I notice that the blog entries about Boogie’s skin issues get the MOST visits and comments compared to everything else on this blog. This “hair loss” post is many years old, and so are all the posts tagged Skin, but the comments and questions keep coming in. Lots of questions from parents of suffering dogs who want to know which remedies worked and which ones didn’t.
I don’t have answers for other people’s dogs, but here is an update for Boogie….
After spending $$$$ on vet bills, products, and visits to the dermatology clinic over the past 5 years, I decided NOT to go the path of allergy testing and lifelong injections. Our pet insurance doesn’t cover this stuff because anything skin-related is considered a “pre-existing condition”, so I have been focused on more cost-effective solutions.
2015: Boogie’s skin is not great but it is SO MUCH BETTER. In fact, over the past 12 months, Boogie’s skin has been at its best, and looks pretty good compared to previous years. The summer of 2014 was the first time in 5 years that he did not go on a long course of antibiotics and lose most of his hair. He also had no crusty bits.
- Darwin’s pet food – Beef and Veggies (I always cook the meat so it’s not 100% raw)
- Nordic Naturals Pet Cod Liver Oil
- 1 benadryl pill, crushed and mixed in food.
It took roughly 8 months before I saw the difference with Darwins food and the Pet Cod Liver Oil. Boogie’s coat became fuller and shinier; not rough and dry like before.
Benadryl was recommended by our vet. It seems extreme to be giving this to him every single day – but he is less inclined to scratch, and scratching is the FIRST STEP to infections. In warmer/itchier seasons, he gets 1 benadryl per day. In cooler seasons, he gets one every other day. He still scratches, and is still itchy… but I think it would be much worse without the benadryl.
I also bathe Boogie with Vet’s Best Allergy-Itch Relief shampoo, and occasionally soak him in a tub of diluted Vet’s Best Hot Spot Spray or I wipe him down with a cloth that I put some spray on. Especially after he has been rolling around in the grass.
Boogie still gets red and raw spots… especially on his face and in his armpits. I have found that the Virbac Resicort lotion (from our vet) helps with his armpits, but unfortunately this is a recurring problem.
P.S. I tried the coconut oil and apple cider vinegar… these didn’t do anything.
- Dogs barking at him from behind fences
- Sounds of footsteps walking up behind us on the street
- The sound of buses, garbage trucks, fire trucks…
- My sneezing (Boogie used to leave the room whenever I sneezed)
- Watching youtube videos that have barking dogs in them
- Watching noisy movies
- Talking on Speaker Phone or Video Skype
- Sound of the kitchen timer when I’m cooking
- Sound of mail courier calling to me from outside the front door
- Going to the bathroom, stepping out to do laundry, emptying the trash (Boogie doesn’t wake up)
- When I come home and he’s curled up asleep oblivious that I am there.
- When I touch him gently to wake him up, and he JUMPS UP.
- When after preparing his breakfast I peek out the door and he is standing there, staring at the kitchen door, waiting for me to stick my head out the door.
- The one time I clapped my hands to call him (outdoors) and he became confused as to where the sound was coming from, became hypervigilant and started barking at everything on the street.
- When I watch old videos of Boogie and me interacting (me talking, he responding)… sometimes, I can’t help it… I start crying.
It’s that Clicker Expo time of year and I am not going. Sigh – I will miss Sarah Owings, Emily Larlham and Susan Friedman again! Even so, my brain seems to have kicked into WANT-TO-LEARN-NEW-THINGS mode! Thank goodness for Tawzer DVD sales.
DVDs on my Watch List this week:
2. Patient Like The Chipmunks – So glad this is on YouTube! Watched this historical gem a few nights ago. Warning: Different animals doing cute amazing things but I would rate this video a zero on the ‘warm and fuzzy’ scale. :) This is the cold, emotion-less face of Science, Enterprise and Efficiency in animal training… How it all began, starting with BF Skinner and pigeons shaped to guide missiles; critters in boxes performing 4-5 hour shifts…. The point is that the Brelands and Baileys are still so inspiring and deserve to be better known for being way ahead of their time in championing humane animal training methods. Quote Bob Bailey: “Patience and preparedness is better than brute force”.
3. Roger Abrantes – I have only watched Disc 1 of 3 so far and I am loving it. Quote: These DVDs are a “Review of the Principles of Behaviorism and Operant Conditioning spiced with the view of an Ethologist”. Roger Abrantes is fascinating to listen to and to observe and I think this might be the first dog training DVD I have ever watched where the presenter is actually interacting with and moving around with a dog (and their humans) rather than talking straight to camera the whole session. He also very clearly defines the words he uses. eg, Signal vs Cue vs Command; and I like that he says “Inhibitors” instead of “Punishers”.
