A Year Treating Anxiety. . . What Now?

Maizey turns three next week which makes it a year since her anxiety became an every day issue. We spent the first 6 months trying natural remedies and training, all to no avail. In July when things really became acute I started considering medication and then on July 21 we started Prozac.

In the last 6 months we’ve worked hard to stabilize her with the meds and training. We’ve successfully used Relaxation Protocol, a Thunder Shirt, and just added Composure Liquid to our bag of tricks. We’ve seen some progress, although living with her on a day to day basis it’s hard to see sometimes. Looking back to July I know we’ve come a long ways. She no longer seeks refuge in the bathroom or closet every day, we’ve been able to get out for walks a bit more, had some trips to the park and some nice hikes. We even spent an hour training up at our training center last night with no apparent ill effects.

She’s recovering from the set back we had in November which was so severe I just couldn’t even bring myself to blog about it. But we continue to struggle with the stress colitis, which is a fancy way of saying too much stress plus too many treats equals horrible diarrhea. There are some triggers I see no progress at all with. The other day on our walk a dog passed us and I found myself saying, “Well that reaction wasn’t that bad, just your garden variety, normal reaction, no out of control shrill screeching barking.” Sigh. It doesn’t say much about our progress that I have classified her reaction level as “normal” and “severe” and am, of course not happy, but resolved and accepting of a normal reaction. Basically she’s not where I’d like her to be after a year.

This week has been another week of ups and downs. On wednesday we did our first BAT session. When asked how it went all I could say was, “Uneventful. Exactly how it’s supposed to be.” When done right, so the dog stays under threshold, BAT can seem incredibly calm. Which is what I love about it. I have hope it can help her eventually, but am not expecting anything miraculously fast.

At Dr. Kanda's. See the lip lick and tension in her jaw. Not a happy puppy.

We have seen two vets over the last year and are now working with a new vet. We’ve looked into adding Chinese herbal medicine back into her plan of treatment and were considering using homeopathic remedies. On Thursday Dr. Kanda called me to tell me the homeopathic vet didn’t feel too hopeful that she could help Maizey. I appreciated how honest both Dr. Kanda and the vet she consulted were. She seemed to feel there’s just not a lot more to add to what we’re already doing, or have tried. We may try to wean off the Prozac and try Paxil or Clomicalm instead. I haven’t made a decision on that, it’s always scary to switch meds. Her basic answer was I need a veterinary behaviorist, but we don’t have one in the state. She’s putting out some feelers to see if she can find someone to do a phone consult with.

I was going to take Maizey through the Feisty Fido class, which is our reactive dog class. But after seeing Maizey while we did BAT our trainer said she doesn’t think Maizey can handle the stress of that class so we pulled out of that. We may go through it later, but it makes sense that she can’t work on the dog reactivity if she’s too stressed out in general every day life.

All of this adds up the fact that I just feel I’ve exhausted our resources and I find myself questioning my expectations. This is my Princessface and I want her to be happy all the time. After spending 45 minutes with us Dr Kanda said, “This is not how a Cavalier is supposed to be. They’re such happy little dogs and she’s just so. . . not.” It broke my heart. Still she’s not always miserable like she was that day at the vet.

Last week while I was ranting on about what to do next my husband broke in and said, “What if she just needs to be an at home dog? Is her life that bad?” It’s not. Her everyday life is not bad now. I need to start appreciating how far we’ve come instead of worrying about how far we have to go.

Carrying her on a walk. You can see the worry around her eyes and the tight jaw.

It’s not like I expect her to be a performance dog. It’s okay if she can’t go to classes, but I’d like for her to be able to take a walk without begging to be carried and comforted or getting diarrhea. That doesn’t seem too much to ask for my girl. I’d like her to be able to be home with a minimum of stress and reactivity. As you can see from that picture of me carrying her we haven’t got there yet. But if she needs to mostly be an at home girl I’m okay with that as long as she’s happy.

Still I find myself asking what is realistic for her? Is this the point where I say, this is who she is and as long as she’s ok on a day to day basis that’s good enough? Today one of the best mom’s I know told me before she would discipline her son she would always ask, “Am I going to do this for his benefit or for mine?” Although a different context I think I have to start asking myself a similar question. Am I pursuing a life Maizey is capable of living? Am I chasing all of this for her benefit or for mine?

At the end of it all I guess I’m asking at what point do I say this is who she is for now? I feel like for a year I’ve been chasing a level of healthiness for her that I’m now not sure she’s capable of achieving. But that feels like defeat, like I’m making excuses and accepting something thats not good for her.

