Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Slinky's Separating Sojourn: Day 19 with Misha May

Generalizing, The Home Visit, Holiday Schedules, Lifting the Leg, It's a Journey

had a restful night and morning with me. There was no more gagging or vomiting.
Putting in her eye drops is pretty challenging but I’m sure I made some contactJ Does anyone
know any really good approaches for that?

is the day we did Slinky’s home training session.
for this session include:
Slinky generalize what she learned at my home to her home. Dogs don’t
generalize easily. They need to practice the same thing in many locations
before they can offer it reliably everywhere. Try this test. Choose a command
that your dog will follow almost 100% at home, like sit. Now ask your dog to ‘sit’ in 3 other
places like the park, a friend’s house, and a brand new hiking trail. If your
dog doesn’t sit in every place it means you haven’t fully taught the command
yet. He only understands sit in certain situations so far.
Generalization Exercises: In each new
place where he can’t do it, begin basic training of sit assuming he doesn’t know
the word or the context. Each time he sits, say ‘sit’ and reward him. Don’t
keep asking him to sit and setting him up for failure. Catch him doing it and
precisely at that moment say sit and reward him.
of her environment. For training protocols to be successful, they must be
congruent with the home and family situation. I wanted to see Slinky’s crate
and its placement and the set –up of the house.
exercises. The family will be continuing with these exercises until they reach
their goals for Slinky. I wanted to be certain that they were executing them
optimally and to see if they had any questions or concerns.
of new exercises. It’s time to introduce some new exercises in the home. These
take two people and help the dog positively re-associate to the impending departure
of the mom.

for this session include:
and execute previous and new exercises in the home environment.
Slinky’s progress in transferring what she knows.
Slinky and offer immediate feedback.
Slinky’s response to my departure.
tips to help the couple work as a team with separate and shared roles.

One: Gina Departs
goal is for Slinky to have a positive association with Gina’s departures. In a
broader sense, she will be accepting of all departures, minimally tolerating
them and ideally looking forward to them.
procedure is for Gina to begin to walk away as Gene feeds Slinky canned food
(any treat that is special will work). When Gina returns, the special food
stops. Gina starts by only walking a short distance but as Slinky becomes more
and more comfortable she can extend the area.
result of this first attempt was that Slinky truly became engrossed in the
canned food and began to ignore Gina.
outcome from the first trial was outstanding. Gina, Gene and Slinky carried out
their roles very well.

Two: Irrelevant Cues
goal is for Slinky to habituate to departure cues so that she does not become
anxious in anticipation of being along.
procedure is for Gina to randomly jingle her keys, put on her coat or shoes, or
pick up her purse throughout a day while Gene again delivers treats. Not only
do the cues become meaningless, but they are now predicting treats rather than
result of the first attempt with the keys was very successful. But when Gina
opened the closet where her coat was, Slinky reacted. It is important to
observe which triggers are stronger and to break those down into smaller steps.
So instead of opening the closet, it might be more successful to simply stand
by the closet and then the next day try putting one’s hand on the doorknob.
outcome if this first trial was very successful. We learned that we could
continue easily with the keys, but needed to go more slowly with the closet.

Three: Dining in the Crate
goal of this exercise is to make the crate a desirable destination for Slinky
whether she chooses to go there herself or is to be placed in there in the
owners’ absence to prevent home destruction. Many dogs will continue to use
their crates for life as a refuge. Others might desert them once they no longer
are placed in their by their owners. We want to give the owners this option now
and to offer it to Slinky for a lifetime. Slinky will be traveling with her
people and being able to crate can be a handy and safe way to accomplish this.
procedure is to place the meals, the treats and any special bedding or toys in
the crate to help the dog make this positive association. We had bedding that
smelled like the dogs from my house as well as a toy.
result of this exercise was that Slinky walked into the crate to eat, but since
this crate is somewhat smaller than the ones at my home, her back legs were
still outside. Many dogs will keep as much of themselves outside as is possible
as an insurance policy against being ‘locked up’. It’s important to let them do
that. It builds trust if they have time to acclimate and adjust and realize
that nothing bad will happen.
peanut butter option consists of placing peanut butter or something they really
like on the back wall of the crate. The dog has to enter all the way to access
it. It is also possible to place yourself around the back of the crate and entice them
inside with your voice and treats.

recommended that the first group of exercises be continued.
only responds to Slinky’s approaches half of the time.
walks by Slinky when she is calmly at a distance and pets her half of the time
but continues on, and the other half she pets her and joins her.
uses the ‘wait’ command when she is leaving Slinky, sometimes throwing a treat past
watches for opportunities to reward Slinky for being calm and at a distance.

ideas we discussed were having Gene feed and walk Slinky more often so that she
would see him as an equal source of her needs. Hand feeding is another route to

I was there, I saw photos of some of the destruction that Slinky imposed on
their home in the first day when she was left alone and not crated. There were
stacks of boxes of books whose ends had been gnawed away in a short amount of
time. Puppies, of course, chew and they can certainly wreak havoc but combined
with her other symptoms of howling and rocking the crate, separation anxiety
was the diagnosis.

update following my departure:
wanted you to know that Slinky didn't whine at all after you left. She watched out the window as you pulled
away, but showed no signs of anxiety.
Gene had to go pick up a pizza and called Slinky to go with him. She followed him to the door and then
returned to the living room to look at me, then followed Gene out the door
without me following behind. She didn't
whine at all on the way there and only whined a little on the way home. She was fine when they returned :)

while they were gone, I moved her crate into the bedroom. She's been lying in her crate sleeping next
to me. Just thought I would share the
good news.”

is important to celebrate all the tiny steps forward in dog training as well as
the big ones. It can take some time to get from here to there and the journey
should be as fun and pleasant as possible. Gina is adept at seeing the progress
of her Slinky no matter what size the progress is. Most importantly when
working with a fear or phobia, the slower and more methodically that you work
in the beginning, the more solid the foundation and the more expansive the eventual
successes. Focusing on the goal instead of being present with the journey can
be unnecessarily stressful and even counterproductive.

that the holiday season is approaching, many people might be adding a new dog
to their household or spending much more time than usual with the resident dog.
Expectations should not be drastically altered so that the dog now thinks he
will not be alone, or that the fun and safety are only with you. Schedule times
during the holidays when your dog will be alone, either for brief trials if he
is new, or for longer periods similar to what he has been used to.

don’t realize that we can contribute to the development of separation anxiety
by giving our pet too much uninterrupted attention. We are responsible for
teaching them to be independent if they are not. One reason to always set your
pet up for success and learning is because it builds their confidence and helps
them enjoy their lives. So be sure you give your dog the message that while you
may be more available during the holidays, there will still be separations that
will be safe, restful and even fun (think bully stick).

Soiling versus Marking:
dogs mark in a house it may be because certain new smells stimulate them, or
the lack of a satisfying smell invites them to make this their own. This is not
the same action as mistakenly urinating in the house instead of appropriately outside.
No matter what the reason, though, marking creates a distasteful environment which
can then attract other dogs to mark if the area is not sanitized carefully with
an enzymatic cleaner.

is almost a given with an intact male who hasn’t been trained to act differently.
His hormones as he matures demand that he place his scent everywhere. And, as
is the case with so many hard-wired satisfying behaviors, once accomplished,
often repeated. Unfortunately, marking does not resolve by itself. Dogs are
often relinquished to shelters because they mark. The owners don’t neuter them which
would prevent the problem. Nor do they resolve the problem through re-training.
They blame and abandon them simply for doing what dogs do naturally without human

taking your dog, especially a male, to your friend’s house or to a foster or
adoptive home, keep him on leash initially as you explore. Because this is a
fresh environment, we don’t want to allow for an old behavior to surface and
mar the opportunity for a successful beginning. It is always easier to teach
something brand new than it is to retrace your steps and try to correct a

carefully to see any indication that your dog might be going to lift his leg.
Excessive smelling in one area is often a predictive behavior. A simple ‘hey!’ to
interrupt his intention, followed by running him outside communicates that ‘we
don’t do that in here’. It is unwise to reprimand inappropriately placed elimination
too sharply under any conditions as the dog may associate his eliminating with
you yelling. Then he will sneak off to do his business and refuse to do it
around you.

if your dog has never marked it isn’t a bad idea to use preventative . With
deep humility, I share the following story of my ‘perfect’ Zeb, a neutered male
Golden Retriever. He and I went to a neighbor’s home which we had visited
regularly. I thought nothing of it as we went into the basement which we had
not previously entered. Before I could prevent or react, my Zeb stopped
smelling a very interesting spot on the carpet, lifted his leg and let go.
Needless to say, I was mortified! He had never marked before and never did
after. But this spot was powerful.

out, these neighbors, who had never had dogs live with them there, had witnessed
a dog of the former owner mark there. They hadn’t cleaned as thoroughly as they
had thought.

three components of the modification of marking in the house are the same as
for basic housetraining. The intention is to never allow the dog to make this
mistake. So he is either outside, crated or contained in a small area or
leashed to you. If he isn’t neutered, that would be a smart step as well.

pet supply stores sell velcro wraps or diapers which can save your furniture
while you are modifying the behavior. The wraps are a short term solution which
help you in the interim. Neutering and the wraps in conjunction with the simple
training will help more dogs remain in their homes. These are excellent for dogs
with incontinence, too, although they can’t be left in them any more than a
baby can be left in a soiled diaper.

with any behavior which occurs suddenly without warning or is accompanied by
possible pain or discomfort, see your veterinarian. Behavior modification will not
resolve a bladder infection.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Slinky's Separating Sojourn: Expenses, Housetraining, Breed Profiles - Day 18 of Slinky with Misha May Foundation

Slinky was returned to me this morning when Gina and I met in Cherry Creek. We made a
very easy transition again, with Slinky and I pulling away leaving Gina. Slinky
did great - almost no whining. I took her to the post office, bank and library,
all quick stops that strengthened her belief that being left was no big deal
and that I would return each time. I also took her to a pet supply store where
she received lots of attention and became engrossed in new smells.

