Words for Maizey: The Happiest Kind of Update.

I haven’t posted any words in so long it’s hard to know where to start. How ’bout with Maizey?

She’s doing fabulous. She’s as stable as she’s ever been and better in many ways. This comment from one of our Instagram pictures sums it up well, “She’s looking very lovely lately. You can tell from the softer expression she has. Calvin was the right move!” Thanks Misskodee, I am very proud of my girl, wether it has anything to do with Calvin or not, she’s certainly happier in general!

She’s still on 10 mg of Fluoxetine. We find her Thundershirt and Composure liquid very helpful. She takes Clonidine for the really bad days. Twice this month, but only once last month so that’s a huge improvement from last year at this time.

Biochemically I don’t know what the change is, other than time on the meds and our Real Life is significantly less stressful in many ways. Training wise we still work counterconditioning and desensitization to her triggers when I can pin them down. It’s extremely hard to desensitize to rain on the windows or wind, but we use the chicken rains from the sky method and it’s slowly helping. We haven’t worked on the dog reactivity at all. One change for the worse is she’s shown a slight in inclination to human reactivity at the park. We have used lots of mat work to condition safe spaces for her to retreat too all around the house. Her stroller is now a piece of furniture in our house. Not the most normal looking “chair” but it gives her a Calvin free zone and safe place that can go wherever I go. We minimize stimulation as much as possible on the bad days. Closing blinds and playing Through a Dogs Ear to cut down on the outside sounds that trigger her. Her recovery time is down to hours instead of days.

Writing it that way it may sound as if she’s deprived, but she’s really not. We have fun together at home, she plays with Calvin and Magnus now. She even asks to play with toys sometimes, though she doesn’t seem to know quite what to do with them. Silly goose! We train lots of tricks. She can be outside now without being over threshold. Even her recall from the front yard and off the neighbors pit bulls is about 90%! That’s something I am so proud of. She also shows some ability to leave the cat alone, which used to be a major trigger. I know she has more thinking brain than fearing brain when she can call off those hard triggers and recover quickly.

She doing so well I’m considering taking the next step to desensitize her to being at work. We finally have a trainer I feel understands us enough and that I trust enough to start working on some other issues. After a loooong talk (Thanks Jamie!) we decided she won’t be able to make progress in training the reactivity until I can manage my worry and anxiety of taking her to the training room with me. So our next step is as much about desensitizing ME.

I guess there’s no one biggest thing that has made a difference, but for me the thing that’s most helpful is having the knowledge and tools to help her when it does get hard. She’s always going to have hard days, but now we both have enough training to handle it and recover.

My main message to people with fearful dogs is this: It starts at home. You are your dogs protector, advocate, doctor and trainer. You MUST make their homes a safe, trigger free zone. If you can’t create an environment for their bodies to recover from stress they will never be able to desensitize to their fears. Don’t push them, be patient. Protect them, speak up for them! Don’t let people approach them, be willing to change your environment, close the blinds, play the music loud, don’t let them go out in a yard alone, do whatever it takes to help them have at least one safe space, even if it means being that crazy lady with the dog stroller. Don’t ask too much of them just to fulfill your needs or wants. The rewards are worth it! Your fearful dogs’ journey is a serious of small climbs and an occasional fall. Love them through it, don’t give up! but most of all protect them!

Next up: The Magnus update. Get ready for this. . . it’s been a scary, strange and miraculous few months!


You are Your Mothers Daughter. . . or Son

Warning: Do not continue reading if you are uncomfortable with gross anthropomorphism.

I raise dogs that are like me. I don’t know how, well I sorta do, but I make dogs that are their mothers daughter or sons. Maybe I raise dogs to be introverts like I am.

I’m doing it again with Calvin and play. He doesn’t love puppy play. He’s okay there, not hiding or afraid, but he doesn’t love it. As a puppy momma I feel the same way. As a trainer I enjoy puppy play. I’m in charge and that must satisfy the control freak in me. As a puppy mom I hate it. I get uncomfortable and nervous. It’s called puppy social for a reason and the word social and I? We aren’t on good terms.

