Monday, April 18, 2011

This poor dog is breaking my heart.

It seems as though Sonny's progress had plateaued for a while.  He'd be voluntarily coming out of his crate at night when we're hanging out on the couch, and in the morning when I first got up.  He was beginning to play and interact with me a little bit as well. But it seems as though he's now taking steps backwards.  He spent a lot of time outside his crate when Rob was away, and for the first several days when Rob was back he continued with that pattern.  He even ventured close enough to Rob to smell him, and Rob stayed perfectly still, which was absolutely perfect for Sonny.

But for the last 3-4 days, he has been spending significantly more time in his crate than he was previously.  He hasn't voluntarily come out of his crate in days, and while in there, he presses himself up against the back of the crate so hard and for so long that he's leaving crate imprints on his fur.  He wraps himself up into a ball as small as he possibly can and shivers the entire time.  Previously, he would come out of his crate to sniff around and jump into the papasan chair.  Sometimes he chose to lay in Roxy or Buster's crate instead, and since neither of my guys mind, I don't stop him.  Sonny's crate is covered, and he is obviously uncomfortable when it's not covered.  Roxy and Buster's crates are not covered, so when Sonny voluntarily enters their crates to lay down, I consider it some level of progress for him.

The only time he moves is when I walk towards the crate with the leash, at which point he lifts his head to sniff my hand and allow me to attach the leash.  When I begin to walk away from the crate, he gets up, stretches, and follows me to the door.  When we get outside, he goes to the bathroom and then pulls me back inside, where he proceeds directly to his crate, where he doesn't move again until it's time to go back out again.

Worse yet, last week I took Sonny to the kennel so the vet tech there could help me cut his nails.  I didn't want to attempt it by myself, because he moves his paws a lot and I feared I could not safely trim his nails.  When I got there,  the vet tech was in the kennels so I left Sonny in the office with the rescue's president and the other vet tech for the rescue.  Previous to me taking him home, he'd been alone with other individuals without a problem, and those individuals are experienced with fearful dogs and specifically with Sonny, as well.  But poor Sonny was so scared that he defecated in the office despite being housetrained.  He had already gone to the bathroom that morning (within the last hour), so his response was definitely fear-based.

I feel terrible for this dog -- he's sitting there suffering silently and it's only been 5 weeks on the Clomipramine.  I am certain he needs a stronger dosage, so I'll be speaking to the vet again (she was out on vacation last week).  I think she'll want to wait until the 8 week mark in order to up his dosage since she told me that it sometimes takes 8 weeks to see any difference in the dog's behavior, but I think this backwards progress is a pretty clear indication that he needs additional medication.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

sonny plays!

Last week, Rob was away from home so it was just me, Roxy, Buster, and Sonny.  I know that Sonny avoids all men so I was expecting him to be a little more daring this week, and I was more than right.

Sonny was literally a totally different dog than I knew before.  He was out of his 80% of the time, whereas previously he spent only about 20% of his time out of his crate.  He was running around and playing, hanging out on the couch, following me to the bedrooms, chasing me around playing, licking my face, walking across my lap, even laying down next to me on the couch, relaxed.

Prior to Rob leaving, Sonny had been opening up more in the mornings before I leave for work and at night time when I come home... times when he knows that Rob is sleeping or not home.  So I did expect that I'd see more activity from him, but I guess I was sort of surprised at how much more I saw.

He surprised me specifically with the amount of time he spent out of his crate and the significant amount of playing he did.  He had moments of acting like an "almost normal" dog.  He was picking up toys and running around with them, sometimes bringing a ball over to me to throw.  He was playing tug with Buster and the Kong Wubba, and he even engaged in tug with me for a while, which was very unexpected.  He was interacting with me constantly, and was so much more relaxed.  He spent a good amount of time exploring parts of the house he had previously been too scared to go near.

He also has an affinity for finding Rob's dirty socks and picking them up and carrying them to his crate.  If he can't find socks, though, he'll grab Rob's pants, shirts, or anything, really, and attempt to drag them to his crate. It's kind of funny because he's scared of him, but not scared of his smell.

He spent a good 20 minutes trying to get his ball out from underneath this stool, and this video is just a good showing of his puppy personality.  I can see it itching to come out.  The video is kind of dark, but you can definitely see him playing about and his tail wagging feverishly.

I am hoping that week gave him a little time to get his bearings, and now that Rob is back, he'll be a little bit more inclined to check things out.  Last night, Rob was laying on the couch with Buster chewing his ball between Rob's legs, and Sonny quickly came over and sniffed Buster's paw.  He literally sniffed for half a second, but it was closer than he had ever gotten to Rob before, so I know that's progress on some level.  I hope his confidence is continuing to build, and we'll see how the weeks progress.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

roxy's first night at agility training

Last night Roxy and I went to our first agility training class at Morris K9 Campus.  This class actually helps you train for agility competitions, so there is a lot more learning involved, and a lot less "run over the equipment as fast as humanly (doggedly?) possible!"

