Saturday, August 28

New Places for Dax

I try to take Dax to one new place every day. Eventually, I'm going to run out of new places. :) But today Dax got to go to TWO places - the Grove City Farmer's Market, and the local PetSmart.

The farmer's market I used primarily as a place to get Dax used to a lot of people milling around. It wasn't as awful as it sounds - I had Dax with Popper, and we just stood on the corner, about 30' from the very last booth. Dax was treated heavily the entire time with hot dog and ham. A very nice woman and her granddaughter were kind enough to pet on Popper and completely ignore Dax for me, and the result was that Dax was free to sniff all over them without having to give them anything in return or feel threatened in any way. When he was done sniffing, he came to me for his treat. A very positive interaction!

The next stop was PetSmart, because I wanted to buy Dax a DAP collar. PetSmart was a much more positive place for Dax; he had "happy tail" the entire time, and went up to all kinds of people. He even allowed several of them to pet on him. In fact, he did so well, I think I may take him there every single day so he can have a positive experience like that. It was decently crowded in there too, and he acted like a fairly normal dog, who just was picky about who could touch him. :) After every interaction he came back to me wanting an ear rub or a treat. He understands the game perfectly. He also really likes the dog toy aisle. :)

I put the DAP collar on after we checked out, while my husband made a new dog tag for his corgi, and after only a few seconds it had already made a difference. Dax likes to randomly bark, and with the collar on, he stopped barking for a good three minutes, and after that, he rarely barked at all.

Friday, August 27

Wherein Popper becomes a Security Blanket and Dax becomes a Real Dog

I nearly sat down on the grass and cried today.

Not the "oh no, life is awful," sort of cry, but the "oh my God, I am so relieved, comforted, and happy" sort.

Today I took Dax to the human park for the first time. I picked a time where it wouldn't be too busy, but that there would be some people around to provide opportunities for rewarding. I also brought along Popper, who is a veritable social butterfly around humans. My heart swelled with glee when Dax bounded out of the car, tail wagging, and proceeded to dash around furiously, splash through creeks (the water phobic dog!), chase squirrels and bark merrily at cats. You would have thought he was a normal dog. Surely this was not the anxiety-filled, scrawny mess of a dog who jumped twelve feet at the smallest sound just a few weeks ago. Dax was playing and frolicking like the puppy he is. He boldly bounded into thickets, bounced his way across fields, and in general, behaved much like any other ten month old. He had happy tail the entire hour and a half we spent at the park. I feel like we sailed around the world.

I don't mean to say he's "fixed." He's not. While new places aren't so scary (particularly those outside), he's still pretty wary of people. And I say wary - because we've stepped up from terrified. Yes, we had a few woofs, and he did start chasing a little kid who was running by (quite motion responsive), but we approached or walked much closer to people than we have been. Indeed, Dax turned it into a game, where he would run up to a person, sniff their shoes, and then dash back to the relative safety of Mom. Did I reward the heck out of him? You bet. He particularly loved this two year old who was walking with his mother. He kept going up to the child again and again. I asked the Mom if we could follow behind them for a while since Dax was so taken with the little boy, and we spent an enjoyable time where Dax was STRAINING to see someone. That has never happened before. Dax has begun to have more and more "mild" reactions where he "freezes" momentarily when he sees someone - and then we continue on. The barking is becoming less, the dashing madly away at any reaction on the stranger's part is becoming more of a trot.

I'm pretty sure we can get Dax over "stranger danger," to a degree - he is a cattle dog, after all, not a breed known for being overly affectionate to those they are not familiar with. He is intensely curious in people, and as long as they ignore him, he feels much more comfortable to go check them out. But poor socialization, being yelled at often, and God knows what else have made this little dog a wreck about new folks. If I'm not careful with his interactions, he'll get diarrhea from being so worked up about it.

