Thursday, February 26, 2015

Her name is Heidi because she hides (or used to!)

My boyfriend lost his beloved shepherd mix. “Lulu” in December of 2012.  He half-heartedly looked at other dogs throughout 2013, but Mike always had an opinion about our selections- too similar to Lulu, not similar enough to Lulu, it was a prime number on Tuesday in a leap year, you name it.  One day, I sent Mike a link to this picture and said “I know I said I wouldn’t send any more pictures but here’s ‘Cherry’."
Heidi at the shelter
I don’t even know why I sent him this picture.  Anyone who is remotely fluent in dog language will tell you that this puppy is terrified by her first 10 weeks of earthly experiences.   But boys will be boys and I was greeted with a text of  “Can I borrow your crate?  Do you want to meet a puppy?”   So, we ended up at the shelter 10 minutes before closing and we couldn't find her in the kennel.  The shelter staff assured me that she’s there but in a 3x5 run, where can you hide?  Turns out the answer is under the cot in the back corner.
“Cherry” was renamed “Heidi” by Mike’s niece because she hid under and/or behind any available surface.  Then Mike had to go out of town and he was going to board her in a traditional facility.   Knowing Heidi and how soft she was, I knew that experience would scar her in ways that even the most diligent owner could not help a puppy recover from.  Instead I called Kari and asked if she would help us with a shy puppy. 

To say Kari 'helped' Heidi sounds so trite and hollow.  Kari did an intense 10-day 'stay & train' at her home, which was so much less stressful than a boarding kennel.  Heidi became fast friends with Kari's Lab, Paisley, and having another dog around really helped Heidi learn to play and not be scared of other dogs.  With Kari's patience and guidance, Heidi developed coping skills so that she was confident to handle the world around her.  Kari desensitized her to scary things, helped her feel safe while she was training, and gave her so much love she didn't want to come home.
Paisley and Heidi 
In fact, after the time with Kari, she jumped in a raft and went on a white water rafting trip with Mike.  Heidi spent 10 days with Kari when she was 16 weeks old and it ultmately and profoundly changed the trajectory of her life.  Kari’s not a 'miracle worker' or a 'dog whisperer'.  But she used dog-friendly, positive, confidence building techniques to lay the majority of the foundation for Heidi to become trusting, confident, and happy.  After that, it was up to us to do the work to build that bond and trust with Heidi.  If you do that, the results will blow your mind and your puppy will thank you for the rest of her life!   Katy and Mike 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Lola the Great Dane Learns to Love her Sister Again!

"I first went to Kari’s group training classes after I rescued my older Great Dane, Riley, from Big Dogs Huge Paws.  Kari immediately connected with us and her training became simple and second nature for us.  Riley has done wonderfully, and is the perfect dog.

Three years later, we rescued a younger female Dane from BDHP, and named her Lola.  About a year after Lola arrived, we started experiencing aggression and behavioral issues directed towards Riley.  I was at a loss of what to do and began to wonder if both dogs would ever be safe in our house. I decided to commit and dedicate the energy required to make our house safe for both of my girls. 

I reached out to Kari again to provide guidance as I knew we needed professional help. kari suggested in home training over the course of a few months.  She diagnosed the issues and laid out a very prescriptive and detailed plan for us to work on.  She gave us the training and support we need to provide a harmonious and safe environment for both of my girls.
Without this training, I cannot imagine what decisions I would have had to make.  Both Lola and Riley are living together peacefully again, with daily management and direction, but the stress level has diminished greatly.  We are very thankful to Kari for giving us hope, and helping us so we didnt have to re-home one of our babies."  ... Kristin

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Gus, the German Shepherd gets a Sister!

About 6 years ago, I worked with a fearful German Shepherd, Gus, and his moms, Heidi and Jill. With their patience and guidance, Gus became a different dog.  He's on the Wag & Train website for his accomplishments, but they just sent me an email with an update.  I LOVE UPDATES!  AND- they got a new puppy and listened to my recommendations for introducing them.  I love it when people listen to me! :)   Heidi has been a wonderful reference for me since then, and I am happy to report, Gus is still doing fabulous. Yay! 

