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!


Puppies Bite

If you have a puppy you know all about sharp, pointy, razor sharp shark teeth constantly tearing at your flesh, or at least that’s how it feels sometimes. You probably also want to know how to stop it.

“I am puppy! I will bite your face!”

So lets get this out of the way first: Your puppy does not bite you because they are bad. They don’t bite because they are aggressive. They don’t bite because they are dominant or don’t see you as a clear leader or alpa. They don’t bite to hurt you make angry.

They bite because they’re puppies. They bite because they explore the world with their mouths. They bite as a way to communicate. They bite hard because they haven’t learned bite inhibition. They haven’t learned bite inhibition because we as mom’s and dad’s haven’t taught them yet. In fact, unwittingly many people reinforce hard biting without even realizing it.

If a puppy bites their mom or one of their litter mates too hard the litter mate will yipe and move away, effectively communicating the bite got too hard and they don’t play with bullies. Thus puppies learn bite inhibition, or to control their jaw muscles and how hard they bite. If a puppy does not learn bite inhibition before they get their adult teeth and they bite, the bite will do damage. Thus there is more importance to teaching bite inhibition than just protecting our own skin. (Although that is important too! Just ask my arms right now!)

So how do you go about teaching a puppy not to rend your flesh? Here’s what not to do: Do not grab your puppy’s muzzle, holding it shut. Do not pinch your puppy’s lip or dig your fingernail into their gums. Our dogs need to be able to trust a human hand coming towards their face so always keep a hand reaching towards your dog a positive experience.

The most effective way to teach bite inhibition is to have a zero tolerance of hard biting policy. There needs to be a consequnce for hard biting. The consequence is all fun ends. Teach your puppy the same way their litter would teach them. If your puppy bites you remove yourself from the puppy. You can exclaim, “Ouch!” but combine that with a consequence. The consequence of biting is mom or dad goes away, game over. I use the cue “Too Bad!” then walk away from Calvin.

“I don’t know why she’s saying I’m a biting machine. I’m a nice boy, I am!”

“Too bad” is my timeout cue and I use it when ever a dog is going to be put in timeout. For biting it’s usually easier to just put your puppy down and walk away. If the puppy follows you close the door or leave them behind a baby gate. If the whole family is there everyone must ignore the puppy. If the puppy is gets attention from another family member after biting hard they will keep biting hard. The same is true if the puppy is allowed to bite dad hard, but not your 8 year old. Consistency is very important. The more consistent the whole family is the faster the puppy will learn not to bite hard.

You can prepare a timeout area for your puppy. This can be his crate, but can also just be an xpen, the bathroom with a baby gate across the door, or any barren, boring, puppy proof space. If using a timeout area, be quick about putting them in there. If you’re outside and have to take the puppy inside he won’t know what the consequence is for. The consequence has to come within a couple of seconds of the hard bite.

Now I’ll take off my dog trainer hat and put on my puppy momma hat and just say, this is hard to do consistently. It’s hard, but it works. My personal survival tip is to keep a toy in my pocket at all times. If the biting gets wild I redirect to the toy. Bullies, cow tails and ears, trachea tubes are all my best friend. Keep healthy chews on hand to give them when they’re having a hard time. Pay attention to the times your puppy is wildest. For Calvin that’s 9:45 PM. If he’s not in bed by then, all bets are off. All bite inhibition ends by then. He gets wild and crazy. My solution? Put him to bed at 9:30 PM.

It also helps me to remember age affects a lot. He’s 14.5 weeks old and entering fear imprint period, I know things in his brain are changing. I also know things will get better and then he’s going to start teething and it will get worse again. Not a hopeful thought, but a fact none the less. Remembering those things helps me be consistent.

As a puppy momma the thing I most want to say is please don’t get mad at your puppies. As a trainer I see so many frustrated puppy moms and dads. I get it. I’m living it and puppies are a full time job, but they don’t bite you to hurt you. They bite you cause they don’t know any better and it’s fun! For them anyways. So if  you’re frustrated by the time out put your puppy in timeout you’ve waited too long. Timeouts are for instruction, for training and should be done with matter of fact calmness. Remember they are only puppies for such a short time, enjoy it if you can!

I admit I bite. . . but I snuggle too!


Introducing Embee’s Stupendous Man aka My Calvin

On December 10, 2011 I left this comment on Embee Cavaliers, “So, here’s the million dollar question, does this mean Miss Molly’s going to be a momma?;) Sorry I have to ask cause I just love her so much, she is the most gorgeous black and tan I’ve ever seen! I always tease my husband I have to go to Canada for my next puppy.LOL”

I said it mostly in jest, never for a moment imagining Mary Beth’s answer would be, “If all goes well between now and the early next year Molly will have puppies in the spring. Her choice of course on when she wants to come into season. I’m in the process of trying to find her a suitable beau. . . If you ever come to Canada you are more than welcome to come visit and possibly bring something home with you. ;)

I’m so proud to introduce the fulfillment of that first conversation:

Embee’s Stupendous Man, my Calvin.

