Friday, December 2, 2016

Very belated Update

Life kind of got away from me, so the updates stopped.  But I wanted to post here as I adjust my plan.

Now that it is cold and dark out, I have really stopped working on Ida's traffic sensitivity.  She is still stressed out by the car, but that stress is not affecting her class performance anymore.  She is still more timid in new locations than in familiar ones, but she is WORKING!

There are a lot of concerns we need to address still, things that mainly seem to be anxiety rather than flat-out fear.  Seeing other dogs, confinement, riding in the car.

These past few weeks Ida and I... 

... started a second agility class.  It doesn't seem to have affected her performance in our other agility class (which also just ended).

... continued taking walks around the cul-de-sac.  I tried an afternoon walk and Ida did okay, but there was more noise than at night and she was definitely more wary of the entry to the cul-de-sac.

... attended an agility fun run at a place a 45 minute (highway!) drive from our house, surrounded entirely by strange people and strange dogs in a place we'd never been to before.  And you know what?  Ida worked.  She jumped, she ran, she did tunnels.  Our first run was definitely rough (and we didn't finish the course), but I don't even care.  It is such a relief to know that right now, no matter what kinds of stress she's seen in the hours leading up to a run, she'll still try.

I noticed...

... at the fun-run Ida was quiet in her crate when it was covered, even when other dogs were barking.  At one point, she was pretty much the only dog in the building not barking.

... her barking at others dogs is becoming somewhat operantly conditioned (oops).  She will bark 2-3 times at another dog with less intensity/panic and then look at me.  A bit annoying, but that's okay.  Her choosing to bark at the other dog is better than her emotionally barking at the other dog.

In the future I plan to...

... Try to stick to walks before bed nightly (more or less).  At least, you know, on days when there isn't an extreme cold warning.  I'm going to give up on trying to walk out to the street for a while.  It is very clear that she has some kind of negative feelings about it (probably because I screwed up the counter conditioning).  I'm going to switch from doing loops around the cul-de-sac to doing C-shaped walks, avoiding the entrance to the cul-de-sac for a while, and then gradually moving closer to it on either side.

... take a break from classes, once the current session is done.  Driving anywhere in the car puts her over threshold, and I can't counter-condition her to car rides if she's constantly over threshold. She needs a break to work on it, and there's nothing that we're working on in classes that I can't work on at home.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Just a quick note

Ida and I started an agility class at a new facility last night.  I was really nervous heading in, but most of the dogs were barking, growling, howling while everyone got settled.  The whole class is about jump grids which is kind of boring in class but I think I'll get lots of good info out of it.

I also think it will be good for Ida to learn to chill with other dogs around. Dogs only work one at a time, and she'll have to walk by other dogs (with some distance) when we switch out for our tun. Additionally, everyone is crated while they're not working which will give us an opportunity to work on her being quiet while crated, even with exciting stuff happening (like dogs walking past).  Hopefully it will allow us to work on her reactivity in addition to her jumping mechanics!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Week 9 & 10 Update

It's been a busy and exciting two weeks!  I got a last-minute project at work which took up all my time (imagine doing 3-4 weeks worth of work in one week), and then Sarah Stremming read the thank you e-mail that I sent to her on the latest Cog Dog Radio episode.

My work was nutso last week; it caught me off guard so I wasn't able to finish my weekly update post, so I am combining last week and this week together; I'll try to keep it concise!

This past 2 weeks Ida and I... 

... went to the big off-leash park by ourselves.

... went to the shelter, and Ida hung out with the staff in the office while I worked with dogs in the back.  They were understaffed and two of the regular volunteers didn't show up, so we ended up staying for over 8 hours.... whoops!

... while at the shelter, we walked around a place with weird scary echoey noises (the adoption floor).  Ida hated it, so we headed back into the office area and she watched people/dogs through the window instead.

... almost missed agility class because of the work project that kept me overtime; I just barely made it on time but it required me to... go faster than Ida is comfortable with and she did not like it.

