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Archive for the ‘Border Collies’ Category

Introducing a new puppy to a reactive dog: our story

02 Feb

How we transitioned our reactive dog to accept a new puppy

** Some of the order of things might be off, I don’t remember the exact order of what we did but we did the following activities.

First history: W has been fear aggressive and reactive since we got him at 8 weeks. He is a purebred border collie; we are not sure why he is this way. He was extremely reactive as a puppy to all strangers and dogs. We spent countless hours with deconditioning and positive reinforcement to turn “Cujo” into a dog that could now go on walks and ignore people and other dogs, although we always gave him a lot of space and walked into the road or a far distance when we saw people and dogs (now we just do it for dogs). He also will warm up to new people if they play ball with him and agree not to touch him. Touch freaks him out. However, dogs scare him the most because he has learned we have some control over people, but he doesn’t know what a dog is going to do.

We got a new puppy with the idea that if he didn’t accept her in 8 months, we would rehome the puppy, but we really thought he could do it. It helped a lot that we got a puppy with an amazing temperament. She is very calm and smart. She adjusts her play with other dogs based on their signals, so we were very lucky that she seemed like the perfect fit for our anxious dog. The new pup is Samoyed and I will call her M.

First couple of weeks: The first 2 weeks were all about her adjustment. We did not really try to get them together. We bought large Midwest black gates and we double gated an area for W and an area for M. They could see each other but nothing else. I would throw treats to both when they were calm and we made sure to exercise W a lot. He did get a little stressed and we would put him in his crate (which he loves) with something fun when he would get worried. But mostly, it was don’t let them see each other too much and exercise W. a lot.

After that we started working more directly. We would have W sitting on leash with my husband and I would walk M. on a leash at a safe distance where we would go in and out of sight. It is important to find the right distance, they can’t learn if they are over threshold. Everytime we were in sight, I clicked and gave high value treats to both dogs. We did this often. We did it in the house and outside.

Next, we increased having them on opposite sides of a double gated area and then a single gated area. We would click and treat often while both could see each other.

We would also do walks with W in the front with me and M behind him (out of reach) with my husband. We would treat during the walks.

We then had both on leash in the house and fed M a hotdog, very slow nibbles so she was distracted and while she did that we would throw treats near her on the ground and have W go after the treats (high value treats!). At one point he actually had to go under her body to get one. Note we started with distance and worked our way up.

We then had them outside with M on a leash and had an ecollar on W as a backup (never used) and would play ball (this is even a higher value for him than treats, he is a border collie, so when he is focused, he is FOCUSED). He would play ball and she would just be out there on leash not too close but not too far. We extended this to our 4 acre plot of land (not at our house) that we have and again let W play ball or frisbee and M was on leash the whole time, but now he had a bigger area to roam free.

Mistakes happen: During the first time, we had M. and I walk back towards the car ahead of W. We should not have had me go first. He didn’t like me leaving with her and ran right up to us, I panicked and picked her up quickly, I don’t know if he would have done anything, but I was afraid and of course, they both felt my fear (which isn’t good). We did go back the next day and do it again and I followed W. and my husband to the car and it went better.

Our next step was where we had both on leash and tried to get them to play tug together with a long tug toy. We had some success but M was nervous. We also played hide and seek (games W already knows), I would hide with M. next to me on leash. W. would wait until we were hidden and then released by my husband to go find us. When he found us, both dogs would get high value treats, and hubby would call off W. to begin again.

Tussle 1: I had them both outside and was trying to get them to play tug with a toy that was too small and brought them too close and W got nervous and dived on M. He isn’t a “let me kill you” type dog, he is a nipper (since he is a herding dog), so no harm was done except to make M more nervous about him.

We continued to play ball with W and eventually my husband let her be off leash while they played in the house (this was nerve wracking). She kept her distance, he stayed focused on play. It went well a couple times and then…

Tussle 2: She went for the ball and he would have nothing of it and another tussle happened. Same results, no real physical damage but again she is more wary of him.

We took them out to the land with both dogs off leash this time, so W would have more space. We would kick the soccer ball, he would charge to get it and she would charge after him (Yikes, I held my breath) but she would stop without getting too close. It was a success. There were times where he would run right next to her to get the ball and ignore her.

We extended the time of both off leash in the house but we had him playing ball at all times so that was his only focus. We also now tried parallel walks instead of having him in front and her behind.

We also made sure to give both dogs plenty of time without the stress of the other. We had plenty of time in the crates for both. We always kept our sessions together relatively short. I also continued to treat with them side by side, a piece for one and now a piece for the other dog.

This was another point in our training where I wasn’t sure how to make the leap from W. has to be playing when M. is out to just co-existing. We no longer carried her from place to place and would walk her through the house to her “gated spot,” at first we would tell W. to go to bed and then we just started saying, “backup” when we would bring her in (remember this is different because he is not focused on his ball). We slowly allowed them to sniff each other (rear side only) during these transitions as well.

Finally, we had to make another leap where W would just be out with M but we would not be playing with him the whole time. We put each on leash but we didn’t control their actions, we let them do their thing and we just followed them but we could stop them at any time. She was good about keeping her distance on her own so we then dropped her leash and just followed
W until we then tried dropping his leash. We always let the leashes dangle so we could intervene. We made sure no resources were around too. We still treated often and gave pets when they were side by side.

