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erikor

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  1. erikor

    Darcy.

    Thank you to all for your supportive and very kind comments. And I should add that we are so grateful for our brief time with Darcy. He taught us a lot about dogs and ourselves. And although he struggled, his love for us was clear. And to GentleLake’s point, for a while I thought we were “unlucky” and wished we had gotten a different dog. But then it occurred to me that Darcy was going to end up somewhere and I am so thankful he ended up with us where he was loved and patiently cared for to the end.
  2. erikor

    Darcy.

    This is a hard post to write, and likely a hard post to read. But I perhaps our story will provide some consolation to other who walk similarly difficult paths. Readers of these forums will know we struggled from the get go with our Darcy. Certainly a part of the issue was that we were new dog owners and needed to learn about setting the right limits on both humans and dogs. But when Darcy's nipping and high arousal began to escalate, we sought the help of a behavioralist and a trainer (who had worked with thousands of border collies over the years). They both agreed that Darcy's high arousal was very unusual. We started fluoxetine, and then clonidine. This helped a fair bit and we were able to get some traction with training and make some progress with counter conditioning stimuli like noises in the house and cars on the streets. However, in my last post I mentioned we were still struggling with resource guarding. Despite a lot of patient work with trading and building trust, the resource guarding became worse and worse and less and less predictable. He lunged and bit my oldest child just for holding his hand out to see if he wanted a pet (at the time, Darcy was just laying on the floor--he did not even have any resources other than his space). I bent down to pick up his leash one day and he lunged and bit me several times. It became clear he was not safe in the house with our children (let alone anyone else's children). It is possible that all of this could have been managed. But since his anxiety and resulting aggression were getting worse and less predictable, we felt he could not be safely managed in our home. Because he was so young and getting worse despite medication, management, and patient and loving training it was the opinion of the trainer and behavioralist that he could not be safely re-homed. The breeder would take him back, but who knows what he would have experienced there? The breeder, despite being well intentioned and a pleasant person, had given us Darcy way too early (less than 7 weeks--which I now realize is crazy) and I knew she used aversive techniques in her training (even with puppies). I have since learned that multiple dogs from our breeder have had these sorts of problems. After consultation with our family, our trainer, and our behavioralist, it was decided the most humane thing to do was to put Darcy to sleep. Our trainer and a veterinarian came to our home and he was put to sleep in our living room surrounded by familiar loving faces. We are crushed. Putting my children's puppy and my companion to sleep was devastating. I would love another Border Collie some day, but at the moment it is hard to see the way from Here to There. Thank you to each of you who helped us along the way. -Eric
  3. Readers of this forum will recall that Darcy, our 8 month old BC pup, and his humans have had some struggles related to over-arousal, resource guarding, etc. Many on this forum have provided wisdom and encouragement, so I wanted to provide an update. A couple months ago we started Fluoxetine (an SSRI, brand name Prozac for the human formulation). That helped some, but he was still constantly over-aroused and it was very difficult to get any focus from him in anything other than the most controlled environments. On the recommendation of both his trainer and his behavioralist, we added clonidine (a blood pressure medication which as a side effect also reduces noradrenaline release in the brain and is somewhat sedating). This combination has calmed Darcy down a great deal. The most important benefit as I see it is that Darcy can now focus on his training. It has made it possible for us to make progress with counterconditioning because he no longer goes from 0% to 100% arousal at the drop of a hat. One of Darcy's big triggers is cars--he barks and lunges at them. Over the past week we have made great strides counterconditioning the car stimulus and this morning he held a sit while a car passed during our walk three times (and was also able to collect himself after playing with another dog for a few minutes and continue a loose leash walk). It is important to understand this is not just the drugs (he was still lunging at cars last week while on clonidine, and unlike fluoxetine clonidine is short acting and does not build up over time). It is the combination of medication and training that seem to be moving things in the right direction. All is not roses. We continue to have issues with resource guarding--both Darcy and his humans need more training in that arena. Darcy is still hysterical when meeting new people (not in an aggressive way, but in a way-too-enthusiastic way). But I feel like the door is now open to real training and real progress. I attach two pictures. One is just fun--he has activated Herding Mode as I get ready to kick a soccer ball for him to chase. The other has a relevance that you can't tell from the photo. Thirty yards behind me is a 4 lane road with many cars going by at 50 miles per hour (80kph). He is holding a sit with one ear calmly half-cocked. Never would have happened a month ago. (Needless to say, he had a sturdy leash and harness on for this training, as he always does). -Eric (P.S. I got a copy of On the Other End of the Leash for Christmas--wonderful! And Click to Calm is arriving today.)
  4. @urge to herd so true. Darcy's humans are getting better every day. He has great hopes for them. (I told one my daughter's this morning that Darcy was making me a better human being. She said I didn't need to become a better human being. I said there is always room for improvement.)
