So we got rats yesterday 🙂 I don’t know what go into me but for last few weeks I was obsessed with rats and I could not let go.
For some reason my partner allowed my madness to develop and somehow I made him believe that getting two new pets is a good idea. As a kid I kept all sorts of animals from mice to oysters (yes I had pet oysters… and snails and spiders). I got my first rat when I was in primary school, I bought him behind me parents back and kept him under my bed for the first week (it was a high bed so he had enough space). His name was Mati and he was a hooded rat with serious skin problems. He was allergic to dairy and animal protein. Back then vets didn’t really know much about rat health so I looked for specialists but special diet was the only remedy. He was a nice rat, would travel on my shoulder and learned how to open every cage. he also hated men and my dog but was really sweet to women.
And now 17 years later I have rats again. Now I know that they are very social and should live with another rat ( I do feel bad about keeping Mati alone). We have to 4 months old males Edward Lee Thorndike (who is more outgoing) and B. F. Skinner (who is a bit shy). In short we refer to them as Eddy and Freddy 😉
It hasn’t been 24 hours since they are here so we are giving them space to get used to their new home. For now they are in the bedroom and they haven’t met our dogs yet (dogs got their box to smell). I’m already slowly working on their trust, yesterday with pink grape (works good against cancer) and today with small piece of broccoli which Eddy took from my hand 🙂
Yesterday night I was reading out loud to Jochem with rats in the room, they were eating at that moment so I’m hoping that they will associate my voice with food (through classical conditioning).
I’m so excited to ge to know those little guys.
Chili’s fear of vets got stronger (no wonder as I didn’t have any time to desensitise her) and now when I’m finally about to start working on it she has an ear problem again. It’s really bad luck. Changing the way she feels about vets will take really long time either way and now on top of this we will have to take her to the vet to get her ears checked first. I made an appointment on a day when a female doctor is working and in early morning so there are not too many people and Jochem can come with me. Hopefully she will feel more secure with both of us there. We will carry her in the exam room as last time she didn’t want to walk in there and I don’t want to struggle with her more than necessary.
Once this visit is done I will start behaviour modification plan based mostly on systematic desensitisation and counterconditioning. As she is generally anxious (in novel situations) I will have to start with working on our way to the clinic. We have to walk there (she is afraid of cars and we don’t have one, and she gets over aroused in trams) and when she has a worse day she will become anxious already on the way. So I will have to make sure that we are working under the threshold which means before she starts to show any signs of stress or anxiety. The next step will be getting her feeling relaxed by the door of the clinic (as she refused to go inside last time), then the reception area (slowly each part will be worked on separately) and eventually the exam room but I think it will take at least two months before we get to that stage. It will all depend on Chili and how she is dealing with it.
The important part is to not get her too aroused and stressed as in this situation her learning will be compromised. Additionally if she has other stressful experiences they might add up together and make her react faster and stronger than she normally would. It’s called trigger stacking. It is really easy to understand from a human perspective. Last week I was flying back from the UK, I didn’t get enough sleep (one trigger), I lost my phone (another trigger) I could not fin my boyfriend at the airport (trigger as I was really tired and wanted to go home) by that time I was ready to explode even in situations that normally wouldn’t make me feel edgy. The same happens with dogs, and anxious dogs like Chili will be more sensitive to everyday life stressors. (For more info see “Manual of Clinical Behavioral Medicine for dogs and cats” by Karen Overall).
It’s been a very calm day so far, girls were sleeping off their morning walks and I was cleaning. I decided to treat them to a little search game with empty egg containers, envelopes and oat meal boxes. I rolled a bit of their kibble in empty envelopes which I then placed in an empty egg box. And just for a bit more difficulty I put the egg containers in an empty oat meat box. They love this game 🙂
Sometimes we just stumble upon right text at a right time. For me today it is a blog post about accepting the dog you have:
I had a conversation about exactly this topic minutes before I saw this post.
I think that (I hope) I do accept my dogs the way they are most the time but sometimes I just forget.
Today we had a situation with Chili that made me forget and wish she was different. Even though when I’m thinking about it now, and when I was there in the moment I didn’t think it was very bad I think that in my head I made it worse that it was.
We were in the park with Salma and Chili and an older gentleman with a hound female German shepherd mix approached us from behind. The dog was curious and young and she wanted to come up to our dogs, she met Salma first and while they were sniffing each other Chili run up to them and tried to displace the other dog. She jumped up twice to make herself taller and growled. The dog didn’t move, they continued to sniff and separated. We stayed behind and the shepherd and his owner continued on. I threw a ball behind us for Chili, I didn’t think the other dog will turn back and run after her. But she did and Chili got pissed. I can’t be sure but I think I heard the other dog growl when she couldn’t catch Chili and then Chili got angry and chased her away. It was loud but short and from where I was standing it didn’t seem dangerous. But the shepherd run away and didn’t want to come back (even though we walked away). She did come back after a while and they continued walking but I feel so bad that Chili scared her. If she didn’t run away I wouldn’t consider this as a serious fight but she must have been scared. And the thing is Chili isn’t really protective of her toys, she usually will spit them out when other dogs are around or just ignore them that’s why I wasn’t careful with throwing her ball in the park.
I can’t forget that Chili always will be a nervous dog never mind how much work I will put in her.
Additionally she got spooked by people just before we got in the park which I think could add up to her nervousness.
I have to remember that she is wonderful in so many other ways. She is very affectionate, she loves to learn, is very motivated and she listens well. And happy and playful most of the time.
I woke up with a painful throat which pissed me off, I don’t have time to get sick (and after 10 months since my last cold I though I was invincible). I had to finish my essay in behavioral problems in dogs and horses even though I felt like sleeping the whole day. And yes I had to walk Chili in the morning. If walking in a heavy rain and wind wasn’t bad enough she rolled in something very dead. I had to wash her as soon as we got home, I didn’t even take my shoes off. Even Salma was repulsed by Chili’s new fragrance. But well, too bad those things happen. Stupid enough I decided to walk both dogs together in the afternoon. I was even very proud of myself how well it was going. I lost my voice but still my girls behaved well… Till I decided to go home that is. Chili disappeared in the bushes and I could call her I tried but sound coming out of my mouth were disappointing. She did appear a minute later holding the biggest and dirtiest rabbit I’ve ever seen. I walked away, I knew I cannot catch her and that for her in that moment this rabbit is so important that I cannot compete with it with my stupid treats. She didn’t follow me and Salma so I came back to see that a woman with a pit bull is watching Chili eat. Nice. By that time Chili had only ears (and I guess a bit of head) left and was running after me and Salma but keeping safe distance. If I wasn’t vegetarian already this would put me of off meat for a long time. I was pissed at her but at the same time it’s not fair towards her. Let’s forget about our human expectations for a while. We had a good time walking all together and then Chili’s time got even better. She followed her nose and found a tasty dead rabbit. That’s what dogs have been selected for generations: to scavenge. There is absolutely nothing wrong with her behavior, she is an opportunistic scavenger and I’m the one who is crazy wanting her to just leave her treasure behind.
On a more serious note: I gave her a medicine for her stomach as a precaution and I will de warm her in two days (I want all the rabbit to go out first). I wonder though how she manages to eat a whole rabbit with the bones and fur.