Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Is your dog loving lockdown?

How is lockdown and social distancing going for your dog?
Did you secretly breathe a sigh of relief when you realised that lockdown might mean not walking the dog as much or in the usual places? Or that people might avoid you and give you space BEFORE you have to ask for it?
You can still walk your dog, and good on you for sticking to your routines if that is what works for you - great!! Carry on and enjoy the exercise  (Just don't forget to wash your hands when you get in xx)
But lots of people are opting not to. Or not to walk every day perhaps, or for not as long.
Social distancing means that people are now crossing the road when they see someone coming, and walking around them in a big arch - or nipping down alleys etc to avoid getting too close.
It also means people are not walking their dogs every day, some (like me) are not even walking the dog at all - Moo has been out once for a walk since the day the lockdown started.
This lock down is having some unexpected benefits for some of our dogs. 
Moo, though no longer particularly reactive, seems to be so much calmer. He definitely eats more. Plays more. Trains & learns faster. He seems to rarely bark at all any more. Sleeps like a log. No longer feels the need to guard the front of the house, and has decided the Thursday clap is a massive reward for him, and so people going past the house no longer seem to bother him either as they are now all his clappers - I taught him to associate clapping with reward from an early age as food was not always such a good choice for him (being allergic and intolerant and all). The postman is still cheeky enough to venture up the path, but in all honesty, most days these days, we are still in bed enjoying a lay in when the postie sneaks up to burgle us, and Moo only worries about burglars when we are up and out of our pits, as he is as lazy as the rest of the family when it comes to a nice lay in.
Now, how many times have I asked people with reactive dogs to empty their buckets by having days off from walking and do other stuff instead - enrichment and games? It's one of my go-to starting points for many a consultation. Getting that bucket emptied. Now buckets are emptying faster than you can say "Dear Liza". Starting from a good place mentally helps learning accelerate and behaviour problems melt away so much faster.
I also tell people to map their walking routes so there is always a road to cross to be able to create distance, or alleys to nip down. Walking along, straight towards another dog can be very threatening and intimidating to both dogs, but walking around them by crossing the road, or going around a parked car etc is so much less so. Now almost EVERYBODY is avoiding you - dog or no dog. It is great. Strangers are not stopping to pet your dog either, which helps immensely with desensitisation, when you have a very cute one that hates people.
I don't tend to encourage dogs meeting each other on lead very much at all, and three seconds is long enough for an initial sniff to suss each other out. Not all dogs want to be met! With the lockdown and social distancing, the dogs can avoid this pressure too.
I train an A2B/U-turn motion so to be able to get away without yanking on the lead. This is something people have been practicing both as an enrichment task in the garden but also while gently leading their dogs out of the path of oncoming joggers, dog walkers, cyclists and so on. Leash skills make a lot of difference as if a dog expects to be yanked away as soon as he sees a trigger, that trigger becomes even more of a thing to be concerned about.
The humans, well they are just glad to be out of the house, and so are not marching the dog around their route at the speed of light so they can get home in time for Eastenders. Nope - instead they are ambling along and letting the dogs sniff and snoot about. Much nicer for the dogs. Steering clear of the benches and touchy things, and taking the time to look at the blossom on the trees or feeling the sunshine on their faces instead, accidentally practicing a spot of mindfulness as they go. 
The reactive dogs are seeming to get much calmer and relaxing as a result of doing all of this. So are their humans!
🐾 So perhaps keep it up after lockdown ends? 🐾

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

The best end to an amazing day.

So, last night I went to bed a miserable cow. After weeks of being miss cheerful and jollying people along, I finally cracked under the covid-19 weight and bawled my eyes out for about two hours solid.

I miss my Dad, my Mum, having a proper visit with my Nan, taking my dog out for a decent walk, and just being able to go out and be in nature a bit. Then I began worrying about my clients, and was I doing enough for them. The more I sat and thought about stuff, the shittier I felt. Covid-19 is shit and I haven't even caught it yet that I am aware of. 

God knows how hard it must be for those that are being worse affected.

The day I had today could not have been further from that point though.

Firstly I had the most lovely food, from a local Indian restaurant named Monza's Place, that is an absolute gem. 

Then I was reminded how lovely my neighbours are, when the whole street came out to sing happy birthday to a young girl who for obvious reasons can't have a real party.

But the biggest thing by far happened just a few moments ago.

Putting this here as I know you guys will understand how BIG this is to me and I can't fit it all on a Facebook post, and I just need to get it out before I pop.

A few years ago I had a very poorly little dog, who was on the point of being put down. Allergies, food intolerances and digestion issues, plus colitis and a rejection at birth by his mother meant my little Moo had became underweight, sick and terrified little mess by the time he was about 8 months old.

Daily vomiting, passing blood, food not passing through his stomach, ducking if anyone tried to stroke him, gunky sore ears and eyes, anorexia, anxiety and chewed bald patches on his legs... My poor, poor pup - i was at my wits end and he was in agony, aggressive and afraid of everything. I used to cry just looking at him sometimes.

I came across The ISCP while trying to sort him out, joined on a whim as a last resort as nobody seemed to have the answers, nothing was working and he was in so much pain and so sad all the time. As a single mother I had next to no money, but I got the course fee together and I am so glad I did.

Here i studied my backside off and gained degree level qualifications, which is no mean feat when I had left school in 1996 with average GCSE's and not much else, and I began to understand a bit of what was going on with my boy.

Being in the ISCP, 
I learned his fears and anxiety were likely rooted in his pain. His aggression was likely to be fear based. I began to understand my pup. A new world opened up for us. I heard of all sorts of things behavioural and otherwise, including being introduced to a nutriscan test. They offer a food intolerance test that is not yet offered in the UK, but can be ordered from the USA. Here started the path to his recovery, once we found some food intolerances. 

From there we were able to cut out things from his diet which meant his tummy issues began to clear up. I taught him how to enjoy food again as he was deeply suspicious of it, using toys as a reward for eating. 

I began helping out a lady at the local Dog College puppy & obedience classes too. As a family we had always trained our own dogs and so on, but training other's dogs was just so much fun..

At this point I was able to start training him, with all the new things I was learning at ISCP and I then went into absolute DOGS to learn even more training techniques using games and fun stuff.

But - even though his tummy cleared up, he still kept getting chronic ear infections, lasting months at a time. Each time, the pain was setting back the progress we had made with his behaviour and so we would have to keep dealing with new phobias as they cropped up.

I also did other courses, all of which helped me to shape my positive, reward based methods and "Fun Not Fear" philosophy, which I use with clients now.

Further investigations at the vet eventually led to him being diagnosed with Dust/Storage mite allergies, so yet more things were cut out from around him, and a routine of daily antihistames began. This was a good year ago.

After years of tears, vet trip after vet trip, continous care and rounds of antibiotics, steroids, washes, flushes, pain killers and a home made diet, thousands of pounds and hundreds of hours spent on education, on diet, on tests, on medical bills, on pills and potions, and a whole new career path... tonight I realised at just gone midnight I had forgotten to do his ear flush.. so I wearily went to do his ears and made a marvellous discovery.

They were already clean. 

Actually fucking clean.

Like really clean!!!

No pain. No redness. No wax. No smell. No wincing as I came at him with the cotton bud. Just clean ears.

So... to recap 

No tummy ache. A good appetite. Well trained (to the point of now being my demo dog). No skin issues. No bald patches. And now no ear infection.

I have spent years working my butt off to get to this moment. Joy doesn't cover how I feel right now. I know it won't last forever, and he will likely have another flare up soon, but for now, for the first time in his life...

...I have a completely healthy, happy dog.