Yoshi and Trek Training Diary - May 2007

By Ellen Clary
(reverse date order)

Feedback is welcome:

Thu May 31
Going to Mt Shasta for a few days.

Wed May 30
Trek continues to do well sleeping outside her crate at night.  During the day when we're not home she's crated but we leave the door to it open at night and she comes and goes as she pleases but spends a decided amount of the time sleeping on the bed.  I still continue to get more sleep as she's no longer whining in her crate at 5am.

However Mark and Jan have a tall bed and Cooper spends the night under it.  Trek may end up in the kitchen and I'm taking her crate over in the morning.  so they have the option of putting her in it.

Tonight we're going to get Trek and Cooper together just to see if their are any issues.  Not likely.  They've met before and like each other.  I'm bringing the tunnel back too so that Trek can play underground railroad with Cooper too.  I'm also going to bring over a couple of the talking toys - wonder if Mark and Jan will ever forgive me.

Tomorrow morning we leave for Redding with Yoshi in tow after we drop Trek off at Mark and Jan's.  Then the day after that we leave for Mt Shasta.  I'm really excited about the trip.

Tue May 29
Doggie's growing up.  This past weekend we experimented with letting Trek sleep out of her crate and one the bed if she wished.  Sunday night she was choosing to mostly be in her crate (door open).  Last night she spent most of it on the bed and interestingly enough she didn't do her usual wake up up at 5/5:30 a.m., but stayed in the bed until Terri got up at 6.

Yoshi's pad now looks like a blister that has burst and the top layer of skin has fallen off.  Like a blister it's still tender but it's healing well and it won't be long before he's ready to resume he usual tear around like an idiot.  (Which he still tries to do anyway.)


It's occurring to me that I am Yoshi's conscious, and external judgement.  It a sense this is true for any dog learning how the human world operates, but what is new to me is my telling him how I want him to interact with other dogs.  We have something of a mystique about how all dogs know this secret code of communication and that's often true.  Even Yoshi when he's not aroused speaks dog very well, but when that screw comes loose in his mind then his judgement mostly goes.  And yet there's Trek.  He has never lost it around her despite plenty of provocation.  They've only had one disagreement over a hidden bully stick and even that he was in control of himself.

But when he's in a situation where he's uncomfortable, his emotions lie just below a very porous surface.

Most of the time when he loses it, he's unreachable, but I've noticed that when he's barking at something from the living room window (something he only has access to when I'm around), with some effort (Yelling his name and "HERE" 3x sort of thing) I can break through and he will hear me.  I can tell because he whines which means I'm about to do what you ask but I really don't want to. At this point I do have to keep calling him as he's right then teetering on going right back to barking, but if I do he comes to me.

When he's on leash I usually tell him to leave it.  I wonder if I treated him the same way as when I'm calling him back from the window.  Yeah it will look silly but it's certainly worth a try.

Unfortunately the calling his name doesn't really work when there's a dog involved.  He really doesn't seem to hear me then at all.  I'll have to experiement with this when he's on leash.

Mon May 28
I brought Yoshi over to see Cooper without Trek to see if we could get some improvements on their deteriorating relationship.  In the Mar 24 entry I talk about Cooper and Yoshi getting into a fight and there was one before that when we first discovered how jealous Yoshi was over Trek.  There was another incident very recently where I brought Cooper over here and Yoshi attacked him at the door.  We even had Trek put in a crate, but you could hear her barking. 

At first it looked like it was going to be fine, then I let Yoshi off the leash in the house and both dogs started towards the back and when they both were waiting at the doorway, Yoshi went after Cooper.  Sh*t.  I put Yoshi on leash and took him out to the back yard and Cooper didn't want to leave the back landing even though Yoshi was on leash.  After about 5 minutes of this I handed Yoshi's leash to Mark and went over to Cooper.  He would come down the stairs some to say hi to me, but eventually wanted to retreat.  Finally, I started getting him excited and barking and then he chased me down the steps and into the yard.  When ever he wanted to retreat I goaded him into barking at me (playbow usually does it) and he'd come right back.  The cool thing is that barking makes him more confident and makes him look more confident which makes Yoshi treat him better.  Eventually they were able to interact, but I didn't risk taking Yoshi off leash as Cooper was still too shaky.

Jan tells me that Cooper was depressed for two days after the last incident.  I'm wondering if we should actually be working on Cooper's confidence.  Not that it excuses Yoshi's behavior in any way but I think it would be good for Cooper.

