Clover… and the bed Part 2

I don’t want to jinx us but I think we are mostly over the hump with the bed issues. We have had repeated long stretches where she goes in her bed and lays down right away. She occasionally bites at it, mostly when she’s wanting attention or when she’s excited (like when the girls are coming home) so I just say “clean up” and put it away around those times. I’m getting better at anticipating them but even when I don’t, I just put it away. I think she is re-connecting that her bed is comfy and good.

Clover… and the follow-up

Had a great happy visit tonight. Third visit with this same tech (Theresa). Theresa met us at the car and clover had Whirley tail and no growling at all. We walked in together and Clover seemed relaxed, even going through the lobby. We got into the room and clover sat facing Theresa and was clearly ready to begin the treat routine so that was good. Theresa worked on touching and used the prompt “touch”. Clover paused eating at first when Theresa touched her but quickly went back to eating and didn’t seem to mind too much. By the end Theresa was petting her on her back and she was ok with that. Was the best visit so far, we plan to just keep doing them weekly for a bit. Weren’t sure if we would have to take a step back after the emergency vet but all was great today!

Clover… and the bee

We had a little emergency vet fun today. All ok. We think Clover got stung by something on her morning walk cuz her face swelled up pretty big.  She did great at the vet overall. Minimal growling and quick recovery. Understandable displeasure and growls when they had to touch her and give her a Benadryl shot but quick recovery (I brought a baggie of cream Cheese and she went right back to licking it when the shot experience was over). They asked at one point if it would be easier if they took her away to do the shot and I said I wasn’t sure that was a good idea since I was using our strategies. Open to hearing if you think her being treated without me in the room would help or hurt. I think I know what you think but maybe I’m wrong! Anyways, all good. Just thought I would report back. The emergency vet experience wasn’t as traumatic as I was worried it would be. Phew!!

Clover… and the family

When we started working with Paula, Clover had the habit of licking us all rather frequently and frantically. We thought at the time she was just a licky dog and discussed this with Paula as something we wanted to get a better handle on. Paula explained how the licking behavior was actually associated with Clover’s generally high anxiety and use of appeasement behaviors with us (vs more genuine affection and friendliness).We started with refraining from all touch with Clover unless she asked for it. At first, Clover did not ask for any affection, even after we could see she knew how to ask (by softly pawing at us). We started to wonder if she was a dog who just didn’t want much affection. Maybe a month or two after little to no petting, she started to ask to be pet. We would pet her and then stop, giving her the option to ask for more if she wanted it and allowing her to walk away when she chose. Over time, her interest in being pet increased, at the same time as the licking decreased. About a year into working w Paula, we have a super cuddly and sweet dog who initiates a lot of affection (to the point we have had to teach her the cue “not right now” when we are the ones not ready for petting!). The licking is occasional and without the franticness. It comes as little hello kisses and she stops when we ask her to. She seeks out closeness with us in a way that is much more genuine, at ease, and natural for us all. It’s been really sweet to see her feel comfort and safety in our presence that wasn’t there before (without us even realizing it).

Clover… and the chaos

Clover had a great happy visit today. She navigated  a very hectic parking lot with lots of people (including people walking very close by on the sidewalk), loud sounds, and even a couple dogs and barely reacted (other than check ins w me). We were waiting in the parking lot about 10 min so it was A LOT but she did awesome. We had a new vet tech for the happy visit and she did great with her too. Took her a couple minutes to settle in but no growling and she was eating out of the tech’s hand pretty quickly. The tech we had today was super awesome, very comfortable and patient with clover, and gave me some great suggestions for future happy visits.

Clover… and the bed

Starting to reintroduce beds. She still bites and pulls at them but only when she’s higher energy and arousal, which is pretty predictable to us now. We are trying keeping her bed out when she’s in daytime nap mode (and putting it away when she’s more energized) and she’s actually handling it. We tried this a few months ago and had very limited success so beds went back to the garage. But this time seems better. We even found her sleeping in her bed in the office all by herself last night during bedtime routine which is one of her higher energy periods where she usually tries to put herself in the action so maybe she’s remembering these are comfy places to go unwind. Definitely seeing her learn to make different choices in these higher energy periods all around. Not perfect yet but getting better.

