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Chisum: Lessons in Reactivity

This is a discussion on Chisum: Lessons in Reactivity within the Dog Training and Behavior forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Dogs category; Thanks again . The sad thing is, he's so incredibly sweet and in some respects, almost fearless. He will jump with wild abandon so we've ...

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Old 04-27-2016, 03:46 PM
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Thanks again . The sad thing is, he's so incredibly sweet and in some respects, almost fearless. He will jump with wild abandon so we've done a lot of tricks regarding jumping. He's not the least bit afraid of me so I can do a lot of things with him that even other family members can't (he's not mean, just wary or reactive). He's never bitten....when he feels cornered he tends to lose bowel control instead. He has such a fun, goofy personality that it hurts to see him struggle.

Hopefully we can do what we can. I live with my parents on our farm now while I'm finishing my degree. I hope to be able to take him with me when I move in Jan but we'll see. He always has a home at the farm if need be, but the ultimate goal is to reduce his stress as much as possible.
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Old 05-03-2016, 07:10 PM
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Chisum had yet another vet visit today. Overall, I actually think it went pretty well.

For one thing, as scared as he was, he made it through the door. He was shaking like a leaf but didn't bark at all and didn't lose bodily control either. I was seriously impressed.

He did end up being sedated. They did a full blood workup, heartworm test, fecal test, and will do a urinalysis once I am able to bring them fresh urine. All was healthy.

We talked about medication as well. She wants to try an as-needed medication, but it can be taken up to 4 times daily so we may have to do it daily to start out. I'm totally blanking on the name, though. She also suggested a supplement that would be of aid, and said it may be beneficial to try a thundershirt.

She said that realistically, he would probably never be a super social dog. Honestly, I knew that but it did sting a bit. On reflection, though, I don't need him to be. #1 for me is to alleviate his anxiety as much as possible. #2 is to get him to the point where he can exist in a town setting. We'll see how far we get.

I'm going to start training again this summer, probably in June? I'd like to go back to the trainer we were using but the vet said she'd put some feelers out and see if there is anyone else in the area to consider.

So...a lot to start with, I think. Hoping this leads to something positive.
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Old 06-28-2016, 01:38 PM
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No real updates today (or for awhile - sorry!) but I wanted to share that we are trying to figure out a medication regimen for him that will hopefully make training easier.

I also wanted to link to the threads I have created regarding medication, in case I or anyone else reads through this and wants to read them as well.

https://www.dogforum.com/dog-training...zodone-281721/

https://www.dogforum.com/dog-training...vioral-288674/

https://www.dogforum.com/dog-training...2/#post3092770
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Old 07-22-2016, 09:30 AM
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So I think I'm getting better at separating Chisum's reactivity into frustration/fear.

> Strangers (and stranger smells) - totally fear based.

> New objects and, for some reason, the cattle - sort of a combination between fear and frustration. It's like "this object is scary but I must investigate it but it's not doing what I want it to...."

> Other animals in general as well as objects that don't "smell funny" - totally based on frustration. He just wants to see it, to interact with it, to check it out and then he's cool.


My brother came over last weekend and he brought his dog, Stella. We hadn't met her before (she's a doll). I was totally concerned how Chisum would react. He hasn't met strange dogs before because they always have strange people attached to them.

Anyway, he was a dream. Seriously. He was a little up in her business checking her out at first, but no more so than the other dogs. No barking. No lunging. They even played and cuddled together! I was totally amazed.

Then, we brought home the Aussies. I was concerned, actually, because he barks at them from the window and he met them through a fence and was kind of barky lungy as well. However, this morning I decided to let him meet Raleigh (Nellie is a little iffy with dogs/cats, plus because of her heartworm we don't want to stress her out). So there's Chisum, pulling on the leash, whimpering and barking and I'm thinking to myself, "oh great, he really is dog-reactive and Stella was just a fluke...".

Then, he gets to Raleigh. He smells him. He wags his tail. He smells him some more. And....it's over. Chisum couldn't care less. I'm pretty sure if they were both off-leash they'd frolic around or play some but it's very clear Chisum was just in a state where he really needed/wanted to see this strange dog, to meet this strange creature, and then he was satisfied.

It feels like a good deal of progress and better understanding. It's much easier, I think, to redirect or give him what he needs when I understand WHY he's reacting in a certain way.
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Old 08-11-2016, 09:15 AM
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So I had to post because Chisum had a really good day yesterday.

Nellie is currently being crated in the exercise room in our house because she can't move around too much due to her heartworms. Turns out, Nellie and Chisum do not get along. Nellie is a bit of a growler when it comes to certain things and Chisum, who is very good with friendly dogs, does not tolerate being growled at by her. I think it makes him feel very insecure.

Anyway, my mom was home yesterday and she spent a good part of the day with Nellie on the couch. If Nellie needed to go out, my mom would tell Chisum to give them some space and he did. When I sat on the couch with Nellie later, she was growling at him and he kind of gave me a "look" but I asked him to ignore her and he did. I was ecstatic!

We also received a box from Chewy that had a bag of dog food in it. Chisum does not do bags of dog food well and he certainly doesn't do boxes. But...no reaction. NONE. No barking, growling, lunging - nothing.

It was a happy day for sure...hopefully we can have more happy days in the future.
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Old 09-03-2016, 02:17 PM
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We went last night for a consult with this training facility:
RolloverU, KS | Official Website
(link is mainly for my own references).

