Thursday, February 17, 2011

working the NEW plan

On Monday, Oreo and I went back to our veterinary behaviorist for a follow up consult.

Our meeting went very well.  The previous meeting consisted mostly of laying facts out on the table.  This week's meeting was much more casual and candid.  We talked about agility venues, how good CPE is for dogs like Oreo, and how the shelties at Westminister look nothing like real life shelties.

Mostly though, we talked about Oreo!

After reading 4 months of log sheets, this doctor REALLY gets Oreo.   Now that she truly understands Oreo's needs, I feel we are in an even better place to utilize her help. 

The doctor told me, "Oreo thinks you're stupid.  He doesn't understand why you don't find every little thing scary."

I laughed, but she's right.  Oreo feels like it is his job to keep an eye out, because I have the nerve to ignore everything!

Our new plan has a few new elements. 

Here are the main points:
1. Continue to work with sit stay. Set Oreo up far from anything too scary. If he scans but looks back to you, click (or YES) and treat. When he is calm, ask for the eye contact on cue.
2. Please don’t use target when he is too distressed to listen.
3. Have the target handy and visible in stressful situations (except those where he is already on a command eg sit stay / lie down on mat or heel). If he decides to touch it then click / treat, but do not ask and do not push it at him.

I have to take Oreo to many places, do sit/stay at a far distance from people and reward for any eye contact or other behaviors that show he is "with me".

Oreo spent most of the appointment either under my chair, or next to my chair.  The doctor told me Oreo watched the door almost the whole time.

No surprise there.

At one point, she had me put Oreo in a sit stay.  I had to drag him out from under the chair, but he did do a sit.  Then, Oreo was able to give me occasional eye contact.  The doctor told me Oreo lit up once he knew what to do.

The doctor also told me that Oreo must find agility very rewarding, because he wouldn't do it otherwise.  That made me feel real good, because I always wonder if he likes it, or if he is simply going through the motions.  She hopes I continue to do agility, and not switch over completely to rally. 

I was worried she would say the opposite!

We will work the new plan for awhile, send her videos, and then meet the doctor in a different location to work with her on desensitization stuff.  The office where we have been meeting is downtown, and we could never retreat far enough from people, because people are everywhere.

Obviously, we still have a long way to go.  It is wonderful having the doctor's support and guidance.


Ludo van Doggy said...

It sounds like you've found a really great help in the form of that dr. I hope the new plan really helps. Of course he loves agility. You can see that from his videos. :D

Kristine said...

That's fantastic! I am so glad you were able to find someone who not only cares but also understands what Oreo needs. I hope the two of you can work out a plan that will help him thrive.

When I firt met our trainer I was thrilled just to find another person who even liked my dog as everyone else we'd met thought she was a monster. It's an awesome feeling. I am so happy for you both!

Ricky the Sheltie said...

Your doctor does really get Oreo - it's so awesome that she can figure out what he is thinking like that! What an amazing resource for you to have her help.

Your new plan ideas sound good! Lots of work but that's ok as long as you have a plan, right?

I know this is simplistic and you probably already do it but I find myself working on me being more confident all the time when working with Ricky - standing up straighter, looking up (instead of always down at him), keeping a positive mental picture (instead of picturing the bad outcome) and acting the part of an extremely confident and self-assured person (not easy for me) to see if that helps him in situations where he is scared or flipping out or whatever. I think it makes a big difference. I also think he has habits - like the habit of barking at cars - and it is very hard to break the habit. Any way, just some thoughts - I know Oreo and Ricky are not the same...

Diana said...

Its so wonderful that you have found this doctor to help you work thur this stuff. I laughed when she said Oreo thinks your stupid. LOL, I think all dogs think their owners are stupid for doing the silly things we do.

Sara said...

Ricky, Very good advice. I know our demeanors have a big effect on our dogs.

Rob said...

Hi Sara, I think what Ricky says is right as dogs do seem to pick up what we are doing even when we don't realise ourselves that we are doing whatever. The trouble I have is that in a crisis moment I go and forget what I should be doing and revert to the wrong way of doing it because that for me is the natural way. I know it helps Tommy when out walking and we meet other dogs if I can leave the lead loose and walk on by in a positive manner which is fine as long as there is no problems but if the other dog kicks up a fuss its hard to stay cool which probably leads to me pulling the lead tight which then alerts Tommy who then goes in to attack mode. Also I tend to watch the other dog instead of Tommy and then I miss the right moment to check him if he gets any idea's. So I know it's as much about us as it is the dog.

Kathy said...

