Thursday, January 2, 2014

Agility Updates

Well, we have gone to two trials since my last post.  One over Thanksgiving weekend, in which we got qualifying NADAC runs in Novice Weavers, Novice Touch n Go, Novice Regular, Novice Tunnelers, and Open Tunnelers.  We got our first NADAC title (say hello to Sagan TN-N).  It was a great weekend!

Novice Touch n Go:  Q, 1st place:  Teeny bit sloppy, but at least we had a stopped contact!

Novice Weavers:  Q, 1st place:  Only had to correct the 3rd weave entrance.  Good dog!  Sagan had a cheering crew for this run...  Tracy and her niece Lauren came to watch.

Novice Tunneler's Run:  Q, 1st place, Novice Title:  This run was a thing of beauty.  No commentary here.  Just lovely!

Novice Regular Run:  Q, 1st place:  A little sloppy all the way around...notice how I pulled too hard off the A-frame at the beginning.  Sagan is such a good boy and listens to my directions, whether they are good or not:

Open Tunnelers:  Q, 1st place:  ZAP allowed move-ups from day to day, so we got to run Open Tunnelers on Sunday.  This meant I was running in this, and 2 novice regular runs, all within 20 minutes.  I did not have time to walk this course.  Went out cold and nailed it!  Well, it wasn't the neatest tunneler's run we've ever done, but super proud of both of us:

Then, we went to a CPE trial 12/28.  We got qualifying runs in Level 1 Wildcard and Level 1 Jackpot.

Jackpot-Level 1:  45 points, Q, 1st place.  We would have had 50 if the judge had caught our dogwalk contact, and 55 if we made our A-frame contact.  This was fun, and it was nice to not worry about missed obstacles:

Wildcard-Level 1:  Q, 1st place.  This was kind of a sloppy run.  We dropped our first bar (you can do this and still Q in CPE).  I almost fell after the dogwalk and then my handling got sloppy...had to pull him back to hit the double jump, and then I didn't give him any directionals.  Oh well.  Was a smoking time at 18.35 seconds!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Med Updates and Moments in the Agility Ring

So, we've added Trazodone onto our current medical regime.  I'm fairly certain I want to dump the Paxil and try Prozac instead after our 12/28 CPE trial.  I'm seeing extremes at both ends with Paxil, and I've read better results with Prozac.

In keeping with celebrating the positive moments (which I have a tendency not to do), we went for a run in Game Farm Park a couple of weeks ago.  I pulled him off for an approaching dog at a distance of about 50 feet.  He LAID DOWN and WAGGED.  Holy shiznitz.  Wow.  In the same run, he went apeshit at a distance of 30 feet.

Don't ever let anyone trick you into thinking your dog will be much better or easily managed.  It is a lifelong commitment with minimal improvement.

Having said that, I've entered Sagan in the ZAP NADAC Thanksgiving trial and the RAT CPE 12/28-12/29 trial. I've remarked, ironically, to people that most get nervous in the ring.  It is a blessing that my nervous moments are before we run, waiting, in the queue.  When I get in the ring, I can finally relax, because Sagan gets right to work.  Seriously, I have no ring nerves.  I have moments of anxiousness about what might happen, but no real nerves.

I have a few acquaintances struggling with reactive dogs. I'm struggling to remain positive.  After owning 3 like this, I really don't feel that reactive dogs can be rehabilitated that much.  After 20-30% improvement with management seems to be the norm.  The examples I've heard of much more are few and far between.  I also remember the adage "do one thing everyday that scares you."  My heart palpitates bringing Sagan into Argus Ranch.  Part of me wonders why I do it (why would I put other dogs in danger?) and part of me hopes statistics is in my favor.  Part of me thinks I'll find the wonder combination of drugs (which is really ALL I have left).

In absence of that, all I can hope is that aging mellows his reactivity and we manage to not have encounters at trials.

Here is hoping there is a drug combo that gives Sagan the opportunity to make good decisions.  Here is hoping that all of the training, desensitization, counter conditioning, and BAT finally take hold as he matures.  Here is hoping I run into very few people who don't at least empathize with where I'm coming from.  People can be harsh and insensitive at best, and rude and completely critical at worst.

