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?
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.