I've decided that I'm going to put Yoshi back on Prozac and this time work him up to the full 10mg dosage as I'm really having success with his behavioral training and I don't want this to set us back.  Maybe Cooper should be on Prozac too to help his cofidence (I'm joking, but it does make me wonder.)  Terri wonders if accupunture would help.  It's certainly possible and he has had one session but it seems to be only a temporarily relief.

In future interactions between the two dogs I'm going to muzzle Yoshi.  Wonder how long before Cooper figures out that Yoshi can't bite him and starts taking advantage of the situation.  Hopefully by that time they will have repaired their relationship.  Of course you could say that maybe Yoshi doesn't want to repair the relationship, we'll just have to see.

Sun May 27
Herding was so much fun.  Though he did tear a pad unfortunately.
I put Trek in the round pen once and she did well though it's still obvious that she could take or leave it.
Yoshi is stopping better but still doesn't like to "walk" even on the long line.  Debbie is wondering if my pulling back on the leash is making him pull harder.  Possibly.  When I let him go he does stop more readily especially when he's tired.  Behaviorally he did well though I had to remind him at least once when he saw a dog approaching.

Debbie's dog Porsche did great though initially was losing her mind with drive (she's very high drive) and nearly crashed a sheep.  Joyce intervened and gave Porsche a well placed pop on the nose with a herding wand and though Porsche's feeling were hurt, there was nothing of the reaction that Cooper did years ago where he skulked out of the ring and wouldn't do anything.  While Joyce is a bit traditional for me at times, this time that approach worked quite well as Porsche started working the sheep politely.  (Though I don't think this would work at all for Yoshi - though I could be wrong.)

Porsche later told Debbie that she'd rather herd the sheep her way, but that she still had a fantastic time.

Sat May 26
I just love playing mind games with the dogs.  Trek's Metronidazole consists of putting 3 ml in a syringe and squirting it into the side of her mouth.  This was working fine, but I dropped a couple of drops on the floor and she licked them right up.  ("Hey Mikey")  Realizing that she would just lick it up I started putting it in a bowl which worked fine until she clearly started getting avbivalent about it.  I called Yoshi over and his curiosity made her instantly finish the med.  Tonight I wanted to give Yoshi something too for being so good at just being there.  So I got out an identical bowl and put water in it and then somewhat formally presented both with a bowl.  Both dogs immediately finished what was in their bowls.

Herding tomorrow and we're all going - should be fun.

Update on Yoshi's tooth.  It's completely missing - no roots at all.  Phew he just saved us several hundred dollars there - the vet visit was only the cost of the exam ($32) which is beneath his insurance deductable.  Dr Lydia Grant thinks that it probably wasn't a bone since the tooth  wasn't broken, but more an infection or something that weakened the tooth though the surrounding teeth look good.

Fri May 25
Yoshi not wanting to be left out of all the vet attention, decided to break off a lower small tooth (likely on a bone).  He didn't know that he was already scheduled to go down to Fremont for a follow up with Animal Eye Care, but Dr Friedman is ill and so that was rescheduled to Sat. Jun 9th with Dr. Patricia Smith and now he is going to Park Centre to get his tooth looked at.

Trek doing well and her gums are no longer tacky.  Normal BM this morning (though had gone a full 24 hours since the last one.)

Thu May 24
Trek still fine.  Added in some kibble to her chicken.  Normal stool.

I was watching them play and thinking that we should plan on at least one ear stitching incident.  Sort of a new take on an old saying.  "Great fun until someone loses an ear."

Wed May 23
Trek seems to be fine and in good spirits.  Her gums are a little tacky and her skin is a little slow to respond so she's likely still a touch dehydrated, but she's racing around the yard with Yoshi.  For a few days she'll be on a bland diet which in her case is going to be cooked chicken with some potato bud flakes and water.

Dr Friedman called and said to lay off the Pilocarpine for a week.
I'll also not give her wheat.

Yoshi went to school this evening and behaviorally did very well.  Only a couple of growls, no lunging, and one ghost or hallucination when he had his calming cap on (which helped tremendously except for that).  In other words, he got worked up about something that wasn't there.  Taking off the cap only helped a little as he was convinced that something was there though he had no idea what.

