I keep wondering what was different today. What did I do different that she did so well? I hope this progress keeps up!! Things are looking good! Hard work does pay off.

Breakthrough!

Yay!!! Oreo had a fantastic day today at training!! Last week we did calming curves & she did well, then we did parallel walking. She was nervous at first walking parallel to a yellow lab, but got better and even walked past a group of people (5-10 ft away) without reacting! Yay!!!

As for the good news for today, we did treat & retreat. The woman came up to Oreo and she barked, tail wagging. The woman threw treats behind her then steps back. Oreo loved it…and loved her! She went right up to her and sat for treats and when the lady left…Oreo wouldn’t move. She watched, whined and waited for her to come back. Then the woman walked us back and oreo gave her kisses!!!

This is a big breakthrough, Oreo just needed to figure things out. She has a history of barking, lunging and trying to nip people who approach (who are strangers). YAY!!! I must continue to practice this with many different people, hopefully she will be excited and happy when seeing people, because people will equal treats!

As for allergies, I think she has grass allergies…also possibly chicken? Not sure, I’m going to cut chicken out, and make her different treats for classes. Her allergies are still bad, but have gotten a little better since I wipe her feet and face down with a wet towel when we come back inside. Also, we were giving her chicken raw, but switched it to lamb. So many allergies!! Well, Oreo is zonked out here sleeping next to me on the couch, time to take a nap myself!

Yes, Dogs Not Only Pray…But Smile Too!

I am currently reading a book called, If A Dog’s Prayers Were Answered, Bones Would Rain From the Sky” Deeping our relationships with dogs. Suzanna Clothier is inspiring. I have only read the first few chapters, but already love her, and her passion for relationships with animals.

She speaks of a friend who adopted a dog who came from a bad situation. The woman had previously had a dog all her life who behaved, grew up with her throughout her life, into teenage years and adulthood. The dog obeyed, was her partner and companion. This reminds me of my own life. I had a dog from 2nd grade until I was in college, then in adulthood adopted another dog after my first dog passed away. Anyway, the newly adopted dog had issues at training and with trainers. However, the real problem was not the dog, it was the trainers. These trainers would hold down dogs until they were submissive and the dogs peed themselves out of fear.

Many times we blindly follow trainers, thinking they know the best for our dog (I have done this). In the book, the dog runs away from the woman (it was a stray for a long time, and was in a shelter for over 6 months in a cage). The dog seems panicked and will run and not come back. On the advice of trainers, she did a shock collar, and the dog was terrified. It made the dog regress and the relationship between herself and her dog was torn apart.

Training is not really training, it is building a relationship with your dog. This makes me realize, as I have in real life, we must LISTEN to our dog, like Suzanne says. Our dogs are always sending us messages, talking to us, but most of the time we aren’t listening. We know when our dog is nervous and doesn’t want to do something. We know when our dog is excited. They talk to us. Not in human talk silly, but in dog talk. When they are nervous we see their tail go up, we see them get rigid and they look alert or freeze. We know when they are happy…YES dogs not only pray, but they smile too!

 Sometimes I admit I have not listened to my dog telling me things. For instance, my dog was telling me not bring her close to someone she was scared of, ears alert, tail up. Someone with me said that it was okay, don’t be such a worry wart, the dog will be fine. I listened of course, and it wasn’t okay. She freaked and I took her away. But the trust was gone there after a few times of not listening to her. Building a relationship takes time. I have taken time with her, and we rebuilt our relationship and it has blossomed. Suzanne tells in her book about how we should think about dogs. We should treat them like we want to be treated. We should think about our relationship with them such as, “What would you think if someone shocked you, or pinched you? Would you trust and like to be around them? Would you listen to them?” It’s true. What kind of relationship with our dog, who we love is that?

This woman’s story is very true to everyone in the world. Some people think of dogs as being “just dogs”. They are not just dogs. They have emotions, feelings, and even PRAY! They pray for things to fall when you are cooking. They pray to run in an open field. They pray for people to stop hurting them, or to get out of a cage. Like Suzanne says, their prayers are sometimes answered when we “accidentally” drop food. They communicate and pray, you can see it in their eyes! Haven’t you ever seen them just staring in the distance, or looking up at you as if they are seeing through you? Yep, they are praying!

