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!


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?


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.


My Maizey Is Back!

For the first time in months tonight I felt like I had my old happy Maizey back. She’s been doing really well, but tonight we had out first trip out without one reaction!

It was our anniversary last week and when Mehusbandy asked me what I wanted to do with our day of course I told him I wanted to take the puppies to the park. Perhaps not the most romantic anniversary, but perfect to me! We had a great day! That day Maizey and Magnus zoomed and zoomed and then they zoomed some more. After they got their crazy out they settled down on their mats while we all chilled out. It all went great until a man with three unleashed dogs showed up, but even then we managed well. That was a good day.

Today was better! Of course we didn’t meet any dogs, but we planned it that way. All we did was go run some errands, see some friends and picked up the big work truck. But in all that she was so happy.

She always been such a little people social butterfly that it’s been so hard to see her shy away from meeting people these last months. Even family has been overwhelming to her at times, so tonight when she was whining and pulling on her leash to get TO our friends I was just thrilled. It’s funny how perspective changes with circumstances since normally whining and pulling on me would not be something I was happy about, but tonight I was so happy to see her happy I actually just sat back and watched her “be bad.” Don’t worry, it won’t be something we let become a habit.

There were just so many things that would have spooked her just a few weeks ago, but tonight she just did great. Not one bark all night, even when she had to wait in the car with people coming and going around her she laid down! On the way home from the park she laid down in Magnus’ crate with him, but those are the fist times I’ve seen her relax in the car in months.

All in all it was just so nice to have her with me and be able to relax a bit more as she was able to have fun. I hate to say it, but I almost forgot how much fun she is! I hope we keep seeing progress and we have a long ways to go when it comes to dogs, but being able to leave the house and stay under threshold is a great step in the right direction!