Another student who doesn't always come said that it was hard to believe he was aggressive, the others laughed and Zanna said that she could testify that he indeed was, and Hazel recalled the time where he went after Miranda, her ultra-non-reactive Saint Bernard.  Miranda really didn't notice him charging at her (might as well have been a gnat), and on the fly Yoshi decided it was a better plan to charge past her instead, thus slamming into the wall (I'd forgotten that until she mentioned it.)  What a great self correction - wish it always happened like that.

He still doesn't like to hold a dumbell for very long so Hazel is suggesting I just hold it in flat hands and rewarding him for picking it up.

Hazel is starting a rally class on June 13  7pm.  Excellent - we're going to be there.  I called to sign up and need to send a $125 check.

Tue May 22
I do really need to do more incidental sit-stays and down-stays.  I had the dogs in a down and Trek got up 4 times, so she clearly needs more practice.  Yoshi stayed put - the occasionally good boy.

A little excitement.
I was at work finishing up when I got a call from Terri saying Trek has pooped (well she used a different word) all over her crate and herself and could I please skip the gym and come home?  So off I went and arrived to find a mostly cleaned off dog and a crate pad that was outside and filthy.  So I got out the latex gloves (essential for these oh so gross jobs) and the hose, and commenced the double duty of hosing off the pad and trying to figure out a la CSI style what the heck is in all the poop (hence the gloves).

I found various semi hard but clearly organic objects (no plastic or wood thankfully).  So were carrots, others might have been pieces of broccoli that Terri gave her for roughage this morning.  Some looked a little like nuts so it's possible that a few of the pine nuts that went into last night's salad fell on the floor, or it's a loaquat seed that the sqirrels occasionally drop,, or even an entire loaquat, or maybe it was the toast though even though it was whole grain bread, the grain was ground very finely.  Maybe she is indeed allergic to wheat, but can tolerate small amounts of it until she hits a threshold, or she's discovered something in the yard even though I watch her.

After I finished with crate and pad cleaning, I took a closer look at Trek (she wasn't in distress or we would have forgone the crate cleaning entirely and rushed her off to Emergency.)  While she was bugging me for dinner (such a Corgi) she definitely seemed subdued.  We gave her maybe a 1/4 of the amount of kibble she normally gets, and I continued to watch her and trying to decide if I wanted to take her into BAVS (Bay Area Emergency Services) or not.  Looking at the clock and seeing it was only 7pm and thinking that it would be much nicer to take her now than the middle of the night (and I would sleep better, and would actually get sleep), I called them to check how busy they were.  They said that it wasn't bad and come on in.  I realized that they would be in a much better position to maybe get an idea of what's going on as they could do a blood test to check her kidney values.  So off we went to Hayward.

Fortunately, no animal disasters happened between the time we left and the time we arrived, and we were seen quite soon.  Since I wasn't rushed when I left I was able to remember to take all of her eye meds and instructions, and an insurance claim form.  Wish I always had time to be this together as it saved an enormous amount of guesswork (what is she on?, for how long?).  At the front desk I mentioned the diarrhea disaster and she's acting subdued and on reflection noted that it seems to have been going on for a couple of days.  The woman at the desk looked at Trek who was awake and by my feet and said something like "subdued?"  Laughing, I said "I assure you, this is subdued."

The vet, Dr. Joelle Lasry, did a basic physical exam of her noting the left eye squintyness "blepharospasm" and noted that she did not have any abdominal masses or pain (good), and the rest looked generally good but still clearly not feeling well (body condition score 5/9).

The choices I was given were

1. Metronidazole
2. that and add blood work
3. all that and add xrays (to check for obstruction)

Since Trek had no obvious abdominal pain, I declined the X-Rays, but i wanted to know her kidney values so I opted for the bloodwork.   What's great about having it done at BAVS is that they can do CBC's in house so we could just wait for the results.  If I had it done by her regular vet they send it to IDEX labs and it takes a day or so.

As I expected the kidney values were elevated, but the good thing was that they were only slightly high (ALT=128, AST=65), potassium was low - expected with diarrhea.  But what we didn't realize was that she was dehydrated.  PCV was 65% and the max should be 50%.  At first I didn't know what PCV was and then when I realized it was essentially a red blood count it all came back to me as when Cali was so ill, I spent all of April 2005 living and dying by her PCV %.  When Cali was doing poorly her PCV was only 5%,.

