Trapped. Life with an Anxious Dog

It can be difficult living with an anxious dog.  Having a dog with both separation anxiety and car anxiety makes it so at times we are trapped.  Vito's been doing pretty good with both but there are some days where he wakes up and life in general is stressful for him.  Unfortunately, Vito woke up on Thanksgiving morning with one of those bad days.

It can be hard to plan things with Vito.  One of his drugs needs to be given 1.5-2hrs before any car ride and another at least 1hr before.  This roughly translates into my wonderful husband stumbling out of bed at 6:30am each day and even 4:30am on agility trial days to give Vito his meds before going back to sleep.  But on mornings like yesterday Vito still wakes up eyes dilated and panting heavily.  Going into a car on one of those days is a disaster and leaving him home alone even worse.  Trapped.

People just don't understand.  Wait, why couldn't you come?  Your dog is on how many drugs?  Even the people that do kinda get it, I'm still looked at as the obsessive or over protective dog mom.

I try.  Sometimes sending him back to bed for a few minutes works.  Yesterday I also tried a stuffed Kong, and then when that failed I tried getting back in bed with him myself.  That worked, until we had to get back out of bed 15 minutes later.  Knowing he likely won't ever be able to left alone for the 8hrs we needed, I threw up my hands and decided to try the 2hr car ride anyway.  That failed miserably and after 20min I called for a ride and had Vito and my husband turn around to spend the rest of the day at home.

Today I'm thankful for my patient husband and for the wonderful blessings that Vito does bring to our lives.


My #1 advice

I've worked with a lot of dogs and have had the privilege of raising several puppies.  With each puppy I find I have even more to learn about dog training but raising puppies is so much fun!  Especially when I'm out with a service dog in public, people always ask me how they can get their dog to be so well trained.  Often they're impressed by a simple sit on cue although oddly they're even more excited if the dog can shake versus if the dog just retrieved my wallet.  The rare times I don't just smile and nod in return, this is the number one advice I give people seriously looking to improve their training skills.

1.  Don't feed your puppy out of a dish.
Ok, I'm not a morning person so I do let my dogs mindlessly eat their breakfast out of a bowl.  But I am more motivated after the sun rises which is why I always feed my puppy 3 meals a day long after their old enough to not need it.  Using the puppies lunch and dinner to train with forces me to make time for a fun training session.  And when you're having fun training for 5-10min at least twice a day, you quickly need to come up with more things to teach!  The puppies learn problem solving skills through shaping, body awareness through all the tricks, and through it all you have a remarkable bond and a somewhat trained little puppy.

I admit I can't keep up that routine forever.  Laziness sets in but by then the puppy is at least 5 months and I have a hard time thinking of new tricks to train it.  My adult dogs I unfortunately only train now with their dinners less than half of the time unless I'm especially motivated by a new trick I just saw!

2. Play with your puppy
No one can ever limit a list to the number one piece of advice!  And really this is my first piece of advice but it's less tangible.  I mean everyone plays with their puppy or they wouldn't have gotten one right?   Hopefully.  But with each puppy I've raised I am working harder on not just playing with toys with me but also playing with me for the sake of being with me.  Discover what type of petting your puppy likes, how they like to wrestle, and what tricks gets em super excited.

Does anyone else have any great advice?


The best invention for cats, ever

I am not a morning person.  For most of my life I've had to get up by 5am to go to swim practice, later that changed to work, and now it's agility trials.  I never got used to it.

So if there is one thing my dogs learn it's to not disturb the momma in the morning.  Regardless of how late I get to sleep in on a weekend, the dog's all know to keep their mouths shut. 

The cat on the other hand has more of a honey badger attitude. 

I keep a squirt bottle by my bed and have become skilled at reaching for it and spraying with my eyes closed.  Sorry Lance.  

I don't know what took me so long but I finally purchased an electronic feeder a month ago.  Since then I haven't had to listen to the cat rustling around the bedroom or jumping onto my stomach even once!

Unfortunately I couldn't find a big feeder that could dispense only 1/8c in the morning so I ended up going with a 4 day feeder where I dish up the food myself.  Review say some pets learn how to turn the wheel themselves, but after constantly chasing him away from trying for the first several days he seems to have given up and I have my sleep back.


Bon Voyage for Bubba!

We waved goodbye to Bubba today.  Bubba is still in the service dog program but today he went to live with a long term foster until he comes in for final training.  Since he is 10 months old, they will likely have him for about 4 months.

It was my decision to put him into another foster home and did so for a variety of reasons.  Bubba needs to get out in public more and I am notoriously bad at getting to non-dog related places!

Also, while Bubba is incredibly fun to teach tricks to and is wicked smart, our personalities just didn't mesh.  Bubba deserves a home where someone will appreciate his constant need to be close and who won't get annoyed by the 40th time he uses his nose to poke a leg and remind everyone he is still there.  He certainly is one cool dog with a lot of personality!


Dog do it yourself nail trims

Vito hates his paws being touched (one of the many new anxieties over the last 2 years) and by extension hates nail trims. I've briefly worked on this by re-requiring his paw to actually make contact with my hand on shake/paw for more than a half second. Then I worked on Vito allowing me to actually let me hold his paw, but just at the wrist. If I were a good trainer I would have done this daily and slowly added in nail trimmers. Instead I avoided nail trims as long as possible and then flooded him when it finally needed to be done. Vito's a good dog so he wouldn't put up too much of a fight other than trembling. A helper was only needed to try and convince him to eat the best possible meat we had.

Meet our new best friend.

Vito's issue is the paw being grabbed so using a dremmel wouldn't make any difference in his hatred of nail trims. But getting him to file his nails by himself is perfect!

I found a board, bought some non slip tape, and voila! Vito doesn't know the dig it trick like Lance does but it only took about half a session before he was scratching the board with his paws. Vito seems to LOVE it and will even switch paws on his own or do both front feet and once sometimes!
Ignore my obnoxious cheering!

I plan to teach him to do his back nails but so far I haven't started.  I'm sure I could have successfully taught Vito that nail trims were fun, but I am way more motivated to do this!  Counter conditioning is boring for me, operant conditioning is fun!

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Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.- Roger Caras

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