Monday, July 7, 2014

13 Weeks.

I keep saying that if I don't write it down, I'll forget, or be unable, to see if Reno is making any progress. So I'm writing it down.

We took him hiking three weeks ago. He has his own backpack because anybody, no matter their species, has their own backpack when they head out with John:

He loved hiking. He did not love the other dogs, whether they were off leash or on.

We brought him home 13 weeks ago yesterday. And so 13 weeks in, I am documenting that he has gotten more comfortable in our house. He can go up and down the stairs confidently, which was not the case originally. He still cannot go in the kitchen. He loves his kennel (aka his house) and sleeps easily in it every night for 8 to 10 hours.

He stays to his blanketed-spot on the couch nearly always, and has not jumped on the coffee table since that first day. He started wagging his tail, which when it began, was when we noticed that he had NOT been for a month! He now wags us a welcome in the morning, at night after work, and when we cross the room or have been gone for 3 minutes or more.

He jumps at fewer noises in the house, but still jumps at some.

And most importantly, let's chat about the reactivity. I'm not sure if he's less reactive - though I can say we are better at managing it. I can duck a dog heading our way before he even sees the thing. I can position us behind a parked car or in a stranger's driveway so that we can practice watching the dog walk by without his going over threshold. With me, he can currently handle a distance of across the street. Any closer, such as an unexpectedly chained or fenced dog, and he is over threshold in three seconds flat. It seems he can handle a closer dog with John.

One thing that has improved, without a doubt, is his recovery time. If he does go over threshold and starts lunging, growling, snapping and acting like he wants to devour the other dog, he can recover within one city block now.

Another improvement is that he has learned not only his name, but he's learned Sit and Shake! He is working on Down, Sit Pretty, and Come. I include Come in the 'working on' category because he's at about 80%. And 80% is really good but that other 20% is the time you really want him to obey. I don't know if any dog is 100% on the Come command. At the dog park, and on his long line, he has 90%+ recall of Come. We have not ever used it a true off-leash situation (because he's never been in one). So I call it 80%, to be safe.

But this past weekend was a slight digression from his improvement in anxiety reduction, thanks to the fireworks. Friday night the last ones that woke me up were at 2:05 AM. That erases any excuse that it's for the kids. I hate neighborhood fireworks. For Reno, the vet prescribed Xanax:

It worked for a while, and then it stopped. Next year, Xanax for me and a sedative for him. He is just today coming down fully off the heightened cortisol of the 3rd, 4th and 5th's all-day explosions. This dog has PTSD and I'm not even trying to be funny. 

Of course what I'd like to see is for him to be able to pass an oncoming dog (first on the other side of the street, and eventually on the same side) without having a reaction. I'm not sure this will ever be possible; everything I read is not encouraging. But, at the 13-week mark, I can say he definitely is less anxious on walks - he does not cower at EVERY bicycle, loud car, shuffling foot, crunchy leaf. He only cowers at some of them. He used to pass all people with rolled-back ears and a low posture. He now is more perked up, almost looking like he could go over threshold, but he never does. He is less interested in people who are not me, John, and Auntie Beth (John's sister, and his bi-weekly dog walker). 

He does not bark in the backyard ever anymore (thanks, we think, to the two weeks of the citronella collar), and now likes it out there - he goes out willingly and stays out there without us even, from time to time.

He is rarely interested in birds now; he saves that energy for squirrels - and cats, and dogs, of course.

He still sheds a ton; I think we're screwed on this one. When he's anxious, it seems to increase from the normal rate of Daily Shit Ton to a momentary Are You Dying? level. 

In three more months, I'll remember to update on his reactivity, his leash-pulling tendencies (which are still fairly high, depending on the time of day) and his anxiety. Hopefully by documenting, there will be continued improvements seen, and thus we'll move away from feeling so on-the-fence about adding the little red leaner* to our house. 

*Little Red Leaner is one of his nicknames; when he greets us in the morning, he likes to lean into us, or put the top of his head on your shin, or even on the floor, curling over and leaning in for maximum back scratchin. 

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