. . .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.