4. Grisha Stewart – there is a full series of DVDs (with covers I illustrated!), and I am starting with the “Problem Prevention” instalment tomorrow :)
Will add thoughts later….
P.S. I have registered a domain name for Boogie’s blog! It is now http://www.boogiebt.com
I haven’t posted on this blog in way too long. The short answer is that I have been too busy and I haven’t had anything interesting enough to spend hours writing about when it is much easier to share photos and simple one or two line Boogie updates on instagram, twitter, facebook…
Reading this article today by one of my favorite dog training bloggers made me look back in time, and look at my life with Boogie today.
You won’t know what your dog can achieve until you try. Listen to him, stay within his limits, and do not put him in situations where he struggles. Learn to read him, and work closely with a professional. Put his best interests first. Stop making excuses. If you find yourself apologizing for poor behavior using your dog’s story as an excuse, stop! Look to the dog you have in front of you right now. Read the page in front of you at this moment, not ancient history that happened weeks, months, or years ago.
I am almost tempted to title this blog post “My dog is no longer dog-reactive” but this is not entirely true.
The truth is that:
Boogie no longer reacts to dogs at a closer proximity on the street. I don’t know when I noticed the change… it has been months? Years? I really don’t know. This ‘new Boogie’ became more obvious to me recently when I noticed that OTHER dogs were reacting to Boogie and Boogie was not reacting back. I mean other dogs barking, lunging, snapping, pulling at the leash towards Boogie. And Boogie looks at them, looks at me, and moves away. It’s like a miracle. If somebody was yelling at me to F- OFF!!! on the street, it would be very hard for me to be as calm as Boogie. (I still don’t let other dogs greet him, and I only very occasionally let strange people pet him… depending on how Boogie is feeling).
What seems to happen these days:
Boogie sees a dog, turns away, continues walking. OR he sees a dog (usually bigger shepherdy type of dog), stops, looks at me ; OR he sees a dog stops, looks for a bit longer, turns around and walks the opposite direction/sniffs the ground; OR he doesn’t even appear to see the dog at all because he is focused on his destination and more interested in scavenging and foraging. The point is that he is no longer showing the signs of distress that he used to. If he shows signs of being triggered, it is less intense. He turns around to look at me, and then he bounces back. We move along.
I still bring treats on walks and I still give Boogie treats – though less frequently now, depending on his body language -when we see a strange dog/person approaching, or when we walk through triggering locations (- is there a term for this? I mean specific sections of streets where Boogie has had a history of negative associations and is more likely to freeze when he sees a person/dog… I think if he saw the same person/dog on a different street he would not care. Some triggers are definitely tied to place). If Boogie’s body language is relaxed, I let him stop and look at triggers to engage and disengage on his own and I let him choose where he wants to go.
Boogie is also 80% deaf now. He doesn’t hear many sounds except very loud or high pitched ones; he doesn’t hear other dogs barking at him, or strangers walking next to/behind us so I think he is generally less triggered by stuff. He is using his nose more. He has become obsessed with foraging. The down side is that he eats a lot of crap off the side walks and I haven’t properly taught a “leave it” or “drop it” :( Of course, he also doesn’t hear me call his name anymore, so I gotta do something about that.
Every time I bring out the ear medication bottle (even before I touch or look at the bottle), Boogie KNOWS what is going to happen. He can read me like a book. He makes himself very small, like a turtle, and creeps very low to the ground, slinking away under a chair or into his crate.
I have tried counter conditioning with treats. Things went well (the bottle ceased to be ‘scary’) up until the moment that he realized that liquid dripped inside his ear… and then he stopped wanting food and would back off as soon as he knew what would eventually happen. So I always ended up administering ear drops “by force”, while Boogie endured the ordeal. And then off he would go, escaping to shake off, before returning for the consolation treat.
I have started watching Lori Stevens’s Tellington TTouch For Dogs DVD, and yesterday I decided to try something new.
Of course,as always, Boogie predicted the worst so he pulled his ears back really tight as soon as I touched them. I didn’t pick up the ear meds. First I did some touches on his head and around the outside ear area with the back of my hand (Chimp TTouch). Then I used my whole hand on top of his head to move the base of his ears around, before doing direct ear strokes… and soon I could feel his ears and his whole body relaxing.
(By the way, I had already done these same TTouches the night before, and I knew Boogie enjoyed them, so it wasn’t like a completely foreign experience).
When he seemed sufficiently relaxed, I added the ear drops into his infected ear, massaged this in, and waited for him to escape.
