11 May 2009

Teeter Rehab at Fun Match, where the match part is a thing you set on fire, and it burns up.

We went up to our friend's forest agility house for a Fun Match on Sunday. She has two grassy fields, surrounded by oak trees and redwoods. Little forest paradise. For everyone but Gustavo, for whom now Forest Paradise equals a Walk in the Park of Hell. Started off trying to make it no pressure. Took his toy out on the field, did some fun jumpers runs, a set of poles. A little run with a dogwalk and an aframe. Looking Good! Then one, low key, pressure free teeter totter. Since he's been having so much fun riding Big Pink and his practice field teeter, thought let him just run up on it, I'll slowly tip it down while he has a nice fatty snack, like we started retraining on Big Pink.

He did it great! And, boy was that a stinker of an idea.

Because later on, just getting him anywhere near it, ha HA! The day ended trying to shape him with a clicker him to even touch his feet on the bottom of it. Went from bad to worse. Total freakophobia of even being anywhere near it. Got home to his old friend Big Pink, and he recoils in fear looking at the happy pink face of his old friend. Which just the same morning, he was lunging at to get near to tip it all by himself.

So, my non dog training friends, sort of like you got out of rehab, had a great night out at the bar, everyone drinking and having a grand time, then you have that one doozy of a drinkie, barf all over your asymetrical bias cut, hand screened ensemble before you make it to the ladies room, stagger out to your car, pull out of your parking space, smack into the CHP bike, get a DUI, get thrown in the back of a sticky cop car, drug down to the scuzzy downtown jail, and sit in there with some super scarey ladies, covered with barf while you are just waiting to die. Rehab reverts to relapse.

Maybe let's just call it the very lowest of low points.

Which means where else can you go besides another long, rocky climb back up. Rehab repeats, but hopefully better this time.

So my dog training friend, Kathleen reminded me of the Leslie McDevitt dog training article about a super freaked out teeter totter dog. June, 2008 issue of Clean Run, to be exact. I'm SO rock bottom here. Looking up the dog training articles and actually sitting down and reading EVERY SINGLE WORD. Because we're not talking about a little bit scared of the teeter tipping. We are talking, The Mere Existence of a Teeter Totter is Like Certain Death and Any Sounds That Happen in It's Presence Will Surely Kill You and Then Polygamists Fly You Out on a Celestial Planet Somwhere in Another Dimension Where Polar Bears and Monsters Gnaw Off Your Limbs. A soul crushing way to make dog agility a former hobby for a little dog that was my potential champion.

Basically, McDevitt says, "Taking the pressure off, knowing how to reward the dog, where to reward him, and what to reward him with, were all Quinn needed to jump-start his teeter rehab." Quinn was a border collie (this made me feel better, like Gustavo has a problem a border collie would have and not, like, a chinchilla) who couldn't even play frisbee near a teeter totter, he got so phobic. Like Otterpop had a teeter fear, but was never like this. This is just sheer, weirded out terror.

So I thought we already had jump started our rehab. Was loving just playing funny little games near Big Pink, his new best friend. Had him happy to ride Big Pink, happy to ride Practice Teeter. Happy even to get on Forest Agility Teeter just once. Backed up, retrained, moving forward at a nice slow speed. But what I learned, for him right now, once is too much. That is pressure On. Slow needs to be a trillion times slower. And if during that one slow time, there's any kind of clangy sound that happens anywhere, freakoutazoola. And running up the teeter, I guess, now predicts the sound. Even though we've been practicing fast running with quiet teeters in pillowy tarps that make no sound.

Sorry my non agilty friends, this is just getting so dog trainy. Train wreck of training ahead. But you LOVE Gustavo so much you just can't put this down. Riveting!

When I was clicking him on Kathleen's teeter, a dog knocked a bar on another part of the field. Just that normal, clangy bar knocking sound, while his dainty little feet were touching the teeter totter, and PANIC. So then, touching the teeter, predicts the sound. And the sound has now been magnified in his mind to Godzilla chows down on Tokyo and the touching the teeter and the sound of beloved clicker could not be more awful. The Tyra Banks Show, a better place to be. Rabies Day at the Racoon Farm, sounds good right about now. Bartender, pour me another cup of that poison, cuz that's gonna quench my thirst just fine.

