Yoshi Training Diary - November 2006

By Ellen Clary
(reverse date order)

Feedback is welcome:

Thur Nov 30
Last night went to watch Sharon's Wed 8pm agility class.  Besides it being freezing, it was pretty successful.  in the lower field I kept shoveling treats in his mouth (including his dinner).  As long as I was doing that he was fine but he wasn't comfortable enough to chew his bone.  In the upper field I was getting concerned about how much he was eating so we just mostly watched and then he was more growly - mostly at Cruiser the Cocker Spaniel, though he was puzzled by Cruiser the BC who bounces so much that he doesn't act like a BC at all.

In the upper field we sat up on the upper bank which seems to work pretty well.

I'm hoping he'll get to the point of being able to chew on a bone while their class is going on.

Sharon introduced us as auditing so I think we'll make a habit of this.

Mark says he may get the boys together later this afternoon.  (Didn't happen - oh well).

In a seriously cute moment.  Yoshi let me put him under the bedcovers (it was quite chilly), on his back with his head on my pillow (I was laying beside him).  Should of taken photos.  He was completely relaxed and dozing off.  Nice to see the Mr. Anxiety rests once in a while.

After thinking about it for a couple of months or more I filled out an application for BC rescue.  I was perfectly honest saying that I didn't know if we were a good home for a BC, but that my Corgi had been asking for one for months and we were great dog owners and we do all sorts of training.  I'll see what they say - at least they'll get a good laugh out of it.

Tue Nov 28
Yoshi now has an appt at the local hollistic vet center.  Creature Comfort Hollistic Vet Center in Oakland on Dec 12th at 2:30pm with Dr. Williams.  Unfortunately Jenny Taylor isn't taking new patients, but the person I spoke to said they all have experience dealing with anxious dogs who can be aggressive, and they all use a combination of Western and Eastern medicine/approaches.  Charges for the first visit are $210 and followups are $70 without accupuncture and $85 with it.  Yoshi's VPI insurance may cover it, I'll have to check.

Their web site is http://www.creaturecomfort.com and there's a great photo of Dr. Taylor's JRT getting accupuncture at: http://www.creaturecomfort.com/photogallery/mollywithneedles.jpg

Off to a dog park walk.  Maybe I'll go steal Cooper afterwards and take him over to our house.

I did and we enjoyed his company for the rest of the evening.

Mon Nov 27
Noon dog park walk.
It may be my imagination but he seems more receptive to my direction.  Even coming out of Mark and Jan's house and we saw a medium size dog across the street.  I just nicely told him to Leave It and he immediately stopped looking at the dog.  This completely surprised me.

It had just rained, so there wasn't a lot of dogs except for a dog walker with 8 dogs, and Donna with Shadow and Sebastian, and a couple of other small dogs.  Right from the beginning, he was much more relaxed though he did bark at one of the walker's Shepherd's (who also barked back), but after that hardly a peep.  He was willing to sit and initially would just take treats, but then drop them.  Once he felt more secure, he started eating them.  He also met a smaller dog through the fence and didn't freak out about it, but was more curious than anything.  When it's not raining so much and there are more little dogs, I think I'll start going into the park with him on leash to continue with his diversity training.  What was cool is that this dog looked a lot like Muffy the little, sweet dog at ODTC that he's often growled and barked at.

I'm also going to work on trying to keep calming/relaxed images/concepts in my mind to see if it makes any impression on him.  He's receptive to my asking him for calming signals, so why not?

Speaking of calming signals we did have one dog approach us staring and closed mouthed.  I'm quite sure Yoshi would have reacted barking, but I asked him to turn away and the dog moved on since we weren't challenging.  Boy I'm glad I read McConnell's book and went to that seminar as I would have had no idea that could have been a challenge.

Thur Nov 23-Sun Nov 26
Yoshi spent Thanksgiving at Cooper's.

Jan, who has taken classes from Jeri Ryan, also took time to talk with Yoshi.  I want to transcribe her notes here, but I wrote the gist of it in a note to Patricia:

Hi there;
Saw in Yoshi's diary that you are thinking about an animal communicator.  I can highly recommend the woman we used multiple times.  Her name is Jeri Ryan, her number is 510-569-6123.  Through her we talked to Rosie, and learned that she did not want to share with her brother Giles, but we asked her to try, that we loved her just as much.  I have noticed a marked improvement in her awareness of the dynamic.  She slips sometimes, but often I can see her choosing not to go after him even though she's feeling vulnerable.  And she comes down much faster whn it does happen.  I'd give Jeri a try.  It can't hurt.

I had Joy Mason do a reading on him which was helpful but then I learned that Jan (of Mark and Jan)  has taken classes from Jeri Ryan (same phone number so it must be the same person).  Jan sat down over the weekend and had a good conversation with Yoshi.

- He wants more than anything to catch one of those squirrels and shake it  (and it appears he understands it would kill it.)
This is completely hard wired and Jan saying the squirrels were her friends made no impression whatever
She mentioned that he thinks we would be proud [I would certainly be impressed, not so sure about proud though.]

- He's very anxious. Better with the Prozac (this is an impression of hers - he sure doesn't know what prozac is). I'm going to leave him on Prozac for six to eight weeks (it's only been four) and then debate switching to Clomicalm instead.

- He doesn't seem to get that small dogs are dogs (more exposure is certainly in order here)

- He didn't want to focus on things that frighten him, though he did say that black dogs with big heads are scary.  I'm wondering if it's not so much the color as the head.  This would explain his weird preoccupation with Rotties.

- He thinks their house is strange  (I think he means the layout and not the birds)

- He loves Cooper and wants Cooper to come live with him.  When asked if he'd like a puppy to come instead, he repeats the former sentence/thought.  (i.e. he has no concept of another dog).  Joy said he seemed lonely.

Also Joy mentioned that I may want to try clicking and rewarding him for being willing to sit and look at  as the turning and walking away is basically what he wants.  I think that's fine as long as we stop someplace that's subthreshold

Thur Nov 23
[morning before we left for Terri's mom's] Phone call with Joy Mason an animal communicator.

