We’re Still Here!

At our last update, I had just started Galen on Alprazolam (Xanax) while we waited for Clomicalm to arrive. That was about a year ago (sorry about that). It took 6 weeks almost to the day for the Clomicalm to take effect, and since then the trend in Galen’s behavior has followed what I saw in Dallas (when he became basically “normal”). I was able to reintroduce the adaptil collar and it started making a difference again (this was really the breakthrough that led to our success in Dallas). There have been bad days, setbacks, ups, and downs, but overall clear progress. I’ve had to change my strategies, increase my emotional fitness, and open my door like 500,000 times without actually leaving. After about 8 and a half months on the full dose of Clomicalm, Galen’s spearation anxiety is basically non-existent, and he is much calmer around strange dogs in public. He is also off L-theanine and takes 1mg of melatonin compared to 5mg twice a day when we first moved. He still wears the Adaptil collar, but it’s harder to tell when each one is getting old.


As far as strategies, at one point I switched from doing a bunch of departure cues and waiting for him to be reasonably OK before leaving to performing a departure cue and either rewarding relaxation or correcting (interrupting) an increase in anxiety and following through until he is back to “baseline”. At first I rewarded immediately when he would release tension (putting his head down, a big sigh, etc), and then I started to extend the time he spent relaxed before I rewarded him. To correct, or interrupt an escalation I entered the room a bit stronger, made eye contact and just held until he settled back to where he was before the cue. The holding part was extremely difficult at first. I couldn’t be too strong or his anxiety could increase, but I had to be strong enough to override the negative energy welling up. And I absolutely couldn’t be tense myself, because tension can’t resolve/help tension.
One thing I noticed in my log was that he was more stressed when the landscapers come, so I thought I would try turning the radio on. In the past the radio just made him louder and worse, but I thought some background noise might help with the mowing sounds (which he couldn’t care less about if I was home or if he was right next to it). Surprisingly he was perfect with the radio on, so I’ve been turning it on every time I leave. Currently if I forget to turn it on he doesn’t seem to care a ton, but he sleeps a little deeper with it on.


The other thing we did regularly that has contributed to his success was regular duration work with the place command. Practicing place every day for 20-30 minutes is really easy (I usually do it in the evening while I’m watching TV), but it goes a long way in teaching a dog how to slow down their mind and learn to be calm. I really wish place would have been the first thing I taught him. By the time Christmas came around it took me maybe 10 minutes to leave the house as opposed to 30+. And he did just as well when we went home, so I decided at that point he was ready to start weaning off Clomicalm. I went super slow with it, at first just reducing the dose at night for 10 days, then moving to a half dose one day/full dose one day for two weeks, followed by half dose every other day for three weeks, and finally half dose every other morning for three weeks.

I now just put him in his crate with his Kong and leave- it takes me about 5 minutes depending on how prepared I am beforehand (how great that I’m the limiting factor now!). He has the window side of his crate open now, which several months ago made him a little panicky. Now he likes to look out occasionally and watch the traffic or check to see if the cats are heading to their bushes.
The goal using medication is to be on and off as quickly as possible-it doesn’t do the work for you, it just removes the panic so you can actually do behavioral modification effectively. The goal going in was to be on the full dose for 3-4 months, but things definitely evolved and I was slow to adapt with them. I really hope our journey encourages people to reach out to their vet (or if you’re lucky enough to have a veterinary behaviorist) and let go of the stigma about behavioral medications. The most common side effect is a calmer, happier dog! There’s no miracle cure, no easy way out, you still have to do the work!



Let’s Blog About Drugs

If you’re just joining us, here’s some history (full(er) history here). Galen has separation anxiety. We’ve had ups and downs and a lot of flat. After I moved to Dallas for job training in May, I tried the adaptil collar and had great success; in six months he became basically normal. When he knew it was time for me to go to work, he would beat me to the crate and wait for his treat. I could put in his kong filled with good stuff and just leave. He would clear the kong, and then go to sleep or watch the squirrels in the tree outside the window.

Then I moved again. The day I signed my lease I had an interview and didn’t have time to properly transition Galen the way I had when I moved to Dallas. His SA regressed to where it was a year before the move. This time, he became more stressed before I left and more clingy during the workweek just before the time I would normally put him in his crate.