Photo curtesy of http://www.beyondthedogdish.com

From Mystic Moon’s Danika (Molly) x GCH. Rossbonny Rebus (Rebus)

I still get chills when I read that comment back. It’s a long ways for Mary Beth to place a puppy, especially from Molly’s first litter. I never dreamed she would entrust me with such a privilege. He was a dream in so many ways and at only 10 weeks is so far living up to that dream in every way.

So what made me want a Molly puppy? It’s hard to define why I love Molly so. For some people with some dogs there is an undefinable attachment. It was like for me that with Meeka I just knew she was mine and I’ve always felt a similar kinship for Molly. It’s more than that though that made me want a Molly puppy. She is the result of three generations of MRI testing and her pedigree is full of good hearts, eyes, hips, patella’s, wonderful temperaments and on and on and on. I should write all the glorious details of how amazing she is, as she and Mary Beth deserve, but all I want to write about is how fabulously stupendous her baby boy is!

I am totally in love. Like gaze lovingly, can’t get anything done ’cause all I want to do it squish and kiss and chase this puppy around in love. I didn’t expect it to be this way. I was all prepared for all the frustrating, full time work of puppyhood, but it hasn’t bothered me at all. It helps that Mary Beth had him practically house and crate trained when I picked him up. He has only had four accidents in a 7 days of being home. Okay, so two of them were on my bed and one was even right between my pillows at 11:00 PM, but even that just made me laugh. That’s how twitterpated I am.

He was wonderfully socialized before I ever came on the scene and that’s the other thing that made this puppy a dream. Buying a puppy from a good breeder is an amazing experience. (I’ll do a post on this one day soon too.) Calvin had met so many people, other dogs, been on many surfaces and in many locations in his home. He had amazing prenatal and early infant care. He was loved since the instant he existed and it shows.

He was the perfect match for our family and that’s the other benefit of going to a wonderful breeder. Mary Beth chose him for me before I ever met him, I trusted her and she was completely spot on in her choice. (Hmm. . . I see I have a list of posts to do to really do this subject justice.)

He is a confident, thinking, loving, friendly, happy, healthy boy puppy. Mary Beth told me, “I think his brain will fascinate you.” She was right. He’s a thinker. He goes into new situations and needs a second to sit back and take it in. Once he’s taken stock he starts wagging his tail and then dives right in. It’s absolutely fascinating to watch him. I can see the cogs turning and with only a week of socialization I can see him getting more confident in each new situation.

sleepy puppy in dads arms

We’ve been working on socialization, which you’ll remember Magnus taught me much about. I’m still quite proud of Magnus’ social puppy list and I plan on Calvin’s being just as complete. It’s a bit easier as I have the best boss and best team ever and he gets to go to work with me most days. His second day home I had a staff meeting and the Calling All Dogs summer BBQ so he got to meet a room full of dogs trainers and their families. It was a golden opportunity and he took it in stride.

I know you’re all dying to know how Maizey and Magnus are doing and the short version is very well! It took Maizey two weeks when Magnus came home to get to the point she is now with Calvin. Magnus is just amazing with him. They are playing so nicely together and Maizey sits back and watches. Within two days she was initiating play with calvin, as much as she knows how to anyway. I have to watch the boys as they get a bit rowdy, but today even when they had the wild zoomies she was trying to get in on the action. It will be fascinating to see how their relationships grow.

I have to give a HUGE, special thanks to Mehusbandy! Ryan has been wonderful. From late night potty trips to picking Calvin up from work for me to puppy sitting so I could get in much needed naps he has been right in the midst of it all. I don’t expect him to do all the crazy dog things I do, but he’s been more than wonderful to help out. He stayed home with the pups while I made the trip to Canada to pick up Calvin and he took such good care of them I think they barely missed me.

We’ve been home just 10 days now and we’re all still settling in. Tonight Maizey played with the boys for the first time, which made me so happy! Calvin’s sleeping through the night, eating well, learning something and teaching me something everyday. He has stolen our hearts.

I want to thank Mary Beth for letting us have him. I also want to thank Debbie for the gorgeous pictures she took of him and shared with me. Both are very kind, special people and it was my honor to meet 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!


Photo Memory a Day: Six O’Clock

Today’s Photo A Day prompt is:

6 O’Clock

Hospitals stink.


June Photo a Day 7: Drink

Well it’s already time to post Day 8 of Junes Photo a Day and I’m just working on Day 7′s prompt:


I should have taken a picture of the double Americano I drank last night at 10:30pm in the hospital. I typed this at nearly two in the morning and between the adrenaline and caffein and the worry I did little sleeping. My mom took my dad to the ER yesterday and by 9:00pm he was in ICU again. He’s stable now, but I must say I’ve had enough of hospitals and I’m sure so have they!

Anyways yesterday’s prompt was drink and I want to take this opportunity to thank a good friend at work who gave me a great present a while back. It’s a custom made spaniel bowl! If you have Cav’s you know how vital a spaniel bowl is to save their ears from constantly getting wet. She had it custom made for my Monkeys and we love it! Thanks Jamie!

Looking for more Photo A Day photo’s? Search twitter and FlickR for #photoadayjune to find more participants.