Monday, October 05, 2009

Not A Good Weekend

Well, I'd thought we were making decent progress with Laev's gunfire fear. (Quick review -- Laev was not fearful at all for years, but developed a phobia with exposure to a neighbor's LONG gunfire sessions. She became very sensitized to real [not recorded] gunfire and also to thunder through this, to the point where she shakes and her obedience is possible but not reliable.) We'd gotten to the point where Laev could hold her down while I fired at a distance and then returned to treat, and I'd even fired a couple of times from my right hand while we were heeling. (It's tough training alone...!)

But, hunting season is fast approaching, and apparently it's time for all the hunters in my area to get together for target practice. This means the hours of repetitive shots have returned this week, and not just little pistol shots -- I don't know what's over there, but it sounds like a freakin' cannon. If it's a rumbling boom even inside my house with 6" walls, it's of course a disturbance to my dog....

So much a disturbance, in fact, that when I left Laev in her kennel outside one day, I returned to find that she'd leapt out through the 6-foot-high roof, breaking welded wire to escape. I was NOT pleased.

And of course our gunfire progress has gone to pot. I can't control her exposure and keep it at her threshold; we're right back to what created the problem in the first place. I may have to start keeping Laev in my car, taking her whenever I leave home so that she's never alone with the neighbor's target practice.

Friday I had a very upsetting incident, and while I was fully functional on Saturday, I probably still had some emotional spillover. Laev was present on Friday and probably still a bit confused or worried on Saturday, but she gave me some really nice send-outs. (I've been rebuilding distance; I'd worked so much on close, controlled send-outs while making sure that she didn't keep running due to stress that now I need to go back for distance.) Her turn-and-downs were lovely, really made me happy.

Then Laev had much bigger fish to fry, because it was her first bitework session in three weeks! I'd been limiting her work to give her knee a chance to recover. I knew she was pumped to get back, but I wanted to check her knee, and so our first exercise was a control exercise -- not exactly setting up for success! Fortunately I was getting some video footage of anticipation and arousal work for Jen White, and this was indeed a great example of a dog getting too high to respond to known cues. Laev was NOT performing to standard -- she ran to the blind instead of to me, she needed two cues to return to heel from the blind, she was a bit mouthy on the outs instead of her usual ultra-clean response.

I'm not really worried; I know we'll have it all back in a week. It's actually good for me to see her pushed because I know where we need to work. But it was frustrating, after losing so much elsewhere.

I really don't know where we'll be for the fall trial. Our problem last time was the gunfire; if we lose all our gunfire progress to hunting season, we'll be exactly where we were a year ago, with lovely skills but no way to show them off. I'm really depressed about the whole thing right now.

1 comment:

Sara Reusche said...

Aw, poor Laev!

Perhaps you could talk to you vet about something along the lines of alprazolam? That way when you know you're going to be gone, if there's a chance of gunfire that will put her over threshold you can dose her before leaving. It's really done wonders with Layla's noise phobias: she's gone from a dog who would scream and throw herself at exits during thunderstorms to one who barely notices thunder. In fact, we only ever use the xanax now for fireworks and maybe 1-2 really severe storms a year. Obviously I paired this with treats/toys whenever I was home, but I was also able to dose when I was gone to prevent her from panicking. Because the drug didn't sedate her, she was able to learn that the sound wasn't scary and was able to retain that learning as the dose was lowered, then stopped. Dr. Overall prescribed a very low dose for Layla, and we quickly cut that dose in half. Obviously you would need to check with your vet, but it's certainly worth looking into. It sounds like without some sort of intervention, she's only becoming more hypersensitized to loud noise.

Best of luck, and I'm so glad Laev's knee is feeling better!