... played fetch in the cul-de-sac again, in the dark.  There where a couple of times when vehicles drove past, and Ida watched - calmly, with tail up (although not moving), no yawns, no lip licks, or other stress signals - before resuming play.  Maybe I'll add toys to a walk around the whole cul-de-sac; shorter time outside, but better exposures maybe?

I noticed...

... Compared to two weeks ago when we went with our doggo friend, Ida was much less comfortable at the park by herself.  She finally relaxed about halfway through the walk (instead of in the first 10 minutes).  I think having another dog not only boosts her confidence, but the other dog also deflects some of the attention away from Ida which I think helps her.  We'll be doing only buddy-walks from now on, and I'll have to figure something else out for decompression walks when we can't find a buddy.

... At the park she made friends with a large black dog - normally the kind of dog she is afraid of.  It was a lab that was walking ahead of his person who was just behind us.  After their initial greeting (which was brief and calm), the dog mostly ignored Ida until at the very end she invited him to play, and they chased/wrestled for a couple minutes before the other dog's owner leashed him up to head home.

... Ida's getting too much of her bottom cue from my body position, so I have to figure out a way to fade that out.

This next week I plan to...

... survive mostly?

... hopefully go on a buddy walk.  I have put some feelers out to a few new walking buddies.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Week 8 Update

This week's update is late; I have no excuses, I'm sorry!  It was a big week though, and I have lots to share this week.  This has definitely been Ida's most eventful week in a while!
Every action has a consequence.  Like baths

I'll start off with Snowball I guess; I've decided - for his health and mine - that we're doing daily walks every. single. morning.  Weather be damned, even if we only go out for 5 minutes on days when the weather is truly awful.  It's been going good so far, and we both feel much better for it.

On Sunday, we met up with a friend of mine and her sweet and steady chinook.  After a morning of tromping through (and drinking, ugh), the mud, Ida got the double joy of getting a bath at home and then going to the groomer for the afternoon.  She was great with the dogs that we encountered while I was waiting to drop her off (completely excitement-based barking, no fear at all), and when I arrived to pick her up she was curled up and taking a nap.

This week, of course, was Halloween.  We handed out candy, Snowball barked (from behind the kitchen gates) at tiny children, and Ida acted like the whole thing was boring, dressed like the princess that she is.

Everything the light touches is my queendom.
And all of that happened before our agility class on Thursday, where we were the only students....(because the other students that are enrolled are on vacation in Mexico this week and the head trainer).  So Ida got some awesome one-on-one time with a really great trainer who got her walking over the lowered teeter - something I've struggled with for months - in a matter of minutes.  It's not you Ida, it's me.

This last week Ida and I... 

... went to the big park for an off-leash walk with a doggo (and human) buddy.   Ida was nervous on the car ride, but wasn't immediately reactive to the first thing that she saw when she got out of the car (unusual for her).  I tried to be strategic about parking, so that we wouldn't be entering the park in a swarm of dogs.  Although Ida barked at my friend's dog, it seemed to have worked, and she settled down much faster than usual.  After those first 2 minutes, she was great!  Impeccable recall, and did great with the other dogs that we met.  I think I've found another method to add to this madness.

... worked some handling drills in the back yard.  I nearly had an asthma attack.   We will  be doing more running things as long as it is safe.

... started teeter work at home.  Now that I have a better idea of what I'm doing, I think we'll be able to make some progress with it.

I noticed...

.... Ida's shaking in the car doesn't seem to correlate with her performance at agility class any more. 

... Ida has been less reactive to the other dogs when she can see them running on the course.  Not sure if it's because she is relaxing, or if I am getting better at timing my counter conditioning.

... Ida likes to avoid the last jump of a course.  We'll have to fix that.

This next week I plan to...

... finish my list of Dreams and Goals for each of my dogs and myself.  It'll be in an upcoming blog post - eventually!

... take Ida to hang out at the shelter office for the first time in 8 weeks.

