Monday, December 31, 2012

Visiting Karrah and Eric, Part One

Karrah and Eric are fellow foster parents, and you may remember them as the original foster parents for beautiful Lucia. We stopped by one night to let Cody meet with their wonderful dogs for some socialization.
I stopped by after work, which meant Cody had spent most of the past 9 hours in a crate except for his lunch time walkies. We spent some time outside to let him release some energy, go potty, and get the scent of Karrah and Eric's dogs before meeting face to face.
Karrah and Eric have three personal dogs, one foster dog, and are petsitting a fifth dog. That's quite a bit for any dog to meet at once, so four of the dogs were put into another room and sweet, lovey boy Clancy stayed out to greet the visitor.
Circling to greet each other.
Getting to know each other's scent.

Grabbing a ninja sniff.
Greetings done, Cody starts to explore.
Cody also spent some time with Karrah.
Cody comes over to Karrah but Karrah gives him time to get used to her. 
Cody sniffs her over while Karrah avoids looking directly at him.
Cody rubs up against her hand as he passes by.
Clancy wonders why the new guy is getting all the love!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Meeting the Boys, Part 3

Start with Part One and Part Two!

Cody was comfortable with the boys on the other side of the gate, so we moved the introductions into Cody's room. Cody he sleeps in this room and usually this is where the pack and I can be found. Cody isn't territorial and is comfortable in this space. For safey measures we had easy access both to the baby gate and also a play pen that blocks the front door off from the rest of the room. I had little concern about the introductions, but extra safety precautions never hurt!

We started out with me standing back from the gate and feeding treats to Cody as David came in. We used David first instead of Brennan since David showed a higher confidence around Cody, plus Cody had just had a positive experience with him. I asked David when he first came in to put his hands together in front of his chest and let Cody sniff him over. After that David started giving Cody treats.
Next, we had David sit down the couch. At first he held his arms in front of his chest and let Cody check him out, then he gave Cody treats.
Next, we had Brennan come in and do the same thing. Hands together at his chest while Cody sniffed him, then he he gave Cody treats.
And finally, we had Brennan join his brother on the loveseat. Cody has a lot of agility but not a lot of grace, and he demonstrates this half-jumping, half-plowing up onto Brennan's lap. Around 5 seconds you hear him start to growl. Between his clumsy jump and scrabble into Brennan's lap, and being in close proximity to the boys, he gets a little nervous and turns and stares at his tail. This is redirected stress and I'm able to immediately interrupt just by saying his name. The growl was not directed at the boys, but having a dog suddenly spin and growl in your lap can be scary..
Just for comparison, here is the video from Cody's very first night in foster care. This boy is so amazing, so eager to grow and love, and seeing him blossom after years of isolation and neglect is incredibly affirming.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Meeting the Boys, Part 2

Read Part One here!

Starting to trust Brennan was hard work for Cody. Four people were downstairs with him, Maya and Sappho were on the stairs, and the Kezi the Cat was downstairs as well. We moved quickly through the counter conditioning so after we finished the first step with Brennan, we paused for a few minutes and let Cody release any tension he had built up and go for a potty break.

Afterwards, it was David's turn! David really wanted to engage with Cody and was eager to feed him some treats. We started the same way - David and I sat on opposite sides of the gate and I fed Cody for merely being in David's presence.
Next we moved to David feeding Cody treats. We are moving much faster with David than we did with Brennan. Brennan was Cody's first experience doing anything like this, he didn't know what to expect, and that caused a lot of tension. He relied on what he knew worked in the past - growling and barking and looking ferocious. When he learned that Brennan meant tasty treats he decided that this arrangement is pretty good. When David sat down, it was a new person but the same set up as before and so he could anticipate that treats were coming.

