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 2/23/22 Evie is a nut. She is highly unmanageable, but we suspect she's been chained out back for several months.   I'll be her third foster home in about a month, and Evie is from a rescue situation, so there isn't any information about her, other than that she was spayed when the Humane Society took possession of her.  Off the top of my head, she's a Crazy Lady on-leash... I can only handle her because of my background working with big dogs.  She's also going to need some intensive work in the car... she only calmed down when she managed to wedge herself between me and the steering wheel (still hooked to the seatbelt ).  I had to pull off the interstate and readjust everything, so she couldn't do that again.   She nearly hung herself twice, just getting her out of the car -- because she jumped out before I'd released her from the seat belt.  When we got into the house, she calmed down, but I think it was only because she was so scared.  I hooked her to a leash, anchored her to a stationary board, and ignored her to give her a chance to decompress.


My plans:  I'll use different levels of reinforcement to elicit Changed Emotional Responses (CER) to make her be just Happy About Everything, then I'll start introducing manners slowly.   She tends to jump up and hump while clawing, pulls on-leash, and she needs work with some pretty heavy-duty mouthing as well as basic manners.  There might be something underlying that needs attention.  She's the perfect subject for immersion training, and I'm off for 6 days.

2/24/22 I spoke with the foster coordinator at the shelter, and she arranged for me and Evie to see the vet again.  Her stress and background aren't going to allow us to find a way to work past her many issues, without some help.  The vet agrees, and gave us a 2-week supply of a med to help with this.  **I want to state here that I have NEVER used or needed to use a medication in order to be able to train a dog before this... Evie's age, history, and breed are all coming together to present an awful mash of behaviors that will keep us from rehoming this girl, if we don't find a way to get past them.  The medication is a necessary evil, at this point.**

Notes about Foster Evie:

Started 2/27/22… she came here on 2/23.  Here is the list of items that Evie needs work on, in order to go to an average pet home… some items (marked with a *) are more necessary than others, but they’re all needed with what I’ve seen here:

Videos showing Evie’s training and progress are here:

  • *House training – entirely un-housetrained when she came here… she’s now at 80-90%, and is starting to bark to alert me when she needs to go. 3/8: still having occasional accidents -- my fault, as these only occur when she's not tethered.

  • *Orienting to name -- Evie didn't respond to her name at all, at first.  She's now orienting 25% of the time, without distractions.  3/8: she orients more to 'Crazy', but is learning her name. <lol>

  • *Straining on-leash (not just pulling) – the degree of pulling when she came here is something that I’ve never witnessed before… I’ve had A LOT of experience with Really Big Pully Dogs.  For the first 3-4 days, I relied on leather gloves and wrapping the leash around my hand to let me withstand the pain in my hands enough to work with her.  Now, we have a padded leash, and a Holt Headcollar for walks.  She still pulls mildly, but the difference is amazing.  She loves going for walks, both in the yard and out of it.

  • *Mouthing – this is another of those unfortunate behaviors learned on the end of the chain.  I have absolutely NO doubt that this dog isn’t trying to hurt me… she’s just trying to keep me close, in the only way she knows how.  Unfortunately, the mouthing, which is very frustrated – almost ‘chewy’ in nature – makes you want to move away from her.  At first, she did this All The Time… it has taken a HUGE amount of work to teach her that mouthing CAUSES me to move away (I used a time-out method, stepping out of her reach IMMEDIATELY  for 15-20 seconds when she mouthed me, so that she could make the association).  Finally, last night I started to see improvement in this.  She started to have periods of time when she didn’t mouth me, even when she’s tethered (and that is the most incident-dense time for this behavior)  This morning, we’ve been up since about 5 a.m. – it’s now after 8, and she’s not mouthed me once.  I’m heartened.  I’m quite sure we’ll have some back-sliding, but I think she’s getting it. 3/8: this has become much better in the past week... Evie is learning alternate ways to ask for attention, and this is lessening the mouthing behavior.

  • *Barking --  Evie does VERY LITTLE attention-seeking in the form of barking.  Usually, if she barks, it means she needs something.  She’s also starting to ‘talk’ to me, in little growls and groans.

  • *Sit on-cue – step one was to teach her to sit on-cue, and this was a little problematic… I first had to teach her to back up a step or 2, so that she wasn’t straining at the end of the lead.  The straining was causing her to stand stiff-legged, so that she was having difficulty relaxing enough to sit.

  • Down – this took a lot of work… it’s like Evie didn’t know that her legs WOULD bend.  She’s getting this, now.

  • *Automatic sit on human approach – Evie’s first reflex is to lunge on hind legs to reach the human.  We are working on an automatic sit whenever a human approaches… I will NOT enter her space with food or water in my hand, unless she’s sitting.  She’s doing well with this.

  • *Wear head collar – this took some intensive work, because I had to get her to the point where she’d sit on-command, allow me to mess with her head (she’s not snappy about it, but tries to move away), then allow me to hook up the collar and leash.  Now, though, she associates all this with going for a walk, so she’s getting pretty good at it.

  • Front-clasp harness – hasn’t come yet

  • *Brushing, handling – I’m using petting and light brushing with food rewards to teach her to relax for this.  I haven’t moved down onto her legs or backend yet.

  • *Work around food bowl, waiting – At this point, she sits at the end of the tether to allow me to approach with food or water, and I require that she sits there until I’ve placed the bowl on the ground.  I build exercises around this, just giving her a few kibbles in the bowl each time, so that a meal takes 15-20 minutes to deliver.  She’s much better at this.  3/8: this is an on-going process... she does well with plain kibble, but the behavior degrades as the value of the item increases.  We're working....

