Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Just Freeway, beloved Cockapoo

DOG OF THE DAY - FREEWAY, companion Cockapoo
Gloria Pritchett-Konarzewski


A story of love, concern and perseverance

It's not just about the dogs. A day in the life of a behavior trainer will find you motivating, inspiring, coaching and convincing people. Just everyday people, who love their dogs and just want the best for them. Here is such a story. His name is Freeway. He's a Cockapoo. His challenges are he doesn't like other dogs or strangers, yet he can cozy up to a kitten and lick the face of a baby. He hates to be groomed, especially his legs and back end, but yet gets excited when the grooming tools come out. Freeway is well....JUST Freeway.

It all started one day when an abandoned dog showed up at Gloria's father's home. He gave this dog, a black Cockapoo, to Gloria and her family. No this wasn't the JUST Freeway of our story, but his predesessor, Freeway #1.

Gloria Pritchett-Konarzewki is one of my favorite Facebook game friends. You never know who might come into your life, cross your pathway or how it will happen. One of Gloria's daughters lives just an island away from me and the commonality started there. In the life of a behavior trainer, as people read your Facebook wall and know you work with dogs who have challenges a lot of interesting conversations start. It can't be helped, it is a passion.

So it is with Gloria and Freeway. They wiggled their way into my life and heart, and so the last Thanksgiving Week "Dog of the Day" series focuses on a story that is not about a professional positive trainer, but simply about a normal, loving family who opened their heart to a dog for the companionship he provides, even with his behavior challenges. It doesn't get much better than that!

Freeway #1 was the first namesake to melt Gloria's heart. Gloria says, "He was a very well-behaved dog and never did anything wrong." As fate would have it and as Freeway aged, he started having heath problems. First, skin problems and then his joints were deteriorated. The veterinarian told Gloria it was time to put her Freeway to sleep. Gloria said she thought she would faint. Put him to sleep? That was six years ago. It is a painful memory.

But this is where Freeway's namesake enters.

Gloria was not only heartbroken, but devastated over Freeway #1's loss, but over time Gloria realized that her attachment to Freeway had deeper meaning and was really the only way she had to hold on not only to his loss, but to the loss of her father.

It was time to look for another black cockapoo to fill the emptiness in her heart. Gloria wanted one that looked like Freeway #1 and the only goal was to help her get over the loss of her cherished canine companion Freeway #1.

She went online, found what she was looking for and soon Freeway #2 was on his way via a big white bird to Michigan. Gloria describes this newcomer as cute, a ball of fur and once again, she fell in love immediately. There was no debate about what this new pup's name would be and initially, Freeway #2 was playful, got along well with people, as well as Gloria's treasured cats. The perfect puppy.

As Freeway #2 grew up, however, his behavior changed, "became strange," Gloria says. This dog's behavior was going to be quite different than that of her beloved Freeway #1, who remember "never did anything wrong."

Perfect puppy JUST can't behave

Freeway started trying to ride Gloria's arm or leg and to make matters worse, started biting at her feet. Riding being a kind term for humping.

Gloria says, "When I got dressed or put shoes on he would bite at my shoes." To a professional, we might tell her that this is normal puppyish behavior and recommend she teach him to "redirect" that behavior by rewarding the right behavior, the correct behavior she wanted from Freeway.

Gloria says, that while Freeway seemingly "grew out of that stage", he will try to ride her arm or leg occasionally today, especially when her granddaughter is around her. To an expert's eye it would seem Freeway #2 is over-excited, over-stimulated, maybe anxious, stressed or tense. This is the way his emotions come out when he is conflicted, or a new baby takes attention away from him, and we'd again want to teach Gloria and her family to redirect this behavior.

Remember, Gloria is an average dog owner. She JUST wants Freeway #2 to be like Freeway #1, trouble and worry-free. Why can't he JUST cooperate?

Gloria said, "As a puppy Freeway was ok with grooming, which I had done at first through Pet Smart. Then I had a groomer that came to my home and took Freeway to her van to groom him, but as he aged, he became harder and harder to groom." Freeway is almost six-years-old today.

"It's funny," she says, "because when he sees the grooming box he gets excited and comes running. But the reality is he gives me such a hard time and gets stressed out when it comes to trimming his legs, feet and rear end."

Cockapoos need to be groomed, that is just a part of their life. In fact, they need to be groomed every two months, that is six times a year. Six times Gloria and Freeway have to go through the dreaded ritual.

Gloria felt she JUST had to do something, but she didn't know what. Freeway's behavior was getting worse. So she talked her veterinarian about the situation and the vet gave her pills to sedate Freeway.

Gloria was scared to use them. So scared, she waited a week before they were going to expire before she thought she'd give it a try. Freeway would be going to the vet that day anyway to have his nails cut and if something went wrong or didn't seem right, she'd be abe to do something quickly.

What Gloria found was that the medication JUST "chilled Freeway out some and made grooming less stressful for him."

Gloria was able to groom him two days in a row, in fact, and he JUST sat nicely. The sedative now allowed her to "give him a good grooming without him growling at me or showing his teeth to me," she said.

WHAT now Freeway is growling and showing teeth? That JUST is not acceptable. How can I help?

What are Gloria's hopes for Freeway today? Her hope is simple, that one day she will JUST be able to groom Freeway, stress-free.

She says that today, "I can't even take him to a groomer, he WILL bite them. The only place that could do the grooming would be a vets office that offers grooming with sedation."

As behavior trainers we would jump at the chance to counter condition Freeway to loving his grooming time and change his attitude through clicker training.

Gloria has always been an animal lover. Dogs are her favorite. A year and a half ago a new addition came to live with Freeway, a dachshund/mini pin mix named Lou Lou. Gloria said Freeway "liked the cats" so she told Freeway Lou Lou was a kitten. That is hilarious, as Freeway "doesn't like dogs," but he liked Lou lou, who was small and so, Freeway accepted him, even played with him right away. Gloria said it was like he was that playful, happy, puppy again.

Freeway was great with the babies until they started crawling. Crawling babies were JUST one more thing and Gloria says, "when the babies start to crawl Freeway growls and runs from the same babies he loved and licked."

As a behavior trainer we would see this as a disaster waiting to happen. We would say it is because Freeway hasn't been desensitized to the "movements babies make" and Freeway might now be afraid of this little one who is now his size and moving and soon touching, maybe pulling hair and feet, something Freeway hates.

Admittedly, Freeway has many challenges. He is very protective over Gloria, and the house and does not take to strangers. Gloria says, "if a stranger came in my house he would sniff them, back up and bark, do that a few times and would walk away."

She tells people NOT to try to pet Freeway, because he will try to bite them. He is known to nip at their ankles or legs, not enough to hurt them, says Gloria, but it is frightening enough where she is scared to let him be around anyone he doesn't know.

Freeway JUST has some insecurities. As Karen Pryor would say, it is JUST behavior.

