Thursday, April 27, 2017

Run Free Sophie Bunny

A couple of days ago I had to euthanize my rabbit, Sophie.  She had been a little lethargic and "off" in the afternoon, and when I came back in the evening from picking my boyfriend up at work, she got progressively worse that night.  I took her to the emergency vet and they thought she had an abscess or a tumor behind her eye.  She was suffering.  She would have been 8 years old in May, so she had a long life and was very healthy up until the end.

One day she was burrowing in the pile of laundry.  I heard the pile collapse and I turned around and just saw her little nose sticking out.

The trio- only Delilah is around now.  Sophie was "just one of the dogs."

One of our Easter photos BD (Before Delilah).

Sophie playing with bubble wrap- she loved it!

Meeting Delilah when I brought her home.  Delilah thought she was a dog!

Sophie loved the dogs.  She was always so sassy and feisty.  Mia was scared of her, and sometimes when Sophie got bored and Mia was sleeping nearby she would thump and then watch Mia bolt up and run away.  If I was eating something that she wanted me to share with her, she would beg, and sometimes nip me if I didn't share right away!  She started out as a family pet that my parents got for me and my sisters when I was in high school, but after I moved out she came with me and lived with me in three different apartments.  Once we had a roommate who had three other rabbits and a cat.  Sophie became BFFs with the cat- they would chase each other around the apartment and just hang out together.  I'm really going to miss her.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Reactive Rover Update and New Diet

Delilah's Reactive Rover class last Friday went pretty well again.  There were three dogs including Delilah- it looks like one of the dogs that missed last class won't be back.  We expanded upon the Look At That game and now we're naming the behavior "look" and clicking and treating after Delilah looks at the trigger and then looks back at me.  I could tell she seemed a little more stressed with the third dog but she was able to work through it well.  At one point I knelt down and she walked up and stared me and I scratched her neck for her.  When she gets stressed she stares at me when she doesn't know what to do and she's trying to hold it together.  She's a very good girl, she tries very hard.

In other news Delilah has about a month left of her Zignature kibble and then I'm going to switch her to a BARF raw diet.  I'm very excited to try this and see how it goes!  I just joined my local pet food store's Raw Club so I'll get 10% off of meat and raw food and if it's on sale they'll double the discount!  I've also been scoping out my local grocery stores looking for different organs and proteins.  I'm primarily going to feed her chicken, beef, and turkey but there's also fish, rabbit, bison, goat, and more around her that I can occasionally throw in!

My main concerns are about feeding the correct amount and proportions for her small size, choking on bones, and if eating meat on a regular basis will lower the value of food used for training.  I bought a couple of books about feeding raw diets called "Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats" by Kymythy R. Schultze and "Dr. Becker's Real Food for Healthy Dogs and Cats" by Beth Taylor and Karen Shaw Becker.  Both books have A LOT of information on nutrition as well as some recipes and diet plans that I could follow, so that's really helpful.

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