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Delilah- Jack Russell x Rat Terrier; Marshmellow- Netherland Dwarf Rabbit
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
For some background my dog Delilah has canine compulsive disorder. She is a 6-7 yo JRT x Rat Terrier. She is a rescue from the south and was found as a stray, in a high kill, and then a dog sanctuary before I adopted her at around 6ish months old. In addition to early trauma, her embark DNA test indicates she has an inbreeding coefficient of 50%.

She’s always been very anxious and reactive, and overreacts and fixates on things in her environment. This includes any form of moving water like waves or hoses, particles floating in the air like dust and snow, and anything blowing in the wind or even the sound of blowing wind. When she was younger she was still obsessed with water and dust, but it seemed more manageable. She wasn’t constantly triggered outside like she is today, and we were able to do a lot of hiking in the past.

As the compulsive disorder progressed and got worse, we have been unable to go outside for even a potty break without her getting triggered.

In the past we have worked with various trainers on obedience, agility (had to quit for various reasons), anxiety, reactivity, and aggression towards other pets.

We are currently working with a trainer who uses a rewards based system to teach the dog how to be calm. We do something called a behavioral down every day where I step on her leash and just sit there until she is completely relaxed- lying on the floor, breathing deeply, not reacting to the environment like swiveling her ears or looking around. When she is fully relaxed I take off the leash and release her. The goal is to teach the dog to calm herself down without intervention from the owner. We can do these indoors very easily but have been unable to progress outdoors, even to the back deck so far.

I also do differential reinforcement for relaxation and mark and reward her throughout the day for being calm, relaxed, or “becoming” more calm (shake offs, yawning, physically slowing down, etc).

We are also working with a vet behaviorist and so far have tried fluoxetine, gabapentin, and now have been on clomipramine for 2 months, recently increasing the dose.

My goal is to be able to bring her on walks and hikes again without her freaking out every time the weather changes.

I hope to find an effective medication for her and working on relaxation throughout the winter and see how she does outside in the spring when it’s warmer. If she’s doing better we’re going to try to do decompression walks every day to give her more exercise and enrichment out in nature.

For credit: The idea of the decompression walk comes from Sarah Stremming of the Cognitive Canine and the relaxation exercises like the behavioral down and DRR are from the Training Between the Ears program by Mark McCabe.

Dog Dog breed Carnivore Working animal Whiskers
 

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Delilah- Jack Russell x Rat Terrier; Marshmellow- Netherland Dwarf Rabbit
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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
This past weekend I had success walking her outdoors during a few warm days. There was a slight breeze as well as cars passing us that would occasionally cause leaves to blow by. Delilah was very good at being redirected for the most part. We got to one part in the road that was very tricky and windy and I was not able to redirect her from the leaves, grasses blowing in the wind and the sound of wind. At that point we turned around and walked home. Each walk was about 15-20 min.

I marked and reinforced her for
1) Looking to me for support and direction
2) Walking on a loose leash
3) Sniffing and exploring the environment like a normal dog instead of being on alert looking for things to fixate on.
4) Redirecting and coming to me whenever she started fixating on a trigger.

I also did some scatter feeding whenever a car would pass so she would start looking for treats on the ground instead of leaves blowing in the road.

We did a few behavioral downs and one night she got fully into relaxation (sometimes she is calm but not fully relaxed). I could tell because when I took the leash off to release her from the exercise she stayed lying down, relaxed on her blanket instead of immediately standing up. This is a great improvement.

It snowed all night yesterday and she did fixate on the snow when I took her out to go potty (even though it was dark and hard to see the snow). So for the rest of the night and this morning while it was still snowing she had to wear her calming cap so that she wouldn’t see the snow.

Snow White Dog Vertebrate Carnivore


Dog breed Carnivore Textile Felidae Beak
 

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Delilah- Jack Russell x Rat Terrier; Marshmellow- Netherland Dwarf Rabbit
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
It was very lightly snowing this morning so I brought her out in her calming cap. She wouldn't poop because she wanted it off so I did take it off. This might not mean anything if she didn't see the snow falling, but she didn't react at all and just sniffed all the areas the neighbor dogs have been and pooped! I think she'll still have reactions in the future, especially with heavier snow but I feel so much happiness and relief right now that we had a normal potty outing this morning!
 

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Delilah- Jack Russell x Rat Terrier; Marshmellow- Netherland Dwarf Rabbit
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
It's been a couple weeks since I posted. My ex had Delilah for the week of Christmas. We share custody. He's not great at training but he loves her and he tries his best. My ex, my bf, and I had a zoom appointment with the veterinary behaviorist I've been working with to discuss Delilah's progress. It seems she is having some improvement with the clomipramine (I told her about the events I posted on here with the walks and the snow). We didn't really need much training advice but for the beams of light/dust in the house, she told me to give Delilah a food puzzle, obedience command, or some other sort of "job" to do after I tell her to "leave it" when she's chasing dust or light. I've always been worried about giving attention or food and creating a behavior chain where she'll go to chase the light to get my attention. But the behaviorist said I can't just tell her "leave it" and expect her to come up with a more appropriate behavior on her own which is fair and makes sense.