A few things to watch for in this video.
- This is taken within immediately after I stop counter conditioning David's presence. Cody takes a treat from David within 10 seconds after I stop rewarding him; much faster than with Brennan. 
- Around 14 seconds Cody steps away from David and checks in with me. I reward this action to encourage Cody to remove himself from situations when he feels uncomfortable (instead of just staying there and growling)
- At 25 seconds, Cody switches from watching David's hands to looking at his face. This is near impossible to see in the video, but he is giving David a hard stare, his body is tensing, and he about to start barking. I redirect by saying his name and reward him for the successful redirection
- Cody is hanging back more and I never force him to do anything. This is voluntary on his part to go take the treats. I encourage him but he is always able to move forward or away

Afterwards we took a longer break of about 10 minutes. I stayed in the sitting room with Cody and the boys headed upstairs. Since we moved through the introductions quickly I wanted to make sure Cody continued to be comfortable and got time for relaxation and potty breaks between each segment. Cody didn't display any special signs being over-aroused or stressed, but having the breaks to settle down are beneficial even if we could have kept moving forward.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Meeting the Boys, Part 1

We have a housemate named Lici, who has two wonderful boys. They stay with us the last weekend of every month, but this time they came over for Christmas. Cody growled and barked at the boys, but the boys wanted to be friends with Cody and so we set out to show Cody how great these kids are!

We started out with Brennan, who is older and so less different looking than the younger David. The first task we had to accomplish was getting Brennan settled by the baby gate and working on some classical counter conditioning. We started on either side of the gate to eliminate any risk of bites and to give Cody a large space to move back into if he started feeling uncomfortable.

In the video below you can see that I have Cody away from the gate, feeding him treats, while Brennan sits down. I've instructed him to not look at, talk to, or try to touch Cody. At the end Cody lets Brennan know that he isn't sure about him yet!
Next, I continue counter-conditioning Cody with Brennan. Several times Cody starts ramping up and growling at Brennan. A couple times I redirect with treats. The last time I touch him with a finger to break his attention and tell him to stop. Either is fine, but I try to focus more heavily on the redirection and less on correction. I used correction only after the redirection started to lose its effectiveness. My correction is me touching him with a single finger - not a poke or a jab, but a soft touch to interrupt him along with saying his name to direct his attention back to me.
Soon Cody decides that Brennan has some good treats and he wants in on that action. Cody starts trying to access the treats through the gate by pawing at it. Brennan is nervous about Cody but he does a fantastic job of bravely letting Cody take a treat from him.
Cody is very food motivated and can sometimes have a hard mouth. This is improving as he learns that chomping down doesn't get him the food, but when excited he sometimes slips back into the hard mouth. He had chomped on Brennan a couple times so I suggested Brennan drop the treat down for him. Watch the video for Cody's happy face and wagging tail as Brennan feeds him.

After this we took a few minute break to let Cody relax while prepared treats to get David ready to do the same process with Cody.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Cody often has conflicting emotions.
Cody is a very cuddly, loving guy wrapped in a history of abuse and neglect. He would gladly spend his time mashed against his person or cuddled in his person's arms, but he has learned that touch and extended contact can be very scary. This has created a very ambivalent dog - one who will seek out touch and then become very tense and growl.
He loves belly rubs. This is a doggy bed that sits under my desk and is one of Cody's favorite crash spots. Often I'll look down at him and sometimes he'll roll over and expose his tummy. This isn't Cody "submitting" to me - this is Cody asking for belly rubs (which he loves!) The act of rolling on his back and exposing that area of his body is pretty scary though, and oftentimes is accompanied by growls.
Sometimes I'll stroke his belly, sometimes I'll simply talk to him and encourage him. His body language determines my actions. In this case he was so tense that touching him may have pushed him over threshold, and so I talked to him without touch. He rolled back over, still very tense and growling.
Fully back on his stomach now, he gives me a cut off signal by turning his head to the side. I continue to keep talking to him in a soft, slow tone.
He starts to feel better and even lifts a back leg, indicating he may roll on his back again. His face has softened, his ears have changed from being stiff and out to the side to being pressed back against his head in an appeasement position. His eyes have gone from hard and stiff to being soft, and he has stopped growling. At this point I put my hand down to him and rub his cheek and neck for a moment to reinforce his calm energy.
A few minutes later - he's curled back up into a dog ball and is snoozing. These interactions can take a lot out of Cody!
These next two videos were taken the same night, an hour or so after the pictures. Cody repeatedly seeks out attention, growls when being touched, and then when he has worked through the tension, responds with affection and requests more touch. I deliberately leave my hand in contact with him to encourage him to work through his tension while still having physical contact. The majority of the vocalization is an expression of insecurity and at no point in the videos does he tell me he is considering biting. 