Wish us luck as Sagan turns 3 in December.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Paxil Updates and Resources

So we reached 6 weeks of Paxil with Sagan last Friday.  I'm seeing better choices about 20% of the time and WORSE choices about 80% of the time.  Not sure if this means I need different meds, more of the same med, or an additional med.  Will give it 2 more weeks before deciding for sure.

Because I need to feel like I'm doing something positive in this vein, thought I would post links to several resources about reactive dogs that might help someone in my situation.  These are real links from real people with real frustrations, not the irritating self-help pages written by organizations that seem to say things like "if you keep the leash loose, you'll notice improvement in your dog's reactivity."  Oh my, if it were only so simple:
(She talks about the long haul of reactive dog ownership....  this is very, very true).
(The importance of not letting your dog practice bad choices....I find this one the hardest).
(Training your reactive dog....a bit of a misnomer, since it much more complex that "training", but still good).
(Five phases of reactive dog ownership.....  I feel like I'm in an "acceptance" phase not mentioned here.  I'm just stuck in limbo and I feel I've done all I can without meds).
(Going for the Gusto...a blog)
(Hot to live with a dog reactive dog and not lose your shit) :-)
How to help a reactive dog.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Medication Updates and Agility Trials

Well, after a few more setbacks, I decided to dump the L-theanine and go for the heavy pharmacologicals.  Sagan has been on Paxil a little over a month.  The changes I've seen have mostly been concerning.....  he is quicker to react, more likely to charge dogs, but seems like the valleys and peaks are less steep?  I don't know.  None of the drugs I tried with Winnie helped at all, so maybe I'm already coloring my experiences with Sagan....don't know.

Sagan went to another NADAC trial (put on by EAT in September).  We had 1/4 qualifying runs, and it was in Touch n Go.  For some reason, at this trial, he was unable to select the A-frame over the tunnel (resulting in a few NQs).  Thus 1st place qualifying run represents my SERIOUSLY concerted effort to get him over the A-frame.  LOL:

He did a CPE trial (put on by MudPack in October).  We had 2/4 qualifying runs...both 1st places in Standard, Level 2, and Jumpers, Level 1:

Sagan scared the bejesus out of me by charging another dog in the ring after our Jumpers run.  ACK!  Fortunately, he made a good choice, but I REALLY need to work with him on focus after runs...never a problem before.....

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Medication Journey Begins!

So, I've decided to try some medications for Sagan.  After almost 3 years, that boy is full of tools, calming signals, yet our progress has really stalled.  So, here is the plan:

He's been on L-theanine for a little over a week.  This stuff takes almost 60 days to get into the system.  There were a few times this week when I *thought* I was seeing improvement:  He had a totally soft mouth and body language when leaving agility class Wednesday night when he saw 3 off leash dogs behind a fence.  That was great.  He is back to doing better (mostly) on our runs together.  Anecdotally, he seems even MORE sensistive to noises, though he seems to be REACTING less.

After L-theanine, I will either try melatonin or some drugs through a vet (ala Prozac and the like).

I know how it all works....this will be a big experiment in dosing, correct drugs, and continuing the work we've already started with counter conditioning, desensitization, Control Unleashed, BAT, emergency U-turns, look at me, look at that, etc.  I find my default behavior management strategy is to check for the "turn to look at dog, and look back at me, then get a reward."  This is not really "look at that", as I'm not clicking for the looking at the trigger, but rather for making the good choice of looking back at me.  If he is unable to do that, I click for the looking at the dog, which will normally snap him out of it.  Then I ask for a "watch" and reward that.

I'm hopeful on the meds, and I think I will be able to read fairly quickly what is going on.  Sagan's body language cues are very easy to spot.  Tail goes from relaxed to high and curled, and ears stand straight up.

Will post with updates.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Bumps in the Road

It is funny. Every time I come here to write or post on my FB about the issues I have with reactivity training in dogs, I know there are a million people who must think I'm just high maintenance, a drama queen, or a worry wart. Some probably think "It's a dog, and that's what dogs do." Some think I must not have gone to the right training people, and some must think I'm doing something else wrong.

