Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Aftermath

So it's been a week and a half since the ER incident, and Theo is 90% back to normal. Unfortunately, there's some characteristics he's displayed since we brought him back home from the vet that haven't quite gone away. Those two days we were separated were apparently a little traumatic for him. A word of advice: quickly grab a t-shirt from your drawer if you're running off to the vet for an emergency. That way if s/he has to stay overnight, they'll have something to remind them of home. I think Theo would have been much better off if we had thought of something like that.

So the first characteristic is something I've mentioned before: the separation anxiety/clingyness. If we let Theo have free-run of the house, he would probably just sit by the door all day, waiting for us to come home. He doesn't like us to be out of his sight (or direct control), and when we are, he freaks. The other day I was sitting about 2 feet from him, but the gate was between us, so he started crying and barking. Even though he could see me, he didn't want to be separated from me. Now if I go upstairs and leave him behind the gate, he paces, he cries, and eventually he barks. I'm hoping that time and a schedule will get him used to us coming and going again.

Another example is on Sunday night I was in one room playing the Wii while Husband was in the next room playing the XBox 360. Theo was in a chill mood, so he just laid down at my feet. Twenty minutes later he got up and sat down at Husband's feet. About twenty minutes after that, he came back to me. He divided his time between us like that for about 2 hours, until we went to bed. It was adorable, but definitely not something he did before.

Next is his eating. He's always been a food monger, but ever since the vet, he eats like he's never going to eat again. Before he wasn't a big fan of kibble, and would usually leave it behind in his food dish. Now he gobbles it up with the rest of his food. He hasn't left a single morsel in his bowl ever since he was on that i/d diet, when were only allowed to feed him 1-2TB of food at a time. I mean, he licks his bowl clean every single meal. It's crazy.

Surprisingly, the week that we weren't able to take him for walks completely destroyed a lot of what we had accomplished with him. We've slowly been getting it back though. The first few walks he would just dart forward and wouldn't walk by my side for the world. Now he's much more mellow, though the stretch of street our house is on, he still doesn't do so well. Last night's walk was actually really good, as good as before. It felt really good to know that we hadn't ruined him somehow. Hehe.

I have to say, even though some will disapprove, that we got him a "choke collar" a few weeks ago (before the ER incident). First off, it's the nice kind with nylon weaved through so it doesn't catch on his fur. And second, it's been like magic ever since we got it. We had just reached a brick wall in his walking training with his buckle collar (and I won't even mention the harness debacle!). He would just pull and pull and never listened, never learned. I mean, we're talking weeks and weeks where I tried a bunch of different things. I tried refusing to walk if he didn't heel. I tried the constantly changing directions so he had to keep up with me. None of it worked. It was like he didn't even feel the pressure on his neck. In the first 5 minutes of walking him with the choke collar, he was a dream. He walked right by my side and when I stopped or turned, he responded accordingly. Now that he's gotten used to the new collar more (I only use that collar for walks, nothing else), he's not as responsive, but it still works wonders.

The only thing I have to be careful about is stimulation. When Theo sees a person, or a car, or especially another dog, he jets forward. I've finally trained him to stay by me when a car drives by, but I haven't been able to make a dent with people or animals. He tries to jump at them as they go by, or if they're ahead of us, he pulls me like a Husky pulls a dog sled, and since he's tethered to the leash, it usually involves the collar tightening very hard around his neck. I try and just hold him back so the collar with loosen, but that doesn't seem very conducive to the training. Any tips on how to deal with a dog who won't sit nicely to greet people? Hehe.

Other than that he's back to the old trouble-maker Theo.


The Senakams said...

So Theo paces around to make sure all his people are there, he eats every kibble and licks his bowl clean... hmm, let's see.... he's becoming a real corgi! :D

Seriously, I think it's a herding dog thing. Bryson has always been this way. If one of us is out, he'll spend most of his time waiting at the door. And licking his bowl clean (and coming back and licking it extra clean again and again) is probably just another "corgi thing"!

Jenna Z said...

I've never seen one with nylon woven through it. The only fur-saver kind of choke I know of are the snake chain oblong-link kind. I'd like to see a picture sometime of this one. I know you probably don't want to buy MORE equipment but the collar I recommend to everyone is a martingale (aka limited slip collar). They come in all chain, all nylon web, and combo nylon web-chain varieties. They are just what the name says, a slip collar that only closes to a certain degree so you don't have to worry about strangling a dog that gets excited and pulls at certain times. They are also great for dogs that can pull out of a regular nylon collar. (backing up in fear, etc.) Sully wears flat web martingales all the time and I sew them out of decorative fabric for him as well. As far as sitting for petting, he either sits or you ask the people to ignore him and he doesn't get what he wants. Have treats and lure him into a sit whenever you see a person/dog/car/thing that would excite him. Work on eye contact and ignoring distractions so that he focuses on you instead of the oncoming distraction.

JuLo said...

Hehe. That's a good point, Ivy. He's just being a dog. I just noticed that he didn't do it before the vet visit. Maybe he just has more appreciation for his people now. :)

Jenna, I'll definitely take some pictures of the collar to show you. It's just a normal chain choke collar, with a thin strip of nylon weaved in and out of the chain. That way when it pulls tight, his fur can't get caught in the links. My husband trained his dog with a choke collar (the was the thing 15 years ago, right?), so that's what he wanted to get. I'm definitely open to trying different kinds of collars. I'll check out the martingales next time I'm at the pet store.

mary said...

That's so cute that he goes between you guys! I think he's just trying out some herding instincts :)

I for one think that choke-chain, if used appropriately, is a great training tool. As long as you look into the proper way of correcting the dog with it and using it in general, a lot of dogs learn a lot better on it.
What's really great about it is that the dog learns to associate the sound of the chain when it's coming to a choke with the sensation of the choke that soon follows. So the dog can eventually learn to slow down as soon as the chain just starts closing (and making the sound), and before it actually chokes him - that would be your ideal goal in choke-chain training :)

mary said...

Forgot to add, for when he jets forward and pulls the chain shut, try this (it doesn't work for all dogs, but worth a try):

As soon as he pulls, let him jet and choke, but keep your hand next to your body, not outstretched, so you can have room to loosen it. When the leash is tight, move your hand towards him to slightly release the choke and then pull it back tight. Give a command to get back to you, stop, or whatever you say in those situations. Continue repeating until he stops - choke, release, choke, release. Don't overdo it with the strength, you don't want to yank the leash, you just want to keep a variable pressure. If he pulls tight and stays chokes, he gets slowly used to the pressure and stops caring, with the choke/release, the pressure constantly comes in and out and is less pleasant (therefore more likely to get you a response). Try it on your arm - you'll see what I mean about getting used to the pressure.

Ideally you should try and prevent these scenarios though. Be on the looking out people/animals/whatever. As soon as you see them in the distance coming toward you, sit Theo down and work on some tricks with him - keep him distracted until the people/animals pas by, and praise praise praise if he doesn't notice them. Make sure you communicate to the people that you are training the dog, so please don't touch or call him (unless he is behaving well and you can okay it).

JuLo said...

Mary, excellent advice, thanks! You and Jenna are right. I need to work on distracting him. I always put him into a sit, but he never stays in it. I'll try the treat distraction (though sometimes he gets so excited, that might not even work).