She is still nervous, actually more than he is now, but we figure the longer they go with positive experiences the more relaxed both will get. We still make sure there is time when no one has to be stressed and will divide the house with the gates to give them both a break.

One of the BIGGEST things that helped our success was reading their body language, especially W’s. We could see how tense he was in the beginning, so we knew we couldn’t push things further, then gradually he relaxed more and more and there were times when we had them separated that he would see her and wag his tail. (There were also times when he gave her “the stink eye” and we knew that we had to separate immediately) All of these clues were essential to the pace that we followed. We also had the expectation of 8 months, so we didn’t feel pressure to do it quickly, so 2 months time was a bonus! It isn’t perfect yet, but we are feeling that eventually they will co-exist nicely or maybe even be friends!

 

Tips for rehabbing a fear aggressive dog- Solid K9 please help!

04 May

We started with a severe case of fear aggression in an 8 week old full bred border collie pup.  He was fearful of everything, he was weary of playing, he was unsure of our other dog, he growled at half the people in the family such as the two young girls and one son. He would growl at every stranger he saw and he didn’t like to be held or touched.  At a dog park, he stayed with his big brother at first and did okay but as he got more afraid, he started getting aggressive and started attacking the other dogs.  We tried him with a muzzle and he muzzle slammed them.  We had people try to pet him with his muzzle on and he would try to bite them. Off leash he would stay with us but started venturing further out to scare away the bad guys, barking and showing teeth.  One man just laughed since he just a puppy and I came and got him but a child got scared and ran and that made him run after him and nip his leg.  Nothing too major but it made things clear to us, he needed help!

We hired 3 different trainers.  Fired the first one on the first day.  The second one was an e collar trainer and he went to a board and train but he took a very harsh stance and Whisky is very fearful, so harshness breaks trust so although we learned somethings, he regressed because he was too heavy handed for his temperament.  The third trainer was a positive trainer, she didn’t do e collars but we encorperated what she taught us that heled his anxiety, that was working, along with what was working with the ecollar to find a mix that seemed to work for him.  We used it lightly for small things and use it for big things that were serious at medium but not use it for every command that he would follow anyway without the collar anyway.  Too much collar causes great anxiety for him, so overuse is a problem for him but used correctly for him, it is a great tool.

We work on densenitisizing him to many things that triggered him, one at a time and on obedience at the same time.

  1.  Easily crate trained
  2. when guests come over, he will want to go to door but will go to bed on command.
  3. sleeps by self in gated area near open crate
  4. will wait for dinner politely if asked
  5. will take turns pulling meat off  a bone with his brother while I hold it
  6. can take any food from him
  7. will play ball with strangers (wouldn’t when young, was too afraid of them)
  8. Ignores people on walks (barked and lunged when young)
  9. can ignore people in house IF I can trust they will ignore him(most people I don’t trust the people, they think they know better), so we crate or gate him 90% of time
  10. cant have people touch him, big no, will bite.  Not too hard but enough… after he has bonded with someone consistently for a few months, he will approach them and make it clear, they can touch, he might climb in their lap.  He loves touch from us.
  11. he will do touch games for treats with strangers
  12. dogs are a big trigger, on a walk, he will ignore 75% of time unless other dog initiatiates.
  13. dogs walking by his yard, set him off big time, he can be called away, if alone, will usually listen on first call, if his brother is out there barking (brother never listens), he won’t listen until 4th call.  I reward every time.  If collar is on, he comes right away.  He will distract himself from the stress by bringing us a ball or frisbee to throw.  It is all anxiety.
  14. if a dog comes to edge of gate, He will try to bite him and goes crazy.  Harder to call him off, collar I can on high, words, not until up to six tries or if I throw a ball.
  15. His brother is a huge instigater, he acts much better when his brother is not out there but we don’t have control over brother, old sick dog, didn’t do well with e collar.
  16. He can chase our cats, getting better.  Cats mostly stay upstairs and dogs stay down.  Sometimes cat decides to come down, dog rushes cat, 95% dog listens and I call him and he listens and cat runs up stairs, once he caught cat.  We separated them, no damage done to either.  He also chases bunnies that he could catch but chooses to,run slow,because he likes the chase and doesn’t really want the catch part.
  17. Goals:  Trust him consisting with people (but that means trusting people to follow his rules, no look, no talk, no eye contact, and NO Touch, and no fast movements)which may not be realistic?
  18. Goals:  Get him conditioned to,accept other dogs, he lives with one fine now and he likes,to play, he just needs trust and coping mechanisms, but how,do,we get there, saw videos but I don’t have access to calm beta dogs to practice with…
  19. Goals:  be able to take a vacation again!! please!  Everyone says kill the dog, but we love him.

would love to hear from Jeff Gellmen at http://solidk9training.com/about/

 

Updated, post on our Prozac trazadone fear aggressive dog

30 Apr

Many of you have asked for an update on our pup.  First, I am waiting on an iPad so please excuse my mistakes, later I hope to come back and fix any error or typos with a real computer but thumb typing isn’t my thing.