Slinky is still being treated by her veterinarian and the bills are adding up. This is
often an aspect of being responsible for an animal that folks don’t think
about. It’s important to work with a vet you trust and that your dog likes.
Annually there are exams, preventative care and vaccinations. There may be
spontaneous visits for illness and once in a while there are emergencies. I am
so grateful that 24 hour emergency veterinary hosptials exist, but I know that
my credit card is going to take a hit.

I live near a terrific emergency clinic and have been there more than I like to
think about with my own dogs and Misha May fosters. We have weathered bloat,
distemper and leptospirosis scares. We have received treatment for toxicity,
failure to thrive puppies, and seizures. These medical expenses add up but it
is our responsibility to keep them safe and healthy.

I use a veterinarian who now recommends the distemper parvovirus vaccine every 5
years after the initial series of immunization, based upon research that claims
annual vaccines may very well be more harmful than helpful. I’ve done titers
with my dogs to be sure that they are protected.

As a preventative against medical problems, I buy very high quality grain free
kibble and also feed high quality canned. I have cooked for my dogs and also
have fed the raw diets, but because I am catering to many mouths most of the
time it became a struggle to keep up. Feeding the best can carry an expensive
price tag, but is totally worth it. Misha May offers a class addressing feeding
your dog called, Dogs Are What They Eat taught
by Stacey Klene. More information is at this link

The high quality food is not only supportive of good health but often resolves
allergy issues. Many foods have ingredients that are not necessary and that are
known to be common allergens. Denver has many independently owned pet supply
stores where the owners and employees educate themselves in order to serve
their customers well. Even behavioral problems can sometimes be less severe
when the dog is feeling healthy and not agitated.

Other expenses often overlooked are those for training. At times a dog simply needs
to feel safe and loved in order to adjust to his new home. But if problems
arise, it’s best to consult a professional trainer or behaviorist who can
assess whether help is needed or not. As a rescue, we often receive the call
for surrendering the pet instead of the call for behavior help. It always makes
me so sad because many problems can be prevented, modified or eliminated fairly
easily. Our slogan has become Call us FIRST for training so you won’t need us later for rescue.

We offer training and behavior classes as well as in-home behavior sessions. We
offer classes to help humans appreciate and bond more with animals. Many of our
classes can be attended with discounted fees and some scholarships are
available. We also have a Dog Trainer / Behaviorist Apprenticeship Program to
meet our goal of having more positive learning theory professionals available
to the public. More training information can be found at
Gift Certificates are available through December 25 with a very special deal
for the purchaser at
Email your questions to
or call 303-239-0382.

Grooming, boarding, daycare and mid-day walkers can also add to the budget deficit. It’s
so important to plan ahead when getting a dog.
As with many dogs coming from a shelter situation, Slinky had a few accidents on
her way to becoming housetrained. On several occasions it was because she was
ill and couldn’t help it. Other incidents happened because she did not yet know
how to communicate that she needed to go outside, or we were unable to read her

I am astounded at the dog’s strong natural inclination to keep their living space
clean and to soil elsewhere. Even after being in a shelter, on a chain or
confined, they go to foster homes and don’t have one accident! Most of the dogs
I have fostered over the years never had one accident!

It can be a very annoying problem when dogs have housetraining accidents, which by
the way, we are usually the cause of. Housetraining is not gained through
corrections of mistakes. It happens through teaching. Just like if you or I
visited a foreign country and didn't know where the bathroom was - hopefully someone
would help us until we found it.

Basic housetraining for dogs has 3 components:
He is outside going, where he will be rewarded with praise and a treat
He is contained or crated inside so that he can't wander around choosing where
he wants to go
He is leashed to the owner's belt for the same reason as number 2, plus it can
be a bonding experience or a training opportunity.

Unless the dog has medical issues or is very damaged psychologically (a puppy mill dog
for example) this system works.

Correcting a frightened (or any dog) dog can even cause him to urinate. He may even
associate going to the bathroom in front of you with being punished. The
likelihood of him sneaking off to go becomes even greater!

Slinky’s adopters were told that she may be a mix of Border Collie and some type of
terrier. These breeds are profiled below. I also see Italian Greyhound and
Basenji at times. We will never know unless her adopters decide to do a DNA
test. It can be helpful to know the breeds involved as there can be strengths,
weaknesses and conditions more prevalent in certain breeds.

I definitely see the energy and intelligence of the Border Collie in Slinky.
Perhaps the need to be working is what keeps her a bit on edge and anxious when
she is not certain what her job is.

I see Fox Terrier in Slinky, not Manchester Terrier, but definitely a terrier.
Most terriers will share many of the characteristics listed with slight
differences. I do see the loyalty and
the capacity to form a strong bond in her. She needs exercise and is not a good
candidate for successful off leash training as stated in the breed profile.

Border Collie

Group Herding
Family Livestock, Herding
Area of Origin Great Britain
Date of Origin 1800’s
Original Function Sheep herder
Today’s Function Sheep herder, herding trials, obedience

Temperament A bundle of mental and physical energy awaiting its chance to be unleashed on the world. Dependable, loyal, focused, tends to stare, likes to chase other animals, reserved or
protective toward strangers, work oriented

Potential one of the most intelligent an obedient breeds or a disastrous housedog if not
given a challenging job every day

Care sufficient daily exercise, a JOB, easy frequent access to a yard

Additional The result of over a century of breeding for function above all other criteria. The standard was written for working ability, with no regard to physical
appearance. The ‘father’ of the Border Collie, Hemp, distinguished himself in
trials because instead of barking and nipping, he stared at the sheep (‘giving
the eye’).

Manchester Terrier
Group: Terrier
Family: Originates from Black and Tan Terrier
Area of Origin: England
Date of Origin: 1500s
Original Function: Vermin hunter
Today’s Function: A cuddly house pet that can be an efficient worker when in
the field hunting.
Temperament: This breed is loyal and forms strong bonds early
on. It is neither aggressive nor shy. The Manchester terrier is
observant, devoted but discerning and generally friendly to other dogs.
Potential: Tendency to test boundaries, making consistency
in training very important. A lack of human leadership can
result in them becoming demanding, headstrong, protective, snappish, and/or
They are sharp-witted and eager to learn.
Care: The Manchester terrier is a good dog for apartment
living. They are very active indoors and will do okay without a yard; however
they demand plenty of outdoor exercise. These dogs can run very fast and keep
the speed up for a long time. This dog greatly enjoys exercising by running
alongside a bicycle, provided the amount of exercise is built up
gradually. Do not allow this breed off the leash except in a secure area
unless it has been trained, as he likes to chase.
Additional: Not considered a “barky” dog, but makes a good

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Slinky's Separating Sojourn: Statistics and the No Kill Model. Resources and Education. Day 17 of Slinky with Misha May Foundation

Slinky’s health is compromised and she has been to see her vet for some common and curable conditions. She may have had them upon entering the shelter or may have contracted them at the shelter. Since her immune system would have been compromised due to stress, either could be likely. Often, poor health, even if it is not a serious condition and is treatable, may be a contributing, or the deciding, factor in whether a dog in a shelter is deemed adoptable or unadoptable. Once a dog is labeled unadoptable, his fate is sealed unless a rescue is notified and can place him in one of their foster homes.

Shelters have differing protocols and procedures for the timing of spay and neuter surgeries, the administering of vaccinations, and the dispensing of medications. Many don’t allow for any of the above until the animal is adopted as they don’t want to spend money on animals that they will be putting down. Unfortunately outbreaks of a common and fairly preventable illness like kennel cough become life or death circumstances. One summer a few years ago, Misha May accepted many dogs with kennel cough from a local kill shelter. Each dog cost us approximately $150 (all from donations – we don’t receive any government money) to be treated and isolated at our vet’s office. Otherwise the shelter was going to put them down. I have to ask wouldn’t it be wiser, not to mention more compassionate, for a shelter to use their money on preventative care for each entrant in the form of a vaccine and an antibiotic as they enter the shelter rather than to use the funds to kill them when they tragically become stressed and ill?

There are really two main types of shelters in the United States today. One is the more traditional type which adheres to the belief system that euthanasia is always on the table as an option to deal with pet overpopulation. The other type has committed to the No-Kill philosophy which focuses on developing innovative solutions so as not to rely upon killing. I’m including some information in the next paragraphs to help you take a closer look at both. I believe that the more information the public has the more they will demand the changes necessary to save more animals NOW.

A very informative and interesting link to statistics regarding several more traditional type local shelters is the following
This allows one to see how many animals were accepted by each local shelter, how many were deemed unadoptable, how many were euthanized and how many were adopted. I invite you go there and interpret the statistics for yourself or call the specific organizations with your questions, and come to your own conclusions. There are considerations in the tables, some clearer than others, such as numbers of animals accepted, owner requests for euthanasia and those animals released to rescues. My motivation for including this information is to educate those of you who think that local shelters are not euthanizing, and to convince you to please open your eyes, get involved and help bring about the changes needed.

The most recent statistics I could find were for 2008 in which the Denver Dumb Friends League had a live release rate of 73% and adopted out 14,914 animals, while euthanizing 6739 dogs and cats, and Table Mountain Animal Shelter, now reborn as Foothills Animal Shelter, had a 76% live release rate and adopted out 3780 animals with 1808 euthanizations performed.

