Chisum: Lessons in Reactivity - Page 6

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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; @ Ptolemy82 , thank you. I will say that I've learned a lot about dog behavior from him, and I've actually gotten pretty good at ...

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Old 10-18-2017, 03:02 PM
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@Ptolemy82, thank you. I will say that I've learned a lot about dog behavior from him, and I've actually gotten pretty good at reading him. He's a pretty awesome little guy, aside from his anxieties.
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Old 11-25-2017, 07:17 PM
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Thanksgiving has passed, and I have to brag on Chisum's behavior. He did AWESOME.

My brother and his fiancÚ have been over for several days now. He's fine with them, and he's fine with their pets (a dog and a cat) as well.

Thursday my aunt and uncle came for dinner. He's seen them before, but only on Thanksgiving, so this is just his third time. Naturally, he was a bit on edge. I had lost his Thundershirt so quickly bought him an Anxiety Wrap - it worked pretty well and there was a noticeable difference when I removed it halfway through the day (I put it back on quickly). It fits a bit more snugly than the Thundershirt, so maybe that's a good thing. I'm interested to see how his custom one goes once I get it sewed.

Anyway, we started like we usually do - up in my brother's lofted bedroom so he could hear the new voices but not see them. Every time they spoke, he got a treat. Then we moved to the hallway, then down the stairs, and finally into the same room as they were in. The entire process took *maybe* 10 minutes and he was good as gold throughout the entire thing - a major improvement.

After that, he was pretty much an angel. He only had three little slip ups: he was reactive when my dad decided to let him off leash (I had him leashed so he couldn't get curious and get too close to them, which is what happened), he growled a bit during the time that I took the Anxiety Wrap off, and he growled at the end of the night when they were leaning over the couch to say good bye. I gave him distance, he was fine.

Overall, though:

- He sat on the couch/in the same room with the "scary people" without reacting.
- He hung out in the kitchen and was approached/passed by my aunt several times with no reaction.
- He sat by the dinner table while we ate - no barking, growling, or begging. At supper he actually fell asleep!
- He went outside while we showed my aunt and uncle our baby calves - he was leashed, but walked around them with NO lunging/barking/growling.
- He sat outside with us on the deck for a little bit. Beyond that, he walked past BOTH my aunt and uncle, between the chairs and the railing (a narrow passage), perfectly calmly. Note that I did keep him on the other side of me for safety.
- While sitting outside, he was totally relaxed and again, fell asleep.
- While watching TV with us, he was bored and eagerly played with a puzzle toy.
- He also asked for breaks a few times - to go hang upstairs for a few minutes or go for a quick run outside.


Everyone marveled at his behavior. He barked less than Sophie did! (she barks purely for attention and can be kind of a stinker). I think his med combo is better than it was in the past, but I also think the Anxiety Wrap played a major role. I'm interested to see how it can be used going forward, and again, how a custom one that is potentially weighted would compare.

Anyway, just SO SO proud of my little boy. I love that little stinker so much.
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Old 12-18-2017, 08:59 AM
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We had kind of a rough weekend, and I may go on a bit of a rant here. Sorry.

First off, I know why we struggled - Chisum had been off his meds for the better part of the week and I know it was messing him up. He was definitely struggling a bit.

Anyway, my brother and his wife came up for our "family Christmas" celebration. They brought their little dog with them - which is fine, she's cute and generally pretty chill. It was actually pretty fun to take her out and watch her sniff around, run through the mud, etc. - do dog things, which she generally doesn't get to do as my brother and his wife are not outdoorsy in the slightest.

The problem with Stella is that she has this really awesome chipmunk toy that Chisum wants more than just about anything. They don't let him play with it and only bring it out for Stella when Chisum isn't around. That's fine, it actually makes perfect sense. But because she can't play with her toy, they then get out Chisum's toys for her to play with, particularly his most prized ones. They then will proceed to play with those and get upset when Chisum takes them away. I tell them not to do that, I try to put the toy away so they can't, and they just find it and continue on.

