Kicked Out of Doggy School

Wednesday was our third training session. After the incidents we had during our last two classes, the bad news we received wasn’t all that much of a shock. After all, Loki did bite two trainers for a total of three bites. Well, the day wasn’t a complete loss. We got some bad news, but we also have some good news to share with you:

The bad news…

  • Loki was kicked out of the Canines With A Cause program.
    • The program, being a training program with the goal of creating a service dog relationship with a veteran, just isn’t set up for working with the behavioral issues of a reactive dog. Loki is just too vigilant, easily triggered, and doesn’t recover from mistakes easily. We had a long talk with our trainer and left the class with some sound guidance and things to work on.
  • Loki isn’t sleeping nearly enough.
    • He sleeps through the night with me as far as I know. However, he needs around 18 hours a day and he doesn’t nap much, let alone sleep, during the day. I’ve been watching him closely since this discovery and I’ve only noticed a total of one hour a day of combined napping with short period of sleeping. Keep in mind that this is after a two hour training session, walking, and playing with my moms dog. We came home that day and even though he was exhausted at training, he just could not settle down until everyone else was going to bed late that night.
    • I called the vet, whom we see this Monday, and asked about giving him something for sleep for a couple of days just to see how it would affect him. The poor guy hasn’t really slept since he was neutered. We tried Valium which, I had at home already. His vigilance and hyperactivity calmed down from an 8 to about a 6 on a pretty decent dose of medicine. He did not sleep any more than usual though. I’m worried this could be either a genetic problem or that his confidence is even lower that we though. I’m sure we are in for a long process of trial and error added to our continued confidence building activities.

The good news…

  • I still get to attend classes.
    • I can watch the training or even work with another dog. This means that I get to bring home what I learn and incorporate it into my training with Loki. It also means that Loki gets to get the training is a much less stressful environment.
  • We had a two hour training session all to ourselves
    • No one else showed up to class so, we got to spend one on one time with our trainer. Shaun Woodard.
    • We were introduced to and began working on Behavioral Adjustment Training (BAT). I am feeling much more confident having another tool in my belt to work with Loki on his fears.
  • We already had a vet appointment so, we don’t have to wait long to begin narrowing down why Loki isn’t sleeping. He recently had blood work. We will probably go over that again and maybe run some additional testing. I also will have the opportunity to find out exactly where my new vet stands on behavioral issues and medication. Having PTSD, I am of the mind that if therapy alone doesn’t work, medication may be necessary. I also feel that medication without the work of therapy is only a bandaid if it isn’t a physical or genetic health issue that is causing it. I think the same applies for dogs.

Our plan…

  1. Canines With A Cause – First and foremost, we are going to continue our current training. Our goal is to build confidence and manners. The actual skills learned, like sit or down, are just a bonus. I plan on continuing to attend the classes and adding what I learn there to our home training.
  2. Click To Calm – We are adding in the ten principals in the book, Click To Calm, into our home. We are starting with the first principal, saying please, and adding a new principal every week.
  3. BAT – I’m going to continue building Loki’s triggers list and using BAT to work on them one by one. I am planning to work with objects first while we look for a great “stuffed” dog to take the place of a real dog. We have to find someone with a super calm dog that doesn’t mind working with us before we can work on dogs. If I get the chance to work on his other issues, like people, once in awhile I certainly won’t turn it down. However, the inanimate objects are easier to keep within my control and will make a great difference in our daily walks. If we can improve his walks, he can enjoy them, and that will really help him overall.
  4. Building his confidence with being away from me – This is where my husband comes in. What his work with Loki will end up looking like, I don’t know just yet. I have given him guidance and made requests and suggestions. I’ll try to remember to keep you posted on how that is going. In the meantime, I have used a dog gate to keep him from following me into the master bath. So far he has amazingly crawled through the open cat door portion of it, whined and cried, left the room, and laid down as I did things. It’s something that I can do to be within his site but, not within reach.

So, here we are. We have a lot of work ahead of us. I am both scared to death and excited. I’m open to suggestions, training ideas, and of course encouragement ;-). Thank you for being a part of this journey. Loki and I have already benefitted from this great community of fellow reactive dog owners and dog trainers on Word Press.


Where We Are Now

My husband, Alex, and I met Loki on a nice Saturday afternoon. He was with a family looking to find him a new home.

