Another Great Lesson & A Graduation

Today was graduation…not for me…but for Annie, another dog we work with. We are a close group, considering there are only 5 of us and we grow closer each day due to our shared experiences with our reactive dogs. Annie is a dog who isn’t aggressive. I am sure she would be if put in a situation where she HAD to be, but she’s really the opposite of Oreo is many ways. Instead of showing she is scared by growling, lunging, or barking, she will run. Most of the time her tail is tucked so far between her legs it looks like she doesn’t even have one. She bounces from person to person excited to get treats, her tail out in sight. As soon as she’s within a foot of a person the tail disappears again.

She was rescued in a field, found on the run. Every time her owner would pick something up, especially the newspaper her dog would run. Obviously¬†Annie was abused in the past ūüė¶ ¬†Her owner spent weeks trying to get her out of the corner of her living room from behind a recliner. She has made great strides. Now she can go up to people and perform tricks for treats. She doesn’t love other dogs, but can stand right next to them-as long as they don’t touch her. She has made so much progress she is graduating, and moving on to reactive rally!

Oreo had another wonderful day. We arrived and she was whinning to go play with the other dogs and see the people. Familiar dogs she is okay playing with now, at least the trainer believes so-makes me nervous but slow steps will help. She greeted everyone and we did a “hanging out” session, and Oreo did great, but now she just sits and whines because she wants to greet everyone! (Hey, it could be worse, she could be like her old self growling, lunging, barking, etc). She also learned the send off, a structured greeting for people (she did great!).The trainer said she may be able to do rally one day! I never thought!!

I still don’t see so much of a difference at home when walking (she still barking wildly at dogs, etc), but she is in the same neighborhood still she was in when she was attacked. So her situation here is the same, but within the next 6 months we are looking to move, and Oreo will have a big yard to run around in! Looking forward to the future, but enjoying the present!

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 ūüė¶ 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.

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…

Training Session #3

I had our 3rd training session. Oreo is not yet ready to exit the car with other dogs around, so next session we will try setting up some scenarios with another dog and the trainer. The sessions will consist of getting the dog out of the car and looking at me and performing tricks. There are a gambit of different things we can do after we accomplish the focus from the dog.

We are going to be practicing 2 different variations of “come”. One is more traditional, while the other involves going through my legs and should increase trust between us. I feel that so far the training has increased her trust in me and decreased anxiety inside the house.

We will continue “stuffing the dog” (feeding her while saying her name), and continue associating her name with looking at me through different methods. Additionally, we will practice more tricks. I will try to get her to spin the other way (where her injury from the attack was), and hopefully this will help her be less sensitive there. I will also continue TTouch and the trainer may put me in contact with someone going through the TTouch program who can help. She is only a little over a year and a half, so it’s important to get her over these things now.

We practiced a “high five” with the dog. Every few weeks I should teach her a new trick to keep her mind going, and to use for focus so she doesn’t get bored. The key is to realize when she is about to go over threshold for triggers, then make her perform a trick. Many times dogs bark because they are like guard dogs, and that’s why we work so well with dogs and they work well with us. They just want us to acknowledge “ok” we see what you are telling us is there, and it’s ok.

Oreo will be okay when she can see things, but when she doesn’t see them, she gets nuts. For example, when I was walking with the dog into the training barn, her husband was there and Oreo looked and didn’t go crazy. She saw him, continued walking (we didn’t get too close), and she was okay. When we got into the training room, he started up the mower. She couldn’t see it, and started barking and getting upset. At that point, she is using the back of her brain and in the fight or flight mode. She should be using the front of her brain and thinking logically, but when dogs get over their threshold, it’s too late. Sooo the moral of the story is to get their attention and for them to do something before they start using the back of their brain.

We also discussed the RAW diet. She does not want to push it on me, just suggests to look into and see if it is right. The reason she suggested this is because Oreo has lots of digestive issues, and hardly eats the expensive kibble we get her (although she is treated a lot!). I will look into it. I’m mostly concerned about all the time it will take and the cost. I can’t afford to pay more for food, I already pay tons, but some people say it costs less so we shall see.

I have 2 weeks until my next session, but will be away a few weeks at the shore. I’m not sure what will happen after this session (it will be the last one). I do want to continue, but it is super expensive. We shall see…

Just when you think everything is okay…

Everything has been going a lot smoother now that the ear drop extravaganza is over. Oreo’s meds have been upped, but I have seen no noticable difference. However, I have become much more observant and versed in doggie language (calming signals). I think I over analyze everything. Or maybe everything just doesn’t see from my eyes, and Oreo’s eyes. Talking about eyes, look at those eyelashes she has!

Everything has been going pretty well because of management and training. We haven’t had issues with growling when taking things away, instead we “trade”. She has learned that getting off of the couch or bed get her good things. Even as I am writing this it gives me hope to think of all the good things she can do and the progress (no matter how small) she has made. She waits at the door sitting before we go out, the other day she actually went upstairs with me and my husband was laying in bed and she waited, sitting until I said it was okay to go on the bottom of the bed (WOW! big deal for her, she NEVER does that with the bed). She will wait calmly while I put her food down. She still isn’t calm enough to eat “normally” but she will eat if I mix chicken with her food or something else.

Her itching has improved, but within the last few days she has been itching more. She gets probiotics and extra virgin¬†organic coconut oil with her food. I believe this has helped her stomach, and overall health. She used to be sick all the time throwing up and loose stools. We also cut all gluten and wheat out of her diet and give her treats like chicken. It does take a while and can be a pain, but it’s¬† better that she is healthy and getting quality food.

Well…so everything was going well….then we were at my parents and my aunt, uncle, and niece (toddler) decided to pop in for a visit. Before I knew what was going on, my uncle came through the door. Luckily I got the leash on but she started barking and jumped and got a hold of his shorts and started pulling. I’m not quite sure what she was doing, this has not happened before. I’m guessing she was nervous and thought he was some kind of intruder? She continued to bark and I took her outside for a walk. My niece and aunt were in the pool and Oreo was whining and trying to get to my niece (2 years old). Eventually she calmed down, but when she got out of the pool again Oreo was whining and pulling with the crazy stressed out large eyes look. I believe she is very curious/nervous/excited around kids. I did not let anyone touch her at these times and kept her distance from them. I hate to keep her away so much, but also don’t want anyone to get hurt.

I hope at the next training session (In 3 days) I will learn what to do with exposure and getting along with people. Would I love for her to get along with dogs? Yea! She loves the ones she knew before she was attacked, but I need to live in this reality, she was attacked, and if I was too I probably would avoid whatever attacked me for a long time if not the rest of my life out of fear. I would like her to be more comfortable around people without her being crazy and nervous, but that will take time. She is comfy with people she sees all the time, but new people are scary.

This is becoming a long post. After my uncle said goodbye with his neice and wife Oreo was barking and lunging toward him, and of course he told his grandchild, “BAD DOG, she’s a BAD DOG”. I didn’t say anything, he is ignorant when it comes to dogs and reactivity. These dogs aren’t bad…they are scared.

My neighbor has a fearful dog, who is not fear aggressive, but super shy around people and will run away. Her brother-in-law was visiting and kept telling her what a bad dog he was, that he needed obediance training. This really bothered me, and my neighbor. People can be very ignorant. I was an ignorant person myself, I must admit it. We live and learn, unfortunately, most people do not learn about how to approach dogs. I recently visited http://boogiebt.wordpress.com/ , a dog blog where the blogger posts pictures and great examples of calming signals, and when you can tell a dog is afraid.