This was done over the phone which puzzles me but it's not very expensive so why not.  She may just be reading off of me but I'll just have to keep that in mind.  The only requirement was that Yoshi be in the room near me, so we just sat on the kitchen floor (well he was lying down.)

We spoke quite a bit about his background (litter size, where he came from, how old was he when he came here, and what the issue is).  This woman is a corgi breeder so when I told her that his leaving the agility ring to pounce on another dog happened at the Corgi Nationals she really understood what a letdown [understatement] that was.

She said that it really seems to be genetic as he just can't seem to control himself when he gets a flood of adrenalin and epinephrine and explodes and then feels really badly and embarassed (her words) about all the fuss.  (Sounds almost like an alcoholic.)

She said that he very much was an enigma and that distressing as it is, with help, he really should be able to get through this and it would be a shame not to as he is so very talented (I couldn't agree more).  Her take on it is the same interpretation that many of us have.  His brain chemistry is not quite right.  She thinks that a holistic vet would be the best (she thinks only) choice as Western medicine can't really deal with this and gave me the name of Cheryl Schwartz DVM.

Now I disagree that Western medicine can't deal with this, but I'm always up for trying complementary medicine so I sent her email though I haven't heard back yet.  Leter in the weekend I spoke again to Joy Mason and it turns out that Cheryl is only doing horses these days but did give her another name and she'll email that to me when she gets back to Southern California.

She also commented on how social he was and that he seemed lonely and adding another dog would likely be a good choice.

Tue Nov 21
Noon dog park walk.  He seems to be improving, I hardly dare hope.  And I'm doing better today about the training as he got to meet Donna's Greyhound Shadow and corgi-terrier mix Sebastian.

It really is intriguing me that I have to teach him about calming signals.  Actually it's more like reminding him to use them as he obviously knows them but doesn't always think to use them or his impulsiveness overrides his judgement.  Donna had Shadow and Sebastian in the parking lot of the park and I walked Yoshi in a big arc around them, telling him "Don't stare" (look at me instead).  We then went and sniffed a nearby tree and then make a small radius arc closer to them in the other direction and then went and sniffed a closer tree.  Very quickly he was like "Oh I know what to do."  We are within 10 feet of them and he's totally fine.  We let them greet each other and Shadow is so tall that after craning his neck up to sniff her (nose and rear) he walks underneath her to say hello to Sebastian who is the same color as him and just a touch taller.  Sebastian is more cautious so we encouraged Yoshi and Shadow to say hello to each other again and they do.

Sebastian wanted to say hello to me and my treats so I carefully held Yoshi away and fed Sebastian.  I'm noticing that Yoshi is starting to get more possessive of me and I will likely have to work on that separately, though just having him learn how to greet other dogs civily is enough right now.

We then walked around the outside of the park a couple of times and he did very well.  He did bark at a couple of dogs but they were barking at him and he desisted quite quickly.  A woman who saw us mentioned that he doesn't take his eyes off of me.  "Yeah we encourage him to do that"  She said "It shows."  I said "Thanks" and refrained from saying "If you only knew."  I swear this diary should be called the Ellen Training Diary as I'm learning just as much or more than he is.

He's now with me at work and was doing great until Terri walked up, tapped on my office door and held up my purse that I had left in her office.  Bark Bark Bark Bark.  Hey you idiot that's Terri.  I lifted him up by the scruff with both hands which doesn't hurt him but gets his attention fast (It also put him in a position where he could see that it was Terri and I immediately let her in.).  Terri thinks it was the purse that he was reacting too but I think it was more reacting to the tapping and not quite being able to make out that it was her since the view is partially obscured.

I then put him on leash and at first I was holding on to it, but them I tied it to the futon. Sort of like the tied downs that Trish King uses.  It's a way that I can ignore him and let him chill out and get some work done.

Tonight I'm going to be running Zoe the Border Terrier in class.  Should be fun.  Yoshi will stay home which is why he's getting all this time now.

Mon Nov 20
Took him on a dog park walk at noon.  Met Donna's Greyhound Shadow through the fence and iwe think we'll let them meet on leash sometime.  Generally he did quite well.  Surprisingly calm. 2 or 3 reactions (one to a Mastiff).  Is generally responsive to "Don't stare" and I find the sooner I interrupt his stare the better.  The 5 month old lab puppy (named Stella) that he wants to take home was there.  I think I'll have them meet sometime.  The lab's owner was commenting on how calm Yoshi was and then right on cue the Mastiff walked up and she got a somewhat muffled demonstration of how growly he can get.

I'm finding that even though his dog park visits are improving quite a bit that they're getting hard for me emotionally.  He so much wants to play with dogs and he whines when he sees a dog running the fence (I remind myself that it's substitute herding and he gets to herd for real so I shouldn't feel bad for him).  I'm thinking that fairly soon I may want to consider going into the park with a long line.  The problem is that the last time I went into the big dog park I got bit by another dog so I'm a little shy about it (I'm ok but just leary - him and Yoshi were growling at each other and I was holding both their collars and the other dog got frustrated twisted out of my grasp and chomped)..  I was going to take Yoshi into the small dog park, but there were a couple of dogs in there that didn't look very stable and their owners didn't look very competent so we instead walked around the outside of the park twice.

Ironically it's the big dogs who are more steady, but unfortunately when you have a reactive dog, if anything goes wrong you can get hurt.

Sun Nov 19
He's going to a trial Santa Rosa to meet a Kerry Blue Terrier as part of his diversity training.

What a great and completely unexpected day.

First the planned part.  We did go to the Golden Retriever trial at the Sonoma Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa and he did meet Meggity, a Kerry Blue (well she's actually black) Terrier who has amazing calming signals skills (similar to Trish King's Strider).  Yoshi had absolutely no issue with her (well he was on leash so he wasn't allowed to charge up to her even if he wanted to) and when they got close she looked away and studiously sniffed the ground. 

