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!

Share

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.

Share

Spring Walks

We took a lovely, although unusual, walk yesterday and lest you all think all the dogs do is be bored anymore I thought I’d better post some pictures.

Things are rolling along here, work is busy, busy. Real life is. . . Real, with a capitol R. Magnus is doing pretty well. We haven’t had an appointment with rehab therapist in almost two weeks now. She felt he was doing well enough to cut back to every other week. I’ve been a bit worried about his eyes. We don’t have a recheck for another few weeks but if they keep looking like they do we might be headed in sooner than that. Oddly enough, he was the cause of the unusual aspect of our walk.

Magnus' best imitation of a speed bump in the road

He hates to be hot. When he gets to hot he will just lay down and refuse to move. It’s a little funny, but just a little. It was the longest walk we’ve taken and his back seems fine, but I when he pulled his lump in the middle of the trail routine I was a little worried we’d pushed it too far. Maizey has been walking more on the last two walks so I put Magnus in the stroller. It was pretty funny actually, I thought he’d hate it, but he just rode along like a pasha being escorted to his castle. Of course the Princessface had to ride in style too so they both ended up in the stroller.

I tried to tell them it was humiliating to take two dogs for a “walk” where neither of them were actually walking. They didn’t care. So I kept teasing them yesterday I was going to go out and get a “real” dog who could keep up with me. I don’t really care though and man am I getting good exercise pushing all that extra weight around!

I’m a bit concerned that all our winter of limited activity has made Magnus’ stamina be weak. I sure hope at one point we can take a walk without worrying so much. Until then I guess I have a another reason to be glad I have the stroller. I’m seriously considering investing in a bike trailer. If he’s going to want to ride some then I want to actually get some exercise and that we we could go farther.

While I’m concerned Magnus’ stamina has decreased, I think cutting back the length of our walks and the methodical way we’ve been increasing just 5 minutes ever two to three days has helped Maizey’s stamina increase. She’s doing really well that way. Spring is proving to be a stimulating time for her and I’ve increased her Fluexetine back to .75 mg a day. If we need to go up one more time we will. There is just more sensory input in spring and as usual she’s found several things more triggering. It’s been super rainy, the neighbors building projects, all compounded by the windows being open more when the weathers nice all set her off. Last night she retreated to the bathroom for the first time. I sure hope we don’t seen a huge dive from her like last year. We’re headed to the vet on tuesday to see what we can do preventively. I’ve been playing Through a Dog’s Ear for her. I can’t tell it has a huge effect but it makes me sleepy so it can’t hurt!


So life’s rolling along, in more than just the metaphorical sense. I’ve got the puppy bug and have been dreaming of what it would be like to have a third dog. I’ve had three dogs before and know it’s much more work. I also know it’s much more love and fun so I’m thinking seriously about it. For those of you with three dogs what’s you’re greatest challenge and your greatest joy? I read a poem about Cav’s the other day that said one is never enough- I guess they’re kinda like potato chips!

Can't you just picture a little black and tan face with these two? I can!

Share

A Maizey Update – The Key to Success is Choices

First of all, migraines stink. Migraines that hang around for days and days stink even more.

Okay, now that’s out of my system I can get down to business. I should be working. Well doing paperwork for work. No one has any idea how much behind the scenes work there is for dog trainers. I enjoy it, but today’s been a day of blowing off serious stuff and being a bum, so why stop now?

Don’t you love to take a day like that once in a while? It’s something our dogs are so good at. They never take themselves too seriously. Well, except Maizey. She takes herself incredibly serious. I suppose that’s as good a place to start catching up as any.

I was thinking last week how good my girls doing. I think generalized anxiety is something that’s so painful to deal with that when it’s bad you can’t ignore it, but progress is so slow that it’s easy to not notice when things improve. I’m not good with statistics and stuff, but I can say she has more good days than bad. Her recovery time is shorter and she can access her skills a lot easier. That’s improvement for sure!

Since starting on Perfect Form her stress colitis only shows up on very stressful days, and those happen less and less. It’s so nice! The stroller has been a life saver for her. She mostly chooses to ride on our walks, but if she wants to walk I encourage her to do so as much as she wants. This weekend she choses to walk a few blocks, but when her anxiety got too much for her and she asked to be picked up and I just told her she could hop in and she did. She rode calmly the rest of the walk.

It was terribly windy Sunday night and Monday. Wind is not Maizey’s friend. It’s one of the most frustrating triggers she has since, awesome as I am, I can’t control the weather. (Shocking, I know!) After using her Thundershirt, Composure Liquid and doing some Relaxation Protocol on her mat she was still quite anxious. Then she asked me to get her stroller out and took herself a nice nap. As I posted on Facebook, “I can not emphasize enough the importance of conditioning safe spaces for our fearful pups.”

Then last night a miracle happened. It’s such a long story, but the short version is we had no choice but for my brothers dog to be here for a while. She was in full on reacting mode and though she could access her skills at a distance from him as long as she was in my arms she was very over threshold. It’s the worst and longest reaction she’s had in months, but you have to play the hand that’s dealt you and there wasn’t much I could do about the circumstances that brought us into that situation. When it was clear she wasn’t going to be able to manage we put up her stroller, zipped the bonnet closed and she immediately calmed down. Not ONE more bark! It was amazing! After a bit she was able to be about 8 feet from him and was laying down in her stroller! Yes I said, laying down! It was amazing. She feels so safe there. It’s quickly becoming the best tool we have for her.

I think the key to her improvement is choices. We’ve trained so many things in hopes it will help her anxiety, boost her confidence, lessen her fears and her reactivity. But not all them work. Some just don’t help at all, some help more than others. They key though is that we have lots of tools in her our tool box and if we pull one out and it doesn’t work for that moment we try a different one. You can pound a screw in with a hammer, but it’s not the most efficient way to do it and a screwdriver makes the whole job easier. Maizey has choices now and since I know she will always be Maizey I know we have to keep training so she has even more choices. It helps me too, since I don’t feel so helpless on days when there is little I can do. I trust her to get through it and I trust she’ll choose something that will help herself. I have resources for her too and together we seem to be getting through this.

I still have hope we can get to the place I read some of our friends have achieved. Sarah and Oreo deserve high praise for all they’ve accomplished and what Crytsal and her Maisey have done to manage her anxiety is nothing short of amazing. So I’ll keep working with my Princessface and maybe one day we’ll get to the place where she’s healthy like them. Until then I’m just happy for her to have the tools she needs to manage so well.

Magnus would take a whole other post to catch up on and since we have a recheck for his eyes and see Tena, the rehab therapist, again tomorrow I’ll wait till then to post about him. Suffice it to say he’s doing good. The back is still not ship-shape, but I’m hopeful his eyes have cleared up. We’ll just have to see tomorrow.

Share