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Attempted fixes

As Lilly’s agility meltdown worsened, and transferred to other venues, I assembled a vast team of people and suggestions in hopes of solving the issue. Here’s a recap of what I’ve tried, with limited success and innumerable setbacks.

What I have tried:

Changing trainers and training locations

Trying socialization work to agility environments

Taking easier group classes, several clicks below Lilly’s known skill level

Allowing Lilly to interact with other dogs she really liked as lures and rewards during class

Letting Lilly just run around and relax with other dogs before and after class

Taking her for walks around the nearby ponds before and after class so that she associates more fun things with the agility location

Breaking myself of habits that Lilly perceived as corrections and using much bigger rewards (like jackpots) for breakthroughs

Incorporating more play into training (great idea, except Lilly rarely lets loose and plays anymore if other dogs are around … even when I have the best ball (or toy) that normally turns her into a wild monkey girl)

Allowing a longer time span between vaccination boosters (She had a bad reaction to vaccinations in early 2005, which preceded the early meltdown stages. I’m not saying cause and effect. I’m just pointing to a link in the timeline.)

Ignoring her fear behavior (with the idea, I now know is totally wrong, that interacting with her at all only reinforced the fear)

Climbing onto equipment myself to show it’s safe (used after we lost our dog walk due to teeter fear since they look alike on approach)

Using the bang-treat method of teeter training

Trying to desensitize her to recorded teeter noise

Regularly using many nutritional supplements, including strong multivitamin/mineral, essential fatty acids, and Chinese herbs (2 different kinds)

Using Nutracalm (a prescription-type herbal tranquilizer of sorts), both as a daily maintenance dose and/or before class

Using homeopathic solutions, including Rescue Remedy and a confab of 5 different things, both regular use and in the moment

Asking an animal communicator to ask Lilly what’s wrong, what I can do to help, etc.

Using accupressure points, used in the moment to help calm her down

Taking up an outdoor, low-key, work-and-play class (drop in) to keep her working when taking a break from agility

Taking up Rally Obedience training as a way to build ring confidence

Taking long breaks from ALL classes

Using Click-to-Calm behavior modification strategies

Using of DAP (dog appeasing pheromone) to help keep her calm during class (sprayed in her crate for the drive to class and on a bandana she wears at class)

What I have not tried (yet):

As of yet, I have NOT tried having detailed thyroid testing done because both our family veterinarian and our holistic veterinarian did not think the tests were necessary.

I also have NOT tried thulia (not sure on spelling), which I’m told is used to treat vaccinosis. Again, our holistic veterinarian did not suggest this as an option.

I’ve NOT yet caved into suggestions from our veterinarian and others that we try anti-depressants because I fear negative side-effects and the trauma of coming off them, should they not work.

Tell me your story!
I’d love to hear your story, if you have one, especially if the solution wasn’t a simple one. Sure, it’s nice to meet people who say things like, “Oh, my dog used to be shy like that, but once I did (insert painfully simple thing here), he was just fine.” But, I’d also love to know of examples, where it took years of hard work to turn a shy dog around.

I’ll chip away at the problem bit by bit, but once in a while my faith that there’s really a diamond beneath the crud needs a boost.

Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related. I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

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