Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Jamie and the Psychologist...

This week seems to have been all about Jamie. First, many consultations with his vet about why his operation incisions were taking so long to heal? When was it safe to take him out without risking infection or torn stitches? It was decided to postpone taking out his stitches for an extra week. Yesterday he wounded the flesh between two toes and it's been a bitch trying clean it. I ended up dipping his whole paw into a bowl of antiseptic and then trying to squeeze antibiotic cream into the gap. But what a palaver!

At the same time I am consulting a Canine Behaviourist about his car phobia. She has warned me that the tranquilliser she suggested is not to be messed with. "You can't be arbitrary with this drug. You have to give it to him religiously and its effects will only kick in after 15 days. Do not mess around when you are dealing with brain chemistry," she warned me. This has spurred me on to put every effort into his behavior modification programme because it may be my last chance. I do not want Jamie on this drug for any longer than necessary. Everything she advised me to do is specific to Jamie's individual behaviour so it may not work for other dogs.

I have to avoid anything that triggers the fear he associates with the car - like the dark garage.
I now park outside my front gate with the car doors wide open. I lift Jamie from the house into the car while giving him lots of treats, praise and strokes. I try to make a game of it by placing treats all over. He is now beginning to explore the car rather than sitting in a frozen funk. After a short time in the car, he can jump out and is rewarded with a short walk and lots of sniffing (heaven for a beagle). This process must be repeated several times at a rapid pace.

Hopefully he will begin to realise he is safe in the car and nothing bad will happen to him. What's more it means treats and walks! I am trying to do this twice a day with the last session being rewarded with a walk around our complex park. The Behaviourist has said that I need to do at least 4 sessions before every actual trip he takes in the car.

So far we have had one trip in the car and I was thrilled because he did not shake and tremble (his usual indication that he is very stressed). But I must not do anything to blow it. The slightest negative experience could be a set back! Hopefully he will eventually jump into the car voluntarily and travel will become a stress free experience for all of us. But to make this happen is hard work!

The only problem is Jemma who is "dikbek" or pouting at the moment. We decided that her bouncing enthusiasm in the car, where she literally stomps all over Jamie, does not help him calm down. One would have thought that her exuberance would rub off but in fact the Behaviourist felt it may be too much for an already stressed Jamie.

Despite a large tasty bone to chew and the calming sounds of Classic Radio in the kitchen, Jemma created such a racket that I now let her watch from the gate. She still looks glum but at least she is not howling the house down. She does get included in all the long walks.

While talking to the Behaviourist on the phone Jemma and Jamie began squabbling over a bone. It does not matter how many bones or chew toys are lying around, they always manage to fight over the same object. I had to evict them from the room so that I could hear the conversation. I have started getting used to the fact that these two fight and squabble. The Behaviourist said that resource guarding was very common between dogs and not to get too upset about it. I now realise that it is all bark and no bite, but what a show! A concerned neighbour asked me if my dogs were alright because she described the sound of their fighting as "awe inspiring".

I seem to be forever apologising to neighbours about my dogs' behaviour and assuring them they are going through adolescence and hopefully they will out grow it?


  1. I m glad your puppy is feeling better.I hope he has a long healthy life!

  2. Thank you. But as they say the proof is in the pudding and the pudding is still cooking. Let's hope that it all pays off in the long term.