Calling Freeway away to "come" is fruitless, says Gloria, because he ignores her. He comes when he is ready to do so. As a behavior trainer, I'd have to say this is a skill that needs strengthening and again I'd use a clicker.

Gloria's second hope for the future is that Freeway will JUST mellow out and be more loving and not behave the way he currently does.

One more thing, Freeway is not very affectionate. Sometimes he will give kisses, but most of the time he won't, she says.

Will Gloria give up? Not likely, she said "I have adopted 3 daughters that were abused and raising them wasn't easy. I look at Freeway the same way. I love my daughters, even though it wasn't easy and likewise, I love Freeway even though he isn't easy :)

This Thanksgiving holiday, Freeway is lucky to have such a loving, caring and understanding family. Gloria says she is thankful that Freeway does seem to love her back. She knows this by the way he gets excited whenever she comes home. Her family tells her he sits on the love seat waiting and watching by the door.

Behavior trainers will read Gloria and Freeway's story and know all the things to do to help. Admit it, I can hear your wheels grinding. The thing to remember is often raising dogs "love is not enough." Love is an essential ingredient, but to finish the cake there are many more ingredients to add. Gloria is a loving, normal dog owner. I believe her persistence will pay off and have recommended she seek a qualified trainer in her area of Michigan.

I will admit I've walked Gloria through with a few tips like using the clicker as a tool to mark good behaviors during incremental grooming. For instance click and treat for one nail and maybe clip the nails over a week, work on the hind leg, change the environment of the grooming, groom on walks and more.

Changing behaviors means changing the way we do things with our dogs and a clicker can be an invaluable tool to accomplish the end Gloria wishes for Freeway - a carefree grooming session.

If you feel motivated offer a few comments to help turn this little guy around.

A big thanks to Gloria for taking the time to share this heartwarming and challenging tale of Freeway. These are the challenges people face with their pets whether trainers or loving companion dog owners and these behaviors aren't that much out of the ordinary as one might think.


Be thankful for the small changes, the incremental steps and for those kisses Freeway sometimes gives. See his individuality and work slowly to reward the behavior you want. Next year at this time, a different dog should emerge and you might even enjoy your grooming times together! Time will tell.

For now, be thankful because Freeway, well, he's JUST Freeway!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Why Rottweilers - why not?

DOG OF THE DAY - Gala the Rottweiler
C-KEL's Grand Celebration CD RAE CGC
September Morn

Rottweilers have an impressive demeanor and September Morn's Rottweiler, Gala impressed me immediately when I viewed her Rally-O video. The precision of performance is September Morn's style. She is an impressive trainer and this becomes very clear in the passion she has for her dogs, her training business, her showing professionalism, her award-winning books and articles. Gala earned two of the American Rottweiler Club's annual "Top Ten" awards last year -- one for Rally Advanced and one for Rally Excellent. Gala likes it when September tells her, "You are VERY good at this game!" Here is September Morn and Gala's story.


"Each year at Thanksgiving time I reflect on the many things that make me thankful – good friends, a comfortable home, a bountiful harvest, work that both fulfills and sustains me. More than anything else, I’m thankful for my dogs – all of my dogs – past, present, and I dare believe, future.

Down the trail of the years I’ve lived, I’ve been fortunate to have walked with many wonderful dogs beside me. Each new dog I’ve brought into my heart has taught me lessons I needed to learn. Some have been patient teachers, others more demanding, but they’ve each written their own special pages in my life. I’ve shared home and heart with several different breeds and a splash of mixes, but ever since owning my first Rottweiler there’s always been at least one Rottie in my dog family.

People ask me, “Why Rottweilers?

My answer sounds a bit like reciting the qualities of a good Boy Scout. They’re physically strong, highly intelligent, trustworthy, loyal, helpful, obedient, cheerful, brave, etcetera.

“But,” people ask, “aren’t Rottweilers willful and stubborn? Don’t you have to use really forceful methods to train them?”

Rottweilers do have a strong will, that’s true, but that will, guided properly, is one of this breed’s most sterling attributes. There’s no need for harsh methods of training because Rottweilers love to work. The Rottweiler’s strong will makes them exceptionally hard workers, always ready to help out with any job that needs doing. The key to living happily with a Rottweiler is in giving the dog a job to do, teaching him how to do it with gusto and flair, and letting him know that you think he’s doing it fabulously well. Rottweilers are brilliant and they like to show off.

Rotties are also very intelligent and they like to figure things out. This makes them excellent candidates for clicker training – the positive, no-force method that encourages dogs to think. Sometimes, rather than be strictly obedient to what they’ve been taught, Rottweilers will spontaneously put a new spin on an old trick and do the job better (or at least with more pizzazz) than the way they’d originally learned it. Rottweilers like to try out their own ideas.

My Rottweiler, Gala, for example, when learning the left finish exercise (circle into heel position from a point in front of the handler), she added a leap and twist that made it a flashy move of her own. Gala’s version was more joyful and engaged than the “ordinary” finish I’d been teaching her, so I let her know I thought her idea was great, and we did it that way from then on. Rottweilers like to do things their “own” way.

When exhibiting dogs in the competitive sports of Rally, Obedience, and Agility, the devil (or, rather, the winning point) is in the details. Little details, like straight sits, fast responses, and perfect to-hand delivery of retrieved items, mean the difference between just qualifying and being among the winners. My Rottweilers have all enjoyed learning those little details, bit by bit, as we fine-tune our teamwork and performance. Clicker training is great for this too, as it sets the dog up for repeated success, as he earns rewards for doing the job. Rottweilers like to win.

Gala is nearing four years of age, and she’s now helping me raise a young Rottie boy, Hero, who is eight months old. As skilled as I am communicating with dogs, Gala communicates far better. I get a big kick out of watching Gala help me teach Hero. When Hero just had to put his nippy puppy mouth all over me when he was excited, Gala would cruise by with a toy in her mouth, interest Hero in wanting it, then “accidentally” drop it and walk away, knowing Hero would pick it up and keep his mouthy-mouth busy in a good way. Rottweilers like to direct other animals what to do.

So, there you have it – Rottweilers like to show off, try their own ideas, do things their own way, tell other animals what to do, and they like to win. These traits might make the Rottweiler appear willful and stubborn to some people, and this might tempt some trainers to use harsh physical methods to “convince” the dog he “must” obey. But the person would be making a mistake, choosing to battle with a dog of this character. It’s much more effective, and a darn sight more enjoyable, to form a positive partnership with this highly intelligent, strong-minded, hard-working dog – a relationship of mutual respect and admiration."

September Morn is a dog behavior consultant and positive-methods trainer with more than 30 years professional experience. Dogs Love School is the name of September's training and behavior business located in Shelton, Washington. She has owned Rottweilers since 1970. She is the "Ask the Trainer" expert for the Dog Channel and an award-winning freelance writer of books and articles (mainly about dogs) with titles to include "Dogs Love To Please, We Teach Them How!" 1994 and "An Owners Guide To Housetraining" 2005. Her breed specific books on the Pug, German Shepherd, Labrador Retriever and Golden Retriever are very popular.