  5. Yes that's the general idea. But the book is better than the movie =).
  6. Yes ^^^^^^. Here's a success story from me, a novice (again, first dog, first BC). We are using this approach with our Darcy who barks at noises coming from the floor above. The idea is to transform the stimulus from a signal to bark into a signal to turn attention to you. Initially I was saying "where's the noise?" (which Leslie McDevitt now recommends instead of "Look at that" I believe) when there was a noise, then I would click for any evidence of attention to the noise, and then give a treat when Darcy turned back to me. That is the official "look at that" method if I understand it correctly. (This is all predicated on the assumption that your dog knows about the clicker. But in our case, "charging the clicker" took approximately no time at all. Click-->treat. Not a hard concept for a BC. So if you haven't been doing clicker training, this seems like a great moment to start!) Our trainer simplified it even more. She instructed us to just click for attention to the noise and give a treat. (You really want her to turn to you for the treat, but at first it seems to be ok to just get her to take the treat any way you can to start to build the expectation of Good Things Will Happen when the click/noise happens). It did not take long at all for Darcy to associate the noise with treats so the noise by itself is starting to cue turning attention to me. Darcy barks less at noises from upstairs now (way less). And when he does bark a click and a treat puts an end to it. (Sometimes we need to repeat the cycle a few times. But so much better than just hysterical barking.) At first I thought this was a little weird because I was marking a behavior I didn't want. But I was thinking about it wrong. The problem is not that Darcy notices things. The problem is Darcy reacts to things he notices in ways I don't want (barking). So, at the beginning, Darcy believed "Noises from upstairs mean I should bark." At the same time, Darcy knew that "The clicking noise means treats". Then, noticing things started to bring clicks, and clicks bring treats. So now noises mean treats. There is another side effect. Sometimes Darcy does not want a treat. So he hears what is now a treat stimulus (noise) and just continues about his business if whatever he is doing is more interesting than a treat. This is leading to more peaceful roaming about the room while I am trying to get work done. But for the first few days I had to literally sit next to him clicking and treating to keep the barking at bay. After a bit of this training we would just go somewhere else less noisy to give everyone a break. Now that the pattern is learned, if I am particularly lazy, I will just click and toss a treat to him from across the room and that does the trick too. Let me come back to asking "Where's the noise?". If I understand correctly (and maybe I don't), the goal here is to be able to use this as a generalizable signal that the pup should turn her attention to you rather than whatever she is noticing. So this can turn into "where's the car?", "where's the person?", "where's the rabbit?". The way I am doing it right now, I would need to always have a clicker with me for this to work as I am not conditioning a verbal cue. As it happens, I do always have a clicker, but at some point I might like to stop wearing that bit of dog jewelry all the time. I was glad to drop that step, as saying "where's the noise?" over and over to a hysterical dog was just further fraying my nerves. Now that I once again have a quiet basement and can think clearly again, maybe I will go back to asking "where's the...." as described in Control Unleashed. Finally, Control Unleashed recommends practicing the "Look at that" (or "Where's the...") game with various items when the dog is calm to teach the behavior. But for us, going right to the stimulus we were having trouble with (noise) worked just as well. (Before all this, we used a different strategy, as recommended by Doggy Dan. When Darcy would bark, I would say "thank you Darcy" and the go back to my business. Then if Darcy barked again, I would come look at what he was barking at, nod my head calmly, and again say "Thank you". If he barked again, I would calmly put him in a quiet room for a timeout. This apparently works great for some people. It worked not at all for us.) -Eric
  7. Yes, I think for me the strategies I would use for an infant don’t work because Darcy can run and jump and the strategies I would use for a child don’t work because Darcy has a baby’s impulse control and understands very little language. I think for the most part I expect too much because he looks like a dog but is in fact just a puppy. Anyway, it is humbling. And that is never a bad thing.
  8. Yes, and I have been surprised how little child expertise translates to puppies. I am a pediatrician with 5 kids, for goodness sake. But the rate of development and the difference in trajectory of physical vs. mental development are just too different. Also the teeth. It's back to square one from an expertise and wisdom stand point. Thank goodness for this forum, Suzanne Clothier, Leslie McDevitt, Karen Overall, and our behavioralist. Thank you for the perspective! -Eric
  9. Ok great. I have created "Darcy's Trail Mix" comprised of dehydrated liver treats (which are actually part liver, part heart), dehydrated chicken treats, and cheerios. (We had already discovered that Darcy loves cheerios as training treats, but I thought that was our dirty little secret.) -Eric
  10. Thank you all for the kind and supportive comments! I will take it easy on the liver treats--we have other types too to throw in the mix (all of which are less than 1 calorie per treat which is good because we are going through treats like they are going out of style). For relaxation protocol time I use small pieces of hotdog and cheese. I was watching him pace around tonight and thought, "someone just needs to take the weight of the world off this poor pups shoulders". I gave him a hug and a good belly rub which seemed to help some. I am hopeful that more calm capturing will help too. And maybe a little pharmacology. I guess scotch is out of the question (at least for him). I will keep you posted! -Eric