 It's like most other things I read about, I imagine.....until you've walked a mile in these shoes, you truly have no idea. I've come to understand I'm not crazy when I read about other reactive dogs on blogs, what other smart, persistent people have tried, and the anger that comes from these people in describing their attempts to give their dog a normal life. So in the name of education, assuming you don't fall into the categories of people described are a few of the things that cause emotional reactions in me, when dealing with reactivity.

 1) The utter pang of fear in my gut when I spot an off leash dog looking at us. (Why? Partially because of the embarrassment that will ensue when my dog becomes Cujo, and you don't know the 3 years of consistent training I've done to try to change it, but mostly because I worry about the damage to my dog, and mostly for yours. If my dog bites yours, mine gets the blame, and possibly worse.
2) Reading accounts of how "long" it takes a reactive dog to see results with training, and see them describe the length of time in months.
3) Having people tell me that "tension travels down the leash." Brilliant advice. It doesn't matter if I do or don't tense the leash. At some point, your dog tenses the leash itself and you have to haul the dog away.
4) Having people get pissy when you ask them to leash their dog. There is a leash law. I have a right to be there, too...and have my dog safe.
5) Having people make excuses for my dog. (Oh, but that other dog was doing this...oh, but this was a new place....oh, but.... there was a wall next to him). I don't want any more sunshine.
6) Having to tell people not to come pet my dog. Boy, you feel like such a bad guy.
7) Having to REALLY plan, EVERY SINGLE TIME you take your dog out of the house. Where can I park? Where can I duck behind a bush? Where can I find a quiet place to let my dog potty? Where are there blind curves? Where are there likely to be uncontrolled dogs? Where are there likely to be kids? Truly exhausting.
8) Having to make sure another adult is with us (AKA Ross) on most of our excursions out of the house. Seriously, two people to handle one dog? If there is an off leash dog around, I need Ross to be able to run interference.
9) Having to carry dog fight spray with me everywhere I go.
10) Having to cross the street to avoid a perfectly calm dog and owner walking toward you on the sidewalk. (They really think you have problems).
11) Knowing that most people don't get to see how truly sweet your dog is when he isn't stressed out. 12) Having to watch arriving cars closely at the park to make sure they aren't going to let their dog out of the car, unleashed, while they get situated.
13) Having successfully avoided an off leash dog playing in an on leash park, and spending the rest of your walk worrying where they will go next.
14) Seeing a young child being walked by his/her dog. Make my heart palpitate.
15) Rehearsing what you will say to a dog owner if their off leash dog comes up to yours and causes a dog fight. Rehearsing shifting blame back to their dog.
16) Never being able to let your guard down and just WALK.

 If you think any of these are unnecessary/overvigilant, you've never owned a dog like this. Not only are you trying to ensure their training, and that they stay under threshold, but you're also imminently aware of the physical danger to your dog and others getting into a dog fight, but also the much larger repercussions of someone else deciding to report your dog as dangerous.

 I should say: Sagan has NEVER bitten another dog or gotten into a true dog fight, though he has argued (instigating and responding) to other dogs. I'm convinced the only reason why is that I have to be a complete b@#$% in public. It isn't pleasant, but I'm just protecting Sagan. Sagan will be three in December. He backslid a bit this past week, after we went to an outdoor agility trial. I would still say we are heavily managed, with my physically handling him by covering his face or shoving his face between my legs is the solution about 30-40% of the time. This is with about a year of obedience, 5 sessions of Control Unleashed, 2 behaviorists, a board and train, BAT protocols, and concerted outings to practice. If you have a reactive dog, you're in for a BIIIIIG commitment.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

NADAC Trial 8/11

Well, this trial was not Sagan's finest hour, though he did have a lovely Touch n Go run (one DUMB mistake on my part), 1 qualifying (and 1st place) tunneler's run, and 2 yucky, sloppy regular runs.  He was also REALLY reactive today.  This was his first (and probably last) outdoor trial.  Too much to see and keep track of.

But, here are our runs, without further ado.

Touch n Go (so beautiful until I hesitated and sent him in the wrong end of the tunnel.  Damn)

Regular (yuck: off course, and BAD contacts.  Sagan never has bad contacts....blah)

Regular 2 (yuck:  off course, and MORE bad contacts.  BLAH)

Tunnelers (BEAUTIFUL....  and ALMOST perfect. :-)