Monday, August 1, 2011

Back to "Normal"

Well, life is back to "normal" (as normal as it can be with my crew) after Lok's near-death experience (which I never mentioned on the blog, since I don't think anybody reads the blog who isn't my facebook friend). Today he has ANOTHER infection--one of the wounds from one of his many catheter sites is not healing up properly. So more money and more antibiotics. This dog really sucks at fighting off infection. But other than that he is doing really, really well!! He is completely off phenobarbital now and is just on zonisamide for his epilepsy and hasn't had any seizures since June 8th, the first day he was in the hospital! So three weeks!! He was going about a month apart before his hospitalization, so I am interested to see how well the zonisamide works for him. And now that I've said anything he will probably have a seizure tonight, so excuse me while I find some wood to knock on . . .

Jun has been on drugs for over two months now with inconclusive results. She is up and down, calm and wild, barking and quiet. I have not seen anything that I would label as a clear improvement, and it's tough to know what is due to meds and what is due to the behavior mod work I have continued to do with her. While her general behavior seems to have improved some days, the BIG issue--her hyper-vigilance and fear of people--doesn't seem to have improved at all. I would have expected to see a decrease in her "scanning" behavior when there is nothing around, and haven't. I would also have hoped that her threshold would have decreased and I don't think it has. Or not much. I feel like the BAT work we've been doing, along with CC/DS has been helping her. However, rather than helping her feel more comfortable around people, I feel like it's helping her "operantly" to make better choices in situations that make her uncomfortable (turning to me or walking away vs. starting and reacting). This is a good start, but I would really rather she FEELS better in these situations instead of just being able to suppress her reactions to fearful situations.

Being so busy with Lok and Jun lately, I have not really had time to work with Elo much, which sucks because he is the dog that my work pays off with the most! We haven't gotten out around other dogs much lately, but we've been shaping a lot of obedience foundation stuff! He heels really nicely on both sides! We've been doing a lot of work with pivots lately, in front and heel position. He has an easier time with counter-clockwise pivots, due to missing a leg on the left side, but both are coming along! I've been working on a drop on recall and having kind of a hard time with it. He will down at a distance from a sit-stay or stand-stay, but gets really confused when asked to lie down in the middle of a recall. He finished his recall and then lays down in front of me. It makes perfect sense, but Jun and Elo pretty much did this automatically, so I never had to think about how to teach it. Right now, we are working moving downs in heel position and also working on a "wait" command. I am having him follow me in "front" position, I cue a wait, and he (hopefully) pauses while I continue moving. So far, I am still having to pause with him before continuing to back up, but I think he's starting to get it. Any other ideas?


  1. Fingers crossed for Lok!!

    I'm sorry her drugs haven't been a miracle cure. I'm hoping for that too. Maybe with more time or a different dose or maybe the dreaded med change. That is great news with her behavioral work though. At least something is helping.

    For drop on recall I do the distance work, downs in motion while heeling and then I move to the treat toss game so there is a tiny bit of distance and a tiny bit of movement. Basically I toss a treat and down as soon as he eats it. Repeat, eventually downing them after they return a few steps and finally alternating a recall with treat through the legs, with a down immediately after eating to get more excitement built up. And then of course downing later and later.

    But then again Vito's drop on recall isn't the greatest. He's traveling too far from where I drop him. I know I need to start putting the treats and/or toys behind him from when I start instead of just tossing it to him or bringing it to him after the down but I haven't gotten around to practicing it yet.

    I think a wait while you're backing up is hard. What are you doing that for?? An exercise in and of itself or are you doing it as a foundation for something else? I don't think I have ever done that although I do moving stand stays from heeling.

  2. Someday, ladies, someday there will be a magic pill that fixes everything. It's the hope that keeps me going to work every day. ;)

    I taught drop on recall to all of my dogs the same way Laura described, so I won't elaborate any more on that.

    I did want to say that it took about two years of pretty intensive work before Maus got to the point were he was genuinely comfortable around people he didn't know who weren't doing anything overtly rude to him. He still has trouble with people who stare at him or are wearing glasses or look funny or move to fast or are children, but he fakes normal pretty well (I think). It's hard and it's heart breaking and it's expensive and it's probably the most rewarding thing I've ever done with any dog I've met.

    (PS - GO TEAM LOK!!!)

  3. @Laura W- The wait as I'm backing up, I was doing as a foundation for drop on recall. I figured that getting him to just STOP on recall was the first step to getting a drop on recall, but I couldn't get him to do that either. So I figured I would start with both of us moving until he got the idea of stopping and then gradually make him stop further back. I thought it might also translate to the moving stand . . . Like I said, I'm making it up as I go along!!

    Your toss a treat then down idea is brilliant! I could not figure out how to get him away from me to give him a down cue without putting him in a sit or stand stay first! I tried it last night. He can do it if he is right next to me, not so much if he is a foot or two away. We will keep working. I don't know why this was so easy with Lok and Jun. Either I have totally blocked out actually training them to do it, or they have always just laid down wherever they are told to. But then, they are border collies and read my mind, and think outside the box. Elo is different. He is much more in tune to context, and "lie down" has always meant "lie down at my feet, or at my side if you are in heel, or where you are if I put you in a stay" so it will probably take some time to change that.

    @Laura M - Two years is a long time. But that gives me hope that she is fixable in time.

  4. I think Sue Ailsby teaches drop on recall by getting the stop first. A few years ago she demonstrated clicking whenever the dog got a certain point ont he floor and throwing the treat behind, eventually the dogs started anticipating at that spot and then she added the down. Each session was a new spot on the floor. Another method I've seen is using the dog's mat as a target to drop them on.

    I think a stand stay at a distance would be harder than a sit or down, much harder to define don't move a foot than simply fold back. Oh, and I assume that he already knows how to do a fold back down.

    Border collies are great at those fast downs :)

  5. I read your blog and am not your facebook friend! Just saying! Sounds like an accident?

  6. Hi! It was surgery for an obstruction, followed by a 5-day hospital stay, a bad infection, and another surgery. And liver damage. They thought he wouldn't make it for awhile. It was pretty harrowing! He's better now.