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Weekly Training Update (Oct 23)

Thanks to the earlier Lilly and Lulu and trick progress videos and updates this week, let’s instead circle back to our behavior consult from a few months back and check our progress against goals and the second phase behavior modification plan that builds upon work we started with Lilly way in summer of 2008. Our saga, of course, predates even that original consult by several years, but here is a recap of our current training orders from our certified applied animal behaviorist.

To return to regular training classes and eventually agility classes, with the idea of potentially competing

Medication Plan:
75 mg clomipramine twice daily
.75 mg alprazolam (aka xanax) twice daily

Behavioral Plan:
1. Address resource guarding of me by removing myself from room (and taking Ginko with me, if necessary)

2. Retrain transitions by driving Lilly to many different locations and using our customized version of the Relaxation Protocol for a few minutes in each spot.

3. Once arrivals improve, then work both the Relaxation Protocol for people, movement, noises, etc for anything that happens during the transition work.

4. Progress to sitting to the side of doors at various non-pet stores so that people are headed in, but not toward us specifically. Pair any activity with food as usual.

5. Using various locations invite strangers to toss Lilly food but not approach her.

6. Repeat store process at pet product stores, starting at the back of the lot and moving closer and closer to the doors, with the goal of eventually going inside.

7. Attend training classes when possible. Arrive early to give Lilly time to adjust, then work in sit-relax anytime new people or dogs arrive.

8. When ready, schedule a private agility lesson.

Progress Report:
I do think the increase in the alprazolam from .5 to .75 has helped. The best example of that is my ability to open the scary window in the kitchen.

Lilly is somewhat better about resource guarding me from Ginko, but (as predicted) Tom hasn’t been following the rules when she guards him because he thinks it’s cute, so the behavior isn’t gone by any stretch.

Our transition work has been going really well, so we’re typically working on steps 4 and 5. We’ve tried hanging out in the back of a Petco parking lot a few times, but it’s not exactly in our usual route of errands, so I’ll need to make a special trip to complete that task. I also need to get better at asking people to throw Lilly food.

We have being going to class as the locations and timing fit into our nonstop-family-medical-drama-filled lives. You’ve seen past reports on those events. A check of the calendar reveals we haven’t been to class since mid-September, though. I’d like to go more regularly for step 7 before I even think about step 8.

The ultimate goal of doing agility for real still feels out of reach, but we’ll see. I’ll likely have to do another consult if/when we return to agility lessons (even private ones) to get a plan for handling whatever comes up there.

You’ll note that I’m still practicing the ZERO visiting rule with other dogs, for the most part. When we are in public or class, I NEVER ask or allow Lilly to engage with other dogs. The only interactions she gets are the ones we plan with friends’ dogs in controlled situations. And, honestly, Lilly seems fine with that. (Though, I know she misses Katie terribly.)

I’m less and less concerned with Lilly’s fears of other dogs that I allow her to meet. I feel, most times, like we’re at a place where it’s more about other dogs figuring out how to put up with her poor social skills than it is about me being able to teach her “normal” skills. Sadly, I think that normal boat sailed a long time ago.

So, that’s where we stand. Classmates and others who get the chance to see Lilly in daily life or working in public, feel free to report on any changes you’ve seen in recent months.

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.

Dog-geek - October 26, 2009

Sounds like some good progress! I know it must be tough to find time to work on some of this, with all the other things going on in your life right now, but you still seem to have things moving in the right direction – that’s great! I look forward to reading about Lilly’s private agility lesson sometime soon! :o)

MarthaandMe - October 24, 2009

I agree with Kerri- you are so devoted to this, it puts me to shame with my 2 badly behaved golden retrievers.

Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell - October 24, 2009

I wonder if you would explain a little of your motivation with Lilly? You seem to work very hard and I’ve never seen anyone work as hard in training unless it is to eventually have some sort of service or therapy dog, or for dog shows.

KB - October 24, 2009

I’m not sure if I last saw Lilly in Sept or Aug but, at the time, I thought that she seemed more relaxed than in quite a while. She still had an issue with a loose dog approaching her from behind but she seemed to recover fast.

It’s great to hear of your progress with the whole program! It sure takes diligence.

Samantha - October 23, 2009

I wish I had your diligence, Roxanne. I’ve tried the whole parking lot thing a very limited couple of times, and I just get so downtrodden when I realize Marge used to be able to WALK through some of these lots without a problem, never mind get nervous in the car. Sometimes I think I fear a negative reaction by her so much that it actually prevents me from getting out there and working on it.

You have done so much for Lilly.. from your posts here it seems she’s made a great deal of progress lately. I hope that you soon find agility lessons to be back within your reach.

(PS – you might be interested to know that the L-Theanine I recently put Marge on seems to be having some effect. I know you’re happy with your medication regimen (as you should be!), and I’ll blog about it more detailedly soon, but I thought it’d be an interesting tidbit of fearful dog info to share with you.)

Kerry Dexter - October 23, 2009

stopping by to say I noticed that Creative Non Fiction is having an essay contest about animals, if that’d be of interest to you

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