Camping: a stress-free zone

Fast forward to three months after the move. I had tried everything that worked to any degree in the past and some things that didn’t- valerian (started making things worse), L-theanine (even got the Suntheanine brand), Rescue Remedy (didn’t work before, didn’t work this time), aromatherapy and essential oils (same story), liquid with valerian, lemon balm, etc (seemed to help when I went home for Christmas, did not help when I got back), and the adaptil collar (worked amazingly before but, alas, not this time).

I also tried some new things- melatonin, which seemed to lessen the panic after I left, but made no difference with the panting, whining, and shaking before I left; adaptogens (they helped me when I was having anxiety about going to work in grad school, did not help Galen); and Compsure chews (even triple the dose had no effect on either before- or after-leaving anxiety levels). As a last-ditch I tried diphenhydramine (aka Benadryl/zzzquil/Dramamine). A double-dose didn’t touch his pre-departure anxiety, but he totally crashed after the normal 20-30 minutes post-departure. Also, according to the literature, the sedative effects also wear off after a couple days of repeated use (at least in people).

I think some of my reasons for avoiding drugs are similar to most people’s and other reasons are probably less common (or less commonly reported). First, there’s the stigma about drugs that treat mental health issues. As a scientist I get that drug therapy helps the brain get its business together when other therapies can’t (therefore allowing the patient to receive the benefit of those other therapies), but when the issue became personal I realized I hold that stigma. I’m a fan of supplements, they’ve helped me with various things both physical and psychological, and I find myself in the “try everything before drugs” camp despite some indications that I could save time and pain by walking out of that camp sooner. I’m not worried about him being a zombie or losing personality, which seems to be a reason a lot of people avoid drug therapy. Since most all anxiolytics are processed through the liver, I did have some concern about potential liver/kidney issues. Those are generally seen with higher doses over long periods, and if behavior modification is in place drugs shouldn’t be a long-term solution. The primary goal is to take away the panic to the extent that the dog can actually absorb the desensitization and experience the nerve-wracking event in a calmer state.

The other component to my resisting pharmaceuticals was based out of stubbornness and other silly human things (notice how none of this is about the dog). Being my mother’s daughter, my fiercely independent self was convinced I could do this without outside help aside from books and things I could order with free 2-day shipping. (Yeah, I’m working on that asking for help thing.) Another side to that is I felt like if I couldn’t in fact go it alone, that I had failed myself and Galen. Seeing that in black and white, it’s absolutely ridiculous, but it’s amazing the tall tales we can make ourselves believe. Really, I fail him when I allow my insecurities and issues to prevent him from getting better.

The shift came for me in mid-March, after Galen had a few escape attempts of varying intensity (anywhere from a paw on the crate door to the full-on nose-pushing, bar-biting episode posted on my instagram account- that’s @flapjack816 if you aren’t already following). He hadn’t done that since I can’t remember when. At that point, it was clear that I had to get over myself, be a leader, and do what my buddy needs to live without the inescapable discomfort that is anxiety.

Level 0…this is the goal

So I talked to Galen’s doc (who also happens to be my mom) and opted for Clomicalm (aka clomipramide/Anafranil) with alprazolam (xanax) to help while that takes effect (it usually takes 4-6 weeks for that class of drug, tricyclic anti-depressants, to build up and start working). So far I’m just figuring out the proper dosage for alprazolam, so he’s affected but not stumbling, and making sure he doesn’t have a paradoxical reaction.

So far (over 3 doses) I’ve noticed that he doesn’t keep track of me nearly as much, and when he does it’s much less worried. He also goes through the process of calming down faster, both from excitement (before going outside) and anxiety (when I prepare to leave, or when he has to sit still in public).  The first time I left I had all day, so I left the crate open while I took a nap on the bed (which is right in front of the crate) to see how long it would take for him to reach a level 1-2 of 10 (eyes closed, laying comfortably). It was 45 minutes, which sounds like a long time, but previously it would take that long for him to get to a level 5 or 7. That was the first day in the past week that he didn’t even think about pushing at the crate door. The next day it took 25 minutes. The next time I left, there was no panting before departure, still no pushing at the gate, but he was more vocal while I was gone. So there will still be challenging days, but I’m encouraged by the absence of panic.