The breeds we choose for ourselves often describe us and the traits we like in others. This Thanksgiving I am thankful for colleagues like September Morn who have enriched my life by the dedication and passion put into their work, their dogs and their dedication to positive reward-based training. September's Rottweilers are a true reflection of her character and this same dedication will leave the world of dog training a better place in and out of the show ring.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Multiple dog household - Multiple challenges

Facebook friend and colleague Leslie Fisher, PMCT, CPDT lives in Maryland with her three active Labrador Retrievers Talley, Bridget and Doobie and a wonderful man named Argil.

In a multiple dog household there are always multiple challenges. Dog trainers are great at handling these challenges and we always seem to find ourselves drawn to dogs who have more than their share of challenging behaviors. Online Leslie impressed me greatly with her dedication to her positive reward-based training and I was drawn in to her life with the 'labbies' from walks, to day-to-day training and Leslie's many training tips. I couldn't help but share their story with you.

Last year (2009) was filled with new additions for Leslie. She said, "In May of 2009 Doobie came to join her as an adult (he'll be six in January 2011). He was a foster for Lab Rescue of the Potomac Valley, a failed foster that is, as one of 54 labs rescued from a West Virginia puppymill. Argil came into my life in December of 2009." Doobie was the third addition to an already established family of two other Labrador Retrievers, Talley and Bridget.

Third to arrive and brother to the girls Talley (who'll turn six in June) and Bridget (who'll turn five in February), black lab Doobie has come to adore Argil with the unreserved love only a Labrador Retriever can exhibit. Still, because of Doobie's puppymill days his trust has been eroded and there are times such as when Argil tries to walk him into the house, while Leslie remains outside. that still does not go over well, according to Leslie.

Trust builds daily, however, between Argil and puppymill lab Doobie.

Leslie says, "Doobie is just now accepting the touch of a complete stranger without shying away and accompanies me into the bank on regular visits for ongoing socialization, and to chomp on the enormous biscuits given hiim by the tellers."

"Doobie without a doubt is turning into a wonderful classroom dog", says Leslie, "not as well schooled as Bridget (her yellow lab) but becoming very reliable and a wonderfully kind "Uncle Doobie" to puppies and small dogs."

Of Doobie today, Leslie says he's a free spirit and to see him flying unfettered over the open fields is one of her greatest pleasures. Ah the joys of Labrador Retriever ownership.

The two female Labrador Retrievers, Talley and Bridget both raised for Canine Partners for Life graced Leslie's life pre-Doobie. Leslie said they did not make the cut and so she took over raising them, Talley beginning in August 2004, one year before deciding to become a dog trainer, and Bridget in May of 2005 . The rest is history.

Bridget is the yellow lab. She had an early seizure disorder and developed pancreatitis, according to Leslie. Today she is on multiple medications administered twice a day and recently suffered a bizarre flesh wound requiring stitches, which had to be redone twice. "

With good humor Leslie says, "Try managing an active lab on rest only for a week while meeting the needs of the other two, and going to see clients and teaching classes. then a week of leash only activity."

Bridget had other past challenges too. Escapist, stealth counter surfer and too smart for her own good, as Leslie puts it.

She said, "This is a dog who throws herself with abandon off docks into the water. Yes, it was one of many challenges." In addition, Leslie said Bridget is the type of dog not content with a tiny stick, but must have the largest log she can carry. This makes life interesting.

I immediately thought to myself Bridget must be from Texas because more and bigger is always better.

Well, truthfully she IS a Labrador Retriever after all?

In the classroom as a demo dog, Bridget is solid like a rock, but she does not love to have dogs in her face, Leslie points out, and will snap and drive them away if too close. She really only enjoys play with her own kind, those that are sensible and direct their attentions to a ball to be fetched.

Today Bridget is finally running free again and enjoying a big fenced in yard, which also went into place in the summer of 2010. A zest for life is a great Bridget descriptor.

Talley's story is quite different. Talley is a black Labrador just like her "brother" Doobie. They make quite a pair when seen side by side.

Leslie tells Talley's story. "Talley, along with her stranger danger, also has suffered chronic colitis and frequently impacted anal glands. Her favorite places to repose are right on top of air ducts in corners, where Argil has plastic covers arranged over the vents. He has accepted the constant rearranging with his usual good grace, and says he would miss the rumbling snoring that goes along with her sleep. She is the lab least able to participate in my classes as demo dog, and has frequently embarrassed and humbled me by spotting "danger" before I could occupy her attentions. Although based in fear, she could and I imagine does look very threatening to the 'uninitiated'."

Additionally, Leslie says, "Talley never did get over sudden environmental contrasts (SEC) and to this day startles easily all with vociferous barking and lunging."

All in all, Talley has a wonderfully affectionate personality, but her training is far from finished. This is shown in her love for Argil. "It is a known fact that Argil loves how Talley picks up his wrist and gums it all the while whining and groaning an excited greeting when she sees him."

Just like in any household dealing with behavior modification and skill training can still present new challenges that crop up out of nowhere. It is a part of the behavior modification process. Never a dull moment in Leslie's household.

Leslie says, "One must always be on guard for the monsters out to get Talley."

"Recently we figured out Talley was afraid of the monster dishwasher. There had not been one in my old home. Picture me tossing out kibbles across the room as the dishwasher runs. This process is also ongoing and the situation is much improved; there is no instant fix. At least Talley is no longer remaining in an upstairs "cave" for hours on end, afraid to come back downstairs to where the monster resides."

In addition to a new relationship coming into her life, Leslie also moved into a new home this year. Talk about juggling ten balls in the air at once!

This is all in a day in the life of a behavior trainer. Our own dogs teach us as much as any class, seminar, workshop certification or client dog. Injuries, health issues, behavior problems are all part and parcel of daily life.

Each of Leslie's labs are so different, "so much their own unique character," she says, "and we are blessed to have such a loving trio in our lives. I am blessed that myself and my trio found such a wonderful man, Argil, to accept us unreservedly into his life, and to love my dogs as I do.

This is part of the adoring crowd Argil comes home to everyday with Doobie and Talley usually in the forefront of greeters. And I would suspect Leslie too.

From a dog trainer's point of view, we go through the same everyday challenges with our own dogs just as our clients do. Often we wonder, could dog training get any harder? It's all in a day's work. Honestly, we love every minute of it.

There is no doubt with the challenges Doobie, Talley and Bridget pose for Leslie and Argil that they are much loved family members regardless.

"As you might imagine, finding time to work with all the various issues, while providing ongoing excellent dog training to clients can be a challenge. These are highly active dogs as well, dogs that need a job to do, dogs that need structure and input from me every day," says Leslie.