So, about midway through the second day they were there, and after Chisum had taken his toy back a couple of times and I had tried to remove it several more, it was sitting on the floor of the living room and Stella went over and sat next to it. Chisum then went and sat between her and the toy. I knew from the look in his eyes what was going to happen next, so I rushed over and got between them - essentially, if Stella moved I knew Chisum was going to lunge at her. And he absolutely did.

He didn't hurt her. He didn't even bite at all - it was just a display of noise, as it usually is. I immediately took the toy away (and lo and behold, it appeared again later) but my brother and his wife FREAKED OUT and went on a tirade about how mean he is, how awful he is, how can I keep such a dog, they don't want to bring Stella over anymore, etc. etc.

He's not mean. He's not unpredictable - I can tell exactly how he's going to react in certain situations (positive or negative). He has come so far. When he was 8 weeks old, he was so terrible at resource guarding that he would run across the room and attack our other dogs if they showed up at the doorway while he was eating. He can now eat in the same room as the others, with a little monitoring and some precautions (not too close, he eats from a slow feeder so the others finish first, etc.). I really am very proud of how far he has come, but because my brother adopted a 6 year old lump of a dog who came pre-trained and with no behavioral issues, all of a sudden he's an expert on how to train dogs. And the many ways in which I am failing Chisum.

Anyway, rant over. The takeaway is that he shouldn't go off his meds...which of course I knew, but as he is currently living with my parents they are kind of holding the reins on that one.
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Old 12-18-2017, 06:04 PM
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Having toys around just causes conflict. You were right to try to hide the toys and your brother was wrong to keep taking them out and put the dogs at risk for fighting and hurting each other. It's safest and smartest to hide all toys when there's more than one dog around and let the dogs socialize with each other and the people. And to only have toys out for the dogs to amuse themselves with when the dog is alone.
My current dog isn't possessive but likes to try and steal toys and balls to get other dogs to chase and play with him. He'll drop the toy and run if a dog gets angry and growls and he'll give toys to a dog sometimes. But I still try to hide toys to prevent conflict.
Your brother should read about normal dog possessiveness. Just because his dog isn't possessive doesn't mean it's not a normal dog behavior. And if you put away the toys and ask him not to have them out to keep the dogs peaceful, he should respect and listen to you. That would piss me off if I kept putting away the toys and saying no toys out so the dogs get along better. That's very rude and disrespectful behavior on your brother's part.
If I had been in your situation I probably would have gotten angry at them and said it serves you right for not respecting what I've been asking. You're lucky he didn't hurt your dog since you keep stressing him out by threatening his favorite things. Since he can't listen or want to learn basic ways to have dogs safely coexist, it's a good thing if he doesn't bring his dog over anymore. It's also sad that they don't let her go outside and smell things and do normal dog things.
Sounds like he should have gotten some goldfish and not a dog.
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Old 12-19-2017, 09:07 AM
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@Shadowmom - Oh, I do get angry. They don't seem to care. Their dog is possessive as well, it's just that Chisum is usually the one that gets labeled as "bad."

My mother actually pointed this out to me quite reasonably - all of our dogs get grumpy/snappy about one thing or another. It's just natural. But it's only when Chisum does something that everyone gets upset.

As for his dog....she's a Pug/Beagle mix that is smaller than Chisum but weighs at least 10 lbs more. They're moving into a house with a yard so I think she'll at least get out a bit more, but she's fed too much and gets nowhere near the amount of exercise she should. It's funny, because my brother grew up with dogs, but I don't think he's really much of a dog person. He likes HIS dog, but will openly say that other dogs are just "too much" or "too energetic" for him. He's probably better off with cats.
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Old 01-22-2018, 08:24 AM
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I have to update, we had a small win over the weekend!

I had a friend come over. Chisum has met her before, but is absolutely terrified of her (as he is of all strangers). Previously when "meeting" her, he's been super reactive and, when able, has outright hidden. She's actually quite scared of him (though after this weekend, I don't think she is anymore).

When we arrived, he was hiding and when I called his name he came creeping out. He was relieved to see that it was me, but not so much when he saw my friend.

-- This in itself is interesting; when people drive in while we are home he's very reactive. But maybe he hides when he's alone? I'm beginning to notice a pattern where he hides out of pure fear, but when he feels even a bit more secure (people he knows are with him; there's a door between him and the scary thing, etc.) he's more reactive.