I’m not saying we won’t keep training and treating her anxiety with meds. Improving Maizey’s quality of life will always be a priority to me. I guess all of this is my long drawn out way of saying I think the recovery I’ve been hoping for may not be possible. At least right now. I think my hopes have been too focused on the life I want to live with Maizey and not on the life that’s of most benefit to her. Now my focus needs to change.

I’ve always made Maizey Promises, so for now the Maizey promise is I’ll take you where you want to go, let you go home when you’re ready, I’ll try to alleviate triggers and we’ll keep working together to have the happiest life you can. If at any time you don’t want to do together what I want to do that’s okay. You can be you.

What do you all think? Is there a point where you accept the limitations and live with the level of anxiety that’s there or is that defeat?


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!


Small Improvements After Three Weeks On Fluoxetine

“Where’s your other little dog?”

I hear this question all the time since I can’t take Maizey with me as much. Sometimes I think people think I just love Magnus more, which of course isn’t true. What they don’t understand is what it’s like to live with an anxious dog.

Well meaning people suggest Maizey just needs more exercise. They’re right, she does need more exercise, but it’s not as simple as people think. How do you exercise a dog that can’t get to end of the driveway without major stress and can’t get three houses away without reacting? It’s pretty difficult.

She’s always been a world class puller on the leash. One time someone asked me, “Why haven’t you taught her not to pull? I wanted to be like, “Train her not to pull?!? That never even occurred to me!” I restrained myself. If you’ve followed us for long you remember the hours of loose leash walking we did after her knee surgeries. Now I know she pulls as a result of being too stressed out. She can’t think and her brain and body are flooding with stress chemicals that drive her into overdrive. She actually has a beautiful loose leash walk when she can think.

What happened two nights ago illustrates another reason getting out and about is hard for an anxious Princessface. We ran to the corner to get a movie and I let both dogs hop in the car with us. Normally I’m the strict momma that never lets the dogs ride not in crates, but this was a rare occasion the crates weren’t set up so I held Maizey. She feels safest being held so I figured she’d be okay. We weren’t even gone ten minutes and I didn’t get out of the car. In ten minutes I saw lip licking, yawning, tense jaw, shaking, and overall tenseness in her body. I could feel her heart beating in her chest the whole time.

She had been very relaxed that day, not one bark all day, but after we got home? Ten minutes of barking. Barking at dogs outside, kids outside, Mehusbandy moving around in the other room, barking at I don’t even know what. She just can’t recover like she used to.

Our part time girl Chloe has major stress in the car. As soon as you hit the freeway she starts shaking, but as soon as you get out of the car she shakes it off and you can’t tell she was ever stressed. Maizey just doesn’t have this ability to recover. It could take her hours to lay down and sleep after a short episode of stress like tonight’s.

Until now. After three weeks on Prozac (Fluoxetine) I’m seeing a difference in her. It’s a welcome relief. One difference is her ability to recover. After ten minutes of barking she is now sleeping next to me on her relax mat. That’s a quick recovery for my girl.

Other differences are showing up too. She’s able to keep her brain in gear at things that would have sent her over threshold before. She never hated the vacuum, but in the last few months she would go crazy barking at the vacuum. I’ve had to crate her in another room to keep her calm.

"I don't even get mad at my brover when he tugs on my ears!"

Last week I vacuumed the whole house without one bark. We’ve continued counter-conditioning with the vacuum. When the vacuum comes out so do the treats and I toss them away from me so she has to do some hoovering of her own in the other room. Now she comes running for the fun vacuum game again.

She and Magnus haven’t been able to play hardly at all over the last three months since she would go over threshold, barking and barking at him within the first few seconds. Last week they played for over three minutes with not one bark!

I was really worried how she would handle this weekend and the yard sale. I knew I would be busy and moving things around tends to really set her off, but she did great! It wasn’t stress free. By Saturday afternoon she was pretty close to threshold, but while we had a bit of slow time at the yard sale, I let her come out and sit with me for a bit, then she just settled on the porch and hung out for about half an hour.

The front yard is another place I see improvement. It has been weeks since I could even let her out there. She would bolt out the front door straight to the front fence and bark, bark, bark. On Friday night while we were getting ready for the sale I put her on a long line, put her relax mat next to me and she chilled out quietly with us for over an hour. Twice she went to the fence and I just took the end of the long line and walked back to her mat and she came with me and laid down.