Neither Denver Municipal Animal Shelter nor Boulder Valley Humane had calculated their live release rates but they adopted out 1539 and 5016 respectively while euthanizing 2145 and 995 respectively. Again, there are other factors to consider within the statistics, but anyway one looks at it 11,687 animals were killed by these four organizations in 2008.

The other perspective is summed up in a mind-blowing book called Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America by Nathan J. Winograd. Winograd purports that the No Kill model has been successfully implemented by shelters in many cities in the U.S. by comprehensively instituting the following ten components.

1) Feral Cat Trap Neuter Release Program. Feral cats living in colonies have the chance of a decent life, whereas if they are surrendered to shelters they are almost always killed. If they are spayed and neutered, the population does not become unmanageable. This affords them a chance and decreases the number of euthanizations performed by shelters. Here is a local group where you can get involved.

2) High Volume, Low Cost Spay and Neuter. I personally believe that spay and neuter surgery should be offered free to the public with funding coming from that which was allocated in budgets for euthanizations, supplemented by local veterinarians volunteering on a rotating schedule. Low Cost is a start if it is more widely publicized, especially by vets to their clients who can’t afford their typically higher prices. Here is a link to low cost spay and neuter clinics:

3) Rescue Groups. The collaboration between shelters and rescue groups saves so many lives. Those animals who are passed over for adoption, those who deteriorate in a shelter setting, those who have specific behavior or medical issues or those with any special needs can be transferred to rescues who typically have foster homes that are supportive of healing. For information about fostering, click here:

4) Foster Care. Shelters themselves need to have a comprehensive fostering program as well. Many animals arrive sick or weak or traumatized and need a healing space. Check out our Together We Save Lives page for a list of places to volunteer.

5) Comprehensive Adoption Programs. It isn’t enough just to get the animal out of the shelter. If the adopters are not screened thoroughly, the animal could land in a bad situation. If the animal and adopters are not a good match, it can end in disaster. This link directs you to information about our adoption program.

6) Pet Retention. Once an animal is adopted it is important to offer resources to the adopter in the form of a behavior help line, library of resources or affordable classes.
If you have a training question or want to set up an in-home behavior session, you can email us at or call 303-239-0382.
Our training videos are here
Our resource and education page is here
Our dog training class schedule is here

7) Medical and Behavior Rehabilitation. With very little effort or additional expense many more animals could be saved with money specifically earmarked for these areas. There must be a philosophy in place that routinely supports widespread rehabilitation.

8) Public Relations / Community Involvement. The public needs to feel welcomed as a partner in saving lives through adopting, volunteering, fostering and fund raising. Transparency is required to allow the public to see the truth about what is happening to the animals in their community. They need to understand why spay and neuter is crucial to saving lives and why purchasing from pets stores supports the horror of puppy mills. They need to be informed of just how dismal it is now but also alerted to the attainable goals possible with their assistance.

9) Volunteers. Volunteers are the key to success. Lots of volunteers are the keys to many successes. There can never be enough volunteers. Please contact us at if you would be interested in learning more about volunteering.

10) A Compassionate Director who does not accept methods and ideas that lead to euthanasia. There must be someone in charge who is willing to step outside the typical thinking of ‘too many animals – not enough homes’ rationale. If there were not enough homes, then pet stores, puppy mills and most breeders would not exist as their only motivation is profit. There are homes if we can create the links between them and our shelter animals.

Slinky was not spayed until she had been adopted. She would soon develop symptoms and become ill. She had already been in 2 shelters that we know of. This sweet girl could very easily have become a statistic in 2011. Why am I speaking about this? Because when you donate your money to a non-profit organization, it’s a very big decision because most of us rely solely on your donations. You should have the facts and the figures. Know what your money will be used for. What are the primary goals of the organization and how do they plan to achieve them? Is the director committed to ending euthanasia except as a rare option for truly suffering or dangerous animals or is it carried out routinely?

Slinky spent the day with Gina and Gene and will be staying overnight as well. I can’t wait to hear about her progress at home. When they came to pick her up, Gene took her for a walk along my street while Gina stood talking with me. I thought it was a positive sign that she wandered so far away from mom. She got distracted by the sights and smells and seemed to really enjoy her time with dad.

After they departed, I wrote my article on the CPR and First Aid class for Canines for Mile High Dog Magazine. You can see it in the December 2011 issue. At the following link, you can see ‘When You Wish Upon a Star – the Story of The Misha May Foundation’ also featured in this terrific magazine:

Later in the day I received this update on Slinky:

“Slinky has had a good stay. We had company and she was lying down in her crate. No accidents in the house. She has been better with the "wait" while I take out the garbage, grab something out of the garage, etc.”

I am so proud of Slinky and her family!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Slinky's Separating Sojourn: Day 16 of Slinky with Misha May: Eliminating on Leash. Owner Mind versus Trainer Mind. Chained Dogs and Chewed Leashes.

Today was the day of our fund raiser A Moment for Mutts from 10am to 3pm. This was going to be a long day for those of us setting up and cleaning up. I left home about 8:30am and returned by 5:00pm. Slinky accompanied me for the day’s fun.

Because I had so many duties to attend to, others took turns helping with Slinky. Pauline, one of the Understanding Dogs Dog Trainer / Behaviorist Apprentices was the person Slinky spent most of her time with. She whined at first as I moved around the room away from her, but quickly habituated. Each time I left her side, I help up my right index finger and said ‘wait or ‘wait for me’ in a jolly voice. Each time I returned, I said, ‘thanks for waiting!’

We cautioned everyone to ignore any whining so that she would not be rewarded for that. Everyone was encouraged to give her attention when she was calm and quiet. People are initially surprised that we don’t want to comfort her while she is whining, but soon understand that this would increase the likelihood of that behavior. That may not be so serious in an average dog, but in a dog with separation anxiety, we want to extinguish any behaviors that are related to or may trigger her anxiety.

Slinky had fun and was very well behaved. She did not, however, true to form, eliminate on leash. We gave her ample opportunities but she held it until she got back to my house. This tells us something about her past history which is that she was probably not walked regularly if at all. That’s not necessarily a negative thing if the dog has a great yard and someone to interact with in it. But it does present a problem for a dog that needs to be on leash for a prolonged period. I think I remember Gina telling me that Slinky urinated one time on leash.

Another reason a dog may not eliminate on leash is if she associates doing so with a negative experience like being reprimanded or frightened. One way to counteract this would be to give her ample opportunity to do so and then be extremely excited praising her and giving her a treat. We want her to choose to go on leash, therefore we reward that behavior consistently. One could also practice using a long leash in the backyard and if she goes, be sure she sees the leash as you run toward her praising and treating.

Slinky’s only barking occurred when the Mile High Musical Tails Canine Freestyle performers began to arrive – 2 Poodles, 2 Golden Retrievers and a Doberman. She excused herself to the lobby during those performances and sat at the registration table. She just could not handle all of those dogs dancing and most likely they were grateful that she permitted them to concentrate. Slinky did not mind the belly dancers at all – I think she enjoyed them!

Discussing the concept of ignoring whining when a dog is anxious, inspires me to also discuss what I like to call Trainer versus Owner Mind. This difference is not a judgment of good or bad but more a decision of when to operate from each. I see the owner mind as more emotional and the trainer mind as more rational. Owner mind helps us love our guys and meet their needs. Trainer mind helps us teach them what they need to know.

While owner mind wants to cheat a little with extra treats and breaking training rules like letting them jump up, trainer mind sets goals and meets them. Owner mind reacts when their dog reacts. The owner feels overwhelmed by their leashed dog reacting to other dogs, while trainer mind is prepared to handle whatever arises. While in owner mind, we may feel uncertain of what our dog might do or how he may react, as a trainer, we are observing and tracking his responses to his environment for the sole reason of formulating our next steps.

It can be appropriate to be in either state. But if trainer mind is indicated for certain results, it is usually best to follow that inclination. For example, in a dog park setting, one might like to be the relaxed owner, but clearly someone in trainer mode must be present to oversee the activities. Or if your dog is meeting a new dog it is best to be confident and at ease but observant. And what if you are at a big event with many leashed dogs? It’s best to feel prepared no matter what you might encounter. Trainer mind says we can do this, my dog and I.

People mistakenly assume that taking a dog with separation anxiety to dog daycare will assuage their anxiety. It’s sometimes better than leaving him at home, perhaps to self-destruct, but unless the daycare has the specific protocol in place, and none do to my knowledge, the dog will continue to experience the anxiety without treatment or resolution. Imagine day after day in a state of panic and worry. This is terribly stressful and sets the dog up for many stress related conditions. Healing this condition is the best option.

Daycare providers report that these dogs tend to stand near the gate or door and wait anxiously for their owners. Other dogs and people do not satisfy their specific need. They are bonded to one person and only that person will do. On the other hand, dogs who are nervous but social and otherwise well adjusted, can definitely benefit from a well run daycare. They are able to play and engage in enjoyable interactions.

Buddy, the 100 pound German Shepherd with separation anxiety, came to me as a foster after having been returned to a shelter three times and was slated for euthanasia. I had other fosters at the time and was having great difficulty accomplishing even the simplest task because Buddy could not be left alone without screaming destruction. Some of the foster dogs were being treated for heartworm which meant they had to be crated and leash walked with no excitement. Other foster dogs needed to be only dogs. Friends came to help but it wasn’t enough. The only relief I had aside from friends helping was that Buddy could wait patiently in my car alone.

