Snippets

It’s 2019 friends, a whole new year!

Last year I made resolutions (I think one of them was to blog daily? Haha) and none of them really stuck. I tend to go big, and then just go home without finishing the leg work to go big in the first place. This year I’m going to take a less is more attitude. I’m aiming for small goals- spend less on Tim Hortons, get my butt together and plan my wedding, and the never ending training of my two wonderful boys. This year I want to get out to competitions and push myself. It also means I need to learn a way to cope with my anxiety at trails- not breathing in the ring and fussing, not thinking, and going on auto pilot really doesn’t work when you’re new to something yourself, let alone its new to your dog. And it’s not fun. It’s really not fun, especially the going home at night and picking over every interaction and every error in the ring- not fun. I can’t ever remember being this stressed for horseback riding!

Specifically for training with Kingston, I want to finish Kings Companion Dog title as well as advance in Rally for CKC. With scent detection, I need to work on our outdoor odours (specifically NOT peeing when he finds the scent- no issue on containers or in indoor searches, but outside? He finds it and almost immediately marks the Odour which = an immediate elimination from the outdoor section). And introducing Pine to Kingston and a separate indication. Finally we need to return to Caro and finish our Advanced Title so I can start to work into Excellent.

In order to get to this point, I also need to get another couple things done with King: just in the last two weeks he is struggling hard when it comes to focusing around other dogs- once he’s working he’s fine, but if he’s not actively working he struggles to disengage himself from fixation, whining, growling, and/barking- sometimes not altogether.

Sheldon is doing well with his leash reactivity- it will always be something we have to keep an eye on, especially towards certain people and certain dogs (people include children, anyone walking different, or if they’re heavily bundled in clothes. Dogs are usually, large, dark dogs, fluffy in coat type and wiggly/over dramatic on leash). I need to continue to equate good with his muzzle and work on his door charging behaviours. He’s doing so much better in home- he’s sitting and waiting great for the front door 95% of the time, for the back door he does require settle time (on his mat, calming down that adrenaline. Too many times he’s dashed out the door to play his favourite game fetch!). In the car, his behaviour started to deteriorate (redirecting on King) so we are back to 100% management there. Again- it’s my error here, Sheldon gets frustrated and amped in the car. Car= great things and destinations even better! He’s seat-belted So he’s unable to run over his brother and must lay down and not yell at me to exit the car. He exits on leash, is asked to down a second time and regardless of where we are, he stays on leash (sometimes utilizing a Halti if he is really amped) until he settles. I won’t lie, Sheldon and I’s relationship is a struggle. I slacked hard with him and it’s clearly showing so now I am just back tracking and starting at the beginning. We are getting there but it will be an upward climb some days.

What is my number one goal for this year though- Kindness. Mainly just be kind. To yourself, to those special people in your life, to complete strangers, to animals, to everyone. Take a breath, let it out, and let it go. Self care needs to happen!

What are your goals? What do you hope to achieve this year with your dogs as well as with your family life? Let me know, Id like to hear! Other people’s goals can be inspiring 🌻

Back in Boot camp

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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!

Oh the Duck Toller scream

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Dogs have a way of humbling us…just when you think you’ve got it- they show you that you really don’t.
Kingston is generally the best gentleman ever. He’s generally so attentive to me, responds quickly to cues and ignores other distractions. He is an intact male (He will be neutered, it has always been our plan) and usually is a great example of how intact dogs should behave around others- for example at our cottage at the beginning of the month, he dealt with an in heat GSD amazingly. He ignored he, worked around her. There was some whining, but he wasn’t bound and bet to get to her and did wonderful.
Yesterday was Pawlooza! Which is a large dog event in my hometown of London Ontario. I only wanted to bring one pup with me and I know Sheldon can get anxious and doesn’t always enjoy large crowds so I opted to go with Kingston- keeping in mind that I was expecting the behaviour of my rockstar dog…I didn’t quite get that rockstar I was hoping for.
King struggled hard. He struggled with all the scents, he struggled with being in proximity to water without having the option of running in and out, he struggled with ignoring other dogs, and he struggled with vocalization. You knew where we were in the park JUST by listening to this little duck tollers scream.
He screamed when there was a dog trying to get in his face, he screamed when he couldn’t get to the dogs out of reach, he screamed when he saw the water, he screamed when he couldn’t sniff something. Overall he was frustrated, over stimulated, and aroused which just equaled a hot mess of screaming. Thinking back- although he handled being around the in heat GSD, I do feel it raised his overall testosterone.