This is a large grey area with Cody and as I watch the videos, I see times when I should have removed my hand earlier or made it still earlier. That is the benefit of videos though - no one can critique your training like you can!
This video we same some of the same behavior, but Cody is working on disengaging himself when he feels uncomfortable. This is huge for Cody and is a skill we've been working on for several weeks now. I love how Cody walks away a couple times and then comes back on his own when he is ready. At one point he does get anxious and chases his tail, but this is a stress reliever and he brings himself back out of this. This is pretty intense for Cody, and while the entire thing lasted less than three minutes, it isn't something I do very often. Working with a dog close to threshold requires being more precise than working a dog a little further away from their threshold, and being precise while holding a camera is very hard!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


If you're a dog person, you may find yourself getting excited over strange items like ducks feet, green tripe, chicken necks, lamb lung, pork pizzles, or beef trachea. I never realized what a wealth of delight the "inedible" portions of a livestock can yield for the canine gourmet. When I recieved my order of Bravo Beef Tracheas I gazed upon the box of 20 treasures in something akin to awe. With reverence I lifted out these glucosamine and chondroitin filled tubes and eagerly showed them to the dogs, who each sniffed one before clamping down on it and tugging it out of my hand.
These are about a foot each, and so a bit much for a single dog to take, even Cody at 18 lbs. So instead I cut one into thirds, and along with some beef tripe they settled down for dinner.
Cody didn't know how to eat these at first. I suspect Cody has been exposed to new things several times at my house based on how long he sniffs each new thing before finally digging in. He is an old pro at bully sticks and ducks feet, but with the trachea he first held it in his mouth and tried to chew on it. Cody realized this didn't work too well either, so then he tried placing a paw on it to hold it down.
Finally success! Once Cody figured out this peice of the puzzle, he dug into the trachea.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Nooks and Crannies

I found interesting smells!!
In our backyard we have a large retaining wall. While 10-inches of sunk hardware cloth along the fence make it near impossible for ground critters to get in (or terriers to get out!), the retaining wall still is often examined by the dogs. We do have birds that visit and perhaps that is where all the interesting scents come from. Either way, Cody and Maya had some fun exploring it on this rainy, snowy day!
Scouting the exterior.
A crevice catches his attention.
Gotta get closer...
and call in reinforcements! What a smell!
Checking out another crevice.
Rain? What rain?
Maya finds her own spot.
The danger of mostly white dog and a dirty retaining wall - muddy face!
Meanwhile, Sappho supervised from warm house where she curled up on the couch!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Exploring Bravern

This week foster Dad stayed home with a bacterial upper respiratory infection. Sappho stayed home to keep him company, which meant I had Cody and Maya coming to work with me. Walking three dogs can be tricky, so we took this time to take both dogs out together and explore Bravern.
 We start out on the second floor and travel down a long walkway past several stores and usually a couple dozen people. Cody is focused on his walks and ignores all the people walking by!
Bravern has lots of raised plantar beds full of interesting flowers and grasses to check out.
There are also lower beds with lots of small hedges and trees to explore.
And of course lots of raised ledges for showing off balance and agility!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Cody is a little nervous around big dogs. This had caused him to be labeled "reactive," but in fact he isn't reactive at all. He enjoys other dogs and wants to get to know them, but when he gets close he experiences ambiguity because he feels nervous.

