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!

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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!

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