An update on where we are at.
Last month, Boogie’s skin got really bad and his coat was thinning drastically. We had already been through two courses of antibiotics and steroids… the symptoms went away, and then they came back. So I decided to take Boogie to the Animal Dermatology Clinic for a second opinion and expert treatment.
Here is what I was told:
Boogie’s allergy is definitely environmental and seasonal (I already knew this). It’s unlikely to be food-related. He already eats very good food – grain-free, raw/rare food from Darwin’s Pet, and Nutrisca kibble. Supplements: probiotics, Brewers Yeast & Garlic, Apple Cider Vinegar. The topical remedies: Chlorhexidine shampoo, Resicort lotion, and essential oils. Sometimes also EV Coconut Oil. The problem is that the constant scratching and licking leads to infection and inflammation. (well yes, I already knew this too) and he is going bald because his skin was severely inflamed all over.
Boogs was put on Medrol, Simplicef and Ketoconazole for 30 days in addition to the topical treatments. I didn’t see any changes for the first two weeks. Poor Boogie was ravenous, restless, and his skin looked WORSE. In the third week, his skin was looking better (no bumps, redness, crusty bits, flakiness) – though his fur still hasn’t grown back. And then I noticed that he was obsessively licking his paws for most of the day and waking up in the middle of the night to do this.
This week we were back at the Animal Dermatology Clinic with a follow-up appointment …
Animal Dermatology Clinic
Boogie: “this place is boring”
I was given three options:
1. Allergy testing + shots
2. More steroids
I couldn’t afford the allergy testing (I don’t have a spare $600-$1000 lying around) and Atopica… also a pricey option at $100+ per month. So I chose the option that I could afford that I felt would be the least complicated or with the least side effects. Boogie is now on Medrol steroids again for 60 days (!) and I am also to give him Zyrtec (Aller-Tec) everyday. Look at this crazy schedule…
Medrol schedule for the next 60 days
I hate seeing him so hungry, thirsty and restless on steroids – sigh. I hope the meds work and that he will get some relief. The ONLY advantage to his current state of constant starvation is that he is extra food-motivated and therefore easier to “train” and “lure”.
waiting for the vet
October 10, 2013 at 9:48 am
I always crate Boogie before I go out and I have been doing this for years. The main reason being that he used to relocate or destroy stuff when I was out, and the second reason – I didn’t want him getting into the habit of barking at people outside the window when I am not around to divert him from these triggers or to help calm him down.
About a month ago when Boogie was on his recent course of Temaril-P (side effects: extra thirst & restlessness) I felt bad about keeping him cooped up for up to 3 hours at a time. I thought it would be more comfortable for Boogie if he could move around, so for those couple of weeks, I stopped crating him.
Everything was fine at first. I would come home to a Boogie curled up in his open crate, on his bed or in my bed. He’s a bit deaf so sometimes he doesn’t even hear me enter the apartment.
And then one night when Nathan and I were out to dinner for only 30 minutes, this happened….
Yes, Boogie was on my computer keyboard and I don’t know what password he entered. And that trash can is actually twice his height and heavy! Of course, the steroid meds had made him so hungry and he was so obsessed with finding food that he was prepared to do anything! I felt I had no choice but to start crating Boogie again because there was no way on earth I was going to risk him eating something dangerous from the trash. (coffee grounds and Darwin Pet’s ‘raw meat’-lined plastic packets – eeeuughh!)
However, the temperature in LA has been 100+ degrees. It has been so unbearably hot that Boogie has been flopping down on the floor – changing locations throughout the day – in order to keep cool. And once again I wonder if it’s cruel to keep him enclosed in a small space even with the fan and AC on. It can’t be comfortable in that crate when all he wants to do is spread out all over the floor.
I am pleased to report that I have come up with a no-crating management solution for when I am out of the apartment. Before I step out, this is what I do…
- I still call Boogie to his crate and give him a treat. (He usually runs in there by himself anyway when he sees me pick up my keys) But I don’t shut the crate door.