... decide if we want to enter an agility fun match on the 13th.  Even if we do not enter, I'm going to try to go watch to see what it's about.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Week 7 Update

I finally listened to the most recent episode of Cog Dog Radio where Sarah addressed decompression walks in more detail, and she gives some guidelines for how to tell if the exercise you're giving your dog is taxing vs. tiring.  I'm still trying to figure out what that means for Ida, but it might just mean some time in the back yard sniffing out hot dogs.

This last week Ida and I... 

... went to the open field on Saturday morning, as soon as it was light enough to walk; we encountered one dog.  Ida barked at him from far away; when we encountered him the second time she was much calmer about it, easier to redirect towards me and taking treats.

... were finally able to track down some calming chews with the ingredients that I am after - I actually found two brands that might work.  Being a scientist, I plan to try a one-participant randomized trial, but I haven't figured out what the best method for that is yet.

... tried the Chill Dog calming chews before driving to agility.  Ida was perceptively calmer for the first half of the ride.

... ran a full agility course while there was another dog directly in the area that Ida could see and access.  It wasn't clean, and Ida was clearly not happy about it, but she did it and she did it without struggling too much.  She even recalled when we were running right towards the other dog.

... used tug almost exclusively as a reward in class, even mid-run!

I noticed...

... there was less shaking in the car this week without the thundershirt.  I think part of the recent shaking has been from being in a cold car, but she was definitely not worse without the thundershirt.

... when Ida wore a coat in the car, she didn't shake (shiver?); I'm going with the shaking was due to cold.

... Ida setting herself up in 2o2o on the A-frame as soon as we entered the ring.

This next week I plan to...

... make a list of Dreams and Goals for each of my dogs and myself.  It'll be in an upcoming blog post - stay tuned!

... go for an off-leash (or maybe long-line) walk at the park with a dog that Ida has met before and got along with.  Luath is a very gentle soul and she and Ida seemed to get along really well last time.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Agility Video

This is our first ever video of a full agility run!  I am so thankful that I've started listening to some agility podcasts because it' really helped me have some perspective.  We're not perfect, but also Ida is still just a baby when it comes to agility dogs!  I watched a video of the Crufts Agility Finals from this year, and most of the dogs in it were over 6 years old, and several were over 10.  We're not going to Crufts, obviously, but it was a nice reminder that there is no reason to panic if she hasn't learned the teeter or the weaves before she turns two in February.

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Notes on the video:
- Ida had not committed to the dog walk when I tried to rear cross, likely because we have not worked on sending across contacts obstacles so she is used to me running right there with her.  Positive: if she had slipped like that a few weeks ago, she would have totally avoided trying it again.

- We really struggle with 2-on-2-off contacts.  At least now, I think Ida understands the idea of what "bottom" means, but we just haven't solidified the execution yet.  With a bottom she always stops, at least for a split second, with 2 feet on and 2 feet off, but she doesn't usually hold it and she often readjusts.  Watching this video at 0:25-0:28, I think using a target plate will help.

- She was struggling with the table that night, probably because we're out of practice.  She's done solid 10-foot sends to the table.  From this video, she seems to have an understanding of "table" (when I just pointed at it she looks back at me for clarification, vs. when I said "table" both times she jumped right on it).  I should have rewarded the sit-stay the second time instead of walking away.

- Immediately after the first table she takes the jump on cue and then heads for the A-frame.  Although I had my hand out and my body was pointing more towards the jumps than the frame, I didn't give her clear enough directions.  I should've called the next jump just before she took the first one.

- The same thing happens again when we reset on the table.  I release her from the "wait" of the table but don't tell her what to do, just that she's free to leave and she runs to me, probably to get her reinforcement for staying on the table.

- She knocks the bar at 1:17 because 1) I started to cue the next obstacle as she was taking off, and 2) her footfur needs trimming, which contributed to her slipping on the slippy training floor.