"Hi Kari - I just got a request for a reference from a potential client of yours and thought I should update you on Gus.  He's doing great - and I can't thank you enough for helping us help him!  We moved to Southern California about 18 months ago, and it's been a change for us all.  After all those years of only walking Gus through Englewood under the cover of darkness, he's now been able to enjoy miles and miles of walking trails here in California.  We spent the first year in a suburban neighborhood, with three horrible untrained barking tiny dogs next door to us - and it didn't phase Gus at all.  After the first day we had no issues with him and fence charging, and he pretty much ignored the terrors next door.  We were able to walk him during the day (!) with kids, and dogs everywhere with no issues. He doesn't bark at dogs as we pass their yards, and he also got to spend time at the beach near our home.  He still wasn't really ready to be friends with anyone but Elias, but he's been boarded numerous times and seems quite popular there!
Gus and his baby siter, Isa
About 6 months ago we wanted a bit more "space" so we moved out to Joshua Tree, California, where we have 5 acres of fenced in space, and both Gus and Elias loved it - living the indoor/outdoor life with a huge yard to play in and lots of area to run after balls! Unfortunately, and sadly, Elias had his third bout of cancer, and this time the lymphoma won.  We were devastated and decided that after 18 years together, it was time for Jill and I to have one dog for awhile.  That lasted about a few months, and we realized Gus was terribly bored.  We spent some time deciding how to best introduce a new dog, and what type of dog (puppy, adult, etc..) and finally gave in to Jill's ongoing adoration of Siberian Husky's and found an 8-week old female in a rescue.  
And because of what you taught us we did the introduction right.  The puppy
spent several weeks separated in the kitchen by a gate from Gus.   We
introduced them in small increments over several weeks.  Now the puppy belongs to Gus... and he's discovered how exhausting a baby can be! 
He's the most patient and wonderful dog with her - she crawls all over him, bites him, pulls at his tail, chases him, or follows him everywhere and he just wants more!  Hard to believe when a few short years ago we had a dog we had to muzzle to keep from lunging at any dog in the vet's office, and the dog I thought would go out the front door after a dog on the sidewalk.   He's become even more wonderful - loves people,
tolerates other dogs, and loves life.  He loves hiking in the desert and the mountains, walking in the city, and going camping.  He's still afraid of thunder, but otherwise he's happy, well-balanced, and just a joy to have in our lives.  And I just wanted to take another opportunity to thank you - as I tell everyone who asks about you - what you taught us in three sessions changed the life of our dog, and we couldn't be happier!  So, Gus says thank you as well - and here's a picture of him with his new baby Isa! Hope all is well with you - and thanks for everything!"  Heidi and Jill 

Monday, November 10, 2014

November Succes Story: OAKLEY

"Don’t let the cute face fool you, this boy was a hot mess when we adopted him in May of 2014. We got him from a rescue organization and knew going into it that he was a bit of a problem child, but wanted to him a chance.  When we first got Oakley, he was so awful on a leash, lunging at every dog and barking at half the people we encountered, that we didn’t even want to walk him. He also got very aggressive with people coming in the front door and couldn’t relax around strangers. When he nipped at friends and picked a fight with a dog twice his size at daycare, we were referred to Kari for help. Thank goodness! From the beginning, I appreciated that Kari has a ton of experience working with dogs like Oakley and can recognize and address the root issue – in this case, extreme anxiety. I also loved that she only uses gentle techniques and had many simple and straightforward things we could implement to start working on Oakley’s behavior. Over three months we changed a lot of simple things in Oakley’s day-to-day life like the way we feed him, the way we walk him, teaching him commands, and giving him a natural herbal supplement. This approach worked well with my personal philosophy of trying non-pharmaceutical approaches for (human or animal) behavioral issues before medicating. All of these measures have helped to build Oakley’s confidence and calm him down so he can let his sweet, goofy personality shine.  Now, just 6 months into Oakley-ownership, he relaxes and socializes happily with friends just minutes after they come over and walks like a champ on a leash. When strangers stop you in the park to tell you that your dog makes everyone else look bad, you know you’re on the right track. And now that we're expecting a baby, it's even more important to have a dog who fits in our family.  We fully understand that Oakley will probably always be a bit of an anxious scaredy cat and little crazy with people knocking on the door and coming in.  However, with dedication and Kari’s help, it’s absolutely possible to see amazing, positive changes.  Thank you, Kari!"  Kendra and Oakley 

Monday, September 15, 2014

OUCH- My Puppy is Biting Me!

