Thursday, June 28, 2012

Alone at the Dog Park

Doesn't mean he won't prance around

Inspecting the tire tunnel. I couldn't convince him to go in it, though.

Looking at a treat--and grabbing onto the sand for dear life?

Trying to get the ball out of the sand

I love all the doggie paw prints!

And here--if this works--is Desmond in action:

If that doesn't work, click here to see the video of Desmond trying to get a tennis ball out of the sand and making some goat noises. Oh, and you'll hear some pretty birdies chirping in the background, too.

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Trip to the Vet: Reader Input

Everyone has been helpful and supportive in response to my Trip to the Vet stories, as this community has proven to be time and time again.

There were a lot of suggestions and questions in the comments of the Part 2 post, so I thought I would take a minute to address them all in a post of their own.

Of course, once we have our appointment with the new vet in July, I'll follow up here.


Random pix of Des make me happy,
so I'm including them .
Mel from No Dog About It said, "If Desmond is one stressed out puppy than it could and likely is affecting his digestion. ... I don't know if you have looked into TTouch or music from Through A Dog's Ear, but it may be worth a shot to helping Desmond calm down."

Actually, we do have music from Through A Dog's Ear! We left it playing for Des while we were at work for quite some time but went through a period where we had misplaced our ipod and therefore were not playing him any music, and he was completely fine; so we decided to save ourselves the electric bill increase (it was noticeable) and not put it on anymore.

TTouch--and doggie massage in general--is something I've been interested in and would love to incorporate into my future training business, so I am 100% open to this. In fact, much like Jodi Stone, I have been inadvertently doing some TTouch with Desmond, and he does get very relaxed. And as it turns out, there is an affordable, three-hour TTouch workshop available at an awesome doggie daycare place not 15 minutes away from my house. I will look into that for sure.

Sarah, from Married with Dawgs, said, "If he gets moisture with food, then he should be less likely to gulp & gulp on a full stomach. ... Including fresher foods as part or all of the diet will likely help. Raw or home cooked meals take half the time to digest as kibble. At the very least, I would recommend adding a probiotic or Greek yogurt with each meal. Many people find the Pepcid is unnecessary once they add in the probiotics. ... My very last thought: a limited ingredient diet may help - one protein, one carb/grain."

Thank you, Sarah! Up until very recently, Desmond was taking a probiotic every day. The chugging/puking issue is not a new one, so I don't think it's related to the probiotic.

In fact, we recently took Des off of all of the supplements we were giving him, because we started to feel like we were giving him too many supplements and wanted to kind of get back to square one and figure out what he really needs. Plus, we upgraded from Blue Buffalo to Nature's Logic--the smallest pieces of kibble I've ever seen--and there may be enough probiotics in Nature's Logic to justify not buying a supplement. The jury is still out, as we're in the middle of the switch.

On the kibble note, we have been adding water to his meals for the last three weeks or so. Additionally, he gets his food supplemented with appropriate veggies and fruit on a regular basis; we periodically buy a big tub of yogurt to add to his food; and we often share with him the protein from our own dinners--whenever it's safe to do so. Maybe we aren't doing these things with enough consistency to make any claims, but I feel pretty confident poor diet is not to blame. 

That being said, I never thought about the L.I.D. aspect, and I never considered kibble as the supplement to home-cooked meals (instead of the other way around). Food for thought... (pun intended). I'll definitely talk to the vet about this.

What? Is this not what happens at your house
during doggie laundry/bath day?
Finn Howard's momma mentioned something I had been thinking about myself, "We do give Finn water with her food, but I'm not sure that slows down any kind of gulping."

I completely agree. Adding water to meals hasn't slowed down Desmond's eating--but his eating speed isn't really the issue. When we first got him, we wanted Desmond to eat slower, so we put toys in his food bowl. :-) Now we're adding water to make eating easier. And I have a theory that this might make him drink less water, but I have no official results on that.
Koira's mom, from My Life With Flyball Dogs, said, "I found a huge benefit in using anti anxiety medications with Koira. I have had a lot of success not just while she is on them, but in training to help her stay below threshold enough to actually be able to train. ... Also, it helps to be able to give her a pill before a long car ride so she can relax a bit instead of stress panting in my ear for hours on end."

Exactly. That's exactly what I'm hoping for from medication.