- Coming off the frame you can see more clearly how being rewarded for stopping in front of me instead of beside me has shaped her positioning; as a result, she always swings out to face me to get her reward.  A target plate at the bottom, or maybe tossing the food away from me, should help with that.

Things to work on in next class:

- Call the correct obstacles, don't just stand there like a dead fish.

- Don't make a big deal out of downed bars; reward for successfully completing the obstacle directly after a downed bar.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Weekly Update - Week 6

Sad pupper is sad
If you haven't figured out by now, this blog is mainly for me to keep track of what we're doing, the process that we're going through.  I'm trying to include other things so that other people going through a similar thing with their dogs will get some utility out of it, but that is really not the primary aim.  That said, the last weekly update post was too long.  I'm going to stop combining the discussion pieces with the weekly updates.

In addition to our behavior mod and agility work, Ida and I also worked on rear-foot targeting, and I'm trying to put singing (howling) on cue.

In non-Ida related news, poor Snowball had to have a tooth extracted on Tuesday because it developed a resorptive lesion.  They are rare in dogs - I guess he's just lucky. He's had two teeth removed due to the lesions before, and there is a strong correlation between on tooth developing the lesions and subsequent teeth, so it's something we'll be dealing with for the rest of his life.

This last week Ida and I... 
"Rear foot targeting is stupid"

.... did agility drills inside because it was gross outside. I am also getting over a cold that started late last week, which means early in bed, and not wanting to go outside in the cold!

.... played tug/fetch in the cul-de-sac (once the street had dried out) at night.  The darkness added some difficulty, as it was harder to see the things that were far away and making noise (there were a bunch of kids out playing street hockey). Several neighbors drove in/out of the cul-de-sac while we were playing.  We also walked several feet past the electrical box.  Ida was uncomfortable, but still listening to commands and taking cheese.

... still didn't drive anywhere except to agility class.

... started videoing agility runs.

I noticed...

... there was less shaking in the car this week without the thundershirt.  I think part of the recent shaking has been from being in a cold car, however.

This next week I plan to...

... pick-up some calming chews to see if they help in the car.  (I know, I've been saying this for weeks, but it's actually on my to-do list for tomorrow).3

... make a list of Dreams and Goals for each of my dogs and myself.  It'll be in an upcoming blog post - stay tuned!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Using Play to Gauge Stress and a Week 5 Update

Ida loves to play at home.  She chases anything thrown (from balls to cow hoofs), she tugs, she fetches, she wrestles.  But, despite being full of play at home, she's never really been playful (with people) outside of home, even in familiar places like the park or the office at the shelter.  A few months ago, I came to the realisation that it was probably stress dampening her spirit, and I gave up on using play in class.

At the same time, I switched to using play as a gauge for her stress levels while working on her traffic sensitivity.  We start in the front yard and have been moving further and further away from the house and when she starts hesitating when taking the tug, or starts mouthing it but not tugging, or not bring it back the frisbee, I switch to food.

I think this has had the biggest impact on our progress so far.  For one, it's given me a more nuanced read on her stress levels than what I've gotten from food in the past.  For another, I think it is helping her learn how to "work" in environments where she might not be 100% comfortable, or where there are potentially scary things.

It has totally paid off.  She has already come such a huge way in the 6 or so weeks that we've been working on reducing her stress outside of the home.  We're not done, by any means, but this week, for the first time since she was a baby puppy, she took a toy and played tug in class.  She also did not make any escape attempts, even at her first run.  And if that wasn't good enough?  She got a case of zoomies in the middle of her second run.  Not enough to go off course, but she got all bouncy and frolicky and actually looked like she was having fun.

I am really astounded at the change that I've seen in the past 6 weeks, and I have lots of hope that she's going to continue getting better.

This last week Ida and I... 

.... continued our work in the front yard, although the early snowfall precipitated a change in equipment as Ida wasn't so enthusiastic about shoving her face in show to retrieve the frisbee as she was chasing it.  We switched to a fleece tug toy and continued watching the neighbors drive in and out of the cul-de-sac.  Ida even watched the neighbor kids play street hockey, which normally would've caused her to bark because exciting things were happening.

