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.