The Stroller Experimentation

The stroller experimentation continues. . .

Every once in a while you see your training pay off and so far this whole stroller thing seems to be that moment for Maizey and I. So far. I’m reserving total judgment until there’s more data, but I’m happy with what I’m seeing.

We’ve taken two good real walks with the stroller so far. Both times I saw just the reaction I thought I’d see at this point. Yesterday we headed out and as soon as I set up the stroller she hopped in. Good sign number one. I zipped the bonnet closed so I didn’t have to worry about her bailing out and she settled right in. She asked to get out a couple times and walked quite a bit, but when she started getting stressed and asked to be picked up I just offered her to get back in the stroller and she happily did that.

Today we walked farther than we have in weeks. She didn’t walk as much as yesterday since I was working with Magnus on how to walk on a nice loose leash next to the stroller. I want him to walk on the right so that’s a change as his default is my left side. He did wonderfully. He’s such an easy going boy and makes my life easy.

I’m very happy that she’s getting out and about with much lower stress in general. She has choices and she seems to sense that. There was so much less whining and barking. Her body language in general is more settled, slower, not as frantic. It’s like a little portable chill out spot that lets her decompress on the go. Her reaction after the walk is better too. Normally we’d have a while of pretty hyper zoomies after we got home, but both days she asked for her stroller to be set up as soon as we got in the house and then hopped in and took a nap.

I’m so relieved to have hope that she can get out more and have it not be so hard on both of us. The other day someone asked me what was stressful to her on a walk. I said, “Everything.” They said, “But what are her triggers?” I just laughed and said, “oh, the air.” Ha Ha Ha. People really don’t understand what it’s like to have a dog that isn’t just reactive, but has Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It’s called generalized, because the triggers start in the brain chemistry and the anxiety is caused by everything or nothing in the environment. So to have a safe space we can take anywhere is hugely relieving to both of us.

Did you see this post at Rollin’ With Rubi? It struck such a chord with me. In it she talks about how a trainer finally looked at her dog and saw the truth. He’s a dog full of fear and brave enough to work through it. She expresses how relieved she was to have someone finally see what she sees in her dog. Well, that was my take home message anyways. It’s a message I can well relate to. People look at Maizey and they see a “happy” “squirmy” “wiggling” little dog. They don’t know that’s not her normal self. That’s her out in the world anxious self and it doesn’t look that bad. It doesn’t look like a disorder.

In Home Depot the other day she was like that and when I picked her up she wanted to crawl into my face for reassurance. The lady I was chatting with said, “Oh she’s such a lover, what a snuggle bug.” Sure, except that’s not what’s making her do that. I’ve always said it would be easier to have a broken leg than an anxiety disorder. People don’t understand what they can’t see or haven’t experienced. If she had a bandage on people would get when I say you can’t pet her she’s sick.

I guess I didn’t even know that rant was in me today, but there it is. I guess that part matters to me because I’m really happy to have someplace that she can go to for safety. I’ve lost a bit of hope that she’ll ever live without fear and anxiety. I promise I’ll keep trying to find that for her, but in the mean time what I am able to do is provide whatever safety and reassurance I can. Isn’t that the best any of us can do for each other? We can’t fix it all, but we can sit in the space the other is in and keep them company. Acceptance and reassurance are the most we can offer sometimes. Giving Maizey a safe space to get out and enjoy the world in is the best I can do right now. I guess that’s today’s 4legged lesson: sit with each other in the space that you can’t change, even if that space is a doggy stroller.

Whew! I sure need to lighten up around her lately! Check back tomorrow for a rant free, silly Wordless Wednesday. Even I can’t make that serious!


Officially One of “Those” Crazy Dog Ladies

I am officially one of “those” dog moms. I bought Maizey a stroller. It’s really funny the reactions people have when you tell them you are buying a stroller for your dog. You know the people who already think you’re a crazy dog lady and, yep, this confirms it!

I’m okay with being a crazy dog lady, but I admit even I balked a bit at the whole stroller thing. I mean aren’t dogs supposed to walk? Sure, but if you’re Maizey walks are an exercise in being stressed out the whole time and that’s just not fun. After carrying her for most of our walks in January I finally took the good advice of another smart dog lady who suggested I get a stroller. (Thanks Patty, I think it’s going to be a great tool!)

I hope I can condition the stroller to be a safe haven where she knows to relax and that will give her someplace to retreat to on stressful walks. Someplace other than my arms, that is.

I bought the Petgear Sportster It’s perfect size for her and maybe a puppy, but too small for her and Magnus to ride comfortably for long, which is fine since I suspect he would rather walk on hot coals than ride in a stroller on a walk.

So far she’s in love with this stroller! I am taking the conditioning of it very slow. We started with basic Relaxation Protocol with her in the stroller for the first day. So as long as she lays down in the stroller she gets randomly timed treats. I release when it’s okay with me for her to get out, but if she chooses to stay in that’s fine. If she gets out before released I just show her back in and ask for a settle and we start over upping the frequency of the treats. I want her to clearly understand this is a place where her job is to feel safe and relax.

