Wednesday, May 5, 2010

...and maybe I spoke too soon.

Maisy may have been amazing on Monday night, but on Tuesday night, she was... not. Truthfully, I knew that I will always need to be cautious with her. In times of stress, she will probably always fall back on her old, reactive coping skills.

And she did last night.

We went to our regular reactive dog class, and she did okay for the most part. She started with a play lunge towards another dog, and slowly deteriorated from there. She had a number of loud, obnoxious lunges, some with barks, some just rushes, none of it awful, though still mildly disappointing, especially after the awesome night just 24 hours prior.

I can't say that I was surprised, though. I mean, Monday night was off-the-charts stressful, and Maisy held herself together amazingly. Still, it had to have elevated her adrenaline and cortisol levels. Although I have yet to find anything definitive, most sources suggest that it can take 72 hours (or more) for cortisol to dissipate from the body after a stressful event.

This website does a nice job of discussing the differences between adrenaline and cortisol, and this one does such a nice job of explaining how those elevated stress hormones affects reactivity that I have to quote a brief portion:

High levels of adrenaline are associated with heightened vigilance, anxiety, lowered thresholds of sensory perception; these make the dog more reactive to stimulation, rather than thinking. Higher levels of glucocorticoids cause an overactive stress response and depression. After a stress response it can take days for the glucocorticoids to go back down to baseline levels. If the dog has another stressful situation before this happens the entire cascade of the stress response starts all over.

As an interesting side note, today, while I was trying to figure out how long those hormones remain in the dog's body, I read that you can help reduce the cortisol levels through exercise immediately following the stressful event, massage, and, interestingly, some dietary things, such as magnesium, omega 3s or vitamin C. I'll have to try both the exercise and the massage, and do more reading on the dietary factors.

Anyway, all of that is simply to say that Maisy's reactivity last night wasn't really a set-back. In fact, it was actually an expected result. That not only helps me feel better about it, it also confirms the decision I made a few months ago to scratch her from a second day of trialling. At the time, I just didn't think she could do the second day, but didn't understand why. My trainer had agreed, saying that she thought Maisy was probably a one-day dog. Now I'm quite sure of that. That's really a valuable thing to know about my dog, and so I'm grateful to have had the experience last night.


Lindsay said...

I totally know what you're talking about! I have ups and downs like that with Heffner. Just last month I took him into a totally new environment with a ton of dogs all around us. He basically didn't bat an eye. If I had told you he was a reactive dog, you would have thought I was crazy. He was totally fine with dogs in close proximity to him and everything. No grumbles, no reactions of any sort. Just a regular dog hanging out minding his own business. I was totally blown away! But then we go out on one of our weekly runs and he sees some random dog a little ways ahead of us and total goes into reactive mode! Vocalizing and posturing. It's just one of those things....

Crysania said...

I wonder also if Maisy is more reactive to reactive dogs? Dahlia has some reactivity issues, nothing like Maisy, but when I first got her she would bark and lunge out of frustration at any other dog she saw in the area. She's better now, but if the other dog is reactive and starts lunging, she will too. If the dog is calm, she'll show interest in the dog, but no reactivity.

Crystal said...

Lindsay, it really helps me to understand the hormones/chemical changes going on that explains the "downs." But... glad I'm not alone.

Crysania (hi!), that's a really interesting thought. She does react if another dog stares at her, and I'm sure if another dog was lunging at her, she would too, but in class, the other dog was minding its own business. Or so I thought. Perhaps Maisy saw something I didn't?

There's also the possibility of her having practiced being reactive in that space with that dog, and so that, in combination with the stress hormones, sent her over the edge.

Dawn said...

I know I get reactive for about 2 days following a dog show. The same stress reativity, but it comes out a little differently in me than in my dogs. The dogs are a bit touchier with each other and my family just knows to not pester me on those days. I get these reactions and so does Magic and neither of us are really reactive or super nervous. But the rush that I get from competing does have consequences.

Crystal, I think you need a day 2 dog!

Crystal said...

Well, are you having puppies any time soon? ;)

I'm really not upset about it. I'm actually still pretty excited that she did so well on Monday.

Dawn said...

Well not too soon, but I do know where puppies are, and where others are gonna be. Or you could just borrow one of mine. But that might not be fair to Maisy.

Crystal said...

Where do I go to put in an order for a red, male, fluff with a bomb-proof temperment, is a performance prospect, and has great structure? lol

In all seriousness, I'm not sure *I'm* ready for a second dog, let alone Maisy.

Eliz said...

This is a great post! Even Beckett requires a "down day" after a "busy day." Although his emotional reactions the next day aren't as visible as Maisy's you can see it in his body, the muscle tension and of course being a greyhound, his digestive system. It is an obvious physical response.

Of course this may sound crazy, but what I find helps the most is meditation or yoga, where I usually do the former and latter with him there but not really participating. Somehow when I concentrate on breathing, relaxing, and being calm it seems to really translates to him. I usually follow this up with giving him a massage and some dedicated down time aka quiet nap time in the crate.

I think in some ways because what I see is more physical it was easier for me to figure out what works for him.

Crystal said...

How interesting, Elizabeth! Every living being will have some response following stress- that's just the way our bodies respond, chemically. It's interesting to hear that Beckett responds primarily physically, while Maisy does so emotionally.

I like your idea of doing yoga or meditation. If a dog will respond to stress in her owner, why not to relaxation in her owner? I'll have to try that some time.