- I move Boogie’s water bowl out of the kitchen and block off the kitchen with a baby gate. (no access to any food or trash)
- I fill the bath tub with some water so if Boogie is hot he can go cool down his paws (this is his Summer thing)
- I still lock my PC keyboard.
Everything has been working out great. I can’t believe I never thought of blocking off the kitchen before. When I come home – all is as it should be. Trash is safe. Boogie is sleeping in one of his many beds. He may still bark out the window but oh well…
Boogie says: “Is he for me?”
Masked Dog is a character from Mucha Lucha. I designed him over 10 years ago and I can’t believe I have never owned a Masked Dog plush toy until now. Boogie was very excited to meet Masked Dog but I will have to keep these two separate because Masked Dog is MINE :)
Last week I was sent a free packet of Bionic Biotic by Pooch & Mutt for Boogie to try out. Poor Boogie still has skin issues – his coat is thinning very drastically – he is getting so bald you can see his black freckles showing through the white parts. He will soon turn into a black and grey boston terrier :(
And now that he is no longer on antibiotics, I am seeing the dreaded return of red (bumpy and crusty) spots on his skin. From what I have been told, it could be a few weeks before I see a result with Bionic Biotic, and we only just started a few days ago so it is too soon to tell if this will help. I really really hope so! I will keep you all posted. I am also bathing Boogie with Cortisoothe and Hexadene shampoos – and still adding Brewers yeast and garlic to his food. I have a suspicion that these medicated shampoos may be contributing to his hair loss… I don’t know for sure. It seems that the more I bathe him, the more hair he loses… But I can’t not bathe him when he is so allergic to grass and pollens.
What antibacterial shampoos do you all use?
September 4, 2013 at 7:10 am
*This blog post was written a few months ago, following on from Part 1.
From “How To Live With a Neurotic Dog” (1960)
“Eli, No!” – a picture book (2011)
The pictures above are from two books that I bought only for the artwork. The first book is from the 60’s; and the second book is recent.
I think we live in exciting times because there is a cultural shift in thinking about dog training, dog behavior and human-dog relationships, and there is now more information available on the internet and in books on understanding why dogs do what they do and how they learn, and adjust our training methods to be smarter and kinder.
From “How To Live With A Neurotic Dog” (1960)
Traditional dog training, being based in punishment and behavior suppression put a lot of emphasis on the “No!’s”.
To (loosely) quote Sarah: “There are people who want their dogs to be seen and not heard and they believe that this is how the relationship should be between human and dog. And then there are those of us who want our dogs to be able to express themselves, communicate, initiate things, and feel empowered in a relationship”. The inspiring thing about Clicker Expo is that everyone is there to focus on the “Yes’s” – how to train in ways that encourage more behaviors, not less.
At the January Clicker Expo, I went to three Ken Ramirez seminars. Ken Ramirez is an expert trainer at Shedd Aquarium who has worked with many species of exotic animals and all his training stories (mistakes AND successes) were very insightful and heartwarming.
In his seminar on “What To Do When The Animal Makes Mistakes-“, “No!” is technically referred to as a No Reward Marker or Punisher.
Ken Ramirez said that he will not judge people who use punishment or negative reinforcement in their training methods, but he personally finds no need to say “No” to any student animal that he is training. He is able to accomplish any training goal with Positive Reinforcement.
“We are more creative trainers if we don’t have a way to say NO. You don’t want to say NO to an elephant.”
To Ken, trust is one of the most important aspect of any training plan, and what defines a good relationship between trainer and trainee is a strong positive reinforcement history.
One of the most common trainer mistakes is requesting a difficult behavior from an animal when he/she is not yet fluent in that behavior. This messes up the trust relationship. He shared several examples when trainers got too greedy and asked for too much too soon. Trainers might get too caught up in their egos, push the animal too far, the animal is unable to do the behavior he was trained to do (or doesn’t feel totally comfortable with it yet), has some sort of breakdown, stops doing that behavior… and then there is a lose-lose situation where it can take YEARS to re-train that behavior.
