Friday, April 21, 2017

Reactive Rover and Homework

Delilah's second Reactive Rover class last Friday went really well. One dog is no longer coming to class and another didn't show so it was just Delilah and the black dog who has also been pretty good so we were able to get a lot of one on one attention.

We did the Look at That game for a lot of the class and the trainer started it by moving around the room and making different noises and movements to get the dogs' attention and we clicked and treated as soon as they looked at him. Then we took turns where one owner would walk their dog around the room and give them lots of praise and keep them moving while the other dog sat and got clicked and rewarded for watching the owner and the dog that were moving.

Towards the end Delilah started getting stressed again and started looking for spots on the ground. I was able to get her focus for the rest of class and I asked the trainer about it. He said not to drop her treats on the ground because that might be why she's looking for the spots. It's going to be hard bending down to give her treats in a timely manner lol. But I'll give it a try. Small dog problems haha.

We had some homework to take the dog out to different places (or around the neighborhood if they're reactive on regular walks) and play LAT with triggers.  Overall Delilah did really well on her walks and also at a few places I took her.  She had a couple of issues.  Once when I took her to a pet store.  It was a weekday morning so it wasn't busy at all and she did really well with the employees there.  But then when I was at the register paying for a Pet Corrector (to deter the off leash dogs I mentioned in my last post) a woman came up behind us and bent right over Delilah and started talking to her.  She reacted snarling and lunging immediately.  The woman was still trying to pet her!  I stepped in between and asked for space but Delilah never recovered from that so we left the pet store after paying.  I noticed Delilah doesn't like people leaning over her, talking to her, or making direct contact, but is perfectly happy to greet strangers that act neutral or make themselves small (standing sideways or crouching down).  Basically she does better with dog savvy people.

The other time we had an issue is I met a friend for a walk that Delilah hadn't met before.  She barked at first but we quickly got that under control and she was comfortable walking with the friend when we were outside.  I invited the friend in the house and Delilah started barking when she saw the friend was going to enter "her territory."  Since I was trying to be social and didn't want to work with Delilah while I had a friend over, I put her outside on her tie out with a raw marrow bone for her to chew on and she seemed happy about that.

We have another class tonight and I'm very excited!  Delilah doing really well in general and I hope this class is helping her.  It's certainly very interesting and I'm glad we're taking it.

Monday, April 10, 2017

First Hike of the Season and Off Leash Dogs Rant

First: Pictures!

Disclaimer:  This is a rant, sorry for being negative.

We went out looking for signs of spring but all we found was mud and ice!  It was beautiful though- in the 70's today!  First we went to the middle school's athletic fields and I jogged a mile on their track and let Delilah run around off leash (she must have sprinted 2 or 3 miles at least).  And then we went hiking at Indian Brook, a park across from my neighborhood.  I was hoping it wouldn't be busy on a Monday morning, but it was very busy!

They have a rule posted all around the park- only dogs under voice control are allowed off leash.  We must have run into 8 or 9 dogs, and all but 3 of them blew off their recall and charged up and scared Delilah.  She's very friendly and gets excited to greet other dogs but as soon as they start jumping on her that makes her scared (imagine being tackled by a stranger 10x your size!)  I try to body block or grab their collars.  The owners are usually idiots: "Don't worry, he's just playing!"

There was one dog that ran towards us, stopped with his hackles up, and hard stared and growled at Delilah.  The owner was calling but of course he didn't listen.  I stepped between him and Delilah.  I yelled at him to go away.  The owner called "Don't worry, he doesn't bite!  He's a good boy!"  He charged at us and I picked up Delilah and blocked him, kneeing at him to keep him away.  The owner grabbed him and said "Sorry, he's not used to little dogs" as if the situation were MY fault for hiking with a small dog!  How about you don't let your aggressive dog off leash?