The lady we met with was great. Chisum did his "thing" but really he did much better than he has previously, so I do think that the medications he's on are helping. She gave me a few things to work on, namely getting him a good "watch me" cue and working on increasing his tug drive so that we can utilize that as a reward while doing BAT-like exercises on walks. She also told me to keep talking to him, let him know when he's doing good things and just really communicate.

And, of course, some counter-conditioning type stuff. We're supposed to save all dehydrated organs (his favorite treat) for his JACKPOT treat that he only gets when strangers are around.

She does have a growly dog and reactive dog class, but didn't think that he would be a good candidate as he'd have to be muzzled and it would be very stressful for him. I thought she was going to recommend individual sessions but she actually recommended we take an obedience course. Granted, we're going to be far, far away from the actual students (far enough that he can actually do the exercises without freaking out) but her thought process is that he can build his confidence and start to learn that those scary people aren't going to hurt him, he gets to learn new things, and also he gets super awesome treats. Hopefully as time goes on we can get closer to the group.

So....I'm off to sign him up for his obedience package! My goal this fall is going to be to do the obedience work as well as start to get him out and about more where there are people so that we can work on counter conditioning and other things. We probably won't go to town, but there's a campground near the lake where I think we can see some people but still have plenty of room to move away if need be.
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Old 09-24-2016, 01:41 PM
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Welp, Day 1 of obedience training done!

Honestly, it was kind of hit and miss. When we arrived, he of course had a meltdown once the trainer arrived. She sectioned us off in this little room where there was a baby gate between us and the rest of the class. He had a couple of mini meltdowns in there but honestly was fantastic the rest of the hour. She even walked around the room and came by our gate and he just laid down quietly, just a little nervous.

We worked on sit and watch me and he did really well. He's not great at watch me but he has a solid sit.

Of course, at the end of the class he had another meltdown going out. We were just too close to the trainer, I guess.

We're going to be behind a gate next week, but more out in the open so I'll see how it goes. I'm also hoping to get out to the lake campground and work just a bit on behaviors out there.
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Old 10-02-2016, 01:47 PM
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We didn't go to class this week because something came up. I plan to work with him some this week on the behaviors but most he already knows anyway so just getting him somewhat out and about is probably the most helpful thing I can do.

I'm also working on teaching Raleigh the behaviors since he doesn't know any of them. We're just working on sit and down right now and he's doing pretty well but I don't think he's ever been taught anything so the concept of learning is just kind of new. He's patient though so we'll get there.

We brought a few new objects home from an outdoor festival and I was so proud - Chisum didn't bark at any of them! It made me realize that it's been a long, long, long time since he's barked at an inanimate object even if it smells funny, which obviously these pieces smelled really "strange" to him. No reaction whatsoever, though, just a quick sniff and he moved on.

However, he's still fighting with Nellie. I do think most of the time Nellie starts it, and I think he's just thoroughly confused/stressed by her at this point. She does not like him, but hopefully once she transitions outdoors things will be better.
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Old 10-17-2016, 12:00 PM
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Chisum graduated Obedience I on Saturday! The accomplishment was a little watered down because everyone graduated regardless of whether or not they could do the commands, but Chisum knows them all AND was able to perform in a stressful environment so I had his certificate framed

Overall, he had an average of two "meltdowns" per class, but they were fairly minor and he was able to be brought under control quickly. He had a bigger one this past Saturday, but instead of being sectioned off in a separate room we were in the same room with the others with just a wire divider closing us off - definitely much more stressful for him and I was proud of him for working through it!

Another thing we've had a lot of progress with is being off-leash. We live on a farm but we don't have a fenced in yard so typically Chisum has been leashed when outdoors unless we're in the pasture, far away from the road. He's always been reactive towards the cattle and the cats, but maybe more in a frustrated way? Anyway, a couple of months ago we started letting him drag a line to see how he'd do, and a week after that he started getting to be off leash in the yard. He has been AMAZING. He stays within sight (more than could be said about Sophie!), comes every time he's called, chases the cats far less, and his reactivity towards the cattle is greatly reduced. When he does seem to be getting worked up, he is able to quickly be called back/reined in. This past weekend we hiked and passed the cattle twice - no reaction whatsoever.
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Old 04-04-2017, 12:24 PM
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In the interest of keeping up with changes, I figured I'd update this thread.

I've noticed that his recovery time has improved greatly when something sets him off, but he's still fast to react and his reactions are often quite explosive. Small wins, though.

We are headed to a vet on the 26th that specializes in behavior. The vet is not a certified veterinary behaviorist, which makes me wary as I've walked down that path before, but he's highly reviewed and was recommended to me by the vet school here. I'm hoping we can discuss his medications. Right now he takes fluoxetine and trazodone; I think the fluoxetine has been helpful but the trazodone really just sedates him, which we both hate, and doesn't really seem to touch his anxiety. It'll be interesting to see what the vet says.

If we can get his medications under control I'd like to try to attend another behavior mod class with him and/or do some private lessons. The school where we did BAT originally has a reactive dog class, with no more than 3 dogs/handlers per class and a trainer to work with each. I think it could be a good setup for him if we can work on those meds, and I think we could make some improvement.

As for whether or not he'll be able to move with me in August: only time will tell. I'd love for him to come with me as I love him dearly, but we'll see what we can accomplish.

I plan to come back here after the appointment and update. Hopefully I'll have good news to share!
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