We spent quite a bit of time walking around on the fairgrounds "streets" outside the ring.  He was generally pretty good if I keep the other dogs about 25-30 feet away and paid very close attention.  eventually we were able to go under the covered area and spent some time watching dogs go by and getting treats for looking at them and then looking back at me.  It was great to see folks again and I'm learning that folks seem to be keeping track of how Mr. Canine Bad Citizen is doing on his rehab.  A woman who I didn't know walked up noticing us working and asked (sympathetically) if he was reactive.  Oh yes.  She said that she had two at home (Cattledogs).  I smiled and told her that I was so sorry.  She does do agility with them, but she always has to be vigilant.  I mentioned that that's what was so exhausting about having him our and about and I still can't figure out where he gets the energy to be so vigilant.  Generally it was a very good experience.  He got to see a lot of folks he knew and got lots of cookies.  Not to many reactions either though if I stop paying attention, he does react.

But the unexpected part is that I dropped by Joyce Shephard's afterward on a whim just to see if she was doing instructing and she was!  I pulled up and I was very warmly received by folks there some of whom I knew.  I explained that Yoshi had turned on to herding and had his HT now, but that Debbie didn't want to continue with him due to his reactivity and her wanting to protect the reputation of her facility.  Joyce didn't say "Oh, please." but her eyes certainly suggested it.  I got Yoshi out and he immediately went up to a BC puppy in an ex-pen and put his nose through to sniff and to greet.  The puppy was happy to see him (I was glad he/she was in a ex-pen so I didn't have to worry about Yoshi getting too rough.  Seeing this interaction, she said something along the lines of: Well he sure is fearsome isn't he? and I laughed and said that he loves black and white Border Collies and keeps asking for one for Christmas, and she laughed too.

She did get to see him bark at some Shelties but I was immediately on his case about it and she seemed sure that I had a good handle on it (I neglected to mention that he was now on Prozac, Joyce is a nurse so I'm sure it wouldn't surprise her and if it comes up I'll be happy to tell her.)  She asked if I was interested in learning herding too and I said that I was interested.  We went into the round pen with 3 sheep and he was a real dynamo.  So different from the last time he was in the very same pen.  Joyce asked if I'd ever had horse riding lessons and I said "Yes I showed horses for 10 years," and she said that she uses the same style when instructing, meaning that she stays on the rail and calls out instructions from there, and wanted to know if I was ok with that (some folks find it a little daunting, but I'm so used to it from riding lessons and sports coaching that I kind like being bossed around I think :).  I said that it was fine and I'll just have flashbacks. :)

As one could guess, it was a total blast.  And what's cool is that she describes it like lounging a horse and I've certainly done a lot of that.  Afterwards she said that he did great and we were more than welcome to come by any Wed or Sun. afternoon.  I think we're definitely going to make a habit of it.  It was nice to feel so welcomed.

I was planning on going to check out a trial at Nola Jones' on Dec 2nd as the judges are from Pacifica and I wanted to meet them, but now I don't feel like I have to though it might be a fun trip anyway.

Every so often someone tells me that they're following Yoshi's progress (?) in this diary.  I'm really touched that people care enough to read this.  I started this as an easy way to track his training and to keep me on task if you will.  It also is invaluable when I'm trying to give a trainer an idea of what I've been doing.  Having people actually follow the diary has been a happy and a little intimidating surprise.  Often times they are folks who are also struggling with talented, but reactive dogs that they love very much.  I hope this thrashing around that you read here doesn't make you give up hope <smile>.

Sat Nov 18
Had a good private lesson with Rachelle.  Spent quite a while talking about him and giving her his colored history Showing her how he stresses out on an agility course though when he actually does run a course he does quite well.

Worked on playing with his rabbit fur toys especially the one that could hold treats.  He was encouraged and rewarded for grabbing on to the toy.  Initially we spent time just standing at the start line and as soon as he would focus elsewhere (which is what he was doing at the agility trial) I'd just walk away from the start line.  The she had me just run away to see what he'd do and he followed along but mostly zooming and not really doing any obstacles.  After running around for a bit I did get him to go over a couple of jumps and did a very nice dogwalk and another jump.  We then stopped and played and gave him treats.

One thing is that she'd really like to see how he is around other dogs so we'll probably get together at a dog park in a couple of weeks (similar to what Toni and I work on).  I was asking about if he had a future in agility and while it remains to be seen he certainly has a chance if he learns to focus more on me and the game.

We worked a lot on play drive.  Rachelle showed me how you can attach a toy to a leash and drag it on the ground which gives it motion and makes it appealing, but you can play tug with it too and retain control of it and occasionally relinquish control.  The stale baguette as toy definitely amused her and she attached that to the leash and then I ran around with it with Yoshi in pursuit and let he grab it sometimes and praised him for it.  Fortunately, he's good about relinquishing it.

Did a version of abandonment training.  He went charging off at something (perhaps a bird) and I went heading off in the other direction.  Eventually he did check in and I was able to recall him, though you could see his tendency to come a little way and then want to turn around, but I kept calling him.  She said that if they get stimulated enough they just simply can't hear you.  She discovered that it seemed like only particular commands got through (her's it was: Dog's name, Leave It, Come)  I get a good response to Yoshi and to Leave It so I may use that though I get a pretty decent response to "Heeeere" in low command voice.

So it appears it's dinner out of a stuffed toy for a while.  And lots more continued dog park and agility trial exposure at sub threshold levels for him.  While she'd like him to start going to watch agility classes (hers or Sharon's) she thinks that they may be too stimulating for him right now.

I need to show her Yoshi's ever growing DVD/CD collection.
 - World's Shortest Agility Career (Quicktime CD)
 - Herding DVD
 - Expressions DVD
 - Playing with Dobie Toy DVD (the one that Trish made for me)

Interestingly enough she also would like to see his eyes checked.  I've been thinking about doing that for a while now.  One Dog Opthamologist she is familiar with is Duane Fleming.  While I'm not easily finding him listed on the web, the references I do find  make it clear this is one high powered Vet and Lawyer (http://www.acvo.org/meetings/2006/pmcourse.htm).  Finally found him.  I'd forgotten that he is in Pleasant Hill and not Concord.  I'll call his office next week to see if I need a referral.

