• Kirsten Watry

    January 20, 2021 at 5:15 pm

    Here’s a nice update about this dog in case anyone was interested!

    The vet visit was postponed because the vet just wanted to just give him a bordetella vaccination.

    Muzzle: Muzzle conditioning has been slow because he was in a “funk” and was not feeling well for a short time. He wasn’t playful, he lost his appetite, he wasn’t enjoying his walks, and he was snapping at their feet more than usual. I told them to notify their veterinary behaviorist right away and they have an appointment with them soon, but they were given no instructions to change his medication. Thankfully he is feeling better but they noticed he has gained weight which will be discussed at their upcoming appointment with the vet. I told them to start using his daily food allowance with the muzzle and we discussed different high-value food options that they can put inside of the muzzle, being mindful to not overfeed him.

    Improving Leadership: We looked over the leadership piece of his program, which we have been gradually easing him into due to safety. The biggest things that needed improvement was the no furniture rule and finding a way to help the dog learn to earn affection rather than him telling them when and how it was safe to pet him.

    They put a couple pieces of tin foil on the couch and on any places where he tends to lay down and snap/rush at their feet. This is an adequate deterrent because he doesn’t want to lay on the foil. So it is ultimately his idea to be on his bed.

    They now have their own bite gloves! I asked them to ignore the dog’s petting-seeking behaviors for a few days and then to start getting him used to being petted with the gloves. He now accepts petting with the gloves and they are starting to have him earn affection for about 5-10s intervals. Ignoring him for a few days worked WONDERS and they said he was visibly less cranky and irritable. I asked them to talk to him and still play with him, but just stop trying to pet him for a little bit to see if his desire for affection would increase (plus they had to wait for the gloves in the mail). They now understand the importance of having him earn affection so he learns that friendly/appeasing behaviors are effective, and the short intervals are ensuring that the interactions are positive.

    Training + Play Recommendations: Over the course of their program I showed them different training games such as a Boomerang recall game, a chase recall game, and two-toy fetch. He is also playing a little bit of tug now, which is a newer game for him! There was one time where a fetch session went too long (about 30 minutes) and he snapped at the owner’s feet when she was standing still offering him a toy. It was almost as if he got so amped up in play that it made him anxious. I explained how we want to amp him up a little bit and then help him cool back down and gradually increase that arousal over time as a way to help him regulate those emotions in a play/training context. I asked them to start playing these games outside and to try a flirt pole with him.

    Sit/stay and place are two other exercises that he knows. They are technically at Phase 1 because leash pressure easily causes him to snap and bite without warning signs. “Place” just means that they want him to stay on his bed until they release him, and he chooses to lay down on his own (luring with treats also causes him to snap so we aren’t worried about down right now). They are practicing stay and/or place to desensitize him to different things that would normally cause him concern, such as sitting on the couch, cutting things at the kitchen counter, etc. I asked them to work on getting out of sight as well.

    In addition, they have a tether station for his bed so they can safely contain him while they sit on the couch together. I am having them work on sit/stay while they tether him and when they set him free from the tether because I found out they were bribing/distracting him while they would hook up the tether. He drags a light leash in the house and they hook the end of the drag leash to another leash that is tethered to a piece of furniture.

    Next Steps: I am waiting to hear how this training goes and to see what the veterinary behaviorist says before I give them more to work on. I would like to get him to the point where we can get into Phase 2 training SAFELY. I think it will be important to empower this dog to learn how to turn off gentle leash pressure to enforce sit/stay, place, and come so we can continue to improve upon the 3 Ds of training (Duration, Distance, Distractions).

    I also referred them to the scent work class on Fenzi so I am hoping they will get him involved in that, and they are also considering barn hunt.

    Questions: Do you think it is realistic for a dog that is this sensitive to learn how to respond to food lures? I was thinking they could replace a food lure with target stick training, but I think it would be great if he could eventually learn how to follow a food lure as well. I would also love any feedback on this general plan as well.