  • *Guarding rule-outs – she’s getting a lot of high-value stuff now: stuffed Kongs, chewies, Squeeze Cheese, etc.  She does very well with The Trading Game, allowing me to take these items from her, give her a reward, then give the item back.

  • *Riding in the car – haven’t worked on this yet

  • *Wearing seat belt -- haven’t worked on this yet

  • *Seeing the cats – We started this with Achmed this morning, and I’m very happy with how the first Meet-N-Greet went.

  • Doggie situps – we did this last night, as a way to burn off some energy before bed.  We just started, so it isn’t enough yet to tire her out.  3/8 She 'pretend grabs' at Achmed's feet, and licks his face.  

  • *Tether work – the mouthiness has been the worst when Evie’s tethered, when attempting to hook her collar to a leash or other tether, as well as her propensity to come at you like a freight train.  It’s slow-going, and part of what I’m doing to help fix these problems is hooking her to the tether, do some reps of sit and down, then I go into the house.  I set a timer for 5-10 minutes, then go back outside.  Sometimes I go to her (doing exercises involving no mouthing), sometimes I go out to the mailbox, sometimes I just do stuff on the patio.  The point is for Evie to see that she’s not left alone out there.  She’s getting better.  I also do reps  of hooking/unhooking the leash or tether so that she desensitizes to it.  3/8: we continue working on this, good results with high-value treats, although she still offers this behavior (some aspect of it is self-reinforcing).  We're working.

On 2/26/22, I really struggled with whether or not to continue trying to work with Evie... there were a lot of factors working against us: she's 8 mos old (teenager stuff),  her breed mix (high energy, high intelligence... a double-edged sword), and her life until now, which we suspect was spent tied to a tree in someone's back yard.  I felt like I wasn't making a dent in the mouthing behavior, and I really felt that this was the behavior that was going to cost her a chance... it was truly awful.  She had a lot of behaviors that had to be extinguished., and this type of training is VERY intensive.  I noticed that night as Hubby and I were talking that several times Evie jumped up and laid a paw on my leg.... she didn't mouth me.  The following morning 2/27 , she's still on the tether, either on-leash or on the long tether outside.  I've taken her for a walk, she chewed for a bit on a stuffed Kong, she's been out to pee twice... she's only mouthed me TWICE in all that.  Not only that, but as soon as I say "huh-uh" she STOPS mouthing me, and sits.  In researching extinction bursts, there is evidence that they often become much worse just before they're extinguished.  I'm hopeful.  When the med starts to wear off, there's a period of about 4 hours before it's due again, and it's difficult to gain Evie's attention/focus.

2/28/22  Again, I contacted the staff at the Humane Society, they conferred with the vet, and a third dose of the sedative was ordered.  Thank God that the staff know about Evie's behaviors... they were able to relay my concerns.  So, starting yesterday, Evie is now getting this med every 8 hours, in a further attempt to be able to teach her conflict resolution that the humans in her life can stand... because that's what she's trying to communicate, in the only way she knows: she's trying to resolve conflict (the humans want to get away from the mouthing/grabbing... she wants to keep them close).  She has to learn a new way to do this -- a replacement behavior -- but the mouthing is so reflexive that there's no chance to 'get in there' before it's done.  


3/1/22  Yesterday was a big day for us, here... A friend of mine called me from the East Coast... we text al ot about my work, and I help her with her dog too.  She knows as much about dog behavior and modification as I do, but she's more oriented in what messages I'm sending with the articles I write -- she's very good at this.  So, over the last week (yes, it's only been a WEEK) we've been texting back and forth about Evie's mouthing of my hands/arms, and she finally said to me "I don't understand where this is coming from.... I keep up with your updates, and I watch the videos.  You talk about how bad the mouthing is, but there is nothing in the videos except normal puppy behavior.  There is no supporting documentation about Evie's mouthing, except in your written notes."

This morning, I texted my friend and said "I've been thinking a lot about what you said, and you're right... it's good to focus on what's right when you're training, but not so much when documenting.  People need to see that results happen in fits and starts, especially when you're dealing with ingrained behaviors.  I'll work on that. "

We got up at about 5 a.m. this morning (every morning her bladder wakes us up lol)  Evie, at this moment, is still on-leash 24 hrs per day, except when she's on the tether outside.  This means 20 or more times a day, I'm unhooking something from her collar, and hooking something else up -- we're getting lots of practice.  It also means that when she's frustrated, she grabs at my hands (we're not talking about mouthing once... we're talking about REPEATED grabbing and mouthing, in a reflexive manner) -- if she only gets frustrated 10% of the time, she's grabbing/mouthing at my hands 2 (multiple times) out of those 20 times.  So, for the past week, she's grabbed at my hands a minimum of 14 times (and I swear it' was more than 50% of the time at first, reducing over the past week with the exercises).  My hands are so bruised).

Here's what I do to reduce the number of times she's grabbed/mouthed me:  I reach for her collar or leash, she grabs my hand; I say 'huh-uh' and step out of her reach... no eye contact, I turn my body slightly away from her, all interest removed.  She usually barks at me to come back.  I wait until she calms, sits (or both), then repeat until I'm able to unhook/hook her.  If this continue past the 3rd try, I say 'oops' and go back inside without her.  I set the timer for 10 minutes, repeat.

Today, we're starting work off-leash in the house.  I have baby gates everywhere.  Evie's been off-leash in 3 rooms so far today, about an hour, and she's doing great.  Fingers crossed.

Continue Reading Our Progress Notes!



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