Judy, owner of Doggie Pause Dog Daycare, invited Buddy to spend the days there so that I could attend to other tasks. After all of the other dogs were taken care of, I would sleep in my clothes with Buddy downstairs. We awoke early and went straight to the daycare where he spent each day waiting by, or jumping, the lobby gate. We even tried having me come at varying times so that he might stop looking for cues but it made no difference. Finally Judy realized he was having a negative effect on the other dogs, teaching them bad habits, so he couldn’t go anymore.

Eventually, Buddy would no longer get in the car because he figured out that I was most certainly going to leave him there for some period of time. This happened for the first time when we were headed to the daycare. I realized I would have to take him there by foot because I couldn’t make this giant get in the car. Luckily, it was just a few blocks away. That was when I began sleeping in my clothes so that I could get him there early each morning and return before the other dogs needed to go out.

I remember the very first day I took Buddy to the daycare, parking nearby and opening his door. I grabbed the leash securely because after all he is a 100 pound dog. He jumped out and started in the opposite direction from the daycare. I held onto the leash to guide him and it was then that I realized he had chewed through the leash so that only a few inches remained attached to his collar. I was holding a nice long leash that had nothing to do with Buddy.

I grabbed the tiny leash quickly and realized that I had absolutely no leverage. I tried to steer his 100 pounds back into the car to give me some time to think or to find new leash prospects, but Buddy was in charge. He proceeded to lead me through the streets of Englewood. I hung on hoping for any solution but none manifested. This went on for quite some time, with me attempting to hang onto his little leash and his collar. I was off balance and feeling so scared I would lose him.

I knew he would escape without so much as a look back over his shoulder because he already had accomplished that the first day he was with me. He jumped my fence with me standing right next to him. I was absolutely shocked because I had naively assumed that he had been bored and alone in his previous fence jumping scenarios. But I learned that he jumped because he could and because he liked it. He took off that first day and I’m not sure why he even came back. I tried everything I knew to lure him to me. I called him. I ran after him, and I ran away from him. I said words like ‘come’ and ‘treat’ and ‘honey boy’. I performed play bows. Finally, when I ran out of ideas and stood still in failure, he sauntered over. I was so relieved that he also let me grab his collar. So I knew that if he took off right now, he would only come back when he was ready and that meant running in traffic.

One of the reasons he had been returned to the shelter three times was because he insisted on jumping every fence. Sometimes he chased livestock, and sometimes he chased cats. He was never finally cured until two things happened. The first thing that happened couldn’t have been better if I had planned it. Formerly, when he had jumped his owners’ fences he had been free. He had run and chased and celebrated. That had even happened in my previous home once. But in my new house, when he jumped the fence, he landed in the neighbor’s yard. Being trapped was his least favorite thing, and he had just created it. This jumping held no reward. When I went around to retrieve him, he was cowering and growling a little, like he was worried. My Big Buddy worried? Hurray! He was so happy to see me and never went over that fence again.

Then I discovered words that had meaning for him which could interrupt his run for the fence and redirect his attention to me. The word ‘come’ had no relevance for him. My hypothesis is that it was most likely used without the actual teaching of what it signifies and it became irrelevant. One day he showed me what I needed to know. As he was headed in the direction of the fence, I taunted ‘Are you with me Bud?’ and he turned on a dime coming right over to me. He continued to respond to those words 100% reliably!

Between waiting in my car, practicing the separation anxiety protocols, volunteer help and playing with other dogs, we made it through. He tolerated the crate and seemed calm and happy. He took the daily medication chlomicalm for quite some time. He never did destroy anything in my home, although he ate the seat belts in the car. I felt exceedingly lucky, though, because it had been reported that he had previously destroyed portions of two homes and dragged a refrigerator across a kitchen floor.

I began to wonder when Buddy would be calm enough to leave uncrated. I was just pondering trying this for a short period of time when I got my answer quite unexpectedly. I returned home to find Buddy grinning from ear to ear at the front door with the other dogs. I must not have closed the crate securely and he managed to escape to come greet me. He was so proud and nothing was so much as out of place. I never crated him again. He began to blossom and thrive, becoming the handsome, confident, well-adjusted male he is today.

Buddy will still whine today. He doesn’t like small spaces either. I could never leave him at the vet or the groomer. But he now has a new home and the transition went very smoothly. He is who he is, but without separation anxiety.

I’m aware that chewing one’s leash is a sign of general anxiety as we see plenty of dogs just out of a shelter or challenging situation who do so. But is it a specific behavior of dogs with separation anxiety? I’m not certain but so many dogs who suffer with it, destroy their leash the second they are left unattended. We finally ended up using a chain leash (not a choke or chain collar) with Kabul because he was so destructive and so sneaky and so fast. Slinky has also chewed up a leash or two as well. I can’t help wonder if being tied somewhere not only helped bring on separation anxiety but also a hatred for leashes and confinement.

Often people will ask if having a companion dog will relieve the symptoms of separation anxiety. In my experience, a dog does not replace the human with whom they have pathologically bonded. Another dog will be a friend and companion later on, but will not help resolve the situation initially.

Dogs can be excellent role models, though, for enjoying a crate, hanging out calmly and self entertaining without humans around. I have observed Slinky learning from my dogs as well as enjoying their company. If Slinky’s family wanted another dog, I think she would be very happy. She has loved all of the dogs she has met while with me. They all seem to like her too.

I believe that dogs with separation anxiety do reach a point when another dog is helpful as a companion to stave off boredom and loneliness. But they also can learn to cope with being the only dog in a home as long as the family doesn’t spend more than the average work or school day away. Dogs are extremely social creatures and we are all they have. If there isn’t another dog in the household then the dog needs us even more. Their whole lives are about waiting for us. We shouldn’t take advantage of them and force them to wait alone too much.

Dogs do best when they are included in the family adventures as much as possible. It’s rewarding for them to spend time with us. They are often best behaved when they feel valued. Dogs who are left outside will adapt but it is not the optimum situation. As a matter of fact, the dog most likely to bite is a dog on a chain. He feels trapped and vulnerable, often teased by kids or threatened by other animals or people. He may feel desperate about defending the only thing that is his, that small circle of dirt. A dog on a chain never appears happy. And since joy is a dog’s natural state, being on a chain is against nature.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Slinky's Separating Sojourn: Day 15 of Slinky with Misha May - Off Leash Training. He Gets it! Falling through the cracks.

Slinky does well with all of our transitions now. She is always very happy to see Gina and Gene who know to keep the greetings low-key. She greets me like a best friend. Her experience of the world is expanding to include more and more safe places and loving friends. Our routine is that Gina waits as Slinky gets in my car and we drive off. She is always interested in the beginning looking out the windows and not registering the separation yet.

This time, we drove to several places and she did very well overall. A little whining which I ignored and then made a fuss when she was quiet. As soon as we arrived at my house she was fine and has been hanging out with the dogs! My neighbors were outside so she met them and received attention there, too, before we came in.

We are planning my visit to their house in the next week. It’s time to add additional exercises and for me to observe Slinky in her home environment. That helps me to be more specific in my recommendations. It also helps that I’ll be the one transporting her to her house and leaving her. It will be another reason to trust me and another reason to trust her world.

Today is the day before our annual Moment for Mutts event at the Golden Hotel. There is still so much to do to prepare. It is such an important fund raiser and I want everything to go well. Thank goodness we received so many donations and that one of the founding board members was willing to create all of the fabulous baskets like Small – Medium - Big Dog, Cat, Little Girl, Sacred Ceremony, Self-Indulgence, Stationery, Tailgating Party and Veggie Queen Vegan Starter.

We are also indebted to our sponsors: Mile High Natural Awakenings magazine, Trish Kelly Realty, Janice Cook Intuitive Pet Insights, Schwab and Golightly Auctions, VCA Park Hill Animal Hospital, the Golden Hotel, Single Volunteers of Greater Denver, and Courtney Ayres Graphic Design. Mile High Musical Tails Canine Freestyle, and Dahlia and her Belly Dance Troupes will perform.

Slinky was quite relaxed as I came and went from around the house including the garage carrying out event tasks. Lovely to see her so settled in and not worried.

I mentioned off-leash training in the previous post as an option for dogs who don’t do well on a leash, either when walking or when meeting other dogs. Off-leash training is not, however, an option for all dogs. Certain breeds and individuals with certain characteristics are not receptive to coming when called if they have spotted or scented something more interesting.

Even compliant dogs must be conditioned to come when called and proofed under a wide variety of circumstances and amidst high distractions. Otherwise, a failure to come can result not only in disobedience but in injury or death. Many times I’ve heard people say, ‘but it was just this one time that she bolted across the street toward another dog or bunny or cat’. It only takes that one time and they are gone. It is a huge risk and quite irresponsible to allow one’s dog off leash without proper training.

I wouldn’t trust that a dog is trained unless they were at least 2 years of age, neutered or spayed, and had undergone rigorous professional training protocols. Sometimes puppies or sweet natured dogs stay close to their people and the people mistake this for being trained. This is simply the dog staying close or coming because he is choosing to. Once he realizes that he doesn’t have to come, he may not. Then your approach changes from training your dog off leash to correcting your dog’s erroneous thinking that he can chose to come or not as he pleases. Prevention and a plan is much more fun and effective than trying to modify unreliable recall behavior.

Ideally, dogs should not be aware that they have a choice to come or not. They should behave the same way whether on leash or off. They should be under our command and acquiescent to our wishes. This training can take as long as 6 months to one year of daily practice, and begins on leash with no distractions. Step by step the leash is lengthened and the distractions increased. Finally off leash is practiced in contained areas. Even after all of this, it is wise to have the dog drag a leash and then eventually have a short lead that you can access easily.