We walked in the door about 10 minutes early and the prior class was wrapping up.  Roxy and I stood there, sort of taking it all in.  The agility room was huge, in comparison to where we'd been before.  The equipment was newer, larger, and there was a lot more of it.  I was super stoked, and so was Roxy... she was so excited that she was talking up a storm and prancing her paws around while trying to sit.

Roxy wanted to be friends with literally every person that walked by us.  She approached everyone with excitement and tail wags and she was happy to be pet by several people, all without being offered any treats or soliciting treats from me.  This is seriously a big deal for her; she was in a new environment with new dogs, new people, and lots of exciting smells and she did amazing.  The fact that she went and did this all on her own was such a proud moment for us.

And then of course, came the Pit Bull bias.  Some woman darted across the room as soon as she saw us, and asked if Roxy was friendly with other dogs, and I guess I didn't respond fast enough for her, because she said, "I have a really friendly dog and I don't want your Pit Bull to bite him," and she walked away. I was really taken aback and by the time my brain caught up, the lady had already walked off.

On to training.... We did some exercises on the equipment, specifically the A-frame and the Dog Walk.  Roxy didn't blink at the equipment, even though it was definitely larger than what she was used to running on.  We worked on slowing down, focusing, and contact points, and Roxy seemed to do pretty well.  We also started training left and right turns, which Roxy did well with also.  I'm psyched to practice them for next class and get her using them while moving.

Everyone in class had a clicker on their wrist, and the instructor was great.  All humane, positive reinforcement training, just as expected.

The woman I met earlier approached me again, without her dog, and said abruptly, "I don't have anything against Pit Bulls, it's just their owners." And I didn't know how to respond, because, well, I'm a Pit Bull owner... But she continued, as she pet Roxy and just said she's had a lot of bad experiences, not just with Pit Bulls, but with American Eskimo Dogs and German Shepherds as well.  I politely explained I volunteer in rescue, and work primarily with Pit Bulls and other bully breeds, that I'm fully aware of their potential dog-dog issues, and I know my dog very well.  She seemed apologetic (minus the actual apology) and went on to tell me how her last dog was attacked by an off-leash American Eskimo Dog so she is just extra cautious.  She introduced herself at the end of the conversation, and she was nice the rest of the class, but her comments still turned me off a bit.

Then, half-way through class, Roxy and I were working on the A-frame and another girl came in with her dog, Katie.  They started working at the table and the girl took Katie's leash off and wouldn't you know that Katie immediately made a beeline for Roxy.  She charged her, full-speed and got right in her face, snarling, and within half a second, Roxy and Katie were battling it out.  There wasn't any contact and neither of them had a mark on them when it was over; it was all snarling, growling, and barking in each others faces, and it was easy to separate them because they really didn't want to be near one another to begin with... but wow.  Thirty minutes into a class with literally 5 dogs total, and this is what happens? Go figure!

But Roxy didn't seem phased by it.  Once it was over, it was over.  She moved on, and I followed suit.  She did wonderful during the rest of class, and was actually tired by the end of it, which made me happy.

All-in-all a good class, in the sense that the class itself was great, and I expect that we can avoid the almost-fight next week.

This morning, we spent some time relaxing in the sun, where she proceeded to be the laziest stick-chewer ever...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

sonny smiles

Sonny is fearful of people, but he's absolutely petrified of men.  This week Rob is away, so Sonny has been exploring, playing, and relaxing a bit more than he was previously and I was finally able to snap some photos of him relaxing and smiling.  Last night he spent a good portion of his time out of his crate. He had some major zoomies! He kept running at me full speed, smothering my face in kisses, and then leaping to the ground in a play bow with a really big woo-woo, howling noise.  I probably had the biggest smile on my face watching this dog run about like a little loon after spending the first month completely traumatized. So, without further ado...

He would run up to this spot on the couch, lick my face furiously, and then lay down for a few moments before getting up to run off after a toy or Buster again.

If you look closely, his tail is a little blurry... he was wagging that thing non-stop!

Since he was so happy and playful, I took the time last night to start a little bit of targeting with him using the clicker and it seems like he was starting to understand the game.  We'll see how he does tonight when we do some more!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

update on bobby

I got an update on Bobby from his adoptive family today!

Bobby is now Brody, and he's doing fabulous!!