So, Whiskey is 4.5 years old already, time flies.  We still have his brother, Golden Retriever, Ares, who is almost 11.  They adore each other.  Ares is getting old though and we don’t know how much longer we will have him for.  Whiskey still takes Prozac each day, 30 mg, and 200 mg of trazadone in the morning and 200 mg at night.  If we miss a dose, you can tell.

He sleeps in as we like to and is fully awake and bugging us after 11:00 am.  He usually wants to play or interact by each then.  We usually will either throw a frisbee, throw a soccer ball, play get the dog with tug included, or catch the hose game.  After he will settle down for a while.  Later, he asks for a second play time and we do one of the same or dog training.  Finally, around dinner, we take him for a walk.  On a weekend, we might go to a public park or our 4 acres where he can run for leash and run in the creek.

On walks:  he ignores people, 99 percent of the time unless someone gets right in his face talk to him or f he felt his space was being invaded.  We keep distance from people in general, he wears a vest that says give me space.  When walking in close proximity, I have him heel to me and he is fine.  He never lunges or tries to go after people like he used to. He doesn’t seem triggered by them at all.  He trusts that we won’t let them touch him and this is the only thing that would set him off.

My sister in law thought she was “different” and could touch him and it would be fine, so she did, he gave her a light bite to say, no, I am not okay with that.  I think it was good, he controlled the bite, didn’t over react and made a clear statement, she handled it well too by reading his message, not overreacting and not freaking but just moving on calmly.

When people come over, he can be behind a wire only fence hat he could easily break through but it acts as a psychological barrier to define his space.  He sees someone new, he will give a little warning growl but that’s it.

He can be loose,in the house with strangers if they follow he rules and are not fearful.  They must do no look, no touch, nomination all, no eye contact.  Then they must play some bonding games with him, that’s all it takes.

Other dogs are the biggest problems.  His brother Ares, makes it worse.  He gets Whisk all,triggered by barking at them.  When Ares passes, we will have better luck calming Whiskey about other dogs.  He sees dogs on walks and gets tense but I say, leave it, and he will probably ignore.  He never starts it with a dog but if a dog starts it with him, he will get more physical and difficult to distract.  I would never put him face to face with a dog, maybe a puppy, slowly.  I think he has potential but it will require work.

i tried to meet with the Si Means Sit trainer to discuss Whiskey’s progress and what we learned about him and how he responds.  I really feel like an expert with all I have read and worked through with my dog and I know I am an expert on MY dog since I have trained him it’s many approaches and have learned how he responds to different methods based on his needs.  I was hoping he and I could work as a team, that I could learn from him and he could adjust things based on what I had learned works and doesn’t work,specifically for Whiskey.  He didn’t seem interested in that, he seemed to imply HE was the he expert on all dogs with anxiety and you have to push them to get anywhere.  Pushing Whiskey shuts him down, makes him lose,trust, and no growth is achieved because all he has is flight, flight, fear going on.  You have to teach these dogs at a place of safety, close enough to the water that they see it, maybe get their feet wet but don’t throw them n and hope they learn to swim.  It’s called threshold and I strongly believe in it.  So, I was very disappointed not to continue  what I was hoping could be a partnership to continue to improve Whiskey.

We have been busy with other things but still work on his training and hope to get back to a situation where we can find someone to help us work and on his proximity to people and dogs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Update on Whiskey

05 Nov

Whiskey will be 4 in December 2016.  It is hard to believe that we have had him for almost 4 years now.  He continues to build trust and make progress.  His response to strangers continues to get better.  It is all in the person’s energy.  People who are dog friendly but respect his boundaries without pushing him, do really well.  Tonight we had a house full of strangers and he was off leash among us.  He also went and took treats from my sister in law, jumped up on her and crawled into her lap for treats.  She was able to lightly pet him while he was being fed treats.  This was a huge accomplishment.

He still doesn’t like dogs but is getting more relaxed about them too, he will come to me when he sees them rather than stay barking at them.  I feel that we could possibly introduce him to a puppy or really relaxed dog.  Each day that goes by and he learns that nothing bad happens to him, is another day for improvement.

 

Whiskey is turning 3 – Border Collie / Dog Fear Aggression Blog

16 Nov

Our sweet border collie will be 3 in a few more weeks, wow, how time flies.  It is late so I will keep this update short – but here are our most recent stories:

Whiskey Meets a Lab Face to Face

We have this neighbor who has an invisible fence.  It freaks Whiskey out since all he sees is dogs that are loose.  When she has friends over with dogs, they are often let loose with her dogs.  They may get a collar too but haven’t been trained with it so they still run right through the fence, zap and all.  So, I am walking Whiskey and a Lab comes charging over from their yard (not the first time).  I panic a little (got to stop doing this as I am sure it doesn’t help Whiskey).  I yell that my dog will EAT their dog… okay, I don’t say but I say they better get their dog fast because Whiskey is “not good with dogs.”  She is too slow to get over and Whiskey is face to face with the lab – I wasn’t prepared.  Whiskey didn’t know what to do!  He did nip at the dog but baby nips, no outright attack, nothing the dog even felt at all – it was very minor.  The lab did not even know what was going on.  I was trying to keep Whiskey away from the lab – I should have tried just walking away, I don’t know if that would be better or not but I was trying to just put myself in the way… maybe not smart either but I didn’t think the lab meant any harm and Whiskey wasn’t going to intentionally bite me… so finally, the lady comes and gets her lab and apologizes to Whiskey – asking if she can pet him, HA?!  No…  The good news was that it was not a terrible experience, Whiskey was face to face with a dog, he did not get bit and he did not REALLY bite the other dog.