There are other differences too. She hasn’t retreated to the bathroom near as much, she initiated play with a toy all on her own, we even had fireworks again last week and she didn’t get as scared as usual.

We still have a long way to go and I’m going to talk to the vet tomorrow about raising her dosage a little. I’m happy her ability to recover is better, but I’d like to see her be able to get the point where a ten minute car ride was fun, not stressful. We’ll keep up with the training were doing and hope for more improvement. In the mean time I’m happy to see my happy girl feeling more like herself!


What To Do With a Maizey Meltdown

Today I have used every skill I have and Maizey is still an anxious ball of nerves laying next to me.

We’ve been doing a minor remodeling project at our house. Yesterday and today I spent the day moving things around, cleaning out cupboards, gathering things up for a yard sale at the end of the month. Mehusbandy spent the day building a new shelving unit around my washer and drier. There’s been a lot of unusual activity, to say the least.

Add to that our part time puppies, Charley and Chloe, spent the night last night. There have been fireworks nearly every night, and the fireworks that are now legal here make it feel, as one lady in Magnus’ tricks class described it, “like you’re in a war zone.”

We put in a doggy door two weeks ago so they could stay home while we were gone during the day. Then last weekend was the one weekend out of the year I have to be gone about 12 hours a day, so log in another change. As if all that weren’t enough her eye allergies have been worse than normal.

In short things have not been normal around here, so I can understand why my Maizey’s stress level would be higher than normal.

What I don’t understand is what to do about it.

Let me tell you how she was today. Nervous doesn’t even begin to describe it. She was so stressed last night I let her sleep with us. Then this morning she seemed a bit better, played some games with me for breakfast, and even tried to play with the furry sumo’s for a bit. It went down hill when I started moving things around and Mehusbandy started drilling and sawing the shelves.

"I didn't feel too good today."

As soon as it got noisy she wouldn’t leave the room I was in. She started pacing, and wouldn’t lay down. Then she got to the point that she had to be touching me. Literally touching me all the time. It took two of us to get her Thundershirt on since everytime I set her down she literally threw herself at me to climb back into my arms. I never did get an accurate heart rate, but her heart was racing.

I ended up holding her, carrying her around, settling her next to me where ever I was. By this evening when I would put her down she would lay on my feet. If I moved my feet she moved to lay on them. The only place she would settle was on her mat and then only if it was within three feet of me.

Now, at 9:00 PM, she’s progressed to barking at every sound. I never like to say she’s barking at nothing, since a dog is always barking at something, even if we don’t know what it is. But this barking is at nothing that I can discern. She’s just pacing and won’t settle down at all.

So what skills have I used? All of them that I know.

Rescue remedy three times today. Calmshen, two pills morning and night. Thundershirt starting at 10:00 AM. I put her in her crate several times and she would lay there but not relax enough to even lay her head down.

We trained this morning and played training games throughout the day. Mehusbandy and I both tried to jolly her out of it, playing and talking happy, as if we could just tell her she didn’t need to be stressed. She didn’t believe us, but she likes us to be silly.

I tried bully’s and stuffed Kongs as a distraction, but that only helped for a few minutes. Mat work provided a place she would lay down, but again only for short periods of time. Finally tonight when the fireworks started I resorted to stuffing a Kong with homemade chicken liver treats and Squeezy Cheese, putting her in her crate and covering her with a huge quilt. She’s not happy, but she’s at least quiet and still.

Although at this point I feel fairly stressed about her, throughout the day I was really calm, and I don’t think I transmitted stress to her. Still, other than short periods of relief, the only time I really saw her relax today was when I was holding her.

At this point I’m really not sure what to do. I can understand why she would be so anxious with everything we have going on, but I don’t know what else to do for her. It’s days like this that make me consider trying Prozac or Xanax.

I never wanted to medicate her, but it seems nothing is helping enough. Counterconditioning, Relaxation Protocol, classes, herbs, flower essences, TTouch (which she doesn’t like), calming music (which never helped), Thundershirt, exercise (which she doesn’t get enough of since it’s so hard to take her places without it being terribly stressful). All of it helps some, but none of it is making a big enough difference.

My dream is that she can live a normal life with us. I read story’s like Crystal and her Maisys’, and  Roxanne and Lillys’.  Both of whom have have found some relief for their fearful pups in the form of medication along with all of the other hard work they put in with them to help them be happy. Even our class instructor has a dog on prozac and I know she’s able to take him places and do fun things with him.