After thinking about it, I told Karen that I'd be happy to run Zoe.  This winter is shaping up to be fairly busy given that I'm not competing and Yoshi is not in a regular agility or herding class.  We're going to become a leashed regular at the dog park, and then will work up to watching Sharon's Wed class and I will attend the Tues class, plus we're going to be going regularly to Marin HS to watch classes there.

Fri Nov 17
I've decided to put yesterday's thoughts on Predatory Aggression on hold for my own sanity.

I've resolved to start over on the dog park training now that it appears he's going to be more receptive to training.  With any luck, he'll go to the park every day he's not going somewhere else.  My goal is to make him the best behaved dog I can regardless if he ever competes in agility or anything else.

So off to the park we go.  We'll be doing the same routine.  Walk around the outside of the park until he settles and then at the end take him into the small dog park on leash.  i think I'll refrain from going in the large dog park for a while as I got bit there last time.  Though him socializing through the fence with the big dogs is great.

On the walk around the outside there were only two little dogs in the park and one came up to the fence.  I encouraged Yoshi to sniff the ground (need to work on this cue more) and that seemed to help but also puzzle the other dog (as yoshi did the beginning of a down instead.)  The other dog took off running and we moved on to outside the big park.

Here he was his usual barky self but with less vigor than before.
He'd bark and we'd take a few steps away (generally not what he wants).  When he settle down we'd walk a little closer.  Nearly all dogs he'd initially be reactive (except for a sweet small female black Lab that he asked if we could take home) to but in all cases except for a growly Bouvier (and a poodle who was with him) he settled down and got to say hi to 2 Greyhounds, a Borzoi, a couple of GSDs and more.

Then after a back and forth circuit, we went into the little dog park and he met two small dogs with poodle like fur.  And about three small short hair dogs that resembled Daschunds or Chiuhuahs.  He did snap at one of the Poodles but I didn't see the details and since he was on leash I was able to stop it immediately.  He is pushy, but I interrupt if I think he is being overbearing.  I've never had to teach a dog about dog etiquette so this is all a new experience for me.  However if i ask him to be gentler he does and immediately starts using the calming signals he gives every impression of not knowing at all.

So an encouraging start.

It's almost like he needs a lower animal of his own that he can nurture, but that's too risky.

I think the order of restraint in the little dog park will be Gentle Leader, Flat Collar or Harness, Long line (attached to flat collar).  With any luck we won't need the muzzle but I have it if it becomes necessary.  The last time I tried him with a muzzle in the little dog park he still managed to pin a small dog so while he didn't bite the dog he did scare him.

We're also going back to ODTC on Wed, though we have a schedule conflict as we also want to go watch the Wed night agility class at Sharon's.  The weekends we're going to be going to either an agility trial or Marin Humane Society classes, or to private training (though somewhere in there I want to ski).  This weekend on Saturday is a private lesson with Rachelle at 12:30 at Sharon's and then on Sunday we're going to the Golden Retriever Agility Trial in Santa Rosa and hopefully with meet Megity a Kerry Blue Terrier.

Thu Nov 16
So I've been reading in Brenda Aloff's book Aggression in Dogs.  And on page 107 she talks about Predatory Aggression and it's sounding pretty dead on for what I've seen though it also could be Redirected Aggression.  She talks about the glassy eyed expression and tuning out of known commands.  Now in Yoshi's case, in the case of him in the agility ring he was able to half hear me before tipping over the edge which is encouraging.  In the agility video he does come back to me twice when I asked and he even gave me the "I'm doing what  you're asking even though I don't want to" Arf Arf Yip.  But then he turned and found a way out of the baby gates to pounce on that dog.

Maybe I'll send the video to Brenda Aloff to have a look, as it appears to be Redirected Aggression that expressed itself via Predatory Aggression.  Predatory Aggression is scary stuff as the dog is basically just being a dog, but the damage is the same or worse as the bite is a hard bite not an inhibited one.

Jean Donaldson lectures on this on a DVD and it's a pretty upsetting topic (I've seen a clip of it) but maybe I need to see it.

This morning I realized that Yoshi assumes that recalls during high stimulation situations are Premack recalls, so he'll come within a foot of me and then turn and go back after what I was recalling him from.  So I need to reward some of his recalls in other ways to keep it varied.  The scenario this morning was that Guido (2 doors down) was alarm barking his head off at another dog and Yoshi started to bark to (he normally doesn't pay any attention to Guido's barking, but this was different.)  Knowing Yoshi was safe in my backyard and I was with him I recalled him and he came back and when he got close immediately turned around to go back to barking at the corner of the fence,  I was able to recall him again and this time (or was it next time?) I got a hold of his collar.  Guido (who looks like a Cocker Spaniel cross and is not a GSD) kept barking so I put Yoshi in the bedroom and went and checked (he was ok but barking at a passing dog and he was out front.)  I then went back to Yoshi and he seemed fine.

Back to Predatory Aggression.  I think I need to continue the diversity lessons by taking him on leash to the small dog park, and other agility classes.  Hopefully he'll figure out that the dogs he meets are the same dogs he sees moving which is what triggers him sometimes (other times it's just because the dog looks different, other times who knows).  He's got to get used to seeing small dogs moving.  What's puzzling me about the time he pounced on Zoe is that he had done well watching the class before and had worked alongside Zoe before.  But when he locked onto her from two obstacles away it was like something switched in his brain.  Like suddenly he was feral.  He wasn't seeing Zoe, he was seeing a target.  A target who wasn't even looking at him.  In Aloff's book she describes a scenario where a GSD was targeting one of her Smooth Coated Fox Terriers.  Her dog figured this out and diffused the situation by giving a calming signal (sniffing the ground), but Aloff goes on to say that this doesn't always work and I'm not sure this would have worked in Yoshi's case.