... played It's Yer Choice/Leave It games with a chicken bone that Ida found beside our driveway.  Getting it away from her wasn't a problem (she happily traded it for a bit of cheese), but she took a bit of convincing to leave it alone when it was just sitting there in the open on the drive way.  Oh well! It was a fun bit of impromptu work in a distracting environment.

... used running as a reward; when a scary truck drove past the cul-de-sac right as I ran out of treats, and she stayed with me instead of trying to pull for home, we raced back to the driveway as a reward.

... didn't drive anywhere except to agility class.

I noticed...

... she may have developed a negative CER to the thundershirt.  When I put it on, she started shaking in the car immediately.  I am not sure, however, it the shaking was because the car was cold.

... that her shaking in the car didn't seem to affect her performance at agility!

This next week I plan to...

... keep on keepin' on.  The not driving, playing tug in the lawn, and

Friday, October 7, 2016

Week 4 update

I promised cute photos, I didn't say they'd be relevant
I have had a lot of epiphanies this week.  In addition to the other podcasts that I've added to my playlist, I've started listening to Bad Dog Agility.  It's about agility, which is relevant, but a lot of the guests that they've had on have had some very applicable insights for all dogs, not just performance or sport dogs.  More specifically, they interviewed Kathy Sdao, a dog trainer who got her career started with training marine mammals, and she points out that there are principles used in marine mammal training that -for some reason - has not really made its way into most dog training.  You can listen to her interview here: Part 1 & Part 2.  Even if you don't play agility, it is really, really worth listening to.

One of the things that Kathy brought up was this idea that "dogs don't assume safety". Although I have never put Ida in a situation where she was in danger, I have, accidentally and most lamentably intentionally, put her into situations where she didn't know that she was safe. I have, historically,  through bad or incomplete advice and understanding, not been in her corner.  I don't know how much it helped, but this week before class started, we walked around the whole room, and I let Ida sniff and just remember that this is a place where where good things (agility and awesome treats) happen, and most importantly, where she is safe.  No dogs are going to jump out at you from under the A-frame; the dog-walk isn't a teeter - I promise.

This last week we... 

.... continued our work in the front yard with chasing frisbees and watching the neighbors drive in and out of the cul-de-sac.  Ida was chasing the frisbee all the way into the middle of the road (of the cul-de-sac) and bringing it back.  This is not something she would have done two weeks ago - her ability to retrieve items completely disappears with any kind of negative stress.

... she also sat at the bottom of the driveway and calmly - without stress - watched neighbours drive through the cul-de-sac, she didn't bark at people getting in and out of cars.  Instead of frantically trying to click/treat her for even looking at them, I just let her watch, ready to interrupt if she started showing signs that she was going to bark.

... sat in the car with the engine off and the doors open, climbing around the seats, eating CHEESE.

... didn't drive anywhere except to agility class.

.... did a lot more trick training than we usually do.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover that even without specifically working on any "tricks", Ida has enough behaviors to get her Novice Trick Dog Title, so I'll be sending both her and Snowball's applications in at the same time.

... well, I used two different values of rewards at agility class.  Instead of always giving her the highest value treat in the ring and in her crate, she got pretty good treats in her crate, and the super awesome treat only in the ring.  I also did running contacts on the dogwalk.  We have not trained them, but Ida needs the confidence boost and right now I am not worried about her leaping off the dog walk, since she's never done it before, at least not on the way down.  (The A-frame? That's another story).

I noticed...

... that she's developed a conditioned emotional response (CER) to the clutch of my car being depressed.  Probably it predicts the car turning on which predicts the car moving, which she doesn't love.

... that in class, getting her to run, even a little bit, boosts her confidence tremendously.  Also she doesn't know at all how to weave, and I need to figure out how to make a 2x2 system so that I can teach her.