Whiskey Walks by Dogs Closely

We have also been in more and more situations where Whiskey has had to walk by dogs or have dogs within just a foot of him.  He has handled it very well.  He had concern but was not overly anxious and was able to ignore and move on quickly when I asked him to.

Talking to Whiskey

More people have been talking to him lately, he doesn’t growl anymore when people do that!!!

Bonding with my Oldest

When we got Whiskey, my oldest son was away at college so Whiskey did not know him and he was not trust worthy.  He did come and stay with us so Whiskey learned to accept him in the house but they had an agreement to just ignore each other.  Now if we are on a walk and away from the house but see my oldest away from the house and tell Whiskey that it is “ge ge” (what we call him, Chinese word for oldest brother), he wags his tail and runs up to him!

Called off from the Cat

Since Whiskey moved in, the cats had to move their domicile to the second floor.  Whiskey would chase the cats and I don’t trust him with his high prey drive.  The cats learned they stay upstairs and the dogs always stay downstairs.  Sometimes, the cat comes down on the stairs and sticks her head through the rails to meow at me about something and Whiskey sees her and starts to chase her, running at the stairs – however, I have been able to call him off mid-chase!  This is good so that maybe, if ever needed, I could call him mid-chase from chasing a dog or something.

Final Update

He continues to improve!  We are going to be talking to a new trainer and either way, we will continue our work to make him a non-reactive dog someday!

 

Dog Fear Aggression Journal 7/13/2015

13 Jul

Adorable, Cute, and Fear Aggressive
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I continue to journal about Whiskey, our sweet Border Collie.  He is now 2.5 years old, wow, how the time flies!  We continue to treat him for his fear aggression and although it is a lot of work and CONSUMES a lot of our life, it is rewarding.  He is such a sweet boy and his family loves him dearly and he loves us so much as well.  He continues to take 2 Trazadone in morning along with 30 mg of Prozac and then 1-2 Trazadone at night (each Trazadone is 100 mg.).   He is an energetic, smart, loving dog with a typical quirky border collie personality.  If you have ever had a BC before, you understand how intelligent they are and how different than most dogs.  He acts more like a 5 year old child than a dog and we hold conversations with him because the number of words in the English language he understands is CRAZY!  He “talks” back with different types of barks, sounds, and body language.  We usually know what each other is saying without too much trouble.  It really is a different experience to connect with a dog at such an intellectual level. As I have said before in my posts, building the trust with your fear aggressive dog is vital.  Now that we have it so strongly, I worry so much about bringing in new trainers to help us “get to the next level.”  So many dog trainers have so many different philosophies about dog training.  Some are the “Pack Leader Type,” some feel you need to “Break your dog down first,” – when I heard this I cringed!  This type of leadership is the WORST thing for MY DOG.  For dogs with dominant personalities who need to be brought under control, it might be the perfect fit (I personally have never met a dominant dog) but for a fear aggressive dog who lacks self confidence and is very fearful, if you were to BREAK IT DOWN, you would undo EVERYTHING I just worked for in the last two years.  So, I have to be careful that no trainer I work with has or will use this approach with my dog!  He knows I am the pack leader, this no longer needs to be established so I don’t need a pack leader type trainer either.

What he needs is consistent exposure to what he fears with someone who is confident, not afraid, knows when to back off, and can provide him many opportunities to see that what scares him is not a threat.  As he continues to get this feedback to his brain, he will begin to relax and the scary item can get closer and closer but never should it be pushed on him to the point that he is shaking, fearful, or loses the trust in me that I keep him safe.  Finding trainers who will do this is next to impossible but I keep looking!!!  I have some more calls to make.  Most trainers only know how to “train” and most behaviorists only seem to take you so far and then don’t seem to follow through to the end.  I need someone who will listen to BOTH me and my dog, not someone who says, they know better. At this point and more than two years of training, classes, therapy, and living with my dog, I know what he needs and what has worked.  We have come so far and I want us to make it further!!

Whiskey needs to spend time with more company in the house that he doesn’t know.  We had our first guest, A, for 5 days and 4 nights.  Since A is a child (pre-teen), we could not ask of her what we might be able to ask of an adult – no touch, no look, no eye contact (one thing from Caesar that is very important to Whiskey’s comfort with strangers).  A loves dogs and she is a child and he is more nervous with the unpredictability of children.  So, we had to keep him behind a gate, on leash, playing ball (ball will distract him from anything), or in a downstay by our feet.  His reactions were very small over all compared to former visitors, again, showing improvement.  He would do small growls when she would show up at first after we had been gone or first thing in the morning.   I felt that I could probably have let him loose but safety is a priority, so I did not.  The last day, he was begging for food from a downstay and she came and gave him a cracker.  She and he both got up and he went to her.  He really just wanted to sniff her and I could tell by his body language that he was not aggressively going near her, so I asked her to stand still, he went and sniffed her and then backed away because she moved and it scared him, he let out a low growl to say, “hey I am scared,” and I went and put him behind the gate so he could feel safe with distance.  He did the right thing though, when she moved, he backed away.   This is the point, I felt we were at – where he is still quite nervous but he is learning to move away now.  I probably should have rewarded him at the time but I didn’t know if he would know if I was rewarding for the moving away or the growl and I didn’t want to risk that he wouldn’t know that it was the move away that was the correct behavior.

