Mental Health and Illness in Dogs: part II - PTSD Revisited

Stoli laugh

Three weeks ago I wrote about the interesting case of Stoli the Rottie rescue who I diagnosed with a case of PTSD. You can read about her background and earlier experience HERE or HERE. Now, as promised, an update. Stoli came for a second DIP session on August 9, directly after which her owner and family went on a week long vacation. The original plan had been to kennel her, which was a concern. But in the end, and quite happily, Stoli remained in the home and a family friend (who had attended the 2nd DIP session and displayed a great intrigue with the world of dog training and behavior) took care of her in their absence. A very lucky break indeed! DIP Session 3, on August 22, was a private DIP with just Stoli, her owner Maddie and my 3 dogs and cats. This was the first session Stoli's owner actually came to -- previously it had been other family members. And I learned Maddie had opted to take a semester postponement from college and would remain in town at her parents home where the two resident dogs had issues with Stoli. She also expressed a commitment to helping Stoli through her issues. Using The Six Pillars of Dog Training Wisdom schema, we endeavored to make this session a success.

NOTE: The Six Pillars of Dog Training Wisdom follows a schema that includes The 3 D‘s & SMT.In brief, one must consider, usually in this order, Distraction, Distance & Duration within a Structure (routine) while using Management in the context of Training. Stay tuned for the release of this multi media program, available for purchase later this fall through E-Training For Dogs.

Dogs enter (and exit) DIP in control and following basic cues and an opportunity to practice all of The Six Things All Dogs Should Know. Rules of DIP include loose leash walking towards entry gate, then eye contact and a briefly sustained sit before opening the gate. Opening, then entering, closing the gate, and another sit. After which the dog, sustaining the sit, is taken off leash and given permission to "go play."

Dogs already within the yard are managed either in the cabana or are directed to the back of the yard using recalls to create a greater DISTANCE. This is to avoid chaos when the dog dynamic changes. It is this chaos that triggers Stoli to go so far she enters into a dissociative mode. This is what gets her in trouble. Initially, for most dogs, and Stoli is no exception, the overwhelming DISTRACTIONS -- olfactory, visual and auditory -- make getting inside challenging. But as lifeguard I make this a mandatory protocol and I help guide owners initially to succeed.For those who are regulars, usually after about 5-6 visits, the coming and going becomes smooth and seamless if I hold the owners to consistency.

Stoli got along exceptionally well with my 3 dogs. She was driven to the greatest distraction by my youngest cat, 5 month old Gretchen the male. This fearless kitten hopped to the empty yard of the next door neighbor's and scurried up and down a tree, taunting Stoli. Stoli was riveted.

 

I suggested Maddie (owner) call her dog. No luck. I asked Maddie which D variable she could control. "Distance". Ding ding. So she moved closer to Stoli. Repeated the recall cue, "touch". Eventually, when Maddie got close enough, Stoli was able to comply, but the DURATION of her staying near her owner was short lived. Gretchen taunted some more. But with some practice, Stoli was redirected from Gretchen by increasing distance away from the fence line.

Next up, obstacle course training. I offered to have Bean demonstrate his prowess on the aging play set -- up the ramp, down the slide. He complied, but his arrival at the bottom of the slide combined with Stoli's proximity caused a ruckus and a spat broke out between Stoli and my JRT, Trip. Stoli managed by her frenzy to put Trip into a dissociative mode as well, which is not easy! But I managed a safe and quick redirect and sent Trip to the cabana to cool his jets. It helps that I practice having all 3 of my dogs "go to the cabana" frequently from various points in the yard to keep that behavior solid. Trip complied.

Spat over, Stoli followed my direction on the play set. Up the ramp and down the slide. No trouble ensued on her slide down because my dogs do not react to the same triggers. Maddie tried to get Stoli up the ramp but didn't succeed. I guided her by showing her what firm benevolence sounds and looks like -- it's not being mean, it's being clear, direct, and firm. I was able to get Stoli up the ramp again, and down the slide. Maddie followed my lead and she managed without any trouble to get Stoli up and down as well. After a few more reps, I released Trip from the cabana and everyone got along well. Stoli went in and out of the baby pool to cool herself off physically and emotionally several times.

The exit was calm and relaxed. The most recent and 4th DIP was yesterday, August 29. This was another private one I scheduled with by dogs and a former regular, Jenny. I felt this pair were potentially compatible. Same size, age, and similar breed mix. In an email, Maddie informed me that suddenly and wonderfully, Stoli and her family's other two dogs were all coexisting peacefully. Her exact words, "HUGE news!!! All the dogs are coexisting both inside and out. How did this happen? No idea! We are sending them all positive vibes and they've hardly had a single problem all day!" Yay. Benevolent leaders are emerging at home!

First off, while I endeavor to control exits and entrances, in the real world, you can't always control such things. Jenny's owner Leah forgot the rules of DIP and ended up entering by letting her dog run up to gate off leash, opening the gate and letting Jenny go without pausing to gauge what was going on inside. The sudden arrival of Jenny put Stoli into a frenzy. I managed to get her safely into the cabana and both owners worked their dogs until we could have Jenny be next to the cabana without Stoli going berserk. It took several minutes and Stoli exhausted herself but was successful.

Once calm, Stoli was allowed out and she and Jenny met. Both dogs were outfitted in their Har-Vest which were kept on for calming purposes. It was clear to my more practiced eye that Jenny wanted to play with Stoli, but she was reserved and didn't get goaded into a game of chase. Maybe because she sensed Stoli was faster and would endeavor to knock her down. Whatever it was, they remained guarded but curious. After about 15 minutes, I asked Leah, Jenny's owner, to remove her Har-Vest. The simple act of taking it off, which took off the calming benefit, caused Stoli to react and go into dissociative mode and make an effort to lunge at Jenny. I was able to hold her back, get her calm, have her lie down and stay, then do a touch, and gave her permission to go play. All lightening fast (I have it on tape). The remainder of their time together was calm, controlled and while still hesitant to break out into full play, they did manage to share the pool. Jenny's exit was calmer. Stoli left a few minutes after and was able to exit in great control (see photo). I'm sure she was tired from all the antics, lessons, and management to let her work through her angst.

I can't wait for their next visit!

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