Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Moving On

With the holidays and being away, I completely forgot to post about the appointment we had with Abby's new vet.  After getting some recommendations from people in the area, we decided to make the move to a vet that was just slightly further than the vet we were presently using.  We had received some great recommendations about both of the vets in this practice, and felt confident that if our main vet were not available we'd be able to feel comfortable with the other vet who would provide care. 

The first thing I noticed instantly about going to the vet was the difference in Abby when she approached the facility.  I'm sure there is something to be said for a new environment and a new modus operandi, but I think there is a common theme that exists amongst vets offices that makes it clear from the beginning what will likely go on.  But when Abby was inside of the building she easily settled on her mat and was fine just chilling there.  Even when she was called into the exam room she wasn't anxious upon seeing the table, which was a definite departure from the appointments she has had recently at her last vet. 

Her new vet was so incredibly thorough and kind.  When I brought Abby in, I was concerned because she had some soft stools and urgency overnight, and I was worried that another episode had kicked off.  The new vet took great care in understanding fully the issues Abby has had and what we've done as pet parents to investigate the source of these issues. 

During that appointment we came up with a great game plan to try Pepcid twice daily half an hour before Abby's meal to see if that aids with digestion.  Additionally we scheduled an ultrasound to make sure there wasn't a blockage or other structural problem going on. 

On the day of the ultrasound, Abby was a bit nervous to enter the building.  Now perhaps that is because I was nervous about the appointment and she sensed that.  I've never been one to notice Abby's sensitivity to her environment, but that doesn't mean that she isn't.  While I was trying to talk Abby into coming up the steps for the vet, we saw a woman leaving who very clearly was anxious.  Abby is not one for greeting strangers.  She is very shy and typically likes to approach people after they've ignored her.  But Abby saw this woman and instantly went up the stairs and approached her to greet her.  The woman looked at Abby and said, "Oh are you going to keep my guy company today?"  And Abby sat for her to pet her!  It was just the sweetest thing as Abby gave some comfort to someone who's pet was having surgery that day. 

But the ultrasound came back completely fine, as I suspected it would.  Actually by the time the ultrasound had come her stools were back to normal and we suspect she had a treat that did not agree with her.  I had given her two Healthy Edibles in the two days preceding the soft stools, so perhaps those were what did not agree with her.  Either way she has had solid stools since and we will continue feeding her the Hills I/D and Orijen Red Region combination that has worked for her.  If at some point that diet no longer works for her, the doctor who did the ultrasound suggested Purina HA or other hydrolyzed food. 

In other news my husband and I recently traveled for Thanksgiving and we boarded Abby for a week.  She was so happy to be home, and very tired as well.  Yesterday during her first full day home with us she moved the pillow on the love seat so she could sleep behind it, and inevitably realized she could rest her head on the pillow.  It was super cute! 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Happy Birthday!!

Today is perhaps one of my favorite days.  Although we will never know Abby's true birthday, we took our best guess and chose today as her birthday.  Happy Birthday to the best puppy girl in the world!  Although we've only had her for a year and a half, it feels as if she's always been here.  Every day I learn something new from her, and I've loved every opportunity I've had to view the world through her eyes.  Abby you are so smart, funny, charming, challenging, and endearing.  But more than anything else you are all ours.  When we first adopted you we gave you a name, a home, and unconditional love.  I am so acutely aware of just how dependent you are on us for everything you need, and it is not a responsibility I ever take lightly.  Thank you for trusting us and loving us as much as you do.  Happy Birthday, beautiful girl! 

I might have been a little excited for her birthday. 

Cake with peanut butter, honey, vanilla, vegetable oil, shredded carrots and flour.  The frosting was peanut butter and cream cheese.

Someone was very excited for her hat. 

I was very surprised she put it on. 

I even got hugs for giving her a hat! 

And awesome kisses!

How cute does she look with a birthday hat?

She dug right in! 

She ate the frosting first, just like Mom! 

I broke it up into pieces because she wanted to eat the whole cake at once. 

Clean bowl!  Then she started cleaning my fingers - so helpful!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

My little girl is growing up

There are moments in life where you look at your dog, see a behavior and think, "Wow, I remember when she used to do the complete opposite."  Sometimes you notice behaviors your dog never used to do and reflect upon a time when you didn't have to figure out how to correct it.  And then there are those awesome days when your dog takes you by complete surprise and they do what you never expected, and you remember how important it is to trust that they can do what you hope for. 

We don't have a tremendous amount of foot traffic to our condo.  For the most part, Abby's routines are such that she is home with us, and her interactions with people outside of our family unit come outside of our house.  But when that changes and people come over, she becomes unhinged.  She becomes a razorbacked girl on patrol, barking her head off at everyone.  Presuming that she does stop barking, she sits rigidly waiting to pounce and stares them down.  If they offer the slightest movement - even shifting in their chair - she goes right back to barking and patroling. 

One thing that we talked about with the behaviorist was the idea of using her mat as a tool for when people come over.  We've built our training on the idea of mat and giving Abby a place where she can feel relaxed and safe; a home base of sorts.  We've used this within the framework of our classes, and when in class Abby's default work mode is to lay down on her mat and chill.  The behaviorist suggested utilizing this for when she greets people. 

Today my father was coming over to meet my husband and go to the Patriots game together.  Immediately I had flashbacks to the last time my parents came over where Abby barked virtually the entire time, wouldn't approach them except to get closer for barking at them, and finally she laid down with her body rigid and tensed as she glared at them.  I was really hoping to avoid this situation if at all possible.  So out came the mat, and we worked on some relaxation.  We had about 20 minutes in before Dad came over, and as soon as Bill went downstairs Abby was barking.  I was unable to call her to her mat with her queue, so instead I tried to walk her over to it.  She did not want to settle on her mat.  By this point Bill and Dad had come upstairs, and she was off her mat and barking.  I told my Dad to completely ignore her, not look at her, and pretend she wasn't there.  I hugged him, he sat down, and in under 2 minutes Abby was completely different.  The fact that my Dad had completely ignored her made her super interested in him.  You could see a shift where she suddenly was like, "Why isn't this person paying attention to me?  Doesn't he see me?"  So instantly she approached him, jumped up to greet him, and give him kisses.  She settled down nicely, and even walked out of the house with us to say goodbye. 

So on days where you think back to just how far your near two-year-old companion has come, and you smile.  Today was a reason to smile. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

You mean I'm not crazy?