And I have to say, I really get what you mean about the car. We don't get stress panting, though. We get whining. And a lot of moving around--as much as he can strapped in. And attempts to get up to the front seat. But he doesn't get sick, and he's always eager to get into the car, so we can only assume it's his anxiety. We've noticed also that he doesn't like driving on the streets and he doesn't like being stuck in traffic; when we're moving along on a highway, he's fine (we've made many Speed jokes). Oh, and he hates the blinker. Goes nuts when we use it. We primarily take him in the car to go to the dog park, or other places where nothing bad happens, so I don't think it's like he's sitting there going, "OMG, we're going to the V-E-T!" We've tried positive reinforcement for calmness, but it has done nothing.

Bringing Up Bella's Leslie said, "Getting help and prescribing meds shouldn't be seen as a last resort. It should be seen as another tool in your arsenal to help your dog live a healthy, happy and comfortable life. Bella was so stressed for so long....  Since we have had her on the meds...we can now keep her 'under threshold'. ...
[M]eds aren't a cure-all. They don't provide a quick fix and getting the right combination/dosage is probably going to take some time and effort...."

Thank you, Leslie (and Sage's mom, from The (mis)Adventures of Sagewho also noted finding the right meds can be hard)! I know you are in a very similar boat. "Under threshold" is my ultimate goal. I may make it my mantra. The quest to find the right medication and the right dosage is not going to be fun--or cheap--but it is what it is. If I weren't willing to do these kinds of things, I would not have taken a dog into my life.

Jasmine had some great questions, "Is his problem mechanical (low motility) or chemical (the food is not getting digested? Could the anxiety actually be an effect, rather than a cause, if digestion not working properly, then some nutrients might not get absorbed and some deficiencies can also lead to psychological symptoms?"

Des is not amused that I'm amused.
If I understand the doctor's diagnosis correctly, his system is slow to digest food, so it's a matter of low motility. I absolutely believe the anxiety could be an effect of Desmond being physically not his best, but what I truly believe in my heart is that it's both and it's all connected as a vicious circle (think: I eat because I feel bad and then I feel bad because I ate).

Tanya, from Mazzie Takes Manhattan, said, "I ended up going with something holistic because of the potential side effects [of standard medications]. I also switched to a home cooked diet (lean proteins and veggies) with supplements to aid digestion and nutrient absorption, which I feed to her in food toys. This forces her not to gobble up her food in a nanosecond and also keeps her busy when I'm away. 
In addition to the changes above, I also did a TON of obedience and behavioral work.... [M]y current behaviorist/nutritionist, with whom I've been working for nearly 3 years.... Once I met her, I realized that there are ton of really fantastic trainers out there who have no idea how to manage and rehabilitate dogs with real issues. It just requires a completely different (and special) skill set."

First of all, Tanya, I am so glad you brought up the issue about trainers. Many people think a trainer is a trainer is a trainer.

Because I'm in school to become a professional dog trainer, I feel really weird writing posts about training challenges I'm having with Desmond. I'm afraid people are going to think I'm some kind of idiot.

Primarily, I am learning obedience training along with some basic problem solving. What's not part of my education is behavior modification--which is what Desmond really needs. I have no specialization for working with reactive dogs. Will I one day? Hopefully, but at the moment I know the same stuff anyone who reads Feisty Fido (affiliate link) and does a bunch of online research knows. I need help, too, and that's OK.

As for holistic options--which Peggy and Jodi also mentioned--I'm not sure they are going to work for us, as I feel like we've tried almost every option out there. Some of these things--or a combination of all of them--helped to severely decrease Desmond's separation anxiety issues (you can read all about this via the links at the end of this post). Unfortunately, nothing appears to have any effect on his reactivity-related anxiety.

Anna, from Vizsla Inspiration, said, "To me it makes total sense to try and feed him things that he is not allergic to (sometimes these are mild allergies that you never would know about otherwise as the outward signs are not strong enough) so his whole system is calmer. ... My friend's dog also takes a pepcid with every meal, which really does help too."

The more I think about things, the more I want to ask our new vet about an allergy test. Good thing we finally got Desmond on VPI. Oy vey. As for the pepcid, I still don't know what to make of it, because he went through a whole package of it, and I really didn't see results. Isn't that the type of stuff that should work almost immediately?

Karen, from Doggie Stylish, successfully scared the crap out of me by describing clomicalm as "*very* expensive". (Uh...what was I just saying about insurance? Let's hope this is covered!) Thanks, Karen! ;-)

Des and a friend having a staring contest at the dog park.
Finally, Donna, from Donna and the Dogs, said, "Meadow's on a very low dose of prozac, and we were actually dead set against medication at first, but it has helped her tremendously, so I am of course, no longer a nay sayer! Like you say, its no magic bullet, but it has definitely taken the edge off of her fear so we can actually get through to her."