Dogs do not generalize easily, meaning that they don’t realize right away that a cue is applicable no matter where they are. You may have been surprised by your dog’s inability to sit at a dog park even though he sits reliably at home. This may be due in part to the distractions but it may also be because he hasn’t learned that ‘sit’ means ‘sit’ everywhere. You must teach your dog to sit in enough places so that he will generalize doing it wherever he may be. I see so many people on walks with their dogs becoming frustrated because their dog isn’t sitting when asked. More likely than not, there hasn’t been adequate preparation and practice. We sometimes forget that dogs don’t speak English, n’est-ce pas?

You can imagine how much more critical and challenging it is to train your dog to generalize ‘come’ in every possible situation and scenario. Common sense tells us that to get our dogs to come to us we must make the experience pleasant. I recommend using a fabulously tasty treat that they don’t receive for anything else they do. In order to get _______ they must ‘come’.

Even though intuitively we know that acting excited to see them will entice them to return, we often have to curtail our urge to shout at them and be angry when they haven’t responded in a timely fashion. Unfortunately it is often our fault because we put them in a situation they were not yet ready to handle. I hear many stories and have witnessed myself a dog’s return, albeit reluctant, greeted with punishment, harsh words and terrifying expressions. ‘Oops’, says the dog to himself, ‘when I approach my person he yells at me.’ The desired behavior has not been reinforced.

A friend tells the story of being out with his horse and his dog. An off leash dog approaches curiously. He stops a respectful distance away and takes in the scene. Maybe he never saw a horse before or maybe he loves horses. But anyway his demeanor is calm and his behavior is acceptable. In the distance, the dog’s owner is screaming at him to ‘COME’. The dog takes one more look and then runs back to his owner. WHAT DOES THE OWNER DO? She yells at him when he returns.

Bad owner. Bad bad owner. First, the dog is not reliably trained off leash. Second, the owner doesn’t give the dog any credit for acting respectfully and for ultimately returning. No wonder our dogs are confused and don’t know what we want. We don’t adequately prepare them with proper training, expect them to know things they aren’t capable of knowing without our help, and then we confuse them when we punish them at the exact moment they are complying. Timing is everything if you want to communicate precise meaningful messages to dogs.

What should she have done you might ask? She should have gotten hold of herself and rewarded that dog for returning. ‘Good boy. Good come.’ Then she should have begun a real training program to teach him what ‘come’ means and to instill in him the motivation and willingness to perform in response to rewards.

A word of caution here. Off leash behavior is advanced behavior. Before even attempting it, I recommend basic obedience classes with amazing amounts of practice. Help your dog learn how to learn. Watch for the look in his eyes when he ‘gets it’. Set up routines where training is so much fun and so rewarding that he can’t wait to learn more. Let him know how proud you are of him and that you are eager to understand what he is trying to communicate to you.

The irrelevance of the cue ‘come’ is legend. Somehow people think that if they just begin to use it their dog will suddenly begin to comprehend English and start coming. Even if the dog did understand, he may still ask, ‘hey what’s in it for me’? Learning requires motivation. For a dog this might equal treats, pets, attention or a game. But learning does not happen without a type of motivation that the learner appreciates. Don’t use the cue ‘come’ unless you have introduced it as a training word with a specific meaning, and that you are absolutely certain that your dog can and will comply. Hence, the use of long leashes and yummy treats!

Zeb’s off leash performance. I took my perfect Golden Retriever to training and he did beautifully. I never took any credit for how wonderful he was – he was born that way. He and I loved learning and being together. I worked with him for off leash thinking it would be a breeze. And it was, until he caught the scent of a deer in the mountains near my home. He never even saw the deer. He put his head down to the ground and began to run at full speed zigzag in hot pursuit. I called him, I threatened him, I ordered him - all to no avail. He was gone and out of sight for several minutes in which I died a thousand deaths. I admit it. I’m a coward. I decided that taking the risk of losing my boy was not worth it. We had a very full life together, with no more off leash escapades, until he passed away this year.

Ultimately, as a responsible and loving dog parent, you are expected to evaluate each situation and location to ascertain if it is safe enough to take the risk of off leash. Don’t be one of the people who says sadly, ‘it was just that one time’.

In my opinion, Slinky is not a candidate for off leash training due to her obsession with and pursuit of squirrels. She demonstrates a very high prey drive and motivation to chase. She is unable to reach the squirrels in my separately fenced yard but that does not deter her from dreaming and plotting. After she discovered their presence, I could not get her to come in from the yard, even when all of the other dogs raced in. I patiently went out with her leash each time, brought her in, and gave her a treat. Did I want to give her a treat? No. I was annoyed that I had to go get her. Would my annoyance have taught her what I wanted to teach her? No. So I helped her perform the behavior I sought and then rewarded her for it. She now comes running in with the other dogs almost every time. If she were not within an enclosed space, however, I would be concerned that she would take off in pursuit and never look back.

The Misha May Foundation was founded to help dogs falling through the cracks at shelters. So many dogs are passed over or deemed unfit because of their terror at being abandoned in a shelter. Misha was on her way to a shelter when she was rescued by friends of mine. I doubt that she would have done well in a shelter environment because she was so sensitive, social and a little anxious. And because she was a black lab mix she would have had stiff competition just with the sheer numbers of labs.

Slinky is definitely a dog who was falling through the cracks. She was adopted after being passed over in at least two shelters. Sensitive, social and anxious, and deteriorating in the shelter environment.

Please don’t let your dog fall through the cracks. Don’t get a dog unless you are prepared for a lifetime commitment. Acquire the preventative knowledge you need to help socialize and train your dog. Hire a professional trainer immediately upon seeing a problem. Don’t give up your dog – he is family. If you absolutely have to give him up, don’t take your dog to a shelter, but find a reputable rescue group that will help you re-home him while he continues to live with you.


Slinky's Separating Sojourn: Day 14 of Slinky with Misha May

Many dogs are reactive on leash. When Slinky was first adopted, she was barking at every dog. At that time we believed it was curiosity but it was escalating and could have become a lot more unpleasant and threatening. Before it became a habit and was mistakenly encouraged, I wanted to modify it. I explained that if we reprimand our dog for doing that, they formulate a negative association with other dogs and maybe even people. This often worsens the behavior. It is important to remain calm and say something lighthearted like ‘it’s a dog’ or it’s a puppy’. I’ve seen this work almost every time to lower the anxiety and arousal levels in both the dog I am walking and in the other dog as well.

Sometimes dogs have already solidified this behavior which makes it much harder to change in a challenging situation. I equate an unprepared leash reactive dog walking around other dogs, to an athlete going to the Olympics without proper training. You will fail; you might get hurt; you will not earn a medal. But if you practice the behavior you desire initially without other dogs around, your dog and you can learn what to do when you get to the championship.

Every day for a few minutes at a time, in the quiet of your home, wait for your dog to look at you and say ‘yes’ and give a treat. Don’t ask your dog to do a thing. Just wait for her to check in. You are rewarding a very natural behavior. By rewarding it, it will become stronger and happen more frequently. From your home, try your yard, then a calm walk. If you practice enough, your dog will look at you for direction instead of going off on the other dog.

If it doesn’t work, it means you entered the competition too soon. Back up and practice more. When you finally walk where there might be another dog, you need to be ready to watch for your dog checking in, to say ‘yes’ and to give a treat. At the same time, you can say lightheartedly, ‘it’s a pup!’ All too often we are ready to say ‘no’ or ‘stop’ which may halt the behavior right then, but they repeat it again on the next walk because it hasn’t been extinguished. They have not learned what it is we prefer that they do. We tend to spend our time correcting but not teaching. Teach this replacement behavior well.

My Misha, for whom The Misha May Foundation is named, was reactive toward other dogs when she was on a leash. I had no idea what to do then and no one around me did either. The only solution I had was to yell at her and try to make her stop. Or sometimes we managed to avoid other dogs. I always felt so frustrated and embarrassed that she just wouldn’t stop it. Of course, now I realize that my stress and my yelling probably gave her the exact opposite message from what I wanted.

And like the dogs of many owners I hear from now, Misha was fine off leash. I now understand that being on leash is not only unnatural for a dog, but can sometimes render them feeling vulnerable or worried. So because allowing our dogs off-leash without proper training is dangerous, what do we do? We must associate leash walking and training with only positive circumstances. We must prepare ourselves and our dogs to have a safe fun calm time.

Being a confident leader means I think through the possible upcoming scenarios and prepare myself and those who are depending on me. I don’t wait until I am in the midst of a situation that I know my dog cannot handle and then panic and maybe even take it out on my dog. I wish I had known then for Misha what I know now for my current dogs.

Similar to us, dogs don’t necessarily learn in a linear fashion with only successes and constant progression. Sometimes they regress or forget, are tired or are still processing the new behavior. These excerpts from Gina’s note demonstrate how Slinky had a few setbacks.

Regarding any treatment protocol for a phobia or sensitivity, setbacks can also be triggered by asking them to do too much too soon or even too much at a time. We can’t always predict when this will happen but if it does, it’s important to recognize it the way Gina has. My advice then is to stop the training and rest. Then when beginning again, begin at the beginning. Build again with small successes and proceed at the dog’s comfort level.

Gina picked up Slinky to spend the night with her. Here are her updates:

Housetraining Setback: “The patio door was open for Slinky to come and go, but I just noticed that she urinated on the carpet in one of the bedrooms.”