I have so much more to say on so many topics brought up in the book. Suzanne has so many good things to say which I have mentioned! More to come later.

Good Training Update

Oreo was very shaky the last few weeks. We have had more stress at home, and since I have gone back to work she hasn’t been herself. It was so bad that when a car door would slam outside, she would get up barking like a nut! However, she did very well at training yesterday. We did calming curves, and she turned around nicely when she got near another dog and I called her name.

Also, I made sure I had a great reward for her when she got back into the car–STEAK! So now she enjoys going in the car more. Last session it was hard to get her to go back into the car. We also did a new exercise, called treat and retreat. I got her out of the car, and someone would stand about 10-15 feet away. Oreo barked at first, but the trainer who oreo adores, stood next to the new person. Oreo was better with the person then. We would take a few steps towards the person & they would throw a treat behind Oreo so she would turn. Then they people throwing the treats would back away a few steps, giving her room. Oreo kept going towards them and they kept throwing treats. This shows her people are good, and we can take breaks to calm ourselves by turning and retreating. We don’t ALWAYS have to run up to people, especially if we can’t control ourselves. This was a good activity for her, and we will continue to use it at training.

Her allergies seemed to be getting much better since we started her on raw. We also got honey locally, and have added it to her food. However, when it rains her eyes get more inflammed. So we are trying a homeopathic remedy-sulfur. We shall see how that goes…

First Reactive Class

I pulled into where our first reactive class would be held. It wasn’t a normal reactive class, in the matter that we don’t all bring our dogs out at the same time. Everyone strategically parks their cars around the property (near the lake, behind the barn, near the house) so that the dog can’t see other dogs or people (or whatever upsets them). I pulled into 3 different areas until I found a good place and covered the back of the windshield with towels to cover her view from other dogs and people.

Most people who were there have been taking the classes for months, and some for almost a year or more. People come whenever they can, and for as long as they want. There are 6 sessions and then it just continues to another round of 6 after that if you want to continue.

Of course I was nervous, but we did fine. We decided on having her get out of the car and focus on me, do tricks, then return. She did it the first time. Next, we had a dog at a very great distance (50 feet away), and she would have to do the same. She got out, looked at me when I said her name, but would not treat. She sat & whinned, and begged to go see the trainer who was 50 feet away. We did a few sessions with Oreo, all about the same getting out of the car and focusing, she did an okay job, but had trouble focusing. We need to work on her impulse control. It was awesome she was whinning and wanted to go see people and a dog, but also not awesome because she couldn’t focus on me. Impulse control is part of the goal.

Reactive dog have a hard time controlling themselves. Especially her. She can’t focus on me for long with a distraction around or something better (sounds like a kid right?). When she sees people she loves she just goes out of control, there is no median, just either wild, or sleeping. We have seen a lot more relaxing lately. It has been 2 months since she started her anxiety medication.

Can I tell it’s helping? A little, but I can’t be sure it’s the medicine and not training, or both. I see little things, like she is still afraid of the fan (I catch her looking at it with those eyes), but she doesn’t go into full blown panic attack barking at it. She also is much more relaxed outside. When she sees people and dogs going to the mailbox about 30 feet away she doesn’t bark at all (she used to go wild).

She has had very bad allergies and itches her eyes nonstop and has lost the hair around her eyes. I believe these are seasonal allergies, but we will see. She is on benadryl prescribed by the doctor, but with her anxiety medication it makes her very sleepy. I am once again looking into the raw diet or perhaps a home cooked diet to help her. She was sick yesterday throwing up and not eating anything, not even treats or pills. This use to happen all the time, almost 5 out of 7 days months ago. But, we have eliminated all wheat and gluten from her diet and she has been doing better and she only gets sick usually once a month. However, she still isn’t excited about eating food. She was at first when I started raw, but lost interest so I went back to kibble. I try mixing chicken and different things with the food, but now she’s really not too interested.

The trainer again recommended raw because of allergies, and I mentioned the cost and lack of freezer space. She said I could get the premade chubs which is true, but they are expensive. I know it would be less expensive to get raw food that is not premade but I just can’t change her diet with the school year coming up this week (I’m a teacher). Oreo has seemed more clingy since I’ve been back from work.

