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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

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