From his new mom:

"He's just the happiest most playful boy and we adore him. We take him to obedience school on Sunday and he is the star student. The trainer is helping us work on some of his bad behaviors like barking and jumping when people come over."

He's got some allergies that they are working on with the vet, and hopefully they get them resolved soon.

I was, and still am, seriously in love with this dog and I couldn't have asked for a better home for him.  They love him, and he looks so incredibly happy.  Here he is, with a tug toy in his mouth, of course.

Sometimes we see some awful things in rescue, and updates like these give me the warm fuzzies I need to keep going, despite it not always being easy.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

the double standard

Watching that Corgi get alpha-rolled in agility class has gotten me thinking a lot about dog behavior and about how we train. More specifically, I’ve been thinking about human behavior and why we expect so much more from our dogs than we do from ourselves.

I thought it was fairly obvious from watching that whole situation unfold what was going to happen.  I knew from the moment the Corgi put the brakes on that it wasn't going to end well.  And when he started pulling away from the girl to get away, I honestly thought she would give up.  But I knew when the girl stopped saying he was “just being stubborn” and her face turned bright red that she was completely mortified, and it was probably going to end even worse than I initially thought.

When she reached down to scold him after he growled, I couldn't believe my eyes. What possessed her to reach towards a growling dog that was backing away from her, I'll never understand.  He made it very clear from the growl and the backpedaling that he wanted nothing to do with whatever was going on.  The growl was a warning, sure, but the backpedaling coupled with the growl was a very obvious sign from the dog that he didn't want confrontation, but he was prepared to defend himself if necessary.  And on top of all of that, didn't it cross her mind at some point that the dog's next step may be to bite?

To me, a good trainer will do everything they can to prevent the dog from getting to the point where it feels it needs to bite. Those are the types of trainers that recognize a dog growling is a warning sign that screams, "I'm not comfortable with this situation, back away!" That growl lets the trainer know they went too far, too fast, and they need to rewind.  The others, the ones that feel that a dog should never growl and subsequently feel as if they have to respond to that act with an equal or more aggressive act in order to show the dog who is boss, continue to baffle me. They shrug a dog bite off as if it's bound to happen sooner or later without regard for the consequences the dog may face and they show no remorse for the dog whatsoever.  Worse yet, some of these trainers act on impulse because the dog's noncompliance hurts their feelings.

The situation with the Corgi was the latter; it was very obvious that the girl became agitated and embarrassed that the dog wouldn't comply so she felt she needed to show it who was boss.  Her response to the dog was purely emotional.  It was equivalent to a second grader saying, "She made fun of me in front of the whole class, so I'm going to put gum in her hair!" There was nothing good that could have come from the dog being yanked around and flipped on his back... the only lesson that dog learned was that his growl was not an effective means of getting his message across, so he needed to escalate to a bite instead.  And since that bite didn't get the message across, it's possible that he will feel the need to be more aggressive in order to convey his message the next time around.

Personally, if I were to push a dog so far that he bit me, I would feel a tremendous amount of guilt from doing so.  Not only have I completely ignored all the dog's appropriate warning signs, I've taught him that his warning signs mean nothing to us humans.

Another problem with all of this is that the dog was not allowed to react to something that made him uncomfortable.  He had complete control over his actions, his growl and bite were calculated to deal with the current situation, but the handler lost complete control over her emotions and her actions.  She allowed her emotions of frustration and embarrassment to control how she responded to the dog.  Why is the dog acting in emotions and growling unacceptable, but the human losing control okay?  Why the double standard? I can't figure out why some people can't accept that a dog's growl is equivalent to our "Stop that!" or "I'm not comfortable!" or "I'm scared!"  The Corgi wasn't trying to "dominate her," he was trying to get away from her. 

I don’t understand it.  All of this and I wonder why we expect more from our dogs than we do of ourselves?

We, as humans, all react to different situations in different ways.  Some people are more emotionally charged than others, and react more emotionally than others.  It's okay for us to get mad and yell or cry to express our frustrations; yet it's not okay for a dog to growl or snarl when he's frustrated or scared. Dogs can't give us a detailed explanation of what they are feeling, they can only do what they know how to do:  they lay down and refuse to go somewhere, maybe they go belly up, or maybe they growl or snarl when we continue to push them despite their objections... and when we push the dog past it's breaking point, we punish them for acting out.

So, I ask you this:  why are dogs expected to control themselves and behavior appropriately despite their emotions, but humans are not held to the same standards? We constantly suggest that we are more intelligent than them; yet we expect them to be able to do something that we, as humans, are often incapable of doing?

Dogs have the same emotional reasons that we have for acting out, yet we expect a dog's behavior to be perfect regardless of their emotional state of mind.  Why do people push dogs to their breaking points and still expect perfect behavior?