So even though Indian Brook's only half a mile away from us, unfortunately I think we're going to have to drive to other towns to go hiking in less populated areas.  There are just too many irresponsible owners out there and I don't feel like I can keep my dog safe around them.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

First Reactive Rover Class

Well we finally went to Delilah's first Reactive Rover class- the last two were postponed due to snow and icy roads. I really enjoyed it! I gave her a hemp oil treat before class hoping to take the edge off of any stress or anxiety she might feel during the class. She had gotten her fluoxetine earlier that morning.

The trainer taught us a handful of exercises to use to engage our dogs- some basic things like default sits, hand touch, eye contact when you say their name, etc. Delilah already knew these things pretty well. We had missed the previous class but I don't think they covered anything new for us in that class.

But then we applied them in some activities, and this was really helpful. There are four dog students with their owners and we each got our own corner of the room to work in (with a gate to block their view if needed). One activity we did was we took turns taking one step at a time towards the center of the room- the point was to use our voice and the exercises to keep our dogs engaged and non reactive as they moved closer to triggers. The trainer watched their body language and had us return to our corners before any of the dogs went past their threshold. 
The other activity was we all walked clockwise around the room and at each corner we came to we practiced a different activity that we had learned.

The trainer really emphasizes using a happy voice and praise and NOT verbally or physically correcting the dogs. Also a lot of clicker training so far.

Delilah did really, really well. I had no idea how she would react in that class. In the beginning she did bark at the trainer a few times but he tossed her chicken throughout the class and she liked it so much she even touched his hand when he asked her to touch. She's worked well with our agility trainers in the past but she's never worked with a male trainer before. 

She focused on me the entire time and did everything I asked (I had some really smelly tuna treats so I'm sure that had something to do with it). I could tell towards the end she was starting to get stressed but the class ended shortly after so she never got to the point where she would have lost it. It's at a dog kennel and there was a lot of hair and dust on the floor- when she gets stressed she starts fixating on things like that and that's a big problem we had during agility lessons. Towards the end she started looking at the hair on the floor but didn't chase it and was very easy to redirect, so that's good at least.

There's another little black dog there that was similar to Delilah- he seemed nervous and shy but the owner has done a lot of training with him so he knew all of the exercises too and didn't seem to react to anything. And there were a couple of other dogs and those two seemed to have more trouble in the class. One was pretty engaged with his owner but the other seems to be a very reactive dog and has a low threshold so had some difficulty with the activities. And when she starts reacting the other would sometimes bark and lunge back. I'm not judging those dogs and owners at all- Delilah used to be much more reactive herself so I understand. Delilah seemed a little unsure and worried by the reacting dogs but she didn't react to them herself- just watched.

I'm so proud of her- she tries really hard to be a good girl, it's just harder for her than it is for other dogs. She did a really good job last night.

I really like this trainer too and I saw he offers a recall class. Maybe if Delilah does well in this class we'll be able to take that one next. She still needs knee surgery before she can get back into agility but it would be nice to focus on foundational skills like recall, impulse control, etc in the meantime.

Whew that was a lot of writing- here's an obligatory Delilah photo!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Spring Finally Here?

Today is beautiful out!  Delilah and I went on a walk and I wore a short sleeve t shirt and neither of us got cold!  We did some training outside too.

I'm hoping it continues to get warm.  Last week there was a really gross sleet/snow storm and our Reactive Rover class got postponed.  Same with the week before.  We are still waiting to start our first class because it keeps getting pushed back on account of terrible weather and icy roads.  And then of course a few weeks ago was that monster of a blizzard.  I just want it to be spring!

We just moved to a new town.  My parents had moved to MA and so we're renting their old house (my childhood home) in Essex.  It's so nice, so much space, a big yard.  Delilah loves it.

My boyfriend had a friend over last night.  Delilah only barked a few times but overall was under control and seemed much more relaxed than in the past.  Our theories are she feels more comfortable and less claustrophobic/trapped in the bigger space, it's a new house so she may not be feeling territorial about it at all, and she was wearing her Gentle Leader for the first time during training.  I had a leash attached to it for the first ten minutes or so but when it appeared she was relatively relaxed I put the lead on her harness instead.  But I've heard dogs have a pressure point on their muzzle that promotes calm and compliant behavior, so I wonder if this tool has an affect on that area.