I think Donna unintentionally found the reason why I feel so uncomfortable about putting Desmond on anxiety medication: I'm afraid people will think we have given up--that we're looking for a magic bullet, that we're assuming this will fix everything and training is no longer going to be necessary. Actually, that's what I'm afraid of in regards to what dog people will think.

Then there are all the people who are decidely not dog people. And they are likely going to think I'm nuts and making way too big a deal out of things for (and I repeat) "just a dog". Obviously, I don't consider Desmond "just a dog", and I'm pretty sure at this point that the people who say things like "just a dog" and I are simply not on the same page, probably in more ways than one, and I really need to stop giving a hoot what they have to say or what they think.

I may be a crazy dog lady, but that's unrelated to me wanting the pet I chose to take into my care to have his best physical & mental life possible. There's nothing wrong with wanting my dog to be happy and healthy. Why is it so hard to convince myself to feel this way with conviction? Am I the only one dealing with this particular kind of mental anguish?
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Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Makeup of a Mutt

On Wednesday, you met the dog I grew up with, Clarence. I told you that we didn't know much about him--I think we got him from North Shore Animal League, but I was really too young to remember--other than he was a lazy mixed-breed dog.

I could be making this up, but I feel like my parents always referred to him as a terrier mix. I can see why they might say that, but I'm not really sure that I agree. The only terrier I think I see in him is Tibetan terrier, and that's not even really a terrier.  Here's what you guys said you thought you saw:

Sadie Shih Tzu on the table
Shih-Tzu (all images via flickr.)
Lhasa Apso
Lhasa apso
Westie - West Highland Terrier Dog
Schnauzer Fashion
Here's a few shots of the Tibetan terrier: 

chilling in the garden

The Cutest Tibetan Terrier :-)

Now, take another look at Mr. Clarence (OK, yes, and me & my dad--here's hoping my dad doesn't cut me out of the will for this...):

As you can see, he's much bigger than the toy/mini dogs above, but he could be on par with the schnauzers, Westies, and Tibetans. Maybe even a Lhasa, though he's taller, I think. (No, I have no idea what that thing is that I'm cradling. Some sort of stuffed animal? At first glance, I thought it was a toy phone, but it clearly is something soft. Do you like my ladies' Canadian tuxedo? This is from when I was still a cute kid. Then the following happened...)

Oh dear... (Yes that so is a 90210 book of some sort that I was excited enough about to include in this photo. Where is AJ?? I bet she had one too!)

Yes, the glasses did get slightly smaller, but then the braces were added. Good thing I have a cute doggie to distract from that.

So, what do you guys think now? Any new input or changed minds? Maybe I should take Raelyn's advice and just let him be a mutt. Or I could go with my very favorite suggestion: a mutty-poo! How great is that? Thanks for my new favorite word, Peggy! :-)
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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: My Childhood Dog

Look, everyone! It's Clarence!

All we ever knew about him is that he was a mutt--a very lazy mutt. Any ideas what breeds might be hiding in there?

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Trip to the Vet: Part 2

Last month, we took Desmond to the vet to address some things, the most pressing of which was his tendency to chug water and throw up. I asked you guys what you thought his problem/diagnosis was and if you had any suggestions for us, and you commented with vigor. All of your input is appreciated!

Today, I'm going to finally tell you what the vet said.

When the doctor was poking and prodding Desmond, my pup got very uncomfortable when the prods were directed at his gut. Though we had no reason to think Des had swallowed something, we had x-rays done anyway. And what did we find? Nothing.

Well, that's not completely true.

We didn't find any objects in there (unlike a certain Mr. Leroy), but we did find that his stomach was distended. My poor furry friend has digestion problems, as in, his system is very slow so he stays full of food for much longer than is normal. This is why when he chugs water--even if it's not a large amount--he often throws up right away. Most of the time, there simply isn't enough room in there for it, especially when he takes it in with so much gusto.

"Digestion problems? What digestion problems?"
Don't worry--we didn't let him eat that all in one sitting!
The vet didn't seem to think this was one of those emergency cases of bloat but more like a chronic issue that has potential to be a pretty serious problem. He prescribed Desmond some medicine: Reglan and Pepcid. Most of you probably know what pepcid is, but in case you can't be bothered clicking through to find out what reglan is, it's basically a drug that helps you digest faster.

In addition to the medication, he told us to split Desmond's meals into three times a day instead of two times a day.