It’s not like I think it’s a solve all to my girls’ problems. I know we have lots of hard work ahead of us, but I have to wonder at what point do I say this is beyond our ability to work out on our own? When is it time to take some more drastic steps?

I don’t know why I have such a resistance to medicating her. I guess my resistance is waning in the face of her mounting stress and anxiety. I guess I can’t be in denial about it anymore, saying I left her home since Magnus needs some one and one training, or “this is just not a good day for her.” The problem is there are too many “not good” days for her lately.

So what am I going to do?

I’m not sure, but I’m open to suggestions. Medication is certainly one option I can’t count out. For those of you that have gone that route, what made you decide that was the right choice? Do you use a vet to prescribe it or can a behaviorist do that? What are the side effects that you have seen?

I’m sure there are other options out there, so if you have any ideas lay it on me. I need some fresh ideas!

In the mean time I hope we get a good nights rest and wake up feeling fresh and new tomorrow. And if not? Well, I don’t really mind puppy hugs, so if worst came to worst I can just hold her all day again. . .


New Training Levels Books Shift The Earth Under My Feet

Recently on the Training Levels yahoo Group Sue Ailsby said, “When the earth shifts under your feet, you have only a few choices. You can run, you can attack, you can freeze, or you can start hysterically, rabidly, desperately learning. It’s exciting, isn’t it?!”

Ever since I got my new Training Levels books I’ve been in the “rabidly, desperately learning” phase. The books are even better than I expected, and I have to say I had high expectations!

I had one those earth shifting under my feet moments when I read one of Sue’s “Very Important Ideas”. She says, “You can’t teach a negative.” Sue then explains it doesn’t help you or the dog when all you can think about is how to get the dog to STOP doing a behavior you don’t want.

The ground started trembling. . . “Don’t think of what you want to stop???. . . Hmmm . . .”

I keep reading. . . Sue points out three questions to ask when your dog chooses to do something you don’t want them to:

  • “What do I Want the dog to do in this situation?”
  • “How do I stop her from being rewarded for the bad thing?”
  • “How do I reward her for doing the good thing?”

The earth is shifting at this point. . .

I think, “This is positive training, if I think only in negatives how am I supposed to teach my dogs anything with positive methods?”

After sleeping on the idea, today it all came together for me.

We are hanging out with a friends dogs, and helping out with their boarding kennel this week. The house is across the driveway from the kennel field and when our dogs go out they can see the kennel dogs in their field. This is always a challenging situation for Maizey.

We have done enough work here that the reactivity to the kennel dogs is minor. This trip she has done even better, and I would qualify her barking as much less reactive and more just letting me know there are dogs there. In my head the question was always, “How do I get her to stop barking at the kennel dogs?”

Here is where the earth shifting came into play. With Sue’s wise words, “you can’t teach a negative” in mind, today I stopped thinking how to get her to stop barking and started asking, “What do I want her to do instead?”

I want her to be relaxed and quiet in the yard. I want her to know it’s okay to let me know the dogs are there, but I have it handled, she doesn’t need to bark more than three or four times. Ultimately I would like her to be able to go out, feel confident enough to not bark at them at all. (The criteria for now is three or four times because I know asking her to not bark at all is beyond her ability at this point. Her barking to let me know they’re there works with other training we’ve been doing for reactivity.)

What I came up with was to let her out of her fence and let her meet the kennel dogs through their fence, with high reinforcement for quiet, calm meetings. She doesn’t bark at dogs she knows, only “strange” dogs. She greeted the kennel dogs when we got here, but sometimes when she goes out they’re there and sometimes they’re inside, so to her each time she goes out they are “new.”

Then I wondered what would happen if I went in the field and talked to her while I was with the kennel dogs. A novel idea, one I had no idea if it would make a difference to her, so I went out with the kennel dogs, she started barking and I said, “Hey Maizeymay, whatchta tellin me?”

A bunch of words that weren’t cues, just my happy confident voice saying “what’s up?” It was so funny! She perks up, looks around and then runs to the door looking for me. I say, “Hey girlie, I’m over here.” Once she found me I told her what a good girl she was and went about my business. She hasn’t barked at the kennel dogs again!

I don’t know that this is a permanent solution, I don’t know that it wasnt all coincidence, I don’t know that she learned anything. What I do know is my thinking has shifted and I’ve learned something!

Another example: She gets her detox in a spoon full of yogurt or something yummy. With six other dogs around it takes more management to get her in a space where she can eat with out being interrupted by curious mouths. Instead of thinking how can I get these dogs to stop bugging her when she takes her detox I started thinking, “What do I want it to be like when I give her this medicine?”