While Cody is not reactive, he and other dogs who experience this ambiguity due to insecurity can become reactive if put into situations that teach them that big dogs (or people, or small dogs, or horses, etc) are scary and dangerous. It is vital then that we control Cody's environment and greetings to make sure we don't create a reactive dog. 
The TTouch seminar created a perfect time to practice socialization with a big dog. Merrick is a pitbull/Catahoula Leopard Dog mix, who is soft as cotton candy and just as sweet. She is the perfect dog for socializing nervous or even reactive dogs as she is very neutral-to-submissive.

We started with both Cody and Merrick on leash. At first I started with a double attachment on Cody but this didn't give me enough lead so I then switched to a single attachment. I asked Merrick's Mom to stand still and give Merrick a couple feet of leash and let her move naturally. Cody had the choice to go up to Merrick or to keep his distance.

Cody decided he wanted to approach Merrick, so up we went. You can see the tension in Cody's body - he's leaning back slightly into his hips, indicating he's unsure about Merrick. The tail is flagged in an assertive display, but his head and ears are more neutral. Merrick is being fantastic about staying relaxed and ignoring this conflicted little guy.
After an intial sniff, we both started walking together. Movement can cause dogs to feel more insecure so I wanted to do a greeting first before throwing in motion. For some dogs however, being able to walk behind a dog and sniff from a distance is easier than coming up together on leash. It all depends on the dog and their own comfort level. The change in Cody's language is noticable - he's learning forward through his body, neck, and head trying to sniff at Merrick. His tail is flagged and his ears are perked forward - he feels quite confident walking behind her!

After a short walk, we left Merrick on her leash but took Cody off of his leash, and eventually we took the leash off of Merrick as well. Cody made the interaction choices but I rewarded him anytime he turned away from Merrick, encouraging him to disengage when he felt uncomfortable. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Saturday Sappho, Cody, and I attended a Lori Steven's TTouch seminar at the Northwest School of Animal Massage on Vashon Island. NWSAM has a beautiful campus full of horses, dogs, goats, and I'm sure several other species I haven't seen yet!
Since the seminar took place in a small room Cody stayed in the car while Sappho stayed with me. At lunch we walked the path to the cars so I could pick up Cody. Along the path runs the pasture of a very sassy gelding who enjoys running back and forth and stirring up the dogs. Being terriers, Sappho, D-Light the rat terrier, and Merrick the pitbull/Catahoula all eagerly joined in!
D-Light "Let me at 'em Mom, I can take him!"
We picked up Cody and looped around the farm. We came upon the goat pen, and of course everyone had to check them out!
While initially a little shy about them, Cody's curiosity quickly pushed him closer and closer.
And finally he had to get a close sniff of these creatures! What you can't tell in this pictures though is that this sweet, gentle boy had his little stubby tail going while greeting the goats. He is such a little lover and wants everyone to be his friend.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Lunchtime walkies

One thing that Cody's former foster mom told me is that he enjoys his walks. I loved that Cody already loved getting outside as that made socialization easier for me to continue. Getting a shy or insecure dog out into public can be a gamble and  you may end up with a frozen dog overwhelmed by all the stimulus around them. When I know I am dealing with a dog who has a low threshold I always start slow and try to slowly increase the stimulus. For Cody, this mean a walk around our quiet neighborhood, a long walk in a quiet park during the middle of a work day, a short walk my work place, and finally, a walk in a public park located in busy downtown Bellevue.
Sharing a sniff
Unsurprisingly, Cody thrived on his walk and wanted to continue past the point where we had to head back. Typical of downtown, we walked with a lot of noise from the cars and strangers passing around us. Cody ignored it all to focus on all the interesting smells and myriad bushes, trees, and trashcans to mark.
For the most park everyone went the same direction....
Sometimes a difference of opinion occurred...
But everyone came back together eventually!
One thing we need to work on a little bit with Cody is lessening his "bull in a china shop" tendencies. He's not very aware of his own body and the space it takes up so he tends to barrel into whatever gets in his way - walls, chair legs, water bowls, and other dogs. In the video below he demonstrates this, repeatedly causing Maya or Sappho to have to adjust to make way for Cody and his big booty.