Our Journey


This is a page to share with you all what we are going through right now; what we are learning, and what we are struggling through, in hopes that we can inspire some of you to research new ways to work through the issues in your own lives.  

Turkey Garlic Treats!

October 26, 2011
Here is my recipe for dog treats, I finally wrote it down as I was making them! Unfortunately for anyone who is trying to repeat one of my "creations", I am a throw-it-together, we-dont-need-no-stinking-measuring devices, kind of person. But I did finally buckle down and write things out as I did them.

Things you need:
Ground Turkey Meat: 5.25lbs
Oats: 4 Cups
Bone Meal (optional): 1.25 cups
Powdered or Minced Garlic: 2 Tbsp
Freezer baggies

You want a ratio of 1 cup of flour to 1lb of ground meat. You can make the flour whatever you want. I use ground oats and bone meal for my dogs, but you could just as easily make it out of wheat flour, it just would not be quite as healthy.

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Grind up oats in food processor until in a flour-like texture, pour to a very large bowl. Add human grade bone meal powder and garlic and mix well. Then add the raw, ground turkey meat. Mix mix mix until all of the flour is mixed in with the meat. It will seem too dry and impossible, but just keep mixing! You can stop when there is no more free flour in the bottom of the bowl or the outside of the meat ball.

Press into a cookie sheet until flat the the thickness that you want. I do not grease my cookie sheet as the meat is greasy enough. Cook at 350 until when you take a fork and look at the middle of the center of meat and it looks cooked. For my 5.25lbs it took approx 25 min. Let cool for about 30 minutes, or until cool enough to handle safely. 

Once cool enough, cut into the size you want for treats, and fill freezer baggies with them. I cut the whole thing, then use a spatula to remove from tray and put into baggies. I then just pull them out of the freezer when I need them, and if I do not use them all, it goes into the fridge to be used the next day. It will usually keep about a week in the fridge.
 

APDT Conference 2011!

October 23, 2011

I just got back from the Association of Pet Dog Trainers Conference in San Diego, and it went great! I met a lot of new friends and great speakers and authors. It was wonderful, because everyone you talked to had the same love of dogs at the core of why they were there. I loved learning so much, and hearing the stories of my new friends and all of the success stories they have of dogs and their people they have been able to help.
 

A new way

October 3, 2011
So, I have been pulling my hair out trying to make the trkman method of Running Contacts work for us. It has been 6 months, 3 of which I worked on it very diligently. I did not know what I was going to do, when a completely new method came to me (as far as I know its new, anyway). It seems so obvious, but simple in regards to training theory. While I was excited to try this new method, a part of me thought that it was pointless, because who am I? How could I come up with my own method that is better than all of the methods created by such wonderful trainers all over the world? But then I went to Bible Study this morning, and was reminded of the verse: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". I know that I was called (meant to) to train Running Contacts, so is it so hard to believe that God would show me the way to train them??? Duh! I have decided to call myself: Mandy Miller Christian, and this method the Christian Method. This is to remind myself that I did not come up with it, Christ just chose to reveal it to me.

So that is all I am going to say about it as of right now. The rainy season just hit, so it is going to be interesting working out in the rain all fall =)
 

Weave Pole Training

October 2, 2011
So, I just got Susan Garrets DVD 2x2 weaves, and I am ready to get started! She says that you can  teach a dog to weave 12 poles in 12 days, so I am ready to put it to the test! I actually am not surprised by this, if you and your dog are shaping savvy. So I am very excited to get started and see how it goes.

Kenzie did great at our group class last week. I was thrilled that by the end of class, she was actually calm enough to be able to demonstrate how to be shaped for new behaviors.

Her teeter behavior is looking FANTASTIC! Holding the treat at the end of the board is causing a very fast run to the end of the board, then she slams on the breaks to hold her 2o2o. I will try to get a video of it soon.
 

Running Contacts, here we go again

September 25, 2011
Update on Kenzie's reactivity training post-vacation...she is fine! A little more reactive to the sound of dogs barking than she was before, but that I can handle =)  We are still able to go to the dog park and be social...HUGE. I have a new dog training class starting tomorrow that I intend to use Kenzie in as a demo dog, we will see how it goes! I have never been able to use her in any of my classes before because she was way too reactive and required 100% of my attention any time there were dogs within sight. SO, I am a little nervous, especially since Steve is out of town and cannot come along as a backup handler, should things not go as planned.