Choices then were
1. Hospitalize her and give her IV fluids
2. Give her sub Q fluids and send her home and keep a careful eye on her, give her the Metronidazole, and keep her on a bland diet.

I opted for the sub Q fluids as I expected her to recover once she had enough fluids pumped into her.  That later proved to be correct.  I was supposed to keep checking her for dehydration (skin pinch and mucus membrane check for dryness/tackiness) but she passed that test with the vet so I'm not sure I would see it any differently.

Changes we're going to make are to allow her free access to water even in her crate and let het spend more time out of the crate in the office and kitchen, and also mix her kibble with water when she gets back on it.  I also went off to the store to get more chicken though I think instead of rice I'll mix in potato buds and water.  I'm going to lay off the eye medication in her food (Pilocarpine) for a day but give her the drops.  I should probably fax this report to Animal Eye Care (Park Centre will get a copy from BAVS).  [Done]

Mon May 21
Ironically toast is a higher value treat than chicken.  For toast she'll tolerate more clanging though it still makes her flinch, but I can be feeding her a small piece of toast, and then tap on the pipe

Doing some basic sequences with her and she's doing well: Plank-Over-Tunnel-Tire..

Introduced (continued to introduce) start line sit-stays.

Sat May 19
Ok, time for the big guns treat wise.  I brought out some freshly cooked chicked cut into very small pieces.  took both dogs into the yard and fed them each a piece so they knew what I had.  I now have two enraptured dogs.   I tape the paint scraper to the pipe and Trek backs off a few feet, but Yoshi is right there.  "Yes" and I feed him a piece of chicken   On seeing this Trek immediately comes close and she gets a piece of chicken.  I make if clan again and Trek backs off and Yoshi starts climbing up my leg to get his treat (though I'm just seated).  Trek immediately comes back for a treat.  I repeat this routine for about 10 times and Trek backs off less and less each time to where she's no longer backing off much at all (though still flinches)  Good progress.  Yoshi's such a good teacher. 

Though it did work in reverse too when Yoshi got distracted and Trek got the treat first.  He noticed what was going on and immediately came back.

Worked Trek some more on the quiet teeter and she's improving and getting less over-cautious.

Fri May 18
I'm back and the dogs are fine though Yoshi seems even thinner so he gets 3/4 c of food a meal now (though his weight really hasn't changed).  I'm now going to work with Trek on this clanging sensitivity.  I have the pipe from the teeter kit (the teeter is currently using the old pipe) and I hit it gently with either a screwdriver or a paint scrapper or just tap the pipe on the brick landing.  She still doesn't like it but is closer by than before, but I think I have to increase the treat value even beyond venison treats.

Mon May 14
I'm away on a business trip for 4 days so I don't get to do any training though Terri might work with them some.

Sun May 13
Did some more work with Trek to narrow down what her issue is.  It's not so much the teeter as metal clanging againsst metal.  This mean that I definitely have to make the teeter be quieter so she doesn't think every teeter is evil.  Time for duct tape padding!

Meanwhile, I'll work on her noise sensitivity apart from agility equipment.  Took the steel pipe from the new teeter base (I currently have the old one installed, and gently started hitting it with a screw driver that made the clanging noise that she clearly hates.  Every time I hit it I gave her a treat or would throw one to her since she was rarely anywhere close.  Yoshi on the other hand was right there going: Free handouts - cool!  I swear if we could just compete in agility in the backyard, he would be great.  If only agility was held in fenced pastures then we could do it.  Yes this irks me to see his talent not being able to be used past being a coach for Trek, but it also pains me to see him stressed in agility environments.  Good thing he's relaxed in herding environments (well he wasn't that relaxed at Nationals but hopefully that will improve with positive exposure.)  Wonder if Xanax would help with this.  I haven't heard back from Dr. Applegate - will need to call her on Tues.

In fact, Yoshi is really starting to blossom in a fun way.  He loves doing the teeter and jumps, tires, weaves and tables and will do tunnels when asked (though doesn't seek them out like Trek does already).  When we're working and I ask him for a left or a right spin he does it incredibly fast and with this great grin on his face.  He's so happy, I want to find a way to translate that to other environments.  He sometimes seems to relax at the Training Club, but not often.