I sent him to herding to let him express his herding drive, maybe I should have him train in Schitzhund for control training (geez - I hope not - that would teach him to target people and I don't want to go there).  I should make his life (and mine) hell and get a terrier.

In the meantime I'm going to keep working on his toy drive, and ball fetch.  Both of those are great predatory energy burners.

Some references (Google: dog predatory aggression):

Wed Nov 15
Went on a walk at noon and we finally saw dogs.  He did try to lunge and I tightened the Gentle Leader and just let him thrash till he gave up.  He seems more receptive to giving up on the idea, but I'm not sure.  If the meds just make him more receptive to being trained that's a start.  I also remembered that I hadn't given him his medicine this morning though I don't know  if that had a effect at all.  I have to keep in mind that it's only been 2 weeks and it can take up to 6 weeks to come up to full effectiveness.

We have a private 1 hour lesson scheduled with Rachelle at 12:30 on Saturday at Sharon's.
Tonight we're going to watch the Wed 8pm class at Sharon's  They are the most experienced class and there are no small dogs.

Well I was but the viruses floating around at work are trying to get the better on me so I went home and went to bed for a while.

I'm pondering doing something that I've been taught won't work, but I'm wondering if I modify it slightly if it would.

Pavlov, and plenty of others since, discovered that you couldn't reverse the order of the stimulus and the response.  Meaning you couldn't feed the dogs and ring the bell in order to get any association, you had to ring the bell first.  In terms of creating good associations with other dogs, a dog has to see the other dog and then get a food reward.  But I often run into the problem of Yoshi sees dog, Yoshi immediately reacts, and I really don't like rewarding the reaction (Trish doesn't think I should either)  So I've had to wait for his to chill out (thrash around on the gentle leader sometimes) and then ask for a rewardable behavior and hope that we haven't set up a behavior chain.  One solution is to ask for a second behavior (not rewarding the first one).  While we do this, I'm not entirely convinced that we're making as much progress as we could.

I'm wondering if, when I see a dog before he does (most of the time now since I'm quite vigilant these days), I start feeding him before he sees the dog, and when he sees the dog, if he reacts, then say "bummer" and the food goes away.  The modification is that the disappearance of the food is a negative punisher (you're taking the food away as a punishment).  What I don't know is what learning will occur.  Will he realize his reaction is making the food go away or will he think that the presence of a dog makes the food go away?  Dog's are primarily associative learners, but they are also very self centered it seems so it could go either way.  I guess we have to make sure he has the experience where he doesn't react and the food remains.

Tue Nov 14
Short walk with him.  No obvious dog encounters.
He and Cooper spent the afternoon at Cooper's where the reportedly played and played and played.
I went to agility class to pick up a couple of rabbit fur toys that Narae had left for Yoshi.  He really likes them.  Obstensibly I am going to give one to Jesse but that depends on how long this one lasts.

Sun Nov 12
[early morning]
I woke up with the most obvious explanation in my head about why Yoshi is on Prozac and I should write it down before I forget it.

With any doggy behavioral problem the very first thing you want to look at is any medical cause.  Muscular-skeletle, Thyroid, general health and energy, etc.  Low seretonin is very much a medical condition and leaving it untreated makes it harder for all concerned.  Psychiatrists say that the most dangerous kind of depression is untreated depression and now current research says that low serotonin can exhibit itself in all sorts of ways, not just the classic depression related ones.  OCD, eating disorders, aggression, very poor impulse control can all result from low serotonin.  The thing that makes it difficult is that there is not yet a common test for serotonin levels so you have to resort to a guessing game.

Currently we wait to put a dog on meds until things get bad, but the "treat medical conditions first" argues for it to happen sooner.  I regret not having put Yoshi on it sooner but I lacked the justification for it with current thinking until he started pouncing on other dogs, but it's sad that I had to wait until that point - it put a lot of dogs at risk - fortunately no one was hurt.

I really wonder if someone is studying anything related to this since we can keep track of most of the litter it would be a good source of information.  I am also quite struck that the two smallest dogs in the litter have the worst symptoms.  Hmmmm.

What an excellent seminar.  It's going to be so hard to summarize.
The big take away thing I have from it is just how validated I feel (Haven't been feeling that way much these couple of weeks).  I'm so not in the beat the crap out of the dog to force them to behave crowd.  I very much believe in setting limits, but enforcing them humanely and so do these folks.

First of all McConnell was terrific and I'm really glad that I read her book first as it made things much easier to absorb.  (Highly recommended.)

Trish King was there as well as Trisha and Andrea.  Patricia M. joined me in the ride over.  Saw Rachelle who is an instructor over at Sharon's and I found this very encouraging and realized that taking private lessons from her might be a better fit since we're a lot closer philosophically (we had a good conversation about this too.)  I've also decided that I'd like to be a behavior volunteer for Marin Humane Society as I think I'd learn a lot.  They seemed quite happy that I was interested.  Also saw Carolyn who owned a corgi named Taffy.  I haven't seen Carolyn for years the reason being I found out today that she moved to New York.  She lost Taffy to DM which really sucks and the only positive thing about that crippling disease is that the dog is not in pain.  She was sad for Taffy and also because they had been training in utility and were just starting to do well.  (Sounds like me moving Cali to performance right before she passed away.)

Fri Nov 10
Class with Lori Drouin.  Mostly just watching, but doing a little participation too.  Fortunately I'd gotten a long line from the MHS store so I felt ok doing the recalls.  His only outburst was when a Wheaton Terrier who was in the following Open class walked in and he was on a long down (leashed).  The Wheaton's ("Crystal") affect was "please don't hurt me" which of course set him off, though certainly not Crystal's fault.  Lori took Yoshi's leash and I went and said hello to Crystal.  What was really amusing is that suddenly I was Crystal's hero and every time she passed by the crate that I was keeping Yoshi in and sitting beside - she'd stop and say hello. (Granted of course I was also feeding Yoshi treats and I'm sure the presence of treats had no influence on her. <cough> Yeah right.).