This is a common are where dogs regress. If there isn’t a medical problem, it usually means we need to continue to communicate very clearly where the bathroom is. A complete and simple housetraining protocol requires that they never make mistake. This is accomplished by knowing specifically where they are – outside going to the bathroom, contained in a crate or small area, or leashed to your belt.

Young dogs like Slinky are not yet 100% reliable as their bodies are still developing. In addition, Slinky has been transitioning between homes and routines and may have gotten confused.

Dogs who are nervous or who have been reprimanded for mistakes will also tend to sneak off to go where you can’t see them and yell at them. Unfortunately they associate going to the bathroom in front of you with being yelled at.

Separation Anxiety Protocol Setback: “Yesterday, I practiced pulling the car into the driveway and she only whined a little. I pulled the car from the driveway into the street this morning and she whined more than yesterday. Also, the ‘wait’ command did not work with Slinky this morning and I had to fight her away from the door to get out.

I noticed this morning that she was following me around more often. Perhaps this was because I moved the car this morning. I fed her in the crate today as you advised and she still hasn't finished her food. She was more preoccupied with the fact that I put my coat on and had moved the car - again, I think she was afraid that I was going to leave.

Later, as I was sitting in my car waiting for Gene, Slinky was whining a bit. I think you're correct that she whines when she gets bored. Gene had her on the leash as I was collecting things from the car and she dropped to the ground and refused to walk toward the house with him while I was still by the car.”

It sounds like Gina had a handle on what was happening with Slinky. There were too many challenges for her that she had not quite habituated to yet. Instead of helping her, these separation practices were triggering her old behaviors. She became less secure instead of more at ease. In this case, we stop and give her a rest from the practice separations. The bowl of food needs to come iust outside of the crate to a place where she is comfortable eating. We can only help her along if we meet her where she is.

Crate Training Regression: “As for the crate, I placed our T-shirts in it along with the Kong toy and Bully Stick. Outside of sniffing around, Slinky has not spent any time in her crate since I picked her up yesterday afternoon.”

Slinky was communicating her discomfort with the difficulty of the exercises on this day. She resisted all new behaviors as if she were putting on the brakes and yelling, “You’re going too fast for me!” Fortunately, her mom was paying attention and the protocol was eased without doing any harm.

Also, before old behaviors change irreversibly, there is sometimes a trial period where we see if perhaps the old behavior will get us the results we want instead. Later on this day, we will see a video of Slinky feeling quite relaxed and playful in and out of the crate. She is still trying on behaviors to discover how she feels and what she can gain with each.

Self-Soothing: “She preoccupied herself this morning by watching squirrels from our patio door and then running outside to chase them when she has a shot.”

Slinky is engaging in an old behavior that is self-soothing as it is a release of pent up, perhaps stressful, energy and an invigorating distraction. This is a great sign of her psychological health that she can continue to move confidently away from Gina when she has the opportunity and free choice.

Slinky acclimates once again to the crate when she returns to my house. This video shows her going in and out in the company of Twinkle. It also shows her copying Canyon in playing with the towel. Canyon has a towel that she chews on, carries around and treats roughly. Slinky participated too. Now she is trying it on her own.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Separation Anxiety: Day 13 of Slinky with Misha May Foundation

Slinky was with Gina this morning and here is her report:

“I thought you would be happy to hear that I'm in my kitchen (out of sight) and Slinky has been sleeping in the living room in her crate for the past 45 minutes :) Initially, she wasn't paying any attention to the crate, so I dropped a few treats in there. She eventually walked into the crate and pulled them out to eat them...came into the kitchen to make sure I was still here...rounded back into the living room and into the crate she went!”

Again, Gina demonstrates her understanding of what needs to happen to help Slinky develop a positive relationship with crating. She is even choosing the crate when mom isn’t in sight. This training is about continuing to plant the seeds and allowing enough time for them to grow. We can’t hurry the development of a positive association any more quickly than the dog can accept it. If we push, it can become a negative pretty fast! I always say that you can‘t go too slow when it comes to training.

The question of dog parks for Slinky has come up. I have a lot to say about dog parks but will limit my remarks to addressing a few specific concerns. Dog parks can be a wonderful experience if everyone there is doing their part and acting responsibly. Too often, common sense guidelines are ignored and instead of further socialization, negative associations with other dogs are formed.

Dog parks are not places to socialize dogs. They are places where already socialized dogs go to have fun. A simple definition of socialization is when a dog is having enjoyable experiences which create positive associations with his world. This results in a more relaxed sociable creature. Placing a dog in a situation for which he isn’t ready or suited, decreases the likelihood of him developing more confidence and sociability.

Most dogs do best one on one. Setting up play dates with one nice dog at a time and allowing the dogs to practice their meeting and greeting skills along with play manners is the optimum route. Each situation can be a building block toward a dog savvy dog. You can’t expect your dog to learn what he knows amidst the chaos of a dog park or sometimes even a dog daycare.

Good dog daycares screen each dog for any problem behaviors. This is for a very good reason. Some dogs are refused admittance because they may have an unpleasant or stressful experience themselves or cause such for other dogs. Every dog is not suited to play in a group setting, especially when it involves so many unfamiliar dogs. Well run daycares understand this and either refuse admittance to dogs who need more individual training, or provide separate appropriate areas accompanied by supportive behavior modification.

Unfortunately in most dog parks no one is supervising play or screening entrants. There are bullies and aggressive dogs as well as fragile and sensitive dogs. There are dogs who play rough and those who would rather not be roughed up. There are dogs of all sizes and strengths, which can lead to challenging situations.

Often there are no guidelines regulating human behavior either. People gather and chat instead of supervising. Parents bring children and food which is a recipe for disaster. People bring dogs who are not appropriate candidates.

Good dog parks have rules posted and participants adhere to them themselves and require others to do so as well. The best dog parks have citizen committees, self-appointed or otherwise, who oversee play. They have learned about dog body language and canine behavior. They know something about appropriate play and interactions. They are committed to making their park fun and safe and educational. And they are not shy about standing up for the rules if someone breaks them. They know that the success of the park depends on each of them advocating for the highest standards possible.

One side effect of going to the park is that a dog can learn bad habits either from other dogs or from the humans. For example, people have different expectations for their dogs. Some people allow their dogs to jump up especially if they are on the small side. If you don’t want this behavior encouraged in your dog you can request that others ignore it and not reward it. But how do you handle the situation when someone replies "Oh, I don't mind! I have a much bigger dog and he jumps, too!"

Clearly this person does not understand canine behavior science. Jumping up is so difficult to modify because it is a natural behavior for dogs to want to smell our mouths and be near our faces. We have to be 100% consistent in not giving it any attention. Yes, it might be difficult, but is it fair to a dog who is going to be confused or even punished for their behavior? If just one person rewards your dog for jumping up, you’re now starting over because what your dog has learned is that no one will reward him for 10 times but on the 11th someone will. And he will wait and try, and wait and try, as long as there is a chance. Not fair!

One of the bad habits that dogs learn from each other is rough play that ignores calming signals from some of the participating dogs. When there is too much stimulation from running and chasing and playing, manners can be forgotten. Just like children on a playground or partiers in a bar, feelings get hurt, relationships damaged or even fights can break out. Some dogs shake this off as if it were nothing but more sensitive dogs can be scarred for life from what they perceived as an attack.

And then there are real attacks. This is not only a tragedy for the dog involved but for the future dogs that he might now fear and proactively attack. I see so much dog reactivity among my behavior cases because dogs are worried about what the other dog will do. In the majority of cases, the owner and I inevitably uncover a time in that dog’s life when he was terrified of another dog. He may have actually been physically injured or just deeply threatened. It’s so important that dogs like each other and are set up for successful fun experiences together.

No matter where you are taking your dog, leash walking, daycare or park, be prepared. Find out who goes there and how the dogs get along. Know what behaviors are permitted and be certain that you are comfortable with them. Protect your dog from bullies just as you would your child. If you have a bully, get help because he is most likely insecure. He needs to know that you are in charge and will keep things safe for him. He doesn’t need to make up the rules – you already have. A great book regarding this philosophy is Leader of the Pack by Patricia McConnell.

And if you are thinking I mean leadership like dominance, here is a link to a great article by the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior which dispels this out of date erroneous way of thinking. The philosophy which we utilize at Misha May Foundation and recommend is Learning Theory, which is discussed favorably in the same article.

Gina had Slinky from 11 until 3:30 today. We were prepared for a smooth transition knowing that if I took Slinky and drove away, she would be distracted and not miss Gina as much. I decided that going for a coffee would be great idea. And off I went with Slinky who did indeed become quickly transfixed upon the car windows.

Slinky and my 3 dogs were all loose in the living room area and were very relaxed and playful with each other. Our gradual introduction process has worked very well and Slinky seems well integrated into the group. She is always excited and pleased to greet them upon her arrivals.

I enhanced our separation training today by moving the car from the garage to the drive and then to the front of the house and back again. She is excited to see me each time I return but not distressed. I have worked up to this by helping her relax around cues of leaving: keys, coat, shoes, purse. I picked them up out of the typical order and placed them in unfamiliar places. They soon had no meaning for her instead of causing her to panic.

And the separations have grown from infinitesimal to short. I am so proud of Slinky and her progress. I’m thrilled that any of my movements around the house or in the yard or out the front door don’t cause her any alarm. And now we are adding the garage, car and driving sounds.

I know that having my relaxed dogs around help her too.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Separation Anxiety: Day 12 of Slinky with Misha May

Slinky ate her breakfast just inside the crate, door still open. Placing the food in or near the crate, as each dog can tolerate, is a great first step for acclimating the dog to any crate training. If you place it all the way in and the dog won’t eat, then it needs to be moved forward or just outside or far enough away that the dog feels comfortable eating. The point isn’t to make a dog eat in a certain place, but to have the dog enjoy where she is eating, thus creating a positive association with that spot.