The first day she fell asleep and napped in the stroller for over an hour. Over the last few days we have done lots of time in the stroller, wheeling her around the house. She’s getting in and out on her own now and choosing to stay in the stroller and relax more and more. I think she loves it because she loves little small enclosed spaces and this way she gets to be in someplace like that, but still near me. One day Charley and Chloe came over and Maizey chose to relax in her stroller while the over dogs played. She truly was the Princessface surveying her domain that day.

Next I upped the criteria and distraction level by asking her to relax in the stroller whole Magnus and I trained. No problem there. She’s used to parking it on her mat while it’s his turn to train anyways, so the stroller was not a huge difference there.

Then I took it a level harder by opening the front door, but putting the baby gate across so they couldn’t go out. She did pretty well, until there was a huge bang that set the neighborhood dogs barking. She broke from her stroller then for the first time. It was valuable information for me to have. It tells me she’s comfortable, but doesn’t yet recognize the stroller as a place she’s safe enough not to react in. I took the difficulty level back a notch by closing the door and opening the window. We worked that way a couple of days and today made it to having the door open. I’m still not ready to take it outside, but we’ll get there.

I’ll close with my favorite advice from another wise dog lady. When you worry about what people will think about something you’re doing to help you’re fearful dog remember, a tool is a tool. In our case it’s better to walk in a stroller with a smile than on a leash with tears. I hope this turns out to be a valuable tool in our fearful dog tool box.


Loose Dogs Are NOT Maizey’s Friend

There really is nothing ambiguous about this sign:

Unfortunately it seems dreadfully difficult for anyone to follow that rule.

If I saw someone pick up their dog and start walking briskly away from me while loudly saying three times, “Get your dog! My dog’s not friendly!” I would not allow my off leash dog to chase after them.

I would not merely keep sauntering along while my Ridgeback looking mix ran towards the shrilly barking dog. Of course if my dog didn’t have a recall at all my dog wouldn’t be off leash in the first place.

Needless to say I was not happy tonight at the park when that happened to us. We’ve managed to get Maizey out quite a few times with out a run in like this, but today was just not going our way.

I know off leash dogs are something we all fight with, but when you have a pup with issues who is in “rehab” it’s even more frustrating. Of course right after we settled down from the big dog there was another lady running with an off leash Schnauzer that also clearly didn’t care that her dog was off leash. Both of these people were carrying their leashes! Umm. . . it doesn’t count if the leash is not attached to the dog! Thankfully the Schauzer kept it’s distance, but Maizey reacts at dogs that are very, very far away so that didn’t really help her.

It’s not like I enjoy hollering at people as they approach us in the park, but really! I mean this was a big dog with it’s hackles raised. It didn’t look mean, just aroused. It would be hard for any dog not to be aroused with the racket my Princess of the Shrill Bark raises. I felt like I was pretty mean, but my husband said I sounded like an “assertive dog trainer”. I thought that was pretty funny.

After the dogs were gone I was very thankful for the RP and LAT work we’ve done. These were the steps I took after the dogs were away from us:

I was carrying Maizey (the only way to get her away when she’s reacting). Magnus was on leash so I was telling him leave it and lets go. When I had a free hand and the dog was headed away from us I opened bar the treats to Maizey. I basically just threw a handful on the ground for Magnus to find and then just let Maizey start eating a handful out of my hand.

When she was not barking I started Look At That with her.

When she could LAT with our barking I put her down at which point she started reacting again so we went back to open bar.

My husband went and grabbed her mat and so I asked her to settle in RP mode. As she quieted down we started LAT with me on sitting with her on the ground. As she got calmer I stood up and went into RP stance. Then I basically combined a LAT with RP mode until she seemed calmer and the dogs were all out of the park. After that we went back to the area where the Ridgy mix had approached us and both dogs got very sniffy so I let them get their sniff in and we jollyed our way back to the car.

I don’t think it was the worst encounter we’ve had. We both accessed out skills pretty well and now I have some new ideas for some new skills we can use. Best of all she seems okay tonight. She’s been a little spooked tonight, but she’s sleeping in her crate with the door open now.

The difference in her since we started the Fluoxetine three months ago is amazing. She’s back to my happy girl who wants to meet everyone and she recovers faster and faster from triggers. I don’t regret putting her on Prozac, I only regret I didn’t do it sooner.


Not Monday Miles, Relaxation Protocol and Work

I am the worst blogger ever.

I tried to write a story for you all, but blogging is hard work and I had to just take a nap on the 'puter!"

I just can’t seem to put together a coherent thought by the end of the day anymore and it seems like every day starts with a bang and has no time for coherent thought then either.

It’s good busy though. I’m loving work. Sometimes it’s a little crazy there too, but overall I really enjoy it. I’m doing short private lessons now and that’s my favorite part of the job. I like getting to work one on one with people and see them really learn about their dogs. I think after time and many dogs sometimes we loose the wonder of training the basics, but I love how thrilled people are to teach their dogs things we take for granted.