Andrea said the sweetest thing to me.  She was also in class and stopped to tell me I was doing a good job.  That's nice to hear since I've been feeling caught in the middle of a religious war.

[email to Andrea]
Hi Andrea,

I'm going to hazard a guess that you and Trisha also have MHS email style email addresses.  If not I'll look up your regular one.

Thanks so much for the "You're doing a good job" encouragement during Lori's class today.  It does help as I've been feeling worn down by those who say I'm to easy on Yoshi.  Did Trish mention to you that it seems like I've wandered into the middle of a religious war with respect to dog training? (Yeesh, all I want to do is help my dog the most effective and humane way I can.)

Trish and Trisha, thanks also for your encouragement, the Prozac appears to be doing a world of good for Yoshi and it's still only been a week and a half.  He did have one outburst at a Wheaton Terrier, but that was the only one.  He was even able to tolerate a Bouv, Basenjii and a Pug heeling by and a big GSD staring at him and for once he didn't bark at Oliver the CKCS, so we may be getting somewhere.

Ellen Clary
and Yoshi the corgi

So for herding I'm debating between going back to Joyce Shephard in Santa Rosa or making the trek to Pleasant Grove to see Nola Jones.  While I don't know Nola, other folks think highly of her and from her bio it appears that we're on the same page philosophically.

I had a funny exchange with Zanna who was asking how Yoshi was doing and I was saying that he was doing pretty well here (meaning at ODTC), but that he appeared to hate agility and loves herding.  She said "Why fight it?  Get him his own set of ducks."  I laughed and said that it was tempting since in Alameda you can have up to 6 ducks as pets.

Talk about: What will the neighbors think?  I think they will just laugh and assume I've really gone off the deep end.

Thu Nov 9
Had a really funny email exchange about how to deal with folks not believing in behaviorists.  I hope to put it here once I get permission.

Wed Nov 8
Drat.  Debbie Pollard says that she no longer wants to train Yoshi fearing that he would be too much of a liability at her facility.
Can't say that I blame her, but then she said that she doesn't believe in behaviorists and that seems rigid beyond all sense.  How much more data  do you really need?  Yeesh.  She probably doesn't believe in medication either.  Never mind that he's doing miles better and improving all the time.

It's so strange how polarizing this issue is and I'm sure there's a much deeper issue at work here.

Tue Nov 7
Very busy day today with voting and picking up Sox a rescue corgi from the Alameda Shelter, and having a session with Trish King for Yoshi.

The session with Trish was excellent and very enlightening.

I showed her the movie of his agility debacle and she was fascinated to see him stalking a dog to assault as that's not typical corgi behavior.  And yet she definitely thinks that he has a very good prognosis given the results of our work today.

She was encouraged to hear that he was on Prozac and seemed to be doing better because of it.

We talked about what might be going on with him and I mentioned my reading on some low serotonine humans doing high risk behavior just to get an adrenaline rush so that they feel better, and also that might be why doing corrections didn't seem to make much difference as that also gets an adrenaline jolt too.  (This is why I don't think an electric collar will work and she agrees.)

We then spent a lot of time walking just about every dog in the shelter by him (they really earned their $ today) and blowing on him if he reacted (which is surprisingly effective as it immediately gets his attention.)  You kneel down on his level and have a hand in his collar and gentle leader.  Doing this many dogs (about 10 I think) really underscored that he overreacts initially and then is fine with the dog giving completely appropriate responses of glancing and looking away.  There were two dogs he didn't react to: a tricolored aussie and a border collie (no surprise there)

Some of this was with me hiding (Abandonment training) and some with me doing it.

Trish said that we were welcome to come watch classes at any time and encourages us to do so and do so a lot as through lots of repetitions he will finally adjust.  She says that he knows he's not supposed to and knows that he will be rewarded for not reacting, but right now still feels compelled to do so.

She thinks that we should hold off on agility for now and just work on relaxing and attention, but thinks that we may be able to revisit agility in the future.  She noted how he's always scanning the environment and thought that might not work for agility, but then I mentioned that he focuses well in herding so we then took a look at his herding DVD and she was very impressed with his focus and skill, and asked if she could keep the DVD as a working dog example (fortunately I made an extra copy).

Trish's recommendations:
  1. Lots of dogs, lots of classes. Do NOT reward if he barks then looks at you. Save reward for when he looks at you after noticing the other dog. Does not have to actually look at the other dog – just be aware of it.

  2. Use blowing on his face to distract (punish?)

  3. When other dogs are around, try to be down at his level rather than above him – make sure you control his movements (ie holding onto his collar)

  4. Relaxation techniques

  5. Teach focus using something that he likes – this can be food or chewies or whatever – teach him to find it – search and rescue sort of thing.

  6. Really watch when you’re walking him – do things like jogging to intensify his focus on you.

Mon Nov 6
[noon] Took him on a walk.  He seems genuinely happier and more content.  Walks on a loose leash.  Sits at corners promptly.  Checks in with me often.  He did try to start to race up to a dog (which caught me by surprise as I was looking the other way) but I tightened the lead on the gentle leader and said leave it and he immediately stopped and when I loosened the leash and we started walking on he looked up at me and grinned in a relaxed way.  No growling.  No trashing fish on a line trying to get free to Get That Dog.

It's only been day 6 on Prozac, but it clearly seems to be doing him a world of good.

I have been thinking of the various studies that look at high risk human behavior and a possible link to low serotonine.  While I have no way to prove it, it's almost like he is seeking out the adrenaline rush of mugging other dogs as a way to feel better.  Hmmmm.

I've been thinking about the folks who (not to my face) have said to put him down.  And I keep thinking: Why?  It's not like he's a danger to people and taking him out of agility and any offlead obedience/rally solves the problem of him being a danger to other dogs.  I want to ask them "So what kind of fair weather trainer are you anyway?"  This is a challenge.  Come on.