Conditioning to wear the Gentle Leader

Anyways, she only barked a few times but was easy to redirect and was calm and quiet for most of the evening.  The friend even brushed past her a few times and she didn't react.  This is huge!  I'm so hopeful that she will continue to improve!

Lastly, it was my birthday since I last posted.  So obviously that means I got some cool Delilah-themed gifts.  My grandma got me a dog bed that Delilah loves, where she can go under a flap and stay warm.  And my boyfriend got me the greatest gift- an amazing portrait of Delilah!

Custom portrait by Karin Viko

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Happy National Puppy Day!

Facebook told me that today is #NationalPuppyDay!  While Delilah wasn't a baby puppy when I adopted her, she was 5-6 months old and still had some puppy-like behaviors (in fact, she still does at 2 years old).  In this video, she discovers cat toys for the first time.


Baby Delilah before I adopted her.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Winter Storm Stella

Delilah and I hope everyone on the east coast is staying safe and warm!

Yesterday morning I walked some shelter dogs before the roads got bad.  Just as I was wrapping up my boyfriend texted me.  He needed a ride home because they were getting out from work early.

I walked Trudy again- she is such a good girl, I wonder why no one's adopted her yet!

I also met a handsome lab named Marley.  

Delilah was NOT a fan of the snow.  She screamed at it from inside the house, but would not go outside.  Right now she's refusing to poop.  To be fair, it's higher than she is when she stands on two legs though, I can't really blame her.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Walking Shelter Dogs: Week 1

Last week I finally was able to start walking dogs for my local shelter!  I met some very sweet pups looking for homes.  They have such a variety of different personalities and breeds/mixes there, I love meeting all of the different dogs.  My goal is to volunteer 100 hours this year.  So far I'm at 13 hours.  Most of those hours have been cleaning rather than dog walking.

This is Crockett.  This handsome goofball basically looks like a giant Dachshund.

This is August.  She's very cuddly and snuggles up against me whenever I kneel down.

This is Gus.  He's a very high energy, intelligent dog.  He'd love agility, jogging, hiking.

This is Chloe.  She's a very sweet, playful girl and is getting bored in the shelter.

Delilah and I haven't really had anything too exciting going on.  It's starting to get cold again so we haven't done much outside.  We do start our Reactive Rover class next week though!

Friday, February 24, 2017

It's Been Warm Out!

After a long few months indoors, yesterday it was finally warm enough to take the tiny terrier outside!  Hailing from Tennessee and being only 6 lbs with a short coat, Delilah can't stand temperatures below 50F.  Yesterday got up to 63F!  She still hated it though, the ground was all wet from the melting snow and she hates getting her paws wet.  

Mom, it's wettttt.

Soon it will be spring though, and warm all of the time!  And we can start adventuring again.  We're moving at the end of March to my childhood house.  It's right across the road from some really nice hiking trails so that will be fun to hike and swim every day!

I also signed Delilah up for the Reactive Rover class in March.  It's going to be an interesting class, I'm looking forward to learning some new things and practicing with her in a class environment.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Update: Luxating Patellas and Behavior Modification

Welp, it looks like Delilah is going to need surgery for her knees.  We went to the vet recently and she was officially diagnosed with grade 3 bilateral luxating patellas.  We talked about treatment and management options and it was recommended that she has surgery in the next 6 months since she is young, fit, and it hasn't become inflamed yet.  The estimated cost of surgery for both knees is a little over $3,000!  I'm definitely going to be applying for care credit.

We also talked about increasing her fluoxetine to see if that will help with her Canine Compulsive Disorder.  We've been seeing some progress with Delilah's anxiety and behavior, but not really any improvement with her compulsive behaviors.  She's now on 5 mg of fluoxetine and we're also trying some CBD dog treats (made with hemp oil) as a supplement.  I was particularly interested in seeing if it would help with her anxiety, but CBD's supposed to be helpful for a number of ailments including arthritis and joint pain/inflammation, so I'm hoping it will help manage her knees as well until she gets surgery.