So we had our meeting with the vet behaviorist.  Prior to meeting with her, I completed a ten page questionnaire about Abby's behavioral issues, complete with real life examples of her behavior.  Admittedly I was a bit worried about this appointment for a few reasons.  Perhaps based on some of the judgement we've received, I was worried that the work we've done with Abby would somehow not have been correct or enough.  I know I've spent lots of time working with her on her relaxation and general behavior, and you never want for that investment to be incorrect.  But I was even nervous that I somehow had fostered some of her reactivity.  I take the issues of Abby's behavior very personally, and when analyzing some of the things she does I think on some level you are doing a disservice to your pet if you don't at least consider your behavior and reactions to at least rule out that you aren't fostering some of the behavior you're working to correct. 

In a word the vet behaviorist was phenomenal.  Our trainer was so awesome and met us at the facility to be part of our discussion, and she was also able to inject some of her observations into the conversation, which truly ended up being helpful at several points.  I should tell you that the appointment that we had scheduled for Abby was a two hour consultation.  My first thought was "How the heck am I going to keep her attention for two hours?  She's going to try to bolt out of the room in under 20 minutes."  So I came prepared. 

Over the last few months, we've been doing mat work with Abby.  We have a mat that we use for her to relax on and chill out.  We bring it to class, we bring it to the vet, and we use it anywhere where she could possibly be overwhelmed by what is going on around her.  We gave it a queue - "Places!" - and she knows that she can just relax and hang out on her mat.  I also brought some toys for her to chew on and play with, and plenty of treats. 

So when we met with the behaviorist she brought us downstairs to her office.  Essentially it was a big open basement that was divided in half.  On one side of the room chairs set up in a U-shape for training, and the other half of the room had couches, a rug, and a desk for consultations.  We sat down and I put Abby's mat down, and Abby immediately went down on it.  We spoke for awhile about some of her behaviors and the things I had completed on the form, and the entire time Abby is just chilling.  I thought, "This woman is going to think I am crazy!  Abby is so well behaved and chilling right now that she's going to think I have the dog owner's version of Munchausen Syndrome."  After a little while Abby heard a noise, and then everything I was saying had been confirmed.  Abby was on patrol, hair raised, and we were unable to call her back to the area we were sitting in.  And it didn't just end there.  Once she had the first reaction, it did not take much to prompt further reactions. 

The appointment was just so positive though.  The behaviorist reinforced that Abby's dosage of Clomicalm is considered a light dosage, and she praised us for the work we've done thus far in light of the light dosage.  I felt like I didn't have to defend the choices we've made for Abby or the work we've done because she already understood where we were coming from and communicated her desire to help us. 

What a change! 

So we're going to do a slightly small increase with her Clomicalm, and we're going to work with her on the relaxation protocols and continue the mat work.  We've started working on down stays so that we can try to have Abby not freak out when people come to the house, and I feel like we have a clear direction on where we're heading with Abby's next phase of training. 

In other news, a few weeks ago I had received a call from the vet's office that we bring Abby to for her routine care because I had previously ordered a few cases of the Purina OM but I hadn't picked them up.  While trying to figure out what we were doing for her food, I just figured that I would leave them there because I didn't know if we would possibly use that food in combination with something else.  I explained some of the food issues we've been having and that I was going to wait on picking it up, and the receptionist asked if she could try running Abby's GI issues past one of their other doctors that she has not seen.  I told her that it was OK to do this, but that with all due respect I wasn't necessarily feeling a need to make more appointments or follow ups with nutritionists because at this point they've picked a food that did not work for her on any level, and frankly I can pick foods on my own at this rate through trial and error.  So she said she would try the other doctor's opinion. 

A few days later I got a call from one of the technicians saying the doctor had reviewed everything, and that without doing an intestinal ultrasound it is possible that she could have IBD.  But that he was really recommending that I do a month of Tylosin to kill any bacteria that could be in the intestine.  I told her that I needed to think about it.  I said that without trying to sound defensive or dismissive, I've yet to have anyone be able to explain why Abby would have perfect stools for a period of time, then have diarrhea, then have the loose stools again.  I explained how I felt like on some level that this could possibly be anxiety related, particularly given the timing of the reactivity, and the way in which she seems to be generally anxious as we try to taper off the clomicalm.  We continue to throw tests, medications or diets at Abby under the hopes that they will work, and I never get to the root cause of her issues and again the diarrhea reccurs.  This is when she reiterated that she felt the Merrick food was too fatty and the pancreas and intestine pretty much can't handle it anymore.  I guess I'd buy into that if I hadn't just done the malabsorption tests on the heels of this diarrhea getting kicked off.  Additionally when I bought into the idea of Abby having IBD, my questioning of whether or not it could have an anxiety component to what triggered or aggravated it was dismissed. 

What was interesting to me was that she mentioned that although the Tylosin could work, there was a possibility that Abby could have this happen again even with the Tylosin, and then in which case we'd be back to where we started where we would do another course of treatment. 

Those who have read with any regularity can already guess my answer to this treatment:  No.  A resounding no. 

I'm not sure what I was more astounded by.  Even if I did an ultrasound on Abby to see if she had IBD, what would I learn?  That my dog is prone to diarrhea?  I already know this and I didn't have to spend $1,000 to figure that out or put her through the testing.  Second, what person just gives a month long treatment to their dog without having a test to prove that she needs it?  We wouldn't do this with our children, and I'm certainly not doing this to Abby. 

Throughout her reactivity, anxiety and digestive issues I'm starting to learn that doctors, and in particular veterinarians, are not Gods.  Sure, they're educated people who have spent thousands of dollars earning a degree certifying them to answer the questions and solve the problems we encounter with Abby.  But they don't live with us.  They don't see Abby day-to-day, and they don't know what she struggles with day-to-day.  Abby can't answer questions to tell me how she feels, why she gets nervous, or why her food isn't agreeing with her.  The only voice she has is ours.  The only advocate she has is us.  And these experiences have taught me that I need to remain dilligent in asking questions to insure that she gets adequate care.  Not treatment - care.  There is a fine line between these that I think is often lost. 

With that said, onwards and upwards.  We will continue to search for people committed to Abby's care, who support the decisions we make for her, and who appreciate and trust the total focus we give to helping her.  The camp of people we have in Abby's life who do this only continues to grow.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Your dog is on what?

In recent weeks I've come to realize that when you have a reactive dog, there is a certain stigma attached to it.  People ask you how your dog is.  And while some people are genuine in their interest in your dog, some people are clearly judgemental. 
I should back up at this point and tell you that Bill and I made an attempt at reducing Abby's clomicalm dosage.  A little over a year ago we put Abby on clomicalm.  It was a choice we didn't take lightly, but one that was the right choice for Abby at the time that we made it.  I cannot begin to tell you how heartbreaking it was to watch her get so anxious about her crate, insuring at least one foot was outside at all times for fear that she might be put in it.  Even just giving her a treat in the crate was clearly stressful for her.  If I put a treat in there for her to find so that only positive things happened for her in that crate, she would hop in and out of that crate at a speed befitting an Olympic Hurdler.  No matter what we did to make her crate positive, it clearly was not at all getting better.  Abby was so amped up to even look at the crate that we wouldn't be able to make it positive.  She clearly couldn't be receptive towards it in any way. 