She sounds so comforting and fantastic, a little help with knowing what path to take, an impartial opinion, someone who has made understanding Oreo her mission, gosh how nice to have that resource, Oreo is a very lucky guy to be surrounded by so many people in his life that really take the time to care, can you imagine if he had ended up in so many homes,......just glad he is where people are working to help him figure out how to feel safe. I LOVE that last picture of him, it seems like you can see his soul through his eyes! What a sweetie.

Dawn said...

Oreo, oh Oreo....don't you know your Mama LOVES YOU!!! So cool that you found a dr. that GETS IT. Oreo couldn't be in better hands than yours and the doctors. I just know the new plan is going to help instill new confidence in him...and in you!

Brittany said...

How wonderful that you have someone there to support you with Oreo! You are doing a great job with him, and should be proud of yourself.

Amy Wood said...

Your veterinary behaviorist sounds excellent! LOL over how Oreo was under the chair. My sheltie, Scotty, does the same thing. And now the baby of our sheltie family, Casey, is doing it too. He has to mimic his big bro, I guess :)
I think your new plan sounds really great and look forward to see how things work out. Good luck!

rosie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Priscilla said...

Oh wow! Isn't your doctor marvellous?

It's amazing how she understands Oreo so well, examines his behaviour, etc.

She's given you such great advice!
Lucky Oreo has a mom who loves him SOOOOOOO much

betty said...

I had big aah's and chicken skin reading through your blog today.
Oreo is terrific!

Helen said...

I think it's great Oreo will continue with agility. I really think the effort they have to put in to being part of the team makes them more confident dogs.

Marie said...

The new plan sounds good, and I think it's great that you are getting to develop such a relationship with the doctor. That will be such a help in tailoring things to Oreo's needs.

I'm glad to hear she wants you to continue with agility too. I think you'll enjoy Rally, but until you get comfortable with it, like you are with agility, your nerves may rub off on Oreo. Or at least I know that's the case with my dogs.

Either way, I think you two are a great team and it's so much fun to watch all the progress you're making together.

Sophie said...

It really is fantastic that you've found a doctor who is not only willing to work with you both (as opposed to just trying to leech away your money), but who also clearly knows Oreo so well!

I hope this new plan works great for you both. :)

AC said...

Really cool to hear this update and to hear that you have a great working relationship with your behaviorist.

I still find it interesting (truly curiosity, not questioning your vet) that your plan is so operant conditioning based. I know OC is often part of BM but it seems like most of what I've read (Patricia McConnell jumps to mind) stresses counter conditioning as the key to changing the way a dog feels about something. The idea being that OC helps manage a behavior (which can make a trigger less stressful) but can't completely make the trigger stop being scary, that's where the CC needs to come in. The risk with only OC being that a dog may be willing to do XYZ, which improves their behavior, but they're still stressed.

Is what looks like straight OC actually also CC for Oreo? Meaning that Oreo enjoys the work/tricks you're asking of him enough that they become the positive association to help override the scary stuff?

( analyzing behavior stuff=)

AC said...

Wait...another idea..=)

Or is this more about tush-biting some of the hypervigilence? (Which I hear/know from a certain red dog, makes CC almost impossible).

Sara said...

I'm not quite sure what the doctor's rational is for this process. However, I've found CC alone has not worked for Oreo. It is almost impossible to get far enough away from things to get him below threshold. He goes on alert very early, and his stress level rises very quickly. Hyperviligence to the extreme.

With the OC, Oreo calms MUCH faster, and he is able to move forward. Since we've started this process, I have had very few moments where he gets himself into a complete fearful frenzy (I'm sure you know what that looks like). I think Oreo is learning he doesn't have to react so strongly to things, and that I'm going to help him get through the moment.

Ex/ neighbors kids outside....Oreo starts barking/circling...I ask for "touch" and a sit...barking/circling stops, we go to his mat to relax.

Now, when the kids are out, he often runs to his mat on his own.

Eventually, maybe CC will be a possibility.

Sara said...

And yes, the doctor wants to nip the hypervigilence by training Oreo to look at me as much as possible.

Sara said...

Also, since Oreo is afraid of such a wide variety of things, not just men with beards, cc could take a lifetime.

AC said...

Thanks for the replies, Sara. It seems like when you're dealing with generalized fear you have to start by boosting overall confidence and lowering general stress before you can work with specifics. Sounds like you plan is doing just that for Oreo! He seems to respond well when he "knows what to do."

Sara said...

Wow, you said it way better than I did!

Honey the Great Dane said...

Sounds like a good plan. It;s great that you've found such a supportive & understanding doctor to work with!