It was a rough morning for Woody and me. We got hit with a huge snowstorm between last night and today, so our already shortened trips outside were even further limited as the snow comes up to Woody's back. Once we got back inside I went to take his leash off and something about my thick North Face gloves ($12.99 at Nordstrom Rack!) scared him into an aggressive state. It took about five minutes of calming down to get the leash off him and even then he was still on edge as he was growling, barking and showing his teeth at the sheer state of my presence.
My first instinct was sadness, then anger, then more sadness. I hate when Woody gets in this state because I know it is something that can be controlled with sufficient exercise and creating an environment that minimizes territorial and aggressive triggers. No walks and big scary things coming at his neck don't help matters. After going to a behavioral vet, I have a pretty good handle on rationalizing what sets him off, but sometimes I fail to react properly or prevent the situation. This is why I do not allow most children to touch him, much to the dismay of a few parents I've encountered who think I'm being rude. Even after extensive training I sometimes need to be reminded that Woody's mind needs to be in the right place to keep angry thoughts at bay. This actually goes for humans too, but that's a post for another time.
When I got to work, I consulted my good pal Cesar and refreshed my head with ways to manage aggression. You could say this was today's dose of self-help. If you are dealing with a dog who is acting a little off like mine and you are getting frustrated, I strongly suggest reading some Cesar articles and some of the helpful tips from the ASPCA. And above all, call your vet. They can give you some suggestions for managing the situation and recommend a behavioral specialist in your area that will work with you and your dog on the best options for treating his/her type of bad behavior.
Here is what I have found that helps me and may work for you while you are waiting to connect with a professional:
After a stressful morning, our evening has been much better. What are your tips for managing your dog's bad behavior in the winter months?
I hope everyone had a safe and wonderful New Year! We celebrated Woody's 9th birthday on New Year's Eve. I still can't believe he's that old! I got him when he was nearly 5 and he has just as much energy now as he did then. I don't even want to fathom what it will be like when he starts slowing down.
A lot of people create New Year's resolutions, but it seems that just as many people complain about how stupid New Year's resolutions are. I like to live by the rule that you don't have to wait for a fresh start. Whenever "now" is, you can change your mindset and create goals. I get that it seems cliche to create resolutions when most people throw them out the window a few months in, but the idea of a fresh start to the start of the New Year can be a good benchmark. For example, maybe you want to lose weight as your overarching goal. Instead of thinking of the big picture, think of how you can make small steps to get there. Each month have a new, smaller goal that is related to health and wellness - in January you make it a goal to go spinning twice a week, February you swap soda for tea, March you say no to fast food, etc. Doing these things by a monthly basis is much more manageable and can give you some new perspective on what you like and don't like about trying to lose weight rather than going cold turkey on everything all at once and buying expensive gym memberships.
But enough on that tangent. Every year I try to think of some new things to do with my dog and reflect on some of the fun we had in the year prior. This moreso happens because his birthday falls on New Year's Eve. In 2014, I said I would take him to 3 new dog parks. I didn't do that - I know, bad dog mom. I did, however, take him to the new Cleveland dog park a few times before it got too cold for him to walk all the way down there. And we went on much longer walks and runs than we did in 2013. I guess I learned that if he is getting exercise around here and he is socializing with other dogs at doggie daycare and out in the park in my building there's no point in driving him all over the city.
Since his energy level hasn't changed, I'm going to continue to focus on doing as much activity with him as I can. Things to improve upon are:
What are some goals you have this year? Anything your dog can be a part of?
For the last week and a half Woody's left eye has been watering constantly. I thought if I waited long enough it would go away on its own but of course it didn't. My biggest aversion of taking him in to get this looked at was the dreaded thought of having to put drops in his eyes. Woody can be aggressive if a stressful situation is not managed properly, and this is one situation that I am not ready to manage.
I was sincerely hoping they would just tell me it was allergies and some Benadryl would do the trick, but naturally the treatment I was dreading was the only possible one.
When I asked what the best option for getting the drops in his eyes would be (I even asked if there was a pill form of this medicine), they recommended a muzzle. As a sidenote, before they put drops in his eyes at the vet I told them to muzzle him because I knew he would have an absolute fit. I was not trying to deal with my dog biting anyone before noon. So, I know the best option is obviously restraining the dog's jaw before restraining the dog. My problem: I have no clue how to do this at home. I own a muzzle, but I think the last time I tried to use it it was when I just got Woody and we were not on the same page like we are now, so I gave up and its been in the cubbard ever since. I don't even remember why I got it to begin with.
I am currently working on the ASPCA training method, which is similar to most other training methods I use with Woody. But, my concern is that I"m not going to get him acquainted with the muzzle soon enough. So, I have two questions for all other dog parents out there:
Share your comments below so I can attempt these suggestions and discuss with my vet! And I'll be sure to provide an update on Woody's progress as the week goes on.
Yesterday was a monumental day for Woody. After two months of behavior modification training, Woody is finally ready for advanced training and no longer needs to visit The Behavior Clinic on a regular basis. I am one proud dog mom. If that makes me a nerd then I don't want to be cool.
For those of you who are curious about behavior modification, the easiest explanation is that it is a series of gradual, systematic training sessions using positive reinforcement to encourage and teach acceptable behaviors. Woody's issues, from most serious to least serious, include stress-induced aggression, marking behaviors, territorial behavior, mounting, and over-excitement in new settings and around new people. Rather than simply teaching a dog to perform specific actions when requested (basic obedience), behavior modification teaches a dog how to react to stressful situations. In Woody's case, the beginning stages required obedience-style commands as the foundation for more advanced layering of techniques to teach a more desirable behavior, such as not mounting my friends or barking when someone enters knocks on my door.
Below is the video of Woody and I (please excuse my Sunday morning appearance) that I shared with The Behavior Clinic a few days before last night's session. In a few months, I hope to share our more advanced work.
The biggest takeaway from all this, besides how smart animals really are, is how much this is about training me as it is training the dog. I'm responsible for working with Woody on a daily, yet sporadic, basis, I have to maintain a sense of patience and positivity, and, most importantly, I have to learn how to read Woody and help manage his stressful situations before they escalate into a serious problem. I guess, in a way, this step in Woody's training means I've advanced myself in my ability to care for another living thing. And that, my friends, is pretty cool.
I'm just a twenty-something female raising the weirdest dog I've ever met.