Clomicalm has been a blessing and a curse all at once.  In combination with relaxation protocols that we work on, it allowed Abby to simply relax near a crate, and inevitably be crated while I am at work.  I would be lying if I didn't say that I tear up a little bit each day that I crate her in the morning because she literally races to the door of her room and looks back at me with a smile.  A year ago I would not have thought that was possible.  But clomicalm isn't without risks, and certainly its toll on the dog's physical health is one. 

However, there is another risk that most people don't realize accompanies the choice to give it to your dog:  judgement.  I cannot begin to describe the looks on people's faces if I do mention that Abby is on a medication for anxiety, or the way in which a vet she has not seen before will ask about the medication.  Some people are subtle about it, but most are not.  It all starts off the same way. 
Is she on any medication?
What is the clomicalm for?
Why clomicalm?
Have you tried (insert any form of accupuncture, vet behaviorist, or other things people have heard are effective)?

Ever since shows like "The Dog Whisperer" and "It's Me or the Dog," suddenly everyone is an expert on dogs.  Intentional or not, people have a way of being unable to ask the above questions without implying that I simply choose not to take my pet's health and psyche seriously and just choose medications as my easy fix.  They do not know the countless hours I have spent over many months doing relaxation protocols with Abby just to get her to lay down, then to drop her chin, kick out a back leg, sigh, etc.  Then to spend these hours once again to do all of this near a crate.  They do not know that Abby has her own iPod that we keep downstairs, that sits docked in the iHome I received as a birthday gift and plays "Through a Dog's Ear" for her all day while she is crated so that she can have some white noise.  And to ask the above questions so succinctly while the answer is not so succinct always leaves me feeling annoyed and judged. 

Clomicalm is not a medication that I necessarily want Abby to be on long term.  If she can be without medication that would be ideal.  But if she can't, I want to make sure that she is on the right medication for her.  Towards the end of June, we asked for instructions to taper off her clomicalm.  Abby was taking a half tablet twice daily, and the instructions given were to do a half tablet daily for two weeks, and then half a tablet every other day for two weeks, then off the medicine entirely.  I opted for a longer tapering off, and figured we would do the half tablet daily for one month before moving to the next level.  However, after only a week it became clear that a half tablet drop was too much too soon.  Suddenly the world seemed a scary place in general for our girl.  She barked at everything.  And while some dogs bark, Abby greeted every creak in the floor, or voice outside as an imminent threat.  She barked at everything in a way that communicated she definitely was freaking out.  Now granted, it wasn't a level of barking like when she was panicked to be in the crate.  But it was clear that she was nervous and anxious about every sound.  Hell, she was nervous about sounds we couldn't even hear!  We tried instead half a tablet in the morning and a quarter tablet at night.  After about a week this still left her amped up and really hadn't helped to improve her outlook either.

So we've now made an appointment with a Vet Behaviorist to discuss Abby and her anxiety.  Part of me worries that Abby is just an anxious dog, and perhaps the crate and separation anxiety was the most obvious display.  The crate anxiety is under control now.  But in combination with Abby's GI issues that kicked off around the time she displayed dog reactivity, and the GI issues she continues facing, I would not be surprised if we were to find that she has some sort of general anxiety disorder that we work on either through new methods of relaxation, or a different medication in a light dosage. 

In other news Abby continues to have issues with soft stools and diarrhea.  We switched her from the Purina OM as I had mentioned in the last post because of the way she was going through food bloat, was lethargic because she was eating too much, and burping up her food because of the volume she was eating.  So far I tried Wellness Simple Solutions in salmon and rice, and the results were rather mixed.  We were mixing it with the Purina OM as we were slowly integrating in the Wellness, and she was doing better.  But with her being on just the Wellness the stools weren't great - sort of a soft service ice cream consistency.  I tried the Natural Balance Bison and Sweet Potato, and that was disastrous.  She had what hubby and I like to call "Poop Soup."  So now we're back on Wellness, and I'm attempting to find a food that will work for her.  Orijen is probably my next one, and perhaps after that Taste of the Wild if I don't find one that works.  I have decided not to enlist the help of the nutritionist at Angell Memorial again because I felt like the food she chose was so grossly NOT the right food for Abby, both in volume and in effectiveness, that I'm not throwing more money her way.  If someone with a degree managed not to pick the right food for Abby, then it communicates to me that they're just going to go by trial and error, and frankly I can do that cheaper on my own. 

So stay tuned for an update once we go to the behaviorist on the 27th of this month! 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Food issues... again

So last I wrote, Abby was trying a new diet that consisted of Purina OM.  That had made a vast improvement in the consistency of her stools; however, other issues have emerged now that she has been on it a little over a month. 

I've never fed a canned diet to a dog.  That said, my mother feeds a mix of both to her dogs (except the older ones who are strictly on canned for their teeth) and she seems to like it.  However, prior to putting Abby on a canned diet, she ate half a cup of Merrick's Grammy's Pot Pie twice daily.  The nutritionst recommended that she should get 2 1/4 cans per day.  I won't lie - this seems like a LOT of food.  When I first put it in Abby's bowl it seemed like a lot in comparison to the volume she received on dry.  But we fed it, and honestly Abby seemed to go into a food coma.  We started noticing that Abby didn't have as much energy.  That isn't to say she was lethargic, but rather I noticed that any energy she had before dinner was quickly replaced with a firm desire to nap.  Almost like most people get after Thanksgiving.  It was as if she was in a Thanksgiving coma. 

It wasn't long before other things started to seem a little bit off.  I noticed that Abby was burping a lot.  But it wasn't just a burp.  She would actually be burping up food.  In most instances she would simply swallow whatever came up.  But sometimes she wasn't so lucky and she'd end up spitting up a good amount of food.  Additionally there were times where it was as if it either came up the wrong way, or she swallowed wrong, but she started to breathe funny for about a minute afterwards.  It almost sounded like a reverse sneeze, and if you didn't know better it was concerning.  The first few times it happened I would wonder if she was breathing OK. 

