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.