He lived with a human mother, her daughter, and her daughters two year old son. This particular two year old spent the majority of our time there yanking on Loki’s leash and hitting him for not going with him when he pulled. <insert sarcasm> I wonder where he got that from <end sarcasm>. It’s also important to mention a few other things that we noticed. He scratched a lot. She said it was because he only wore a collar when he went out to potty. We discovered the real reason why later. The collar was brand new. The leash was brand new (and tacky 🙂), etc.

Loki barked when he first saw us. After that, however, he was all tail wags and wet kisses.

There was no doubt in my mind that he wasn’t in the greatest place, that he liked us, that he had Odin’s look in his eyes but was his own unique dog, and that I was in love.

To be fair, I tend to fall in love with every animal I meet, but he had something special.

We told the woman that we needed to talk about it and left her home. Long story short, we went back to get our new pup. When we arrived back there was an older wound on his forehead. The woman proceeded to tell us that he got it from digging in the yard. She covered it with mascara to hide it from us.

Hello, alarm bells! But, there was no way I was leaving him with her. No way in Hell.

So, we put him in our car. This was clearly a new thing for him. We took his Kroger store brand dog food that only had a few cups worth left and his cat sized food and water bowl combo and headed home. I didn’t even bother taking that bowl combo in the house. There was no way it would hold even a fourth of the food he needed per meal. Grrr!

When we got him home, we proceeded to introduce him to the family. We started with my mom’s dog, Coco.

My parents live with us so Coco lives here too. We met outside on a more neutral territory than inside and it went fine. He did well with my mom too. Then we went into the house and he did great meeting my oldest stepson, Devon, who lives with us. So far so good!

Then, my 80+ year old father innocently (although naively) did the worst thing you could do to a now obviously unsocialized pup…

He came up the stairs and proceeded to act similar to a gorilla when approaching him. My dad was simply trying to make friends by playing rough house. He missed his buddy Odin a whole lot. But of course Loki did not understand this behavior.

He immediately went crazy and who could blame him? The poor guy was scared to death!

Needless to say it took a long time and a lot of grandpa giving treats to get Loki to trust him. They are doing great now and since Loki is such a smarty, he goes to his grandpa for his daily cookie(s) and doesn’t leave him alone until he gets one. He puts his paw on his arm and my dad loves it.

Loki 1

The moment I could finally sleep after Odin passed was when Loki napped in his old place.

Then, after over a month, my youngest stepson, Christian came to stay.

Loki was not happy about a stranger in the house. He didn’t calm down completely until he left two days later. Now, I knew enough to know that he wasn’t properly socialized and I needed to work with him on it. I didn’t quite know how to start. I hadn’t had a dog with theses issues growing up and as I said in a previous post, Odin was a neighborhood favorite. I was way out of my league.

Thankfully, I had already signed up for a training program with Canines With A Cause. My hope was for Loki to become an emotional support dog or even a full service dog for mt PTSD.

By the time my training orientation rolled around, I knew he had socialization issues yet he never took it beyond growling and barking. I was nervous about how well I could control his barking, growling, and pulling on our first training day and excited to get some direction for the both of us.

Everything changed on our first day on training. He bit one of our trainers. Twice.

I had a dog that bit me on the way home from the pound when I was ten. He bit me once more when I woke him from a dream. He chased a man out of my closet when I wasn’t home saving my sister from something horrible.

I’ve never had a dog that bit strangers in my life. Ever. I was freaked the *&)^ out!

I had surgery on my wrist two days later so, my husband drove me to our next training. When our lead trainer said he wanted to talk to us after class I was scared we were getting kicked out. I didn’t think they would just yet, but I couldn’t help fearing it just the same. I didn’t fear for me. I feared for Loki. He needed this.

Then we had the reactive dog talk.

The lead trainer spent the majority of the talk giving Loki treats while sitting next to him on the floor. At one point he touched his back and Loki immediately bit his hand. He bit the lead trainer. I was devastated!

The bad news: he took a bite out of the trainer

The good news: it was a warning “don’t touch me” bite not a “I want to kill you” bite

So, here we are, nearly a week later with training class again tomorrow. I’ve worked with him as best I can with one hand. I’ve sat across from barking dogs and click & treated him. I’ve done the same at our home where he barks at the people, cars, and dogs he can see from our second floor balcony/deck.

I know it won’t be an overnight success. I just pray that he won’t bite a trainer tomorrow.

Wish us luck!

Welcome =•)

Welcome to our new blog about our journey to healing the beast within. This is a story about a woman and a dog working to overcome their trust issues together. Our first post will arrive soon. Thanks for stopping by.

Loki & Sally