We did calming curves at class. This means there is a dog at a distance, and Oreo is with me. The dog and handler are 50 feet away and the trainer shouts out how many steps (5 steps, 9, 11, and so on). You walk with the dog for the set amount of steps and turn your body and call the dogs name so they turn around with you. The other person does the same. This is to teach the dog that they can walk away from things that are scary. Oreo did not want to turn around. She whinned, sat , and so on. She wanted to see the trainer?? Or the other dog?! Not sure, but that’s my homework for the next week-practice calming curves without distractions.

Last Training Session!

 

Oreo had her last training session! We started off discussing how she has been doing, and discussed how her new medication may be causing irritation around her eyes. She has been itching them and they are red :(. This could also be allergies, but has been new since the new anxiety meds have kicked in. I hesitate to post the medication’s name because anxiety medicine is a tricky game. Some medicines work get to aide in training with one day, and horrible with another.

We practiced focusing on me while she got out of the car. Now the trainer had her dog more than 50 feet away and Oreo got out the first time and did wonderfully when I called her name she focused on me and did tricks. Then back in the car to celebrate! YAY! Next, the trainer had her dog walking around instead of having their back towards her. This proved harder. We tried 2 times, then decided on a new strategy. It worked!! The first time at least….

The second time  she did look back at me quickly, did 1 trick, and in mid spin stopped, looked at the dog, then pulled to go into the training house. I don’t think she wanted to avoid the dog, I think she was thinking, “Geez can we stop this already?” We discussed what happened and went to do calming curves (taking a few steps toward the dog at a distance, then calling our dog’s name and hoping she turns). Well, she didn’t turn. She sat and watched the other dog…with interest???

The trainer asked if she should break protocol. I knew what that meant…bring the dog closer. She thought Oreo wanted to play. I agreed because she gave out little whiney sounds, which she does when she is excited to see another dog and wants to play. They neared each other and I became more nervous. Oreo went into her “stalking” pose, and I thought, “Uh oh,” although I shouldn’t have because she does this when she approaches her friends  (dogs she plays with). The trainer turned her dog around to sniff and we let Oreo sniff for a few seconds, then called her to turn around (more like I had to pull her a little). The second time we did this, she wasn’t even interested, she just sniffed around and looked around (YAY!!!! For Oreo, she realizes she doesn’t have to go crazy or get too excited, or even be interested in another dog!!).

We proceeded and Oreo did have a little lunge/out of control outburst, but only lasted a second and was composed. The trainer said, “What was that? I don’t know what that was?” It was like a loud whiney type thing while lunging. Anyways, she was okay after that, and even let the dog sniff her butt and walk by her on the side where she was attacked (YAY!!!). Also, later as we were talking the dogs both were okay just relaxing near each other and Oreo didn’t even seem interested!! YAYYYYY This is a big deal for her because she has never been “not intereseted” in another dog. When she was younger it was lunging to play, wouldn’t stop wanting to play, can’t stop playing..then after she was bitten it was growl, lunge, bark..get away!!! She has never relaxed with another dog around. YAYYY for Oreo!!!  She also layed down one foot away from the other dog who was standing near her!!! YAYYYY!! That is not the behavior of a reactive dog. Perhaps because she knew the owner??

I also noticed she walked away from a neighbor dog who she would sometimes interact with (yay!!!). Oreo is hopefully learned she can walk away instead of going crazy. So our training is not done, nor will it probably ever be done. It’s not easy, but it’s life! I am going to continue to work on some recalls, and one of them should help with her space issues (she stops a foot or more away from me), and work on getting out of the car & focusing with dogs around. Another thing I want to start is a routine when people come into the house. This will get Oreo used to people coming in, and know what to expect. Leaving her in a room when the doorbell rings, invite the guest in, get them comfortable. Do focus/trick exercises in the room, outside, have her leashed on a bed next to me with the person in the room or next room, and so on….I wasn’t pleased that she didn’t focus on me…but if she wanted to play with another dog…that’s okay with me!!!!!!!!

Just like Normal

Did you ever see the joy on dogs faces when they are playing with their best friend? I have, and it makes me forget that Oreo is reactive, just for those minutes, it’s as if she is the friendliest dog ever! She was just outside playing with her best friend, Boomer, a large dog who lets her jump on top of him and roll over and play ball. They share toys, run together, and lay next to each other. It is truely a sight to behold.