In terms of behavior modification, she is continuing to improve slowly.  My boyfriend's sister stayed overnight yesterday and it was the first time Delilah's experienced a "stranger" staying for so long.  At first she was very reactive and loud but I had her on a lead and did some counter conditioning and impulse control exercises with her and she soon quieted down enough to even relax on her bed in front of the fire place!  She was very interested in his sister and would go up to her, sit next to her, and even try to give her kisses, but then Delilah would remember that she was a "stranger" and get freaked out and run away barking.  She definitely wants to interact, she just gets so anxious.  But overall she did very well, she was very manageable and tried her best to listen to me and calm down.

In the morning we stayed in bed until his sister left.  Delilah would alarm bark if she heard her talking downstairs but easily quieted down after.  This is a huge change from before the medication and behavior consult, when she couldn't quiet down at all, and would just bark and scream until well after the guest had left.  

On a separate note, I just found out a trainer's offering Reactive Rover classes in my area.  I've been talking with him to see if the class would be appropriate for Delilah.  I feel like a class tailored to dogs with special needs like that could be a good step towards taking agility lessons again.  And maybe I'd learn some new techniques and ideas for helping Delilah manage her emotions and impulses.

I put Delilah's bed in front of the fireplace where it would be most comfortable for her and also give her some space from the "stranger."  We started "place" after she calmed down enough to work.  It took about an hour of counter conditioning (dropping treats) to get her to stop reacting and be able to focus enough to work.

Right now she is still nervous and alert but staying in her "place" because I asked her to (and because she's getting a lot of chicken).

After about 20 minutes she finally relaxed and napped by the fire.  This is incredible progress for her.  This is where practicing "place," Karen Overall's protocol for relaxation, and counter conditioning and desensitization to strangers is paying off!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

A Call to People Who Are Halfway Decent with HTML!

My blog is looking a little rough.  I had made a drop down menu on the previous layout, and ALL I did was change the background picture for the season, and that drop down menu kind of exploded.  I'm not sure what happened, I'm using the same template, literally just changed the picture.  I'm really bad with technology.  But anyways, bloggers reading this, if you feel like you're skilled enough at web design to clean up my blog then I will paint a portrait of your pet in return!  I haven't really posted yet about my animal portraits, but I am an artist and I enjoy painting animals and landscapes.  Here are some examples of my work:

"Windsor" Yellow Lab

"Jayne" Beagle

"Charlie"  Chocolate Lab

"Chloe" Whippet

I usually do dogs, but I can do any animal!  I just painted my sister a portrait of her hedgehog for Christmas.  So even if you don't have a pet but you have a favorite wild, prehistoric, or fictional animal that you want me to paint, I can do that.


- I would like my blog to look neat and somewhat professional at least, so I'm cool with you changing the layout and template.
- I only ask you keep the current picture for the banner, and the content/pages the same.
- In return I will paint one portrait containing one or two pets (an $80 value).  
- I will need at least one good photo to work from.  You can choose the background color if you like, I usually only do solid backgrounds.
- Shipping will be free if it's staying in the US.  However, I just can't afford international shipping so if you live outside of the US, you will have to pay for shipping.
- Portraits typically take 1-2 months to complete.
- Email me at and we can talk!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Plans for the New Year

No one can deny that 2016 was pretty much a killjoy, but Delilah and I are so excited about the potential 2017 has to offer!  Last year I started making some plans and goals for things I'd like to accomplish this year!


1) Luxating Patella Surgery:  Delilah has luxating patellas (floating knee caps) in both of her hind legs which makes it uncomfortable for her to exercise.  Whenever we go on walks she usually hops along on three legs.  This is part of the reason why we stopped agility training.  This year, I would like to get her surgery and physical therapy for this problem.  If left untreated it can develop into arthritis, and I like being active with my dogs, so I want Delilah to be comfortable during hikes, walks, and training.  She will definitely be getting surgery this year, when depends on whether I can do payments or if I'll have to save up to pay the entire bill at once.