The difference already is nice, but it will still take a lot of time and patience on my part to make further progress. But every time he is exposed to the things that worry him and is able to reach total calm it will get easier and easier. If you’re struggling with SA or other anxiety-driven issues, I would encourage you to talk to your vet about adding medication. If you’re lucky, you may even have a veterinary behaviorist in your area that can formulate a plan for behavior modification and medication/supplements. For more information check out the links section.

Happy buddy training at the dog park

Home is Where the Couch is

Here’s the truth: I’m a homebody at the core. I love routine and ritual. I don’t really have a desire to travel the world (although if someone will just gently force me to tag along, I’d probably go most places). I do thoroughly enjoy hiking/camping/backpacking for the solitude and the time to be mentally still and prayerful. Change and transition are hard for me (got my Myers-Briggs type already?), which is why this past week has been a struggle.  I’ve moved 11 times over the past 7 years: back and forth between college and home, to grad school, and eventually to job training for a short time.
Now I’m moving again and may be moving one more time in a couple months. I gotta admit, I’m ready to stay in one place for a while. Galen has only been through one move so far, and transitioned really well (despite my expectations). Here’s why I think that is:

  1. Routine. Remember that thing I love so much? It’s also really important to dogs. When I moved, I kept the routine as close as possible to what it would be once I started working. Would I have rather slept in? At the time, of course. Am I glad I started shifting my schedule well before the move, because I started work two days after I brought the bulk of my belongings to my new apartment. I woke up, took Galen for his exercise, forced myself to eat breakfast and getting Galen used to the flow of the day.
  2. Attitude. Was I totally un-stressed about my last move? Haha, no. But I didn’t project the anxiety onto Galen. He was just livin’ life, enjoying his daily activities, no idea he was about to do those same things in a new location. As soon as he hit the couch in the new place, he was home.


      Life in limbo: when you move over 3 weekends

I’m very excited to have professional movers for this round, so I can be less stressed about fitting everything in my car in multiple loads…’cause I just don’t have time for that. So here’s to the road ahead!

Road Trip!

Before I had a dog of my own, I used to fly home a few times a year. After I got Galen, I started driving. I gotta admit, I enjoy long drives alone, just he and I. It seems that a lot of people aren’t sure what to do with their dog on a long trip, so I thought I’d share what works for us. I will preface this by saying I’m super lucky because Galen is a great passenger.

Dog is my copilot.

Dog is my copilot.

One: Prior and proper preparation prevents piss-poor performance.
I plan our route including stops and potential backup stops and print maps and directions for each leg at least a few days in advance. I got to the point driving from Waco to Albuquerque (11 hours driving, 12 hours including stops) that I didn’t need the directions, but I kept a copy anyway. I used to stop at dog parks, which was perfect when they’re empty, but not great for Galen with other dogs (he is worried about strangers in public). Now I stop at parks with sports fields for my buddy to stretch his legs and do his business. We stop every 3-4 hours.

Two: A tired dog is a good (and happy) dog.
Every dog needs daily exercise (running and barking in the yard does not count), and the same is true during travel. I basically try to run Galen into the ground before he gets in the car so he’s ready to sleep for the entire day. I bring a favorite toy or two and something for him to chew on during a longer leg of the journey. He looks out the window for a bit, then crashes until the car stops (see, perfect passenger).

Adorable head rest

Adorable head rest

Three: And for the human…
I know a lot of people aren’t really into hour upon hour of driving, especially across unchanging scenery (can you say West Texas/Eastern New Mexico?), so keeping yourself awake and engaged is important too. For drinks, I have my usual morning coffee with breakfast, a bottle of tea and a Neuro or Vitamin Water, and a super refreshing drink I found online before our first trip – tea bag(s), lemon, and honey (yay glucose) in room temp or cold water. For food, I take a variety of snacks (salty, sour, chocolatey) that are easy to eat without looking. Road trips are basically the only time I eat fast food, and Galen always gets a water at the drive-thru (which for some reason he just loves). For entertainment I start with radio (Christmas music if it’s on) until I lose signal, then listen to iPod playlists, and switch to stand up comedy when music gets boring. Books on tape put me straight to sleep, but that’s an option too.

