Vanya's consult with Sarah Kalnajs, Blue Dog

This forum is all about training and behavior. Everything from potty training to working titles!

Postby tiva » February 8th, 2010, 7:42 pm

Hi-
I lurk here and rarely post, but some of you have read about my young pit bull Vanya's adventures over on the clickersolutions yahoo group. Liz encouraged me to start a thread about Vanya's consult yesterday with Sarah of Blue Dog. I'm still kind of exhausted from it, but here's a start. You can read lots more about Vanya, and about all the efforts we've made to work on his arousal issues, over at his new website/blog: http://tinyurl.com/vanyaproject

After a 3 hour private consult with Sarah Kaljnais of Blue Dog Training aimed at assessing Vanya's leash reactivity, and developing strategies for working on it, she felt Vanya was one of the more hyper-aroused dogs she had ever seen. The Dog's Best Friend private trainer back in Feb. 2008 had said pretty much the same thing. He wins a prize!

Seriously, new environments do get him wound up. Really, really wound up. For all the progress we've made with him on his arousal issues, he has a long, long ways to go.

Briefly, part of my homework is to figure out what his triggers for arousal are and what his various signs are--I'm to get a baseline on the farm (where he is very calm, after years of relaxation protocol and impulse control work), and then take him to 3 new places (without dogs). She wants me to record his triggers for arousal, and rank them from 1 to 5, and record his signs of arousal (scanning, shrieking, staring at ceilings, piloerection, etc), and then record how long it takes him to calm down in various situations.

His foundation focus behaviors are very good with distractions on the farm: watch me, sit, let's go, target, leave it, recall. The website has a bunch of his youtube clips from outside, this past fall, that show some of his work.

But in the city, at Sarah's house, he started out being able to offer his foundation behaviors, but after 30 minutes in the room (small room, 3 new people, 8 dogs and cats in the house but not visible), he was getting more wound up, and soon his cues fell apart and he started shrieking at runners he saw through the window. He's not used to cities, to put it mildly. On the walk with the trainer, he didn't scream, or lunge at dogs that he saw halfway down the block, but he did teeth-chatter when he peed, and he wasn't able to take treats or respond to target cues. The main part of my homework is to take him into the village and town, away from other dogs, and work on his foundation behaviors in novel environments.

And then I need to take him to far outside a dog park (or place with other controlled dogs that won't run up to us), and work on shaping calmer behavior--essentially, the relaxation protocol work we did for quite a while on the farm, but off the farm. Then, if we can shape calmness around her dogs (he can glance at me for a treat, but he doesn't calm down now), we'll try working up to pass-bys. She is going to talk with Dr Sophia Yin about consulting with my vet on meds, if we can't shape a bit more calmness in novel environments over the next month.

For a comparison, she thought he is less dog aggressive than many dogs she works with, but among the most aroused of dogs she has worked with. She is confident we can make progress because he has calmed down so much on the farm around our chickens and around our other dogs. So many things that used to trigger him don't anymore, thanks to clicker training and tons of cheezwhiz.

For another comparison, I asked how he compared to Dr Yin's Podhee, who lunges and barks a lot more. She said Vanya was far, far more aroused. She held her fingers close together: "this is Podhee's arousal." Then she held her arms wide apart: "this is Vanya's arounsal." Okey dokey.

Here's Podhee for comparison:

http://www.askdryin.com/elearning/lsh.php#

She and her co-workers eventually took a basket-muzzled Vanya out to interact in the back yard with one of her calm female dogs. Vanya was muzzled and also on the hands-free leash (held at, I think, 4 ft). I watched from the porch, so Vanya wasn't reacting to me reacting. Vanya did not do very well. The female dog had to tell him to back off, buster, when he put his head over her neck, and he snarled when she told him off. Then he got pulled away, and from where I was standing, he seemed to get very frustrated. He got another chance to sniff her behind, and from what I could see (which was a partial view--I will get the video), she warned him off again, a sign to the trainers that he was sending aggressive signals to her.