What could be more reason to be thankful this holiday season then the presence of this one big happy family, even with all their challenges? Leslie says, "If I could put the best of each of my labs into one lab, I really would have the perfect dog!" Such is a look into the day wrapped up in the pleasures of a multi-dog household.

Leslie Fisher's dog training business is Look What I Can Do Dog Training . She is also a blog writer for Dr. Ian Dunbar's infamous Dog Star Daily. She is a graduate of Pat Miller's Dog Trainer's Academy and has her PMCT (Pat Miller Certified Trainer certification), as well as her Certified Pet Dog Trainer (CPDT) certification and is a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT).

Genetic temperament and genetic health a challenging pair

Open any book and the words can guide you to reasonable understanding of any topic, but it can never compensate for experience especially with dog or human aggression and reactivity. This involves purity of understanding, hands-on results, making mistakes and reviving from them and understanding safety and how dog's think. My dog Chancellor will be the best guide, at least for me, and I hope for others as his story unfolds.

Wild Waves of Chance is his show name and no dog ever lived up to their name better than Chance, his earlier call name (now nickname). As Chance changed, so did his name into a nobler Chancellor. Change occurred from a genetically over-the-top human aggressive dog and an innate fear of humans to a respectful 98% transformed companion. From the beginning, I always said "This has to be neurological!" He acted out of character and the world through his eyes was definitely different than through mine.

Wanting a terv for many years, I finally decided to go with a litter from a local breeder pairing her top-rated U.S. Tervuren male with a female from Canada. This little 9-week-old stayed to the back of the litter and when brought out slunk along the baseboards avoiding me. His more social brother interacted with me and when Chance came over he promptly rolled over on his back. I knew I would be in for a rough ride then and there and asked the breeder if I could have his brother instead. This pup was going to Wisconsin, all the pups had been spoken for and Chance was second pick of the litter. I would be a co-owner.

History speaks for itself, I didn't leave him there despite my reservations and if you believe in fate, this was it. He would not have survived with anyone else and may have been re-homed, in shelters or euthanized long before his ripe 6.5 years of today. We stopped off at the veterinarian immediately on the ride home and he promptly bit the vet, who came in gushing about the puppy and grabbing his face. The stress was already too much for the baby and so my work started. The prognosis came back he was filled with all types of worms and the veterinarian said it was the worst case of worms she'd ever seen. This can raise havoc with a dog's system in and of itself, but Chancellor's challenges would be greater.

It was a rough road from 9 weeks to 16 weeks. AND it was positive reward-based training all the way. The good thing was Chance loved other dogs and does to this day. By his twelfth week and after socializing to 100 people (one negative person who added to Chancellor's fear of people), plus three puppy classes, I decided he was being over-socialized. All was positive except for one incident where a teenager raced up to him stomping her feet, bent over and stooped down, he ran away yelping. This all happened in a split second with my back turned talking to her mother, who by the way came from Tervuren, Belgium where the Tervuren was obviously created. This is a 1% of the equation he still has trouble with - teenage girls and the other 1% is the veterinarian. Because of my lack of available teenage girls and desensitization to the vet (which is much better today), these two will probably always be a watch point. Still we have walked through a sea of teenagers getting off a bus in town without one reaction or even stress indications. So he has come a long way.

I pulled Chancellor from classes and during his fear periods stopped all socialization opting instead to slowly move him through according to his pace watching closely stress signals. I started my Tellington Touch certification when he turned four-months-old, with me already at my wits end and a recommendation from Melissa Alexander, author of "Click for Joy" to do so. I remember her adamant email to me as I said on Clicker Solutions I was thinking of taking Chancellor to a training center in Seattle. NO! she said they use aversive methods of training there and she recommended trying Ttouch. While Ttouch was because of Chance it soon became evident to me I would become a Practitioner despite him. It was no longer an issue and it helped a lot with transforming Chance to Chancellor. Ttouch is and always will be a daily ritual for him.

At ten months old, I thought we'd try classes again with the intent to show Chance. He was shown earlier and bared teeth at the judge. I was after all a co-owner and under pressure by the breeder to get this under control. Suggestions were to use shock, and other aversives and to send him back to the breeder. All of which I quote said "over my dead body."

In conformation class, he snapped at the instructor and while not biting, it was teeth on skin. She said, "Ow that hurt!" and glared piercingly at me asking me to leave. Chancellor made it very clear that day he would never be a show dog and that is when I sought the help of Jennifer White, wife of Steve White at Melissa Alexander's recommendation. It was emotional and Jennifer said and did several things. She first asked me why I would even consider showing Chancellor, and why I felt I had to. He was my first co-owned terv and that was the only reason. So I aborted his show career and was not popular at that point with the breeders. Jennifer also in her wisdom and experience asked me to take him off lead in her facility and she observed him and did s-curves away from and toward him. He was very stressed and I was too, but he relaxed in her presence and for the first time made a move to come to her and nosed her hand. I cried because this was the first attempt of any decency toward a human, besides myself and my husband. Even then, in his early years toward us he would bare teeth, air snap and show distress even during positive training. He was claustrophobic, neurotic, worried and uptight, stressed without apparent reason. He acted "neurologically unsound." Jennifer confirmed I was indeed doing the right things with him and gave me a twelve-step process I followed to the letter.

I saw incremental changes over a two-year period and one day Chancellor showed me he could be trusted. He never left my side on walks, he over-bonded to me and I handled it as I would tell my clients to do so. As a result, he gained confidence and one day on a walk, he moved out ahead, looking back of course, and headed toward a man without a dog in the distance. He walked next to that man as if they were friends, and horror of horror, as I held my hand over my mouth, the man reached down without looking at Chance and petted him. A first. I cried, I was filled with intense emotion as I watched this from a distance as though viewing a movie. Chance did nothing just walked next to the man. I called him and he came racing back so happy. There was a change that occurred that day at 2.5 years old and I could see it in his eyes. It was as if he were telling me thank you, I feel better, I did it! From then on human relations morphed into respect with all types of positive encounters but at times still a bit on guard. Today Chancellor is socially confident at least in most situations.

At 4.5 years Chancellor had his first seizure, Sept 25th, 2008 he collapsed to the floor while playing with Kody and had a grand mal seizure. The story is told in my Canine Seizures blog and tells it better than I can write it here. The short story is he is hypothyroid and had grand mals every six to fourteen days for 1.5 years. I'm stubborn and I researched, studied everything. Tweaked everything from diet to what my requests for medication were from the vet. From medical vet to holistic vet, the journey was long.

I added the medication Keppra to Chancellor's reportoire after much study and research to include asking other owners of dogs with seizures using Keppra what their results were. It wasn't conclusive and it is a new medication for dogs, actually used for human epilepsy. Still, I liked it and decided to use it along with kBr (Potassium Bromide) because it did not go through the liver. Having a short shelf life it was cleansed through the kidneys every eight hours, meaning I'd have to give him three pills a day. Still we had a breakthrough seizure. Then fate instilled by lack of hope.