I duct taped the pipe that's holding the teeter up right now and it no longer clangs.  Trek was still leary of it and would only go half way up it and then leap off.  I held the board so it didn't bounce at all and very slowly guided it down while dolling out treats at a constant rate.  After a couple of times of this I was ready to stop but, she actually went back to the board and hopped on looking for more goodies and was even willing to tolerate it landing unguided.  She's likely past this for a bit (she's very brave when it doesn't clang and when she trusts it won't suddently start clanging)  And I'll have to just do a lot of clang work separately from the equipment.

Sat May 12
Yoshi was being something of a freaky boy about some dogs barking nearby so I put his shirt on him and that seemed to help really settle him down.  Brenda Aloff talked about that too and I need to add that the the Aloff entry.

We have uncovered an agility related issue (our first one) with Trek  She's very noise sensitive about the clanging teeter.  We're talking not just hesitant, but run for cover afraid.  what's really interesting is that I had her out in the yard when the KFOG Kaboom was going on and she didn't care about the booming at all.

I put Yoshi's shirt on her and took her out again and she seemed less freaked by it but when I had Yoshi doing the teeter (good boy - why can't you do that elsewhere?)  She backed way off even with delicious treats in the offering though eventually she did creep closer.  I'm not sure how to proceed at this point as there are several choices.  One is to put the teeter board back on the old stand to get her confidence back.  Another would be to raise the teeter back to a height where I could control it.  Another is to muffle the sounds as best I could.  Or just leave it in its present lowered form and keep giving delicious treats around it.

Fri May 11
Class with Lori today.  I think I'm just going to bring Yoshi today so I can focus on him.  Maybe in the future I can cajole Terri into coming to the Wed class too and having Trek with her.  When my attention is split I don't learn as much even though temperment wise he may be better.

Thu May 10
Terri's back this evening phew.
Walked Trek over to the vet's to pick up a refill of one of her eye medications.  She did pretty well on loose leash walking going there but was worse about it going back and the noise of the street makes her a little freaky.  Need to do more of this.  I usually walk her on the fairly quiet streets near our house so I think we're going to have to deliberately walk her along busier streets to get her used to the noise level.  There was one time where something surprised her and she tried to run out into the street.  Good thing she's on a martingale collar and can't slip out of it.

KFOG's "Kaboom" fireworks celebration is this Saturday.  I'm thinking I should take Trek over to Bladium to watch it so she can get some exposure to fireworks from a distance.  Fortunately Yoshi does well around fireworks but if Trek is frightened it might make him think there's something to be frightened of.

Left a message for Dr. Applegate to call me (she's not in today).

Wed May 9
Terri had to run up to her mom's in Redding so for obedience class I took both dogs which worked out far better than I thought it would.  First of all Patricia was there with Mr. Giles and was very helpful when I would run out of hands, but even so I think I could have made it work (albeit much more awkwardly).  Yoshi is actually noticibly calmer with Trek around, and wasn't over protective of her.  When the class started working on off leash recalls, I put Yoshi in the crate and got Trek out which was a blast (she has a rocket recall) and Yoshi was totally fine in the crate watching.

I had them both do a down with me sitting right beside them.  Yoshi was not being a freaky boy (despite there being a roomful of dogs since the sits and downs are combined with the previous class) and seemed reassured having Trek and I right next to him.

Trek was of course irked at being in a crate while Yoshi was having fun, but finally acquiesced.

Maybe I'll take both to Lori's class on Friday.   Or maybe not - it's a lot of work managing both of them

Zanna made me laugh as she told me that my dogs were too skinny.  This is half in jest and half in amazement as they are half the size of  corgis she's familiar with.  The dogs seemed thrilled to hear it though honestly they don't yet know the "We're starving" pathetic look that so many corgis excel at.


We've run out of one of Trek's eye medications and Animal Eye Care was able to just call it in to Park Centre, which is really nice since the Eye place is 45 minutes away.

Tue May 8
Took Trek for noontime walk and then later she went with me to a bookclub meeting.
Forgot to call Dr. Applegate - need to remember to do that tomorrow.

First altercation happened between the two dogs today.  Yoshi was investigating something behind one of the crates and Trek walked up to see if she could steal whatever it was (her usual M.O.)  Well this time he objected (never has yet even when he would be plenty justified in obecting) and she didn't want to back down (she normally is such a peacemaker but she thinks he's there to be pushed around.)  Anyway there was a loud disagreement though not much contact though it took some effort for us to separate them.  I wish I had had the presence of mind to watch them more carefully during this fight as I would have learned a lot and they are unlikely to hurt each other (not that I would let it continue but I wish I had a better mental picture of what happens - like when I accidentally videotaped Cali and Reno getting into a fight and we could tell only in slow motion that Cali sort of started it, and Reno wasn't being a complete loon.)

