Saturday, March 12, 2022
Sunday, March 6, 2022
Look at her! Relaxing in her crate WITH the door closed! She has always been ok in her crate, voluntarily goes in there to hang out and sleeps in it all night, but ONLY with the door open. Her anxiety increases a LOT as soon as the door is closed. I had a plan to give her a beef bone that she has never had before in her crate and shut the door and hopefully she’d chew on it and relax and fall asleep for her nap. While she did chew on it for a good 20 minutes, she eventually realized that the door was closed and I wasn’t right next to her. I came over and eventually got her to lay down in there. But she got right back up so I let her come out and go potty outside, then she went back inside (voluntarily again!). Took her a few minutes to settle again, but she did it! I do need to be sitting next to the crate, but we’re working on one thing at a time and right now, it’s just getting her to be ok with the door being closed. I plan do this at the same time everyday with the hope that she’ll be able to stay in there for a couple hours at a time while we are away at church. While she did fall asleep in the crate with the door closed it was a very light sleep and not as long of a nap as she would have otherwise taken. She would wake up if I spoke too loud indicating that I wasn’t riiiiiight next to her.
Day two in the crate went similarly to day one with light intermittent sleep, but it seemed like it didn’t take quite as long for her to settle down each time.
Day three was markedly better in that she was able to settle and fall asleep without me sitting right next to her, though she did whine a couple times.
Day four started out good, she went in, whimpered a few times but settled and went to sleep, but then woke up 10-15 minutes later and got really anxious, she seemed more anxious than she was even on day one so we took her out to go potty. When she came back in it took a few minutes to settle down but she seems to be ok now.
Day five has actually gone well, she whimpered a bit at first but settled, slept, and stayed asleep for almost 2 hours. I was starting to second guess this whole thing because yesterday seemed like a bit of a set back. I really think that I’ll be able to go to church and leave her alone by next week.
Day six, no whining or whimpering, she just laid down and went to sleep! I told the kids to all go up stairs so no one would be around her crate so she could get used to being alone. I still stayed in the living room, but on the loveseat where she couldn’t see me. Though, she did wake up after an hour, whimper a bit then settled back down. Over the next few days I’ll get further and further away, until I just put her in the crate then go upstairs so she’s totally alone. I’m just so proud of the progress she’s made here because last week I was convinced that she wouldn’t take to the crate at all and we’d need to get one of those pet playpen fence things to keep her in. I am debating whether or not I should leave the TV on for her, or if maybe that wont be helpful. I also need to work on getting her to go in the crate when I tell her to, so far I haven’t used any commands, I just stick a treat in there and she walks in.
This one is going slowly since we’re not working on it everyday, but I have found a short trail about a mile from the house that I think would be good for us to drive to since the drive would end with us going to a fun and exciting place. I do wonder if part of her being anxious is because we were holding her on our laps before, maybe she’d feel more comfortable if we had her riding on the floor of the van at our feet and not looking out the window, so I think for the first little drive we do I’ll put her bed in there and see if it goes any better, but that’s still a couple days off since I still want to do a little bit more to get her used to the van in the first place.
She had her first bath and she didn’t hate it! It certainly wasn’t her favorite activity, but she tolerated it well and even willingly got back in the tub after she was done to finish licking the peanut butter.
She still has accidents, but Wednesday she started running over and ringing the bell to go out. I was hoping that that meant she was totally potty trained, but then she started to poop in the house Friday morning *facepalm*. I caught her and took her outside so she could finish outside. Now I’m thinking that it’ll be another few days (at least!) of her ringing the bell every time before it solidifies with her that that’s what she needs to do all the time.
Another thing I’ve been thinking about with potty training is that there may be times in the future when I’d need her to go on one of those pee pads (like if we’re traveling by plane, or train and I need her to go before we board, or even ON the plane/train/bus), but I don’t want to train her to go outside and on pee pads now, I feel like that would make potty training take longer, maybe I’m wrong though. Anyway, the first step to going potty on command is to start saying “go potty” or “go poop” when she’s doing it outside when we take her now. I was kind of doing that before, unintentionally and not every time, but I’ve started doing it every time. I figure it’ll also help if we ever go in a store or visit a friend to make sure she goes potty before going inside.