I met Sarah Stone, animal communicator, Reiki master and DNA I and II certified. I was at my wits end at this point. The day Sarah started work on Chancellor his seizures ended. She told me he could have one more seizure and he did, but several months after Sarah's work with him, 2 months and 2 weeks to be exact. We are friends today and I've referred clients to her. She continues working with Chancellor and his healing has not just been with seizures but many other areas too numerous to mention here from sores on his testicles to dry nose and sneezing and on and on. The stress from his seizures was catching up with him. Today he has a wet nose, no more sores and his sneezing has ended too.

Keppra or communicator or a combination of a lot of things all working together to Chancellor's benefit and health. I call it a miracle and the veterinarian is stunned. She did not want me to use Keppra, said she'd been on it herself and of course, didn't believe in healers and communicators. For me whatever helps my dogs is where I go even if it doesn't coincide with popular opinion, research polls or studies.

Chancellor's story is book material and if you'd like to see our journey through the health issues the blog is a good read found here Chancellor has taught me more than any textbook, class or certification ever could or would. I pass that training along to my clients often without them knowing it. He will, through his story help others, I am sure and already as a working dog has done just that and people cannot believe it when I tell his story of natural genetic aggression, change and health. A dog doesn't have to be abused at all to be aggressive or challenged and health issues can be present long before they show up and put a dog under undo stress. A good percentage of aggressive or reactive dogs I see can have health issues, not all but a high enough percentage to take note of it.

Listen to your dogs. They are speaking loudly.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Dental and a case of unpredictable, sudden dog aggression

Tara McLaughlin and her husband terribly missed their German Shepherd, Sattva, who died last Thanksgiving at nearly 11-years-old of hemangiosarcoma, a rarely curable cancer.

Tara said, "My husband, whom Sattva was truly bonded to, was grieving for her, and so was Zorro, our 4-year-old Standard Poodle. I was too. I was concerned about my husband. Sattva and Zorro had helped my husband through his 3 heart attacks. I knew I had to do something!"

Cindy Lou was that something. She entered the McLaughlin home.

"I had my eye on a breeder that was in California for over a year. I would go to her website and just watch her videos of her puppies and think, “One day, I will definitely get a puppy from her.” And, after Sattva died, I called her and made arrangements to get a little female black Standard Poodle from her next litter." said Tara.

Cindy Lou was the perfect puppy. She was 'the easiest and most relaxed puppy we've ever had' according to Tara. At this point her temperament was excellent and I was enjoying her video clips on Facebook.

The video clips showed her interacting confidently with other dogs, although Tara said "She was a little fearful of big dogs, but we worked with her and helped her develop confidence."

One day the video clips stopped. I had gotten attached through these videos to little Cindy Lou and wanted to see more of her training and progress. When Tara wasn't on FB for a prolonged period I knew something was wrong and emailed her.

"When Cindy Lou started getting her adult teeth in, she was retaining a lot of her puppy teeth and her breath had a very bloody, unusual smell. We checked with our vet and made arrangements for a dental with a board certified dentist that visited the practice. She was 6 months old. Cindy Lou’s adult teeth were also coming in stained." explained Tara.

"It turned out that the enamel on her teeth was stained permanently, most likely from a fever she may have had, or a vaccine before 8 weeks of age. She had one puppy tooth removed during her dental, and she had gingivitis. Gingivitis is an unusual dental problem for such a young puppy, but that was an early sign of things to come."

Then the dog aggression began.

"Right after her dental, she became unpredictably aggressive towards our other dogs," said Tara, "mainly by guarding." She said there were no bites, but very dramatic lunging, growling and whale eye.

Of course, Tara immediately contacted her veterinarian who spoke with the dentist, but he felt that her mouth would not be causing her discomfort to affect her behavior like that.

Tara's first thought was there was a medical problem because her behavior changed so suddenly.

A veterinarian at the practice she goes to specializes in behavior and she had a long phone consultation with her.

The journey started to find out what Cindy Lou's behavior was indicating.

Tara said, "First we did a complete blood panel including a tick panel, and checked her thyroid levels. Everything was fine. It was all perfect. It just wasn’t right that Cindy Lou’s behavior had changed so suddenly. We put behavior modification and management into immediate practice. But, it didn’t help. Actually, some things made it worse, such as the Gentle Leader head collar which I usually find to be effective."

How could this be? This gentle, perfect puppy was becoming increasingly unmanageable around other dogs.

"Over the next few days things changed and I let my vet know that Cindy Lou just wasn’t acting right – she was starting to act sick and depressed and she wouldn’t eat. So, thankfully, my vet had me start Cindy Lou on a painkiller. It was over the weekend and I had Deramaxx left over from one of my other dogs and I gave it to her. Within 2 hours, Cindy Lou was acting normally again. It was amazing! So, now we knew she was in pain. And, it was her mouth. And, of course, the Gentle Leader didn’t help because it caused more pain."

In my practice I see this all the time, the misunderstanding of why a harness, or a head halter or even a collar isn't working because the dog may be in pain. I also see senior dogs become snarky or aggressing toward other dogs and it is often because they are in pain from arthritis. This perky little pup, Cindy Lou, was in pain.

"At the time, we just thought it was gingivitis, but recently she developed more severe problems with her mouth, Tara said. "Her mouth was raw and ulcerated and bled easily if I brushed her teeth. I brought her in to see the dentist and he diagnosed her with Chronic Ulcerative Paradental Stomatitis (CUPS). What the dentists believe is that the dogs are allergic to their own plaque. Even meticulous brushing can’t possibly remove all of the plaque and eventually the dogs require prednisone because their mouths become so raw and ulcerated they have a difficult time eating."

To add to the worry, Tara said, "Ultimately they’ve found that removing the dog’s teeth is the best solution."

What? Remove a puppies teeth? Tara didn’t like the prognosis, and wanted to pursue other possibilities.

The tip off was that Cindy Lou is really too young to have CUPS. This is a disease older dogs get. And, besides, said Tara, "I’m very stubborn!"

This all has led up to last week's (November 2010) biopsies of Cindy Lou's mouth to get a clearer diagnosis. Here are the recent results from Tara's veterinarian:

The pathologist says she has immune mediated disease and thinks it is Erythema Multiforme (EM). There is some difference in opinion from the specialists about what this means. The dentists say this can be caused by CUPS - the disease is treated by excellent oral care and eventually extraction of the teeth.

The dermatologists say this is a disease that can occur just in the mouth but is often primarily a skin disease. It usually has a cause that includes: vaccine reactions; drug reactions most commonly (reaction to any drug but mostly antibiotics); disease - like a virus - less likely; occasionally dyes, preservatives, and stabilizers in dog foods.