Introverts are most comfortable with just a few people, or even just one. We don’t need a crowd to satisfy our social needs. In fact crowds are overwhelming. To me crowds are like watching 10 TV’s at once, all on different channels, all with the volume full blast. It’s input overload. Put me in a room with 10 families and 10 puppies and my head is absorbing way too much. That’s why introverts like smaller groups. My brain absorbs so much as once, it’s exhausting.

“It’s okay mom, I can be your snuggle puppy!”

It’s not that I don’t like people, I do! I find people fascinating. I love the capacity for showing human compassion we were created with. I love teaching. I love learning. But put me in a group that big and I can only handle it for a short period of time before I want to just shut down. Put me in a group that big with a puppy to protect and I go into overload even faster. That’s where the problem comes in, that’s where I make dogs that are their mothers daughter or sons.

When Maizey was a puppy I was reactive, to say the least. It was a very anxious time of my life and I was having regular panic attacks. None of that equipped me to help her. I know her genetics and my genetics are not a good match. We have a conflictedly parasitic/symbiotic relationship. If there were such a thing. While I’m convinced there are few people equipped to handle her I also know she would be much better off with a calmer person, especially when she was a puppy. Sometimes we do trigger each others anxiety, but we also take care of each other and I think I understand her in a lot ways other don’t and couldn’t.

By the time Magnus came along I was not so reactive and more settled into my introversion. I think it shows, when it comes to dogs he’s a lot like I am with people. He likes dogs, he’s okay with dogs, but he prefers one or two and in small doses.

I can see it happening with Calvin too. I like kids, I don’t have kids, but I like kids. I especially like to interact with one or two kids at a time. I don’t really like the loudness of kids, it goes back to that input overload thing. I prefer adults. He’s already like that with puppies. He doesn’t really like puppy play, but he really loves to play with grown up dogs. Today at puppy play he interacted a little. He doesn’t hide and he would really like to play with the big dogs, but he doesn’t really dive in there and enjoy himself. Then this afternoon this sweet blenheim, Cheeto, came in with his dad. Calvin loved him! LOVED him! They played until Cheeto was pretty sick of Calvin, but Calvin would have just kept on chasing! All Calvin’s work Aunties were so surprised. I told them, he’s his mothers son. He doesn’t like crowds, it takes him a minute to adjust to new environments and he does best one on one with grown ups. I was very similar as a kid.

“It’s okay mom! We can just play with you!”

I worry about it a bit. I don’t care so much of they are doggy introverts as long as, like Magnus, they have the skills to deal with being around dogs peacefully. Calvin is nothing like Maizey was and I bear little resemblance to the mom I was to her, so I’m not worried about him being reactive. I just hate to think I affect them with my stress. It’s a pointless thing to worry about. What I should, and am, more concerned with is giving them the skills to deal with me being their mom and them being their mothers children. But isn’t it crazy how in tune dogs are to us?

It’s their ability for compassion that I love so much, but also makes me worry about them. Maizey especially. It is just crazy how she reads me. I can be totally quiet on the outside, but she knows the instant I reach a certain level of internal anxiety. She comes and taps me and if I don’t calm myself down she insistently smothers me. I love it, but I hate for her to take on that self appointed job.

It will be interesting to see how Calvin grows. He’s certainly more people oriented than either of my other two. We’re working already on when you can say hi and when you can’t. However he turns out I’m proud of who he is already. I can’t help but be who I am and if that makes them a bit more reserved I guess we can deal with it. I don’t believe dogs need to play with other dogs to live fulfilled lives, but I do want them to be comfortable around other dogs. We’ll keep working on puppy play and who knows, maybe I’ll let one of his trainer Aunties take Calvin to play next time!


Sisters Make the Best Pillows

Sisters Make the Best Pillows

Maizey looks a bit unhappy in this picture because she was a bit unhappy. Actually a lot more than a bit. This was a very hard day for her. The 24th is a holiday weekend here and the neighborhoods go crazy with the fireworks, even more so than the 4th of July. Add to that we’ve had thunderstorms almost every afternoon, the kids in the neighborhood are outside and running around making happy noise, very loud happy noise.

