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Old 06-14-2012, 07:08 PM
Catsi Catsi is offline
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Default Am I failing Abby? AKA as behaviour mod vs management

Hello,

Sorry for the long post, but I need some advice and perspective on this issue and I know a lot of Chazzers have a truckload of experience in this area.

Background -

Abby is my nearly 5 1/2 year old Chi x (^ avatar girl).

She is reactive to strangers - both human and canine.

I struggle with our relationship for the first couple of years because of our issues, my anxieties, my lack of confidence, my guilt blah, blah. As you can see, I am really the problem here not Abby. We attended a few training schools that simply could not cater for us, so I turned to a behaviourist.

We saw a behaviourist that provided us with a plan that we stuck to and our training relationship blossomed. It was a hard slog to do any behaviour modification work because I lacked volunteers, the imagination and the confidence to set up my environment in a way conducive to this kind of training. My behaviourist lives 4 hours away, so distance was a factor in me not getting the hands on help I needed.

When I had some success, I was disheartened by setbacks such as off lead dogs running up and setting us back etc, etc.

I ended up throwing in the towel with behaviour modification and stuck with management. For me this means:

- keeping Abby safe - I'm always one step ahead and very aware of my environment. I deliberately choose places to go that are not crowded or difficult to see oncoming traffic.
- keep others safe from Abby - always being responsible and not putting her in a position to bite another person or dog. She hasn't actually bitten anyone yet and I'd like to keep it that way. I crate when visitors are over that have no desire to get to know her or listen to my instructions (fair enough... I have had great success with her warming up to friends and visitors who are keen to take the process slowly), she is never allowed near children, she is never off lead in public places.
- I compensate our lack of off lead exercise by playing lots of games. Luckily we have a big yard and I have a friend with lovely fenced property which is a godsend. We go walking in as many different places as possible and we do a lot of training/shaping to keep her mind stimulated.

I was happy doing this, but now my outlook is slowly changing. I would love to just go for a walk around our streets sometimes using different routes and stopping off at interesting parks. But she finds suburbia freaky. Dogs barking behind fences, children, people walking by etc. Especially the dogs barking and people behind us. I virtually have to turn off or stop and wait for the person to pass because she is so freaked out.

Her ears pin back and she will even strain on the leash to get further away (usually she has a nice loose lead walk), her weight is shifted forward and she has a lot of nervous energy.

When we go to our nice quiet places together, she is fine and happy and enjoys herself. But I feel like I am failing her by not addressing these issues.

Is it ok to avoid certain situations or am I really doing her a disservice?
Opinions?

Lately I have felt more positive and confident and we haven't been a approached by an off lead dog in a looong time. Coincidence? Or can a lot be said for positive energy bringing positive outcomes?

At home she is a lovely, easy dog and wonderful with her family/pack. Somewhat challenging to train, but that's my challenge to continuing finding what works for her. We have some wonderful sessions and some woeful sessions, but overall it's a lot of fun.

Any thoughts?
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Old 06-14-2012, 07:37 PM
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misfitz misfitz is offline
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I'm no expert, but it sounds like you're doing a great job of providing Abby with a full life. Some dogs don't need to go for neighborhood walks, or experience new environments. If she's happy and you're happy with management, there's absolutely nothing wrong with using that as a solution.

Have you heard of the shyK9's yahoo group? They're a good resource for solutions and moral support for owners of fearful dogs. (Not that Chaz isn't great!) But you might want to check it out -
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/shy-k9s

It sounds to me like you're doing all the right things, though.

Oh, and the Reactive Champion blog is another good one:
http://reactivechampion.blogspot.com/
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Old 06-14-2012, 08:51 PM
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BostonBanker BostonBanker is offline
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Here's my take on it, as the owner of another reactive dog (only dogs, no human issues). If you are comfortable with the limitations to your activities with her - you are doing a fine job. It sounds like you are giving her a very busy, full life that provides what she needs. I wouldn't feel guilty about her quality of life at all.

*However* - it sounds like you would like more. I think that is also fine. You clearly aren't an owner who is going to throw her into a situation where she is uncomfortable, so I don't think trying for more is a bad thing. It does probably mean a lot of work, as you already know from the behaviorist.
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Old 06-14-2012, 09:41 PM
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PWCorgi PWCorgi is offline
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It sounds like you are doing a wonderful job!
Abby is getting a much more full and complete life than a good portion of the "normal" dogs out there that aren't dealing with her issues!

And from one reactive (human and dogs here too) dog mom to another: ((((HUGS))))

With Frodo, often I find the time that we make the most progress is after a long break. I go through months long switches between actively working and then management. At this point I've realized that we need the help of medication, so I set up an appointment to see a veterinary behaviorist. I am beyond excited to start this part of our neurotic journey
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Old 06-14-2012, 09:59 PM
StillandSilent StillandSilent is offline
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I second joining shyK9s. Gambit and I are on there, and it's always nice to have someon who knows exactly what you're going through.

Managing is not failing. Maybe you'll be able to move forward, maybe you won't. Maybe she'll surprise you (Gambit decided to play with a neighbor last week- after barking hysterically every time he saw her for 6 months. Go figure )

If you think she might be able to move forward, it doesn't hurt to try.
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Old 06-15-2012, 08:10 AM
Catsi Catsi is offline
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Wow. Thank you for your positive encouragement. It has been very reassuring.