Sleeping cutie

Sleeping cutie

Four: Stuff and things
Galen does best crated when I’m gone, and I learned the hard way that bringing his crate from home is best. (Backstory: my first trip home he busted an airline crate and created havoc for my sister’s cat (sorry Nike Little Louis Mitts)). Granted, his separation anxiety is way closer to resolved now, but having familiar gear around when traveling seems to help that progress transfer to new locations. I also bring a travel bed (we have this one), that goes in the back seat and somewhere near the action when we arrive at our destination. Since it’s usually colder in Albuquerque than Texas, I bring all of his jackets/sweaters for morning walks under 20F. Since we’ve started bikejoring more, I now bring his harness and bungee leash so he can run out his crazies in the mornings. His feet are usually fine, but I bring his booties along just in case.


Hopefully this will ease apprehension about long-distance trips with dogs. If you have to stay at hotels (like we’ll be doing on our way back to Dallas this trip), try to keep your routines the same as you would at home. And don’t forget to enjoy the journey! Happy cruising!

Progress! (finally)

The blog has been dead quiet for the past few months- primarily because I haven’t been fostering, but also because I’ve moved to start my first job out of school. I thought Galen would be a wreck with the changes in scenery and schedule, but he just rolled right along with everything. Since he didn’t backslide in his separation anxiety, my hope for more progress was renewed.

A little bit (OK, it’s a lot) of background on this journey: when I was researching and preparing to adopt a dog, I had decided that the two things I couldn’t handle were true aggression and destructive separation anxiety. I’m not sure what got into me when I met Galen. It wasn’t love at first sight or an instant connection, and his demeanor wasn’t what I was looking for, but I heard the words come out of my mouth, “This is my guy,” and signed the paperwork.

It was clear he had never had boundaries, and just about everything represented excitement. He would jump up, and the knee-to-the-chest method had clearly been unsuccessfully tried, so I ended up ignoring him unless he was sleeping for about 2 weeks. He also paced a lot those first weeks, to the point where I had to put him somewhere and make him stay there until he calmed down. In the first few months I became an expert at cleaning all manner of bodily excretions that came out when I left him alone, and started reading and researching like crazy about separation anxiety.

I got a plan in place and started working every day on desensitizing Galen to all of the things surrounding my departure. After about 6 months he had stopped literally losing his shit when I left, but still occasionally licked or bit the bars, or tried to escape the crate by pushing at the bottom of the door with his nose. Over the next year, with the help of a wifi camera, we got to the point where he wasn’t howling the entire time I was gone, and would actually relax enough to sleep.

We hit a plateau about 10 months ago. His separation anxiety was about 85% managed, but he would still hyperventilate and show other signs of high stress for up to and hour and half after I left. He had come a long way with strange dogs off leash, but still became tense when it came time to move away from being sniffed and would sometimes growl as he ran away. Dogs on leash were OK as long as there was no indication that the dog noticed him; he was no longer reactive on leash, but on leash greetings were one of his biggest challenges. We had a routine for meet and greets with fosters, and usually he was so worried about the surroundings that he didn’t react to being sniffed. I love to eat out with my dogs, but it became un-enjoyable when I had to focus all of my energy and attention on keeping him calm, so I stopped going to hang out as much.

Now that you’ve gotten most of the history, fast forward to recent history. I had tried most of the can’t hurt might help solutions like rescue remedy and various herbal and other supplements. I got a bit discouraged at none of them helping, and was considering talking to a behavioral vet about pharmaceutical help. As a last-ditch effort, I tried one last thing- adaptil, almost convinced that Galen would be in the roughly 50% of dogs (based on reviews) that weren’t helped by it. Since his anxieties are in and out of the house (separation and “social” anxiety), I opted for the collar.


Sharing the patio with another dog, and not freaking out (after a minute). The adaptil collar blends in with his coat pretty well.

After a couple weeks of wearing the collar, I noticed he wasn’t as crazy about the cats in my apartment complex. After about a month, the time it took him to settle before I leave had shortened by about 10 minutes, although he was still panting before I left. He’s now almost through his second collar (they last a month), and he has had days in the past couple weeks where he either goes to sleep or starts working on his Kong right after I leave. I’m working on desensitizing the final couple of departure cues: picking up my purse, and closing the door. Of course some days are faster than others, but the general trend is great!

