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I've had a horrible time the last week. I'd like to share what happened because many of my clients are either dealing with fear and anxiety themselves or they have a fearful anxious dog. I am sharing to put into words what I went thru this week. I am hoping to understand it better myself from a behaviorist's point of view as well as from the point of view of the fearful client. I am using myself as a clinical example of flooding.
Like most people, I have a lot of fears. Some small things (oh, spider, SPLAT) that I can keep going. I am able to manage most of them thru breathing techniques and biofeedback exercises. . A few, tho, are so severe that it can cause me to shut down. Water is one. If smell chlorine pool water or see an underwater scene on television I stop breathing and can start to panic. Thankfully I am able to avoid anything deeper than a bathtub while living in the desert.
Then there are the bees. From a very early age I have been terrified of them. It could be a result of getting stung several times as a child and hearing my mother say that I was probably allergic to them (I'm not.) To explain the severity of this fear, the depth of it, I'll tell a short story. Many years ago hubby and I were sitting in the car, windows down, he in his Sailor dress whites. A bee came in the passenger window and I shoved my six foot one inch, two hundred twenty pound husband thru the drivers window with me following.
About 12 years ago I was on a project in an isolated area of the marine base. As we were cleaning up our site a bee flew in my ear. There was buzzing that felt like it was in my brain. An awful, horrible, inescapable feeling of the bee jackhammering his way into my brain. What was normally a half hour drive to the base hospital was much longer as I was stuck behind a 5 mph military caravan. I was full on hysterical by the time I arrived at the ER.
Fast forward to this past Monday. I came home from work and immediately took the dogs outside and then into the bathroom so they could drink from 'the magic fountain' (the sink). Then I heard it. At first I thought maybe the AC vent was closed and whistling air. No. I looked behind the shower curtain and there were thousands of bees in the tub and window.
At this point the fear took over. I had no peripheral vision, all I could see were bees. Tears were flowing. Breathing was that fast-clutch-fast breathing when you can't quite get air. I was sweating and shaking. I secured the bathroom and tried to ignore it. Almost had myself convinced I could do it when a bee buzzed by my ear. At that point i screamed my way into the bedroom, with 4 great danes, and locked us in, rolling a blanket and stuffing it under the door, we were there until my husband came home. I was huddled on the bed, with 4 danes, shaking and sobbing and trying desperately to breathe. For 8 hours I was there until he came home.
This has been repeated EVERY DAY THIS WEEK. Typically we have a swarm in the Mesquite tree in the spring and I work hard to ignore them and not venture too close. But this was EVERY FREAKING DAY. Hundreds, thousands of bees. Messages from neighbors telling me about the swarm. Thankfully the dogs were patient and waited for hubby to get home as I think they realized I was checked out
Why am I telling you all of this? Because somewhere in the fog of this week I thought about fearful dogs and how to use this fear in a way that helps me work with dogs. One thing I know for sure, immersion and flooding are a VERY BAD WAY TO GO. When my husband would yell at me, trying to tell me to get over it, well, that didn't work either. When he'd ask "what do you want me to do" and expect a logical answer? Yeah, I could not formulate a sentence that would make sense other than "GET RID OF THEM". He realized there wasn't anything he could do but work on blocking the bee's access.
It is easy now to look at it with the luxury of 20 20 hindsight and try to pinpoint what point I was over. That was when I peaked behind the shower curtain and saw them. Where could I have tried to pull myself back, I identifying the moments that I might have been under threshold enough to respond in a logical way.. If I'd known they were there but hadn't seen them I might have been able to respond logically. But even with that, as soon as the one buzzed by me it was the final straw.
By identifying those moments for myself it makes me more aware of when we need to stop in order to keep the dog below threshold. That fine line of 'making a difference' and 'over threshold'..
Having the mesquite tree full of bees every spring has assisted in desensitizing me to where I could be calm with bees busily doing their work at a distance. Being flooded with them in our bathroom...all of my progress feels like it has gone out the window with the bees.
I will use this, tho, to be a better behaviorist and trainer. To be more aware of that line between counter conditioning and flooding, over threshold.
How many times have you heard trainers talk about how a dog must "submit" or "be submissive" and then show you a dog that appears to be calm? Some use yelling and/or body language to intimidate the dog, maybe with alpha rolls or they use tools such as prong collars and "dog training device" otherwise known as an electric shock collar or harsh leash corrections, often combined with a prong collar. Sometimes they'll even step on the leash to hold the dogs head close to the ground.
You won't see that at 29K9 Dog Training. Why? Because those dogs are not submissive, they are often terrified and shutting down. They are so afraid of what is happening that they disappear into themselves until it is over. So what happens to the dog? Sometimes nothing. But. Science shows us, in study after study after study, some dating back over 50 years, that dogs who aggress on humans are usually trained using these fear based methods. Because sometimes that dog becomes a ticking bomb. And it isn't against the person who uses those techniques on them but someone else. A child, a friend, a spouse. Or it may be another animal.
Yes, a prong collar may give immediate results. I have seen it happen. I even used them in my early training days. Eventually, tho, my own dog, like many, became increasingly more reactive. My own frustration and my dogs caused me to return to a different collar, a head halter, that allowed me to turn my dog away quickly, without correction, and redirect her to focus on me and reward it. The difference was amazing. Add in some counter conditioning and she started to associate the other dogs as a good thing for her. This method works very well.
Why? Because we can't tell a dog "you are being corrected because you barked at that dog". What often happens is that dog feels the correction and connects it not to their own behavior but to their handler and the other dog. So soon the dog sees another dog and barks louder to tell the dog "go away or I am going to get punished!" *YANK* and next time she starts barking and growling and lunging and *YANK* and next time responds sooner to a dog in her environment and more aggressively. What worked initially becomes a nightmare for the dog. And as humans we seem to be programmed to think "ok, lets increase the punishment to get the behavior we want" . The dog, however, does not understand this.