I think that slowly we can begin to do a little bit more, I am VERY conservative and only do things that I fully trust I can tell where Whiskey’s head is at by his body language and energy – although he does need to start going to people on his own and sniffing them and realize that nothing bad happens AND that if at anytime he feels unsure, he can leave.  I wish I could repeat this drill a 100 times, I just need some strangers who don’t fear dogs!!!

I keep hoping to have more time but the time is flying by with all this other work I find myself busy with!!

Will update more later!

 

 

 

Updates on Working with a Fear Aggressive Dog

27 May

It is hard to believe that Whiskey, our Border Collie, is 2.5 years old now.  Putting the time, money, and energy to help a dog with fear aggression is a lot for a family to take on.  Now I wish I had some video of how bad he was when he was younger to see how far we have come because our hard work is paying off.  One thing, however, is that different things may work for different dogs and having a large number of different things to try and consistency in using your arsenal of techniques is vital.  The first thing you must have is a strong relationship of TRUST with your dog.  He has to know that he can trust you 100% of the time and that you will protect him, everything else builds from this.  This means that you have to be careful about choices you make in his treatment because certain choices can take away that trust and then the other things you do will not be as effective.

Building trust means that you understand dog psychology, dog signs of stress, and in particular you can read YOUR dog for stress and step in when you see your dog in stress and stop the situation.  Examples of signs of stress include tail between the legs, ears back, certain “looks” in their eyes, yawning, shaking (both literally and shaking off like they are wet), whining, growling, movement away from stressful situation, sniffing of ground or looking away in avoidance, and more.  One of my kids hugs the dog all the time, he tolerates hugs from this child because he is part of our pack but he often shows signs of discontent during the hug and I have to tell my child to keep the hug short.  There used to be so many situations that would trigger all of the above signs of stress but now we are happy when he is able to do a shake (like he is shaking off water but he isn’t wet, I will refer to this as a wet shake from now on but this does not mean he is wet) to calm himself rather than growl and lunge, it is a much better way for him to deal with the stress.  We reward him and tell him “good dog” when he makes choices to use these calming signs rather than let his stress build to aggression.  He has been able to get this point, however, because he knows that I will not put him in a bad situation.  For example if we see another dog or a small child, he knows that I will take him in a direction that walks us a far distance from the stressor rather than keep us right next to them.  Before, he would lunge, growl, bark, or try to bite at the dog or child because he did not trust that he would be safe and felt the need to act on it.  Now, he trusts that he will be safe so he can relax.

Medication is another item that helped a lot.  We had him on just Prozac and it helped a little.  We added Trazadone and it helped quite a bit and then we doubled the Trazadone and got even better response.  For him, he just has so much anxiety, he needs the medication.  We tried not giving it to him to see what would happen and he just started shaking terribly and hiding, he was a mess.  On the medication, he is calmer, wants to play, is loving, and acts like a normal dog with the exception that we still have some fear issues but they are much less severe and we continue to work on them.

Positive training Vs. E-Collar Methods – At first we tried Sit Means Sit as they promote a lot of videos of curing any dog with problems.  We signed up but Whiskey was more than they bargained for.  If it had been the person who created the company instead of a Franchise Owner, we may have had more luck.  I have seen people successfully use the E-Collar with what seems like fearful aggressive dogs BUT with that said you must remember that you are dealing with a dog who has FEARS.  Using a negative tool on a fearful dog might be a bad idea unless you are one of the few experts with tons of training who do this for a living and would take the dog in until he was fixed.  If you just get a package with 3 lessons and some group classes (what is typically sold by Sit Means Sit) this is not a fix for a dog with severe Fear Aggression for even the most dedicated owner!  Whiskey learned a lot of obedience but he is a border collie and knew a lot of obedience before we started and obedience was not our goal.  We want him to be able to play with other dogs and not eat small children and bunnies.  Sit means Sit is not designed to do this, at least not the one locally.  We did learn a lot in general and I do think there is a place for the E-Collar for working with Fear Aggressive dogs, I will get to that in a minute.  After spending almost a year without much progress, we moved on to positive only methods (the ANTI-ECollar people).  I wrote about a lot of things I learned in other blog posts so I won’t repeat that here but that was money well spent overall.  It continued to build trust between Whiskey and I.  It also helped condition him to relax during stressful situations and in combination with the trazadone that was started during that time, we really started to see progress.  Overall, I would recommend this approach if done with someone who really knows their stuff and helps you do it with your dog as a first approach rather than the E-Collar.  I did, however, say I felt E-Collars could help and what we found is that in certain situations where positive training was just NOT working no matter what we did, a negative reinforcement was the only option.  This is not a good first line of defense though since it does not build trust.  Right now, Whiskey still has a problem charging our fence outside when the kids in the next yard over play ball, run by quickly, or if dogs walk by on the street.  We tried over and over with positive reinforcement to stop this but could not get anywhere.  It was also hard to time and be consistent with positive reinforcement in those situations which did not help.  He really needed to have the positive reinforcement EVERY time and it was not feasible with life to catch him EVERY time (you might be in pj’s, cooking dinner, not have cookies on you, just can’t stand out there and do it, etc. etc.)  so we put on the E-Collar and as soon as he charges the fence, the button gets pushed and he is now choosing to ignore the kids in the yard (that was easier for him than the dogs walking by).  He will also sometimes ignore the dogs, he may still whine, or will get a toy for you to throw to distract him but he is coming up with alternatives for you and if you call him when he does charge (when we forget to put the collar on him), he comes in the house right away.  Gradually, these situations will no longer be an immediate trigger for him as we continue to condition him to relax and not get into a state of flowing adrenaline when he views these situations.

