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Loki's progress with recall and OCD


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I have an almost 3 year BC that I got thru BCRescueOntario. He is a lovely blue merle, white head that is fully deaf. He was a puppy mill dog, from a colour breeder in Quebec, who dumps the dogs she can't sell into the local shelters.

 

Loki spent most of the first 8 months of his life in either a pen or shelter run situation. He was briefly adopted by a family for 6 weeks but he was returned to the shelter. A rescue popped him and he made his way to BCRO.

 

To cope with being cooped up, he developed all kinds of OCD behaviours. Being deaf, he had no recall but he has learned some sign language and we had a firm bond. He wants to work for me. You can put Loki in a fully fenced yard and he will pick a path about 10 feet long and run back and forth, barking at the ground. He ignores other dogs, but he will play with Tex in a limited way. Loki loves to stare at spots on the floor and he loves shadows in the sunlight. He also has a weird thing for textures. I try to meet his needs for exercise as best I can, but with no recall, there is only so much time in the day to go for walks. I have never had any concerns about his OCD quirks...he only got redirected if he started barking in the house at the spots on the floor. I am a behaviourist who works with autistic people, and Loki is the poster child for doggie autism.

 

I moved to this huge farm this spring and I've been slowly increasing Loki's freedom. The farm is set back about 200 feet from a very quiet road. The farm is 2 miles deep and the trail runs back to the lake. When let free, Loki will obsessively run the trail up and down, nose to the ground, no stopping to sniff or pee. In his past, he has been punished for running away, thats obvious, and its been a long battle to overcome that. He will run obsessively for about an hour and half. When he's done he will go over to the sheep barn and put the ewes away. Then he will lay down and wait for me to put his leash on. He's been skunked about 3 times, but he stays far away from the horses and momma cows.

 

Now he's too tired to OCD over spots on the ground. Today he has been offleash all day and after the initial running frenzy, he has just hung around and watched me garden. We are still having some issues with him sneaking into the corn field and doing the 10foot run and bark thing between the rows of corn. I think he likes the texture of the field, especially when its wet.

 

After his first blast of running crazy, he will recall when I wave a closed fist and point to the ground. We're making huge progress, and his quality of life is much improved.

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Jo, Loki sure found a gem when he found you. I find that sometimes its hard enough to communicate what I want to a dog w/ no problems, but you have this special talent and patience to teach two disabled dogs. I envy you in that respect. :rolleyes:

 

I'm so glad to hear that his life has improved a thousand fold since you found him. Keep up the great progress between you two.

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Jo, that is really interesting that you are a behaviorist. I'm sure that your training gives you a nice head start in working with your dogs. Loki is a lucky boy to have found you. Do you find that having Nell around, who's presumably pretty normal in most of her behaviors, just old, helps? I was just noticing this morning how much my puppy Juno apes Daisy's behaviors, both good and bad.

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Being a behaviourist just means I know the fancy names for the training methods that everyone uses.

 

Loki pretty much ignores Nell. He is in his own little world, but he will lay down touching Tex sometimes. Even with all the running he did yesterday, he still wanted to bark and dig at the shadow of the bowl I was holding to pick peas. I just moved into the shade for a while.He will never not be OCD, he just has a better outlet for all his energy. Poor Nell must think I'm a loon. I'm always signing at her or trying to stop her from bumping into things.

 

In June, I started working 10 hour night shifts. That, plus my sleep time, meant that I would have even less time to go for walks with Loki. I live alone, so theres no one to help with the dogs. Tying him out on his cable run (and listening to him bark and dig while I"m trying to sleep) wasn't a great solution either. I was concerned that I might have to resort to meds to give him a better quality of life. Now that he can run, I can avoid meds.

 

My personal feeling on meds is to give them only when the benefit to him outweighs the health risks. Just because he's annoying as heck sometimes, isn't enough of a reason to medicate. My clients at work are all tranked and some take anti-psychotics. We reduced one persons dose and she put me and another client into emerg with injuries. On her full dose, she risks liver failure. Nothing is free from side effects, not even doggie prozac and paxil. When Loki is highly frustrated, he will stop eating and begin to bite at his flanks. Thats the point at which I will medicate him. Running loose on 400 acres might shorten his lifespan too, but I'm between a rock and a bigger rock, trying to deal with my work schedule.

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Jo, I teared up reading about Loki's progress. Congratulations! I know it's wonderful to share progress when day to day you are faced with baby steps.

 

Interesting that you make the "autism" analogy. When my dog was new here and really reactive, I would tell people he was autistic. He reacts (reacted) in a lot of ways like the autistic kids at my school: panic at unexpected changes, inability to cope with specific odd situations, barking at my light fixture for three hours straight! Aiiee! The autism analogy was something people could wrap their brains around. Instead of seeing "weirdly aggressive," they saw "disabled." It helped a lot in the early days!

 

Keep up the good work.

 

Mary

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