This next week I plan to...

... continue not driving anywhere.

... not do much, really, since I'll be busy all long weekend, which will eat up more than half of my normal daylight (i.e., afternoon) training days.... maybe we'll have to try some things in the dark in the morning instead.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


I previously touched briefly on the importance of communication as one of Sara Stremming's Pillars of Behavioral Wellness. As a way to increase communication between us and our canine partners, Sarah is a proponent of Kathy Sdao's SMART50 program, which stands for: See, Mark, and Reward Training x 50.  For me, this concept was so simple and - in hindsight - so obvious that it blew my mind.  And it's just this: throughout the day, reward the good choices that your dog makes - no matter how small - and aim to do it 50 times a day.

Rewarding the good is the first thing that any positive reinforcement-based trainer will tell you to do, and a lot of people that I know, myself included, don't regularly offer rewards for wanted behaviors outside of "formal" training sessions (i.e., they only use rewards when specifically training, or training something specific).  For me, it's a combination of I don't think about it, and also, once my dogs are at a certain level with a particular behavior I consider it "trained" (at least in the house) and stop working on it.

Even though it hasn't been entirely intentional, it is a trap that I am starting to regret falling into with our first dog, Snowball.  When we were working it every day, going to the off-leash park, his recall was excellent.  We have slacked off on taking him to the park since we got Ida, and his responsiveness to "Snowball Come!" really reflects that.  I need to get back to working on it regularly, especially since we have a yard in which to work on it (it's atrocious in the yard too), and are only a 5 minute walk from an off-leash area.

Snowball: "Lalala I can't hear you"
I can't help but think that if I had maintained some kind of SMART50-like program with Snowball that his recall would not have faded as much as it has.  Unfortunately for me, reinforcement has never been presented to me as a general life rule - to always have cookies available and to reward every good choice your dog makes in day-to-day life.  But to me, it makes sense to incorporate this kind of informal training into our lives.  It not only reinforces dozen of wanted behaviors over time, but it will be interesting to see if I end up rewarding behaviors that I would not have otherwise thought to specifically train.

Finally, us as humans tend to focus on the negative - we see all the bad things our dogs do, but SMART50 also trains us humans to look for the good in our dogs.  And I bet most of us have dogs that are better behaved than we think we do.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Week 3 Update

This last week we... 

... Went to the nearby soccer field; I took both dogs.  Ida walked around on a lone-line, Snowball got some off-leash time.  Ida sniffed around, play tug, and fetch.  She wasn't as intense about it as in the back yard, but she was at least engaged with me, easy to redirect off of things.  Encountered a couple of other dogs; Ida was calm watching them from ~100 feet away, but I wouldn't expect much more of her at this stage.

... We also went to a nearby field that's a ~2 minute drive away. Ida's response to dogs was 100% excitement and she played for a while with a young doodle exactly her size.

... Played frisbee in the front yard and into the cul-de-sac.  Ida would run to the disc on the asphalt but wouldn't bring it back.

I noticed...

... Ida would take treats at speeds as high as 20 km/h!  She sometimes took treats when stopped for red lights at busy intersections!

... Ida is much less nervous of vehicles driving in the cul-de-sac.

... Cheese is the ultimate weapon.

... Snowball and Ida are impossible to walk together, especially with just one person. STOP DOING THIS TO YOURSELF.  For fuck's sake.

This next week I plan to...

... Walk the puppers separately.

... Take Ida to the field for short walks.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Improvements already!

I'll admit, since the last post, I haven't made much time for working specifically on Ida's noise issues, but the work that we did do and the changes I've made, small as they've been, have made a notable difference so far.  Hopefully it's not a fluke.

This week we... 

... Went to the local park to go on a group dog-walk that was apparently cancelled; one other person showed up with their 1 year old chihuahua friend and he and Ida were immediately good friends.  Us humans exchanged information and will hopefully get together on a semi-regular basis.

