Today is Monday, and I certainly have the case of the Monday’s. Not only did I end up chasing one of my clients dogs through backyards when he slipped away when I was loading him in the car, I also got my hand stuck in a door and sliced between my fingers pretty good. Not enough to warrant stitches, but enough to make me swear and then sob like a baby. Buuuuut, what is done, is done. And I just have to move past it, just like I need to move past my weekend.
So I’m over my melodramatic attitude- Yes Saturday sucked. But at the same time, everything went so smoothly with our presentation (I didn’t say quite enough how much I feel we rocked it, even if Kingston flopped) and I ran into clients and friends who were all enjoying themselves and having a great time. Kingston could have been WAY worse too. Sometimes I feel like my anxiety amplifies everything afterwards; okay- it totally does as I rethink my every action in detail and my anxiety tells myself how horrible I am.
That being said, how do I go about changing Kingston’s behaviour? Kingston was in overdrive. Thinking back- he had a super stimulating week at the cottage. We swam multiple times a day (and I failed to make him WORK around the water, instead allowing himself to scream and go crazy retrieving), he was in vicinity to an intact female in heat, and since it was a large family group, his routine was way off.
When we came back, it was right back to work. Kingston was thrown back into his daily routine that includes playgroups. I do remember him earning a couple time-outs for obnoxious play. Thursday, both pups again participated in playtime’s and then Friday was super slow for both boys as I was off shooting a wedding. Saturday came around with a flourish and although we walked our normal walk, Kingston was excessively sniffing and planting on route. He also whined when spotting a dog on our walk- he thankfully did not scream but his whine was also out of place. That should have been the first sign he was not ready for Pawlooza and he should have been left at home.
Okay- so what does his routine have to do with Pawlooza itself? So without getting too much into the science- basically Kingston’s system was in over-aroused state.
Distress (Bad stress: ex almost getting into a car accident) and Eustress (Good stress- winning the lottery) effect the body in the same way. Stress hormones are released into your dogss bloodstream and they just don’t dispense. They linger, they stick around.
They push your dog into a hyper-aroused state THAT MUCH QUICKER.
So Kingston was already full of stress hormones and then we go into a super charged situation- Pawlooza! Hundreds of dogs milling about: female, male, some spayed, some neutered, probably just as many non-spayed/neutered animals, mothers, puppies etc. Then there was the water.
This tells me a huge piece of information. I CANNOT just throw him back to his old training routine of going to stores and dog areas until he gets what is often referred to as a Cortisol Vacation. He NEEDS downtime. He needs time off to chill and for everything to settle. Pushing him right back into distraction work right now wouldn’t go great. In truth, it would set him up to fail.
Instead I want to set Kingston up to succeed. Here is how I am going to do it:
Down Time: Kingston will be removed from play groups for the next 1-2 weeks. He will instead get long walks with Sheldon, switching between neighbourhood and the woods. He will also not get any swimming time or stimulating time with toys.
Structured Walks: Kingston has been bad lately planting and staying at scents- licking the ground and doing all sorts of other normal, intact male behaviours. We will re-introduce the Halti, and really work on our “WITH ME,” “LET’S GO” and our “GO SNIFF” cues. With me means to travel alongside me on the sidewalk. He is aloud to float, as long as he does not drift onto the grass. Let’s go means to move on- regaurdless of what each dog is doing. Go Sniff means to go and sniff. I move at my dogs pace, allowing as much sniffing as each boy wants.
Scent Work: Scent work has been proven to help calm down and reduce stress hormones. It engages your roughly 1/3 of your dogs brain and it is tough work! Scent work generally knocks my dogs out for a couple hours where as fetching, they never seem to tire from it.
Slowly I will begin working under more distraction but for now, less is more!
Sheldon is not as advanced as Kingston. I did not mark the first time he found the scent to see if he would stick as he started to offer that ‘stick’ in our evening session.
Kingston I waited to reward until he offered me a down. He clearly knew the scent (Clove) was present when he spun and looked at me, but I really did want him to offer that down alongside it.
I will continue to update you with how our training is going and I hope your Monday was better than ours!