Popper was actually one of my last choices to walk with Dax. He barks at anything and everything, and he's a NIGHTMARE on the leash if I walk another dog with him. In fact, all of his own personal issues are amplified if I don't walk him solo. However, two things Popper does have, unfailingly, and in huge scores, is fearlessness and a natural joy for life. I walked the two together last night just to try it, and the effect it had on Dax was instantaneous and remarkable. I could see that dog swell with confidence as surely as if he were playing in his own backyard. We were a bit lucky we did not run into other dogs though; while Popper is dog-friendly, he is not quite as reliably so when he's on leash and will bark incessantly when he sees one.

I have since decided that Popper and Dax will be regular walking buddies, and Popper will accompany Dax on all future visits to parks, pet stores, and everywhere else we go. Sure, it's a crutch. But you bet I'm going to exploit the heck out of it. If one day Dax decides humans are as awesome as my other dogs do, I may wean him off of Popper so he can be confident on his own. But that's a long time away. For right now, I'm going to do whatever it takes to help Dax feel like the "real dog" I saw at the park today. Because he deserves it.

Friday, August 20

Dax Progress Update

   Dax has been progressing along like a fireball with his anxiety issues.

   Last night, I took him along with me to BRAG while Popper had class, his second time at the building. He was relaxed in his crate the entire time, and amazingly, was taking hot dog treats. He went through the door much more easily, and was quite happy to receive some hot dogs as a reward. He approached several people and dogs, took hot dogs from a few people, and did his Mom proud. I even had a friend hold his leash and walk him out to my car.

   Today, we took our daily walk along the same route, except I brought Merlin along as well. Merlin's been "vengeful" pottying, no doubt due to Dax, so I figured he could use the quality time with Dax as well as some extra exercise. As an alterior motive, I think having Popper along last night was a huge confidence boost to Dax, and I was craving some more success. :)

   And success is exactly what I got. Dax finally, for the first time ever, went potty on a walk. He's never gone anywhere except in the backyard. That probably doesn't sound like a huge thing to most people, but trust me, it really is. After his potty, he walked down into the marshy area that runs along the sidewalk (I walk dogs on long flexis usually) and explored quite happily. When we rounded the marsh with the forest on one side, he was noticeably less freaked out about the trees, and even started flushing out birds! :D I was so happy with his progress that I decided to push it up a notch, and we did one extra block of unfamiliar territory.

   Piece of CAKE! He wasn't throwing out any calming signals at all. He was trotting around like he'd been walking the neighborhood all his life. He didn't even trip me ONCE on the whole walk; normally he'll dart back and forth right in front of my feet, so I have to stop, stutter step, or fall on my face. He even LOOKED happy. The one single problem we had on the whole walk was in the first two minutes, along the familiar route, when we were waiting to cross the street. There was a bit more traffic than usual, and Dax dropped to his belly while a couple of obnoxiously loud cars passed by. That was literally the only noticeable calming signal I saw from this dog.

HUGE improvements in such a small amount of time! I'll continue to take Dax with me wherever I go (when appropriate and feasible), and hopefully he will do a complete 180 from when I first met him!

Tuesday, August 17

Dax's Great Escape

Wednesday night, two days after Dax was fixed, I ended up taking him to OSU Veterinary Emergency Services... All his stitches were gone. Just plain gone. They put four staples in him, yelled at me for a while, put a cone on his head, and we were good to go.

And I was very good at keeping him coned and crated for five very long days.

Last night, however, Dax had apparently had enough.

I came home from Merlin's agility class, opened my bedroom door, and Dax pranced daintily past me. Ummmm.... I walked into my bedroom, and the front panel of the dog crate was torn off. Literally, torn off. He broke two welds in his escape. It was a very large, heavy-duty dog crate, too, I had actually borrowed Roofus's wire crate, which is humongous, since the poor dog had to spend most of his time confined, as well as with the cone.