With the prognosis the McLaughlins are listening to the dermatologist and looking for a trigger.

Could it be the distemper vaccine she received at 20-weeks-old? While she'd had minimal vaccinations after that time, she did get a rabies vaccine at six-months-old.

The did and are removing anything that could possibly trigger an autoimmune response. This means she is off ALL drugs, Front line, heart worm medication and supplements.

The list includes any toys that have dye or anything suspect.

Her diet has been changed. Tara said, "We’ve started her on a novel protein (for her) – lamb. I’ve ordered organic ground lamb from a farm in WI and am cooking for her (she doesn’t want to eat it raw) as well as using a freeze dried raw lamb diet. (She loves Stella and Chewy’s Freeze Dried Lamb! I was having a hard time getting her to eat, so I was thrilled to find something she was happy with.)"

She had to take away all of her bullysticks and flossies because they contain beef. She’s now chewing Sam’s Yams and deer antlers instead.

"I’m glad I had the knowledge and information to know to keep looking for a reason for Cindy Lou’s change in behavior. It may seem obvious from my story, but at the time, it just didn’t make sense that her mouth could be hurting that badly after her first dental. My older Poodle, Zorro, had mild gingivitis when he had his teeth cleaned when he was 4, and you would never know it! He wasn’t bothered by it at all. So, I do understand why the dentist wouldn’t think her mouth could be causing her so much pain initially. It’s just not typical. Now I know that if she gets grumpy with our other dogs, it’s a clue that she’s not feeling well," said Tara in hindsight.

Today, at this writing in November 2010, the good news is Cindy Lou is back to her happy, playing, and eating self.

Tara says, "She loves to play - fetch and catch are her favorites, take walks (runs) in the woods, and play with Zorro, and my friend’s Poodle, Baci. Cindy Lou loves to be loved and snuggled. She would rather be with people and be loved than be rewarded with food. She sleeps curled up above Tim’s head on his pillows and rests her head on his. Nothing could make him happier and he adores her. She enjoys training with me and is easy for me to groom. My vet thinks she’s incredibly tolerant of the pain in her mouth. She’s a great dog and we love her dearly.

We’re hoping for this to resolve, but mainly we’re watching to be sure she’s not in pain, because we won’t let her be in pain. I bring her back to the vet in 2 weeks to see if there is any improvement. I’ll be pursing alternative treatments as well."

The story is far from over and realizing Cindy Lou is in pain affects everything in her life. Understanding the underlying cause of why a behavior is occurring is the key to effectively modifying it or treating it.

Tara McLaughlin is a dog trainer with a CPDT-KA, CDBC and owner of Good Dog Training at She works with aggression in dogs, but says "Cindy Lou's experience contributed to making me change how I work with people with aggressive dogs - I now only take veterinary referred clients that are aggressive. Too many people don't take their dogs to the vet first."

In order to change behavior there has to be a clean bill of health, because pain, a thyroid condition, and many other maladies can cause a dog to act temperamental, aggressive, irritably. Many trainers, including myself, require a veterinary examination, thyroid panel, blood work before taking a case. Our dogs can teach us many things and Cindy Lou educated the McLaughlin family and continues to do so. This Thanksgiving the McLauglin's will not only remember Sattva but be thankful they now know how to treat Cindy Lou's health issues and resulting aggression.

This season take note of all the items your dog comes into contact with in their lives. Could there be lurking danger?

Friday, November 19, 2010



Jaffa came to the Charlton household in the United Kingdom as a second dog.

Kath Charlton relays the story "When my first dog Mitzi was 8-years-old, I persuaded my husband to get a second dog."

Jaffa came to them from the RSPCA, which does re-homes (from home to home). An 18-month-old male collie crossbreed became available from a man who had been ill on and off and couldn't care for him any longer.

The first meeting of Jaffa Kath said, "What a mess Jaffa was and terrified of everything. He was extremely stressed and never settled once bouncing all over the settees in nervousness. He had hair missing all over his back-end. The ill man said he had a flea allergy!"

Kath was torn whether they should take on this responsibility, but husband, Keith surprisingly said yes they should.

Jaffa came to live with his saviors.

It was soon apparent he was terrified of traffic, people, loud noises and also reactive to other dogs when he was on lead. In addition he soiled the house and had separation anxiety.

Kath said, "Everytime i came home i had to clean up the mess!! So so annoying!!"

Dogs learn from other dogs and the Charlton's collie crossbreed, Mitzi helped Jaffa. She helped him get used to traffic with Jaffa learning by Mitzi's calm example. Today, Jaffa is steady around traffic of all types and sounds. He was ready to absorb his lessons.

They soon discovered Jaffa also didn't like to be bothered in sleep after four-year-old daughter Jess jumped on him and he snapped at her. He had good bite inhibition and no bite marks resulted, however it meant one more thing to watch.

Jaffa led Kath to study dog psychology in any magazine she could find. An advertisement about courses in this subject matter caught her eye. She signed up.

With Jaffa, Kath may not have the knowledge about dogs she has today. She said, "The dog psychology course opened up so much knowledge and understanding. I could now understand why Jaffa was how he was due to genetics and poor sociialization. I could now help him and wow, it felt fantastic."

Jaffa's learning accelerated under Kath's guidance. He learned to like seeing people and soon he began to trust them as they always had a biscuit for him. His dog reactivity subsided and his fear aggression altered as he learned to focus on Kath and be highly reinforced with tasty cheese. His perception of seeing dogs changed.

Off lead Jaffa became skilled, "perfect', Kath says," of reading other dog's body language.

Then clicker training came into Jaffa's life. That was all it took to see his confidence soar. Kath says, "He trusted, respected and grew in confidence."

His coat also started to shine with a change of diet and aloe vera rubbed on areas of missing hair. As his hair grew back, his state of mind changed. He felt better mentally and physically.

Kath says, "I provided him with many 'feel good factors' such as, stuffed kongs, stuffed bones, hidden food, walks, & play."

A second child later, three years had gone by and Jaffa was confident, happy and all occurred with gradual change.

I hear this a lot when dogs start to change over time and owners say what Kath said, "wow is this the same dog!!"

A bad start may have led Jaffa to have health issues. Jaffa's health has been a roller coaster, according to Kath, although he is fit, in good body shape and tone and exercises frequently, when he came to them he was underweight and suffering from loss of hair and with a low mental state, stressed, and no confidence. Over time stress can take its toll on a dog, like it can on a human, and often health issues are the result.

Last year he was diagnosed with a grade 6 heart murmer. This is when I became interested in him on Facebook and the year long journey Kath has had with Jaffa. He underwent scans at a specialist and all sorts of tests. Facebook can be enriching, revealing and create great friendships from afar with only words on a page to reach the distance.