Anyway, I had her go outside and I leashed him up and we went. We headed up to the pasture. He was a little funny walking on the leash but I kept him moving at a quick pace so he was fine. Up in the pasture, I immediately took him off the leash. He had a couple of barks and I told him to just keep moving, which he did.

Then.....he was awesome!!

It seemed like being in an open space with plenty of opportunities to move away if needed was amazing for him. I carried chicken, as I always do on hikes, to reward him for checking in or coming when I call. He'd come every now and then and sniff my friend and then go bounding off again. He even licked her a couple of times! She did great too - no eye contact and basically ignored him.

When we got back to the house he struggled a bit - I think he felt more trapped indoors. He did fine though, just kind of making his way over to her and bopping her with his paw before darting off again. He was really, really trying.

Anyway - just had to share. Maybe there's a glimmer of hope yet.
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Old 02-13-2018, 09:57 AM
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We've had a bit of a setback, and I'm not entirely sure what to think. It doesn't help that I'm not at home right now, so I don't know the entire situation.

Apparently Chisum has been a bit questionable towards my father. They have never had the warmest relationship, but my father's never been mean to him and Chisum generally likes his company.

Apparently a few nights ago, my dad tried to get Chisum to come downstairs with him to go to the bathroom and he wouldn't. My dad tried to move him off the bed and he apparently growled at him. I know that doesn't sound like a big deal but Chisum has always been, despite his anxiety, very mellow when it comes to being picked up and moved around. So, from him it's definitely odd.

He also apparently started barking/growling at my father when he was sitting in his chair the other day. Again, kind of strange.

The most concerning incident was when my father was in the bathroom plugging in his razor. I don't know the situation, but apparently Chisum was barking and growling at him and then tried to bite. He didn't make contact, but Chisum has NEVER bitten or tried to bite. Not even people he's afraid of, and from my understanding there wasn't anything to fear in that situation.

I'm just very concerned, and it doesn't help that I wasn't there to see it unfold, either.

I'm not sure what to think. I know it could be medical, but I don't have a lot to go on at the moment and am not sure what the vet would do. I suppose it could be purely behavioral, but again, no idea what could be bothering him so much.
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Old 02-14-2018, 12:26 AM
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im such a softy when it comes to boys like your Chisum. it is beyond amazing the amount of work love and care you put in with him. I often cant help but cry with when there is a setback or happy tears when there is a good moment. I can completely understand the worry not being there and not knowing what is making him so uneasy. Sending you big hugs!!
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Old 02-14-2018, 10:58 AM
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@Lielu - thank you I'm going to be house-sitting for my parents this weekend so will get to spend some time with him and see if he's "off." He's also due for heartworm testing in a few months, so may run a blood panel then and make sure everything's looking good. Obviously will do it sooner if something changes.
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Old 04-23-2018, 09:38 AM
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I'm beginning to notice more of a pattern with Chisum's reactivity, so I thought I'd note it here.

- He seems to do much better outdoors. Especially if we can just keep moving.

- He does BEST outside and off-leash, on a hike for example. I think this is because he can come investigate the scary thing, but has plenty of room to move away if he feels he needs to. I've found it really helpful when I carry treats and reward him for good choices, such as coming over and sniffing and/or walking away when needed, nicely. I think this is similar to what I did with boxes/scary objects for him - treats for good interactions - and I believe he is carrying that over.

- For some reason, he's fine in the barn as well.

- After he warms up to someone, he's then fine with them as long as they don't do anything he feels is suspicious - that will start him barking. Suspicious can really be anything that is totally fine if *I* do it, but he finds sketchy when done by a stranger. For example, laying down on the floor. Closing the shower curtain. Etc.

- If said stranger is in another room, he'll run a route from checking on them to running back to me, then checking on them again. It's pretty funny. Lots of praise for him too, since he's checking it out without reacting.


I managed to get him comfortable with one of my friends this weekend, and have been noting how he responds in different locations/situations. I'm forever grateful that he's not mean, just loud, and that he's so willing to be brave and put himself out there.
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