Sunday, May 1, 2011

This is a stressed dog?

Last weekend, my husband and I went to a Sarah Kalnjas seminar, hosted by Paws Abilities Dog Training. The seminar was great, but that's not what I want to talk about today (don't worry- I'll tell you all about it if/when I ever finish my posts on Clicker Expo!). Instead, I want to tell you how awesome my dog is.

The seminar was held in Rochester, MN, which is about a ninety minute drive each way from where I live. Because that would be a lot of driving, and because we wanted to hang out with all our cool Rochester dog friends, my husband and I decided to stay in a hotel for the weekend. Since it was Easter weekend, though, we couldn't leave Maisy with her usual puppy-sitters, which meant that we had to bring her with.

Hotels can be stressful places for dogs: it's an unfamiliar environment and there are lots of strange noises. Maisy has stayed in hotels before, and generally finds them difficult to cope with. Still, I was hopeful that given her medication, and her recent good experiences with stressful environments, it would go better than it has in the past.

It did, though it didn't go as well as I had hoped. The first night, she barked, growled or alerted to every single little noise. This was complicated by the fact that this hotel had fairly poor sound-proofing, and no fan in the bathroom (which I always use for white noise). Still, she did settle in and sleep through the night okay. I got her out of the room at lunch, and spent an hour throwing a ball for her in a nearby park after the seminar finished for the day, but she was moving just a bit quicker than usual, and taking treats a little harder- both signs of stress.

The second night actually went better, which surprised me. Usually when under stress, she does worse as time goes on if the source of her stress is not abated. But that night, she only barked once, and that was when someone rattled on our door at 11pm- a perfectly reasonable reaction, and one I rather liked. It seemed as though she was getting used to the environment.

Despite this, she had a harder time navigating the hotel hallways on Sunday morning, and did lunge at a couple people. I found this disheartening. I know that she's a recovering reactive dog, and as such, is prone to relapsing. Beyond that, even "normal" dogs have stressful moments, but still... It was hard to see her so stressed.

All of which is to provide some context for this video:

Does this look like a stressed dog to you?

Seriously, this video was taken on Sunday during the lunch break- so after she's spent over 36 hours in a pretty stressful environment. Although the room isn't overly crowded, there are quite a few people in there, and most of them are strangers (she did meet a few of them the day before). Although she does shy away from someone part way through the video, it's a pretty minor reaction (and the only time I saw her do it all weekend).

The best part is that she recovered quite well from all the stress. We returned home that night, and she slipped right back into our daily routine. She did have two outbursts in reactive dog class on Tuesday- so I know the stress was still affecting her- but she was able to cope quite well at home. This is a huge difference from last fall, when she had a very hard time recovering from Thanksgiving weekend with my parents

Again, I'm just so thrilled with how Maisy is doing. I know the medication has helped her a lot, and it's fun to see her true personality shine through as a result. It's fun to see her being such a social butterfly, to see her being so much more confident and willing to interact with people. And the coolest part is this is how she acts when stressed. I actually had people look at me disbelievingly when I told them this was my reactive dog. Sarah Kalnajs herself said she wouldn't have known Maisy's a "problem dog" unless I'd told her.

But that's probably because she's not. For all that she has reactive tendencies, she's really becoming pretty darn normal.


Sophie said...

'Does this look like a stressed dog to you?'

Yes, it does. She looks stressed because she isn't an inch higher, so she can't snuffle the food off of those plates. :)

It's great that she's come so far - and she's proof that medication doesn't turn your dog into a personality-free zombie: look at that happy tail and grin!

Crystal Thompson said...

Hahahahaha. Yes. She REALLY wanted the french fries on that plate. (And you can see that people gave in to her, too.)

And TOTALLY agreed on the bit about medication: it has NOT changed her personality at all. If anything, it's intensified it- it amazes me how much of her self was dampened by the anxiety.

Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

Somebody feed the corgi!!!!

Nat said...

Awesome! Congrats on bringing her so far!

Raegan said...

My favorite part is where someone drops a leash (about 1:20) and she stiffens and looks - and then just goes back to what she was doing. Looks pretty darn normal to me!

Crystal Thompson said...

Yup- that's something that would have sent her scuttling away last fall. Now she's like, "huh. What's that? Hmm, nothing of importance, I guess. Carry on."

The Pet Care Magician at Elite Pet Care & Education said...

Yes she is stressed but only slightly. I think she is a long way from what she used to be judging from what I have read. I don't think she was totally comfortable in the environment or relaxed.

Crystal Thompson said...

Louise, you're absolutely correct- she is stressed. I could see it in her slightly tighter/quicker movements, but that's pretty subtle, especially for people who don't know her. I'd love to hear what you picked up on. :)

I also agree that she's not TOTALLY comfortable/relaxed, but she's able to deal with it, and even has the helicopter tail and waggy bum I only see when she's excited to be somewhere. In other words: stressed, but doesn't need (or even want) to leave.

Of course, what really gets me is the comparison to how she was a year ago, or even six months ago. :) For example, this video shows what she was like prior to medication:

So, if this is a stressed dog, I'LL TAKE IT!!