  11. Readers of this forum may recall that we have had some challenges with Darcy, our first dog and first border collie, now (nearly) 7 months old. These challenges included biting the children and resource guarding. After putting in place strict rules and procedures for the humans and an improved training program for Darcy (including The Relaxation Protocol for Dogs, Capturing Calm, frequent practicing of "drop it" and "leave it", etc.) things are definitely improved. Nevertheless, we kept the appointment we made with a board certified behavioralist. That appointment was today. Since some of you asked to keep you posted, here is an update. 1. The behavioralist felt that those specific problems are pretty normal dog behaviors that, while they need to be stopped, are responding well to our training. We all agreed that Darcy is not an "aggressive dog". 2. She also felt that Darcy is more arousable and high strung than the average border collie, though she says she has been seeing more and more of this in recent years. She attributes this to the fact that the dogs are being bred (where we live) more and more for agility and speed and less for well rounded herding skills and this is producing more and more dogs that are just a little too amped up as a side effect. She also said ours is not the first pup from our breeder to come through her doors. Interesting. 3. She advised us to greatly increase the degree to which we are rewarding desired behavior. Basically the "Capture the Calm" we have been doing, but a lot more of it. Lucky I just ordered 4 bags of dried liver treats. 4. She felt that loose lease training out and about is just too much for him. She recommended we keep our walks around the neighborhood and trails unstructured (long lead), and work on loose leash training only in our house and yard until it gets easier for him. Which is basically a variation on what some of you have already told me here. 5. Given that we have a busy household with the homeschooled kiddos always buzzing about, and given that Darcy is rather high strung, she felt medication (an SSRI) would smooth the way for Darcy over the coming 6 months or so, helping him feel better while we continue to teach him how to find and use his off switch. 6. She felt that under all the excitement, Darcy was very sweet. So we will follow those recommendations. There is also a trainer who works out of the same office as the behavioralist who specializes in Border Collies that we will work with. Overall, I am happy with the progress we have made with Darcy and look forward to more progress with the help of these professionals. Also, I do find it strangely reassuring to have confirmation that Darcy is more of a handful than your average pup. Makes me feel like maybe I am a competent primate after all. Now if you will excuse me, I need to go listen to the next chapter of Bones Would Rain from the Sky. Stay tuned. -Eric
  12. So this morning I combined all the above advice. We did a short bit of (attempted) loose leash walking to the wooded trails by our home, then I switched to a longer lead (15 feet, which is the longest I have at the moment) and told him to "go play". He wandered about and sniffed and there was very little pulling (a fifteen foot radius was sufficient apparently, and I stopped whenever he stopped). Then when we got back to the road I put him back on his short leash. On the way back to the house there were several pretty decent stretches of nice walking (pretty fast, but I need the exercise). A passerby at just the right moment may have been duped into thinking a well trained human was out walking his well trained dog. Then someone drove into their driveway and let their dog out and all hell broke out again. But...progress! Just a little progress now and then is all I ask to keep me on the dog train. Darcy and I have also invented a new game indoors called "invisible leash". I walk around the house with a treat enclosed in my left hand held out to my side as if I am Jeeves walking a dog. Sooner or later Darcy catches on and starts to follow me on my left side. I say "heel" a few times as he walks along and then give him the treat. I like it because it teaches him to keep an eye on me in case I am carrying the invisible leash--a.k.a treat--while at the same time producing some nice looking heel walking. Also the kids find it amusing. Now if only someone can explain why deer scat is so appetizing to Darcy. I am pretty sure that is something I will never understand.
  13. Thank you Journey and D'Elle for the excellent advice as usual. Just to clarify one point...I am not shocked not to see results, but after doing it for the first time it seems like quite a bit of effort for both Man and Dog. Which is totally fine but I just wanted to check with the experts that this is a reasonable strategy before deciding to stick with it. I think I will (1) make these training walks shorter and (2) stick with it and (3) continue reading Bones Would Rain from the Sky in the mean time =) Thanks again, Eric
  14. A flat collar, and I have used leashes of various lengths. This morning I used a 6 foot leash. It has always been an issue but I have never done any work on it. I have been focusing on The Relaxation Protocol and Look At That! in an effort to help with him be less reactive, and during that time have not done many on-leash walks (he has plenty of yard to run around in). But I felt that this would perhaps be a good time to start work on the leash walking too. (I know I said "our usual walk" but by that I meant the usual walk we do when we go for a walk, which recently has been not very often.) I know there are other types of harnesses that are supposed to discourage pulling, but I want him to learn to be attentive to me instead of (or at least in addition to) the environment, not simply to not pull on the leash. But that may be misguided or just making things too hard or complicated.
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