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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Bella's progress on CALM
Saturday June 23rd.
Bella has hit some major milestones this week.  One of the most frustrating things was  Bella would bark and lunge at other dogs when she was on leash unknown people, especially men, and big objects that rolled or made a lot of noise.  In the past, we could continue our walks with a zig zaggy way of avoidance to keep the space between her to these things big enough so she was not go bonkers.

The market is on a busy corner - with music too
  This morning was the first  trial of Bella out on a walk that would put her into the things that would set her off.  Although Bella would typically do anything for food, on a walk it does not  help her to be rewarded or relax. I have noticed at other times verbal praise, and instructing her  what she needs to do - sit, come, settle is more effective for her.  So this morning we walked up Main street towards Abundant Market day at Festival Corner just as  the vendors were setting up. We did not need the challenge of lots of people  coming up to her and try to pet her.  That I know would be too much.  A couple of dozen people taking big boxes out of vans, putting up tents, and making eye contact, saying hi  as we walked right by their booths.  This was enough of a trial. I figured it would be best to build on success rather than get frustrated with failure.

Bella is taking rewards as the dogs bark and one growls at her
On the way up, a friend who Bella does not see often  commented how calm she was.  She did bark and jump up once but immediately settled into a sit and calmly sat there as Ann and I talked.  This was big for Bella!!!!!  While she did not get an A grade on greeting, she has advanced to at least a C student rather than flunking stranger approach.   We continued  past the post office where hand carts full of mail were being loaded into the delivery cars.  Right next to this area was a fenced back yard with 2 dogs barking and running the fence line.  Bella was sniffing the grassy area right by the post office lot, and greeted the 2 dogs at the fence area without any reactivity.  This was a huge step for her.  We continued walking on to Ervin Park, past other walkers and one woman with her big chocolate lab on leash.  There was only one point where the lab was pulling towards Bella that Bella was turning and pulling but not barking and going bonkers.  She continued to pass others and doing well all the way home.
Later she was calmly taking a reward from a girl with lots of people, cars, bikes , etc!

She is observing people approaching 

One thing I notice in Bella is if she is staring to react, she will go into a  sit and if she can just observe what is going on she is more calm.  It 's as if she needs a little time to take it all in and see that nothing bad is going on.  When I continue to make her heel and walk past something upsetting it does not seem to help her see that it is not a problem.  For Bella a balance of heeling, sniff walking and getting her settled to observe is the first part of counter conditioning her to her fears.  This is level one of learning.  Get to a point of feeling neutral about stuff that used to be scary.

I will keep you posted as I work with her in more and more challenging situations and try out ways to help her be happy about  scary things.  Getting my daughter and husband to work with her is also a part of the plan.  We'll see how that goes!  I find this food  is helping her to be more calm so she can learn.  I think she will need to be on it a few months before any weaning off or adjusting the diet.  I am not clear if  all dogs need to stay on this lifelong, but if they did, that would not be any health problem.  Right now there is a $10 rebate through the company for CALM food which does help the pocket book.  You can go to the facebook page for the coupon.  We have the coupons printed out for you when you come in to purchase a bag.   

A great day for a market - we will come back for more learning

Bella is work, but she is worth it!
Have a great weekend! Dr. Sally J Foote CFBC-IAABC

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Updates on CALM diet for dogs

So it has been another week with Bella on the CALM diet.  There have been some major milestones without really getting into any training or counter conditioning ( it has been busy, I am the only one at home really working on this, and after work I am just too tired at times to bother!).  The other day the neighbor was outside with his dog, just across the street.  The dog was barking at Bella which would have had her barking, pulling at the tie out, and just going nuts.  She ran to the edge of the yard, barked once and came to me as soon as I called her.  That was big.  

Unknown men would get her all worked up but now she is not nearly as concerned about them.  I was walking her up to work and a man was walking behind us by about 2-3 feet.  She turned to look at him 1-2 times but kept up on her heel and would focus on me.  In the past she would have been constantly twisting around, barking, hair raised.  Now she can take the command and be happy about heeling. 

This was the biggest achievement so far.  I was walking her in the neighborhood and she was sniffing at the edge of someones yard.  All of a sudden the pug, lab and another bigger dog came running down the yard barking at Bella.  She looked up and I turned her around where by she heeled with me to get across the street so we would not have any fur flying.  She heeled, looked at the other 3 dogs a time or 2 but would otherwise focus on me and follow the command to keep moving away.  Her reactivity to them was much reduced over her typical reaction which is especially good when you consider they were barreling down the yard at her.

I have put 2 cases I have recently seen on behavior consult on this food.  My techs call or email the clients on behavior consults at least once weekly checking up on progress.  I am eager to see  how this food is going to work with these cases.  One of the cases is on Clomipramine and the other is not on any other medications or supplements.  So we will see how other meds with this diet compare to this diet alone. 

Thanks for reading - now I want to find a cat case to get on the CALM.
Dr. Sally J Foote

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Can a food help your dog calm down? Yes!

Bella learning how to be less agitated
Royal Canin diets recently released a new dry food for dogs and cats called CALM.  We had a presentation about it at our office about 3 weeks ago.  It certainly looked promising so I thought I would try it on my dog Bella since she still goes crazy barking at times..  I have posted about Bella in the past, and she has made a lot of progress over her 3 years, but I thought I would see if this food could help her focus better and be a bit less reactive at times.

Here is a  little back ground about the food.  This diet was developed by Royal Canin for dogs and cats that show signs of anxiety.  The diet is formulated for dogs under 44 lbs and cats of normal weight.  The food supplements vitamin b3, tryptophane and a milk protein calming complex.  I was curious to see if the food could make a difference in a dog larger than 44 lbs ( Bella weighs 49 lbs).  The levels of the supplements are appropriate for  dogs up to 44 lbs, but as dogs get larger the volume they do not eat that much more food so the supplement level is not likely to be enough to help.  So Bella is 5 lbs over the top limit, but I thought it would still be worth a try.

I started Bella at 50% CALM and 50% of her Science Diet k9 adult food for 5 days, then onto CALM 100%.  She has been on the CALM for 2 weeks.  The company says it may take up to 2 weeks to see a benefit.  I have been keeping a chart of how upset she gets - barking, lunging, and can not come when called when she sees other dogs, squirrels, and other triggers.

I happened to see her laying here patiently waiting for me
Within the first few days, Bella would only bark 3-4 times at noises outside and was not as ballistic over the neighborhood cat that hangs around.  She would come when called much more readily too. 1 week at 100% calm I am seeing more improvement.  She was able to walk past a home with a barking little dog in the yard and did not bark or pull at the leash wanting to get after that dog.  This morning my neighbor was walking down the alley as Bella played in the yard.  She stared barking but after just 2 or 3 barks she came to me when called which normally would have been very difficult.  In the mornings, she settles in her bed after eating and going out much more easily.

At times, Bella is still naughty or is still reactive.  She got a hold of the empty bag that was left on a counter and shredded it up.  Can I blame her? It must have smelled good and of course the shredding of the bag was fun. She also got off her harness when she got tangled up in the bushes the other day. At least her romp through the neighborhood was much shorter and she came to me when I called her much more readily than she has in the past. 

A well shredded bag of CALM - thanks Bella!
I will have to see how she continues to do on the CALM diet.  It is a bit pricey - suggested retail is about $50 for a 9 lb bag.  The cost of some supplements with the cost of dog food is about equal to the cost of this food.  Feeding a diet that can help your dog be less stressed and learn how to be less anxious in situations is far more convenient than medications.  As Bella learns she may not need to stay on this diet.  I will definitely keep you posted on her progress!