After I got over the shock, and called my Dad (who can weld anything), I had a good laugh about the little cattle dog who just refuses to be contained. All day long he was whining and whimpering about being stuck in his crate (normally he is completely silent), and I suppose he just couldn't take it any more.

Today I'm not crating him unless I have to leave, because his incision looks pretty well healed (guessing antibiotics helped there) and the staples still look just fine. We'll just hold off on the strenuous exercise until the weekend. :)

Monday, August 9

Agility Weekend and Dax Gets Fixed

Saturday we went up to Flashpoint Agility's CPE trial. Popper and Merlin had three runs each, in Standard, Fullhouse, and Wildcard.

Fullhouse started out well enough. Popper was a bit all over the place, typical in the first run and typical for an outdoor trial. I had plotted a run that allowed something like 38 points though, so we were okay. Took first place by a mile, had the table perfectly planned so the buzzer rang about 1 second before he jumped on it. Merlin was distracted, nervous, and aware of everything. Even things that don't normally bother him. He missed a Q by 2 points, because he simply refused to do most things.

Standard was nerve wracking because it was my first time running in Level 3, and it was with Merlin, who was demonstrating that today was not going to be a fun day for him. And the streak continued... but got worse. He just stopped doing tunnels entirely. Most jumps I had to zip around behind and call him from, so he HAD to jump over it. I will say, he did the teeter perfectly. Sometimes when he's spooked, he'll jump off the teeter midway. He also entered and performed all six weaves absolutely perfectly on the very first try. He refused to do the last jump. Not that it mattered at that point.

Popper did great - well, I did not LOL. I started running Popper on Merlin's Level 3 course - luckily, after the first off course, a light bulb clicked in my brain, I laughed, apologized to Popper, and we went off - correctly this time. He did miss his weave entry, which is TOTALLY unlike Popper!! However, he did manage a Q.

The third run, Popper did awesome. Easy Q. I decided to run Merlin FEO. We did two jumps on leash, which he did happily, and then we jogged out, where Daddy was waiting with a ton of treats. The crowd cheered and clapped, and Merlin looked as happy as if he'd just successfully run a full course. I'm glad I did not try to run Merlin off leash. The very instant the leash comes off lately, he becomes Mr Scared of Everything. Unfortunately, you can't run agility on leash....

I took Merlin to Roofus's rally obedience class today, and she had the rally course set up around the agility equipment. Merlin was extremely confident and clearly enjoying himself. But of course, he was also on leash. :(

Today I took Dax to the vet for his shots and to be neutered. He had a super freak out in the waiting room when some yorkie-schnauzer thing started yipping at him non-stop. Luckily the owner saw how spazzed his dog was making Dax, and took the thing outside, but the damage was done. Dax spent the rest of his time hiding under my chair.

When I went back later to get him, he didn't even acknowledge me. Wouldn't look me in the eye. :( Then he proceeded to vomit twice all over my car, and once home, to vomit two more times. I deserved it, I guess. He's been snoozing off and on, as much as a nervous cattle dog can.

Thursday, August 5

Plus One!

There's a new Menagerie Mayhem dog - introducing Dax! Dax is a ten month old red Australian Cattle Dog that we rescued today. He is simply irresistible, and his only "bad" habit seems to be that he is extremely shy of new people and situations. With all the doggie classes and competitions we go to, we're sure this shyness will go away very quickly!

Isn't he cute? He thinks so too!

Monday, August 2

Popper Update

Popper had his vet recheck, as well as an agility workshop on Friday.

The vet said he couldn't look better, everything was completely healed. We still have to watch his other sideways tooth though, and she said eventually it will need removed as well. But for now, it's fine.

Popper's teeth definitely were hurting him, because when we ran agility on Friday night, he was zooming like a demon. Ironically, that's his middle name. He hasn't run that fast for me in probably a year. He never slowed down, either. THAT is more what I would expect from a cattle dog mix! Thank goodness we got those teeth pulled!