Additionally Abby has lost weight on the new food.  Now granted, I'm not very concerned about this.  But when you consider that the amount of food she was to eat was calculated based on her weight at the time that we started feeding her OM (40 pounds), it is noteworthy that she is losing weight (36.5 pounds).  I think that anything in the 35-40 pound range seems healthy for her, but if 40 were the ideal weight for her than I'd be worried about how I would correct that problem because admittedly she is getting a TON of food on the OM as it is and I don't know how much more I could give her. 

So hubby and I are thinking about switching her food and trying something else.  I'm not entirely sold on a prescription diet for her, much less one that targets weight management when she isn't an overweight dog.  Additionally I am concerned with her being on a diet that is presciption because I constantly have to worry about making sure to order her food.  And after one time where someone at her veterinarian's office did not forward a note properly for her food to be ordered, I am always worried that such a human error could happen again. 

In other news we have started to taper down her Clomicalm that she has been on for a year.  I am doing a really slow tapering with it.  Instead of doing a half tablet twice daily, I am giving her half a tablet once daily for one month, then half a tablet every other day for a month.  We'll see how that goes.  We have noticed that she is barking a bit more at sounds she hears or things she sees.  My hope is that as I try out a new food for her, I can find a kibble that works and use that to bump up the relaxation protocols. 

Abby did the funniest thing the other day, although I should say that seems to do funny things every day.  We were coming back from a walk and my husband had been running an errand.  He passed by us on our way back, and he had his window open.  Abby watched his car pass and about two seconds later stopped, sniffed the air, and bolted in the direction her Dad had just gone.  Too funny!

She also had her first agility class, and she was an absolute superstar!  It was only her and one other dog, and she did really well with jumping over the hurdles.  Inevitably Jess told us to take their leashes off, and admittedly I was worried.  Abby is NEVER off leash.  We just don't have an area that we could do that work with her.  But she did so well!  There were times where she wanted to be the social butterfly and go see Blue, but largely she stayed with us and sometimes came back when called.  The biggest thing I noticed was how willing Abby was to trust me.  She trusted that I wanted her to walk on equipment that was safe, and to me that was the best part of the class.  Throughout most of the class she looked like she was smiling - it was the cutest thing in the world! 

Next week we're going to try some rally, so I can't wait to see how she does with that! 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Easing back to normal

The past few months have been a little bit hectic as of late, and perhaps the biggest challenge has been our girl's GI issues.  The week of April 18th Abby started with soft stools that were later accompanied by an urgency with her bowel movements.  We brought her to the her veterinarian and got a prescription for Metronidazole and had a discussion about the food that she has been on.  At the time Abby was eating Merrick's Grammy's Pot Pie, and she was doing relatively well with it.  However, I had noticed that it seemed as if Abby periodically had GI issues since we adopted her. 
When we first adopted Abby and brought her to her first veterinarian appointment, her fecal results came back positive for giardia.  We put her on fenbendazole that was to be mixed in with her Science Diet puppy kibble.  I don't know if there was a taste to her medicine, or she didn't like the texture of the medicine in her food.  Either way, she inevitably wanted no part of her food.  She made it through one week of medicine, and then stopped eating even without having medicine in her food.  At that time we tried to change her dry food in an effort to get her to think that if there was a new food, then there was a new MO.  Inevitably she really seemed to dig the Merrick's Puppy Plate.  She did well on this medicine, but after a few months got diarrhea one time.  Her stool sample came back clean and we put her on metronidazole, and eventually the problem cleared up. 

Over the next several months it seemed like we went through periodic issues with diarrhea.  The stool samples were always clean, and the metronidazole cleared up the urgency that accompanied the diarrhea and inevitably helped with the consistency of her stools.  But then this last bout hit in April and we were not able to clear up her problems. 

We did a week of metronidazole, and although it helped with the urgency it did not really affect the consistency of her stools.  The first stool while on metronidazole was solid, and after that they were about the consistency of soft serve (presuming it wasn't full blown diarrhea).  Additionally, when we spoke with the veterinarian, they said that they were seeing a lot of dogs that had problems with Merrick foods.  They said that the fat content in the Merrick foods was very high, and as a result a lot of dogs seem to develop this problem; as if their pancreases have enough and blow out.  We switched her food to a low residue (Iams) and gave her Forti Flora, a probiotic.  After a week when her stools hadn't improved, I tried switching the food to Science Diet I/D dry because she had previously done better on this food.  The stools improved a bit, but not enough.  I called the veterinarian back and they extended the metronidazole and set us up with an appointment for a complete blood panel including TLI and folates, as well as a broader fecal test. 

In true Abby fashion, all of her bloodwork and fecal tests came back fine.  All levels were where they needed to be, which meant that her pancreas was functioning fine and that we weren't having any issues with malabsorption or maldigestion.  At this point we went on an exclusion diet.  Abby would only eat Science Diet I/D dry and the hypoallergenic cookies, and all other treats and foods would be cut out.  Abby's stools did not improve at all on this diet at all.  So we decided to take things a step further. 

One of the vet techs at Abby's vet hospital suggested a nutritionist at Angell Hospital, and I was able to set up a phone consultation with her for this past Tuesday.  She had some very helpful suggestions.  She said that when dogs have problems with digestion, they always look to simplify everything as much as they can.  The fact that Abby had been on a low residue, low fiber food and not improved showed that low fiber was not the way to go.  Additionally, we should also look to switch her from dry food to canned food as the dry food would have a lot more non-nutrative items in it, including preservatives.  That said, the second thing that we should try is a higher fiber food.  She gave us two suggestions:  either Purina OM or half Science Diet I/D and half Science Diet W/D.  Providing this food worked for her, we could then introduce treats for her training such as carrots, rice cakes, or mini marshmallows.  If this did not work either, then we would simplify further and try a novel protein diet. 

While I waited for Abby's Purina OM to come in, I immediately switched her to Science Diet I/D canned food.  I immediately noticed an improvement in Abby's stools.  Abby's new food came in on Friday, and she started with that at dinner and really seemed to dig the taste of it.  I have to say that since switching Abby to canned food, she has been SUPER interested in food.  She is actually salivating for meals, and is even more food motivated than she was before. 

I still am not sure how mini marshmallows are a good treat for her given the amount of sugar in them.  But I'm thinking that if I cut these in half to make them even smaller, I could integrate them in combination with the other treats as a trail mix for her training.  All I know is that it is so wonderful to have her finally on the road back to normal. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in

So Abby's progression with us has been really interesting to watch.  We've gone from a girl who literally would be pulling me and bouncing towards any object that she saw, to now sometimes getting a bit mouthy with some dogs.  It also has been a progression that has only recently occurred, and I'm really hoping that we'll be able to make some positive improvements for her so that she doesn't feel so overwhelmed and reactive. 

