Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Plan

After several recent hikes with a highly stressed Kona Dog, I decided it's time to adjust my approach to help Kona with her fear.

Over the past eight or so months, my approach with Kona has been simple: minimize her exposure to high stress and do a ton of stuff she loves to boost her confidence and strengthen her trust in me.
I've never done much counter conditioning with her because she's really too hyper vigilant for that kind of behavior modification to be successful. If Kona isn't totally relaxed in her environment, exposing her to triggers can immediately send her over her threshold.
So The Plan:
Teach relaxation and decrease hyper vigilance with two things: relaxation protocol (Thanks Roxanne) and l-theanine supplement.

I first heard about the relaxation protocol through the book, Control Unleashed. The author says (and I'm paraphrasing), if your dog doesn't know how to relax, good luck to you. Teaching a dog to relax is foundational to any behavior modification.

Ya hear that Kona?
I've done some spastic relaxation protocol work, but not consistent enough for Kona to really get it. So I'm committed to 60 days of relaxation work (we're on day three!). I'm not going to follow the protocol to a T, but will tweak it to best suit Kona.

Because we all need a little help, I'm adding L-Theanine to Kona's daily routine. (Thanks Sam for giving me great info on this!) L-Theanine is an amino acid found in green tea that supports relaxation. It's as safe as adding fish oil or glucosamine to your dog's diet. I'm not a huge fan of pharmaceuticals, so I feel good about this. I'm picking some up this afternoon. Kona will be on a full dose of 100Mg a day.

I'll write up on our progress from time to time. Expect at least a once a week, "Yes, we're still relaxation protocol-ing," just to keep me in check!

Here's to continued success towards brave-dom!


Sam said...

Roxanne suggested the RP to us, too, way back when, but I never completed it. Perhaps I should make it my goal this summer to restart it, though I have had some success conditioning her to not fear loud noises, which is really her one nemesis (with the big exception of fire works, still, sadly). In your case, RP might be even more useful than in mine, because Kona seems like she gets stressy about a wider array of things.

I'm glad you're going to try the L-Theanine. I think I mentioned it to you but I can't remember - it IS marketed for pets specifically as Anxitane, it's just a hell of a lot more expensive. That's something I felt good about, too. I, like you, didn't want to make the immediate jump to meds. (Though I do really need to call my vet and discuss Xanax for 4th of July week).

LauraK said...

Sounds like you've got a good plan to help Miss Kona be a brave girly :) I'm looking forward to hearing how it's helping her.

That's a great picture of her jumping!

Kathy said...

I love relaxation and mat work, really awesome stuff, and we found it very helpful. I now do it with all my dogs, even though the border collies are not at all reactive about people or dogs they can get themselves ramped up to places where they can not think, so it just seems like something every dog can use. Good luck, can not wait to hear how it and the supplement goes.

Sara said...

I have had a lot of success with Oreo's relaxation matwork, it has been a life saver for stressors around the house. To be honest, it is still a work in progress, and probably always will be, but it does help. I'm going to bring his mat to his acupuncture treatment tomorrow.

Oreo is also on the L-Theanine, in addition to the Chinese herbal supplement. I've started seeing little bits of progress in certain areas after starting the supplements, and am hoping, with time, I'll see a lot more.

I hope this stuff helps Kona too, and look forward to reading about it.

Stella said...

I really love how much you and Sam care about your dogs, and are willing to go to lengths to help them.

Let me and Stella wish you the very best, and we will be watching you as you go along.

Good luck, too, a little of that doesn't hurt.

Cheers and hugs,

Jo and Stella

Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart said...

I'm so glad to hear you're trying the relaxation protocol. It really does make a difference, if you can find the stamina to do it every day for (don't cringe) as LONG as it takes.

It took us months and months and months to do what some people do in weeks.

Holler if you need to whine because it's painfully tedious, but so important.

Priscilla said...

I hope all this stuff helps Kona relax. She's so lucky to have you :)

KB said...

We've never done the relaxation protocol formally but we did a long period of daily massage type things. They helped K a lot with her fear of lying on her side and of feeling 'helpless'. She relaxes more at the vet and other places now.

I really hope that it helps Kona. It must feel awful to be so stressed on a daily basis.

You asked on my blog about special biking training. The biggest thing was that I started from Day One on off-leash training because you can't use a leash when you're on a bike. Then, after K had mastered a normal off-leash heel, I transferred it to the bike so that i could have her close by my side when meeting others on the trail.

The final thing happened naturally. She wasn't afraid of my bike as a puppy and I wanted her to give it space when the wheels were turning. To teach her to stay out of my way when she was in front of me, I actually ended up softly touching her with my front tire on one occasion, and that was enough. She jumped a mile high and now sprints if I say "go, go, go". When she was too close to my side, I'd take one foot out of the pedal and gently push her away. That also worked really quickly in teaching her to give the side of my bike some space. She's super sensitive, like Kona, so that's why these things worked so fast.

I suspect that Kona is naturally cautious enough that she'd be fine around a bike if she isn't afraid of it (you might work on that part now if riding is a goal of yours). So, the main thing is the off-leash obedience training, which takes a lot of work. We spent K's first year of life on that alone.