Thursday, December 24, 2009

Is Roxy finally over her "separation anxiety"?

Yesterday, I recorded Roxy at home alone, to check on her behavior in this situation. Earlier, she used to scratch and paw at the front door for over 45 minutes. Of late, though, she has shown an independent streak, where she runs away outside the off-leash area (when I used to let her off-leash), and returns after 20-30 minutes. As Laurie put it, a confident dog like that doesn't have separation anxiety.
On the other hand, as a fellow dog-owner Katy said yesterday, when Roxy runs away, it is her choice, but when I leave her at home, it is not.

Apart from an occasional paw at the door, Roxy leaves the door alone. I had reprimanded her on a couple occasions when I caught her scratching at the door, so that could be discouraging her. But she quickly settles down on the couch, which tells me that discouragement is not the case (I'd expect her to wait by the door, otherwise.) Finally, Roxy does seem to want to return to the crate, where her water and a beef tendon spiral are. I did leave some water in her food bowl outside the crate, so the lack of water is not an issue (she finds it and drinks out of it.) Next time, I will try leaving the crate open.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Meeting the Dog Whisperer!

Last week, Roxy got in trouble at the doggy day care. Apparently, she would sneak up on two dogs playing with each other, nip one of them in the ankle, and then run away! "Time-outs" (a minute or so in the kennel) didn't work. There was also an incident with a food-aggressive dog - the dog barked as Roxy was walking by, and Roxy barked back - but didn't stop even after the doggy day care person told her to stop. So Ben at the Dog Spot told me to talk to Laurie Buffington, "the state expert" on ankle-biting dogs...

I had a session with Laurie this morning, and it was quite interesting. Laurie observed that Roxy was a very social dog, but also a very confident, dominant dog (which I figured out earlier), and maybe has some pit or other "bully dog." So she's ready to take all comers... including a big, 100-lb wolf mix ("Quinn") Laurie has! Laurie had Roxy initially play with 1-yr-old Aussie shepherd. Then she let out 3 dogs, including a pit/Border Collie bitch and Quinn - and Roxy went straight at Quinn, with her paws up on his shoulders ("he's the leader, I will show him I am boss!") Thankfully, Quinn is extremely accustomed to strange dogs, so he just didn't show any reaction (aka "what, me worry?"!)

Laurie said the dominant trait also makes Roxy think she has to keep other dogs in their place, hence her bark-fest with the food-aggressive dog.

Laurie observed that Roxy had a spinal-hackles-raised (forget the exact term), with the hair along her entire spine raised most of the time she was playing with the Aussie. This is apparently a state of high arousal, not aggression, but can quickly turn into a fight. At day care, this state persists for hours on end, so she's never turned OFF, even at home.

Also, I walk or run loose-leash with Roxy, which gives her a lot more freedom than she should have *now*, and allows her to chase squirrels or lunge at other dogs, unmindful of what I am doing, even across me.

Laurie gave me a few leadership articles, and recommended I run or walk Roxy on a short leash, till she walks by me - she essentially has to learn that I am pack leader, and she has to ask me for permission to greet other dogs (or do anything at all.) Also, Laurie recommended I keep Roxy in the crate, using it (or "tethering") to keep her calm, and also get her used to the crate as a fact of life. She suggested that Roxy doesn't scratch and maul the door because of separation anxiety, but because she wants to get out and do her thing. On walks, make Roxy remain calm when she sees other dogs (which will also help tire her out mentally.) And maybe use a vinegar/water spray (especially at day care) or time-outs to dissuade her if she even thinks of any bad behavior.

Lots of work ahead... Thankfully, Roxy was prevented from ankle-biting this week at the Dog Spot - the handlers put her in time-out if she even appeared to be thinking about it.