Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tuesday Training 6

Whoaaa. Though this picture of Marge suggests otherwise, we have had an awful lot going on here.

Usually my Tuesday posts focus on Agility, but since there has been so much commotion the past couple of days, I'm going to have to break it up so it's easier to digest!

Labor Pains

Let's first rewind to Sunday. We were invited to my Grandmother's house for a nice shrimp dinner - my favorite. I asked if I could bring Marge along, and so she came. She was having a great night, running around the backyard, begging for table scraps, you know, the usual. Until, of course, some individual, somewhere out there, decided that it would be fun to set off a round of loud, illegal fireworks. Of course, this had to be just as I was practicing recall with Marge outside, so she heard the bang, went flying to the door, ran inside more frantic than I've ever seen her. I finally convinced her that a corner in the back room was a nice place to chill out, and there she stayed, pupils dilated, body shaking, and heavily panting.

I tried, in desperation, to give her the remaining treats I had in my pocket, but that didn't work. Thankfully, my good-hearted grandmother offered up some of her freshly made chicken soup for me to use. That worked a bit better.

After awhile, Marge decided it was okay to come out of the corner, but she wasn't comfortable for the rest of the night and stayed under the table near our feet the rest of the night.

I was very upset about this, because my grandmother's house has always been a safe haven and an extremely fun place for Marge. For her to get so freaked out and, essentially, not have her own house to hide in was not a nice sight to see. Looking back, at least she worked herself somewhat out of it and was able to join us again.

Fireworks will always be our worst enemy. Marge has made leaps and bounds with so many other triggers, but fireworks still send her into a frenzy. I wish people knew the implications of their decisions to shoot off meaningless and law-breaking noisemakers. Dogs aren't the only one with noise sensitivities.. there are noise-phobic people, too! It just makes life so much more stressful having to worry about that sudden blast in the sky.

In The Crazy House
Unfortunately, Monday wasn't much better for Marge. It started with the doorbell ringing early in the morning - my uncle had come to drop off a pressure washer to my dad. He didn't actually come into the house, but it led to a scramble to get Marge and feed her cookies. My uncle is not particularly dog friendly, so it was best to avoid the interaction altogether, especially since it was not planned, at least on my part.

Next, the pressure-washing itself happened; although Marge did much better with the sounds than I thought she would, it still wasn't a pleasant experience.

Then, while we were eating a very late pancake breakfast around 2 PM (yes, I know), the same family friends from last week (and also from early in August) come through my backyard gate unannounced. Marge was inside (THANK GOD), but was able to see them coming, and let out a LONG, hefty growl. I had her go out to them, where she was fine. She demonstrated her weave pole abilities. But.. she thought she saw something go by under the gate and went running over with her hackles up to investigate. She was on edge.. and I guess I can't really blame her.

On a slightly humorous note, I blew up an old ball that I found lying around in an old storage box, just to see what Marge would do with it. It entertained Marge for about two minutes.. until she caught her tooth in it and it deflated. She just couldn't win this weekend!


The day featured three short walks in the field, and the last one was the worst.. for some reason, she was just totally not liking walking in the field with other people there. She didn't outright panic, but she was not her usual spunky self when walking. This left me feeling really bad; after so much improvement lately following a horrendous summer, I guess I just wasn't expecting any regression.

I popped her a 3mg pill of melatonin after the family friends arrived, but it didn't seem to change things any. Although I do still give it before agility class, I think it's beneficial only during thunderstorms, for whatever reason.

The day took alot out of her.. here she was last night, snoozing away on her favorite mat.


Agiliday/Wrapping it All Up
Fortunately, Marge had a much better walk in the field today around 3 PM. She had to pass a landscaping truck and the ice cream man on the way there, and, while it did scare her, she recovered. We only walked around a little bit, but she passed a couple of people who were also out in the field and didn't seem to mind very much. I threw around treats, playing the FEAST game, which always seems to bring out the happy Marge. So, hopefully, our icky walk yesterday was just a fluke, the result of an extremely hectic weekend, and our walks the rest of the week will be okay.

As for agility class, Marge was quite comfortable when we first got there. Louann had her Standard Poodles out, who are some of the most well behaved and well socialized dogs I know, so I invited Marge to "go sniff" them in exchange for a treat. Seemed to work well. She went and sniffed the male dog, Cody, on her own during class (he ran with us tonight.. it wasn't a private, after all).

We did a lot of work on contacts. I told Marisa that I prefer to do a 2o2o with Marge simply because it is more reliable. Originally the plan was to do running contacts, but 2o2o just seems better. Could my agility friends weigh in on this?