2) Raw Diet:  I used to get Zignature for free when I worked full time at the dog daycare.  Now that I only work part time, I only get discounted food (including raw).  Delilah has one more bag of Zignature to go through (it will probably take her 3-4 months) and then we're going to try a raw diet.  She already gets raw food during training and I give her some raw meat when I'm cooking, so I don't think she'll have much trouble switching over.


1) Compulsive Disorder:  Delilah's still very anxious around people but that continues to improve slowly but surely thanks to behavior modification and fluoxetine.  The main issue I have with her now is she continues to obsess over things like light, spots on the ground, water, and dust.  Right now what I think I'm going to try is to increase her fluoxetine from 3 mg to 5 mg, another thing I'm going to be talking to the vet about.  For those who are new to Delilah's and my journey, when she becomes stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed, her compulsive behaviors become worse.  It got to the point in training classes and trials that she would completely zone out and just fixate on things like dust instead of focusing on what we were learning.  It became very frustrating for both of us and the other reason why we stopped agility and barn hunt.

2) Agility Training:  Depending on how her surgery goes and how much she improves on her fluoxetine, I would like to resume agility training.  Classes are too stressful for Delilah so I'm thinking that we could try private sessions instead.  I don't think we'll ever be able to compete, but it's something we have both enjoyed in the past, I want to continue training for fun.


1) Dog Mountain:  I've been to Stephen Huneck's Dog Mountain once before with Mia, and we had a great time hiking on the mountain and visiting the gallery and Dog Chapel.  I'd like to go with Delilah now, she'd love hiking and meeting the other dogs there.  I also want to leave a note for Mia in the Dog Chapel, with a photo from when we had visited.

One of these things is not like the others!  Mia and the sculptures at the Dog Chapel.
2) Camping:  My boyfriend and I have been talking about going camping, and I'd love to do that with Delilah.  She always seems most comfortable out in the woods- it would be a really fun adventure for us!

My Personal Goals

1) Volunteering at HSCC:  When I was in college I used to intern and volunteer at my local Humane Society.  Mostly I walked dogs and helped with some of the cleaning.  It was really fun to meet all of the different animals at the shelter and help make their stays more enjoyable!  Other than the dogs, I also loved hanging out with the bunnies.  I've already attended a volunteer orientation, and I'm going in tomorrow for some training.  My goal: volunteer for 100 hours this year.

An HSCC dog that I used to walk.
2) Explosives Detection Canine Handler:  This is a longer term goal and I don't expect it to happen in the next year, but hopefully within the next three years I will be able to achieve it.  I want to handle  bomb sniffing dogs for the TSA, and I would prefer to stay in Vermont (though there are certain areas I would consider moving to).  Currently I'm working my resume, continuing to build up my security and dog handling experience, and hopefully some positions will become available this year that I can apply to!

3) New Puppy:  In the next year or two, I'm hoping to bring home a Rat Terrier puppy.  There's a local breeder that I know who breeds and shows AKC and UKC Rat Terriers, and has also participated in dog sports like weight pull, terrier racing, and agility.  They seem like a really good match for what I'm looking for- something structurally sound, mentally stable.  A small, athletic dog that I can train and compete in dog sports with (I have particularly enjoyed agility and barn hunt).  Last week, we learned that Delilah is a Jack Russell x Rat Terrier mix.  And I love Delilah so much, these dogs are very similar, but well bred and socialized, so ideally I'd be able to avoid many of the mental and physical health issues I've had with Delilah.  Obviously this goal is a little longer termed, because Delilah's surgery and mental health are my first priority.  But once she's doing well, I'm definitely going to start planning for a second dog.

One of their rat terriers who lives with my friend.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Delilah's Embark Results!