We have many things that help her now, but some days none of it is enough. It seems those are the days Magnus is the most snuggly with her. This afternoon after about thirty straight minutes of her barking she finally came and sat with us. He got right up nose to nose with her and started licking her face, very lightly sniffing and licking her. Then he did something I’ve never seen in my dogs before, but something they frequently do to me when I’m upset. He foot tapped her. He tapped her right on the chest. I wish so much I knew what that meant. It’s not any kind of dog language I know of, it was absolutely fascinating! After that they laid on the bed together and went to sleep. I am not near enough versed in animal behavior to say what all of that meant, but I do know she seems to get a lot of comfort from him. Sometimes more than from me.

For tonight I gave her 1 mg of Clonidine and she’s sleeping now. It works much better than the Alprazolam we tried on the fourth. I have a wonderful vet to work with now and all in all Maizey’s hard days are getting fewer and further between. If I can’t end the hard days I’m glad at least we have the tools to help her through them.


Sunday Mornings

I love Sunday Mornings. It’s really our only morning to chill as a family and many times we spend it drinking coffee and steeping ourselves in preparation for the next week. Today was extra sweet since it’s been a couple of weeks since Maizey could handle being outside with us.

a little stress here, but more happy face than stress face

The fireworks on the fourth were murder on her and I’ve been trying to give her as much of a cortisol vacation as I possibly could. (By the way do you read Paws Abilities blog? It’s worth not missing. Sara writes the posts I always want to write but never buckle down and do.) Minimizing the level of stimulation Maizey gets is a big key to her ability to recover from stressful events, and sometimes just the stimulation of being outside is too much for her.

There are dogs that can just shake off stress and move on and there are dogs like Maizey that take days to recover. Thankfully it’s taking her less and less time to recover and come back to where she can relax.

So relaxed her chin's on the ground and she has sleepy eyes? This is me doing the happy dance!

I’m continually thankful for Magnus as he’s as steady as can be and I’m sure thought the fireworks must be the most awesome thing ever since they got a free flow of treats, chews, attention and snuggles for the two and half hours they were exploding around us. He turns two in a couple of weeks and I just can not wrap my head around that.

So that’s our lazy Sunday morning, how about you? Do you have a favorite time of day with your pups?


Memory a Day 16: Out and About (with Maizey)

I’m finding one challenge to a Photo a Day challenge is having the time to post my photo’s. I missed yesterday, but enjoyed today’s prompt:

Out and About

We took the dogs to coffee this morning. It was nice to sit for a few minutes, I’m thrilled to be able to get Maizey out and about a bit more, but she really can’t last too long before the anxiety gets too high. Interestingly, she’s started reacting to people at a distance. Mehusbandy says he thinks she’s always barked at people, but I think it was more selective than it is now. Also interesting is her ability to stop barking and settle back on her mat. (I thank Karen Overall for Relaxation Protocol everyday!) It used to be she couldn’t access her training when we were out and she got triggered, but the level of reaction to everything except dogs is much lower now and she really does better with leave it’s, focus and Look at That, always defaulting to her mat.

I’m certainly seeing signs of higher stress level in her this week. We’ve had two episodes of diarrhea. She hasn’t had any diarrhea in about three weeks. That’s a record for her. The 10:00pm to 11:00pm hour has been one of her highest stress times and has gotten worse the last few weeks. I have no idea why. Finally after a really hard night on Thursday and a morning that nearly had me in tears yesterday I decided to try some supplements I haven’t tried before.

Last night and tonight we had tea together. I had really yummy Lavender Dreams from Teavana (a wonderful gift from my little sister) and she had Quiet tea from The Honest Kitchen. Last night we only had one barking outburst about 10:40 and that was when the neighbors pit bulls got into a noisy scrap. Tonight we had fireworks for the first time and she sat up and noticed, but didn’t bark or hide. A few minutes later I noticed she was laying so loose and relaxed she sort of scared me! The fact that she looks weird to me when she’s relaxed, says a lot about how tense she is most the time. Poor girl! I realized just now she didn’t bark at all tonight so maybe the tea does help!