Miraculously, Boogie did not move. He just stayed where he was and looked at me, so I continued doing slides on both his ears and massaging the base of his ears. When I removed my hands to see if he had had enough, he turned around to look at me again: “Why are you stopping?”
It was pretty cool.
I was ready to gloat but then things did not go so well this morning. I went through the same steps as yesterday. I did Noah’s March along his back and some Chimp TTouches around his face and ears… I stroked his ears until his head was resting on the couch and to me, he looked perfectly calm and relaxed. I stopped from time to time to make sure he was still fine… he was.
Then as soon as I unscrewed the ear drops bottle cap, Boogie jumped off the couch and ran away into the bedroom.
I went to get him and slowly he returned to the couch, with not his usual sad-faced ears-pinned-back look that was usually associated with ear medications. Boogie’s ears were up and his eyes were bright. He looked at me, looked at the ear drops bottle on the table, looked at me…
THIS DOG IS NO FOOL.
I was cleaning out my car the other day and I found some handouts from the first dog trainer I ever met/hired, from over 5 years ago. (Yes, I know – I should clean out my car more often)
This was a really uncomfortable and sad reminder of what I used to do to Boogie and how I used to make him cry because this was part of the training program I had paid for. Quote the trainer: “It doesn’t hurt. He is being a drama queen. Correct him again/harder.”
It saddens me that THIS sort of information is still being disseminated to lord knows how many millions of people around the world even in this day and age, and to think that there are so many people who continue to choke, shock, pinch, alpha-roll their dog because they have been taught that this is how it is meant to be. Or maybe like me all those years ago, they don’t have access to any other information or don’t hang around any other dog-owner friends who DON’T use corrections or the ‘pack leader’ spiel… or maybe also like me, they already paid a huge chunk of money to receive advice that tells them to dominate their dog and “show him who is boss”, so they stick with what they paid for. And besides, the advice sounds ‘right’ because it’s the stuff that’s really popular on TV…
Seriously, how can people learn about humane training methods and CHANGE, when there is so little popular mainstream support for doing so?
Anyway, my crossover experience in a nutshell or what made me change training methods:
- When Boogie was on that obedience training program years ago, he became shut down, more scared around people, more tense, and more prone to aggression (lunging and biting). He got worse.
- I wrote in to a Dogster.com behavior advice column with the question: “I don’t understand how this prong collar obedience program is going to help socialize Boogie to other dogs and people.” and the trainer who responded – Grisha Stewart – said: “Throw away the prong collar and look into CAT and BAT” Until then I had no idea that there were other methods that do not require corrections. A seed had been planted though by that piece of advice, and I started reading books NOT written by Cesar Millan.
- Karen Pryor’s “Reaching The Animal Mind” blew my mind and opened up a new world for me. It was a revelation that animals could learn via hands-off training methods that do not require the use of pain or intimidation or by humans having to be bossy/dominant. I went out, bought a clicker and started practicing hand targeting with Boogie.
- Seeing the change in Boogie was the biggest motivator and reinforcer of all for ME to change and learn new ways of interacting with him. I had never seen Boogie so happy and so excited and so responsive. He was perky, relaxed, full of life and it was SUCH A RELIEF that I could BE MYSELF again. I didn’t have to feel bad about “not being dominant enough”, or “too weak” or “too nice” or about not giving commands in a deep enough voice, or even worry about “my energy” (which according to a few neighbors, was the reason for Boogie’s behavioral issues) Friends noted that Boogie had become more relaxed and I was less stressed.
- I gave up on the old training program (the trainer was not keen on the idea of teaching me to use a ‘clicker’, and I didn’t get my money back either). I started visiting dog training forums and found Sarah on the Functional Rewards yahoo group…. etc. etc.
- I want to add also that as I learned about dog body language and calming signals, I could look back on the video footage I took of myself using a prong collar on Boogie and for the first time in my life I understood what all those head turns, lip licks, and yawns meant. I could see the stress that Boogie was experiencing caused by me and I couldn’t un-see what I had learned to see.
It is so great to see more articles and blog posts about crossing over… and how to talk about crossing over. This is still hard for me… I get emotional when I think about the past (the things I did to Boogie) and also when I learn that people I know are fans of aversive training methods or are praising Alpha-wannabe trainers, and I don’t know how to say what I want to say… without feeling like I am going to have a reactive episode. So for now, I say nothing. I do drawings and link to articles like these…
Rise Van Fleet: A Psychologist’s View of Crossover Training
Eric Brad: The Crossover Files
Ines Gaschot: The Crossover Trainer