I’ve taken him to a few dog-friendly venues (with one or no other dogs), and he is so much calmer. He doesn’t whine the whole time, he can sit still a little bit, will take treats, and focuses on me more and more. Today I took him to Lowe’s (which happens to be right across the street) and he was just about perfect! Strolled along next to the buggy (most of the time hands free), only whined once or twice, easily held sit or down stays when I stopped, was the most engaged with me he’s ever been, and was very sweet to people who wanted to pet him. He saw another dog, they looked at each other, and went their separate ways. No tension, no worry. It’s finally getting so fun and even relaxing to take him places.


He did so well at TopGolf. The heat was probably a factor, but he even fell asleep for awhile.

Since strange dogs were the biggest challenge, it’s taken more time to achieve breakthroughs, but the progress is now starting to pick up. Some of the city nature preserves we hike on the weekends have quite a few dogs, but since most of them stay on the paved paths we get just enough exposure to make positive associations. Occasionally Galen will become a bit tense and pull toward a passing dog, but more recently that has come down a notch. Just yesterday, on our hike at a local park with a bunch of really cool trails, Galen passed a dog so perfectly I wasn’t even sure if he really understood there was a dog there! He also didn’t even notice a few dogs coming out of side trails, but had a huge challenge when the classic “he’s friendly” off-leash dog (there is a 6 foot leash law that is posted at every entrance to this park, but that’s a topic for another post) ran up to us. I responded with “Mine’s not!” and kept myself between Galen and the other dog while one of the owners climbed the hill to retrieve their dog. At first Galen wanted to jump on the dog (his usual response to a dog approaching him on leash), but after a second or two he figured out that staying behind me was the way to go. This week we’re headed to the vet for a checkup and vaccine, but I’m not expecting it to be super busy, so hopefully it won’t be too much of a challenge.

Suprise Foster

Name: Daisy
Age: 10 months
Breed: Heeler x Terrier
Energy Level: High
Nicknames: Daze, Daizzle, Daisy Dazzle, Daisy Duke, Daisy Doo, DooZoo
In two words: Adventurous, adolescent

I wasn’t planning on taking in another foster before moving to start my job, but we had two dogs come back to us, and I became backup for one. Daisy wasn’t fitting in at her primary foster home, so she came to me (this is one reason why we have backup fosters). This little girl came to MARC as an 8 month-old, and when she left she was a pretty well-behaved nice little dog. She was returned and readopted a few times, and came back a complete wild child. It was pretty clear that no one kept up with providing rules, boundaries, and limitations, and Daisy filled in the blanks as well as a high-energy puppy could be expected to.


Nice change of pace to have a dog that likes to snuggle.

I immediately noticed that she was insecure about initially greeting other dogs. She did not want to turn her back to Galen so he could meet her through the baby gate, and got a little ferocious when I stepped in to help. After that was resolved, I decided to have her hang out in the kitchen for a bit longer than most fosters before being out with Galen. That way we could form some rapport and a little respect and communication, and Daisy could start to understand what was expected of her.
The biggest asset for getting Daisy to engage in normal social behavior was the walk. She was so much more relaxed out of the house and traveling somewhere. After a couple days, she and Galen started to play, but definitely didn’t know when to stop. I would break them up when Galen started to get vocal, which is the first warning that he’s getting tired. At first she would keep pestering him, but she figured out that when I say the game is over, it’s over. She can still be obnoxious to him sometimes, but she usually responds to my voice and finds another game (generally fetch). She’s basically set, she just needs to find a human (or group of humans) who will be consistent and structured.
Today we went to the dog park, and she got trounced a couple times, but popped back up and kept playing. I think she could have a full-time job playing.

Hello 2016!

My first foster of 2016 arrived last week!
Name: Zémire (ze-meer-ah)
Age: 1-2 years
Breed: Catahoula mix
Energy Level: Medium-low
Nicknames: Zem, ZemmieZoo, Zemmie
In two words: submissive, calm (unsure in some situations)

Questioning my resolve on the "no couch" rule

Questioning my resolve on the “no couch” rule

I wasn’t sure if I was going to take on another foster when I came back in the new year. I’m expecting to get a job soon, and will be interviewing out of state to that end, and didn’t want to shuffle a foster around too much. But the Waco shelter is so full and short on kennel space due to construction, so I just decided to go for it.

Zémire has been with us for a week now, and made the transition from the big tent at the shelter to my apartment in record time. She and Galen are pretty neutral about each other. Zem is all about the petting so she has a supernatural ability to ignore Galen’s flying boxer routine every morning. I can’t say enough good things about her. She’s chock full of personality, sweet as honey, and so freaking cute.