As we had worked with Abby on her relaxation and general anxiety, we also tried to put her into daycare for a few reasons.  Not only was it clear that she lacked all social graces, but we also were able to give our neighbors some relief from her all day barking.  Daycare made a huge impression on Abby, and certainly helped with some of her anxiety.  The days we did crate her very slowly began to go a little bit better, and inevitably we sent her to daycare to tire her out and also so that I wouldn't have to race home at lunch to let her out.  She always seemed excited to go to daycare, and we were also excited to send her. 

Last month my husband and I went on our long overdue honeymoon, and we sent Abby to stay with a petsitter.  On her usual Thursday Abby went off to daycare, and when she came back the feedback was that she had a few little scuffles in daycare, at least one of which she caused.  My immediate reaction was to be worried, but then I balanced it out with, "Well, she was in a new environment and she was out of her routine with my husband and I." 

The same day that Abby had a great reaction to Caitlin the week after returning from vacation was twofold.  On one hand I was excited by her reaction and interaction with Caitlin.  However, there was something at the end of our interaction that did concern me.  As I previously wrote she had played with Dexter and was having fun being rowdy, and she even let the little girl, Caitlin, throw a ball to her and went to sniff her.  Towards the end of her interaction, one of our neighbors came home with his dog.  He let his dog out of the car and the dog approached Abby.  Now Abby has played with this dog in the past, although I sometimes limit their time because this dog plays a little rough from time to time.  However, as the new dog approached Abby instantly got mouthy with him and started to bite at his mouth.  She even made a sound as if she was hurt while biting him, yet he was very clearly not doing anything to her.  I was shocked!  I took Abby back, made our apologies, and went homeward bound. 

Admittedly I was worried about sending her to daycare, but with it being month-end at work I wouldn't have been able to get home for lunch.  So Abby went to daycare, and the feedback was positive:  she had fun playing and romping and was a joy to have.  Phew!  Maybe those incidents were just flukes! 


The next week she met a new Boxer puppy in the neighborhood.  She did not seem to like the immediate rear sniffing from the puppy, but she didn't get mouthy.  Instead her tail dropped between her legs and she tried to scoot away.  But then she would go right back to play wrestling and seemed to have fun.  After a few minutes a newer puppy in the neighborhood, Cooper, approached.  Abby has been very patient with Cooper in the past and has enjoyed playing with him.  Although Abby is not a big dog, she sometimes is unsure with smaller dogs because she usually is the smallest dog in daycare.  This day when Cooper approached, the Boxer puppy went to greet first.  Abby watched without moving, her tail in a high arch over her back as is her normal posture when any dog approaches.  Cooper was focused at first on the Boxer puppy, and after a minute turned his attention to Abby.  Abby promptly bit him in the mouth.  I pulled Abby back, apologized again (as I'm starting to get used to) and Cooper's mom continued Cooper on his walk. 

The thing is that there are times throughout these weeks where Abby has great interactions with other dogs, and so it is just so hard to tell what is going on. 

However, last week things came to a head.  Abby went to daycare on Thursday and it did not go as well as it should.  The wonderful thing about where Abby goes to daycare is that they write up blurbs about how the dogs did in daycare.  I always enjoy reading these as I wait for Abby to be brought up from daycare.  On this particular Thursday I did not enjoy reading this.  It said that Abby likes to start scuffles in daycare and most of the other dogs ignore this, but today she started one with Zoe, a Boxer around Abby's age, and it escalated before the staff could intervene.  Abby ended up with a scratch on her head, and later I found one on her leg. 

My husband and I joke that our children have four legs, and as I waited for Abby to be brought up from daycare I felt my heart sink as I waited to see her and wondered how bad it was.  My initial thoughts as I saw her were, "Oh my gosh, my poor girl, she has a scar!"  In retrospect the cut really wasn't that bad.  When Abby's mouthiness first started I talked with Jessica about it and she said that some dogs don't do well with daycare longterm, and perhaps I needed to consider removing her from it.  My confirmation that this was the appropriate course of action was being mulled over in my head this Thursday.  Part of me thought, "Well, this feedback seems to come on Thursdays.  Maybe there are particular dogs that seem to spark Abby's reactivity."  I realize now that the fact that there is reactivity at all means I need to work on it. 

I brought Abby to class on Saturday and immediately became aware that we needed to work with our girl.  We brought Abby inside to wait for the previous class to finish up.  Abby was waiting on her mat, when a small dog came around the corner and instantly went up to Abby to give kisses.  Abby was fine with this, and barked as the dog left as if she wanted the dog to stay to play.  Then Abby made her way up to the working area and I put her mat down.  She was sitting calmly until she heard Morgan, a Chocolate Lab.  Morgan is high energy, and her in-your-face style in recent weeks has left Abby unsettled.  Abby had actually tried to bite Morgan before, and I hadn't thought much of the incident largely because of Morgan's over the top nature.  However, as soon as Abby heard Morgan approaching she was at attention and ready to defend... or attack, I'm not sure which.  Morgan tried to approach and Abby instantly lunged.  I got her back to her mat, but unfortunately the next dog to come in tried to sniff Abby and she again lunged.  It was clear that daycare was completely off the table, and honestly I'm OK with that. 

After class I spoke with Jess, and left armed with a book to begin to understand how to shape Abby's reactions and perceptions of other dogs.  All dog interactions are off the table at this point, and frankly it makes it easier.  As I began to really look at Abby this week, I had a bit of a revelation.  When we first got Abby she was instantly reactive and barking, pulling, hopping, and lunging towards whatever she saw.  However, as we worked with Abby on her reactivity, I began to take anything that didn't resemble that over-the-top reaction as a step in the right direction.  It dawns on me now that while Abby doesn't bark, pull and hop in the presence of something to watch, she does have a reaction.  She freezes.  Her body is tense and her tail is arched high over her back.  Nothing about that posture seems relaxed to me. 

So at this point I have a lot of work to do with our girl.  I swear just when I start to get one thing sort of figured out, she throws another challenge at me.  But I know that she's in the best possible place for her to display these behaviors because I'm committed to understanding them and working with her. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Superstar Puppy

So we got a brand new camera on Thursday night, so I will offer the disclaimer that this post is going to be picture heavy. 