The answer? I just need a little space and the other dogs to wait their turn for a treat.

The solution? Have Maizey hop on a kitchen chair and sit while the other dogs practice some treat zen and wait their turn. Then give each one a treat and wallaah! We have a simple, peaceful way for Maizey to get her meds and all the dogs get to practice a little self control. We’re all happy!

Short story long I’m loving my Training Levels books. If you haven’t ordered yours yet I highly recommend it. They are an invaluable tool for any one with a 4legged friend!.

Now, I’m off for more rabid Training Levels learning!


What’s Wrong With Thinking?

Does your dog think? To some it may seem their dogs only think of how to get in trouble!

I keep jokingly saying of Magnus, “Why did I teach this dog to think?”

He is not afraid to try anything! He is on top of, under, over, inside, outside, around and all over everything. Apparently teaching him he doesn’t have to be afraid and is capable of anything really just taught him there is nothing off limits to him.

Kitchen table? “What Crazymomlady? I figured out how to get up here, why shouldn’t I do it?”

Bathtub? “Oh you don’t want me to get in the shower while you’re in there? Why not?”

Under the couch? “What do you mean I don’t fit under there anymore? I can just dig a hole in the floor and then I’ll fit!”

You get the idea. This boy has decided he has a brain and he knows how to use it. Well, at least he’s learning how to use it. I hope.

I may find it trying to keep up with this little guy, but most of the time I just love to watch him figure things out. I know he can learn what’s a good choice and what isn’t, we are just in the period of his life where he’s figuring it all out. We’re in the, “manage what I don’t want while he learns to choose what I do want” phase.

It’s actually my favorite thing about clicker training. Every time you mark a behavior you teach a dog what behavior is beneficial for him. You teach him to think, to be discerning and make a choice.

While this is one of my favorite things about positive reinforcement, I know it’s the least favorite thing of more traditional trainers. Today I was looking at a site for a dog training school and the criticism was made that clicker trainers leave the dog to figure things out for themselves, creating stress for the dog.

So thinking is a bad thing?

I don’t get it! This statement was made in the context of using a shock collar to “explain” to the dog that he had no choice.

Now I don’t want to get into a big debate about shock collars. I don’t choose to use that method on my dogs and wouldn’t suggest it for someone else, but while we’re on the subject of choice, I respect that is their choice.

But this statement really bothers me. I mean what’s wrong with thinking anymore?

For me teaching my dogs to make choices that makes them peaceful, productive members of a predominantly human community is inspiring. It’s exciting and joyful. It’s fun and thrilling.

For me to force my dog to make the choice I want, especially by methods that cause pain, is taking choice out of the matter completely. Obey me or be caused pain, is not a choice.

So I ask again, “What’s wrong with thinking?”

I’m afraid as a society we are becoming too non-thinking. We see examples of it everyday and I’ve probably been guilty of it myself, the attitude of “my way or the highway.” I might have what’s the best way for me, but it doesn’t mean it’s the best way for my neighbor, my friends, the stranger reading this, or even for my dogs.

Maizey has been instrumental in teaching me this. My “way” of training was not good for her. I started out using methods I was familiar with at that time and looking back I used some methods I would not use again. She clearly let me know, “This doesn’t work for me. This is not the inforamtion I need to know how to chose what you want.” She let me know it, by never choosing the choice I was trying to explain to her. She showed me I had to look elsewhere, learn more, and most of all think more.

She keeps showing me an amazing ability to figure out how to choose what I feel is a better choice, she shows me a willingness to choose that when it’s in her ability to do so. She shows me she knows how to think, and it’s not stressful for her.

Today brought me a new 4legged lesson:

A thinking dog is a beautiful thing. When my pups use their brains to make choices that benefit our community, that too it’s a beautiful thing. When they make choices that aren’t beneficial I know I need to give them more information to be able to make a better choice.

Sue Ailsby says her training philosophy is, “A philosophy which asks that I do no harm. That I listen to the trainee and respect her opinions. I discovered that listening, respecting, and doing no harm is an AMAZING training philosophy, and an even better training method. When you listen to a dog, the dog listens back!”

I agree and subscribe to that philosophy whole heartedly. It’s my determination to listen to my dogs, give them the information they need to make beneficial choices, to “do no harm”, and always enjoy my thinking 4legged friends!


Clicks and Tricks Class One: Shrill Barking is NOT a Trick

Today Maizey started her Clicks and Tricks class.