Yes, she's sleeping in a box.

Yes, she’s sleeping in a box.

In a short week she’s had tapeworms (solved day 1), kennel cough (just about gone), and colitis (from a treat, I think; also just about resolved), and all of it while in heat. Throughout everything she’s been steady-eddy, maybe a little clingy because of the hormones, but never grumpy or closed off.

I think she’d be happiest just being somebody’s lapdog. She might make a good emotional support dog with some training, though. She’s learning the basics pretty quick – has sit in the bag, down is pretty close, and wait is up to a couple feet away for 10-ish seconds.

I’m so glad we were able to save this girl. And why she was at the shelter for 2 months (to the day) without getting snatched up I don’t understand.  I have to assume there’s some reason our paths have crossed, if nothing more that to have some snuggles for a couple weeks (Galen likes to be near me but in his own space, which I like most of the time, but having a snuggle bug around is nice).

After the "no couch" phase

After the “no couch” phase


I am Not a “Dog Mom”

A few months ago I received an email from a dog magazine with a poll asking “Do you refer to yourself as a Dog Mom or Dad?” I once again found myself standing in contrast to the majority as one of the 8% of respondents that answered “no.” I’ve been thinking about it  quite a bit, and I thought I’d share why I add this to the list of societal norms that I don’t adhere to.

First, I have never been into kids or wanted any of my own. I don’t have the “baby-oogling” gene/empty womb thing that most women have – never understood it. I know that I’m young and it’s not like I made a decision to feel that way, just haven’t had the urge up to this point. I’ve heard “Oh, you’ll change your mind”  and “I used to feel that way” enough times, so I ask you not to go there. My dog is not a placeholder or replacement for human children. He’s my dog.

Second, I’ve learned that not anthropomorphizing animals (giving them human characteristics), while going against our tendencies, allows us to learn more from them about being human and allows them to live as they are, not being put into a “box” where they don’t belong. While it’s “normal” to understand others through our own experience or existence, that denies our dogs their “dogness” by not understanding and fulfilling their needs as a dog (e.g. exercise, discipline, affection).

While there are a lot of parallels between the parent-child and human-dog relationship, they are inherently different because, to state the obvious, a dog is a different species with a different psychology. Applying human psychology to a dog confines the dog to something that he doesn’t understand and cuts off the opportunity for us learn from them. We humans tend to be chauvinistic, thinking that we (and our way of thinking) are superior to others (human or animal), and that gets us into so much trouble across the board.

It’s amazing what happens when you meet and understand an animal starting with their “animalness,” then species, followed by breed, and finally name. Since we do have these awesome frontal lobes and powerful intellect, it should be us that change our thinking to understand others and meet them where they are rather than trying to conform them to our logic or make them into something that fills our needs. A dog is not there to GIVE YOU love, comfort, etc without being given into to. It’s like those one-sided human relationships in which one person only gives and the other only takes (not really a relationship in my book). It’s absolutely unfair to ask someone (or somedog) to give anything to you emotionally when you don’t also fulfill their needs. As with most of life, you get what you give.

I think that, while it’s easy (and now culturally popular) to ascribe human traits and relationships to our dogs, it’s in the best interest of everyone to see your dog as herself, a dog, and fulfill her needs as a dog. To me, Galen doesn’t quite fit any of one word we have for a human relationship; he’s a friend, teacher, confidant, right-hand man, bro, and roommate; but none of those things really express the human-dog bond. He’s my dog, and I don’t see the need to limit him to what I understand or have words for. I consider myself a student of dogs, and the second I think I know better is the very second I cut myself off from learning all the things I don’t know I don’t know. As Shunryu Suzuki put it, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

I love this picture of Galen captured at a MARC event. Photo Cred: Amanda Lindsey

Works in Progress

Korey has been doing really well, especially after being spayed (it’s amazing how much hormones affect personality). She now has free run of the bedroom (minus the bed) at night, and usually sleeps on her bed next to mine or in the crate with the door open. She’s doing great otherwise in the house, aside from the occasional attempt to counter surf.  She listens really well in the house and has some hilarious antics (like crawling on her belly and rolling over when she wants to play).

Will it really rain ALL weekend?

Will it really rain ALL weekend?