... Started playing fetch in the front yard, where things are scarier.  I used a long line; Ida was happy to chase and (mostly) bring the Flying Squirrel back, although she kept trying to take it in the front door.  Maybe just habit?  She was happy to play tug when she brought it back.

... Had a good "bad dog" class, Ida reacted a couple of times but recovered easily and was just hanging out being chill by the end.

... Spent some time doing open bar/closed bar in front of the house.  We moved about the same distance as usual, but Ida was much happier and more relaxed than she has been previously.

I noticed...

...  Ida won't take treats while the car is in transit (even if it's stopped at lights), but she recovers quickly and takes treats within 10 seconds of it stopping.

... Her shaking seems to correlate with car speed.  I suspect this is related to the oldness of my 1998 civic and the slight misalignment of my wheels which results in the vehicle shaking if I'm going above a certain speed.  Even without her thundershirt, Ida did not shake on trips for which I maintained speed under 110 km/h.

... Ida is much less stressed out around other dogs if I am actively engaging her.  I presume this applies to other stressful situations as well.  Right now, I don't really care if she can't focus/stare at a thing without being overwhelmed - I think that will come with time and practice - but the whole reason for this journey is to 

... Gaining confidence in things at home first goes a huge, huge way towards doing them (at all) in class.  

This week I plan to...

... Play more fetch in the front yard, gradually moving closer to the road.

... Ask to adjust my work schedule to 7:30 to 3:30 instead of 8:30 - 4:30, so I have more daylight when I get home.

... Actually take my agility jumps to the nearby open field to practice in a new location.

Cog Dog Radio's Four Foundations of Good Behavior

This week I was supremely bummed when none of my subscribed podcasts had any new episodes.  What was I going to do!?  Then an internet friend of mine posted about Bad Dog Agility; the particular episode she posted about was actually a guest episode by Sarah Stremming at Cog-Dog Radio, all about behavioral problems in performance dogs.  Okay, so I don't consider Ida to be a performance dog, but it seemed relevant, considering the issues that I want to solve are so that we can perform.  Needless to say, I immediately subscribed to both podcasts.

I wanted to work through some of the things that Sarah considers to be the foundations of dog well-being and how they relate to us.

It makes sense to me that mental well-being is much more challenging in the absence of physical well-being, and this is echoed in medical literature too.  Patients with chronic diseases are more likely to suffer depression and anxiety, and people who eat poorly are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases.  It is hard to take care of yourself when you feel terrible all the time.

Ida is currently eating Acana Cobb Chicken & Greens.  She scratches occasionally, not where I consider it an issue, but I'm going to make the next bag of food something without chicken, just to see if it makes any difference.  Other than that, she has good poops, good energy, and I am pretty happy with her food.

This one is a big fail for us.  Cog Dogs emphasized tiring exercise over taxing exercise. Because of Ida's reactivity and fear of traffic noises, leash walks suck for her - they are taxing, not tiring.  Unfortunately, I'm rarely home early enough to take the dogs to the big park before dusk hits (and all of the parks around here are full of coyotes).  I am sad that daily walks at the big park will likely not happen again for a long, long time.  My dogs are too small and that park is too full of coyotes for me to want to go there before the sun is fully up (which is getting later and later as the year marches forward).

Combined with one off-leash walk at a bigger park with other dogs per week, the fenced field near our house will be a nice compromise during the week. It is close enough to wildlife and has enough trees and brush that there is plenty to see out and explore.

Ida gets fed in puzzle toys.  She also gets chews once or twice a week; she has at least one cow hoof always available.  I should increase the number of "working" chews she gets - raw meaty bones and stuffed kongs.

Good communication is really important, not just for humans but for dogs too.  Telling dogs that we don't want them to do something may be useful in those few seconds, but it doesn't teach the dog what they should do and as a result isn't much help in preventing the behavior in the future.