Delilah has also gotten very fat. My boyfriend came from a household where his parents literally hit the poor dog to "train" him. Since moving in with me my boyfriend has embraced positive training but I'm working with him to use less food considering my dog (was) only 8 lbs. I told him to give her one kibble or small treat per behavior, not a whole handful like I've seen him do. I've also told him he can't give her peanut butter anymore. I was only putting a smear in a toy like her kong, but I found out he's been giving her 2-3 servings worth of peanut butter throughout the day. It's 190 calories per serving. My dog only needs 300 calories a day total. So I've forbidden him from giving her peanut butter at all. I guess that's the drawback of having a tiny dog and using food for training and enrichment. Hopefully she'll have a visible waistline now that we're not giving her peanut butter anymore.

Here are some ways I was using food for enrichment up until this week...
Between the weather being horribly cold and Delilah not being able to deal with snow or wind, I have to find ways to occupy her indoors.

Raw meaty bones
Wood Table Cat Comfort Dog breed


Food puzzles and blankets folded up with treats (DIYsnuffle mat)
Brown Wood Floor Flooring Wood stain


Licky mat with plain yogurt, peanut butter
Dog Door mat Dog breed Wood Pet supply
 

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Delilah- Jack Russell x Rat Terrier; Marshmellow- Netherland Dwarf Rabbit
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
She sounds like she is doing well and looks good with that tuck.
Thanks! Those photos were from a few weeks ago! She’s round now xD. She’s so small she gains and loses weight so easily. It’s really hard when we’re doing a lot of training to keep her diet well balanced and low in calories!
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Saturday 1/8

So last weekend was a bit challenging for Delilah. My parents came to visit from out of state. They used to live in state and she'd see them frequently and they'd watch her for me, but they moved a few years ago so now she only sees them once or twice a year. She can still be pretty barky towards my dad but he knows to ignore her and she'll stop and just ignore him. She is obsessed with my mom and freaks out barking, but also trying to kiss her and climb into her lap. My mom is not as good at following instructions to ignore her, and has even picked her up from behind a baby gate and gone into my room where she's been crated to see her, after I've told her to ignore the dog. This visit both of my parents followed instructions and ignored her until she stopped barking, but Delilah was so excited and overwhelmed that she was constantly looking for dust to fixate on, pacing around, and when I took her out to go potty she was looking at the sky for snow even though it wasn't snowing out. It definitely overstimulated her and triggered her compulsive behaviors. I tried to manage her for maybe about an hour but I got tired of it and wanted to visit with my parents so I just ended up putting her in her crate, because she wouldn't calm down and settle.

How I brought her out to see my parents:
She had her clomipramine and regular CBD in the morning and about 15 minutes prior to them coming over I gave her a new CBD/CBG/CBN oil that is a little stronger. She was in her crate for about half an hour until the greetings were over and everyone was settled. I took her out on a leash and just started throwing treats initially while she barked for a couple minutes to get her attention and calm her down a little, and then raised criteria and marked and rewarded for whenever she stopped barking. We were at the top of the stairs and when she started barking I'd say "nope" and move her back a step with spatial pressure. When she stopped I'd mark "yes" give her treats, move her down a step, and give her more treats on that step. The whole process took maybe 10-15 minutes or so. And these are people she knows... Maybe I should have just put her back in her crate but they wanted to see her and they also wanted to see the bedroom that we had recently redecorated, so I would have had to move her out of the bedroom anyways.

Sunday 1/9

The next day my boyfriend had a friend over while I was at work. I didn't know he was coming over. In the past my boyfriend has put her in her crate when he's had people over. But I guess she met this friend once and did okay so he didn't have her in her crate. The friend knocked on the door (which freaked her out) and then came in and I guess she was barking at him pretty aggressively, and running up to him and staying just out of reach while screaming/barking. My boyfriend caught her and put her in her crate, but I was pretty upset when I came home from work and heard what happened. He said he didn't know why she reacted like that when she was fine meeting his friend in the past. I told him:
1) My parents were over yesterday and she was still stressed from that- still had cortisol in her system and whatnot
2) His friend knocked which freaks a lot of dogs out- the sudden loud noise announcing there's someone here that doesn't live here.
3) Last time she had been in her crate for a couple hours while they played music and then was let out carefully after everyone was settled down and calm.

My boyfriend was just very frustrated and said he wished she was a normal dog that is friendly with people :(
 

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Delilah- Jack Russell x Rat Terrier; Marshmellow- Netherland Dwarf Rabbit
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thinking about the incidents last weekend…

I think I’m going to introduce a clicker in addition the verbal marker. My reasoning for a verbal marker is that I won’t always have a clicker but I’ll always have my voice with me, and you can use different tones and volumes to express different levels of enthusiasm and emotion.

But I think a clicker will be able to get through to her more clearly when she is overstimulated because she might block out my voice but the clicking sound is very distinct. I’m reading “When Pigs Fly” by Jane Killion and she makes a compelling argument for using both clickers and verbal markers.