The above photos were right before she got to meet up with Iggy, a Boston Terrier who is just so adorable.  Iggy has had some anxiety issues in the past with dogs, but yesterday he was SO excited to see Abby and ran towards her.  I was really happy for Iggy and his Mom, and proud of my girl for making him feel comfortable!  They played for a little bit, and then in true Iggy fashion he was interested in sniffing the rocks and digging at the dirt.  I walked back towards our house with Iggy and his Mom, and at one point Abby was hilarious.  She typically doesn't walk with other dogs since we only have her, but she did a great job with walking near Iggy and largely ignoring him.  But at one point she became focused on Iggy again because he ignored her.  So she jumped up so she was standing only on her back legs, and she was reaching as hard as she could with her front ones as if to say "MUST!  TOUCH!  HIM!  MUST!  TOUCH!  IGGY!"  I got such a kick out of her!  She really is such a chucklehead sometimes. 

Today was a big day for Abby.  She had an appointment for her Rabies vaccine, and I was curious to see how she was going to react.  Last June she had her Lepto and Lyme vaccines and she had an allergic reaction.  Since it was only her second time in the car last year when we took her, and she had thrown up on the way home from the SPCA, we thought that when she threw up after her vaccine that she was just car sick.  When she threw up a little later in the house I realized she was having a reaction.  So I wasn't sure how she would react to the Rabies.  Thankfully our vet is wonderful, and they were very proactive in making sure she didn't have a reaction and she hung out with them to be certain she was OK.  But for the better part of today, Abby spent much of her time doing a whole lot of nothing. 

Abby spent the morning and afternoon sleeping, and I was happy to oblige her.  One of her favorite ways to sleep is nestled into the crook of your arm.  It was a good thing she got some rest because her training class was hard today, so she was going to need her energy. 

We spent a lot of time working on some loose leash walking, and then some "Leave Its" walking past a bowl of food.  Our girl worked really hard, and she did so good!  My husband took pictures of her training. 

Working on some loose leash walking. 

Our girl did a great job with eye contact throughout class.

See what I was telling you about the eye contact?

Because we were working on Fronts this week, where Abby is to walk in front of me and sit, she kept walking infront of me and sitting down for hot dogs.  I'll take it!

Such BEAUTIFUL eye contact today! 

At one point I couldn't help but crack up at how much she wanted hot dogs!

Up next, Abby's biggest hurdle:  walking past a bowl of food. 

What food?

Abby walked past the food no problem!

She walked past the bowls as if they weren't even a challenge!  Go Abby!

We stepped up our game a bit towards the end and walked with the bowl between us. 

Our girl did so well! 

How many people can say their dog will sit next to a bowl of food and ignore it? 

So needless to say I was insanely proud of my girl.  Throughout the whole class she kept good eye contact with me.  Throughout most of our classes, Abby typically ends up checking out about 45 minutes in because it is as if her brain is too full.  Our girl showed up ready to work today, and she worked the whole class and was eager for more.  And when we first began loose leash walking, Abby only paid attention to me.  She'd look at some of the other dogs in the class from time to time, but largely she was just focused on working.  I love days when we're both on the same page and everything clicks.  She really is growing up! 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Empress' New Clothes

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges in having a reactive dog is their amazing ability to pull.  Towards what you ask?  Anything and everything.  Abby has pulled me through mud, into puddles, over snowbanks, and into oncoming traffic.  She has pulled me towards people, dogs, and obscure objects that only she can see.  When I think back to the walks we had during the first two months that we had her, I realize that it must have been funny for others to watch me try to walk her.  Although Abby is only 40 pounds, she has a great deal of strength, and at first it was almost too much to try to corral her.  The "Name Game" helped initially to try to get her focus back towards us on walks, but sometimes there were challenges that were just too tough to try to get her away from.

A few months ago I was really excited to get Wiggles, Wags and Whiskers' Freedom No-Pull Harness.  We previously had a a Premiere Easy Walk Harness and that had worked really well for Abby.  The new harness has two pivot points that help steer our girl, and the velvet underlining doesn't irritate her when she wears it.  So when I found out that they made a Martingale collar I had to get one.  My goal at some point for Abby is for her to be able to loose leash walk without the assistance of a harness.  However, I am realistic enough to know that there are situations where my girl could possibly pull the collar over her head.  So after a few mismeasurements and exchanges, Abby finally got her new collars in.  I put the first one on last night, and I tried so hard to take pictures of her.  Our girl has been a bit camerashy as of late, so she pretty much ran away from me.  And although today she was very depressed to be in the fog, she finally let me take a few pictures of her.

I swear that if I could put a speech bubble next to her final picture it would be, "Again?  Really?  All right fine, just take the damn picture already."

My husband laughed at me when I described the collars through text, but I stand by it.  Her new collars make her look Sassafrass.  If she'll ever stop running away from me there is the potential for me to post pictures of the other collar soon.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

We represent The Lollipop Guild

Most recently I've realized that Abby has grown into a fear of children.  I'm not sure that I can pick a point where it changed because I don't know that there is one.  Rather it was a slow evolution based on her lack of opportunity to meet kids and be around them.  My husband and I don't have children, and the majority of our nieces and nephews are older.  The few kids in our neighborhood often were not out during the hours we took Abby on our walks, and on the few opportunities where they were it did not go well.

The first time Abby saw a child was when we were walking down our street, and she saw two young kids on Hot Wheels.  Have you ever tried to walk a dog past something on wheels, particularly a reactive puppy?  If not, let me tell you what goes down.  There is a moment where your dog will stop and assess the collateral damage.  Rather quickly she will decide that she wants no part of the situation whatsoever, and as if she is suddenly Spiderman, she will try to repel herself away and swing from her imaginary webs to safety.  This ends up displaying as her tucking her tail between her legs, straightening all four legs, and trying to pull herself out of her harness as she backs away quickly.  As a new dog owner I had no idea this would be her reaction or else I would have turned before she had the opportunity to see the kids on Hot Wheels.  Instead at the same moment Abby saw the kids, they saw her and wanted to play with her.  The only problem was that they didn't abandon the Hot Wheels.  Instead they lead a pursuit after Abby as she tried to run away to safety.  Now there were little people on wheels giving chase all culminating into a recipe for disaster.

On a separate occasion we were walking down the same street a month later when suddenly four kids carrying swords came running out of their house.  And just as suddenly as I saw them came the cries of, "Doggie!" and "Puppy!" and they came running towards us.  Abby freaked out.  Now there were four of them, and they were brandishing weapons!  Abby was petrified; you could just see it on her face and posturing.  One of the kids was older and had a developmental disability and asked if he could pet her.  I told him that she was very nervous right now and said it wasn't a good idea.  One of the youngest kids, Kevin, did not hear me and came running over.  Abby had her tail between her legs, which I noticed in particular because Kevin said that with her tail like that it looked like a turd.  Yes, clearly NOT my target audience for teaching Abby to be tolerant of children.  It was with that I took her back to the house.