Ok, back to the Running Contacts topic. So I have not commented on our RC training all summer, and that is because we have not been training them! In the move from CA to OR, I did not have the DW for a while, and then once I did, I was just too focused on the reactivity training to be able to be fully invested in that. Not to mention, the fact that there are so many dogs surrounding our house made it very difficult for her to be able to focus on DW behavior. She would be just too stressed about the dogs on the other side of the fence.

Now that Kenzie is doing so much better with her reactivity, I am able to pull back from that a little and devote time to something else...AGILITY!!!! We are doing so great. We have our full sized teeter now, so she is on that and doing wonderfully. We are still working on getting her a little faster to the end, rather than creeping down, but she is doing very well sticking her 2o2o (two on two off). We did this by lowering our old teeter down to very low, and getting the 2o2o behavior I want on that. THEN raising it back up to where she was before. So we conquered the fear of big moving thing first, got as high as I could on our old teeter, then lowered it back down to get the exact behavior I wanted.

RC Dogwalk: Ok, so after getting very frustrated these last few weeks trying to figure out how to get her back to hitting the contact zone (because she had gotten into the habit of jumping it due to a misunderstanding on my part of the trkman method), I have started her back on one plank work, just with the plank up about 12", resting on the other down plank of the DW. This is working well so far, using the ball and double throws with lots of praise when she gets it right, and ball but no comment and straight back on the board for another try when she misses. This is what we were doing at the end of the spring while we were still in CA, but once we came down here, she was just too distracted to be able to concentrate on her end of contact behavior. She is doing much better now (partly because we moved the DW to a better part of the yard), and I am hoping that it will work out this time. If it doesnt, I dont know what I am going to do. I am hoping to be ready to trial come Jan, when we go back down to CA.
 

Waiting for the ball to drop

September 16, 2011
So, after the last post, we had about one week before going on our 2 week vacation in Hawaii...a vacation that we were not able to take the dogs on. During that last week of training we were able to take Kenzie into the dog park to run around with other dogs one other time, and that went wonderfully! There were five dogs in the park when we first went in (after the initial warm-up/meet and greet through the dog park fence of course), but two dogs were in the process of leaving, so that left us with three dogs. Kenzie was having a great time talking one of the other owners into throwing the ball for her when a new family showed up. I at first was going to ask them to wait a moment before entering, to give me a chance to take my dog out of the yard, but then I recognized the dog as one that we had met many times before and I knew was friendly. I decided to risk it and see how Kenzie did with a face to face introduction with no warm up. She ran over to say hi to me, then realized that there was a new dog that she had not checked out yet. She got tense and her head and ears went up, as did Wally's, but it only lasted a second and then they were sniffing each other and then no longer interested in each other...perfect! What is really great is that a puppy went up to wally a few minutes later and did something that Wally did not like, because we all heard him shout in doggie language "get out of my space!". Why does this make me so happy? Because it tells me that if Kenzie had broken "doggie code" in her greeting with Wally, he would have responded in an obvious way, as he did with the puppy.

Now we have been gone for about two weeks, and are picking the dogs up today from my family who watched them for us. I am interested to see how much we have regressed. I am fully expecting it, but I am hoping that it is minimal, and that I can keep her from going way over threshold and us having to go back to music 24/7...I just dong think I can do that again!
 

Kenzie reactivity progress

August 24, 2011
So after 10 days of being on the program, we had to travel otu of town, then I ended up getting really sick, so it was a total of a month that the training was put on hold...and boy were we sorry! It was like the first 10 days of training never happened. I had not realized how much she had regressed, so the first time I took her out for a training session she went way over threshold 3 times, and we had one miserable dog on our hands: now afraid of all sounds slightly out of the ordinary, and even worse, terrified of the lights of cars on the road (which have never been a problem before). So, as you can imagine, we were also miserable: no sleep, all of the windows and glass doors shut out completely so that even light from cars could not get through, explosions from her every time she went outside to potty, and music blaring 24hrs. But, the night of the third day, our calm and happy dog finally returned to us =). Since then she had another 10 day challenge, then was put on every-day/ every-other-day, for the last two weeks. This past week we have seen a HUGE change in her. We can finally watch movies/tv without her blowing up at least once because of a sound effect of a dog, horse, cow, odd sound, etc. Now, if she notices at all, we just tell her to get her toy and we throw it for her a few times to work out the frustration. After the 10 day challenge I let her meet a few dogs in the dog park: always getting warmed up outside the fenced area by chasing her ball, while closely watching the dogs in the park, and her body language toward them. If I felt like it might be a good match (usually a happy indifferent dog who was very interested in the tennis ball but would come up to the fence to say hi with a calm expression), I would let Kenzie say hi to the dog through the fence. If she decided to be nice and wag her whole body with friendly submissive ears, then we would go inside for the dogs to meet and play ball. This had happened four times in the past 2 weeks. Today we had a breakthrough because a dog barked at her quite aggressively through the fence when we were pretty close, and she did not even flinch. Also, we ended up going in the dog park with these two nice aussies, but then the owner grabbed one of the dog's collars and held her against her knees, and when kenzie went over to say hi, the dog started snapping and growling at kenzie because she felt cornered. I asked the lady to let go of her dog since it was making her be aggressive, and when she did, the dog was fine.  What I loved about that interaction was that kenzie actually had a dog face to face with her snapping and growling, and kenzie just lifted a lip and took a step backward, good girl!!!!! Counting the first 10 day challenge when we first came to Oregon this spring, we have been in reactivity training for 5 weeks, only 3.5 weeks since the month break and three days of misery.
 