I love seeing their eyes light up when we’re teaching leave it for the first time. When their dogs turn away from a treat in your hand and they look at me like it was magic that their dog CHOSE not to get that treat just thrills me every time.

It’s great to have the tools to help people. I love it every time a dog drags their person into the store and 15 minutes later walks out on a nice loose leash after we fit them for front clip harness. The solutions people need are so simple, but sometimes they just don’t know how to find them. So being able to share even simple things that are management tools and allow that dog mom or dad to have time to train is a great feeling.

On the doggy-home front things are going good too. We’ve done lots of work at the park and check in on this not Monday Miles with 223 miles. How are you all doing? Getting any walks in?

One bit of news is we started RP at the park. I’ve had to change how we were doing RP and stopped filming it. The camera setup was becoming too much of a cue to her and I wanted to start replicating more real life use before we switched to outside. I found the park is actually less distraction than my yard since we live in a crazy dog neighborhood and the park we work in a virtually deserted. I also started doing RP in the house with her harness and leash on. I find she gets super charged the minute we put them on and want to be able to see her much more relaxed before we ever even start out the door. I don’t know if any of that is very classic RP, but it’s working for us.

I’m still reading everyone’s blogs and keeping up with the news. So that’s where we’re at. Please let me know if you’re still with us in the Walking Challenge. I hope everyone hasn’t given up. We’re still plugging along and hope you all are too!


Relaxation Protocol Day 4 Session 2

Taking a step back was a good idea. Today’s RP was uneventful and gave Maizey a chance to have some success. Now we can build on that success tomorrow.

Going to be a busy day though. I work and have my normal Tuesday night meeting, so Magnus and I need to walk early. Real early. My mom gets the pin out of her toe tomorrow and I just don’t want her to go do that alone so add in a doctors visit. I need to pick up a new bottle of Maizey’s Fluoxetine which means a trip to Costco. (Have you ever bought Prozac for a dog from your pharmacy? It’s pretty funny. They always say, “Is this for a K9?” With that look non-dog people reserve for really crazy dog people. It cracks me up.) Anyways, with all that I guess RP will be fit in there sometime after work and before the evening gets busy. Whew! I’m tired just thinking about it!

It’s my 4legged lesson for today though: When Real Life gets crazy and you already have those daily dog do’s planned into your day it provides such a calm time to slow down and enjoy your pups. It’s yet another reason dogs are good for stress relief,

And on that convoluted thought I’m going to sleep!


Relaxation Protocol Day 10 Session 3: Time To Back Up a Few Days

Not sure what to say except she broke off the mat four times. at 2:43, 6:00, 6:54, and 7:44. Then at 8:05 she offers me a sleepy chin, which make me think she was reading something in me that made her think she needed to offer something different.

The plan is to go back to day two or three and work things we’re successful at, skipping ahead a few days at a time as long as we’re successful.

If you have better ideas hit me with them since I don’t have too many of my own.


Relaxation Protocol Day 11: The Wheels Come Off

This is actually RP from 8/24/11, but for a train wreck it was such an interesting type of success I wanted to get all of your input so am posting it today.

This was the day I started started “disappearing from view” by going out the front door and closing it, though not latching it, so I could use the door knocker. The first session of day 11 didn’t go well, so I changed the setup to make it easier and still accomplish the tasks.

The lip licks start at :44, :45 the first time I go out the door. The lip licks stay pretty frequent through this whole day, though mostly when I’m not there to see them.

At 3:02-:10 she shows more than the usual alertness to Nellie The Monster coming in the dog door.

At 4:08 she readjust on her mat to face the door more. I didn’t notice this till I watched the video. For some reason it’s just hard to observe the signs of stress when you disappear from view and can’t even see your dog!

At 5:24 she catches a scent of something and breaks from her mat. I had Magnus set up in the bedroom behind the baby gate in the bedroom and at 5:32 he starts barking. He rarely barks and this was his, “Holy crap!” Alert bark.

I was proud of Maizey for trying to come back to her mat at 5:35, but whatever got them both going was still too stimulating and she can’t settle. Though at 5:48 she comes back to her mat and lays down when I cue settle.

I thought he may just settle himself, but when he didn’t I thought I’d let him out and see if he would settle with us. I was planning on just finishing the day very easy, but instead he cruised right out the doggy door. That’s my bad for not remembering it was still open.

I was very impressed Maizey stayed on her mat for all of that and even laid down at the end.

He really set up a ruckus outside and I thought I better see what was up with him so at that point I stopped day 11, went and got him and set them both up to do day 1. At that point I really wasn’t sure what to do, but wanted to save this train wreck somehow.

So what do you think? What should I have done differently? Do you see anything I’m missing? It will be interesting to see how it goes today after I get back from vacation. As mentioned, the plan is to back up and do day 10 again with the setup I used for session 3 of day 11. Have any better suggestions? I’d love to hear them!