Our walks have changed dramatically.  We used to be able to even see people or dogs, now he ignores people, ignores children, and even ignores dogs if we walk around them (he watches them for about 15 seconds while we walk around them but then looks forward again).  He does still react negatively if someone comes up on him abruptly like a jogger and doesn’t give us space because he thinks he is going to be hurt – not sure what to do about that yet but we will have to work on some conditioning of that.  He also does not attack the door when UPS drops of packages and is quicker to accept people in the house.  He even went to one of our regular guests on his own and asked to be pet by her when usually he doesn’t want anyone but family to touch him.  We will continue to work with having people in the house because that is one of our biggest problems that limits his life and our life.  We don’t like locking him up and he doesn’t like it either.  Once he is tired from a walk, he does VERY well strangers walking around as long as they aren’t small children being unpredictable.

I also really want to work on getting him together with other dogs but I need to find a trainer who will do that with me.  We may use the E-Collar for that and consider Sit Means Sit for that again since it worked for that in the past.  However, I need to make sure I keep his trust so that is why I hesitate a little.  He is also listening better with our cat.  If she shows herself, he knows he is not allowed to go near her and will listen to me to get away – if I am not there, that is a different story – which is why he stays crated when I am not home.

That is our update for now, sorry for any typos or crazy sentences – too lazy to proof read 🙂  I will keep you all updated.

 

Progress with Whiskey – Border Collie Fear Aggression

27 Apr

April 27th 2015

Onward we travel in our quest of helping a very fearful Border Collie escape his demons.

Whiskey is over 2 years now and we have spent lots of money on different trainers, training techniques, and invested much time into learning these many methods.  We have had some great gains.  If you consider Whiskey at 10, being the most aggressive Cujo attack dog who wants to attack and bite any person or dog he sees, we went from a 10 to 6.  This means we still have a long way to go as the goal would be to get to a 0 (not going to happen) or 1, maybe 2.

Here are some of Whiskey’s old traits / Progress in red.

  •  Just seeing someone, would start aggression.  Sees people nearby, does not react.
  • Anyone talking to him, would start aggression.  Shows some mild stress when people say his name but does not get aggressive usually.
  •  Any dog, in sight would start aggression, whining, fear.  Can see dogs on walks and ignore them.
  • Any person entering home would be an outright attack.  Can be guided to deal with strangers entering to house and watch calming – inside crate, tied, or on leash.
  • Anyone touching him = bite.  Still a problem, does not like touch
  • Anyone near him = tries to bite.  People can stand near him now and ignore him and he is fine.
  • Wouldn’t even play games with strangers.  He will play games with strangers.
  • Could not be distracted from his fears.  He can play ball and avoid things that scare him like a dog walking by.
  • Would see children and always lunge and attack.  Children still make him nervous but he does not try to lunge and attack by default anymore.
  • Would see kids playing in yard next door, would try to attack through fence.  With ecollar, will ignore kids running around yard, up to fence, and playing ball.
  • Would see dogs walking near fence, would charge fence, bark, and whine.  With ecollar, will just watch dogs walk by fence with no barking, charging, or whining.

 

So, you can see how much progress we have made.  We have found that using the ecollar with the really tough situations is helpful.  We use it just with the charging outside (kids playing and charging after dogs), he actually doesn’t even get “zapped” much anymore because he knows he is not supposed to charge the fence and will usually remember and just stop himself or listen as I give him a verbal warning first, if there is time.

We also try to continue with the positive reinforcement rewards for everything as well.  We even pair the ecollar with treats, “dog walks by, Whiskey chooses not to charge, bark, or whine, then comes inside, he gets a treat.”

With nicer weather coming up we need to start finding more scenarios where we can work with getting closer to other dogs and practicing people touching him, those are our two biggest hurdles.

We did have to take him to the vet and had to totally sedate him for the exam.  It worked out okay.  We also increased his trazadone to 200 mg am and 200 mg pm in addition to his prozac to see if we can lower his anxiety more.

 

 

Fear Aggression Rehabilitation Continues

26 Aug

August 26, 2014

 

Whiskey is now a year and 8 months.  He has more confidence and thankfully that has helped him.  It is such a challenge to have both a people and dog fear aggressive animal.  We have had to put his dog fear aggression on hold for the most part because making him safe around people is much more important than making him safe around other dogs although we use our methods in both instances we have more control of people behavior, they usually don’t go to the end of a leash and start lunging at him as we walk by so that is probably another reason why we have had more success in that area.