Eighty percent of all aggression is fear based. So teaching a dog by using fear is setting up a dog for failure. How they handle their fear may be a ticking time bomb.
29K9 Dog Training Announces New Accreditation
June 21, 2017
Twentynine Palms – Locally owned 29K9 Dog Training announced today that owner Ronda Warywoda has completed the requirements for her Certificate from the University of Washington in Applied Animal Behavior. She can carry the letters UW-AAB after her name to designate this.
Applied Animal Behavior combines evolutionary theory, biology and learning theory to diagnose and treat animal behavior issues in companion animals. For example, treating aggression towards other animals or humans; attention-seeking behaviors; fear and anxiety, phobias, separation anxiety, stranger anxiety; inappropriate elimination or marking behaviors; resource guarding; and socialization issues.
This will allow 29K9 Dog Training to take on some of the more advanced behavior cases, addressing them in ways that teach handler and animal the skills needed to move forward in their goals for their family pet.
About 29K9 Dog Training
Ronda Warywoda has been training in the Morongo Basin since 2009 and is authorized to train aboard the MCAGCC base. She graduated from CATCH Dog Training Academy and mentors trainers from both CATCH and Animal Behavior College. An AKC Canine Good Citizen Evaluator as well as a Therapy Pets Unlimited Evaluator, she brings experience and education, using science to provide the best opportunities for getting your pet on track. Education without Intimidation.
To learn more, contact her at:
29K9 Dog Training
PO Box 1177
Twenynine Palms CA 92288
Phone: (760) 221.3272
We want training to be fun and engaging for both the handler and the dog. Why? Because then both enjoy the training and a bond is created. It becomes their special time.
Now, think about this. You are told to do your work tasks but after they are completed you get nothing. Not a thank you, not a paycheck, nothing. No acknowledgement at all. How would you feel? Would you want to learn new tasks? Would you want to go to work the next day?
This is why we use paychecks, or rewards, when teaching new behaviors to our dogs. Higher value initially and then phasing those out to utilize more life rewards. When teaching sit they get a treat or toy, whatever they will work for. Once they are sitting routinely on cue we phase those out and use praise, petting, letting them snuggle, their dinner, going outside. They still get a “paycheck” but it is based on life rather than treats.
This doesn’t mean treats should not be used anymore. We all like that bonus the boss gives us for doing our job well, so do dogs. Spend some time doing a little training refresher, bring out the every day treats (or even kibble) and alternate between praise and treats. This helps keep it fresh in their minds and they really do enjoy your attention. It means more to them than the treats do, believe me.
Be sure to end every session with something fun. Big praise and petting, a little time with a toy or ball, a romp outside. This helps cement the training, helping to retain it. It also helps cement your bond, making him want to do and learn more.
Potty training? Remember the rule of thumb. 1 hour for 1 month of age.
I like to set a timer so that I remember to take them out regularly in case I get busy with other things and might forget. Limit where the dog can go during these early days of potty training.
Watch for sniffing, circling or hiding. If you have an accident do NOT rub the dogs nose in it or punish. This will encourage the dog to hide and fear you as they will most likely connect potty to punishment rather than potty to "I should do this outside" and it will delay your goal.
Hang a bell near or on the door leading outside. Every time you take the dog outside ring the bell. Soon the dog will ring the bell to let you know it needs to go outside.
I prefer to leash in the beginning. This way you can take the dog out, keep an eye on what is happening and reward with big praise and petting immediately upon success. And having a dog that will readily do their business on a leash is good if you have to travel with them.
If he doesn't go within a few minutes take the puppy back inside, but keep the leash on so they can't go far. Take them back out after a few minutes and try again. Repeat until you have success.
Give it a cue. At our house it's "business". If I am in a hurry I can tell the dogs to "do business" and they do it quickly without getting distracted by play.
Note: I am not a fan of pee pads. These can teach the dog that it is ok to go inside and make it that much harder to transition to outside.
What is THE most underutilized cue? Focus. While it is one of the first new behaviors taught in basic obedience it seems to fade away once sits, downs and stays become our "go to"s. It shouldn't, tho. A solid focus means that no matter the distraction the dog's attention will be on you. It helps develop self control and calmness.
Does your dog have a trigger that keeps him from listening to you? He sees another dog/person/rabbit while on leash and his manners go out the window? With a solid focus when you see the trigger you can ask for his attention until the trigger is gone.
Practice focus everywhere. Start with no distractions and then add as many environments as possible until the behavior is generalized (dog trainer speak for a behavior that is consistent everywhere).
Start with high value treats initially and big praise. Make sure you always praise or give a life reward when it is successful. Remember, they need a reason to look at you rather than the distraction.
At home ask for it randomly while you are watching tv, fixing dinner, reading... Say the dogs name and then ask for focus, using the treat to lure the dogs gaze to yours. Take the behavior from room to room, adding distractions. Have your spouse or child clap, move around, open and close doors. Go outside, in your yard and randomly on walks. As with any learned behavior continue to ask for it randomly, even after it becomes automatic, otherwise may fade and not be there when you need it.
Pets should not be surprises. If you are thinking about a holiday gift I recommend doing a "gift certificate" instead. Parents can encourage and demonstrate responsible ownership by doing a certificate that says "after we have researched species, breeds, needs and training we can choose a pet that will best fit our family". It then becomes a great family project.
During a dog's second year they go thru fear phases as well as cement their personalities. Building on the foundation of socialization and good manners of the first year should be a priority in helping your dog be the best family member they can be.