All in all she’s still doing better. I’m trying not to panic over this week and feel like it’s all going down hill from here. I’m going to keep her in for a day or two and give her body a chance to reset. I’ll keep her mind busy with training and puzzle toys and hope for the best.

It’s hard for me to not take her with us, but then we have a day like today where she’s conflicted to be out with us. She’s obviously not too stressed in these photo’s, but we stayed out a bit too long for her and I saw the result of higher stress the rest of the day. It’s such a fine line and I’m constantly doing a balancing act to know what will be best for her. It’s hard to just take Magnus too much of the time since she does much better when he’s home. At the same time it’s not fair to him to stay home sister-sitting all the time. I’m always working to find a balance, but I think in general we’re succeeding. Bottom line is a year ago in June she couldn’t go anywhere, not even the front yard so I’m thrilled with the level of happiness and adventure we’ve achieved!


Day 1 Photo a Day: Morning

Playing catchup for Photo A Day. This was June 1 prompt:


I woke up to this face. A more correct title would be: “Morning After” as this is what the morning after Maizey having a rough night looks like. Stuffed Kong, Thundershirt and grumpy face in my bed!

However that’s not the whole story since the rest of our morning was spent relaxing in the front yard. She even laid her head down! First time I’ve seen that, she usually has to stay much more alert. Her recovery time from stressful events is one thing that is vastly improved over the last year.


Happy Maizey and Healthy Magnus

If you read last June and July it’s all about limps and anxiety. Ironically this April and May would have been all about limps and anxiety too, but a totally different story. This years story is about progress and recovery.

June 25, 2011

June 25, 2012

May 15, 2012

These photo’s from last year clearly show that Maizey was feeling stressed even in the front yard. As I read through posts from last year my sadness and frustration all came back to me.

This year is is a totally different story, as I think the photo’s show. She still has a long ways to go, especially when it comes to other dogs, but her general level of anxiety is much, much less. Hooray! Her recovery time is better and even on high stress days she can still enjoy getting out for a short walk as long as she has her stroller.

Last year she couldn’t even be in the front yard without her stress level sky rocketing, this year she’s not only enjoying being out there, she’s doing so quietly! Since we’re not fighting with the anxiety I started using timeouts for her barking at the fence and she almost never does now. A funny side effect is that when I say, “That’s enough”, her timeout warning cue, Magnus comes running. He thinks it’s good recall cue since if she comes off the fence with the warning she always gets a treat and of course so does he. That boy just cracks me up.

I’m worried about fireworks season coming up so we’ve added Amitriptyline to her Fluoxetine. We did a two week trial which wasn’t long enough to tell anything so we’re trying another two weeks. I hope to be able to use it on an as needed basis, for just the most stressful times. We’re still using Composure Liquid and it’s a life saver. For the first time I feel hopeful about my girl.

I appreciate how many tools we have in our anxiety tool box now. Not only is her stress level lower, but we have many more skills and resources to draw from on the bad days. As a trainer it’s something I’m always advocating for shy dogs- train a variety of skills and try a variety of supplements so when you need it you have options. One thing that was so frustrating last year was not having enough things to try when things got tough.

On top of all that good news Magnus is doing great! His back is all clear, we’re back to training, I even let him zoom at the park the other day. It was his SI joint that was out, but now I think this all started last June with a pulled hamstring. That’s the only thing left that’s sore on him now. So were still seeing Tena, the physical therapist who he LOVES. Now that we’re actually down to what we think was the original cause of all his back problems I hope we can clear it up for good.

As if all that good news weren’t enough I passed my CAP 1 certification. I can’t remember if I really posted about this, but before Magnus got hurt I was taking a class to earn a certification for Kay Laurence’ Clicker Trainers Competency Assessment Program. When his health fell apart in March we had to put taking the assessment on hold until he was healthy again. I’m happy to say the delay between the class and the assessment didn’t hurt me as I passed with distinction. It’s a huge honor to be able to take this class in person, there are only a few assessors in the states. I’m very pleased with passing and even more pleased with how great a team mate Magnus was.

It’s nice to have good news and happy pictures to post. And now in a bit of shameless self-congratulations I have to post a copy of my CAP certificate.