The major thing I’m working on with her is strange/new dogs. She gets excited and sounds aggressive to people who don’t know dog behavior, but I don’t see any indication of intent to harm in her behavior. She’s not as bad as Galen was at first, and she’s doing really well with dogs at a distance on walks and in the apartment complex. Sometimes she’ll whine a bit, but she hasn’t become a 45 pound kite in the past week or so.

Nothing like a good chew to relieve stress

Nothing like a good chew to relieve stress

Today we went to PetSmart for the Halloween celebration, and that was a challenge, to say the least. Korey wasn’t quite ready for the proximity of the store, so we ended up mostly avoiding, but trying to get closer and stay longer to new dogs without excitement or tension. She wasn’t totally calm, but also wasn’t totally out of control. Basically, she did as well as could be expected given the situation and her level of experience with being in public. I plan to take her more places where she can get experience with dogs and varying distances. I’ll also start teaching “leave it,” since it was very helpful with Galen and is one of the most useful commands to have.

For now Korey is conked out on the couch (and probably will be for the rest of the day).


Welcome Korey!

Name: Korey

Nicknames: kor-kor, corona discharge, Kaa-reee (like the babysitter in The Incredibles)

Age: 4-ish (acts like 1 or 2)

Breed: Viszla mix

In two words: anxious, excited

Now that Korey has been with us for almost a couple full days and I’m getting to know her a bit, it’s time for the rundown. I though this would also be a great opportunity to talk about how I bring new dogs into my life to set them up for success.

Her first evening here was pretty loud: constant whining, panting, and barking. That’s totally reasonable if I imagine myself  going from a place where a bunch of strangers are yelling day and night and I’m confined most of the time to somewhere else I’ve never been with someone I don’t know and have no reason to trust. For Korey it seems like her mind has a hard time slowing down and she was kinda frantic.

When fosters first come in, they stay in my kitchen behind a baby gate for at least a day so they can be a part of what’s going on but not get into trouble. This gives them time to get accustomed to how Galen and I go about things (and for Galen to get used to having a new dog in the apartment) and a space that limits their options to do things other than relax. When I’m gone and at night, fosters are crated (Galen has to be with his separation anxiety) unless they have confinement issues. Korey whined for a while and took about an hour to actually fall asleep the first night, but was much better last night.

For the ones that come in with some anxiety, I give valerian root and L-theanine with meals and melatonin before bed. The first 2 were a big help in managing Galen’s separation anxiety, and have helped past fosters as well, and melatonin is produced by the body before sleep and helps them get on a sleep schedule. Korey still whines quite a bit, but hasn’t panted nearly as much and has lost most of the frantic-ness of yesterday. On walks she’s happy-go-lucky and just awesome, and my instinct tells me once she’s confident in what’s expected of her, that’s how she’ll be all the time. She’s also started to actually engage with me, and we’re working on basic obedience (I’ll get a video, because it’s pretty funny and the before and after will be good).

Learning to give distance while I eat

Learning to give distance while I eat

After they’ve had as long as they need to breathe and let some personality show, they drag a leash and stay in my sight. Once again, limiting chances to make a mistake. From the beginning I walk and potty the dogs together (since I don’t have a yard, they go on leash). I seriously can’t emphasize enough how important daily walks are (or other structured exercise). Aside from all the physical benefits, walks done properly solve a ton of problems people have with dogs, they’re a great team-building exercise (the pack that walks together stays together), and one of the best opportunities to practice leadership. I also make sure that Galen eats and receives affection first (and only when calm), so he’s not unsure about his status and he also shows the new dog how things work.

One more thing for now: the first 2 weeks are super important for setting and enforcing the rules, boundaries, and limitations that will prevent a ton of issues in the future and give you the kind of friendship that people dream about. I don’t allow new dogs on the couch, bed, or my personal space in general. Affection is reserved for when they’re super calm. That last part is especially challenging for a lot of people, especially a lot of women, because the impulse is to love, love, love, when the dog really needs to know what’s expected of her. With a dog like Korey, if I were to start from a place of affection before exercise and discipline, her anxiety would only get worse, but by being strict with rules she can be free of all the worry of having to control anything. That’s what submission is: true freedom.

After a short play

After some play

Korey and Galen have started playing, I’m just trying to get video of the most adorable parts, so stay tuned!