Sarah thought he hadn't started out as an aggressive dog, but he had failed to learn appropriate dog-signals and was acting like a jerk. She wanted him to learn to calm way, way down around new dogs before trying introductions again. So we are to work on two things: focus in greater distractions and shaping calmness in greater distractions.
User avatar
tiva
Snot Nose Bully Pup
 
Posts: 165
Location: WI

Postby pitbullmamaliz » February 8th, 2010, 8:48 pm

I am still totally green with envy that you got to meet and work with Sarah. I'll get that out of the way. :wink:

That being said, it's sounds like you've done a PHENOMENAL job with Vanya thus far. It really does. I'm sure you still feel like you have uncountable miles to go, but don't forget to look how far you've come!

I'm so glad you've started a blog for him - I always enjoy reading his exploits and comparing him to Inara. Keep us updated on his progress! :)
"Remember - every time your dog gets somewhere on a tight leash *a fairy dies and it's all your fault.* Think of the fairies." http://www.positivepetzine.com"

http://www.pitbullzen.com
http://inaradog.wordpress.com
User avatar
pitbullmamaliz
Working out in the buff causes chafing
 
Posts: 15437
Location: Cleveland, OH

Postby tiva » February 8th, 2010, 9:48 pm

Thanks Liz. Oops--I misspelled Sarah's last name: it's Kalnajs.

And I made a list of Vanya's stress triggers for Sarah, comparing his triggers when we got him and now.

Current triggers:
    off-leash dog (some)
    on-leash dog (some)
    the city
    person approaching in the city--he's not afraid, but he sure does want to greet them, and if he can't, he sometimes whines and struggles
    bikes & runners zipping by in the city
    slowing down when we're driving or turning (are we there yet??)
    lights reflecting on the cabin skylight
    6 people in the tiny cabin eating dinner off the coffee table and then he finishes his bone and people are still eating. At nose height. That's hard. He whines.


Former triggers:
    baths--oh the screams when I first tried
    someone eating in front of him: he would shriek and launch himself into the diner's lap
    someone eating upstairs when he had been put downstairs after being a pest and leaving his mat
    being left alone: now he snoozes, no SA
    a piece of cloth touching his back (when I first tried to get goose poop off him)
    booties for the snow, jacket for snow
    nail clipping
    bikes & runners going by the farm
    vans with kids and car seats
    people trying to get him out of cars
    people coming near him when he found a bone
    people grabbing his collar
    people pulling him away from stolen chicken feed
    noises in the woods
    noises on the street
    noises in the basement
    waves on the shore
    deer, rabbits, chickens, any critters
    people coming to the farm
    people leaving the farm
    people driving by the farm and not stopping
    the maillady
    the UPS guy
    the FedEx guy not so much
    spending his first night in our new house
    going to the cabin
    snow
    skis
    snowmobiles passing him while sking
    pulling a sled behind him
    a noisy, goofy little girl
    people touching his eyes, ears, toes, back
    Frank hugging him or restraining him
    anyone leaving
    anyone coming
    anyone petting him
    anyone walking by
    anyone playing with him
    trying to sleep
    going into the crate
    coming out of the crate
    the vet
    tug
    long walks
Ok, a lot of this was just intense excitement at getting out of the shelter and into a new environment. He took a while to settle. His stress reactions weren't all fear, of course; often they were hyper-excitement.