We followed all directions--and then had to modify them a bit.

When we gave Des the reglan, the reglan gave Des other digestive issues. It was like he was now digesting too fast. The poor guy was running to the potty all day. So, we decided to give him only half of each reglan pill at a time (he was supposed to take two pills a day) and see if that stopped the side effect. It did. But we aren't sure that it did anything else. Meaning, Desmond was still throwing up sometimes.

He was definitely throwing up less, but I can't possibly attribute that to the reglan/pepcid alone, because we were also giving him smaller meals and we were watching him like a hawk with the water, removing the bowl from under him when necessary.

We finished all the meds, and nothing really changed. We sent an email to the vet to follow up, as they requested, but we didn't hear anything back from them (which is unlike them). Instead of harassing them for answers/information, we decided to make an appointment for a second opinion, because I had been wanting to explore other vet options anyway.

I honestly don't know if there's a medical answer to this problem is; my instinct tells me it's going to be a matter of making sure he doesn't get to drink a large amount of water at any time. On the other hand...

Aren't digestion & stress closely related?

Desmond definitely does still have anxiety issues--that I fully believe are only getting worse--and I have seen him throw up in times of great stress/great excitement (he also has other digestive problems when he gets stressed). So, perhaps addressing his anxiety will help with his digestion. I know that humans with digestion problems are sometimes prescribed anxiety meds.

At this point, I pretty much hope that the new vet--who specializes in behavior/training issues, although he is not a board certified veterinary behaviorist--wants to try anxiety medication for Desmond, because I think it has the potential to help him in a variety of ways (our current vet has said that Desmond doesn't need it, but my gut disagrees). If you aren't already thinking what I'm thinking, one of those ways is in relation to his reactivity.

Sure, most dogs get anxious when you start packing,
but Des shows this kind of anxiety often.
Many of you are well aware that with some dogs, no amount of behavior modification or desensitization is going to work on its own. If the dog is far too stressed out to be able to focus or even receive your verbal & visual signals, he won't be able to learn the appropriate new behaviors and associations, training is going to fail, and the reactivity can get worse.

I don't expect anxiety meds to be magic pills that will fix all Desmond's problems, but I do have hope that they would help him relax, in general, and that might settle all of his insides. We'll find out soon enough. Our appointment is next month.

In the meantime, we will stalk him while he drinks water, try to keep his excitement levels down, and manage his reactivity triggers the best we can.

There is a part of me that feels kind of bad, almost like we would be resorting to medication or like we're making a bigger problem out of this than it needs to be, but I think that feeling may be a result of my hearing on a fairly regular basis things along the lines of "he's just a dog."

Even though I know it's the option I want to try next, I feel very weird about it.

Do any of you know what I mean? Have you had to figure out if these types of medications are the right move for your dog? Have you seen a connection between stress and digestion in your pup? Tell me everything!
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Thursday, June 14, 2012

K9 Kamp: Week Four

Four weeks of K9 Kamp have come and gone, and we are buff as can be over here!

OK, OK, that's totally a lie, but truth be told, I did lose five pounds since the beginning of Kamp. Seriously!

I've been very good about making sure I get my workouts in, even when I can't involve the pup, so I need to give a big thanks to everyone who has been playing along and/or reading along. Without threat of public humiliation, I may have been a slacker. Kamp has been in the back of my mind for the last month, pushing me along to do things when I want to watch awful reality TV instead.

I'm pretty sure this calls for another "woo", probably a louder and longer one.


The last challenge given to us by the folks at Kol's Notes and Peggy's Pet Place was to come up with our own challenge. That's right--I was left to my own devices for six whole days. Scary, yes, but not even a minor injury occurred. All of our limbs and paw pads are intact. Promise!

What usually goes down on these occasions when I get to come up with my own ideas, unobstructed? I make big plans that fall flat.

I'm so very excellent at thinking more or better things will happen than actually do, at having unrealistic expectations, at forgetting how even when I plan for extra time it's not enough time. Le sigh...

So I was talking lots of smack in comments last week when I said I was going to break out our mini-agility course (Amazon affiliate link) for the yard in honor of the last K9 Kamp challenge. It never happened. Although, while we were doing yard work (real yard work, not Desmond's idea of yard work), I went into the shed and saw the obstacle course box and said to myself, "Oh yes, we need to do that. Tomorrow."

Good intentions. Zero follow-through.

