We Had A Breakthrough!

Loki met our neighbor.

It’s been sunny and warm in the morning lately. I have been taking my coffee outside to enjoy the warmth and watch Loki play. As it turns out, our neighbor, who travels a lot, was outside. He decided to look over the fence and have a chat. The thing is, Loki has never met him, let alone really seen him, until now.

Naturally, Loki made a fuss about this new stranger looking over our fence.

For some reason that I am still trying to make out, he didn’t go completely over threshold. I was able to distract him with his new Jolly Ball!

We spoke for quite some time and almost every time Loki threatened to hit his threshold, I was able to get him to play with his ball. Two times, our neighbor lifted his small dog, a Mini Dachshund who is also reactive, to see Loki.

Loki did not freak out until his small dog hit threshold. 

He also lifted his Border Collie to see him. However, Loki has had a lot of practice barking at her and went straight to barking this time. It was the only time that I could not immediately distract him.

In all, we probably chatted for at least half an hour. It was a huge success, relatively. I’ll take it!

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New Routine

Yesterday we began a new morning routine.

After reading more about the Malinois breed on the ABMC Belgian Malinois Rescue site’s breed profile and reading a first time owners story, I decided to start Loki on a new morning routine.

Loki typically gets training, a walk (1/4-1/2 mile), and puppy play with his grandmas dog everyday. However, with his lacking in sleep, I decided that instead of one long walk he needed smaller, more frequent, doses of exercise.

It’s only day two and I’ve noticed an improvement.

His new routine:

  • Morning bonding on the bed with mom. 🙂
  • Moms starts up her coffee and we go outside to play fetch with a Chuck It while it brews. I get to learn to “recall,” “drop it” and “say please (sit)” while we play.
  • While mom drinks a cup of coffee, I get to have breakfast in my kennel and let it settle before we do more fun stuff.
  • Now, we get to go for a walk! Mom brings lots of treats for when we pass dogs in yards and people walking/biking.
  • When we get home, I get to nap while mom takes care of human stuff like eating breakfast.
  • I get to practice my training before lunch. Right now we work on targeting, sit, and down.
  • When mom does stuff around the house, runs errands, or is on the computer, I get to have a frozen Kong in my kennel, then I have lunch.
  • I get to practice more training and play fetch again before dad gets home.
  • At the end of the day, I sometimes get another walk after fetch, practice more training with dad, and get dinner in a large Kong treat toy.

I’m pretty lucky to have mom home with me all day!

Loki has been napping more and I’m sure he will feel less vigilant as a result. The Gentle Leader has made walking more enjoyable for both of us which, makes our mornings so much nicer. I look forward to teaching him to walk nice in a collar, but for now, we’ve got bigger fish to fry.

Update: my furry kid is not just napping, he’s been asleep for almost an hour. Success!

Loki Bit The Vet

Okay, he didn’t really bite the vet, but they now won’t examine him without a muzzle on.

We went to the vet yesterday to have his skin tested for mites. It appears to be all cleared up. His hair is all grown back between his eyes and it doesn’t seem to bother him anymore.

When we arrived, I made sure to load the clicker just to remind him that it works in public too. We went inside to check in and he was not happy when the tech came around reception to get his weight. Luckily, I was prepared and clicked & treated him in between barks.

We got his weight, 61 pounds, and practiced sitting while we waited. More barking when a different tech came to take us back. I clicked and treated as fast as I could. He seemed to calm down once we got in the exam room. I spoke with the tech then she went back to talk to the vet. When she returned she asked to take him to the back for his test.

Then, I made a big mistake. I said yes and handed her the leash. Loki quickly responded with a bark and lots of growls.

I beat myself up as she took him away. Why on Earth didn’t I make her wait through more clicks and treats? Why didn’t I have her offer up treats herself after that? Nope, I just handed him over to the “wolves” like an idiot. 😦

One more lesson learned.

They couldn’t exam him because he wasn’t about to let them. They came back with the vet and we talked some more. Turns out, the vet wanted to see if he acted any differently away from me. He wanted to know if his reactivity was all the time or just as a result of guarding me. Grrr!!! I’m pretty sure he could have found that out someway else. Turns out, it’s not just from guarding me. No surprise there.

We may be going back to our old vet where we used to live 30 minutes away after that.

Well, in all, he referred us to his office manager who is also a trainer, he didn’t test Loki’s mange, and told us we should muzzle train him for visits. Oh, and of course, he triggered Loki on purpose and nearly got his techs bit. I paid $25+ for that.

To his credit, he listened and answered my questions about non-medication & medication treatments. He has also been professional and happens to know the Belgian Malinois breed very well.

It was another frustrating day on the reactive dog front.

The good news: Today we put on a thunder shirt and sat in the Petsmart parking lot. We parked as far away as possible, clicking and treating every single person within view. Loki was very tired after we finished. I think he may even nap today.

What are your thoughts on our vet experience? Were his actions appropriate for the situation or did he just made things worse?

 

Crate Training Yay!!!

Loki chose his kennel for the 1st time today!

Yep, I’ve been working to give him a “safe place” by crate training him. He sure didn’t stay long, but who cares? He chose to go into his kennel without prompting and without food two times today!

I couldn’t be more proud of his success.

Best of all…

He chose his crate just after barking at strangers outside a neighbors house. I called his name, he came to me, then went to lay down.

So awesome, yay Loki :-).

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.

Potential Triggers

Loki’s Potential Triggers – Ongoing List

People:

  • At close distance, 45ft
  • Within view of backyard
  • Looking at him
  • Talking to him
  • Strangers in our home
  • Men?

Dogs:

  • At semi-close distance, 90ft
  • Looking at him
  • Barking at him
  • Making any noises like whining
  • Growling, baring teeth, etc.

Objects:

  • Anything unfamiliar that is being blown by the wind
  • Tires on the ground
  • Bags outside like large dog food bags
  • Large traffic cones/barrels
  • Fire hydrants
  • Object that have been moved out of their usual place in the yard

Sounds:

  • Doorbell
  • Bangs, deep & loud
  • Dogs barking next door
  • Kids playing in neighborhood
  • Front door opening
Last Updated: 04/20/2013