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).
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.
Below you can find a link to a blog post by Alexa Capra. She was our host and mentor during the communication classes and I am a big fun of her work. I think she understand dogs on a level that most can’t achieve. I love what she does. Below you can read a story of Zolty (Yellow).
I saw him last year and this year, and I had tears in my eyes during his second interaction with Mila. It was a truly magical moment.