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Posts Tagged ‘#Fighting for Whiskey’

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!

 

 

 

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