To work on his overall arousal levels, we did the following:
    Karen Overall's Relaxation Protocol
    Zen games
    Control Unleashed CU: mat work
    shaping tiny approximations of the desired calm behavior, especially starting with nose targets (ie, if nail clipping or eye drops were going to freak him out, I started by having him target the clippers or eye dropper)
    Off Switch games in CU
    Give me a Break in CU (but I was never sure I really understood those--still trying)
    Lots of default sit work
    Freeze tag: an off switch game
    Nose work: at first just scattering his kibble in the grass, then food puzzle games, eventually home-grown tracking work which we still try to do often
    wrapping him up tightly at night (not in an anxiety wrap, just in a blanket--what a difference that made with night startles
    melatonin when he was waking up a lot at night and scanning the ceiling
    L-theanine now
    lots of long, slow walks in the woods where he could be off leash and sniff around
    lots of wandering around in the our fields, orchard and prairie
    lots of hanging out under the trees reading (well, I read; he stuck to chewing his bones--he's smart but not that smart)
User avatar
tiva
Snot Nose Bully Pup
 
Posts: 165
Location: WI

Postby pitbullmamaliz » February 9th, 2010, 8:10 am

Wow. That's the longest list of triggers I've ever seen.
"Remember - every time your dog gets somewhere on a tight leash *a fairy dies and it's all your fault.* Think of the fairies." http://www.positivepetzine.com"

http://www.pitbullzen.com
http://inaradog.wordpress.com
User avatar
pitbullmamaliz
Working out in the buff causes chafing
 
Posts: 15437
Location: Cleveland, OH

Postby TheRedQueen » February 9th, 2010, 9:55 am

pitbullmamaliz wrote:Wow. That's the longest list of triggers I've ever seen.


Ditto... :shock:

What an amazing person you are to keep such detailed notes! I'm in awe! I'm a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants trainer...so this always amazes me.
"I don't have any idea if my dogs respect me or not, but they're greedy and I have their stuff." -- Patty Ruzzo

"Dogs don't want to control people. They want to control their own lives." --John Bradshaw
User avatar
TheRedQueen
I thought I lost my Wiener... but then I found him.
 
Posts: 7184
Location: Maryland

Postby tiva » February 9th, 2010, 12:38 pm

Sarah wants me to keep track of everything that makes him alert, scan, get excited, etc. So these weren't triggers for aggression or intense fear, just triggers for excitement. He was a young, hyper adolescent, so pretty much everything got him excited. The good thing about writing all those down was it showed me how much calmer he has become. Much of that is simply growing up, but a lot of it has to do with life on the farm, where he can spend a lot of time just hanging out.
User avatar
tiva
Snot Nose Bully Pup
 
Posts: 165
Location: WI

Postby maberi » February 9th, 2010, 12:46 pm

I'm following his blog Nancy. I'm hoping it will help Kayden and I on our way as well.

I couldn't help but laugh at the difference in triggers below :wink:

tiva wrote:Former triggers:
the UPS guy
the FedEx guy not so much
Look beyond what your own eyes see
User avatar
maberi
I Save My Empty Calories For The Bottle
 
Posts: 2781
Location: rochester, ny

Postby tiva » February 9th, 2010, 3:19 pm

That one's easy: Mr Fed Ex has always brought treats! Thanks for following Vanya's progress. If you ever want to post comments about your Kayden, I'd love to learn more about her (his?) journey too.
User avatar
tiva
Snot Nose Bully Pup
 
Posts: 165
Location: WI

Postby tiva » February 9th, 2010, 6:49 pm

Today we practiced with Plushy, the fake but life-sized stuffed husky. I never dreamed a plush dog would fool anyone, but trainers on the Rewarding Behaviors forum said they used the plush dogs, so I figured it wouldn't hurt. At first my husband was fooled (eeek! you got another dog! are you insane!!! when he saw Plushy hanging out in the orchard). And boy, Vanya was persuaded too. When he first saw her, from about 100 feet away, he zoomed right over threshold and tried to pull out of his harness and run over to her. So we retreated behind the barn to regroup, get better treats, and start again with more distance. Soon we were able, with the help of stinky salmon, to do lots of focus exercises quickly, moving at a good clip perpendicular to Plushy (so not getting closer or farther at first, until we had done a bunch of pass-bys at 100 feet, then 90 feet, then 80 feet, then 70 feet, and so on until we got to about 20 feet from her and I called it a day), and playing a lot of LAT. I wish I had set up the camera for a youtube clip! Vanya was very, very excited by her at first, but he was able to calm down enough to do his focus exercises and gobble treats and offer softer body language, so that was encouraging. I was trying to channel Dr Sophia Yin, my hero: her calm smile, her rapid treat delivery, her ability not to get flustered.
User avatar
tiva
Snot Nose Bully Pup
 