His screaming brought concerned citizens over- does your dog need water? Does he need a break? I think you should take off his Halti- I don’t think he can breath (okay people, if he can scream, he can certainly breath!). It was embarrassing. A duck toller scream is alarming- it sounds like a dying animal or child. I tried to shrug it off and laugh about it while my head was racing through management strategies and training protocols. In the end, he was removed from the craziness of the situation and placed away from the commotion. I couldn’t bring him home as we were going to demo impulse control exercises from the stage; which kind of made me laugh because in retrospect King was the one who was seriously needing impulse control lessons in the crazy environment.

Thankfully, the stage was raised and while he was demoing- Kingston was a peach. He still wasn’t nearly in tune with me as he usually is, but he wasn’t screaming and ignoring me…..until we brought other dogs on stage to demo with. Then he was removed from the situation as he was ignoring food and scrambling and screaming once more to my dismay.

What did this remind me?
1) Training is forever.
That’s right folks- it’s not just for today, or for when your dog is a puppy, or when you are struggling; training is on going. Your dog is constantly learning and re-learning what does and does not work for them.
2) Practice makes perfect.
Lately I have been super busy with clients and my dogs have been on the back burner. If you stop working on something (like focus in crazy, busy environments) you will have regression. Just like with many skills- if you don’t use it, you will lose it.
3) Compassion goes a long way.
Many people stopped, watched, judged (you could see the disgust on their faces, I could hear people comment as I passed) and offered unsolicited advice. I knew how to handle the situation (ultimately remove him) as he was not in the head space to learn. We need to work back up to where we once was and we will get there, but yesterday was not the day to try to get there.

Next year WILL be better, but it will take a lot of hard work to get back to that point. In the next month or two King will hopefully go in for his neuter (planning by the end of the year- just so busy) and that will help decrease hormonal arousal- as long as it is cause by his hormones and not a learned behaviour.

Regardless, we will preserver and we will get there and next year, hopefully we won’t concern quite as many people.

 

Summer Days are here

_DSC8075I’ll start this article with I’m a Canadian. We have 4 seasons here, although the two that seem to get complained about the most are winter or summer.

Right now, not even the end of May, we are sitting at 24C -but with humidity it feels like 31. It’s like you are swimming through the air when it’s overcast and when the sun comes out it’s a whole new kind of torture.

Dogs are more sensitive to heat than humans, and they deal with humidity even worse. Now genetics do have a play here- certain breeds are more effected by heat like bracycephalic dogs or snub nose dogs. Also young puppies, elderly dogs, obese dogs, or diabetic dogs are more likely to suffer from the heat quicker than a young healthy, fit dog.

My two dogs couldn’t handle the heat any differently. Sheldon handles heat and humidity well. As long as I provide water breaks and shade breaks he self regulates well. Kingston…he doesn’t handle the heat. 10 minutes into a walk, depending on the humidity and amount of sun, he will be gassed. His panting is much more labored and he will start to overheat quickly. I really have to be careful with Kingston and often limit his activity when it is hot and humid. When you have a dog as heat sensitive as Kingston, it really does make you appreciate dogs that do handle the heat well.