Ken Ramirez outlined the various ways that we have learned to deal with unwanted behavior. He cited the 8 methods in Karen Pryor’s classic book “Don’t Shoot The Dog” and agrees with Karen Pryor that “Changing the Motivation” is the most humane positive method. However, this is not always the most practical solution. There has to be a more immediate way to deal with unwanted behavior or mistakes.
Common ways of changing unwanted behavior that are aversive to the animal in some way:
PUNISHMENT – self explanatory. We add something aversive to make the behavior stop. The animal does not learn what is right. Punishing is addictive too to the trainer, and can get out of control. There is a high risk of fallout and loss of trust in the relationship. Dogs as a species may be more forgiving than killer whales but this is beside the point. Physical punishment works but is the least humane and most intrusive method.
NO REWARD MARKER (NRM) – basically a word like “No”, or “Wrong”, or “Oops!” or “Stop it”. Which to Ken, are essentially still punishers (Conditioned Punishers or Secondary Punishers). Even if we use “Oops!” as a warning (“Watch out, this is your last chance or else…”) if we lack self-control and use it too frequently, it could definitely become something aversive and will damage the relationship between human and animal. Even the kindest version of a “No” when overused will lead to frustration.
TIME OUT or Negative Punishment (eg, the trainer leaving the room with all the food, when the animal misbehaves) This is another response that causes frustration and anxiety, mainly because the animal does not have a clue which behavior he did was wrong and does not learn what is right. The information is not clear. Time Outs are also ONLY effective if the animal likes you in the first place or finds the training reinforcing. The animal may be relieved to be away from you.
KR gave a great example of a classic Time Out mistake: Dog does something ‘naughty’, person picks up dog, puts him in the crate and person leaves the room.
NEGATIVE REINFORCEMENT = Training a behavior where the animal gets to avoid or escape something aversive. Ken Ramirez says that even though Negative Reinforcement always involves some sort of aversive, this doesn’t mean it is inherently evil. For example we use alarm clocks (aversive noise) to wake us up in the morning. We hate the noise but it makes us wake up. Another example is when we learn to turn off the car lights because every time we forget, there’s that loud beeping noise. The biggest issues with Negative Reinforcement are that overuse will lead to frustration and anxiety. The severity of the aversive can be hard to control and can become inhumane. It takes a lot of skill to use Negative Reinforcement effectively.
I am thinking of training protocols for reactivity/aggression like BAT , which include some element of Negative Reinforcement. To paraphrase what Grisha Stewart said at the BAT seminar – yes, there is the use of an aversive in BAT set ups (presenting the dog with a scary dog/person) but we can’t avoid this aversive in real life. “It’s not like we can sit on the couch with our dog and calmly chat with him about his fear of other dogs”. I see that the humane use of Negative Reinforcement involves working in a controlled environment, not adding any artificial aversives, and always letting the dog feel safe and in control.
I like these Susan Friedman quotes:
Control the environment not the animal.
Control is a primary reinforcer, to deprive an animal of control is akin to depriving them of water, food.
To the greatest extent possible all animals should be empowered to exercise personal control over significant environmental events.
In addition to whether or not a method is effective, we have to consider what is the least harmful or least intrusive technique for teaching or changing behavior, and Ken Ramirez referenced the “Heirarchy of Effective Procedures” chart by Dr. Susan Friedman.
Here is Dr. Susan Friedman’s original article which is a must-read.
Example: If your dog runs around in the yard all day and growls at people on the street, you could change his environment/antecedent arrangements (level 2) – bring him indoors, or put him in the backyard out of view of the street – this would be less intrusive than actively changing his behavior with reinforcers or punishers (levels 3-5).
Ken Ramirez’s favorite least intrusive method for dealing with mistakes is what he calls the LEAST REINFORCING STIMULUS (LRS).
The LRS method was developed and used in zoos but it is also useful with pets. Top priority:
1. not reinforcing unwanted behavior, and
2. not adding any stress or frustration to the relationship.
This is how I understand it.
1. First of all, there must be already a strong Positive Reinforcement history (ie, good relationship) and high rate of reinforcement.
