Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Fun New Naughtiness and Other Things

Well, apparently, Jun's drugs are making her hungry. She has never been a counter-surfer, but over the past few weeks she has eaten a TON of stuff that I thought was left WELL out of her reach. Apparently she is more determined than I thought, and now every time I turn my back she is up on the counters. No more leaving food out, I suppose. She has also gained a little weight from all the food she managed to steal, so now she's on a diet as well. I'm sure she is thrilled about that.

I am not really sure how much the meds are helping her. It's been four weeks now, and so hard to be patient. She is still a lot calmer in the house. Other than that, nothing seems to have improved. She is barking again. Last night she spent half the night barking and also ripped up a roll of toilet paper in the bathroom.She hasn't barked at night since we lowered her Sertraline dose, so I'm not sure what her deal was. She has also never in the past month touched anything in there that wasn't hers. I know she was feeling panicky, but there is nothing I can do about it. If I leave her loose she will just pace and not sleep. Poor girl must be tired.

She's doing great with Relaxation Protocol. Doing ok with walks. Windy days suck, for both her and Elo, I have found. The wind must bring so many more smells than they usually have to deal with. Jun gets all anxious again and has trouble focusing. Elo just gets a little crazy and is all over the place. Gotta love his enthuisiasm for life though!

I have gotten kind of bored with training. Without a solid goal to work towards, I become a terrible trainer. I wish I could have the dogs in some type of class, so I would have some structure. Since I am sick of all the other stuff I was working on, I decided to start training Jun and Elo together. We do this every once in awhile, but I'd like to really ramp up the difficulty level, e.g., heeling one dog around the other while they are in a stay, etc. They did really well! I put them on separate mats across the room and worked one at a time on just basic stuff. It works out great, since Jun only knows hand signals and Elo only knows verbals. As long as I'm not gesturing to Elo to try to get him to do what I want, there is no confusion! I tried to train Elo and and Lok together once and it was chaos. Neither understood the concept of following only commands that were specifically addressed to them. And Lok gets frustrated so easily that I never really followed up. I think not being able to see me makes it harder for him too.

We have also not been getting to the park much this summer, due to Jun's issues, so I haven't been able to work her toss and catch much or distance at all. And if the dogs don't go to the park, I don't usually go by myself, so I haven't been throwing as much as I should be. We work freestyle in the yard maybe once a week. Short TC in the yard once a week. Next competition is in 16 days in Missouri---Quad and AWI qualifier. This was our best competition of the year last year! Our best FS round ever, and our first time making the finals in the Quad. I don't know what I can expect this year since we haven't been working much, but we will have fun for sure, at least.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Three weeks on drugs

This is a super boring post so here is the summary: Week one, good! Increased meds. Week two, bad. Decreased meds. Week three good! Don't know if she's just sleepy or actually feeling less anxious, but either way, I like it!!

Jun is on 12mg of Sertraline once a day and 50mg of Trazodone twice a day. The first day she was extremely sleepy. She cuddled on the couch with me for a quarter of a movie---and she has NEVER cuddled on the couch for any length of time. She slept most of the day. She was pretty sleepy the second day. She'd be looking at me and her eyes would start closing and her head would start getting lower, then she'd force herself awake. She got gradually less sleepy over the first week. Other than the sleepiness, she was a dream. She was pretty much immediately back to her pre-spring-thaw ability to chill out in the house. She has not been in her crate since our appointment and is confined in the bathroom when I am not home or at night. The first week she didn't wear her bark collar at all and there was NO barking.

The second week her Sertraline was increased by 50%. The pills are TINY, so 8mg is pretty much about the size of a medium-sized crumb. Hard to imagine it having any effect. But in week two, Jun went crazy. It was a downhill slide all week with more and more barking, pacing, spinning. I think she was worse and more anxious the second week than she has ever been in her life. She was definitely worse in the car. There was absolutely nothing I could do to keep her from barking except put her bark collar on and then she just sat there looking silently panicked and I felt terrible. I had no connected the deterioration in her behavior with the increase in drugs and emailed Dr. Reichl in a panick. She nicely pointed out that we had increased her dose and had me back off to the first week dose.

