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Thread: Question regarding anxiety and desensitisation

  1. #1
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    Default Question regarding anxiety and desensitisation

    Hi guys, I am way out of my depth here and hoping for some advice.

    I took Abe out yesterday on his own, as he is pretty dependent on Sal for comfort and reassurance and I want him to start to build some confidence of his own. At home he is coming along well, getting braver with meeting visitors and growing more confident every day. The problem is outside his yard he gets very anxious, and although I want to desensitise him I don't want to inadvertently compound the problem.

    So we went to a place he hasn't been before, walked for about 10-15 mins total. I stopped to talk to a friend at one point and he sat beside me huddled into my leg trembling. She made no attempt to greet him, it was more the people all around that were stressing him. To add to that I stupidly had forgotten it was tourist season and the place would be crawling with kids and wheels (bikes, scooters, skateboards, prams) which are the scariest things in the world to Abe. He couldn't wait to get back in the car.

    Now my plan was to take him out on his own every couple of days for a short time to try to get him used to people and activity around him. What I don't want to do is traumatise him. Any advice on how to do this would be much appreciated. Maybe I should take Sal too? But that seems to be defeating the purpose of trying to get him a little independent of her.

    thoughts?

  2. #2
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    I'd probably take it a lot slower. If he was trembling he was ways over his threshold. Just start with a short walk in an area he knows, maybe just around the block and preferably at a time when only few people out. Do you have a thundershirt? If it works for him he may find that comforting when he is out and about, plus if you put it on Sal first it'll smell like her and might calm him too.

  3. #3
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    No I don't have a thundershirt but like the idea of putting it on sal first. Will have to get on to that, thanks for the reminder margoo.

    We walk the same route through town every morning, the 3 of us. Even on those walks, which he's done nearly every day of his life, and with Sal present, he finds it stressful. We do it early in the morning when there aren't many people about and he copes (still gets jumpy when there are kids and bikes or skateboards going to school), but if I were to do the same walk in the middle of the day he is much as he was yesterday in unfamiliar territory. Seems if he's out of his yard he's approaching his threshold instantly. Out of his yard without Sal brings his threshold closer much quicker.

    I'm starting to think he may never be comfortable in unfamiliar territory, and to be honest I would rather accept that than traumatise him. But ideally we can work through this...?

  4. #4
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    As margoo said, if threshold is low, you start even lower. So think, His, yard, and a bike in it, skateboard in your own yard, with dog present, cycle with dog present.

    Try chamomile tea which is calming. A cup for you, and a cup for dog first. Burn off excess energy in safe spot, BEFORE you begin to expose the dog to the first of hierarchical triggers.
    A bike, led down on floor, in his garden and dog walking around it nicely for huge rewards.
    Same bike semi upright
    same bike fully upright
    same bike moving as you push it
    same bike moving as you push it on one side, Abe on other side walking

    For each step, get great reaction, then up the anti with closer distance. So for each intitial step i mention, you can further break it down, with
    bike led down, dog 30 paces away walking around it
    bike led down, dog 20 paces away walking around it
    etc etc

    You can medicate dogs with chamomile tea. It is safe for digestion, is clinically proven as anti anxiety properties.
    Similarly lavender oil also is relaxing. Maybe on that thunder shirt. Which you can make for fraction of price. : you know those padded sleevless zip up jackets, slightly puffy looking, horsey folks wear them a lot. They will fit
    Abe and have similar effect. They create their own noise level that competes with incoming audio. So sets a baseline level of noise that will deter from incoming audio signals to dog. A bell on collar can work similarly.
    When it comes to kids. Same with kids. Go to a local school take a video/audio of them doing their thing in playground, then play it to dog whilst you walk around in the dogs own yard. etc etc baby steps.

    Kids/kids on bikes/built up areas. I share Abe's sorrow in these environments. I think you have a smart dog really lol

  5. #5
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    SA
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    Great idea about taping the sound... y ou can actually download them for a few bucks. I meant to try the 'storm' one for ages...
    https://itunes.apple.com/au/album/ca...ds/id294630532

  6. #6
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    Thanks guys, don't know how I ever managed without this forum

  7. #7
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    Really, chamomile tea? I would like to see a thread about natural health for your dog. Massage and stuff that is not available from the vet. I read about dog massage on a thread here when Mags was a very wiggly hyper reactive pup. She couldn't stay still. Now at 18 mths she goes goes into an almost trance as soon as I start to massage. Love to know more about stuff like the tea.