2. When the animal makes a mistake or does the wrong behavior (not the one you asked for), be NEUTRAL for 3 seconds. Stay calm and DO NOTHING for three seconds. One thousand, two thousand, three thousand…
3. Immediately ask for another behavior that you know is easy, that the animal can do. Give reinforcement.
Assuming that 3 seconds is the right amount of time, the mistake/unwanted behavior won’t be reinforced, and it won’t be too long of NOTHING HAPPENING for the animal to develop frustration.
Emily Larlham (advocate of Progressive Reinforcement training) reiterates that the problem with “No!” and other conditoned punishers is that:
- it suppresses your dog’s behavior (overuse leads to a shut down dog)
- you create bad associations for your dog with yourself, your dog will do bad behaviors when you are not around.
Emily’s method of dealing with unwanted behavior is by using a Positive Interrupter - a sound (eg, kissy noise) and conditions this sound with a treat &/or petting, so that whenever the dog does an unwanted behavior, she uses the noise to redirect the dog away from doing the unwanted behavior, and then asking for a desired behavior that can be reinforced.
**IMPORTANT WARNING: Always give attention to your dog when he is doing good behavior and reinforce this good behavior. The Positive Interrupter is “attention” so if you use this ONLY when dog does unwanted behavior, then your dog will purposely repeat bad behavior just to get your attention.
Oh yes, I learned this the hard way :)
How Boogie learned that barking is awesome.
August 21, 2013 at 5:50 am
The schedule for next year’s Clicker Expo is up! I just remembered that I still have notes from this year’s Clicker Expo that I was going to turn into blog posts but I haven’t gotten around to doing this yet…
I really want to go to the 2014 Clicker Expo. Not only is it in Long Beach (I CAN DRIVE THERE), there are lots of NEW speakers including Emily Larlham, Dr. Susan Friedman, and Dr Susan Schneider! Irith and Sarah will also be presenting seminars.
So I need to make more money to attend this three-day conference. With massive bills and two international trips to save up for, my finances are not looking so good.
If you know of anyone interested in custom pet illustrations , please send them my way!
I would also be happy to do dog training/behavior-related illustrations for books , posters and seminar presentations, and I have many images on my site that are FREE to download and distribute for which I am always very grateful for donations! :)
August 15, 2013 at 6:15 pm
To be honest, I am not sure how to teach Boogie to play this Nina Ottoson game.
I put pieces of CHEESE underneath the cups. Then I called Boogie over to get the cheese. Boogie hasn’t quite figured out the mechanics of this game yet. If I don’t remind him to slide the cup thing (by demonstrating the sliding action to him), he sniffs and nudges and paws at the cup, and doesn’t know what else to do. Sometimes he slides the cup and retrieves the cheese and I assume that he gets it; but sometimes he doesn’t, and he continues to nudge the cup with his nose. When the cup stays put, he gets confused, backs away to his little bed, lies down and looks at me: “Please can YOU get the cheese?”
I was hoping Boogie would know to LIFT or PICK UP the cup from the base. My sorry attempt to demonstrate “lifting the cup” and holding it in front of Boogie’s mouth, ended up with him running off with the cup as if it were a new cheese-scented chew toy…
August 7, 2013 at 10:54 pm
We were at the vet again last week. Boogie is now on Cephalexin (antibiotics) and Temaril-P (steroids). 30 days of Cephalexin.
The itchiness has stopped but Boogie’s skin is still splotchy. Hopefully it won’t take too long to heal. One side effect of Temaril-P is increased hunger, so the poor little dog is constantly starving. Walks are frustrating. He has become obsessed with scavenging off the sidewalks (“Leave it” only works 50% of the time) and at home he often sits looking up at me, pleading for treats. He won’t even play fetch or tug. He would rather eat.
The upside is that Boogie is paying no attention to his usual triggers on the street. He is ignoring other dogs and scary humans and concerned ONLY with finding food scraps on the ground.