That said I'm not going to fight biochemical realities.  If Yoshi has a serotonine deficiency in his brain then we'll give him something that tells his brain to increase the level.  It makes him happier and puts him in a much better place to be trained.

Just found this intriguing article:


Extensive literature dating back to the 1960s provides evidence of an association between animal aggression and reduced serotonergic function.

Google: impulse control fluoxetine

[on a different note]
We're going to have a corgi foster for at least a couple of days then he's going over to Cathy's after he gets snipped at the Oakland SPCA on Wednesday.  Hi name is Sox and he's a cutie, but may have some aggression issues (though I went to see him and didn't see evidence of it) so he and Yoshi will be separated.  Though I may let them play together if they both wear muzzles.  Terri and Mark are picking him up tomorrow from the Alameda Shelter and I'll see him once Yoshi and I get back from his therapy visit with Trish King.

Sun Nov 5
So I've been checking around for vet behaviorists closer to home than UC Davis and would you believe that the closest on is Ian Dunbar?  Gee I think that will do if he still does consults.  I found his email address on the Sirrius puppy training site so I wrote him:

Greeting Dr Dunbar,

I have a corgi who has some dog-dog aggression issues that we've been working with for about 2 years.  (He was previously fearful and we have made great strides in this - almost too good as now he is more confident to attack (bloodlessly) other dogs).

This is a real bummer as he was showing great promise in agility and I was hoping to compete with him nationally, but the environment appears to be just too chaotic for him.

He's now consulting with Trish King and while that's making progress I would like to have someone evaluate him for medication (he has a littermate in Penn. who is being treated by Dr. Ann Beebe).  My vet is suggesting UC Davis, but that's a long haul so I thought I'd try something closer to home (in Alameda).

I don't know if you even maintain a private practice, but if you don't is there a behavioral vet your recommend?

He's a fascinating, sweet, and complicated boy, and I really want to help him even if he never competes in agility.

Thanks so much for your consideration.

Ellen Clary
and Yoshi the high maintenance corgi

Sophia Yin is another excellent possibility and she does do office hours in SF as well as Davis.

To Coltsrunkids:

So I'm curious.  When did the Prozac Kids start exhibiting their dodgy behavior?
For Yoshi it was around 7 months when Elizabeth told me that he was starting to bark and lunge at dogs, at which point I said "Neuter him - I don't care if he gets too big."  Though when I got him at 8 months he was still quite sweet and able to meet a lot of dogs.

I'm going to sound like a parent of a teenager when I said he always was such a happy boy and then things seemed to go south from there regardless of all the training he was getting.  It's like he used up all his serotonine at an early age.  Maybe this will go  away like most young adult depression in humans.  I take that back - these days when people get depression it tends to stay, so maybe I should say: maybe this will go away with further maturity like teenage angst does.

Today is the 5th day that I've been giving him 5mg of Prozac.  It's still too early to tell, but he seems more relaxed and if something bothers him he usually just barks and doesn't lunge.  He did start to lunge at a dog in a yard but I told him to leave it and pulled slowly on his gentle leader and he immediately relented.  If this had happened a week ago he would have lunged at full speed and strength.

I hardly dare hope.  If it just gives me a better training window that will be a huge help.


Sat Nov 4
Played fetch for breakfast.  He's gotten too attached to bugging Terri for breakfast as even though I had his breakfast in my pocket and was giving him kibble every so often he kept wanting to go to Terri until she closed the door to where she was working.  Either I'm going to have to make a routine habit of this or I'm going to have to bring his bowl out too.  (Maybe both.)

His fetch wasn't nearly as enthusiastic as it has been in the past.  His attention appeared to be split looking for Terri and looking at the trees, then looking at me.  I think I've been the heavy in the relationship with him and he seems almost intimidated by me, and much less so Terri.

Some folks think he has no regard for me, but it may be the opposite.  He never, ever challenges me, but instead deflects onto some innocent dog or squirrel.

Terri and I spent time playing with him on the bed.  She's so good at getting him reved up so it seems that I can play second fiddle when she gets him reved up about a toy, she then tosses it to me.  He lost enthusiasm fairly quickly until I got out the new rabbit fur toy, then he was on fire.  I stopped while he was still interested and put it up on the shelf in plain site and then got down a fake fur tug toy and he cheerfully played with that for a while.  Again I stopped the game before he got bored.

Much as I want to work through his agility issues, I (and others) don't think I should put him in another competition unless his tempermant dramatically changes.  It's just too risky for other dogs.  There are the fully fenced shows in LA but that seems like a huge hassle as it's an 8 hour drive.

He used to just charge up to dogs and bark.  Now he charges up and chomps.  While he may not draw blood it's still really disturbing and patently unsafe.  This is the downside of spending all that time building up his confidence.  I was hoping that herding would give him a proper outlet and it does, but the dog aggressiveness has not decreased. 

Guess it's tracking and herding for him, and a whole bunch more non-competitve obedience.  I'm really bummed about this he's so damn talented.

A woman named Donna gave me the card of an animal communicator: Joy Mason.  While I think communicators get a lot of info from the minds of the owners and the body language of the dogs, I remind myself that "My belief is not required."  I do not have to believe in it for it to get some useful information out of it.  I'll check her website to see when she's in town again.

I also should ask Trish if she would ever trust Strider at an agility trial.

[after reviewing the agility tape]

It oh so doesn't make any sense.  He was frightened of the tire.  Wouldn't even look at it on the start line, but seemed to start off ok, but suddenly refused it and then started running around in a circle around the obstacle (twice) and twice he engaged with me but each time I pointed at the tire he looked away, and he was giving me what has always been the "I'm frustrated" bark (Arf Arf).  During one of his circles he was looking out of the ring plainly looking for a dog to beat up on ("this is scary and it's YOUR fault.")  Doing this kind of crap gets him out of doing agility, and maybe this is his not so subtle way of telling me that he doesn't want to do this.  I think he's going to get his way.  I'm going to have him do at least one private lesson to end things on a better note and then move on.  I wish I could figure out what isn't working for him about agility as he loves climbing up on things hits all his contacts, is a good jumper (tires included) and weaver, loves tunnels, charges through chutes, has a great table - can send to it and do a down when I'm 30 feet away.  Geez what's not to love <argh>?  We've taught him all these skills, but the one essential thing he lacks is basic coping skills.  The only think that seems to stress him is my changing his direction and of course the other dogs.

