28 December, 2007

Taking Stock

It's been a long time since I've posted, and I guess it's time to take stock of where we are with all the doggy craziness. I really didn't think, back on June 13 when we met Roxie's new puppies, that we'd still be trying to sort things out at the New Year.

Roxie is still outside, most often with Haku - but she seems to want to be with us now, even when he wanders off. We moved our dogloo into the carport so that we could be sure she could stay warm enough, and she took to it right away. John brought her in the house once to meet Sally - and it was a tense and scary meeting, but didn't result in violence. Roxie backed off and asked to go outside, Sally was happy to see her go. I wish we could just bring Roxie into the pack, but it's clear that would be bad for Sally. And, of course, there's no guarantee that Roxie'd decide to stay.

Dash and Dot are well integrated into the dog pack, and have lots of fun running around with Zero, Gator and Sally. Sally lays down the law for them, and they respect her - so that seems to be just fine with everyone.

But Dash and Dot are not well integrated into the person pack. And we're having a really tough time trying to understand what to do for them. Both are on amitriptyline, Dot is also continuing with the doggy prozac. It's not clear whether or not those medicines are making any difference for them.

And of course we've been working with Vanya and Ben, the behaviorists. But things have not gone according to plan. Some of the assignments we've been given we haven't been able to follow through on, as D & D find new and creative ways to be non-cooperative. And the assignment we should be working on now, we've decided we just aren't willing to do. So, I need to confer with Vanya and come up with some kind of plan B.

The basic problem is that D & D aren't progressing fast enough in terms of letting us handle them. Vanya & Ben advocated techniques that involve putting additional pressure on the dogs - rather than the slower strategy of rewarding desirable behavior and ignoring undesirable stuff. So we had the lesson in which we leashed the pups, dragged them downstairs and then rewarded them as they began to calm down again after freaking out. D&D's reaction? Refuse to come back into the house.

Vanya's response? Have them wear leashes all the time (thus making them catchable by us). D&D's reaction - eat the leashes. Our next move, provided by Vanya? Get leashes made of chain so that they can't eat them. Haven't done that yet - and am having a hard time getting over the sense of doom I have about having dogs dragging chains around with them all day in the yard. It doesn't seem safe to me. So.

In the interim - we have been cajolling/tricking/luring D&D into the house so that we can close the door behind them, with decreasing success. When we could get them trapped, they would freak out. We were putting the leashes on them, thus freaking them out more, then trying to give them lots of treats and praise when they calmed down. Oh, and having them eat their food either out of our hands or else in their crates.

The food part has been consistent, and they're happy to eat their food either in the crate (provided nobody's lurking behind them in position to possibly shut the door of the crate on them) or from our hands. If we can get leashes on them, they're even walking with us pretty well on the leashes. It's just that they're so weirded out by being caught in the house, that we mostly don't get the chance to do anything with them other than give them handfulls of kibble.

What we're supposed to do now is (somehow) shove them into their crates and close the door; then go to a phase where they're always either in their crates or else on leashes with us. But we're convinced that the result of trying this will be:
(1) We will have to forcibly push them into their crates, which means will have to muzzle them, or else we could certainly get it - they're really frightened of getting shut up like that.
(2) Then they will either (a) destroy the crate by freaking out or (b) become completely petrified of it and refuse to ever go into it of their own accord.
So, I think that trying to follow this advice right now will just succeed in creating yet another phobia in them; crate-o-phobia. And either us or them getting hurt.

But it's not as though I have a good alternative. John came up with the idea of taking them out for a walk to the park whenever they get leashed. That way they'd always have something really good to associate with the leash. I think this is a great idea - but we haven't been able to get them into the house to test it since he came up with it.

So, I'm dreading talking to Vanya about this, and feel like we're kinda just stuck for the time being. D & D are so sweet and charming when we're not trying to do things to them - they come up to us quite willingly, they even give us kisses. But the minute we reach out to touch them or catch them to do anything, they're gone. And if I put them on chain leashes and collars (they eat the nylon ones off too, so that's another problem) all the time, I'm going to live in fear of someone accidentally getting hung up while we're at work.

And I'm not OK with the Roxie situation either. I want her to be safely in someone's home and yard - I don't want her to be out where bad things can happen to her. She seems content with it, and I don't have any way to get her to safety anyhow. So I'm still trying to ride the wave and accept that I don't have control over these things. Ugh.