Regardless of the type of dog you have, know the signs of heat stroke so you can start cooling your dog down ASAP.  The signs are as follows:
-Rapid Breating & panting
-Excessive  salvation & thickening saliva
-Fatigue/depression
-Raised Temperature (101 to 102.5 degree Fahrenheit is normal)
-Muscle tremors
-Staggering

Heatstroke starts to set in when your dogs core temperature hits 109 degrees Fahrenheit. Within minutes, the body begins to shut down. Body cells die, the brain swells, ulcers appear on the GI tract and the kidneys damaged irreversibly.

If you notice your dog starting to overheat then there are steps you can take to cool them down. First bring them into the shade and out of direct sunlight. Use cool water on your dog to help bring down their core temperature- ideally a running source to ensure the water stays the same temperature. You can also use damp towels on the areas can also be effective. Concentrate on putting the water on their neck, paws, and underbelly. If your dog will wade into a kiddie pool or body of water this can help the processes as long as the water is not too warm or not to icy. Using a cooling vest along with a fan is another good way of bringing the dogs temperature down. You can also purchase cooling pads that your dog can lay on that can help bring their core temperature as well.

Overall, when summer is boiling on full force, take precautions and make plans. Always have lots of water on you, take lots of shade breaks, and watch your dog. Exercise earlier in the morning or later in the evening. If your dog is unsettled and active midday, use the time you would spend walking instead training. Mental stimulation will help tire your dog out or you could use food toys to feed their meals throughout the day.

Oh, and I think its quite obvious but don’t leave your dog in the car.

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Above all. Have fun! Enjoy the summer and make lots of memories with your two legged and four legged friends

Fake it until you make it

Once I was told if I was not comfortable doing something to “Fake it until I make it.” This meant I was constantly putting myself in situations I wasn’t comfortable with to complete a end goal. In the end it turned into a taught behaviour to myself- I literally put on a show for those around me, even though inside I really just wanted to step back, and get out.

In the long run did it help me with my social anxiety? I will say Yes and No- I was still uncomfortable but I was coping due to doing behaviours that were reinforced by those around me over and over again. My lines were rehearsed so I wouldn’t trip and fumble, my laughter really wasn’t genuine because it was nervous laughter, and even things I did were done because they were more socially acceptable. Its funny how when you need to, you can create a whole new you in order to cope with your surroundings.

Now when I think about doing things that make me uncomfortable it can be hard to still the rising tide of panic that I can feel starting in my gut and working up to my throat. I can feel strings tighten around my neck as I gasp for air and mentally try to wrap my head around what I need to do.

I often thing; if I didn’t force myself into uncomfortable situations in the past would I still have this panic of the unknown? Or would I be SO panicked that I wouldn’t try anything new or unknown?

For example, recently I went to a scent trial with Kingston and Sheldon- only Kingston competed. Up until 2 days before leaving, I thought I had either my mom or my best friend tagging along but it worked out that neither could come due to other responsibilities- this I understood and I held no ill will against them. But now I was traveling alone (a almost 2 hour trip one way) to a destination I had never been before, around people I had never met before. The day and night before were riddled with panic attacks at the thought of the unknown.

Day of we traveled without a hitch- we got to the venue a whole hour in advance. I was the first to arrive other than the judge and the one hosting the competition. Although it was comforting being so early and gave me time to walk and work my boys it also gave me time to think, and overthink what needed to be done.

I’ll be honest, I don’t know a whole lot about the world of scent detection. I am basically self taught other than YouTube tutorials and a awesome class with Good Dogs Gone Bad. I don’t understand what it means to teach your dog to search in a certain pattern or how to direct your dog. Honestly, I tell my dog to “Find it” and let their nose do the job without much direction. When they do find the odor, Kingston gets his favourite food (he isn’t much for play although we are working to change that) and Sheldon gets access to play. I don’t direct to areas they have missed, I don’t have them search in a certain way, I just let them do what their noses are meant to do best- which is smell and I follow along .

The competition was very well run, but I can’t help to think about how nervous I was and how shut down I was with people around me. I didn’t say much, I watched silently with nervous smiles here and there, and when it came to bringing King to the different search areas, my nerves played a huge role in how I rewarded my dog at the end- okay I’ll be honest. I called “ALERT!” and then basically high tailed it out of the area- if I had a tail it would have been between my legs nervously wagging with uncertainty. I didn’t feed at the odor source, I didn’t celebrate, I just wanted out as quickly as possible.