End of week weight: 22 lbs
Tuesday, March 1, 2022
Sometime in January I heard or read something about service dogs for anxiety, they help you through panic attacks, or even help to prevent them by alerting you because of things you are doing or your rising heart rate. I thought, “wow, that’s cool! I knew there were seeing, hearing, and diabetic and seizure alert service dogs, but I didn’t know they could help with a mental disability like panic attacks.” I looked up the cost to get one out of curiosity and saw they were $15k-$30k for a dog so I quickly dropped that idea.
Then a couple weeks later we were picking up a loveseat from an old lady with the nicest little pup, looked like a shih tzu mix and was so sweet. I had a shih tzu when I was a kid so obviously it made me want one and since this is the first time we haven’t been renting I finally felt like we could get a dog without the burden of trying to find a rental that would allow dogs. At first I thought a little companion dog would be good for us, but then I thought maybe something a little bit bigger would be good so they kids could take the dog on walks around the neighborhood and have at least a little bit of protection, even if it’s just a sense of security. I started researching what dogs would best suit our needs and decided that a cocker spaniel, golden retriever, or German shepherd would be best, but the internet repeatedly told me that German shepherds are best for second time dog owners, not first, so eventually I put them off the list, though, maybe they’ll be on a future list.
Our budget was tight so I knew I couldn’t afford a purebred from a reputable breeder, so I thought a mutt from an accidental litter would be best. Two healthy parents, lower chances of genetic disorders being inherited, and I wouldn’t be supporting a “backyard” breeder. And if you’re reading this and thinking that I should adopt, not shop, then I’d like you to know that I would gladly adopt but at this time it is not good for our family. My kids have (had?) a great fear of dogs, and we need to be able to start with a puppy, so they have watch her grow up and get used to her and learn how to be around dogs gradually. And while I am confident that, with all of the resources available, I can train a blank slate of a puppy, I am not confident that I will know how to fix any issues an older rescue might have. I know that shelters have puppies too, but they (at least our local one) spays all dogs and cats, even puppies, and that’s not recommended for large breed dogs, at least not until they are close to 2 years old.
Anyway, while I was waiting to find a good puppy we watched a lot of YouTube videos on dog training, and temperament testing. While watching a video on how to pick out a good puppy I found out that you can actually owner train a service dog! That means that the $15k-$30k goes down to just the cost of the pup (and obviously upkeep)! I found some videos on YouTube showing how to train your dog to help with anxiety. These dogs are called Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSD) and they can help with PTSD, anxiety, panic attacks, and other things. They’ll alert you to a flare up and/or help you deal with/calm down from an “episode”. PSDs are NOT the same as Emotional Support Animals (ESA). ESAs are great, but they are not trained to do a task to help you with a medical condition. PSDs ARE trained to perform certain tasks to help with a medical condition and will be trained specifically for Public Access (PA) so that they are well behaved out in public when they are working.
I had “interviewed” several litters before ultimately settling on Isabella. She did well on the temperament tests that I did on her and was the only one in her litter that kept coming back to me and tried to fetch a piece paper for me. She wasn’t the calmest puppy, but was still on the calmer side compared to her siblings. Her dad, golden retriever, was a calm one and they said that one of his earlier litters (a pure golden retriever litter) had a pup that went on to be a service dog. Her mom is a German shorthair pointer who is not full of a crazy amount of energy like the average GSP. Both breeds are known for being good tempered, easy to train, non reactive, and not aggressive at all. The only real drawback to having a GSP as a service dog is their massive amount of energy and need for exercise, but since I picked a pup on the calmer side (and she’s half golden retriever) I think she has great potential for service work.
I’m still not totally sure I want to be taking her out in public, especially given the horror stories I’ve heard of fake spotters and people just not being knowledgeable of ADA laws. I’m still going to train, socialize, and desensitize her as if she will do PA in the future, but even if all she does is help me at home it’ll be a huge help!
This week we are starting work on two areas of desensitization, aka overcoming fears: baths/the bathtub, and the van. The first day I had to get in the tub with her and squeeze out a spot of peanut butter for her to lick, only staying in the tub for a few minutes. By the third day of doing the same thing she willingly walked into the bathroom by herself and thought about hopping in the tub with me. On day three I added a little trickle of water from the faucet while she was licking the peanut butter, she didn’t like that too much, but didn’t freak out either. We took a day off of bath training, so on day four I let the water trickle for a few minutes, she was ok with it, but still wasn’t a fan. I did let the tub fill up a bit but it didn’t cover the whole bottom so she didn’t have to touch it if she didn’t want to.