There have been times where Abby does OK with kids.  After a particularly harrowing Christmas Eve where Abby was followed around by our youngest niece who just wanted to befriend her in the worst way, Abby showed considerable interest in our friends' children one Sunday at football.  The youngest of the boys was about the same size as our niece, but considerably calmer.  He went to play video games, and the other sat down to watch the game.  In Abby's estimation they had ignored her, so now they were interesting.  She actually approached them and wanted attention from them, which was really cool.  However, that would remain one of Abby's last positive interactions in the coming months.

This week Abby has had a particularly great week with kids.  The other day I took her for a walk and she bumped into her buddy, Dexter.  Dexter is a Portuguese Water Dog/Australian Shepherd mix who is insanely sweet and so darn goofy.  He loves other dogs, and he cries if he can't see them.  Abby was really interested in Dexter, and nearby was a younger girl from the neighborhood who seems to be really good with dogs.  Caitlin and Dexter were playing with a ball, and Abby didn't immediately growl and run away from Caitlin.  It is really hard to find kids that are patient with reactive and scared dogs, and who don't run around.  But Caitlin instantly got that Abby was a bit nervous and she made an effort to make sure Abby didn't feel scared around her.  Instantly I loved this girl and have decided that whenever she has time for Abby I will make sure Abby has time to say hi to her.  Abby was still very tentative at first, but inevitably when Caitlin tried to give a ball to her Abby did at least target the ball.  Finally some forward progress!  Abby stayed to play with Dexter and Caitlin for about ten minutes before I brought her home to eat dinner.

But Abby's true test came today after a long walk through the condo where we checked out every bird and squirrel flying and hopping through the place.  There is a new dog in the condo, Charlie Brown, and Abby has been very tentative in her interactions with Charlie.  I know the reason for this is because Charlie has typically been on a leash held by Kevin, the same boy who has scared her over the summer.  Abby typically welcomes any opportunity to play with a new dog, particularly puppies.  I don't know if she feels a need to show them the ropes, but she definitely is a bit of a welcome wagon to dogs that are a bit shy or socially awkward.  The first time we saw Charlie Brown I could see that she was excited to see a new dog... and then she saw Kevin holding the leash.  All excitement was gone, and she really just wanted to get away from the situation as fast as she could.  The few encounters we've had with Charlie have typically been with Kevin and his dad, and all have ended with her wanting to flee.

At the end of our walk today we saw Dexter playing with Charlie Brown, and Kevin and his dad were close by.  Abby stopped near them and watched them playing.  I stopped with her just to see what she was going to do.  I didn't want to take her away from the situation because I didn't want her to be fearful or think that she can't play, but I also didn't want to force it on her.  So Abby watched for a solid 3 minutes before she started to sniff the ground near her.  About a minute after that she took a tentative step towards them, so I did also.  Then she began walking towards them.  Now her tail was down upon approach, but in under a minute her tail was wagging and she was enjoying playing with the other dogs.

Then she noticed Kevin.  In fairness to Kevin, having Charlie has definitely helped him mellow out.  In the past he would have come running towards a dog full speed, but now he is much more calm around dogs.  You can tell his dad, Ken, has worked with him to understand that not every dog enjoys being greeted this way, and Ken has been very patient with understanding Abby's unique needs.  So today Abby was a little bit hesitant, but she did go up to Kevin and touch his hand lightly with her nose. I cannot begin to tell you how proud I was of her!  One of the biggest things we've worked on with Abby and her stranger anxiety is the ability to "go say hi," where I can ask if she would like to say hi, and she will touch the stranger's hand and come back to me for her reward.  There have been times she hasn't wanted to, and today I was so proud of her for wanting to try and for feeling as if she could.

There are days like today where you reflect back upon where you were, and how far you've come with your dog.  Honestly, I could not have possibly dreamed that at some point I would have a dog who is just slightly less reactive and wanting to approach children.  I feel so proud of her progress, and her ability to trust me as her touch stone to come back to in these situations.  My girl works very hard.  And her progress, while sometimes maddeningly slow, is forever moving.  The ability to look at where she is today versus nearly a year ago is truly awesome.


Every blog must begin with an Introduction, right?

On Memorial Day weekend my husband and I adopted Abby, a hound/terrier mix from the NHSPCA.  I will tell you that I had no intention of coming home with a dog that day, and my husband will tell you differently.  That very same week we had just moved into a new place that would allow for us to have a pet, and in short order I had our house virtually unpacked and settled.  He would tell you that was how he knew we were coming home with a dog.  In the months leading up to our move we spoke at length about the types of dogs we'd like.  Throughout each of our discussions there was a common theme:  no puppies.  I am not averse to puppies at all.  In my mind there is nothing cuter than puppy fur, puppy breath, and awkward paws that they haven't grown into.  In my husband's mind they require a level of patience he did not feel he was ready for.

So one Saturday morning we went for a ride to the NHSPCA.  We had previously been on their website and had several candidates that we were eager to meet and possibly welcome to our home.  Apparently everyone had dogs in mind that weekend, because the ones we had in mind were already adopted or had an adoption pending.  As we began looking at the other dogs, we noticed many were fearful of men and some just would not approach at all.  We made several passes past the kennels, and honestly there was not one that jumped out at me.  On what would be our final pass, there was one girl that had previously been out for a walk who was just put back in her kennel who came right up to us as we approached.  Her name was Baby, and she had these brown eyes that would just melt your heart.  The only problem was that she was a puppy, listed at 5 months old.  Part of me was secretly happy about that because I figured we would at least know that we could housebreak her our way as opposed to inheriting someone else's training methods that may or may not have been free of problems.  My husband and I went to the adoption desk to ask if we could take Baby out.  We may have even made a few "Nobody puts Baby in the corner" jokes along the way, and vowed that we would change her name if we adopted.  So out we went with Baby soon-to-be Abby, and we fell in love.  That first walk was so different than any walk I've had with her since.  Don't get me wrong, I still believe a connection was forming in that moment, but I believe it was more on our part than hers.  But in we went with her and started the process of bringing her home.  The whole thing went smoothly, and before long Abby was riding in the backseat of my Corolla while my husband drove the hour ride home.