Public Results (<- Link)

Overall I'm very impressed with this test! I had initially wanted it because I was curious about Delilah's breed, but the health results and genetic traits ended up being much more interesting and useful to me! This was very, very cool.  If I wanted I could download her raw genetic data from over 200,000 markers if I wanted to use or interpret it myself, but that's way over my head.  Another nice thing that they do is update your test results for free as research advances and they find new genetic associations to test for and interpret.  I'm so glad we did this test, it was well worth the price and the wait!  Here are some points of interest from Delilah's results.

Health Results

Delilah was tested for 162 genetic diseases and disorders. Surprisingly, she was clear for all of them! Not even a carrier. Not every disease tested for exists in terriers, many of them are breed specific diseases. But I guess the idea is if you have a mutt and you don't know what it is, it could potentially have any of them.  I don't think you'll be able to see her health results on her public profile, so I took a screen shot of the summary.  Obviously, it goes into much more detail about each disease that was tested for.


The test says that Delilah is about 88% Russell-Type Terrier (Jacks, Parsons, and Russell terriers) and 12% Rat Terrier. I suspected Rat Terrier, I didn't really think she was JRT at all! Even the ones without the short legs tend to be sturdier dogs. Additionally, the analysis estimated her weight to be around 18 lbs, which would make sense for a JRT x Rat Terrier mix, but Delilah is only a third of that size!

I emailed the company asking about the size and telling them that I had suspected Delilah to be a Toy Fox Terrier. They got back to me within 24 hours and this was the response:

"I can understand why you would wonder that. Delilah shares five times as much of her genetic material with Russell-Type Terriers than Toy Fox Terriers, which is consistent with Russell-Type Terrier ancestry (as you point out the two breeds are related so any dog that has one in them will also have some---but less---genetic material matching the other breed). So it's not really possible that she has much Toy Fox Terrier in her. With that said, it's impossible with these related breeds to rule out small genetic contributions from a breed like Toy Fox Terrier that are masked by the much larger Russell-Type Terrier ancestry, and it's possible that contributed to her looks. But I want to stress that from her genes, she most likely is 88% Russell-Type Terrier and 12% Rat Terrier, and she certainly has no more than 5% Toy Fox Terrier in any case. 

Regarding her size, the genetics for extremely large or extremely small size aren't very well known. Our algorithm uses all the known body size loci and Delilah had the small version of almost all of them which is why she is predicted to be a small dog (<20 lbs). We're hoping to use dogs of extreme size (both large and small) to help scientists discover the mutations that differentiate small dogs from tiny dogs (and large dogs from massive dogs), and will add Delilah's weight information to our research panel. Thanks for sending it!" 

I had really suspected Toy Fox Terrier!  I guess now I get to call Delilah my Teacup Russell! :P  My boyfriend's calling her a Jack Rat. 

Delilah and Leo, a full Jack Russell

Traits/Advanced Results

I've just always been interested in coat color genetics so I found that section to be pretty interesting. Also the JRT and Rat Terrier would explain why she's red and white with a mask since TFTs can't be that color.  It looks like Embark recently updated their site and you can't currently see advanced results on Delilah's public profile.  Here's a little glimpse of what they look like.


The traits section is the section where I first noticed something unusual. Her inbreeding coefficient is 47%, which is very high. I always suspected she was a little inbred because she's a little mentally abnormal, and we've always had some sort of health or behavior issue going on with her. I didn't realize it was that high. A brother x sister mating would result in an inbreeding coefficient of roughly 50%.

There are a couple of visuals included that also indicate a brother x sister mating (as opposed to a 100% inbred dog crossed with a non inbred dog). One is on the summary when it breaks down the breed mix by chromosome. Rather than a pure Russell crossed with a Russell x Rat Terrier, it looks like the chromosomes from each parent (in a chromosome pair, one comes from the father and one from the mother) are very similar and both contain mostly JRT DNA with a little bit of Rat Terrier DNA. In some pairs, such as 13 and 37, the chromosomes look almost identical. So the parents were the same mix. This is represented in the family tree, where both parents had an identical background. It really looks like her parents were indeed siblings. This explains SO MUCH about her health and mental issues.