Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Light at the End of the Tunnel

We had a mostly good day today.  We're slowing things down, taking a couple of steps back and just going with the flow.

I'm trying to keep walks so that there is little interaction between Marge and the outside world.  Miller Field is my haven; there are people around and we can work on attention, but no one is too close.  I made the mistake of walking this morning during garbage pickup in my neighborhood, but she got through it okay. Lots of treats were issued.  

Later on we did a joint Miller Field/street walking session which went well, thanks to a nice bagful of mozzarella cheese.  I stopped to chat with a couple of people who were sitting outside their house.  Marge knows them, but is timid.  We played the target game today with a lot of success.  I may eliminate these kinds of interactions altogether, but it's so hard to do.  Right now, I know we're on the right track in taking out the most stressful things - strange dogs and completely strange people.

We avoided some people we normally go around - most notably, Lord the GSD.  He can get a little studdy around Marge even though she's spayed, and I know she doesn't like it.  Also kept her away from two dogs passing by with a lot of success.  She totally ignored them.

While I was taking my Chem final, my dad took Marge for a walk.  She now responds by going and waiting by the door for him when he mentions 'going out' to her.  She's still timid of him, but I guess she likes her walks so much that she'll go even with him.  It may not be the best way to change Marge's association of him, but at least he's making an effort and she's not bugging out about it.  

I told him today about some of the problems that have been going on with her (mostly reactivity around other dogs, unsuredness around strangers and blatantly going nuts around the fence) and expressed to him the reasons I've speculated that it is happening.  Seemed like he understood it and even though he only walks her once in a blue moon, at least I know that I told him to keep her away from certain dogs/people/situations.

And, of course.. Agility.  There is a lot to report:

- Tunnels: Marge is going through them like a pro.  Fully extended and curved, too.  I'm beginning to be able to send her through them just like I do with jumps, rather than have to guide her.

- Chute: we worked on this a good amount and Marge was awesome.  A little hesitant, but we got her through it a few times with the chute completely out and collapsed.  Pretty good.

- Jumps: Did some '180 degree' work, where Marge takes one jump and then takes another before coming back to me.  She did smashingly with this.. even offleash a bit, too.  My teacher was impressed.  Did the tire jump, too, but that's a piece of cake.

- Teeter: A little unsure about this one.  The trainer first started by repeatedly banging the Teeter down while we fed our dogs treats like crazy.  Classical conditioning, yes - but come on, it can't happen over such a small period of time.  The LAST thing I need in this dog is a noise phobia.  Anyway, each dog then walked across the very low teeter while she held the tipping end from, well, tipping.  When each dog reached the end of the teeter, it was lowered slowly.  Marge wasn't terrified by it and did a decent job for a first time.  But the narrow contact obstacles have confirmed something - Marge lacks hind-end awareness.  She kept sliding her butt off of it.  Next week I hope to just take it slow and see how it goes.  I want her to like the teeter, not just barely get through it.

- A-Frame/Dogwalk:  Well, I didn't realize that we weren't supposed to be using the two big contact obstacles today, so we went ahead and did them.  (I saw other people doing them, so I thought it was okay.  But, anyway.  She has no fear of the dogwalk, but it's hard for her to keep her balance while following the treat.  Thankfully I was able to get her steadily across it more than once.  The A-Frame, however.. not so lucky.  While practicing it with the trainer, she did take a tumble from it.  We got her right back up and over it, though.  Hopefully no phobias present themselves with time.  I will be using the plastic planks again in my yard this week on the ground for Marge to walk across.

In terms of behavior, Marge was very focused for the majority of class.  We had one incident with a Dachshund and its handler.  Marge saw them from about 30' away and let out one bark.  Thankfully, she calmed down right away and I was able to regain her focus.  

I tried to keep dog interactions to a minimum.  During class, she only interacted with one dog - Rusty, the JRT.  She loves him.  After class, while talking to one of the board members of the club (who is in the Agility class with her own fearful poodle rescue) Marge did a little sniffing with a Standard Poodle and some small dog, not really sure what breed.  She was actually thrilled with both encounters, but since my original goal was to NOT have dog interactions, I kept them short and sweet.  Around the same time, she targeted a man coming up to us and accepted treats from another woman.  So, I guess we ended on a good note, if not a little busier than it should have been.

So, I'm going to just keep plugging along.  I'm glad she had fun.  Not sure what tomorrow will bring, but I'm going to try my hardest to keep to low-traffic areas and not push my limits with Marge.  We seem to be doing okay so far.

(BTW, we have started a Relaxation Protocol.  Day 1 was today.  Not sure how well it went, Marge was pretty excited afterwards.  I did it a couple of times, actually.  I think I caught some soft eye blinks.  I'm going to try my darndest to stick to it, we will see.  A big thank you to Roxanne at Champion Of My Heart for introducing this to us. Going to try to read more about it to ensure I'm doing things the right way.)


Sue May 20, 2009 at 12:16 PM  

Sam, Have you had her checked out by your vet to make sure she has no issues with her back end? No spinal or hip or knee problems that could be causing the unsteadiness and possibly pain that could be affecting her with other people and animals.

Sam May 20, 2009 at 1:44 PM  

Thanks Sue. I have a call to my vet put in and I am waiting for him to call me back. This is definitely worth a mention. We've got a lot to talk about, him and I!

I figured it'd be best to call him and just let him know about things. I'm trying to get as many perspectives on this as possible, and medical certainly is one of them.

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