I wish I could tell you things were seamless and that Abby's transition into our house was smooth sailing.  It wasn't.  Although Abby crashed on our floor the first day that we brought her home and slept for several hours, there was still a part of me that was realizing that this was the first dog I was raising in my adult life.  Sure I had dogs when I was growing up, but it is a very different thing when you're a child.  You get to do the fun stuff - you get to play with them, run around with them, and feed them all of the table scraps you can sneak while your parents aren't looking.  As an adult you're responsible for all of the discipline, training, housebreaking and rules that come along with responsible dog ownership.  It became clear we were in over our heads.  As a puppy she was completely reactive, and every walk left me more exhausted than the one before.  Abby would look at everything as if she was seeing it for the first time, and in some instances that really was true.  When she saw someone or something it became an exercise in navigating her for walks.  She would bark the entire time to try to get at it or get it to come closer to her, and the entire time she would be pulling to get to it and hopping up and down.  It was horrific.  When she wasn't actively barking at and hopping towards something, she was on the prowl for the next thing to repeat this behavior with.  Walks were challenging to say the least, particularly because once she saw something she would not go potty.  I inevitably began cursing every neighbor we had under my breath for simply living their lives because anything they did would start this cycle.

When we brought Abby for her first vet appointment the first weekend in June, they estimated her age to be at least 6 months because her adult canines were fully formed.  "An extra month!" I thought delightfully.  That meant we were one month closer to her adult years when hopefully this behavior will have worked itself out.  Our vet recommended puppy classes and said that their trainer offered all positive reinforcement based training.  It wasn't long after our first visit to the vet that we decided to call Jessica for puppy classes because we clearly were drowning.

In retrospect I wish I had taped Abby's first puppy class.  It was a nightmare.  She was suddenly in a place where there were a TON of other dogs, and this was the closest she had been in awhile to another dog.  You see, Abby already had a reputation in our small condo complex of being a reactive dog.  Since she was a puppy, and we were brand new to the complex, most people would not bring their dogs near Abby.  Unfortunately she just had so much energy, she definitely moved at a different speed than the older dogs.  Plus the bark didn't exactly encourage people to want to approach.  The first time someone did they asked if she was friendly with a good amount of trepidation in their voice.  So now Abby had at least 8 other dogs in one place to look at, bark at, and pull towards!  As we were being introduced to clicker training, I had no idea how this was going to help her.  The entire time I thought, "Well, it certainly can't hurt."

Each class with Abby was a disaster.  Sometimes she would want to work, but you never knew if she'd want to work for 5 minutes out of our class or 20.  You always hoped for 20, and relished if she offered 5.  It wasn't that she couldn't do the work or get the clicker training - she could.  She just simply became unfocused and remained relatively unhinged for most of the class.  Once home, I would be able to work with her on the things we learned that night and get them polished up for the next class, where again she may demonstrate some training we've worked on and largely ignore the rest of it.

It wasn't long after we got Abby that someone flipped a switch and Abby hated her crate.  We were crating her during the day when we were at work, and I'd stop by at lunch to take her out and relieve her bladder.  At night for bedtime we put her back in the crate simply because we didn't know if she would have an accident as she was still housetraining.  One night Abby was done.  She wanted no part of being in a different room from us.  So we moved the crate upstairs for bedtime.  This worked for a few days, and then just as instantly as it was working it stopped working.  I put her in one night and you would have thought I was killing her.  She instantly was barking, yelping and panicked.  She would paw furiously at the crate door while barking anxiously, and then throw her body from one side of the crate to the other.  Although I didn't want to reward her behavior and let her out while she was barking, it was also 11 at night and our neighbors were asleep.  We let her out and brought her bed upstairs, which is where she has slept every night since.

The crate aversion wasn't limited just to bedtime.  The morning after the incident it overflowed into not wanting to be crated while we were at work.  She didn't want to go to her crate, so I would pick her up and place her inside.  She then began barking from inside the crate.  One early summer afternoon I came home at lunch, and our neighbor across the street promptly came out of her house and made a bee line for me as I took Abby out.  I knew this wasn't going to be good.  She told me Abby had been barking for about 2 hours straight, and suggested I closed the windows so that she wouldn't hear it.  I did, and then I panicked.  I tried to gate off the kitchen and leave her in there thinking the extra freedom would help her.  When I came home after work I found that Abby had scaled the gate and had free reign of the house.  While she hadn't had an accident, I knew it was simply because she had too many things to check out on her own.  We talked with Jessica and started to work on trying to make the crate positive.

No matter what we did with that crate at first, our girl fought it the entire way.  If I put treats near it she would get them and run away.  Although she would inevitably get comfortable stepping near the crate to get treats, if I put them inside of the crate she would always have at least one paw outside of the crate so as not to get locked in.  And it wasn't getting better.  I had watched a DVD called "Crate Games" that I borrowed from Jessica, and I thought "These dogs are starting from a relaxed position in their crate.  There is no way I can start this game with Abby because she is petrified of her crate."  And it only got worse.  One day while walking with Abby the neighbor immediately beside us who shares the other side of our condo walls approached and asked if we could do anything about the barking.  I knew she was barking when I left for work in the morning, I heard it.  But what I didn't know, and could not have known, was that she didn't stop.  Our neighbor told us that Abby was barking literally all day, and only stopped at lunch time when someone came to let her out, and then she'd start right back up.  Again I panicked.  I left Abby out of her crate the next day and gave her the house.  She chewed the frame next to our front door.  The next day I thought she'd do OK and left her out again thinking that she couldn't chew it any more than she already had.  I was correct.  She chewed up the wall-to-wall carpet instead, straight down through the pad.  Did I mention we are renting?  My husband was less than pleased given the security deposit.

We started home visits with Jessica to work on her anxiety.  We also started her on Chlomicalm just to give her the ability to relax because clearly no matter what we did positive for her in that crate, there was something along the lines that made her so panicked she would never view that crate as positive because she physically couldn't.  The home visits were amazingly helpful.  We worked on teaching Abby that she could relax, something she wasn't able to do previously.  The goal was that if we could help her to relax day-to-day, we could move that into her crate and then make her crate positive.  It wasn't a change that happened overnight, but somewhere along the way there was a bit of a delay between when I put her in her crate and when she'd start barking.  Over time that delay grew, and inevitably vanished.  Months later I asked our neighbors about it and they said that whoever we brought Abby to was a miracle worker because they hadn't heard Abby at all.  I cried that night because of how much work we both had done.

Abby continued plugging away at puppy class and learning her basic obedience.  She still has a problem with Stay simply because she is my Velcro dog and always wants to be with me.  But there is always forward progress with her and I'm so proud.  As I took her on a long walk this morning I realized that she has come a long way from the girl that would pull me the entire time we walked, would hop around and bark at every single thing.  We took a nice stroll through the condo and when Abby saw things that were interesting she stopped walking and stared at them.  I know that I will always have a reactive girl.  She's curious and she is always interested in the world around her.  I cannot, and would not want to, change that.  But I can work with her to help shape her behavior for when she sees the world, and be proud of the work we've both done to get to that point.