Much Improvement

July 29, 2011
So, it has been a little over a month since I was out of my mind with frustration over Kenzie's reactivity to other dogs. Once we got to our house in Oregon (shortly after the last post) we had a very hard time getting her to sleep through the night. It took 7 days of loud music playing all night and all day to get our first "stress session" free night. I was so excited, I woke up thinking "I slept through the WHOLE NIGHT!!!!". Since then we still sleep with a fan running for some background noise, but that is all. There are a lot of dogs in our neighborhood, so that is fine with me. Once she was sleeping fairly well and not jumping at every small noise, I took that as a sign as her being ready for a training session. The way it ended up working for us was: 7 days lock-down. Training session, then full day of rest, training session, then full day of rest, training session, then full day of rest, training session, stressed in the evening, but then slept well that night, so we had another training session the following day. I was able to work with her every day on something from then on, unless she started being jumpy again, then she would get a day off of training. We have not gotten to the place where we can go to the dog park and she is not very interested in the dogs there as long as we keep some distance between her and the fence. We have even gone in the dog park with other dogs once, when the dogs were really  nice and she seemed okay with them after a while of chasing her ball at a comfortable distance. We let them meet on opposite sides of the fence, Kenzie looked relaxed and friendly, so we went inside! I was pretty nervous, but it was great, I just threw her ball and she chased after it, while letting the dogs sniff her when they came over. She was a little possessive of THEIR toy, but that is a whole other kettle of fish!
 

The wonders of sleepy classical music and 24hrs

June 23, 2011
So, yesterday after the huge affair in the middle of the night when we had to turn the musical back on, etc, Kenzie only barked one time all day, and that was at 9am. It was not a full throttle bark, instead of the usual "oh my gosh! I just geard something that is going to eat me, I just know it!!!!!!" bark, it was more of a "I think I just heard something, but I'm not sure, so I'm just going to bark to be on the safe side". From when I got up at 6am, she was on a new program...since we had not been successful in getting her to not react for even half of a day up to that point, I decided that things needed to change. I found a classical XM radio station that we could tune into and leave running, rather loud, all day and all night: it never got turned off. I also turned a radio on in every room, so that if Kenzie went in it, there would be something to drown out any sounds that might cause her to react. We stayed inside for most of the day, only going outside to potty as few times as possible, and I made sure to keep Max on a leash as well as Kenzie, so that there was no chance of him running and chasing something, causing her to react. By that evening, I saw a HUGE difference in her! Steve came home and turned on the TV (ok, I guess the music did stop for a short time while he watched his show), a commercial came on and dont you know, the very first sound was a dog barking. I jumped up saying "What a good girl! Push mute, push mute!" as I ran to grab a handful of dog food to give her. Up until this point, her reaction to unknown sounds was: react first, see what it is later. Well this was obviously: listen, decide whether it is a threat, respond if needed, response. This is HUGE. I saw it again this morning when we went outside to get worn out. After we played for a while, I noticed that there were a LOT of birds flying around, right over out heads, chirping their little heads off, and Kenzie was just lying down beside me, flicking her ears around listening, but NOT tense!!!! She was back to her usual outside behavior: hang out and enjoy the sights. So we stayed outside for a while, just enjoying the pretty weather. I kept her on leash, but Max was mean to Riley, so he got put back inside, and then Riley was running the yard free. Well, Riley ended up barking at random things a few times, and I was shocked, but Kenzie did not jump up barking like I expected! She sat up and listened, but when I told Riley that it is okay, and that he should come lay down, she flopped right back on her side again, as if she did not have a care in the world. Unfortunately our neighbor who owns the cows next to us came over, and got the cows all riled up, causing both Riley and Kenzie to bark at him/them, while I drug her back in the house. But, once we were back inside, she was calm again, and did not seem to be on edge. This was about 10am, so this meant that we went a full 24hrs without any kind of reaction (our first full night of sleep, yay), and as a result, she calmed down considerably. She did bark when I pushed pause on the music to answer the phone, but I am not sure why. This tells me that the incident with the cows did stir her up some, but I do not think that it undid all of the work we did yesterday, it just set us back a little. We will see how she reacts when I let her outside next.
 