Kath says, "The result was that one of his valves is deteriorating and letting blood back into the chamber, which makes for a loud heart beat gushing noise we can clearly hear sometimes. He is now on heart and water tablets that are keeping him alive. Jaffa still comes out for his walks with the dogs...he doesnt like to be left! He looks older every day...but he is still enjoying life:))"

Jaffa is 12-years-old at this writing (November 2010) and you can read his trust and love of his family in his eyes. He has an amazing bond with all the dogs in the family. He is calm, relaxed with EVERYTHING he sees and hears. What a change!

Jaffa CHANGED from afraid of EVERYTHING to emerging from a cocoon of confusion transformed into a truly fantastic dog, according to Kath. His life has been a journey of knowledge for Kath and without him, she may never have the skills she has today, like so many of us who've met special needs dogs along our pathway, who have helped us grow.

This is Jaffa's story. He is inspirational Thanksgiving Facebook story!!

p.s. For videos of Jaffa, go to YouTube. For photos friend Kath Charlton.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Can dogs count?

Dogs are just dogs, right? Wrong. They are dogs, but JUST dogs implies they are not intelligent, they are lesser beings, they are not worthy of consideration and it gives a valid excuse for using pain devices. It becomes clearer everyday I do my job that dogs have such intelligence that humans can only guess at the implications.

Convincing owners that a dog is not JUST a dog in the perspective they have no feelings, are dumb and are lower creatures can be like batting ones head against a wall. It can affect behavior modification and garners comments like, "I guess my dog has come as far as they can go." It begins to hurt after awhile.

On a light note, what if examples of intelligence, true intelligence as it relates to human understanding could be given as an example. Would it change the perspective? Let's take a look at math, a task considered very human. Can dogs do math? Can dogs count? Science suggest dogs CAN do math and there is evidence dogs can count. Let's take a look.

Elementary dear Watson

The headline reads "Mutt does math". This mutt was taught to count to 10 over a six month period. Soon the small, three-year-old was adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing numbers up to 10. Barking the answers to questions like nine divided by three was elementary to a canine named WaWa and he made news coverage. To test this intelligence the owner was asked to leave the room and WaWa was presented with math problems each time giving an accurate answer. Can dogs do math? You be the judge.

If you want more details take a look at a study titled "Lab tricks show dogs can count" is right. Short and to the point, the first sentence of the study says "Dogs CAN count."

What does it mean "to count?"

The article states, "But to count, an animal has to recognize that each object in a set corresponds to a single number and that the last number in a sequence represents the total number of objects."

A Science Daily article shows dogs intelligence is on par with two-year-old humans and that dogs have the ability to solve complex problems. This research was done by psychologist and leading canine researcher Stanley Coren, Phd, known for his book "How Dogs Think."

A forum of the James Randi Educational Foundation held a discussion on whether dogs could count or not. There was an exercise posted to try with your own dogs:

Gather an odd number of treats, say 7 or 9.
Toss a treat, respectively, to each one of two dogs.
Toss one to dog A, then toss one to dog B, until there are no more treats left.

Dog A obviously gets one more treat than dog B.
Does dog B know he was shortchanged? Is he mad about it?

I am sure you can find many examples of counting in your own households, as I can in mine.

My three bark rule works on the premise that dogs indeed can count. Eventually, the dogs count out their own barks and stop, whether I am there or not. Counting out the barks with a thank you, two, three, done! often results in the bark ending at two or three, but the true test comes in not counting and see if the dog counts out the barks and ends on their own. Yes they do and will with training.

Further, I believe dogs have inner time clocks and in Chancellor's case it involves counting. My dog Chancellor takes six medications a day, at six different times. He tells me when each is due by coming to get me at the exact time the medication should be given. He counts out the six doses, communicates to me when they are to be taken and even calculates time differences between seasonal changes or if I change the timing of the medication by one-half to one-hour. This makes Chancellor much more than JUST a dog in our household. It keeps me on track and we don't miss a dosage. Believe it or not.

Way to go Sherlock

Digging further other examples claim dogs can count, such as this video on a blog attempting to prove the New Scientist study. Animal Planet's Pet Star showcases a dog who can count, not just with equations given by his owner, but by the judging panel. The point is the dog is not being cues, he can actually count.

So the next question becomes are dogs organized? Do they know when they have been cheated out of food or toys? Do they know how many dogs are in their family or their group of friends? If they do, dogs are not just dogs, they are intelligent and emotional beings who can calculate differences in environment whether home or outdoors, can know when a family member passes on, and are sensitive to sudden environmental contrasts. What can this teach the human about how to train, how to modify behavior, how to communicate. I think it can teach a lot!

If that is not enough proof, here are other scientific studies on whether dogs can count.

"How dogs think" by Stanley Coren, PhD, University of British Columbia

The next time someone says to you, "Well, they are just a dog" at least you'll have a few arguments that while they are a dog doesn't mean they aren't sensitive, emotional beings and hey, because dogs CAN count, they aren't JUST dogs! That changes everything.


Dogs in the News, April 27, 2007
New Scientist, July 31, 2001 "Lab tricks show dogs can count"
Science Daily, August 10, 2009 "Dogs intelligence on par with two-year-old human, canine researcher says."
PawshPal blog and video of Animal Planet Pet Star episode and the counting dog

Monday, November 1, 2010

Emotional beings can stand some R&R

My case studies tend to be the over-the-top in dog behaviors from redirected aggression to extreme resource guarding to multi-family dog fights. As a Certified Tellington Touch Practitioner I've witnessed many behavior changes in animals through the use of bodywork, positive leading exercises and confidence building obstacle coursework. Using this concept to calm, focus and balance a dog, I added a pre-step to my aggression puzzle and called it the emotional detox. Of course, not all dogs require it, but those with intense emotional episodes (aggression or reactivity) benefit.

In the beginning there may be up and down spikes of the unwanted behavior (i.e. aggression to people) and the more the behavior is repeated, of course, the more it will be repeated. The stress, tension and anxiety of the environment may cause the behavior to level out, meaning the stress, tension and anxiety continues even when the dog is asleep. This would reveal itself in constantly getting up, pacing, interruption of sleep, barking at every little noise, sleep aggression (i.e. jumping up and aggressing if awakened accidently). The tension builds. Even exercise becomes un-doable because it is a battle, not a walk. There is constant worry about what is coming in the environment, a jogger, a bicycle, another dog and the cycle repeats itself over and over again. Case in point, Doberman wearing a muzzle, jogs 7 years in the same stressful environment. He is sleek in looks, but stressed emotionally and afraid of everything in the environment aggressing at people, and at dogs. He has never run free in his lifetime. He is on prozac.

Case in point, a recent entry on my Facebook page talked of a new client and a required emotional detox. Several were curious as to what that entailed. The dog, an 18-month-old Rottweiler/mix is human and dog aggressive. He is afraid, intensely fearful of every little thing in the environment. There is no trust and this dog is volatile. Walks are stressful, as just putting on the collar and leash means he has to go off the property. He runs to avoid it, but once the gear is on, he complies and goes for the walk, head down, tail tucked, looking right and left and reacting intensely if dogs come into the environment, or if a vehicle comes down the road. He walks slowly away from his property, and quickly back. Back on the property he relaxes a bit. In this case, exercise is highly over-rated for this dog taking this path daily. Stress overshadows any benefit from exercise.

