Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Phoenix Saves the Day...


...and she's been saving me every single day since.

Four years ago today, this little dog stopped a man in his tracks after he jumped out at me when we were hiking alone. (Zoe helped, too) We have no idea what his intention was but he took off after my dogs barked at him. Having a dog who reacts once in a while is not the worst thing in the world! I've not been back to that particular park but I don't really fear hiking alone when I have my dogs with me! 

I really feel like Phoenix saved the day that day. Who knows what would of happened had she not been there and she's saved me every day since the day I got her. When you have depression, a lot of the time, things can look pretty dark. In a world full of dark clouds, she is my sunshine.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Phoenix Makes Progress! Training Updates!

 Phoenix helps with our Reactive Dog Class

On Sunday Phoenix helped out with our Reactive Dog Class. Usually we get to do some of the same activities as the other dogs, we play a lot of the "look at that" game and she generally has a great time. She's usually pretty calm and she actually makes a great decoy dog to help the other dogs learn how to be calm around each other. She does not bark and lunge so having her around not only helps the other dogs but it also helps her. This past Sunday, I feel was her best day ever as a helper dog. She was loose and waggy throughout the whole class, even when one of the other dogs got upset and barked. She did not care at all. She was basically like, "more cheese, mom! This is fun!" Which is exactly how I want her to feel.

Yesterday was Phoenix's second full day in play group at my work! (She is going weekly on Mondays) We definitely saw some improvement from last week with her comfort level. She went outside right at 8am with our drive in dogs. (My boss has a few favorite clients that he picks up in the morning) At my work, when the dogs get there, they go immediately outside, which gives them a chance to potty, etc. Once everybody has arrived, we open the building up (or do slow introductions, depending on if we have a new dog, where one dog comes in at a time) and they are allowed free access to the indoor and outdoor areas.

Phoenix was outside when all of the "drive in" dogs arrived and she did not snark at a single incoming dog. She also did not snark at any of our "owner drop off" dogs or the new dog that started today. She is nervous of the bigger dogs and greetings with them are still a little stressful for her but she is able to move through the group easily without being grumpy.

We actually saw her playing more this week with some of our littler guys. Her favorite by far is Percy, a jack russell mix:

(I called Bruno, the brown one away so they could have a chance of playing)

We did see her do some tracking of the fast moving dogs and wanting to chase and nip (problematic herding behavior) but she was able to listen to us when we asked her to stop. She took food and listened to cues. She was a little more stressed this week when I left the room, my main job is in the front office but an employee called in sick so I was in the play group for a lot longer than I usually am. I feel like that might have impacted her ability to cope without me. My boss still isn't sure if she will be able to hang as a permanent member but we're not giving up yet. Her behavior doesn't seem to impact the group at all and she's very easily managed. We would really like her to be comfortable and have fun, though. 

I'll keep everyone updated with how things go!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Never Say Never! Phoenix Does Play Group!


Do you guys remember a year ago, when I first started my dog training job? Phoenix snapped at my co-worker's dog and I said she would NEVER learn how to be social or do the play groups my work offers? Well... I was wrong. After a year of working at my work, helping teach classes and working with the dogs in our play groups, seeing other dogs overcome their discomfort and fear of dogs, I overcame MY fear and booked Phoenix for a behavioral evaluation. Phoenix has been helping out in our reactive dog classes, which also helps her out, she gets counter conditioned, too. She's not leash reactive but face to face greetings are really hard for her and that's something we don't work on in a class environment. I really want to help her to feel more comfortable when we encounter other dogs out in the world while we are hiking.

Phoenix helps reactive dogs learn to relax!

My boss is a behaviorist and because Phoenix has never injured another dog, he agreed to working with her and trying her with our work dogs. My boss has also spent several months working with me and helping me to normalize conflict and snarky behavior. It's just a part of life, dogs have no other way of telling each other they don't like something and injuries rarely occur. Which is what we've seen with both of our dogs. Although, I will tell you it's much harder watching my own dog get snarky. I can manage a group of dogs all day long and not feel the anxiety I feel when it's my dog.

So her eval day arrived and it was time to take the bubble wrap off of her! Oh boy was I anxious but I am happy to report it went better than I expected. The face to face greetings were hard for her and we also decided she has what we call "problematic herding behavior". She has a weird hereditary drive to chase and nip the other dogs when they are running. With the bigger dogs we saw some snarky stuff because she's fearful of them but our play group dogs are really social and well behaved. They immediately understood that she was scared and they didn't push her. The younger dogs running makes her want to chase and nip but she did not hurt anyone and none of the dogs seemed to be bothered by her. She played with a few of our smaller terrier-type dogs which was great! One of our big grumpy old dogs actually liked Phoenix and tried to get her to play. Phoenix was not comfortable enough yet to play with her but it was cute to see her try.

Here's a short video of Phoenix with Percy. She really likes him! https://youtu.be/PZI_-K0S6ys

These are photos from her first full 4 hour play group:
At first, all she wanted to do was hide in the corner!
BUT, she was comfortable sharing her corner!
Everyone here is sharing the momentary sun!
Phoenix gets brave enough to mingle and sniff Nigel!

My boss decided that we could keep trying Phoenix on Monday mornings and we are hoping to increase her comfort level. Right now she doesn't really know what to do but she did do some playing with a couple of different dogs and that made me happy. I'm hoping that she can learn how to be a dog. I'll keep you guys updated!

Never say never and don't give up!



Wednesday, March 1, 2017

We're Back!


Hi friends! Sorry we've been away. I have been pretty busy with work and we've had the worst weather! We had record breaking rainfall for February and we didn't get out much. (YAY for indoor brain games!!!) The girls and I did do some interesting things so I can't wait to share them with all of you! Hopefully I can get back to a regular blogging schedule soon! The photo above is from one of the only nice days we've had this month!