Oreo is afraid of strangers, and will even sometimes lunge/bark at them to try to ward them off. When she is playing EVERYONE is her friend. Even the scary neighbor guy who comes out with his dog. When she would once bark at him and lunge, she goes right up to him and all of the people outside for petting and playing. She even lets all of the older SCARY MEN pet her. It’s like magic, and it makes me feel happy to see her so happy and not worried. If every day could be like this! This bring up feelings of why? Why is she okay now, playing in the backyard, when other times she definitely isn’t?

The other day one of the scary neighbor men came right up to us and she had a fit, barking, lunging, and I’m sure if she was close enough she probably would’ve tried to bite him to make him go away he was so scary. We put her in the house, then minutes later took her out the back to play with her friend Boomer. A scary man was sitting next door with Boomer’s mom, and Oreo never met this man before–she went right up to him jumping up on him licking him loving the petting! What is up with that? Pehaps she has associated the back yard with good experiences, and good people? Who knows, but I wish it wouldn’t stop. Unfortunately her best friend boomer will be moving in less than 2 weeks 😦 So we have to savor the moments we have…

On another note I am proud of some of the little things I have seen from her. When she is tired of playing, she will walk away from Boomer or lay down. This is a smart decision for her because sometimes she gets over tired then gets snappy. Another thing I noticed was when the other neighbor’s dog came out she did not go over there. I actually think she knows this dog is super shy. It might sound weird, but I think she knows. She uses calming signals with this dog EVERY SINGLE TIME. When she seems him she automatically turns her head and lays down. If you haven’t read about calming signals you should definitely do that. She is trying to calm the other dog down (yay!). Usually she is the one out of control, but after hanging around this dog a few times at a distance, and having her friend Boomer around she has been more comfortable. Also, she was looking out the door and saw a dog coming, barked 2 times, then walked away. Yay! Small victories when there is a long way to go keeps you going…

It’s JUST a dog.

I have started Oreo on a mixed diet. I’m not brave enough to go full RAW…yet, and my freezer is not big enough either (darn condo). I went looking for stella and chewy raw frozen dog food at chaar, but found they only had dehydrated. While dehydrated is convienent, I find it weird and unnatural (although it can be but I just think it’s weird). I ended up seeing two freezers. One full of Nature’s Variety (she’s on that kibble) and BRAVO.

I didn’t know much about BRAVO, but took a leap of faith, and couldn’t find bad reviews online (although I am sure there are, no one will like everything). I got a sample pack (different varieties) and a large pack of 12 patties of turkey. Chicken or turkey are what you should start your dog on if you are going RAW, due to the tummy upsets. However, make sure you try variety. I made that mistake and my dog would seem fine on kibble a little while, then get sick. So perhaps she became allergic (which is what I’m told happens if you don’t switch).

This is all a new world for me. I mean some people will say, “It’s JUST a dog.” To that, I think the person maybe never had a dog? Or a real connection or relationship with the dog, making them part of the family. It actually fathoms me that people can say that. I think our society has distanced itself greatly from the world of animals. They are disposable, much like a purse from the store. It’s in when you buy it, then out in a few months when the seasons change. Some people feel this way about dogs, and many don’t have the right tools or knowledge to have a dog. Unfortuantely, many people seem so busy or miserable they don’t stop and enjoy life and everything around it. Some people are just miserable. But I digress…

Yes, I know I am a RAW diet wimp as some people may believe. Yes, RAW from a company is more expensive, and yes, you don’t know exactly what you are getting. But I think that RAW will hopefully be better than just kibble.

As for training, I find myself being lazy. I can’t be lazy though, I paid a lot of money and I’ve seen some progress and I can’t give up. After each lesson it seems like I take a few days to chill a little. But I tell myself this is okay. We started the dog on her new meds and I’ve noticed she is sleeping A LOT during the day. This can be a side effect, but usually changes eventually.

Some success in the past few days: Getting out of the car and looking at me when dogs are within 20 feet (on the 2nd try), and having a GIGANTIC lawnmower passing us (this thing was the size of a dumptruck) within 10 feet of us at the park and her not reacting. Of course I was holding a nice treat and encouraging her telling her what a good dog she is!!