If I woke up tomorrow and was told that this was the best I could do with Abby, I would be ok with that. Goodness knows there are a lot of dogs that are worse off and there are a lot of owners that face a very, very tough time.

But I'm also willing to give things another shot at least to see how far we can go. I think BostonBanker you summed up my feelings well.

It's tough because I lack confidence and I'm naturally cautious/anxious but these traits are also what keeps me out of trouble a lot of the time. I've got to remember that it is a slow and steady process with lots of ups/downs, regressions and sometimes surprises (Gambit, I'm thinking of you here!!)

PWCorgi - {{{hugs}}} to you, too. I really wish you some great success, answers and progress with the next step of your journey with Frodo. When is your appointment? You will keep us updated, won't you?

Misfitz - thank you. I have signed up to ShyK9 and will definitely start ready the blog you have posted.

One thing I have noticed with Abby is that if she has a major meltdown at home - for example our neighbours are pet-sitting and we didn't realise that the dogs were in the backyard or the parcel delivery guy pays us a visit and I've not realised (the beep is enough to set Abby off) she will be a lot more reactive out and about. If we have had a long stretch of time being chilled out and calm, I am much more likely to get calmer responses to triggers overall (although there are some things which always trigger a response). Keeping Abby as non-reactive as possible in daily life is a key piece of the puzzle.

Edit to add - I apologise for the errors/typos in my earlier post. My only excuse is that it was before 10am when I wrote it and my brain was still thawing. I'm ok physically in the morning, but mentally I'm a mess. I'm really only good for eating and exercising in the am lol.
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Old 06-15-2012, 10:15 AM
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PWCorgi PWCorgi is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by misfitz View Post

It sounds to me like you're doing all the right things, though.

Oh, and the Reactive Champion blog is another good one:
http://reactivechampion.blogspot.com/
Maisy (the dog in the blog) is the first dog that Frodo met here in the Twin Cities after our move. She's also the first dog that Frodo tried to initiate play with while we were at Crystal's house. Maisy went WTF are you doing?! and ran away. Poor Frodog Always being rejected by the ladies. Well...until he met Zuma

We are actually going to the same veterinary behaviorist that Maisy went to, I will be more than happy if we get anywhere CLOSE to the results that Maisy has!

Catsi, I'm waiting to hear back on the actual appointment date. I know they are right now scheduling for early August. Going to be THAT person and call again today if they don't call back soon

Quote:
One thing I have noticed with Abby is that if she has a major meltdown at home - for example our neighbours are pet-sitting and we didn't realise that the dogs were in the backyard or the parcel delivery guy pays us a visit and I've not realised (the beep is enough to set Abby off) she will be a lot more reactive out and about. If we have had a long stretch of time being chilled out and calm, I am much more likely to get calmer responses to triggers overall (although there are some things which always trigger a response). Keeping Abby as non-reactive as possible in daily life is a key piece of the puzzle.
I know Crystal wrote a piece in ReactiveChamption that talks about how it can take DAYS for the chemicals emitted during a reaction to fully leave the body.
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Gimme Drugs Not Hugs RL1 "Frodo"
8 year old Pembroke Welsh Corgi


*All Siri's rally/obedience titles are to be considered handled by Megan,
because ain't nobody (read: me) got time or skills fo' dat.
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Old 06-15-2012, 10:36 AM
SaraB SaraB is offline
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You are absolutely not failing Abby as every one else has already said! You are helping her succeed in life and are setting her up for success rather than failure like so many dog owners do. My dane is reactive to humans and it has severely limited my plans for him. He was purchased as a show dog but couldn't handle the judging process, so then we shifted our focus to agility but he cannot handle the unpredictable environment of a trial. So we make do. I shifted my expectations and we continue to have fun as we can. So yes, it is a management style, but we continue to work towards that far off goal of maybe, one magical day being able to trial.
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Old 06-15-2012, 02:11 PM
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RD RD is offline
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Just want to reiterate the resounding NO you've gotten in answer to your "am I failing her" question. You are not failing her.

I have a dog who doesn't like other dogs. I've done enough behavior mod so that she can be around and ignore leashed or voice controlled dogs without much anxiety or stress. Sadly though, in hindsight, I realize that I took the wrong approach (I taught her "look at me" rather than "look at that") and will have to drastically redo everything I spent years on in order to get her to calmly accept another dog trying to greet her.

My training approach failed her in terms of modifying her dislike of other dogs. Miserably, horribly failed. What's gotten me flawless behavior everywhere we go from my service dog has come at the cost of her freezing up and staring at me, anxious, when in the presence of another dog that won't disengage and leave her alone. I don't trust her around these dogs, because one lunge or jump onto her will shatter her seemingly collected demeanor and push her over her threshold into defensive snapping/biting.

We avoid any situation in which there would be an off-lead dog who would feel more interested in Eve than in anything else around them. We don't go to dog parks. We don't go to dog shows. We don't go to dog sport events or pet expos or any place where people would let their dogs get in my dog's face. It limits her a bit, it limits me as a service dog handler, but that's the price I pay for my mistake in training. And it's a very small price, as far as I am concerned. My dog lives a full, extremely happy life without ever setting foot in a dog park or playing in petsmart with someone's new puppy. Your dog will still be a happy, loving dog even if she isn't ever a therapy dog or a dog park dog.

Don't stop trying behavior modification if you want better results from her, but certainly don't feel like you're failing her! You are doing more than most owners would dream of.
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