We continue to make progress.  Here are the things that have helped the most for people who are committed to fixing their dogs:

1.  Know the breed.  For Whiskey, he is a border collie, I know what makes him tick from the standpoint of his breed.  He has innate instincts that work for him and against and things we can use that were working against him that we can switch to work for him.  He has an intense drive for prey.  So, if he is fixated on something he shouldn’t be – like a dog or a person, we can redirect by using his prey drive against him.  If a dog walks by, we tell him to look for bunnies.  If we want to redirect him from a person, we carry a ball and direct him with play.  Border collies and balls are inseparable.

2.  Know your dog.  Trainers can tell you lots of things but what they can’t tell you is what will work best for YOUR dog because you know your dog best.  Take in all the information, try everything.  Know the breed but also know what things your dog likes best.  Whiskey likes balls but he likes soccer balls better than other balls.  There are times he would rather have play as a reward than a treat as a reward, some trainers don’t believe this and think treats are the only or the best way to reward, sometimes play outweighs food.  Whiskey gets tired fairly quickly for a border collie.  We can tire him out in 30 minutes – 1 hour depending on how hot it is.  Once he is tired, he is much more receptive to EVERYTHING, this is true for almost all fear aggressive dogs, see #3.

3.  Exercise your dog before exposing them to their fears.  If you are going to do something that is going to stretch them, make your dog tired first.  Also, make them tired in as fun of a way possible so they feel very happy and bonded.  You will be really surprised at the results!  Ceaser Millan shows this trick on his shows all the time, it makes him look like magic.  The problem is that we can’t keep our dogs exhausted 24 hours a day in real life, it isn’t practical so we have to use this as a tool, not as a magic bullet.

4.  Use medication – we used just prozac for a while without seeing too much improvement but adding trazadone made a HUGE difference, so give this combination a try.  Don’t be afraid of medication for dogs, it is better than them biting someone and having to be put down.  Will they need it for life?  I don’t know, stay tuned.  Whiskey has made some nice progress over the last year, if we continue to make progress like this, maybe some day he will be well enough to taper off and he will trust the world enough.

5.  See the right behaviorist – don’t mistake a dog trainer for a behaviorist, they are not the same thing, although you also need to make sure your dog is fully obedience trained for success.  As for the cost, I wish I could start a fund and maybe I will put this in my will or something that there is a fund for people who can’t afford the cost of behaviorists but want to save their dogs, it is so unfair that there isn’t a “welfare” system set up where people who are willing and dedicated to helping these animals can get free help if they are willing to put forth the huge amount of time and effort it takes to rehabilitate these dogs.  I can’t imagine being as fearful as they are!  Hopefully, you can afford to see a behaviorist and learn some techniques if not, read about the games and techniques I was taught in my other posts and practice, practice, practice.  Remember just like with a therapist, if the first behaviorist doesn’t seem like a good fit, keep looking, I found so many have different philosophies and I interviewed about 10 before I picked the woman I chose.

6.  Remember that progress is SLOW!!!  I can’t stress that enough.  It has been a year and half and here are some examples of our progress:

  • Whiskey growls at EVERYBODY he sees, would run at strangers and aggressively bark, growl (even at 4 months)
  • Whiskey would run up a stranger and bite, would snap at people near him
  • Couldn’t see a person without him crying, whining, growling, shaking
  • Couldn’t see a dog with crying, whining, growling, shaking, lunging, attacking
  • Whiskey wouldn’t even play ball, his favorite thing, with a stranger

Progress

  • Whiskey ignores people he sees in public 95% of time, may growl/bark if he is in car and they approach or if they get really close to us
  • Whiskey can be loose in our house with adults who are willing to ignore him after the initial 2-5 minutes of adjustment of the transition
  • Whiskey still struggles and will growl/bark at people coming into house – must be grated
  • Whiskey still not trusted around any children (they are too unpredictable, loud, quick)
  • Whiskey will let a 13 year old girl outside the family pet him
  • Whiskey has let “acquaintances” let him in and out of his crate
  • Whiskey will play games with all strangers
  • Whiskey will go up to a semi-stranger and take a treat from their hand or “touch” their hand
  • Whiskey can be on a long lead but not held in a park (e-collar) back up and chase ball, so focused on ball, doesn’t even care who is around
  • Whiskey went into vets office today without shaking and let people make eye contact with him
  • Whiskey still cannot have a regular vet visit
  • Whiskey still cannot be around other dogs

 

 

Fear Aggression in Dogs – How to treat

12 Aug

Dog Fear Aggression is one of the most difficult behavior problems to deal with in dogs.   There are different types of aggression in dogs and it is important you know what type of aggression your dog is showing because how you treat dominant aggression vs. resource guarding (a type of aggression) vs. fear aggression  are different.  Dogs that are showing aggression because they are afraid and lack confidence usually will not improve if they are then treated with a heavy hand.  The idea of PACK LEADER is well known and is often thought of as THE method of treating all behavior issues in dogs.  With the show Dog Whisperer by Caesar Millan, it appears that everything CAN be fixed with pack leader mentality.  This is not to say that the concept of pack leader is not important, it is, but how it is used with a fear aggressive dog has to be done carefully or you can make things worse.  If you start doing the Caesar “touch” or the alpha roll with a fearful dog, you will just make them more afraid and will therefore not get to the root of the problem.