Since decreasing her dose again, she has gotten better and better. I was running a disc dog competition all weekend and had to leave Jun home for 10-11 hours. On Saturday, when I got home, I had no time to anything with her. I didn't run her or train her or anything, yet she was able to be calm and chilled out. She even laid down at my feet calmly when I sat down to eat dinner. Her usual MO is that me sitting down is a cue to start pacing, spinning, or bugging me for attention. It was pretty cool that she was able to self-entertain and chill for a night when I was too busy to do anything with her.

I don't know if her behavior changes are a result of being sedated or if they are a reduction in anxiety. I am not sure how to tell the difference. She seems to mostly have the same energy/drive for playing and training, especially when I train right before giving her her evening trazodone dose. A few hours after the trazodone I notice slight decreases in her energy and enthusiasm for "doing things." She is still hypervigilant outside and scanning for monsters buy maybe with a little less intensity. She has also been really nice and relaxed on our short walks and able to be very attentive to me while moving. When we stand still she scans, but we are working attention and getting her to focus on me and think.

We are also working BAT. I love the concept, but I'm not entirely sure I'm applying it right, and I think it's too early to tell if it's making a difference. I'll do another post on that later.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Walk Around the Block!

Elo and I took a walk last night, and we made it around a whole block! That is the farthest we've ever gone! A year and a half of training and my dog can finally go for a short walk! Huge progress and I am really proud of him!

He kept the leash loose pretty much the whole time. About halfway through there were a couple off-leash dogs across the street, standing and staring at him. Thankfully, their owner was with them and they didn't move. Elo noticed them before I did, but didn't lose control. We did some quick LAT, then a dog catch and carried him past. When I thought they were out of sight I put him down and we kept walking, but they came around the edge of the house and kept staring at Elo. Again, he noticed before I did, but was calm and stayed focused on me. This is the dog who, just months ago, would erupt anytime he saw a dog anywhere. Now he is encountering them out in the real world and keeping his cool!

Shortly after the dogs, Elo was a little ramped up and we had to walk on a narrow sidewalk we've never been on before with lots of distractions. He lost his focus a bit and I realized it was a little too much for me to ask for perfection in that situation, so I relaxed my criteria, kept calm, and just marked and rewarded whatever attention he gave me. He actually ended up doing really well and giving me a lot more than I thought he would! As we finished up the walk there was an on-leash dachshund walking towards us with it's people, we did a couple sessions of LAT with little breaks in between as it approached. Elo is getting really good about being able to break focus and walk away in the other direction, so when we do LAT now we will do a few looks and before he gets over threshold we will break by walking away a little ways. When the dog got too close we ducked behind a truck parked on the street until it passed, then walked home.

In other Elo news, he has mastered the "wave" command and now has six commands on cue! For a dog that I thought would never understand any words, he is getting really good about picking up new verbal cues! We are working on "back up" and just started putting that on cue. And still working on his handstand, but haven't made any progress on that lately.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Jun on Drugs Week 1

 . . . on second thought, every time I post something about how well Jun is doing, I seem to end up taking it back a week later. The week had its ups and downs, but it had a whole lot more ups than I expected so soon. So I'm just gonna go knock on a ton of wood right now.

Our big challenge for the week--I've run out of ways to keep Jun from barking in her car crate. There has always been something that worked. Even if it only worked for a little while and then stopped working, there would be something else that worked. Well, at the moment, she can have the crate totally covered, a bark collar on, a thundershirt on, and a Kong with peanut butter, all at the same time, and still be unable to suppress her reaction to what I am now really starting to believe is claustrophobia. Though riding "loose" (tied to the door) did not help either, so that might negate that idea. And there is NO WAY this dog is going to get to ride completely loose. She is a disaster loose in the car and we'd all surely die. Since I DO need to get her from point A to point B every once in awhile, I think earplugs may have to be the solution until I find another one.

Oooh! One thing I CAN safely brag on . . . Elo, AKA, "the dog that I train who actually STAYS trained" did SO well hanging out in the Petsmart parking lot and looking at dogs! I feel like I haven't worked with him enough lately and expected some regression. I could not believe how well he held it together with the 5 dogs that showed up while we were there! He'll be a good dog yet, I just know it!