I do wonder what would have happened if I skipped the tire, but he's never been afraid of a tire before so I didn't think to skip it.  Anyway chaos and change is obviously so not his thing.  He's able to cope with sheep erraticness but it's a job he loves.  What's so strange is that Elizabeth took pains to get him in lots of different situations and took him everywhere.

I guess all the physical skills in the world don't matter if you don't have the mental fortitude (or whatever that is) to compete.  A shame.  A real shame.

Fri Nov 3
We had fun this morning playing with the Plush Puppies octopus toy.  He likes it as it has a squeaker in every tentacle.

I got a look at the herding photos and his one agility photo.  He's having such a good time doing herding and it's very telling that his one agility photo shows him looking over his shoulder away from the first obstacle.  Clearly there's something I'm doing that stresses him out.  I wonder if it would help to have someone else run him in a lesson to see if there's any difference.  I think since I'm usually seen as the enforcer that he may not see running along with me as fun.  Will need to work on this as I bet we can work through it.  I'm going to take him on a walk or run right now and I'll see how he is.

Thu Nov 2
I woke up at 2:30am with theory and a training strategy for Yoshi.  Had to finally get up and write it down though I refrained from turning the computer on.

I think what's going on is a new manifestation of what I've always dealt with him about.  He has a very low frustration threshold.  He used to deal with frustration and confusion by shutting down and for the most part I've taught him how to work through this.  But now it seems that he's displacing this frustration onto the nearest dog victim.  The kind of dog doesn't seem to matter anymore though, bully that he is,  it's almost always one that won't fight back.

While I very much think that this is very inappropriate and should earn some sort of punishment, I'm concerned that things are going to escalate in a sort of Wack-A-Mole thing as the frustration is going to be expressed in some way. (an arms race of sorts).  This is at a critical point as right now he's not truly dog aggressive (but very much a bully), but he's wavering on the edge.

So I need to teach him an alternate behavior when he gets frustrated.  Toy drive seems to be the one great thing but his toy drive is very selective so this winter the project is going to be getting his toy drive reved up.  Clean Run Magazine has a lot of articles on this (and I need to renew my subscription) also there's quite a bit in the Agility in Motion DVDs.

Yesterday  I bought him a treat pouch that has rabbit fur on it and I put about 4 squeakers in it.  He's intrigued by this but what I really need is a rabbit fur tug toy.  Have to Google around for this - maybe I'll just make some instead.  This does squick me a little as I don't even eat red meat.  The things I do for my dog.  Just did the Google and who should be at the top of the list but Narae (who is also a student of Sharon's and teaches beginning agility):
I'll email her and see if I can bring Yoshi by to pick up a couple.

I'm going to also ask the Clickerexpo list about other behaviors for burning off frustration.  The dog equivalent of a punching bag that a human would use:

Greetings [clickerexpo list],

I'm trying to come up with alternative methods that my corgi Yoshi can
express his frustration instead of displacing it onto the nearest
innocent dog (who may not even be looking at him.)

The obvious answer is toy tug play and we're going to be working on
increasing that, but he's not heavily toy driven beyond destuffing
them. And he does fetch though not with the vigor that I want him to.
Anything else? You would think that agility would be an answer, but
agility is what's stressing him (he wants to race around like a fool and
not have rules). I do have him herding which does help.

Bonnie has also  also suggested training him in a basket muzzle.  I need to tell her that I tried him in the small dog park with one and it worked fine until a new small dog walked in and he immediately pinned the frightened little dog.  All was fine since he had the muzzle on but it clearly didn't keep him from trying to bully the dog.  I'm wondering if it didn't help as it's another version of barrier frustration and he'll just find another way of expressing it.

I'm starting to like Sharon's idea of just having him do privates and the only other dog present would be her dogs.  It's like I need him to get past the fight the rules phase and start to enjoy agility as a game and an excellent release of frustration.

Started Googling for Bay Area vet behaviorists and a familiar name cropped up Sophia Yin
Just reading this page makes me want to meet her:

Wed Nov 1
Left him at home while I went to watch Rally and Obedience and talk with folks about a possible female corgi house manager.  Some possibilities.  One is a rescue 10 year old in Southern California, another is one of Gwen Platt's dogs who is 2 and being retired.  What's interesting is that I spoke to Gwen at the agility trial and she didn't mention the dog (probably because I said "older," but 2 is probably old enough.)  The woman that mentioned this dog to me is Kathy  Dolge of Rincon Welsh Corgis in Carpinteria who co-owns the dog with Gwen.  She called this dog "Splash" but that confuses me as the Splash that I'm familiar with is older than 2..  Doug Hansford was nice enough to introduce ment to Jane and Jean who run the Southern Calif Corgi Rescue, and Lindsay who runs the Northern California chapter is on the lookout too.  So lots of folks on the case now.  Kathy Dolge also had 10 adorable puppies with her.  One of them came right up to me and started chewing and checking me out and bossing the other puppies around.  "Let me guess, it's a girl."  "Oh, yes." :)  She went on to tell me that people call her up wanting a female and when Kathy asks why a female they say that they want one that's sweet.  She then explains that in corgi's the sweeter ones are usually the males.

Go to:

Yoshi Training Diary - Oct 2006
Yoshi Training Diary - Sep 2006
Yoshi Training Diary - Aug 2006
Yoshi Training Diary - July 2006
Yoshi Training Diary - June 2006
Yoshi Training Diary - May 2006
Yoshi Training Diary - Apr 2006
Yoshi Training Diary - Mar 2006
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