I will practice taking her out of her crate and taking her downstairs on a lead as if there were guests over, without the pressure of someone actually being over, and capture/shape appropriate behavior for going down the stairs when she thinks there is someone at the bottom in the living room.

After that we will have some friends over to practice this. I really want to get her more comfortable with guests.


Pic for tax. I can do another post about how I got her to be good with rabbits when she used to want to hunt them.
Dog Dog breed Mammal Carnivore Whiskers
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
This morning we did a behavioral down with beams of light which is one of her triggers for her compulsive disorder. Whenever it’s really bright in the morning she starts fixating on the dust floating in beams of like and just staring at it with her tail twitching, sometimes she starts crying or screaming.

This morning was very bright and I noticed her starting to go to the light and staring.

Since I wasn’t working today I had time to do a behavioral down to get her to relax with the light in the room.

I put on a flat collar and a leash and stepped on it so she had enough room to stand up, lie down, and turn, but not enough to start chasing the light. I put a soft blanket down for her to lie and and be comfortable.

It started off with her staring at the light, her ears pricked. Eventually she became more and more relaxed. She moved slowly into a more comfortable position, first lowering her head, then rolling onto her hip, and eventually curling up in a ball. Her breathing became slower and heavier. Her eyes closed and her ears stopped twitching at sound. When she was fully relaxed I released her from the leash. She got up, stretched, and then jumped onto the couch to lie next to me instead of chase the light.

We started at 10:09. I worked on an online dog course for an hour and released her at 11:19 when she was relaxed.

10:09 Staring at the light
Dog Dog breed Carnivore Houseplant Companion dog


Dog Felidae Carnivore Textile Collar


10:13 Lowered her head but still staring
Dog Dog breed Carnivore Collar Felidae


10:17 Not staring but not relaxed. Moved her head away. Ears still pricked.
Carnivore Collar Dog Dog breed Grey


10:37 in a more comfortable
Dog Comfort Dog breed Carnivore Felidae


11:13 Almost fully relaxed and lying in the warmth of the light- not fixating on light or dust at all
Brown Vertebrate Comfort Textile Mammal


11:19 Curled up and fully relaxed- I released her after this photo
Comfort Finger Fawn Felidae Thigh
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Disclaimer on the last post- we did a lot of work with this exercise without any stressors or challenges like the light before doing this with the light. We started out at night when she was already calmer in a quiet environment with nothing that would stress her out and worked towards being able to relax during this exercise with potential stressors like the light. If you have a compulsive disorder dog or a dog that has other challenging behavior don’t try this for the first time, or even the tenth, when they’re in a state of stress. You have to spend a LOT of time building up to it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
This morning was good, we did that successful behavioral down that got her to relax and stop fixating on the light. She got to open her Christmas presents and play with her new toys, and have a fish chew. It was good enrichment for her. (We had to do Christmas late this year).

This afternoon has been difficult. She's been very reactive to noise lately. She always has been sensitive and reactive to sound but today she is barking at every single noise she hears outside. We live in a condo complex with multiple people living in a small space. It's the weekend and there are a lot of people coming and going- we've been hearing people talking, yelling, car doors slamming, cars driving by. She's barking at everything. I've tried reinforcing her for when she's not barking but it's not working and I'm worried I'm creating a behavior chain of her barking at noise and then me marking and reinforcing her when she stops. The last one though- our next door neighbor who we could hear talking and slamming his car doors very clearly- she wouldn't stop at all and I had to put her in her crate. So that's where she is right now and I'm not sure how to get her to stop barking constantly at every single little noise.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
To be optimistic, we do have some cool training stuff coming up that hopefully will continue to help improve behavior.

Kindness is Essential, Not Optional: Free 14 Day Dog Behaviour Conference For People Who LOVE Their Dogs But Sometimes Feel A Little Embarrassed Or Overwhelmed By Their Behaviour.
Fenzi Dog Sport Academy: BH305: The Whole Picture - Behavioral Wellness for Performance Dogs, a 6 week course on Sarah Stremming's four steps to behavioral wellness (exercise, enrichment, nutrition, and communication). This course will have enrichment ideas and training games. She really needs a lot of indoor enrichment since she can't go outside.
Consult with local trainer: a local trainer is going to do a consult with me on helping dogs release negative emotions/energy. I've been taking a couple online courses from her and working with a trainer she mentored.
Happy Rescue Dogs Online Course: A course I've been working on by that local trainer that uses a lot of rewards based training, differential reinforcement for relaxation, that behavioral down exercise I posted about, and physical touch like massage to condition relaxation. The training philosophy of the course is to encourage relaxation, help with general anxiety, and increase stress threshold. The idea is if you address baseline stress and anxiety you will build a foundation that helps the dog deal with bigger stressors and behavioral problems.


With these courses I'm definitely looking to improve her mental health and meet her needs, hopefully addressing some underlying issues can help with her overall behavior.
 
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