It is NOT POSSIBLE to fix fear aggression in a day or week.  If anyone, including Casear Millan thinks he can come to my home and fix my dog in one session, then they don’t understand serious fear aggression.  In serious cases, fear aggression can take years to fix.  We have been working for one year now and we have made a lot of progress but we still have a fear aggressive dog and it may take a year or two more to hopefully get to the point where he begins to resemble somewhat of a “normal” dog, although he may never be there completely.

So what do you need to do?  First, you do need to be a strong leader for your dog.  Your dog needs to know that you are its protector and that you have his or her back!  Your dog needs to be fully bonded with you and have full trust in you.  You need to be an advocate for your dog and not put your dog in situations where he will be overly stressed, worried, or fearful.  You need to tell people to back off, not touch him, keep him away from anything that frightens him such as people, children, or other dogs.  You will gradually increase him in controlled situations to his fears but first he needs to know that you are his protector before the rest will begin to have real strong positive impacts.  If your dog is afraid of other dogs, then whenever you see another dog, you turn and walk away and increase your distance as much as you can from other dogs.  YOU move away ALWAYS.   If you cannot for some reason, you find some way to distract your dog.  Our dog likes to look for bunnies, so we bring him to the side of the woods and tell him to look for bunnies and other dogs can pass by and he won’t pay attention because we keep saying, “where are the bunnies?”  You also build trust by playing your dog’s favorite games, teaching him obedience in a non-stressful obedience setting (if he is afraid of strangers, this means you do it at home by yourself, watch Youtube videos, there are lots of great videos out there… and if you have a border collie… lots of which are fear aggressive, it will be easy, border collies are soooo smart, get a clicker and some treats and your border collie will be doing Calculus in no time).

After you have full trust and are very bonded with your fear aggressive dog, you begin to work on his fear aggressive issues.  You do this in POSITIVE ways.  You never want to treat fear with a negative stimulus (chain jerks, yelling, poking, alpha rolls, etc.)  You also need to remember your dog cannot learn if they are very stressed, so you have to go PAINFULLY SLOW.  This is why it takes so long to make progress.  You have to keep your dog very far away from what he is afraid of, just close enough that he notices but feels far enough away that he feels safe, then he can learn.  You begin to de-condition him.    There are many different “games” you can play and there is something called BAT that seems like it wouldn’t work, but it does, it is just SLOW.

I will tell you that I am a type A person and an overachiever type and now I have this adorable dog that I love, who is so smart that I want to take off leash and run and play with but can’t be around people or dogs!  Here I am trying to read and learn about how to fix him.  I read these CRAZY things like BAT… I will admit, my first response was not positive… there has to be a better way or a faster way… and we started with the SHORT CUTS… but they didn’t work and when we tried a bunch of the games, they all helped but he actually seemed to respond to BAT a lot.  For those who don’t feel like looking it up right now and don’t know what BAT is, I will give you a very short description…

There is BAT and BAT 2.0, I mix the two… but what I do is have someone with a trigger (or I find a trigger, i.e. a dog, on a walk) a bit down the road, we walk towards the trigger, when my dog, Whiskey, notices the trigger, I guide him (gently) to a stop (we are at a nice distance – as you get better you decrease the distance) and let him just watch the trigger (not obsessively stare) and then choose to do a positive response (usually walking away from the trigger but could be sniffing, yawning, shaking, or licking), I click (or say a loud YES) and we walk away from the trigger (his reward is walking away from the trigger).  Then we repeat.  If he doesn’t choose a positive response soon enough, you guide a turn and reward at the turn, if he reacts negatively (stare, growl, bark, lunge) then you are too close and you do it again and don’t get as close to the trigger.

If you read some of my other posts on my journal of fear aggression with Whiskey on this blog, you can read about some the games including “Autowatch”, “Throw a Party,” “Four Steps to Focus,” etc. that you can do as games to work on aggression.  You can also use touch to help work on his fear of people and the better obedience training you have, the more control you have in general.

If your dog is very fear aggressive, you will probably need medication.  Medication has been a huge help to Whiskey.  We started with just Prozac and it helped a little but we added Trazadone and that made a huge difference.

Whiskey is less afraid / aggressive when out in public.  When he is in our house, he has some territorial aggression in addition to his fear aggression but we are now at the point that he has to be created when adults (we don’t trust children) first come in the house we crate him but after they come in the house and are there for a bit, he can be let out and as long as they don’t try to touch him (he is very afraid of touch) he does not react anymore.  This is a huge improvement over a dog that acted like Cujo anytime he saw a person in any situation from the time he was a baby.  He wouldn’t even play ball with strangers as a baby, now he will play ball with any stranger willing to play!

I can’t stress enough how severe he was and how far we have come in a year.  Some people would look at where he is now and think we are crazy to keep a “dog like him,” but he has come so far and we see progress on a regular basis so I don’t see any reason that we won’t continue to see progress if we keep working on his issues.  I know of people who have managed to pass the Good Citizen/Canine Test eventually with a fear aggressive dog, so that is our ultimate goal.

He is a wonderful dog with his family.  He is very loving, playful, cuddly, and bonded.  If you have a fear aggressive dog and are working on rehabilitation, good for you!  It takes special people to do it.  Most of world (since we hear it a lot, even from family and friends) would just put the dog down.