If you want your dog to learn ‘go to bed’, you can feed her near the bed so that will always be one place she will choose to go and go there easily. If you want to help a dog feel more comfortable with a certain member of the family, you can feed your dog near ‘his chair’ or even have that person feed the dog more often.

My refrigerator died today so I need to go get a new one. Slinky will be spending the day with Gina and Gene and returning in the evening. They will continue to help Slinky love being with them but not necessarily receiving direct attention. They will be engaged in other nearby pursuits and Slinky will be praised for calmly hanging out.

Slinky is attached to both Gina and Gene but seems more distressed about losing Gina. For whatever reason, dogs with separation anxiety will often pick one person out of all of the ones they love, to hyper bond with. That person has the major training responsibility of balancing their love and distancing. Gina has to support Slinky in being alone, turning to others and learning to self-soothe while letting Slinky know she loves her and isn’t leaving her. This person affords the dog the opportunities to learn from and with others.

The person to whom the dog is less bonded needs to encourage more interaction perhaps through feeding or play. In this case, for example, Gene can hand feed kibble, go on walks, or give special treats. He is also the support for Slinky when Gina practices leaving, renders departure cues irrelevant and eventually actually leaves. Gene will feed a special treat or use the anxiety reduction techniques mentioned previously.

The following are Gina’s updates from the car ride and crate training. Gina is tracking Slinky’s response to each part of the training process. Slinky already has a new relaxed relationship with the wire crate that she was videotaped in (see the before video: Introduction to Separation Anxiety). Gina keeps in mind our goals and thinks through her training decisions.

Hi Lorraine,

…Slinky did extremely well in the back seat and only attempted to get back into the front seat once. She kept herself busy the entire time looking out each of the windows in back. She had very minimal whining once she got into the back seat and grew excited as we pulled into my driveway.

Not long after we got into the house, I found Slinky by her wire crate sniffing around - she did not enter. I wanted to wait to put the sheet and nylabone (Editor’s Note: these were from the crate at my home so that Slinky would have the familiar smell of these dogs she likes in her crate at her house) into her crate until she wasn't so focused on me. I was able to do so, but Slinky did not approach the crate again; I was unsure that she realized that the sheet and bone had been placed into the wire crate. I have the wire crate and her plastic crate in the same location in the house, resting side by side. After being home for over an hour or so, I casually got up and sat on the plastic crate with my computer on my lap, ignoring Slinky altogether. This peaked her curiosity enough to approach the wire crate again, at which time she started to sniff the sheet from the outside of the crate and licked it a couple of times. She then found her way around to the door of the crate, sniffing, and slowly entered the crate and laid down. I continued to sit on the plastic crate for another few minutes and then casually got up and arched myself around the wire crate with her inside and went to sit on the couch where she could still see me. She continued to lie in the crate for another minute or so and then got up and sat by me on the couch. It was still a big accomplishment!

All in all, Slinky did really well today, but did seem to be following me around a bit more often than she did the last time I brought her home. There are times, however, that she lies on the couch or floor and ignores my movement. She still gets up and comes running anytime I venture anywhere near the front door. She always wants to make sure that she's not left behind.

We fed her in front of her crate today and she gobbled up all of her food.

~ Gina

This was a very successful day of transitioning the exercises from the trainer to the owner. This information helps me to plan the next series of exercises.

Gina and Gene brought Slinky to meet me after Misha May’s Understanding Dogs class at Doggie Pause. As they walked away, she began to sniff the ground and explore. They were able to leave quietly and she didn’t notice since she was sufficiently distracted. I let her continue to sniff until she finished. Then we got in the car. She looked out the back seat windows all the way to my house, but maybe whined only twice! When we arrived at my house, she was happy to see the other dogs. They all played in the yard. Wonderful transition - I'm very pleased.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Separation Anxiety: Day 11 of Slinky with Misha May

I was thinking about Slinky being visited and then being left by her mom at the CPR class yesterday and the anxiety she experienced at the separation. It reminded me of when I taught kindergarten in the 70’s and 80’s in the United States, and in Greece to an international student body. None of these populations was attending pre-school at the time, which made the kindergarten year the first that they were leaving home and being separated from mom. Since those in Greece were living in a foreign country with a foreign language and customs, some having fled from dangerous or conflicted situations, there were additional contributing factors for separation anxiety.

A minority of children were so excited to be attending school that they immediately engaged with the stimulating environment and never looked back. Some of those moms may have been disappointed and thought their kids loved them less but that was not the case. They were most likely hard-wired and parentally prepared to handle social interactions and unfamiliar situations well.

Most children had mixed experiences. They were eager to explore, curious about the school, and yet not completely ready to handle an entire day away from the familiar. Kindergartens which offered initial half days seemed to be more successful. Kids were allowed to gently leave home at a rate more suitable to their age and social skills. After a week or so the children began to attend all day and seemed to blossom. They felt confident and had definitely benefited from the more acceptable transition.

Sadly, in each class, there were one or two kids who were desperate not to separate from mom. They clung and cried and screamed. They were frantic and panicked. It was heartbreaking to watch. My job was to help them transition as easily as possible and to at the same time not allow the more sensitive kids who were holding it together to deteriorate as well. When one kid expresses this anxiety, it can easily become contagious to many in the class.

Typically, my solution was to begin singing with the class while holding the sobbing children on my lap. It generally worked for a number of reasons. The kids who were crying began to be distracted and curious. They could sense that I cared and wasn’t abandoning them, and they could see that the other kids were starting to have fun. The more secure children were thrilled that kindergarten was truly going to have something to offer them right away.

I will never forget one Lebanese girl who clung to her mom in the Athens school. I couldn’t understand what she was saying but it was evident that she was completely panicked about being left. I could imagine what she had already seen and experienced in her brief five years of life. Both her sensitive nature and her life experiences had created a nervous system more likely to panic than remain calm in frightening or unfamiliar situations. The mom continued to be completely loving but clear that school would be attended. She calmed down as her mom supported her to see the other kids, bright classroom and singing teacher. She functioned well from that day forward, although each morning for a week or so she tried to leave with mom. There was less intensity and she was easily redirected. She bonded with me and the class and became eager to attend school. Not only was this part of her day becoming more and more enjoyable, but mom showed up every day at the same time and took her home. She was always a little shy and reticent, but lovely and smart and well-liked. Her personality did not change but her ability to cope was strengthened by the combined support of a loving home and stable classroom.

There are many parallels in both the behavior and treatment of humans and canines regarding separation anxiety. It is healing to create an environment with as little stress as possible. If any stimulus triggers a reaction, then anxiety reduction techniques should be utilized. For humans, age appropriate verbal responses and explanations can help. For canines, a soothing ‘that’s good’ when they are calm will support that behavior rather than the whining. Reiki, Rescue Remedy and massage can help lower anxiety for both species in the midst of the situation. So can a number of distractions like singing, movement, and play. Long term treatment for both includes similar affirmations of safety and security when alone and communication that abandonment is not an option. Each can change over time with a patient confidence building, anxiety assuaging program.

Just as I was concerned that the relaxed kindergarteners might have their anxiety triggered by those kids who were strongly affected, so this type of anxiety can spread with human adults. When I was a school counselor, we addressed the teaching staff before the children in emergency situations so that they could help us create an atmosphere of stability rather than succumb to their own fear and anxiety. I remember one morning when a child was suddenly and tragically killed by a car in the crosswalk in front of the school. The initial work was counseling adults who might have trouble functioning. Then we made the rounds of the classrooms to help the kids process their reactions and emotions.

Anxiety is also contagious in shelter situations. There have been studies that demonstrate how to maintain peace and calm for the dogs which include providing bedding, privacy and stimulation, such as a toy to play with or a bone to gnaw on. Human interaction is also crucial to meet their social needs. Their anxiety is why many humans find it difficult to even visit a shelter much less spend time there volunteering. Our witnessing of these tragic circumstances that feel beyond our control are even more traumatic for the incarcerated animals.

I’ve often wondered why euthanasia was performed in the same building as where the dogs are housed. It seems unduly cruel to force an animal with such an amazing sense of smell to live where he knows what is happening to his fellow creatures, and with the potential of it happening to him. No wonder many animals in shelters seem frantic – they aren’t stupid – they can smell what is going on.

About the worst thing an adopter can do is take that dog back to the shelter for any reason, even if seems like a good idea to you. They can still smell what is going on. When I volunteered as a trainer / behaviorist at a local kill shelter, I remember the worst behaved / most anxious dogs in the public classes were the ones who had been adopted from there. That made perfect sense to me.

Given the anxiety levels in some shelters, I am surprised that there aren’t more cases of generalized anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder and separation anxiety, but dogs are amazingly resilient.

Back to Slinky, rescued after stays in two shelters….you have to ask yourself why such a cute young dog waited in two shelters and wasn’t adopted. Sometimes great dogs just get passed over. It is very sad.

I gave Slinky her breakfast today in the medium sized wire crate in the office, with Twinkle in the large crate and Shadow in his small plastic one. Valentino had the whole living room to himself. Slinky focused on the meal and ate with great appetite finishing every bite of kibble. Both back feet were outside of the crate as her bowl was near the edge, but she was a focused relaxed diner. I was sitting at the computer typing and noticed that instead of dancing she ate steadily.

Dinner happened in the same way. She is having numerous positive associations with the crates.