Kingston found all three odors without much hesitancy- although I missed the alert on the last find and he ended up peeing on it in excitement; hey it is a change of behaviour, just not the behaviour I wanted.

I left the competition with 2 out of three legs (Container and interior, we failed exterior due to his pee). I was SO happy with how King performed, even lugging his owner around who was pretty much useless.

I was NOT happy with how I performed (Okay, lets be serious, I have a very hard self critic and nothing I do usually impresses me) but when I look at my performance, had I not been so nervous and worked up I know we would have had a much better day.

So I need new ways to prep myself for stressful situations; obviously faking it until I made it isn’t actually a good coping mechanism. I need ways to calm my nerves so I can THINK all the way through working situations with my dogs.

If anyone has any helpful coping mechanism I’d love to hear them!

Until then, happy training!

Off Leash Dogs

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Sheldon at our cottage up North.

Let’s take a minute to discuss off leash dogs. Regardless of it you are the one un-clipping your dogs leash in a public areas or following the rules I feel like everyone will be able to relate in some shape or form.

First, let me give you a quick run down of my two boys.
Sheldon is 6 now. Once upon a time (okay and still on some days) he was/is leash reactive. He also is very insecure around new dogs; especially rude dogs, dogs taller than he is, and male dogs. He is not beyond snapping, muzzle punching or connecting with a dog that has ignored his warning signs. Sheldon is very clear with his behaviour if you understand body language. First he gets a little silly but there is far too much tension in his body for him to be considered playing, he may or may not whine. Then he clamps his jaw shut and his movements become shorter and quicker. Tongue flicks will happen, in the beginning one here and there. As he escalates his behaviour he will start growling, his tail will be held over his back wagging in quick motions (remember folks: Wagging tail DOES NOT equate to a friendly dog). Then he will start baring teeth. If the dog hasn’t backed off yet, you will hear breath being sucked in with his tongue flicks that are now happening more rapidly. And then he will air snap, muzzle punch, or connect. He has fairly good bite inhibition, only taking off fur. Usually after he strikes out, he retreats- remember, he would have preferred to avoid the confrontation in the first place but was unable to do so.

Kingston is 21 Months. He is an intact male who gets super frustrated and over stimulated when he sees dogs off leash. He will sometimes start barking or even worse, toller screaming. Although he has oodles of training under his belt, a female still gets him excited in ways that sometimes makes him lose his mind. King is pretty dog neutral. When he was going to the dog park, he didn’t partake in chasing or wrestling. Instead he was more interested in marking, sniffing bums and vaginas. Since 90% of the dogs aren’t cool with that and these are NOT behaviours I want him practicing on a regular basis (if at all! Yes they’re natural but most dogs hate a thorough check up). Instead I’d rather him just work by other dogs- which he does very nicely when the other dog is not up in his grill. He does tend to get stiff and will growl when dogs get into his face. He has not ever escalated his behaviour and I don’t want him to ever have to escalate his behaviour.

One more piece of information as well. I live in London, Ontario. The ONLY places dogs are legally allowed off leash are A) The dog park or B) Private property that you have permission to be on. Also, leashes should be no longer then 6ft. All of our trails in the area are maintained by Thames Valley Conservation Authority. If you see one of these lovely people and your dogs are off leash- they can fine you. The other body of control in our area is London Animal Care and Control. If they see you with off leash dogs they can fine you. Even though we have these Bi-laws in place, people (especially pet people), let their dogs run at large.

Can I say I’m perfect? No. There are times I let my dogs run at large. But believe me when I say I stay aware of my environment and I recall and leash up when we see other people or dogs. I also scout trails and pick the trails that are far less popular and go during hours of the day when people are not around- early morning, during work hours, later at night. As the warmer weather approaches, my off -leash time will come to an end as all the ‘warm weather walkers’ will be coming out of hibernation. This is a time I avoid all trails in the area as I know there will be dogs running rampant that shouldn’t be.