I do already try to replace corrections ("No!" "Ida, what are you doing?" etc.) with instructions, but I'm not always successful, especially when it comes to counter surfing/table begging.  Into the future, I am going to work harder at it; for example, I'll send her to her bed immediately instead of telling her to get down first and then sending her to her bed.

I'll post our weekly update soon, it's too much for one post.  Surprising, considering it seems like we didn't do much this week!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

First Start

It's been all of four days since I decided to address this problem in earnest; we haven't done much but I feel the need to keep a record of what I have done and what is going on so I know what's working and what isn't.  Hopefully these plan posts will all have the same format....

This week we... 

...started a "Travel Log", recording all of my car rides with Ida, how far we go, average highway speed, weather conditions, whether she's in her thundershirt, etc.  The last four car trips have involved the fan running, radio on, and Ida wearing her thundershirt.  Talking to her seems to help as well. She gets fed treats in the car before the car starts moving and once the ride is done.  Shaking has still happened but is much reduced compared to before.

...played some pre-recorded traffic sounds (busy city street traffic noise and semi-trucks). She looked at my computer curiously for about 10 seconds and then went back to napping.

...started doing "open bar/closed bar" more in earnest.  Someone gave me the idea of throwing the treats on the ground rather than handing them to her one by one, and that seems to be helping.  I haven't increased her range yet (we've only done 3 sessions), but when we work on it, we move out to the edge of her range much faster and with more confidence.

I noticed...

... in reactivity class, she became less stressed by the other dogs when we were actively working on things instead of just letting her focus on the other dogs and how scary they were.  Will do this as confidence building as we move closer and closer to the main road.

This week I plan to...

... continue with open/closed bar desensitization.  I've come up with a few routes that I can use to

... hunt down calming chews but apparently they're just about impossible to find here; some stores didn't have any, and the stores that did carry them were out of stock when I visited.  Realised today that my vet carries some, but they're not open on weekends so that will have to wait until Monday.

...start doing short drives with the highest possible value treat that I can find.  Going to start just with backing down and driving up the driveway, possibly getting out in between, driving in a circle around the cul-de-sac, etc.  SHORT rides.

In the future I'd like to....
... practice basic obedience and tricks in new places where she's even the tiniest bit more reserved than she is at home in order to build general confidence.

... drive with some agility jumps to a nearby field.  (This is dual purpose - working on agility stuff will give her time to recover from the car ride while giving me the opportunity to build confidence in her agility skills).

... try DAP, especially for car-rides.

Alright.  We'll see how this goes....


This is Ida.

She is a 19 month old unknown mix adopted as a 12 week old puppy from the local shelter (breed suspects: american eskimo dog and/or border collie cross).  She is about the sweetest dog you'll ever meet.  Her favourite things include: chasing balls big and small, stealing snacks, and people - any people.  Although she's not particularly cuddly, she will take pets and praise from strangers over just about anything else out there.  Her favourite colour is orange.  She's smart, athletic, and loves to work.  She is also timid, generally anxious, leash reactive to other dogs, and terrified of traffic.

Ida lives in the middle of a major city with a 12 year old American Eskimo Dog named Snowball, a cat named Murder Murdoch and two adult humans. Her house is in a cul-de-sac that opens onto a residential feeder street with multiple bus routes that travel down it.

And that, my friends, is why I am starting this blog.  We've been training in agility for around six months; at first, her leash reactivity was a huge barrier to her progression because we weren't able to work on exercises in a class setting.  I acquired equipment to work on at home, and switched to classes where only one dog is in the ring working at a time, and that has helped tremendously... but without the distractions of other dogs around, it because very clear to me that if she entered the facility stressed out, she would not be able to work. Period.  I've known since she was a puppy that she didn't like traffic noise or car rides, but it's taken me to this point to realise how much it actually affects her life.  In another home, where she wasn't expected go places and where sports weren't a thing, this wouldn't be an issue, but because I've started down this quicksand path into agility... I want to work through this boogeyman.

I know it is not going to be easy, or straightforward... but dog training never is.