I thought that was something Keith Richards might say. This situation so dire, am looking to Keith Richards for help and inspiration. Focus. McLovin. McDevitt.

Leslie McDevitt does a lot of training for dogs that go over Threshold. Meaning, batshit out of control in some way to where their mind is blotto. Sometimes aggressive, some reactive, or some just go crazy. All lose their bearings and can't focus. Gustavo goes in the crazy pile, which is an issue we've been working on at the same time. Working on calmly sitting on his special little mat and watch other dogs. Run to his mat after a run and get his own leash. Not monkeyscreaming while other dogs are running. Keeping brain inside skull. She applies the same theories to dogs re-learning the teeter totter. Keep them under threshold. At all times. And lots of stuff can push them over that threshold. Like even the sound of a pin drop on the teeter totter, I think.

Some dogs are special needs dogs. Ones that have their own, tiny little school buses. And giant, brightly colored name tags. Wasn't I just thinking this, months ago, when I thought he couldn't learn to do weave poles? How long did it take to teach him to sit? And I broke it down, rethought it out, just for him. Made it SO EASY. And finally, one day, we had weave poles. Maybe not the best in the west, but they're there now at least. Thought he had graduated to riding the big bus all by himself.

That blasted teeter totter, even though he used to have it, was smashing and lovely until 2 weeks ago, can't dwell on that. Now he doesn't have one. All his friends do, and they ride the big bus. End of story. Get over it. Have to make it more than SO EASY. Tiny baby steps, until the steps get a little bigger and then one day, it's there. Only one direction to go right now, starting at the bottom.

Later in the evening, when I take them down to the beach, I watch Otterpop, so logical and methodical, fetching and running, fetching and running. A vocation, obsessive but orderly. Ruby, doing her projects, foraging and hunting and following me, and then there's Gustavo. He's just running. on the rocks, the sand, the seaweed, in the water, and he's so happy. There's no logic, no project, no agenda. No clicking, no teeter, just running. And I know, it's all gotta go back to that.


Anonymous said...

I'm going to remember this when needs be (for both me and my dog):

"No clicking, no [whatever it is], just running. And I know, it's all gotta go back to that."

Elf said...

Dogs and their danged pea brains.

Like Boost and the evil floors. Or Tika at WAG in their divided indoor ring, Tika the C-ATCH ADCH dog, who's been doing agility at WAG since she was a year and a half. She's on the start line and there's some weird noise in the ring behind us. Freaks out. Little nubber tail tucked between her legs, which is almost impossible, so you can tell how terrified she was, which she shows by bark bark barking at the leash runner and the judge "danger danger danger! stay back stay back I'm a tough and mighty dog stay back!" and won't even think about doing agility. Leash runner still gets barked at by tika, what, 3 years later when Tika sees her? Sheesh.

The solution? Yeah, baby steps. Teeny tiny desensitizations. I think. I hope. We don't know what kind of Evil Floor problems we'll encounter in the future. Or when we'll see that poor leash runner again.

team small dog said...

The baby steps are really baby. He's so afraid now of even Big Pink, who was his Best Friend Sunday morning, that all he has to do now is eat his dog food on the table Big Pink is propped up on. So just some feet are touching Big Pink while he eats. These are going to be teensy, weensy, babiest steps ever.

A few people emailed me some really creative ways they retrained the teeter totter. We are thinking it out still and just having dog food by it for now. Boy did I somehow do a number on him.

Yeah, I read that floor story. Floors always fine, then all of a sudden not. Teeter totter. What are they thinking?

leslie mcDevitt said...

i enjoyed reading this! good luck on your teeter rehab. always remember that the most rewarding thing for a dog that panics about the teeter, is not having to do the teeter. so he can be shaped to move towards it....and you run with him away from it....creating a pattern where he chooses to put the pressure of moving towards it on himself cuz now that is connected to getting to leave...it's sneaky and the timing is impt.

team small dog said...

Thank you Leslie McDevitt!

It is a rocky road we are walking. Teeter love/hate comes and goes in waves and I do not know when I will run poor Gustavo in a trial again near a teeter. Because I do not want to see that panic ever again. He practices, he loves his practice field teeter, his driveway teeter, but I worry about the perfect storm happening again and it starting all over again.