  8. #8

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    'dhru' – Remember that Abe has just recently turned 1 year old - so have a look at this next link:

    http://www.dogforum.com.au/puppy-dis...-calendar.html

    A fear period plus turning into a teenager can do wonderful things to our pups' thinking processes.

    When our pups show fear of something – then it up to us owners not to ignore it but to try and desensitize this fear and show our pups that we have the situation under control.

    Patting a pup and reassuring them is OK !

    You can't reinforce fear- dog training - YouTube

    I have been known to sit at street corners, on park benches, street and shopping centre benches and other places to show my pups there is nothing to be afraid of and I am in charge.

    LAT – look at that - is a good command to use and you can turn it into a game to use in these instances.

    So some more links and reading for you:

    Dogmantics Dog Training | Progressive Reinforcement Dog Training

    Knowledge Base | Steve Courtney Dog Training

    Leslie McDevitt: Control Unleashed�: Home Page

    Patricia McConnell PH.D. | McConnell Publishing Inc.

    Remember our pups are fantastic body language readers – so if we show that we are not comfortable in a certain situation – our pups have already received that message loud and clear even before we think they have !

    As others have said – take things slowly. Bringing Sal along is fine - but eventually you want Abe to be looking at you for reassurance and trusting you that you have the situation under control.

    Why not start the separation prep on home turf ? Put Sal inside the house and do training with Abe outside – increasing times and distances away from the house slowly.
    Good Luck ! smiley-eatdrink004.gif
    Last edited by RileyJ; 10-02-2013 at 09:18 AM.

  9. #9
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    Thanks Riley. I read the puppy development calendar as soon as I joined the forum and have been referring to it on occasion since. It's been invaluable.

    Abe's really good at making eye contact with me wherever we are - to ask permission or for reassurance (or because it used to earn him a treat and is still worth trying), although of course the closer he gets to his threshold the less contact I get. Can somebody please explain to me the LAT concept, I'm not sure I understand it.

    Riley you make an excellent point about my body language affecting him. I am, unfortunately, possibly feeding his anxiety because I get nervous when he does. Sometimes even anticipating him getting stressed. I try extremely hard to show nothing outwardly, and for the most part I think I do ok, but surely he can feel it....? Usually my little elevated heart-rate moments pass quickly and I'm calm again, but I still have worried that he can sense that in me and responds to it.

    Have been doing the separation prep nearly exactly as you described . We've got to the point where he will happily leave without her, and will happily let her leave (in the car) without him.

    I took extra notice of him on our walk this morning. We went a little earlier than usual, not even the newsagent was open, and Abe couldn't have been more relaxed. Absolutely no problem whatsoever. We saw one person and he got tense and watched him closely but passed without faltering (he had sal and I between him and the stranger). The more people, the more anxious he gets. He has never liked meeting people from the time he was a pup. When really little he would belly-crawl, lick, maybe wee a little, from about 4 months old he just started backing off and refusing to get close enough to meet anyone. He was never pushed, and always came around in his own time if they were a regular visitor and allowed him to come to them. He is still exactly the same, but as I said, more relaxed and more confident with visitors these days.

    Obviously my boy has people issues (bit like his mum) and I feel I will have to accept his inherent personality, but I wonder how much I can still desensitise him?

    And I've been remiss in not mentioning that he has had a traumatic event involving small children. Only a week or so after he came home he got out of the yard. I was right there, saw the hole in the fence, but before I could get around to the gate to get out to him a group of about 6 small aboriginal children descended on him, thinking they were helping. It was all very quick, I called the kids off, explained he was frightened, and managed to get him through the gap he was trying to force himself back through to get away from the kids.

    Now his fear is of people in general. It's worse if the people are kids. And it's worse again if the kids are aboriginal, so I can see that it has traumatised him. (I live on a hill and the kids ride bikes, scooters, etc down past the length of my yard. They often make a hell of a racket. That's where the fear of wheels comes from, although funnily enough, the ones going past our place don't worry him much now, it's just if we meet one when out that he freaks).

    Sorry, I should have given this info in the first place, was trying to avoid a long post, but that's just stupid
    Last edited by dhru; 10-02-2013 at 12:22 PM.

  10. #10
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    I'd be very careful about trying to video kids at a school, you can get arrested for that sort of thing these days even if it is purely innocent.

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