I'm pleased to say that she's starting to get what the 2o2o is, even on my steps at home. She's much better on the Dog Walk than she is on the A-Frame.

We also did some weave work.. although we practice every day in the backyard on the PVC set, the competition 12-pole set is a little different. With speed comes mistakes, and Marge frequently skips poles because she's too busy flying through them like a bolt of lightning.

Other than that, it was a light class. Marge had an excellent recall, which I was happy to see, so I was a little less paranoid about her being offleash (especially in the presence of another dog!). We did some short sequences, but, since the contact obstacles were all out, they weren't fluid sequences.. I'd have to stop everytime we got to the contact obstacle to get her to perform the 2o2o. From the dog's perspective, I don't think it was the most fun class we've ever been to.. but, at least we got alot done in terms of learning.

She had a couple of moments where she almost got reactive, but I was able to bring her back down to earth quickly. On a VERY good note, she did NOT react when she saw Cody the Poodle running zoomies before class.. I got her attention and she kept herself focused on me, almost as if she knew that looking at him run would be too much for her to handle without trying to jump right in there with him.

By the end of the class, something spooked Marge. I'm not sure what it was, but I offered her a treat, and she wouldn't take it. Instinctively I grabbed her collar to make sure she wouldn't run off, but I can't imagine that helped matters any. It was a VERY weird little blip. I think part of the reason was that one of the handlers in the next class (who we'll be joining next week) pulled a hood over her head a few minutes earlier... Marge does not like hoods, caps or sunglasses, or any face/head covering garment, for that matter. She graciously came over, took her hood off, fed Marge treats, then put her hood back on, and fed Marge more treats. To make her more excited, I asked her that pivital phrase - "are you hungry?" - which is reinforced every night at dinner time to make it a really happy, feel-good bunch of words. So she really bounced around after that.

I took her over a couple of jumps just to make sure she was feeling better, and we departed.

Understandably, I'm worried about next week. We'll be in a class with, I believe, SIX other dogs.. a far cry from the, um, nonexistant class we're in now. Forunately, as I've mentioned in previous posts, Marge knows many of these dogs, AND many of them are small dogs (a Cocker mix, Papillon, Westie and Lhasa mix, to name a few) so that makes it a little better.

Additionally, the class is being extended to 1 1/2 hours, to allow for the beginner dogs (such as mine) to have more time to learn. This should be beneficial for us, as it allows us to take breaks or even bow out early, if needed.

After class, we made a quick stop to my grandmother's house again because I needed to pick up a couple of books from her. Thankfully, Marge zipped to the door as she always does, so I don't think there are any residual affects from Sunday night.

-----

And, there you have it. All up-to-date on the training news. You've just gotten a good sized slice of what it's like to live with a fearful dog.

I hope to go on a long, brand new hike sometime in the next week, so look out for a post on that over the weekend. I may also rent the training hall again for some private practice time before joining the big agility class. I also haven't forgotten about Mango and Dexter's tag for us to post the six things Marge loves most, so that'll be up soon, too.

13 comments:

Kathy September 9, 2009 at 1:11 AM  

I think that is a good decision to do the 2020, you can always go to a running if that seems appropriate later on, and that will be a lot easier then if you did running and then changed your mind and wanted to do a stopped contact. A 2o2o will be a nice place to connect with Marge on course, you could always do a 2o2o on the dog walk and then a running on the Aframe.....so many choices.

I have to admire how connected you are with Marge and how much you understand her, she is a very lucky dog, and I am truly sorry she has had a bad week...but she has a great friend to help her out-so hopefully everything will be on a much better track soon! I think that was awesome you had a phrase to use to get her excited and happy again, the Are you Hungry?, that is a great tool, good for you for thinking of it!!!!!!!

Mango September 9, 2009 at 6:39 AM  

Oh man! Like a perfect storm for poor Marge. I hope she is not afraid of Grandma's house now.

We have those pvc weave poles too because mom was too cheap to buy the good ones. They are OK, but tend to kind of twist and unravel if they get bumped too much and I am still struggling with learning to hit all the gates.

Rest up, little Marge, and try to remember that mom will always protect you so you don't need to be the big dog all the time.

Kisses,
Dexter

BRUTUS September 9, 2009 at 9:15 AM  

Sounds like a busy weekend for sure! So many things in there to respond to, don't know where to start!
We've only been following your blog for maybe 2 months, but I do get the feeling that Marge is making steady progress. Don't let the little "blip" setbacks get you down. There will be skeletons on her closet for a long time, you just have to make them gradually smaller skeletons! The fact that she can relax focus on you so well during agility is a fantastic sign - the real Marge is in there, it'll just take time to peel off more of the layers of baggage to uncover her more often!