An Oops with a big price...

June 22, 2011
So, I took Kenzie out for a walk in a neighborhood in the nearest town last week. I was planning on walking her there since there was very very little chance of a dog being free to come into the road (since it is a subdivision they all have fenced in yards, as opposed to the country roads around us, where dogs run free). Unfortunately I underestimated how big a deal it was that in the past 3 months (since I started working 80hrs a week), the only Reactivity training I had done was to do an occasional sound desensitization exercise. So, she was very stressed when I got her out of the car, but she was able to be redirected by the toy. We went with a friend (a mistake, as I was not able to give her 100% of my attention as she needed and deserved), and in the 30 minute walk, we ran across three dogs that were free in their front yards, none of which were aggressive, but one of them did follow us down the street a ways. I did NOT mean to put this much pressure on her and I felt SO bad. By this point we were on our way back, and she was no longer interested in the toy.I did not know just how bad off she was until I put her back in the car, and she just curled up into a tiny ball in the floorboard of the back seat. She only does this when she is REALLY scared. Poor puppy! As if all of that is not enough, as soon as we got home, she was so highly strung from our outing, that she was all of a sudden very scared of things that normally would not bother her. Over the next 24hrs and multiple reactions, she had gotten so tense that even the smallest triggers that had either never been a trigger, or had not bothered her for 5 moths...cow mooing, horse neighing, cat meowing, someone whistling (that was a new one), caused her to react to matter how quiet, even if they were on TV. When she heard one, she would JUMP up barking her head off. She would be inconsolable for the first minute, then calm down enough to stop barking, but she was obviously tense and "waiting" for it to happen again. I could not let her outside off leash, because she would run to the fence and bark at whatever was out there: Birds flying above, or some other animal that I could not see (it looked like nothing).  I was no longer able to redirect her frustration (with a ball, toy, food or treats), which is how we had been dealing with reactions all spring. The more she reacted, the more tense she became. By the morning after out outing, the light bulb had finally gone on, and I knew what had happened and what I needed to do: stop her from reacting for 5 days minimum, by any means humanely possible, and give her lots of exercise, to give her a chance to "work out" the stress hormones, without giving her the opportunity to be flood with more. So we put her on a strict "on leash" policy when outside. I did not take her out of the yard/agility yard for any reason. We did not watch any shows that might have horses cows or dogs in them. We got up early to get extra exercise while it was still cool...which was made more difficult, because we were often kept up nights by her reacting to the cows coming to settle beside the house and of course...Moo moo moo-ing. Every time a cow mooed she jumped up barking frantically. I finally turned on the TV and played a 2hr musical really loud for her. It drowned out the cows enough for her and us to be able to sleep. I then just got up every 2hrs to restart it (I couldn't just put the TV on because commercials too often have sounds of dogs, cows or horses on them). Even though we have yet to have a day or night without reactions, she is making progress in that yesterday she only reacted twice, and last night only twice, and this morning only once, as opposed to 20 times a day in those first few days. Her eyes are still very big, which lets me know that the stress hormones are still very much present. Every night I massage her do calming T-touch. This morning we started a relaxation protocol which we will do once a day, every day, for fourteen days. Max is also on a leash mandate for now, since when he rushes the fence it causes her to react. The radio or TV is also always playing, 24hrs, and very loudly. The only time she gets the "hard" look out of her eyes is when I am doing t-touch on her.

Talk about a high price for one mistake...but it is my poor dog who is really paying the price. We may have lost some sleep and be wound tight from all of the sudden barking, but it is nothing when I think about how emotionally stressed my poor little dog is. I feel horrible, but as I tell my clients: "You can only do your best, and forgive yourself for the rest". There is no point in beating myself up over this: I feel bad, and will do everything in my power not to do it again, but that is as far as I will let myself go. I am not perfect, and never will be.

So, a few lessons learned from this:
Scout your areas out well and in advance
Whatever you do, do not push your dog past his/her threshold, but if you do, stop right then and call it a day, no matter what.
Do not take a friend or any other distractions with you when you are working with a reactive dog.
If you go more than a week without doing reactive training, you need to evaluate your dog, with no agenda in mind. 
 
 
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