The Importance of Attending Puppy Class to Teach Bite Inhibition and Play Skills

In the last several years, I have had the pleasure of attending many seminars hosted by Dr. Ian Dunbar.   In the early 1980s, he invented what we know as ‘Puppy Socialization Class’.  Dr. Dunbar was one of the first to recognize that we should train our puppies before they develop bad habits and much earlier than the old methods of starting to train a dog at 6 months of age.   He also acknowledges that not only should puppies be given proper socialization at an earlier age, but taught to have good ‘bite inhibition’.  Bite inhibition means the puppy or adult dog learns how to have a soft mouth and does not consciously use the full force of his biting ability.  It should be taught before 12 weeks of age.  If a dog does not have good bite inhibition, he could seriously injure or kill another dog or human.  According to Dr. Dunbar, teaching this behavior involves two steps: first, to inhibit the force of the puppy’s bite and second, to lessen the frequency of puppy mouthing.

Nori the Newfie Puppy
Playtime should be an essential part to every puppy’s initial training.  Young dogs learn wonderfully from other dogs about what is and is not appropriate, both for play and using their teeth.   Since all puppies want to do is play, it is a great opportunity to teach them to have a soft mouth, and can be much more effective than teaching them yourself.  However, if your puppy is biting too much or too hard, you must start teaching them at home that it is not appropriate.   Here are some general guidelines to use when working with your puppy at home:
  • Make sure all play stops when your puppy begins mouthing or biting.  Turn your body away and cross your arms for a few seconds, then resume play when your puppy stops mouthing.
  • Use the word “Ouch” if he begins to bite.  When he stops, praise and give him lots of love.
  • Use the command ‘Gentle’ when giving treats, and use your fist to roll the treat out of your hand if your puppy is not using his teeth.
  • Smear a dab of peanut butter on the back of your hand and give your puppy the command “No Bite”. Praise him for licking the peanut butter off, and not using his teeth.
  • Teach your puppy the ‘Off’ command so he gets rewarded for taking his mouth away from your hand.
  • Always have plenty of Kongs or Everlasting Treat Balls to give your puppy to chew on appropriately.  I do not recommend soft squeaker or fabric toys as these can teach your puppy it is acceptable to chew things up.
  • Do not clamp his mouth shut or hit him on the nose as punishment for biting.  This could cause serious consequences later.
  • Do not tease your puppy or try to start playing with your hands.
It is imperative that no biting be allowed in any context.  Some of my clients have said “He is ‘play biting’ so it’s okay”.  I assure you it is not okay!  So-called play biting is actually just an extension of all other biting, and none of it should be tolerated.
Many people think that socializing a puppy at home with their other dog, or the neighbor’s dog is enough, but it is not.  Your puppy needs to learn how to socialize with many other puppies, humans, and friendly adult dogs.  If your puppy is only familiar with how to play with your older dog, he will not learn about other dogs’ language or how to generalize play time to other dogs.  Without proper socialization, your puppy could develop fear reactivity with other dogs that can turn in to aggression. 

When you are looking for a puppy class, be sure to find one that includes a majority of playtime, in addition to bite inhibition, socialization, and desensitization exercises.   Puppy play class should not be confused with obedience class as the goal of these two classes is different. It is highly recommended that you attend both.  Puppy classes should be no bigger than 10 puppies or divided up into smaller play groups, and should ideally have a mixture of small, medium, and large breed puppies.   Ages can range from 8-18 weeks for younger puppies, and teenager classes for older puppies.  All puppies must have at least their first set of shots.   As with any behavior class, it is critical that only positive, gentle methods are used, and your instructor must have background in teaching proper bite inhibition and puppy socialization.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Is puppy Prozac a good option?

About a year ago, I started working with a family who adopted a 2-year old cattle dog.  Their older cattle dog, Miles, passed away (I also worked with him), and when they adopted Radar, he had some behaviors that weren't so good.  They worked diligently with Radar on a behavior treatment plan for several months, and while he made improvements, some of his triggers still set him off.  Radar was fearful and anxious, and he was a cattle dog, so he nipped and tried to 'herd' when he was stressed.  Michelle reached out to me again when they were about to give up.  Although they were familiar with herding dogs (they've adopted several), they just couldnt take a chance of Radar hurting someone.  Radar was at the end of the line.

We had spoken about fluoxetine (generic Prozac) briefly before, but they wanted to try behavioral methods, along with some all-natural anxiety supplements first.  I agreed.  But because Radar was so anxious and afraid, those only went so far to help him learn.  His brain still adrenalized quickly and he went in to 'fight or flight' mode in certain situations almost as quickly as he did the day they adopted him.  When Michelle called, I gently pushed her to try fluoxetine as I have seen it work with so many dogs like Radar.  She agreed and called her veterinarian.  Radar started on fluoxetine the next day.  Here is what Michele wrote to me after about 6 weeks...