I told Dr. F that I cook for Boogie, and she mentioned that she orders her dog’s meat from Darwin’s Pet . Knowing that Boogie does not eat raw meat – he has either walked away from it, or eaten it and vomited later – I at first figured that this wouldn’t be something worth trying out. But when Dr. F told me that she cooks the meat and that it is ok to do so, I placed a trial order…
The prices seem really good. I spend about the same amount of money each week at the local market anyway; and the meat from Darwin’s Pet is organic, antibiotic-free and already mixed with organ meats, bone meal, veggies, apple cider vinegar and supplements. In the photo above – our first shipment of 10lbs of food – $15. When the box arrived, my first thought was – there is NO WAY THIS IS GOING TO FIT IN MY FREEZER – but then I realized the contents were mostly dry ice. The meals comes sealed in 1/2 lb packets. They include a fed ex slip for you to send the box back to be recycled.
Left: empty container; Right: that’s 4 x 1/2 lb packets of food (Beef)
Interestingly – the instruction sheet says that if the dog has a compromised immune system, he should not eat raw and it is advisable to cook the meals…
Left: raw, sealed food Right: Cooked RARE
This evening I started transitioning Boogie over to Darwin’s Pet food… I sauteed 1lb of food – as you can see in the photo the meat is still red in color – definitely rare – and added 2oz of this to his usual fully-cooked mix of meat and veggies.
I have a question – does “rare” meat keep longer than “raw” in the fridge? This is a transition period so I won’t be feeding all of this rare meat too quickly but I don’t want it to go bad sitting in the fridge for too long… How many days is safe? I suppose I could cook it some more…
July 27, 2013 at 8:25 am
I can’t remember where I first heard about Dognition.com – I think it might have been via my Twitter feed. From what I can see, Dognition.com is a website that offers a series of structured games (or exercises) for dog owners to do with their dogs, and through these games, owners can gain new insights into their dog’s personality and cognitive style. I guess they are like doggie personality tests with no right or wrong answers, just an evaluation of how smart your dog is. The games are organized into these categories: Empathy, Cunning, Communication, Memory and Reasoning.
This week, I saw that Dognition were offering some games for FREE and I couldn’t resist. I signed Boogie up and had Nathan help out.These are short 10-minute games and I love that they are very clearly explained with video demos and step-by-step instructions; but you do need a human assistant to do them. One person has to follow the online instructions and log the scores while the other person interacts with the doggie. It’s hard to do everything at the same time with only one person, unless if your dog is well-trained to obey commands like sit and stay and um… Boogie isn’t very reliable. Well at least not right now, while he is suffering on Temaril-P (steroid meds) and might starve to death if he doesn’t grab the treat ASAP.
In the Dognition Empathy category, Boogie proved himself to be “bonded” to me.
Nathan: “He’s a boston terrier, after all!”
I did a series of yawns and Boogie yawned too. During the eye contact exercise, Boogie did not break eye contact at all even while he experimented with changing poses, from sitting to standing to lying down, to stepping back, to sitting down, to lying down again etc. Boogie . did. not. break .eye .contact. Except once or twice when he experimented with a quick head turn to see if these would earn him the treat. Yes, he has always been an eye contact champion. He can stare at me forever while I offer various behaviors trying to guess what he wants….
The Communication games revealed some fascinating results. I placed two treats on the floor in front of me at the same time, one on each side. I had to look at and point (first with my arm, later with my foot) towards one of these treats, alternating between left side and right side. This was a test to see if Boogie responded to where I was looking and pointing, or if he was more likely to make his own decisions.
Interestingly, almost every single time, Boogie moved towards the OPPOSITE treat – the one that I wasn’t pointing at.
The Dognition verdict?
*I forgot to add: Boogie is sort of nervous around hands or feet … (he will rarely take treat that is placed next to a foot) I wonder if this had anything to do with his decision?
And so we completed the freebie games. To continue, I would have to pay for membership… not something I can really afford to do right now.
I am curious – has anyone signed up for full membership and done all the games? Your thoughts?
July 22, 2013 at 9:05 am