Okay- so here how I feel about dogs being off leash. Honestly, I could care less if their owners were respectful of other people and other dogs. I know allowing your dog run off leash burns far more energy, gives the dog nice enrichment, and it’s usually a far more enjoyable walk. Usually though, people are NOT respectful. What do I mean by respectful? When they see someone else (Especially if they have their dogs on leash) be it just a person, or a person with another dog, or kids or any kind of stimulus that is not natural to the woods, they recall their dogs immediately and leash up. That’s it. Then if they choose, they can decide to open dialect on, “Oh hey, is your dog friendly? Is it okay if they greet? Does you dog greet better on or off leash?” This means the dog needs to have a reliable recall. If your dog doesn’t have a reliable recall then it’s time to do some training before you unclip that leash. Grab your dog before they become annoying- because believe me, when they rush other people you’re the only one who finds your ‘friendly’ dog cute.

You also need to keep in mind, sometimes dogs are reactive due to being fearful or dog aggressive. Allowing your dog to run up and harass a reactive or an aggressive dog is so very rude as well as dangerous! You can ruin months and months of training for people whose dogs suddenly regress because of your dog and there is the possibility of an altercation. So due to you being an asshole- you’ve wasted the other persons money, time training and possibly got your dog, yourself, or the other person and their dog hurt.

What drives me MENTAL is when dog owners see other people and their dogs (on or off leash) and decidedly do nothing.

Today I was leaving Killaly Meadows. My dogs walked on leash the entire time. We met one respectful dog owner- turned and called their dog to come along. And one disrespectful dog owner. I saw her from 50 meters away with her Golden, she was entering the start of the path from the parking lot, leash in hand. I judged the situation and decided I would allow it to play out, in hindsight I would have yelled at her to call her dog as she had zero verbal control or recall from her dog. As I approached the garbage to toss my poo (I even picked my dogs crap up vs leaving it alongside the trails like everyone else who seems to walk those trails) her rude golden rushed Sheldon and Kingston. I immediate saw it was a male from both my dogs responses. I tossed my crap and said, “I don’t let my dogs greet on leash.” It wasn’t until then she started to try to call her dog. At first in a happy voice until Kingston started growling.
“Oh is your dogs not friendly?”
“They just hate being rushed by off leash dogs”
This conversation is being played out as as Golden starts to escalate and growl himself. Her voice became hard and desperate then as she continued to call her dog who was still ignoring her.
“I was just walking around the block….”

This is when she finally grabbed her dog and I continued walking away; you see I never actually stopped moving. I tossed my poo and kept my dogs with me (Although I was using far more pressure on Kingston’s leash then I wanted too) and I tried to exit the situation as she continued to scramble to grab her dog.

Here’s another piece of information about me. I have social anxiety. My anxiety increases when it has to do with strange people, strange dogs, and possible conflict. You could say this pushes me over threshold. In stressful situations like the above I’d love to be able to keep a clear head and patiently explain to her like a toddler why allowing her dog to rush my on leash dogs is so rude and disrespectful. Instead I often walk away shaking (literally) with the thought of possible conflict. If the situation would have continued (Her dog pursuing us as we headed to the parking lot) I probably would have lost it and I would reacted in a couple different ways: I could shut down completely, I may say a few short, cross words or I could have just started screaming incoherently which after I calmed down and become aware of my actions, I become dreadfully ashamed of and can trigger my depression. I turn into a reactive person when faced with confrontation; this is due to history I don’t care to explain. Maybe one day.

So folks, respect isn’t all that hard. It means you leash up when there are other dogs in proximity UNLESS you have had a conversation with that person and they have assured you they are fine. No conversation is not consent. No conversation should be taken as a NO and you should leash up your dogs anyways.

Happy walking and happy training.