Oh and the hidden treasure?  A bully stick that had accidentally rolled off the top of the crate (they are never intentionally left out.)  So I know what Yoshi will defend as he completely tolerates Ms Entitlement Trek stealing toys right out of his mouth.  (If I were a dog I wouldn't put up with that.)

We crated both dogs to let the adrenalan ease off.  About 15-20 minutes.  Though you do have to be careful as the brain is aroused for hours (actually days - so I've heard though I've never observed such a thing - in my experience dogs get over such encounters pretty quickly  - I think grudge holding is more with dogs who truely hate each other.)

Mon May 7
Popcorn catch.  Oh what fun - popcorn has more hang time so the dog has a better chance of catching it. Yoshi is getting it and caught 6 dropping popcorn - his vision is clearly fine.  It still bounces off Trek's nose.
While sitting on the sofa clicked Yoshi for eye contact.  Once downside to using a scruff shake to get him to desist when trying to charge a dog is that I've been staring right in his eyes when I do it.  This may make it more effective, but he's now hesitant to look in my eyes for long.  Aloff takes pains to not be staring at a dog when she's shaking their collar or scruff, though when she's guiding the dog to look at her she looks at them.
Took both dogs on separate walks.  Praticed backing up for both (well I back up and they turn to follow).  Didn't see any dogs on Yoshi's walk.  Yoshi is really getting the backing thing down.  Trek is a little puzzled by it, but is getting it.

Sat Sun May 5-6
Aggression seminar with Brenda Aloff without dogs.  I did volunteer Yoshi and they thought about it but they already had 3 dogs so after Brenda and I talked for 20 minutes or so her feeling was that we had so much support in the Bay Area she wasn't sure that beyond the foundation steps that she outlined in the seminar she could be much additional help.

The foundation steps she went through are very worth while and it will give us something to work on for at least a couple of months or more.  Certainly one of her resocialization groups has been meeting for over 18 months  Though Yoshi is not nearly as much a threat as those dogs are or were.  Granted he barks and wants to lunge at some unknown dogs, but he's little and easy to control if he's on leash or fenced in and he doesn't aggress towards people at all.  In short, he's a pain in the ass, not a threat to society.

What's going to be tricky about this online diary is something I haven't run into before.  The current material though she's talked about it a lot is not yet published and won't be for another 3 months or so, so I'm going to have to be deliberately vague but give enough so that I know what I'm working on with him.

So in short, basic skills that any dog should have are
- eye contact (like 15 seconds and more)
- back away (walking dog on leash: handler backs up, dog turns and follows)
- calm down with a physical cue like rubbing their body or massage or T-Touch
- willingness to be restrained as a boundary setting exercise
hand under chin
hands holding collar or head collar or muzzle if needed
hands/arms on each side of head to keep the dog focused on you
body wrap or T-Shirt with ace bandage and/or calming cap
optionally a body rope underneath their tummy

She also suggested very short term Xanax for stressful situations in Yoshi's case.  Her point being that the Prozac and the Shen Calmer did help and seem to have retatined their benefit beyond the time he was taking them, now it just seems he needs help with not stressing.

She talked as well about getting the dogs out of using their primitive reactive non-listening non-learning brain (I'm changing all the terms away from hers) to using their cortex. The thinking, reasoning, teachable brain.

I have reams more material but I'm not sure how much detail I should go into.  Her new book will be both a book and a DVD and will likely be terrific.

I can however talk about my impressions and what I got out of it.

First of all she's quite entertaining and funny in that direct mid-western style.  she's also completely willing to drag you up on stage to show you the answer to your question.  This happened to me twice and I received compliments (?) on what a good dog and good sport I was.  (Good thing I'm now comfortable in front of a crowd.)

Her methods now very much involved a lot of very gentle compulsion (negative reinforcement such as collar pressure and physical pressure).  She was a clicker trainer, but she says she found that she was looking for something that would work on nearly all dogs and she couldn't get there with just R+ clicker training.  I know a host of folks who would disagree, but the subtext was more she was looking for something that would work for nearly all owners and there is resistance to learning the skills of clicker training and that's hard to agrue with.  It takes a lot of skill to develop good clicker timing and that's without trying to care for small children at the same time.  I've had it drilled into me that touch inhibits learning, but that hasn't been my experience and honestly I can't help myself from touching and guiding my dogs.  Yoshi in particular likes it.  With Trek I think I'll get more progress with the target stick instead, though she likes touch also.