However, we did lots of other stuff:
  • walking & jogging
  • tug
  • fetch
  • recall practice with hide & seek games built in
  • using the designated break times in my workouts to play fight with Desmond
  • climbing/jumping on & off benches, low walls, etc.
  • Paws-Up practice on items of varying heights
  • Spin/Around practice (I am not sure that I'll ever be able to say to Desmond, "Spin around!" and have him respond with a quick figure eight, but here's hoping. For now, it's two separate cues--still with luring, although there's no food in my hand--following one another. Maybe I'll try that "backwards" training method...)
  • flirt pole shenanigans


Oh yes, shenanigans.

We've had our flirt pole (affiliate link) for a while but had to wait for our grass to grow (we had to reseed the yard) to use it, as it's dangerous on other surfaces. I tried it out with Des once before the attempt I made for K9 Kamp. It was a big hit! I was super happy.

Of course, this led me to thinking he was going to be all about it this time--oh yeah, I'm going to take some freakin' pictures. This is gonna be great! 

Well, thanks a lot, dog. Thanks for making a fool of me again. Behold:

Trying to entice Desmond with the wildly colored, unidentified creature hanging off the pole was useless when he was too busy staring down the Lair of the Cats (aka, our neighbor's house)

I tried really hard.

But Desmond is a jerk with his own agenda

He even had the nerve to take a rest while all this was going on

Even when I was running around with this thing (is it supposed to be a lizard?), he wasn't interested. Until...

He was. Inexplicably.

Um... and then he wasn't

And then he was! Yay!

Once he finally started jumping for it and got hold of the thing, I took my blurry picture and called the photo attempt a day. I let him play for a while and then asked him to drop it. Then I gave him a good ear scratch and set the toy aloft again. We managed to do this about six times before he got bored with me again or, more likely, got annoyed that I wouldn't let him rip the thing to shreds. I consider this a success.

All in all, I had a blast at K9 Kamp, and I learned three very important things:
  1. Do not try to run sprints with a crazy greyhound mix, wonky legs or no wonky legs. It's a terrible idea. You will feel like you might be dying and you will risk falling & having your face scraped off as you get dragged down the road. Or you'll lose your dog, however temporarily or permanently. I did not lose my dog, but if I had been on my way down to the floor at any point, I can't say for sure that I wouldn't have instinctively dropped the leash in favor of face-preservation. Sorry, Des. I've known my face a lot longer than I've known you, and I'm kinda partial to having it around.
  2. I really do have a lot more time to burn calories than I was telling myself I did.
  3. Threat of public humiliation is an incredible motivator. Makes me wonder if we shouldn't bring this kind of thing back for criminals. Although, criminals likely do not also have the threat of a bathing suit–dominated vacation looming very, very nearby.
So what did everybody else learn?

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

More Waterfront Walks

Because we live in a neighborhood that's chopped up by canals & marinas and partially bordered by Hewlett Bay, I have access to a variety of pretty things to see and lovely places to walk my crazy doggie.

The stillness, the quiet, the sunrises, and the wildlife that accompany us on our walks do not get old.

Recently, I took Des down to our county park's shoreline, which is definitely not a beach but it can be pretty nonetheless. This is the scene of Desmond's outstanding performance of early June, when he immediately dropped a freakin' crab shell on command* (my LWD FB peeps may have seen my status update about that). I wanted to scoop him up and bottle that moment forever and ever. And then douse him with it when he's acting a fool at other times, so I can be like, "Hey, Jerkface, you can be calm and responsive and awesome, so cut the crap!"

Anyway... Stillness and quiet and sunrise and wildlife.

The sun coming up behind a baseball field

A cute spot for a picnic



Down at the water, deep in thought

Giving me a sit & focus long enough for me to make sure I got that seagull in the shot

Some random clam shells that Desmond did not try to steal (I wanted to go back and take a pic of the crab shell, but I thought that would be pushing my luck so I let it go)

Humoring me for another photo
I like to see the difference in the light from when we first get out and when we're leaving

This was not long after Memorial Day weekend, and I have to say there was quite a bit of nonsense scattered about thanks to litterbugs, but Desmond was a rock star and ignored all of it other than that far-too-enticing crab shell.

By the way, this is my 200th post. How did that happen?

* I have come to dislike the word "command" and favor the word "cue" when it comes to training, but I do feel that safety-related behaviors mesh a little better in my mind with the idea of commanding someone to do something. A drop-it or a leave-it are often things you need your dog to do immediately and thoroughly, whereas fancy footwork moves & party tricks are just a fun bonus of having your pooch in your life.
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