I don't have nearly as much dog-rehab experience as I do with horses, but I think a lot of the same things do apply, especially in fear-reactive situations. Our animals are SO keen to respond to cues that we broadcast, often unintentionally. This is so much easier to say than to do, but try not to always be on the "look-out" for things that might set Marge off (landscape trucks, hoodies, ect). Sure, you have good reason to notice, as you want to stay ahead of any developing problem. But I think it is possible that your vigilance might transfer to Marge & make her be more on-edge, since she can sense your uneasiness. Forgive me if I'm way off base on that, but I just kept getting that feeling while reading your post today. Just an observation from an objective source :)

As for agility, I really like the 2o2o contact. Even with a small, slowish dog (who wouldn't tend to fly off obstacles like a larger/faster dog) - I just feel like it gives me better control than a running contact. Plus it is safer, preventing the dreaded fly-off not only from a handling/points perspective, but also from a back/injury perspective!

Hope that all helps!
Michelle

Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart September 9, 2009 at 3:15 PM  

You might look into training you grabbing her collar as a positive thing. I have friends who did that ... basically trained their reaction to a tense situation to mean something else to the dog. I think McDevitt talks about that in her book. Or, it might be in the book Click to Calm. I can't remember which one.

The Army of Four September 9, 2009 at 9:00 PM  

You sound like you're doing such great things for sweet Marge! I get pretty spooked by fireworks, storms and flies in the house. Rescue Remedy and lots of work with my mom have helped me!
Tail wags,
Storms

Life With Dogs September 10, 2009 at 12:25 AM  

I'll second the Rescue Remedy recommendation. Not that I'm one to offer much advice - I am a lousy trainer...

Martha Basset September 10, 2009 at 7:51 AM  

Ours hate fireworks too and Martha would have freaked!
But she did manage to find a safe corner and came back out in time.
All of these things feel like a set back but everytime it is dealt with I believe you are another step on the road!
OK it can be a very long road sometimes with many twists and turns.
Martha uses the Rescue Remedy - the problem though with fireworks at this time of year is that you cannot predict them!
It tends to work better in advance with Martha but you are doing so well and we were amused by her deflating that lovely ball so quickly.
xxx

Samantha September 10, 2009 at 11:06 AM  

Oh poor Marge! So sorry there were all these scary things for you to cope with this weekend. You look pooped in most pix - really feel badly for you vis a vis the ball - oh dear! Hope agility goes well, along with everything else this week! I haven't posted yet, but have an award for you!
Hugs xo
Sammie

Sue September 10, 2009 at 5:56 PM  

Too bad you two couldn't have a more relaxing weekend, but we can't control our surroundings all the time.

Rufus and Indie September 10, 2009 at 6:20 PM  

That was a difficult weekend! Very stressful!
I'm glad to hear she feels better now, it seems agility class calms her down! Lovely pics!
Kisses
Rufus and Indie

Scout 'n Freyja September 10, 2009 at 8:45 PM  

Sounds like some good stuff and some bad stuff and some not so good stuff and some not so bad stuff. Marge, you seem to have come through all of it OK. We think you are a super duper dog!

KB September 10, 2009 at 10:08 PM  

I am so impressed with you. I'm a recent new visitor to your blog but you seem to be working hard with Marge and to have saint-like patience. I have an only mildly fearful dog (except when her thyroid gets out of whack - and then she's extremely fearful) so I don't have the hurdles that you do. Keep up the good work. Marge is a very very lucky dog!

I must add that I was relieved to read that Marge bounced back from the scariness at your grandmother's house and seemed happy to visit again. From what I read, the 'recovery' from a scary event is really key.

Muttsandaklutz September 14, 2009 at 9:36 AM  

I'll weigh in on the 2o2o / running question too. Both have their benefits and drawbacks... here are some of my thoughts:

2o2o:
- can be very reliable
- can be harder on the dog physically, especially the a-frame
- can be slower than running
- provides an opportunity to connect with your dog on course, like Kathy said

running:
- can be hard to train and get reliable results, especially big dogs
- fun for the dog - no stopping!
- easier on the dog's body
- can be hard to keep up with the dog, especially at the dogwalk

Both of my dogs have 2o2o on the teeter and dogwalk. Lucy also does 2o2o on the frame because she loves knowing exactly what her job is, and 2o2o satisfies that need. Walter does a running frame because with his top-heavy build, 2o2o on the frame was too hard on his body.

Have fun with it, whatever method you choose!

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