The timing of this all is very fortuitous, as I've been slowly coming to the conclusion that Yoshi wants more physical guidance.  Clicker training involves marking the desireable choices a dog makes in hopes that the undesired choices will extingusih due to lack of reinforcement.  However, Yoshi's reactivity is stress motivated and also self reinforcing since the stressor usually goes away (independent of his reaction, but he doesn't know that.)  Trish noticed that he wants to do the rewardable thing but is still compelled to react.  I'm thinking that the more I can guide him through getting through a dog sighting without having a semi-meltdown the more he will see that he has other choices and nothing bad happened.  Xanax or other calming agent may help with this.  The advantage of Xanax is that it is intended to keep the person/animal taking it functional as opposed to knocking them out.  I do have some other herbal calming stuff, but it makes him sleepy due to the valerian in it.  Shen Calmer would help up to a point, but it didn't prevent him reacting to dogs.  Brenda's thinking it's likely time to go for the heavier guns since this problem has proved to be so intractable.

I called one of my vets (Dr Wydner) about it and she said in a return message that she'd like me to talk to Dr. Applegate as she had one of her own dogs on it for a very short term.  Dr. Applegate will be back in on Tues.

[Time out for a little excitment, Yoshi surprised a juvenile possum in the yard and was chasing it (sort of) around the outside of the tunnel.  I could tell he was onto something by his trotting back and forth movement - herding dogs can be so indirect - but I was surprised when the possum appeared on the other side of the tunnel.  Fortunately I was immediately able to catch the dogs and I don't think Trek ever saw it so she never had the chance to add to her hunting repetoire.]

After I got back on Sunday I took Yoshi out in the yard just on a regular collar to see how he would do with backaway.  We'd walk on a leash and then I would start backing up.  He'd immediately turn and follow like he'd been doing it all along.  After some repetitions, I couldn't think of anything else we could accomplish in the yard so we went out on the driveway (thus moving ahead by months in comparison to Brenda's class.)  In the driveway, I could see a difference in his [lack of] composure.  He was immediately scanning for threats.  I had put his gentle leader on by now and I turned him towards me and knelt down and held him by the collar with both hands on each side of his head.  Every time he tried to look left or right I moved his head back to looking at me.  The clicker folks wouldn't like not having a choosing, thinking dog but I don't think he's thinking much anyway beyond stressing and he's been reinforced for months for focusing on me and we're still having issues.  I think he wants to be shown what it is we want him to be like.

After some time in the driveway with me rubbing his body and redirecting his staring he seemed to relax so since I'm a bit foolish and because I know I can control him, we then went on a walk.  Every so often I would stop and back up (I couldn't resist stamping my feet a little) and he would turn and follow.  Things were going great when a dog appeared right as we were crossing the street.  I got him to the other side (the dog was on the side we were leaving) and he was already having something of a tantrum (muted by pressure on the gentle leader).  On the other side of the street I got ahold of his collar and wrestled with him about looking at me and not lunging and barking at the other dog.  By about the fifth time of trying he relented, I praised him, but I didn't let go of him till the dog was past.

Brenda says (and I've heard this before) that it takes 6000 repetitions to make a new neural pathway.  Only 5999 to go.  Actually we've sort of been already doing this so maybe it's just 5950 to go.

Fri May 4
Prepping for a Brenda Aloff seminar in Novato.  Also tomorrow after the Sat session I'll go up to Petaluma to pick up a teeter base from Ellen Finch.

Thu May 3
I have some Red Barn food (like Natural Balance) and while the beef flavor has wheat in it.  It does not have rice or corn so I'm going to try it with Trek (and Yoshi can have it too.)

Did some basic work with the target stick with Trek (she remembers last session) and intro'd sit on my right side.  She's starting to get it, but wants to leave her butt sticking out, but the target stick really helps with positioning.  (Beats manually positioning her which completely distracts her and makes her either want to chew on me or roll on her back for a belly rub.

Did some more work on the tunnel with both dogs.  That was amusing and fun especially when both dogs would go in the tunnel and emerge in a different order from which they started.  Yoshi's being a good little helper about this (well of course he's getting paid in Red Barn so that may have something to do with it.

