Sunday, February 19, 2012

Teaching Roxy to "Let Go"

I have talked in previous posts about one of Roxy's behavioral issues; resource guarding. I have found one of the most important parts of rehabilitating this behavior in Roxy is teaching the
"let go" command. This command can also be verbalized as "release", "drop it" or "out" and many other variations, I'm sure. Thomas used "let go" with Guinness, and to keep things uniform with both dogs, we use "let go" with Roxy too.

One of the things I do with Roxy to eliminate resource guarding behavior is show her that
I am in control of the "resource". Whether it's a raw-hide, toy, or bone, I show physical control over it using calm assertive energy. I hold one end of the resource, and I allow her to gnaw on the other end. This is me showing that I can share the resource, but I also remind her that she has to give it back when I say so by giving her the "let go" command.  When she let's go, I will hold on to the resource for as long as I see fit. When she settles into a submissive state (lying down or sitting calmly), I will give it back by saying "here you go" or "get the toy". When she sits or lays down, she is communicating her understanding that I am in control of the resource. When I give the resource back, I still hold on to my end... and when I do this I am rewarding the calm submissive state that she is showing me.

My goal in all of this is to reward calm-submissive energy when there is a resource involved. Below is a video of Roxy "letting go".

I'd like to remind everyone that this is not professional advice. This is what I have found to work with my dog whom I know very well. You should always see a professional who specializes in resource guarding before implementing training like this.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Close Call...

Hi readers, friends and family,

I haven't had a lot of time to blog lately. We had an extremely stressful week... and a very close call.
Roxy started throwing up early one morning before I left for work. And honestly, I have seen this dog throw up so many times that I was not initially worried. I cleaned it up and left for work. After I left and before Thomas went to work, she vomitted a couple more times. With her track record, I assumed she had eaten something in the kitchen that she wasn't supposed to (like a pearl onion... we she has indeed done). We took our regular precautions and care that we usually do when she has an upset tummy [see "Tummy Issues"].

I went about my normal day, and came home around 12:30pm to walk and play with the babies. But this time when I came home, I was horrified. Roxy had thrown up this dark brown gravy in oil looking substance that surrounded her kennel. I cleaned her up and called Thomas immediately. He asked me if her vomit looked like coffee grounds (which can be a sign of digested blood from internal bleeding). I didn't think it looked like coffee grounds, but I called the vet anyway. I wanted to take her in right away but they wouldn't be able to see her until the following morning. Later that evening when both Thomas and I were home, I began to cuddle and comfort Roxy in the living room. I immediately recognized her body language when her heart began to pound and she was continously licking her lips and snout. I rushed her to the wooden floor where I could more easily clean up her vomit. This time it looked more like coffee grounds and there was a lot more of it. I got a sample of it in a small tupperwear container and once again, cleaned up.

The next morning Roxy hadn't thrown up at all. I had high hopes that her issue was working itself out, but we still took her to the vet. We go to Aspen Tree Animal Hospital that we LOVE. Thomas let me know when he dropped her off. He hadn't really heard anything after a couple of hours so I decided to call on my own. I talked to a really sweet vet tech who told me our vet, Becky, would call me back after she saw Roxy. Becky called me back about an hour later. Her first words were
"I'm really concerned about Roxy". My heart dropped and I teared up. About four years ago, I heard the same thing when I took my two month old kitten, PJ, to the vet after throwing up. I ended up having to put him down due to a congenital disease. At that moment, I feared the same for Roxy.

Becky explained that her main concern was that Roxy was very dehydrated from throwing up. She said that she also felt a large mass or object in her large intestine after palpating her belly. We both agreed that she had probably swallowed something she wasn't supposed to. It was unable to pass through her large intestine because of the dehydration. They told me they were going to put her on IV fluids and keep her over night. They hoped that once she was hydrated she would be able to pass the foreign object. They warned me that if this didn't happen, they would have to do surgery. The next day at noon, she still hadn't passed it, but hadn't thrown up in 24 hours. I dropped in to help walk her to see if she could poop while I was there.

