Monday, August 16, 2010

100 Days of L-Theanine

Kona recently finished her second 50-capsule bottle of L-Theanine, so I decided it was time for a report.

. . .Oneday, Kona's worry face won't be quite so impressive. . .

About three months ago, I had one of those living-with-a-fearful-dog low days. I decided it was time to try something new and pledged 60 days of Relaxation Protocol work and 100mg of daily L-Theanine for Kona. Our RP work wasn't too successful. I was consistent for about 20 straight days and continued for about three sessions a week after that. I suppose we did put in some work, but I'm not sold that RP is what we need, so it has fizzled out of our work. We have stuck with the daily L-Theanine.

Some L-Theanine background: L-Theanine is an amino acid found in green tea. It promotes Alpha brain waves, which are associated with an alert, relaxed brain state. Basically, your brain emits four different electrical pulses, or waves, that reflect your level of consciousness and arousal. Alpha waves are your relaxed, awake brain pulse.

The folks in supplement land packaged L-Theanine into capsule form. It's on the market for both humans and pets. I buy the human version for Kona because it is significantly less expensive than the canine variety.

I've seen improvements over the last three months, mostly in a decrease in Kona's fearful reaction to noises while she's outside. Kona's sensitive to people noises, especially loud voices that come from a distance. Unfortunately, the topography in our neighborhood makes voices from blocks away bounce around, echoing into our yard. Kona has become spooked enough to want to retreat inside.

Since she started the L-Theanine routine, it's become more and more rare for "voices in the yard" to scare her. On a number of occasions I've cringed at a loud shout, waiting to see Kona slink for the gate, but she'll stay lounging under the tree. It's come to a point where it takes a lot (say, a loud party at a neighbor's house who usually doesn't have company) to push Kona over threshold.

Beyond the outside voices, I can't pinpoint obvious improvement. To me, this doesn't mean that the L-Theanine hasn't worked well. Subtle improvements are huge in my book and they build up over time.

It's impossible for me to know if L-Theanine caused the decreased voice reaction. Kona could have had just an overall increase in confidence with her Nose Work classes, RP work, trail runs, etc. But, I have noticed an improvement, which is enough for me to keep Kona on L-Theanine until the brave fairies work their magic.

I think we're reaching another behavioral plateau. While the L-Theanine continues, I need to find another behavior modification plan. Meds should work in conjunction with behavior modification. I'm doing more research and moving intrepidly as I look for a program that suits Kona. I've finally had to admit that counter conditioning and desensitization (the staple techniques behind fearful dog rehabilitation) do not work for Kona. (That topic may become another blog post). Unfortunately, it's hard to find BM programs that do not use CC&D as a foundation.

It often feels easier to not worry about working with Kona's fears. Kona has many avenues of fun and I'm better at management and avoiding triggers. But even with daily runs and romps with her best canine friend, Kona's undeniably more easily scared than the average dog. There are also days when I wish I could walk Kona around the neighborhood. Both of these are reason enough to keep working.


Sara said...

Oh, I feel your pain!

I just finished day 29 of RP, and I know what you mean. There are no obvious results. I also give Oreo the same supplement, with no major improvements. No matter how much CC & D I do with the neighbor's kids next door, Oreo still reacts to their screaming. He's better than in the past, but he still reacts.

It is frustrating. Makes me want to move to a 50 acre farm, with a house smack in the middle.

You are doing a great job with Kona. It is hard work living with a fearful dog. Hopefully, all this hard work will pay off one day and our dogs will be at peace with the world around them (or at least be able to walk around the block without a panic attack!).

Sam said...

Your L-Theanine progress report sounds a lot like my experiences with it, too. My gut tells me it's helping just a little bit, but there's always a chance that it's just Marge growing on her own.

CC and DS pretty much does nothing for Marge in the case of her noise phobias, too. It works with her fear of people and her reactivity, but the noise? Nope.

Then again, it did work with thunder.. we've been having low rumbles all day, and it's nice to see her not get so scared over it the way she used to.

Priscilla said...

Glad L-Theanine seems to be working on Kona. Hopefully Kona is also changing in herself too and not being as scared as she used to be.
I hope you'll find a way to work with Kona's fears.

Stella said...

After one whooping storm we had earlier this summer, Stella is doing somewhat better and doesn't seem quite so afraid. The Storm Jacket didn't work at all in the big storm and she gets very hot in it. So I don't know if she is getting from me, that she doesn't need to be scared, or if our storms are getting smaller and not so scary. But she is doing better storm-wise and I am happy about that. She does not have general fears of all things, just boomers and storms!

Cheers to AC and Sam for the good job they are doing with their dogs.


Barb said...

So - this is why my husband is fearless! He drinks a lot of Green Tea... I admire your steadfastness in observing Kona carefully and using a patient/consistent approach to desensitize her. Good Luck!

Kathy said...

well, it sounds like overall some great is frustrating to come up with a dog Skyler was very fearful and reactive and we worked for a long, long time and now we just mostly rely on management and have come to a place where everything seems stable and things are just where everyone is comfortable enough that we are just sort of hanging there. Wish there were more easy answers ;-) or hard answers that seemed to work....I am just glad you seemed to have found things to help Kona quiet some of those voices for her

mayziegal said...

Hi there. I've been reading your blog for a few weeks now but this is the first time I've commented.

I have a fearful girl, too. And she does fairly well with CC/DS for certain things. I also started her on L-Theanine about 3 weeks ago and I do think I'm seeing some improvement when it comes to going into new, lower-stress situations that would've resulted in hyper-alertness and a tucked tail before. (Places like PetCo and PetSmart.)

Have you heard of BAT (Behavioral Adjustment Training)? Mayzie is dog-reactive when out on a street or trail, and DS/CC haven't really helped. I read about BAT recently and was really interested. We just watched the DVD and I think this could really help. It basically teaches the dog that if it offers certain acceptable behaviors, the human will pay attention and give them what they want most - to get out of the situation. (That's a REALLY abridged version of it.) I'm really excited to start working with her on it.

I'm not familiar enough with Kona to say if this is something that might help but you might google it and see what you think.

Have a good one!

Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart said...

I'm so sorry that the RP isn't helping much. It is is brutally tedious. It took us months and months and months to get through what takes most people a few weeks.

I agree with Amber that BAT might be helpful.

This week, Edie @ Will my dog hate me had a great video showing the kind of calming signals you are looking for.

I wish we lived closer so that I can see Kona for myself and maybe offer some help.

Hang in there!