Still about the same with the back door bell.  "Do you want to go outside?"  They look at the door intently, but don't make the leap to press the button until I repeat myself and point out the button.  They will eventually especially if I make a point of being slow to the door. :)

Trek's eye medication regime may be helping.  Ironically, the one that seems to help the most makes her vomit as the 2 drop dosage in her food per meal so she's getting 1 drop instead.  (I was warned this might happen.)

Wed May 2
Dog training interrupted by gathering information for a lawyer for setting up an estate.

The dogs coped well by wrestling and we tried Yoshi's new shirt on him.  It's a dog shirt that I got from Dog Bone Alley (will get a photo of it) and he looks really silly in it but fashion is not the goal..  The idea is that a snug fitting shirt seems to help make a dog (or a human for that matter) feel more secure and can calm them.  He was certainly more subdued with it on but I think that was mostly because he's not used to it.  His coat is so thick that he hardly needs one.  Fortunately, he's been blowing coat so it's not awful for him and we tried it in the evening..  We'll have to see how this goes.  Maybe I'll have him do obedience class in it (oh the ridicule he'll have to endure from the other dogs.)  Hey tough guy Nyay nyay nyay.

The shirt is cute though.  It's sleeveless and looks like a motorcycle shirt and says "West Coast Chompers."

Tue May 1
Doing basic sequences with Trek.  Jump-tunnel-tire, and the reverse.  Introduced calling her over a jump: jump-tunnel, and back to the jump.  She ran past the jump to get to me the first couple of times until I placed myself directly on the other side of the jump.

Tonight I was working on some paperwork for an estate that Terri and I are going to be setting up.  I'm making out these elaborate instructions for the dogs, but do I know where my overvalued Bay Area house should go if Terri isn't around to have it?  Why, of course not.  Priorities you know, never mind that I will likely outlive the dogs.

Trek is really starting to catch onto the screaming monkey backdoor bell and the idea that if she wants to go out, that is where she should go.  She hasn't quite yet started pressing it without being asked "Do you want to go outside?"  But that clearly won't take long and our lives will never be the same once that happens.  Yoshi even noses at it now but is still too tentative to set it off.

I've decided that I've gone as far as I want to go with the contact trainer with Trek, so I'm going to donate it back to the Bayteam to re-raffle it (I had won it in a Bayteam raffle a while back so it's only proper that it go back to them since with any luck I won't have to train a dog to it any time soon.)

Sun Apr 29
- Yoshi herding day.  I kept him on the long line and worked on stop.  If he stopped he got to herd more.  If he didn't stop them I stepped on the line.
- Melted freeways and evasive action.  A tanker fire took out 2 connector ramps one of which is how we got home so I got to refamiliarize myself with various surface street work arounds that I used to use a lot before the 880 freeway was rebuilt post Loma Prieta earthquake.  Even with relatively light traffic and evasive action it still took 2 hours to get back from Santa Rosa (normally 1:15)
- Yoshi pad abrasion from last herding run.  He's limping, but fortunately just an abrasion, not a torn pad.  He had somewhat of a collision with a sheep on the last run and the resulting abrupt stop might have done it.
- Adapted screaming monkey toy to be doggy backdoor bell and clicker trained Trek to press it.  This is hard to explain but NPR was talking about the Maker Faire and adapting toys for purposes that they were never intended.  Which got me wondering if there's anything we have that I could use as a dog doorbell.  Then I remembered the screaming monkey that has never really made it into the dog toy rotation yet probably because it's a little obnoxious.  What a perfect dog doorbell.  The manufacturers were nice enough to make the noisemaker (a small box with some very simple electronics inside and a speaker and a pushbutton switch) easy to remove from Mr. Monkey.  I had to take the springs out to make it easier to press, as it was intended to be chomped not nose pressed.  and then I taped it to the door.  When I think of something less tacky than duct tape I'll take photos.

Go to:

Yoshi and Trek Training Diary - Apr 2007
Yoshi and Trek Training Diary - Mar 2007
Yoshi and Trek Training Diary - Feb 2007
Yoshi and Trek Training Diary - Jan 2007

Yoshi Training Diary - Dec 2006
Yoshi Training Diary - Nov 2006
Yoshi Training Diary - Oct 2006
Yoshi Training Diary - Sep 2006
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Yoshi Training Diary - July 2006
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