She is pretty timid so I thought my presence could help normalize the situation. She still couldn't pass it and they told me they wanted to keep her another night.
At about 5:00pm they called me back and informed me that after "two enamas, a can of high fiber dog food, a light jog", she hadn't passed it, but they were able to get it out without surgery. I won't go into detail about how they did this ;) Roxy had swallowed a small block of wood, some string, some grass and some plastic. I know she is a compulsive eater (I mean like everything, edible or not),I try to prevent this as much as possible... but she had still managed to scarf these things up. On their way through her intestinal tract and stomach, they scraped along the lining and caused internal bleeding. This was the brown substance I noticed in her vomit.

We got her back that night. I had never been happier to have her cuddled up in my lap while we watched movies.

I guess what I can tell you I learned from this, is that dark brown dog vomit is absolutley NOT normal and is cause for concern. It can mean a couple of things: the dog has been poisoned, she has swallowed a foreign body, or she has stomach ulcers. All of these things are dangerous and can even be fatal. When your dog is throwing up (as gross as it is), pay attention to the contents, the color, and the consistency... you'll be doing her a favor! Be careful if your dog tends to compulsively eat anything! Supervision can prevent all of this.

To help avoid this happening on walks, I bought Roxy a "Gentle Leader". This is an attachment for a leash that wraps around the dogs snout. It makes it uncomfortable for them to pull and impossible to reach their snouts to the ground if you keep an small amount of slack.

Also... Take a look at this website:
This is a loan company that can help you pay for unexpected vet bills. Obviously we weren't planning on having to pay a $700 vet bill, so Aspen Tree recommended them. Care Plan gives you a loan for vet costs. Once you apply, they will tell you what amount you qualify for. There is no APR if you pay it off within 1 year of taking out the loan. This can be very worth it if you pay it off on time.
Also, for those of you living in the Durango area... Aspen Tree Animal Caring Center is great place to take your pets. It is less costly than Riverview Animal Hospital and still offers over-night care. I think I like them because they pay such great attention to their relationships with both the customers and the animals. When we left with Roxy after this whole ordeal, they set us up with some medicine and some prescription food. On the top of the food container they wrote "Roxy ♥ XOXO". They are awesome!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

GeoCaching Adventures

Thomas and I started off our Sunday with a big breakfast and a cup of coffee. We discussed what we would do for the rest of the day. Thomas expressed that he and Guinness were due for an adventure. One of Guinness's favorite things to do is to be at Thomas's side as they pursue some sort of "mission".
This mission can be anything from hiking, playing hide-and-seek,or searching for a toy or a tennis ball. He shows very noticably his interest and enthusiasm when doing this. When Roxy sees Guinness, Thomas and I on some sort of mission, she tries looking too, even if she doesn't know what we're all looking for! She is just so happy to be with her pack and to be helping with the end result.
We thought about different adventures we could go on, and Thomas mentioned that he missed Geochaching with Guinness. This is something they used to do together before Roxy and I came along. Geocaching is "a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location" (
There is something about going on such a mission that indulges a very primal side of a dog's mind. As a dog owner, I have learned that it is extremely important to frequently just let your dog be a dog. And so we did today. We sniffed our noses and wagged our tails as we searched for little treasure boxes at our assigned coordinates. The treasure boxes include little trinkets, toys and postcards etc... and a little guest book of people who have found the trinket box before.
One of our hunts led us through the Durango Dog Park. The dogs were off their leashes and having a blast searching and hiking and romping through the snow. Guinness actually found one of the treasure boxes in the snow beneath a rock that we couldn't see.
I think this was a great way to spend time together. We all had a blast, we got exercise, we played, we worked on discipline through leash training and we completed a mission. All in all a good day.

My sleepy babies in the car ride home after a long day of GeoChaching ♥