Clover… and the guests

Had a good re-intro w my sis and niece today. She hasn’t seen them in a very long while so I wasn’t sure how it would go. I kept her on leash and we did orbit/settle/relax on couch away from everyone which was good. I could see her energy shift during that period. When she was calm I let her go say hi and had only intended to get close while I talked and then walk away but she was friendly toward them so I had them both give her 5 treats when she looked at them and she did great. A little jumpy and licky and she pulled back when my niece tried to pet her but she settled. No growls. After that interaction I just put her in her crate in the bedroom since the kids were going to run around a bit. Figured she wasn’t ready to be off leash yet and stay in the right frame of mind so I just gave her space to relax. Went well!

Clover… and the vet

Clover did awesome! I’m also kind of blown away that I didn’t know vets like that exist. It was such a positive experience for both of us.I’ll tell you more tomorrow and run a couple questions past you but the vet, vet tech and I just sat and chatted in a room today. They gave clover a steady stream of cream Cheese, Vienna sausages and spray cheese. She growled for about a second when they first came in but was very quickly eating from their hands and was pretty curious about both of them throughout. They gave a few suggestions on how to make things stay really positive. Their behaviorist is going to schedule happy visits for us, which are Sundays and we would be the only ones there (that’s when they said she can sniff around more if she wants to). After a few happy visits we will tackle an exam and a shot since she’s due for both.Overall, they seem to know what they are doing and they’re excited to hear that we are training the way we are. I think this will be a great vet for us.  Thanks for the suggestion!

Clover…

Clover…

When we adopted a dog, we naively thought that getting a puppy would allow us to mold her into the dog we wanted, if we just did training and socialization from the start. We had the best of intentions and tried to do everything right from day one. Turns out, the puppy we adopted had a very sensitive and shy temperament that she did not outgrow naturally, as everyone told us she would. Our dog was fearful and reactive toward anything unfamiliar (other pets, people, and even inanimate objects that were a surprise). After a year of working with two different highly recommended trainers, neither of which helped us work through what was showing up (with one trainer making it way worse before we cut ties), we searched out a trainer with a focus on fear and anxiety in dogs and found Paula.

Paula’s approach is different than the traditional obedience model and that took some adjusting to. It’s a process that requires immense patience by all parties (Paula, the pet parent, and the dog) as you learn to implement two-way communication with your dog, much of which is non-verbal and very subtle. It’s hard and frustrating at first and might feel slow, in part because you go at the pace of the dog and also because, at least in our case, we had a lot of rehab to do from the prior training methods we had used that created stress. If you are used to a black and white “if this, do that” training model and the immediacy of obedience training, this is an adjustment. But seeing the harm caused by that model with our own dog has helped me understand the value of trying another path.

It really helped me when I realized Paula was teaching us the same methods used by professional trainers who specialize in animal behavior (e.g. the training they do w animals at the zoo to get them used to voluntarily receiving care). Our buy-in to the process jumped up and things began to click. Paula is super open to feedback and just wants to ensure everyone is learning in an optimal way. I have appreciated Paula’s patience, even when we were super frustrated early on, and her passion to support both the dog and the family. She considers the practical needs of the humans alongside what is best for the dog and works to establish good foundational care for everyone.

We are in a place now where we are seeing real changes in our dog and increasing our trust in each other. I can now see cues from my dog that I completely missed in the past and have a better idea of how to respond to help my shy pup calm herself down in moments of stress. We aren’t all the way there yet but we have faith that we will get there with consistency and practice.

I feel grateful we discovered this training method and will use it with future dogs (even if they are not shy and fearful).

– Suzanne Nordmann