It’s been a couple weeks since I updated the dog activities around here, and it has been a busy time! Between my studies with the Karen Pryor Academy course and working with Leelu on behavioral issues, it is doggy days here, or it was until Amelia came along this weekend. But still lots of dog stuff to be worked on.
The Karen Pryor Academy (KPA) course actually dovetails very nicely with the work with Leelu. Gracie has
borne the brunt of benefited from my practice for the class, but Leelu’s gotten to participate a little too. Some of you kindly suggested that I was being too hard on myself, but really and truly, I wasn’t. The whole point of taking a complex class like the KPA one is to learn new things and sharpen one’s skills. I’m doing both. I’m reasonably good at some of the training bits, and others are still a challenge. Shaping – a training strategy where you break things down into very small parts and train each until you have the whole thing – continues to challenge the piece of me that just wants it all to be done, thank you! But I’m working on that.
Leelu benefited from the shaping exercise this week because the person I’m working with to help with with behavioral issues asked me to teach her front paw targeting. It actually went pretty well, rewarding her for looking at the rubber feed bowl (where she. would put her front paws) first, then asking her to touch it, then put one foot on it, and then both feet, and finally to hold there for about 5 seconds until released. She nailed in in just a couple days – she’s a smart dog.
Gracie is getting better and better at the lick exercise, which was about capturing a natural behavior. When we get that down a bit better I’ll make a video for you. It will be a fun trick when we get back to pet therapy work someday.
I won’t bore you with stimulus control and all the other things I’m learning, but the course is very good and super challenging, and I am enjoying it so much.
Meanwhile, Leelu is doing better too. Knock on wood (or my computer keys) she hasn’t had a major episode in nearly a month, and is generally more relaxed. She still spooks occasionally, but they are minor episodes where she’s just a little scared for a few hours and she gets over it, instead of her full scale warnings that leave her (and us) stressed for days.
She’s claimed this particular bed in my office and that has become her spot to go to whenever she just wants to chill. She sleeps there at night as well, since she snores up a storm and cannot sleep in our room! She does get to join us for about an hour before we get up most mornings. She actually seems to have an internal clock and barks once at about 5 am and I get up and let her join us while we snooze awhile longer. She loves being on the bed with us for that time.
I met with her behavioral person today and she saws we’re making good progress on the exercises. It is hard for me to see that since I work with her everyday, but nice to hear that she really has made significant progress in the last 10 days. One of our exercises is to condition her to accept having Bodhi’s Elizabethan cone (his post surgery one) over her head in case she is stressed and I need to handle her for some reason. It is part of our safety protocol, and Leelu is totally fine with it, since everytime she’s seen it for 10 days treats have been involved. I needed to use it once over the last 10 days and she was totally fine with that after all the work we’ve done. And it is very nice for me to have something that lets me be relaxed about doing something that would otherwise stress us both, and might result in bad stuff.
She has a number of exercises that are helping her get used to hands, and hands that reach for her, mine and Marley’s. She has been wearing a leash fulltime since she gets worried about me reaching for it, and that worries me. But this week we start on a new exercise to help her get comfortable with a leash being put on and taken off.
We are also starting muzzle training, which sounds scary to some folks, but through the training the muzzle will mean good things to Leelu (food!) and we will use it for fun stuff and not just scary things so she doesn’t assume the worst when it comes out. Once we’ve got that working for her I can take her to the vet’s office or other scary places more safely until it is possible to work on desensitizing her to the vet’s touch. Eventually the vet wants to put her on a regular injection to help with pain/inflammation issues, and that will be part of our training in the future as well.
Gracie got to be part of our training today as well, since Leelu regularly tries to get between me and Gracie, which Gracie doesn’t like much. Working with both of them with our amazing counselor today, they both learned to sit, each on one side of me where I can give each of them attention in turn.
Little by little, Leelu is turning into a happier, more relaxed dog. We have a ways to go yet, but I am more than hopeful that we can get her to a good place that is comfortable for everyone in the house, and those outside as well. I wouldn’t have been able to say that a month ago, but her rapid progress in response to foundational exercises and how we can use those for all sorts of things leaves me feeling confident that this dog can actually be helped. She’s learning so much, and I am too, and all of that makes me happy.