Enter, the emotional detox.

Intense exercise is not the key to recovery for some dogs. The thinking is that a lot of exercise cures everything, but not in my experience. Dogs also need periods of rest and relaxation and to process positive and successful outcomes. Dogs who feel and know what calm is can go there and cope with real life better.

Dogs until taught properly how to exercise and walk, don't do it like their human counterparts. They are either on a hunt or think they are being hunted. The latter is a prime candidate for an emotional detox. The one with an over-the-top prey drive might also be a great candidate. The emotional detox comes before retraining the walk and is done with zero to minimal distraction, and zero reactivity or aggression for at least three days. Some dogs need more, up to two weeks and some will need several repeats as they start to adjust to changes, new routines and positive reward-based training that helps them to have a series of successes and safety experiences.

The emotional detox is not a recipe, it varies depending on the dog and even the owner and family. However, below is what I do when an aggressive dog enters my home and I care for them. The first stage is always an emotional detox. The dog generalizes my environment with the detox and so if they come back for a second stay rarely do I have to repeat this stage.

Establishing a level of comfort to meet the dog's needs and reduce stress. This starts with the dog's stuff. Showing them "their stuff" is in a new environment and literally placing these items while the dog watches is a critical part of the process.

When the dog is in their own home, this might require changing the environment. For instance, for an extreme resource guarder ALL toys, bedding and whatever else can be physically guarded is removed, except for two lower interest items.

The dog is then fed a really good, wholesome, satisfying and large meal and given clean water with a capful of Apple Cider Vinegar. Preferred food is a natural meal and not anything in a bag, but that is not critical. What is more critical is that it is comforting to the dog. A dog eating kibble might get something special in their kibble during the detox, such as specially cooked chicken. ACV is a great inner body cleanser and all around vitamin and mineral rich component. Detoxing takes a look at the whole dog. A belly full of quality food helps a dog relax.

Potty breaks are done on lead and often throughout the day. If a fenced area is available, two potty breaks might be on lead and then the others off, if signs of stress are heading south. The potty break meets a need and potty breaks are rewarded profusely. A fun outing, no stress, and the use of food once again. A positive interactive experience to relax the dog. Dogs who mark in the house are under extreme stress and this part of the detox becomes extremely important for them.

Once those elements are met, then starts the pattern exchanges of relaxation and activity. The second hour into the detox the dog is either umbilical chorded to owner's waist and following them around the house doing meaningless chores. Just hanging out and relaxing, especially important for the marker. If not marking, the dog is allowed to walk around the house - and some intense personalities will walk the entire hour - to familiarize themselves with the new or the changed environment. They are not to rush around barking, rush at windows or doors. Everything is blocked, dim or dark and quiet as much as can physically be accomplished. So starts the coming down period emotionally, the detox with the goal to allow the dog to feel relaxed with a full three days of no reactivity, no aggression, no confrontation.

The following hour is then a period of complete relaxation (or attempt to start in some cases). Extreme cases I stay with the dog and just do paperwork or busy work with the intent to ignore, yet closely supervise and watch the dog. Some settle in and start to relax, others go through periods of reactivity, even aggression, pacing, whining etc. It is a period of appropriate music, I like the Through a Dog's Ear series, but there are other types as well. It is quiet, a warm blanket or bedding, maybe a ticking clock, piece of owner's clothing, a toy. Depends on the dog and what their issues are, their requirements. If the dog has severe separation anxiety then a tether or an xpen may be good or for others a crate or in a room with a baby gate is the ticket. The key is to meet the dog's needs and the detox is helping an anxious dog, relax; a hyperactive dog, calm down; an aggressive dog, to destress; a reactive dog to have nothing to react to.

After this hour the detox rotates with periods of complete relaxation and calm to periods of activity, alone time (without other dogs) and play periods with other dogs if appropriate matches can be made. This can be very relaxing and provide entertainment and exercise. The activity periods are low key ball play, even frisbee or toybox play or mentally stimulating activity at time interactive with a human and other times activities where the dog uses their intelligence to figure things out. Some dogs find this stressful, those dogs who become confused easily or dogs who have learned helplessness or dogs never taught to play or allowed to play. So again the periods of activity responsibly and reasonably take into account a dogs joy, what they love to do and also teach. In the activity periods I often use small sessions of clicker training or trick training with keeping the dog successful at all times so they build confidence.

By the second and third days the relaxation periods increase, a full uninterrupted sleep is achieved, a full 8-hours of night sleep and the ultimate sign, a huge, full sigh or more than one.
The relaxation period includes several Tellington Touch bodywork sessions and wraps of various kinds. The relaxation phase will include, as appropriate, special food, rescue remedy or pheromones, soft talking and calming praise.

The activity periods become something to look forward to in creating a happy dog, eager to play, to please, to listen. Striving to help the dog relax enough to be responsive is the key. It also allows the behavior trainer time to assess whether this dog can relax or not, to extend the emotional detox or to if needed, recommend medication to build serotonin levels and calm the dog enough to be able to learn. The activity sessions also include Tellington Touch leading exercises and obstacle coursework to focus and build confidence. The dog is on a total positive detox to get rid of bad patterns and replace them with new ones.

It is a time to change patterns, to enforce rules, boundaries and guidelines and a time to really get to know a particular dog and their personality, their nature, etc. This helps in pulling together the proper behavior program. Case in point, a dog who vomits horribly in the vehicle due to stress of fighting in the household. This stress manifests itself to the digestive tract. Finding this dog likes to burrow under blankets and feels safe and blissfully tired transfers to car rides to the end result of zero vomiting in the car. Calming the stomach, making the dog feel safe, ends the distress (if it is not due to health reasons.)

This is often difficult for owners who think exercise is the key to everything, who work full-time, who do not interact with their dogs, who can't relax themselves and more. However, for those who do the emotional detox properly, it is magical. It refreshes the dog and builds bond between owner and dog. They learn things about their dog they never knew prior. The dog is ready to go forward with next steps.

When I do the emotional detox myself, clients immediately see the difference in their dog with comments like "it's a miracle" or "what did you give my dog" or "my dog is so calm, they aren't themselves" or "where did my bad dog go?" If the owner does the work themselves, they see immediate results, as well, and often see a dog who is relaxing for the first time in their lives, or a dog who sighs for the first time or a dog persistently at every sound, or a dog who sleeps through the night peacefully. Attention seeking behaviors go away and the dog may even start to enjoy a walk.

For tough dogs it is a first step. Relaxation, de-stressing, detoxing the emotions then precedes exercise.