"We reached out to Kari for help with our red heeler rescue dog.  Radar was fearful and reacted aggressively when his triggers were set off. He would bite at us and our other dog, Sadie.  Those triggers included loud noises like motorcycles and diesel trucks, accidentally touching him, and getting tangled in leashes.  We were at the point of wanting to give him back to the rescue organization we had gotten him from but decided to take Kari's advice and give anti-anxiety medication a try, along with continuing the behavior modification we were already doing.  Radar did well throughout the process and was very smart, but needed a little extra help in his brain when he was presented with his triggers.

We are so glad we tried the fluoxetine!  Radar is a completely different dog. He is relaxed, sweet and his fear is almost completely gone.  Even though it takes 6 weeks for the full effects of the drug to kick in, we saw an immediate change the first day he starting taking the meds.   He still has some issues with loud motorcycles and trucks but we are working with him to curb those behaviors, and managing him in situations that could be stressful.  Training is easier now as he is a more focused dog and doesn't immediately react.  We are very happy to say Radar is still part of our family!   Michelle and Jamie E."
Radar somewhere in Colorado 
So, what did the fluoxetine do?  It helped increase Radar's serotonin levels so his anxiety decreased.  It helped his brain stay in a calmer place so he could focus.  It took the edge off of his stress level so his triggers didn't make him so scared.  And while it did all those things, he was able to concentrate on learning, so he will be able to wean off the fluoxetine within about 8 months once he learns new behaviors.  Meds don't have to be a lifelong thing, and the best part is that fluoxetine isn't too expensive.  

If you are struggling with anxiety and aggression with your dog, and have tried behavioral intervention, it might be time to try some anti-anxiety medications in conjunction with training... I know medications have a bad stigma to them, but they can really improve your dog's quality of life!   

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Stokely: My Latest Doggie 'Makeover'

Yoga Stokes
"It’s hard to put into words just how profound an effect Kari Bastyr of Wag & Train has had on my life and, most importantly, on my dog’s life. Every aspect of our day-to-day interactions has transformed with her guidance. Stokely, a St. Bernard/Akita mix, had a transient existence as a puppy, and when he finally settled down with me at 2 years old, he had never learned how to walk on a leash. I tried to take him on walks, but the experience was always so unpleasant. He would jerk and lunge at everything, and I would nod in embarrassment as people remarked how he was walking me. I was given a prong collar by a family member and told to use it; I obliged and, at first, thought it was working. I could walk Stokely without him dragging me behind quite as much, but he also became so anxious (a diagnosis I can only make now with Kari’s insights) that he would refuse treats while on the leash. I was frustrated with his behavior and struggled with how to train him without using treats. I started walking him less often (way less than he needed), and as the months passed, he began to develop aggression towards other dogs. There were some encounters with other dogs on hiking trails that made me fearful of ever taking him back. I knew we needed help, but I resisted going to a trainer. I made excuses: I don’t have enough money, and I can handle it myself. The day Stokely jumped our 4-foot fence and bit another dog was a slap in the face; I finally realized I was hurting more than helping him. I found Kari through Paws on Broadway and reached out to her. It is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Kari was amazing from the first moment. Stokely—a big, intimidating boy at 75 pounds—would get very excited around other people, and he expressed his excitement by jumping. Kari didn’t judge him (or me) for any of the “bad” behaviors. She was sweet and patient; her love for animals was clear as she taught me how to interact with Stokely in a more productive way. He was noticeably calmer within minutes of meeting her; I could hardly believe it. After just three sessions, I have completely changed what I feed Stokely, as well as how I feed him. She showed me how to address Stokely’s underlying anxiety, rather than aggravating it. Her training plan focused on giving Stokely a better quality of life, and I couldn’t be happier too. Kari demonstrated different harnesses to walk Stokely that would work for the both of us, and we have found the perfect one. His anxiety around walks has lessened to the point where now he happily takes treats, and I can actually begin training him. Our walks are now enjoyable and a way for us to bond. We have yet to go hiking on a trail, but I feel confident that if I put in the effort to work with Stokely, we will get there eventually.
I know helping Stokely become a well-adjusted dog will be a long process, but thanks to Kari, I feel confident in the small steps we are taking along this path. My relationship with Stokely has shifted in a positive direction, and I am grateful to Kari for her wise insights into animal behavior. I plan to continue working with her, building up to socializing Stokely with other dogs, so that he fully embodies the nickname she gave him: Yoga Stokes! Kari is truly an expert on dealing with dog anxiety and aggression, and I can’t recommend her more highly to anyone facing a similar situation. My only regret is that I waited so long to call her. Thank you, Kari!"
Megan Kelly and Stokely