>> Thursday, December 22, 2011 – agility, anxiety, disc, medication, obedience, running contacts, SA, tricks, video, vito
Same long and heavily edited video as in Lance's post:
In February I decided to see our vet about starting Vito on drugs for his separation anxiety and general anxiety. The behavioral modification that we had done with Vito had helped but Vito could still not be left for more than 2 hours and he had never once slept while left alone. His anxiety was starting to increase to the point that Vito would again start howling when we were gone. In public his anxiety was also increasing as Vito was starting to get worried about people watching him while working and overstimulated in any new place.
The Prozac initially made him very flat so I quit training him and pulled him from his obedience trials. While Vito was much more relaxed when left alone on Prozac he would often be restless; wanting to sleep but constantly adjusting position every few minutes. Combined with his general anxiety still getting worse we increased the dosage in July. After 6wks the increase dosage helped his seperation anxiety immensely. Vito can be left for 5.5hrs (and likely longer but not tested) and I don't worry about him! It is a huge relief to be able to get out of the house without worrying about my dog!
Along with our success in July, Vito's car anxiety started. It came out of the blue and was full blown panic attacks. Vito restarted Xanax which helped control it but his reaction to the drug seemed to fluctuate. Some days Vito would act very sedated and other days he seemed fine. On lower doses the Xanax had no noticeable effect on him. I discontinued Xanax in September because I hated it and of course his full panic attacks resumed.
In November I finally went to see the behaviorist at the University. Vito started Clonidine to help with his car anxiety and general anxiety and we are slowly increasing the dosage. It is still too early to say if we will stick with it or not but so far it seems to be helping. We also have recently lowered his Prozac since Vito is doing so well on it. Hopefully we can lower his Prozac to a more reasonable dosage.
We didn't do a ton of trials this year so despite Vito competing for 1.5yrs he hasn't actually done much. Vito's been slow to start showing the world what he's capable of. This year Vito still did a lot of happy bouncing around versus truly running. While agility trials don't give him the time to worry that obedience trials do, there are still times where he will start stressing and chooses to fixate on a person. The leash runner, judge, or even Daddy have all been targets for Vito fixating on and then going up to say "hi" when the course brings him there. There has been no rhyme or reason to when he's going to do it but I can always tell when I walk up to the line. Thankfully it's not too often!
Our last trial, in October, has been the first time that I felt we were really connected. Vito was excited, he actually ran with some speed, and walking up to the startline he kept his focus on the job at hand. It was also the first time I switched our waiting in line plan (1-2 dogs away from our turn). I didn't keep tugging, didn't offer treats, and didn't have him do any tricks. All we did was crouch down and let him look at the ring. The last week of December is our next trial so I'm hoping we can get the same results despite it being so long since the last trial.
This year his running contacts have been doing fabulous. There were several months this summer that I spent trying to get turns off the dogwalk and I felt like we were starting to make progress. But then I stopped going to practice after we moved further away. Vito's doing a really nice job of listening to me and turning on the flat and I'm happy with not messing with driving all the way down. I don't think he missed a single dogwalk or aframe in (his limited number of) competitions this year!!!
Because of Vito's increased anxiety this year and the effects of the medications, Vito has done very little obedience or rally this year. January and February Vito was still doing pretty well and wasn't on drugs yet and during those months he earned his last leg for his AKC Rally Novice title, two legs towards Rally Advanced, and his first two legs towards CDSP Novice Obedience. After that time, any trials entered were done as tests to see where he was at and I only entered one run or ended up pulling him from other runs because of his flatness. During those test runs, Vito did earn his last legs towards his Rally Advanced, CDSP Novice, and APDT Lv2 titles.
Most trials Vito has been very laggy and flat. Now that the drugs are sitting better with him the flatness is gone, but he still has some anxiety about the ring. I believe it's the pressure of a crowd watching him as he does better in less crowded areas and tends to be worse the closer he is to the entrance/stewards. I've taken him to 2 run throughs the last month and Vito is doing a much better job of working through the pressure. We will be entering a CDSP trial next week where I can give treats in the ring. My hope is to have a happy dog!
We've also been working on eye contact and impulse control ever since the Pawsitive Vybe Seminar in May. While he is much better about not screaming or punching me after a few throws, Vito can now even give me eye contact when asking for that first disc! Walking onto the field is much improved but still not consistent. I think this self control work has come a long way towards Vito being able to think and do his tricks when I have a disc in my hand. Still VERY hard but it's now possible!
This year I pushed myself and we did our first few freestyle routines. I didn't actually have a set routine in any way but figured it was about time we do it. Vito has placed first in the novice division.
We didn't work on too many tricks this last year. Vito hasn't been too excited about his food ever since he started medication and my usual training time is with their dinner. We did get duration on his paw over his nose (finally!), taught light switches on a lowered switch, and recently learned to drum. I also played around with getting Vito to hug a toy while begging, but most of that work was Vito thumping his legs towards his chest!
Goals for 2012
1. Obedience: My number 1 goal is to have a happy dog. I would love it if Vito could get back in the obedience ring next year but I won't do it if I think it's going to stress him out.
I plan to work on obedience in different environments, hitting as many run throughs as I can
Working on entering the ring behavior, finding a way to get him ready to work immediately rather than having him do a wakeup routine first.
Work on out of out of sight stays around the house and in other areas.
2. Agility: My hope is that Vito starts to shine this year. He's been happy and now I hope that happiness turns into actual running :)
Work as many trials I can so I can enter more trials this year.
Start doing USDAA with him and see if I like it. Continue doing NADAC because I like distance work and I'm hoping that the flowiness helps Vito to be confident to run fast.
3. Disc: Keep Vito safe!
Practice throwing more so I am more confident in my abilities
Develop an actual routine or at least several sequences I can draw from to combine.
Keep working on impulse control and develop a way to walk out onto the field consistently without Vito screaming and punching me.
4. Increased exercise: This last summer I started running with him and I shocked myself by not hating it too much. Of course I quit as soon as it got a little cold. But Vito really needs more exercise so I want to make it a goal for me to find a way to exercise him more in the winter and then hopefully start running again next spring.