The class is awesome, only three other dogs and based on a combination of shaping, luring and some capturing.

Today we covered basics: hand touch, spin, twirl, backup, and settle on one hip.

Backup is the only one we have never worked on. Our homework is to get multiple touches for one c/t, get her spin and twirl on verbal cue only, start backup and refine the settle.

Settle I have to think about a little bit, I currently use a settle cue to mean, “lay down, chill out and quit bugging me, but you can move when you want.”

I’m not sure with this being a trick if I want to cue something different, something clever. . . of course I’m not feeling too clever right now so I’ll have to think about it.

For backup I have a similar question of what to cue. I think for a trick “beep-beep-beep” like the backing up of a big truck would be funny, but that’s not a cue I would use for a more formal backup like they use in Rally, so do I need two cue’s? Is it two behaviors? Again, I don’t know, so it looks like I have homework to do!

We were given a list 24 tricks to choose from and as a class we chose a total of 12-15 to learn over the next six weeks. Some are very basic (roll over), some are more advanced and require a behavior chain (moon walk, which is a play bow where the dog walks backwards in the bow.)

The class is going to be great, but right now I’m exhausted! Not because of the class, but because my Princess Of The Shrill Bark lived up to her name today.

After her success in Petite Pals I really wasn’t expecting today to be this hard for her. I didn’t see an abnormal amount of stress before class, we followed our routine and she seemed fine. We had the same set up as her last class: us in a corner behind an x-pen with blankets covering it to reduce stimulation.

I’m super proud of her, this is her first class with no play time so she doesn’t meet and greet the other dogs and it was hard for her. It was like she could work for me as long as it was very basic skills she already knew, then something in her head would trigger and it was like all of sudden she was thinking, “Oh crap there’s dogs out there! MOM! MOM! MOM! DOGS! DOGS! DOGS!”

Then she would reorient and be like, “Oh yeah this is the coolest game! I’m so good at this, I’ll offer you anything!” Then the alarm in her head would go off again and it was back to reacting for a second.

Honestly I almost just quit half way through, the most important thing is that she not be traumatized. It’s also the hardest thing to tell at this stage. It used to just be she was constantly reacting and couldn’t even think. She was obviously over threshold the whole time around other dogs.

Now it’s more like she just needs impulse control and experience to keep her brain engaged. The trouble is it’s my job to read her and know when enough is enough and it was easy to know before, now it’s just harder to tell.

I got to the point that I thought, “She’s just not going to pull out of this today, we just need to go to the park and shake it off.” I picked her up and snuggled my face into her face and just breathed with her. I felt her relax, that has never happened before, I was so glad to experience that. It was as if my breath cued her to take a deep breath and after that I just stayed on the floor with her and we mostly just c/t for quiet while we worked very basic skills.

By the end of the class she was laying quietly, even if I wouldn’t say she was relaxed. So I’m glad we stayed. I dont know how she will ever learn to get through that anxiety if she doesn’t get a chance to ride it out, and let me help her.

But it’s so tiring for both of us. The mom part of me kicks in and I just want to snuggle her and make her feel better, but that’s not the answer. We both have to work so very hard to keep our brains in gear and keep the anxiety down.

I know it certainly doesn’t help her if I just get to feeling bad for her so mostly that part just comes after, it comes now. The human part where I feel so sad that this brillaint, eager, clicker savvy, offering, loves to work dog can’t enjoy this fun class ’cause her brain is short circuiting hits me hard and it’s hard not to second guess every choice I made.

The other human part is similar to what I felt for meeka when people would judge her for being a Rottie, there was so much beauty and grace in her that they never got to see. When you have 14 pounds of barking, lunging Cavalier people tend to look at you funny.

I can’t blame them, if I saw her coming towards me and my dog I’d go the other way too. But it’s still hard not to let it hurt a bit. Not personally for me, but for what they are missing in knowing the true her and what she’s missing in getting to live a full life.

All I can do is keep trying, be thankful that I have good trainers to help me and remember she is a happy girl, and even if she never overcomes this she has a good life, even if it’s one with limitations.

Therein is today’s 4legged lesson: Modesty means being aware and accepting your limitations. Modesty is hard, it doesn’t mean you don’t try to overcome your limitations, but it does mean if you have a Princess Of The Shrill Bark and she may always be a Princess Of The shrill Bark you help her as much as you can and love her twice as much. She doesn’t judge herself for her limitations why should I or anyone else?

As for Tricks and Clicks class? I defer once again to Sue Ailsby, “It’s all tricks, relax!”