Monday, January 17, 2011

Fixing My Dogs

Last night, Jun and I had a behavior consult with Sara Reusche of Paws Abilities in Rochester. Jun has some fear-aggression issues with strange people and they have only seemed to get worse over the past couple of years, progressing from reacting only to kids to reacting to almost any strange person when she is off leash and anyone who gets up close and personal with her when she is on leash. It is bad enough that I thought it was time to be proactive and step in to fix her before she hurts someone or gets to the point where I am uncomfortable taking her out in public at all.

Sara pointed out how stressed and nervous Jun was in general. She did not really relax at all the entire hour and a half of our appointment. I consider myself fairly well educated in canine body language--more than most "pet people" at least--but I had not been picking up on a lot of stress signals she was giving off. She's always been a crazy hyperactive dog and I have accepted it as who she is--an extremely drivey working dog. And she is that, but she is also stressed much of the time and doesn't really know how to relax ever. So our first order of business is teaching relaxation with the Relaxation Protocol. I am also going to start using DAP and a thundershirt--we put a thundershirt on her last night and she sat by my side without moving for, well, maybe a few minutes? I'm not sure how long it was but it was longer than she's ever sat motionless before (without being in a stay or being entertained somehow) in her life. We are also going to start taking two walks a week and doing basic counter-conditioning to people we see--that is, dispensing food while people are in sight, no food when there are no people--to try to change her emotional reaction to encountering strangers.

Then there is Elo. Elo is starting a reactive dog class next month. He's gotten a ton better with several of his triggers by working LAT, but have not had many opportunities to work around dogs in under threshold situations. So class should be great for that! I have high hopes for Elo--he's not fearful and he really loves dogs and people. He just doesn't know how to respond appropriate to certain stimuli, and has really benefited from being taught an alternate behavior. He will also benefit from relaxation work, I think, so he's going to do the RP as well.

And finally, Lok. He has been doing SO much better with his anxiety since being back on Prozac. He has been back on it for almost 2 months now, I think. He barely licks his paws anymore--they are mostly white again! He still barks in his crate some, but doesn't completely freak out anymore, doesn't dig frantically or chew on the crate pan and bars. It will be thunderstorm season again in a few months, and I'm not looking forward to that, but I am hoping that the Prozac, DAP, thundershirt, and working the relaxation protocol will help him as well.

So, I have my work cut out for me, but if it pays off in happy, relaxed dogs it will be well worth it.


  1. I know that RP takes a ton of work so I wish you patience! Any suggestions for Jun's barking?

    I think you and Elo will have fun in class. It will be nice to have a controlled setup to practice his behavior around other dogs.

    Really great news about Lok!

  2. Oooh, lucky. Sara is AWESOME, but she's a bit too far for me to see her.

  3. @Laura, I'm really looking forward to class with Elo! It will be interesting. Last night I had him at ACTS for his PT appointment and just being in the training building was really tough for him. He didn't even see any other dogs.

    @Crystal, she IS awesome! I know her from our disc dog club and she's about an hour and a half away from me, but it was worth the drive to work with someone I know and trust.

  4. Good luck with the RP! It's really been great for B. Now after the first exercise or so, B seems to think, "Oh, I know this." Then she settles right down. We still seem to have a bit of trouble holding on the the "settle" once I release her, but it's way better than before when I had no way to calm her down and she'd just keep escalating.

    See you in RR!