As I mentioned last time, she doesn’t like car rides at all so day one of “van training” was just sitting in the van for a few minutes while she licked peanut butter and sniffed around. On day two we sat in the middle section of the van and I let her sniff around a bit more.
I’m not sure how many things I can try desensitizing her to at the same time, so I’m trying to take it easy and not do too much, and I’m not working on more than the two things in the same day. Maybe I could go faster and try the tub 2-3 times a day, but I’m just not sure at this point. I also want to start working with her on being in the crate with the door closed, so I’ll be adding that in little by little too.
By the beginning of this week she had conquered her fear of the stairs, now she just needs to learn how to gracefully scale them.
In other family news, all four kids got sick this past week and she was sad that her play buddies weren’t feeling well enough to play with her, the whole energy of the house was a bit lower than normal. Isabella was definitely happy when they started feeling better.
Wednesday, February 23, 2022
This is Isabella Valentina. She’s a German shorthair pointer (mom)/golden retriever (dad).
We picked her up after church Sunday afternoon, she was a little anxious on our way home, Thank the Lord it was just a 25 minute drive. When we got home she was able to meet the rest of the family and explore the house a bit. I had gotten a small bag of food, a toy, halter, a leash, and retractable leash the day before so we at least had the basics covered. When I was a kid I had a shih tzu puppy that we had in a topless cardboard box to sleep in at night, so, since we recently moved and still have a ton of boxes of varying sizes I figured I could do the same with this pup, but nope. I ended up going to PetSmart the next day and getting a comfy bed and a crate. She is ok with the crate, but really doesn’t like it when the door is closed so I need to spend more time trying to get her used to being in a closed crate, but until then she has an enclosed area that I set up with her crate, a wall, and a box or tub and my bed to sleep in. She seems to be doing really well with it. I *think* I’m going to keep trying to get her comfortable with the closed door (she sleeps in it and goes in by herself as is), but I’m not sure at this point. I’m home all day everyday except for a couple hours on Sunday mornings so it’s not like she’s going to be in the crate a lot. I hope to train her to be my service dog (anxiety and panic attacks), which would mean that eventually she may not need to be left alone at all. But that is for the distant future (a year from now at the earliest), and I’ll need to do what we need for now and then and train for both.
Potty training was going super well for the first 4 days or so before she had an accident and she’s had one a day since then, which is what I get for getting a bit prideful about it those first few days, haha! I made a bell to hang on the door today to help us prevent accidents in the future. The idea is that she’ll ring the bell (that’s hanging from the door) when she needs to go potty, we’ll hear the bell and take her out.
She’s gone on 3 car rides so far. I mentioned earlier that on the first one she was a little anxious, well, on the second one she was a bit more anxious, but eventually fell asleep, which I took as a good sign that she was getting used car rides. But that was not so because on the third ride she was having an even harder time and on the way back she threw up. So, now I need to spend some extra time s l o w l y getting her used to the car. My plan is to go sit in the van with her for a couple minutes, then come inside. Then, just pull out of the garage and sit in the driveway. Then take short drives around our neighborhood, before going on a longer ride across town. I was anticipating it taking several weeks, but a more experienced dog person said that they had to do the same thing with their dog and it only took a couple weeks, so I’m hoping that it’ll at least not take more than a month.
There are several things we’ve been working on this first week, the one with the biggest benefit is leave it, followed by look at me (guardami), sit (seduto), lay down (a terra), stand, and down. Some of the commands are in Italian because I’m still (always?) learning Italian and want to have that connection, and I know (from talking to other people) that dogs can easily be bilingual and even trilingual without any problems or confusion on the dogs part. The plan is that she’ll learn the commands little by little and we’ll continue to reinforce what she’s learning everyday (and in different environments) for the next year to really solidify these lessons, but really training is a lifetime commitment especially when you want a really well trained dog. The kids are all eager to teach her things as well, so I’ve told them that I’ll be the one to teach basic obedience and manners and they can teach her the fun tricks, like shake, sit pretty, and roll over. We also have plans do to some agility training with hoola hoops so we’ll have a means to exercise her inside on those days when long walks outside aren’t going to happen (super smoky outside, or subzero temps); I think a little obstacle course through the house would be fun.
She is 10 weeks right now, and 18 lbs, she seems to be gaining about 2 lbs a week, and I figure that she’ll be about 50 lbs fully grown based on the size of her parents.
End of first week thoughts: puppies are a lot of work and I couldn’t do this without all of my eager helpers. <3