Posts: 165
Location: WI

Postby pitbullmamaliz » February 9th, 2010, 6:51 pm

I never would have thought that a stuffed dog would fool a dog, either. That's kind of neat!
"Remember - every time your dog gets somewhere on a tight leash *a fairy dies and it's all your fault.* Think of the fairies." http://www.positivepetzine.com"

http://www.pitbullzen.com
http://inaradog.wordpress.com
User avatar
pitbullmamaliz
Working out in the buff causes chafing
 
Posts: 15437
Location: Cleveland, OH

Postby Jenn » February 9th, 2010, 11:53 pm

tiva wrote:At first my husband was fooled (eeek! you got another dog! are you insane!!! when he saw Plushy hanging out in the orchard)

:giggle:

I couldn't resist that made me laugh, and I'm enjoying your posts immensely as well. :)
I used to think I was indecisive, but now I'm not so sure....
User avatar
Jenn
undecided
 
Posts: 11382
Location: TX

Postby tiva » February 10th, 2010, 10:04 am

Another nice thing about practicing with a fake dog: I can calm way, way down. I don't have to worry about anybody getting hurt if I screw up! Even in the midst of practicing with Vanya and Miss Plushy, I could tell my heart rate and excitement were up, so repeated practice is a way to shape calmness in ME, not just in Vanya.

Redqueen, I'm a scientist (and got my phd in the evolution of behavior), so my advisors drummed into me the need for careful data collection. Now I do science policy and history, not real science, but I think the lessons must have stuck with me. Sophia Yin's Manners Minder comes with a great DVD and training record book, and that book breaks down each behavior you're shaping into tiny steps, with 10 reps per step. Following those steps precisely showed me, first, how sloppy I normally am in training, and second, how much better things go for Vanya when I'm not sloppy and cutting corners.
User avatar
tiva
Snot Nose Bully Pup
 
Posts: 165
Location: WI

Postby maberi » February 10th, 2010, 10:07 am

That's actually a great idea!! I guess it makes sense, that dogs can't tell the difference from that distance and once they have an inkling that it might be another animal they probably can't tell the difference as you get closer. Lord knows Earl often thinks those Christmas reindeer with the moving heads on people's lawns are real :doh:

tiva wrote:Today we practiced with Plushy, the fake but life-sized stuffed husky. I never dreamed a plush dog would fool anyone, but trainers on the Rewarding Behaviors forum said they used the plush dogs, so I figured it wouldn't hurt. At first my husband was fooled (eeek! you got another dog! are you insane!!! when he saw Plushy hanging out in the orchard). And boy, Vanya was persuaded too. When he first saw her, from about 100 feet away, he zoomed right over threshold and tried to pull out of his harness and run over to her. So we retreated behind the barn to regroup, get better treats, and start again with more distance. Soon we were able, with the help of stinky salmon, to do lots of focus exercises quickly, moving at a good clip perpendicular to Plushy (so not getting closer or farther at first, until we had done a bunch of pass-bys at 100 feet, then 90 feet, then 80 feet, then 70 feet, and so on until we got to about 20 feet from her and I called it a day), and playing a lot of LAT. I wish I had set up the camera for a youtube clip! Vanya was very, very excited by her at first, but he was able to calm down enough to do his focus exercises and gobble treats and offer softer body language, so that was encouraging. I was trying to channel Dr Sophia Yin, my hero: her calm smile, her rapid treat delivery, her ability not to get flustered.
Look beyond what your own eyes see
User avatar
maberi
I Save My Empty Calories For The Bottle
 
Posts: 2781
Location: rochester, ny


Return to Training & Behavior

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users

cron