Three volunteers, Doug, Ann and Ann, were here for the afternoon to prepare the baskets for our Live Auction at A Moment for Mutts at the Golden Hotel on November 14th. You can see the results and the wonderful sponsors, donors and vendors on a special page at our website Slinky enjoyed all of the attention and activity. She was so comfortable that she kept leaping from the couch to the table to be involved more closely. We, of course, took her off each time and then finally put her behind a gate. I was happy to see her so relaxed and having fun with yet more new people.

Slinky also continues to do well with dogs. She has been in my yard when dogs go by on walks. With very little help from me ‘oh it’s a pup!’ she is quiet and curious - very civilized behavior. I remember the first time she was in my driveway and the neighbor dog went by. She reacted and barked, but not anymore. The little Pomeranian neighbor has actually grown into a wonderfully polite and sweet dog. He gets walked often and you can tell he is very loved.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Separation Anxiety: Day 10 Slinky with Misha May Foundation

This was the day to ‘fall back’ the clocks. Of course the dogs don’t notice that – until meal times. For us humans, it is only 4:00 but for them it is already 5:00. I actually never change my clocks so that I operate between the two time designations. It does sometimes shock people when they glance at the clock and realize they are late! I also continue to ‘save an hour’ and that makes me really happy each time I check a clock.

I was registered to attend the CPR and First Aid for Canines class designed and instructed by Westminster firefighter Eric Roth between 9am and noon at Doggie Pause Dog Daycare in Englewood. I was asked by Jennifer Brauns of Mile High Dog magazine to write a story for the December issue about the class to encourage pet parents and professionals to become educated in CPR and other techniques that could help stabilize their dog until veterinary care became available. The next class will be held at the same location on Sunday, January 29th from 9am – noon. To register (cost is $50 half of which is donated to Misha May Foundation) go to and use the make a donation button.

Slinky was having a good time and enjoying the attention from friendly people as we helped set up and the class began. She was supposed to be the only dog and my plan was to allow her to roam so that when her mom came and left she would be distracted and not feel anxious. However, another dog Sunshine attended and so Slinky was limited in her wanderings so that the class would not be disturbed.

As an interesting side note, Slinky has only gone to the bathroom once on a leash. Many dogs who have not had that experience don’t realize that it would be okay, even preferable if they are away from home for hours. Slinky did not go to the bathroom until she returned back to my yard.

Slinky’s mom Gina attended a portion of the class in order to work with Slinky. I wanted to help Slinky see that her mom could show up anywhere and thus break down her belief that when her mom is gone she will return in a certain way to a certain place at a certain time. The harder it is for Slinky to track the patterns, the less likely she will hold onto cues that trigger her anxiety.

While Gina was there she moved around the room from time to time away from Slinky. Slinky watched her but stayed relaxed. When Gina was in her seat nearby Slinky, Slinky would even leave and explore and solicit attention from others. Slinky is a very social dog who knows how to get what she wants most of the time.

After Gina left, however, Slinky whined quite a bit for the rest of the class. I was surprised by that behavior. It helped me realize that distraction is not enough. There needs to be distraction that moves Slinky away. She feels better if she is the one leaving, not the one left. So as not to give attention to her whining, but also to avoid disturbing class, several of us took turns taking Slinky outside in the play yard and administering anxiety reducing options such as Rescue Remedy, massage, ear massage and Tellington Touch. I must say that the results were not as good as I would have liked. Fortunately she did not have a panic attack or become intense but there was continuing whining. Not even her dinosaur chew or bully stick held her attention for long.

She was okay with not having mom around, but the act of her leaving triggered her anxious response. It makes me think that something bad happened to her when the person she trusted left her. Was it when they dropped her at the shelter and she became frightened? Did the person she trusted most leave her with someone who was cruel to her, or just alone and unable to get what she needed? Was she taken away from her mom before 8 weeks and perhaps has never felt secure?

We won’t ever know the answer but tracking her responses carefully, helps me design the next steps for her treatment. If she had been panicked, for example, I would have left and ridden her around until she calmed down. But her level of anxiety seemed mild enough to allow her to experience that she was safe and surrounded by loving people. It was not a setback as she didn’t have any lingering negative effects.

When class ended and we were cleaning up, she seemed to have recovered fully. She was distracted by Sunshine and the activity. She was calm and quiet then and for the ride to my house. She had no trouble the rest of the evening and settled into her routine with the other dogs. I was satisfied that she had had a stretching experience that supported her safety and security in her world.

Here are two photos of Sunshine and Slinky:

Interestingly enough, the last time the class was offered, I had Kabul with me. He also had separation anxiety and was in treatment with Misha May. He loved the class and was featured in many videos as the model dog. Here is a link to one of them:

Friday, November 18, 2011

Separation Anxiety: Day 9 of Slinky with Misha May Foundation

Slinky is happy to sleep in the crate off and on. I would love to see her have this as a safe and comfortable area. Certainly my dogs are modeling that for her. Every one of my current dogs took to the crate naturally – I never even had to train them. They saw them – they went in!

Shadow, my 12 pound Rat Terrier, uses his crate in the funniest way. He doesn’t destroy his toys so he has a quite a few in his crate. It’s the only place they are safe from the other dogs who would destroy them. When he is in there, he is growling and talking, and swinging the toy around so that it hits the side of the crate. It sounds like a war going on. You can just tell how ecstatic he is to have this opportunity to get it all out!

Shadow’s crazy playing reminded me of something my Rena used to do out of anxiety. She was a dog who chewed things up when you weren’t looking. But her favorite thing was money. If anybody forgot and left money sitting out, it went into Rena’s stomach. Our proof was in her poop. The humans needed training to take care of their money better. I remember one day returning to the living room from the kitchen just in time to see her approaching a stack of bills. Prior to that, the damage had been about $25. This would have been quite a bit more. That was the last time we left our money out and vulnerable.

Slinky is great at copying other dogs, thus I’m hoping the crate training will happen easily. Today she copied something that her friend Canyon had done last night. Since I had never seen Slinky do this before, I’m hypothesizing that she had fun and wanted to re-create the game. Canyon always drags a blanket around her house. She chews on it, naps on it and gets rough with it. This morning Slinky dragged a blanket out of one of the crates, took it in the living room and played with it.

Slinky is adorable at feeding time. When I go to the food closet, she lies down, watching and waiting politely. Aside from being anxious when alone, she is not an anxious dog. And fortunately, she doesn’t have the separation anxiety symptom of drooling.

Samson, Misha May’s 5 year old Aussie Shepherd mix, was a drooling dog. He needed help with anxiety and is now crate trained and loving it. But when he first came to us, he cried and drooled. The foster thought he had urinated in his crate, because the puddle was so big, but she figured out from the lack of smell and through observation that he was actually so nervous he was drooling a river.

For Samson, being in a foster home was great and was the reason he was cured easily from a slight case of anxiety. In a shelter situation, dogs are often rewarded when they are whining or jumping or barking. It might be time in the schedule for dinner or a walk or a visit, and the dog receives the positive attention no matter what he was doing. Whereas, in a foster home, the meals, walks and attention can be appropriately given when the dog is calm and behaving.

Although it may seem counterintuitive and even mean, it is important not to reinforce the whining of an anxious dog. Comforting during whining will let the dog know to continue to whine as comfort will arrive. Ignoring might be indicated if the dog is not too distressed. Then you can give attention as soon as the dog is quiet. Or, using techniques like Tellington Touch or Reiki are helpful but don’t support the anxiety.

Having a clear routine and expectations helps anxious dogs settle in and know what to expect. They learn how to get what they need, including your attention, and that can calm them down considerably. Slinky is paying attention to me and to the other dogs. It’s obvious that she wants to know how things work around here. She gives a joyful jump or relaxes as soon as she figures out where we are going – outside to play! Or she lies down when she realizes ‘we’ are going to read.

Slinky has realized something else even more important. Her primary caretakers are returning for her. They are part of the plan and part of her life even though she is spending so much time with me. Their coming and going reinforces her attachment to them in a healthy way. Soon coming and going will become normal and she won’t have to worry.

I’ve discovered that if I can initially distract her when her owners are leaving, that she has a much calmer transition. It’s best if we get in the car and move away from them. After a fun walk in the park, Gina went in the opposite direction from our car. Slinky jumped right into the car with me and was ready for the ride. She looked in her mom’s direction but was not distressed. She whined two quiet little cries. Then she became interested in her surroundings and seemed okay with the separation.

Her walk in the park had also been relaxing. Previously she had been reactive to other dogs. Our approach was to say in a fun voice ‘oh look it’s puppies’. Because the human is relaxed and knows there is no danger, the dog can relax. Slinky followed our cue and accepted that there would be other dogs around. At the end of our walk, Gina and I both fed Slinky treats. Gina gave Slinky to me as if to say I trust Lorraine, no need to worry. Then I brought Slinky back to Gina letting her see that I am trustworthy. When it was time to go, Slinky tried to follow Gina but came with me with very little encouragement.

We ran several errands and mostly Slinky was relaxed and tolerant of my comings and goings. I have to continue to work according to her tolerance. The key is to keep her from having another panic attack so that she is present to learn that she is safe. She had a few whiny moments here and there which I ignored. Then when she laid down I would pet her and praise her.

I was very happy that by the time she got to my house she had recovered. I let her into the yard, and let the other dogs out to join her. They played. When we all went in she was fully settled. Right now she is in a dog bed in the office. So each transition has been better.

When the dogs come inside from the yard, they receive a treat. Tara likes to run to her room and eat it there. The three little ones eat theirs quickly wherever they are. Slinky accepts hers, runs off to eat it on the couch and then comes back to try for another! She’s workin’ it!