Workshop Day One

9 Apr

My first KPA workshop has been overshadowed by Emma’s reactivity and inability to settle. I’ve realized just how much I’ve been sheltering her, and that all the progress I’ve seen has been in a bubble, a vacuum. There are so many factors to this trip that have combined into a perfect storm.

It’s the first time since she’s come to me that we’ve stayed in a hotel. It’s the first time we’ve taken a 4:30 car trip. It’s the first time she’s spent a night away from Charlie. It’s the first time she’s ever been in a workshop environment (and that has several sub-categorical firsts as well).

Our instructor, Steve Benjamin, is really wonderful. But Emma doesn’t think so. He uses his hands too much for her liking. So the first hour or so of class she made sure he knew that – she barked at him pretty much anytime he moved after she decided he was evil incarnate.

And then she turned her nose up at a bully stick for the first time ever. And refused to stay in her crate (broke out of it actually). So they gave us a sturdier crate to use. I put blankets over it to block her view of Steve. And gave her 3 bully sticks and a stuffed Kong, not to mention throwing treats every few seconds. Now she’s barking at every tiny noise any other dog makes as the room echoes and I think she feels threatened by the dogs she can’t see, but can hear and smell (especially with all her treasures in with her, remember she resource guards).

And she doesn’t want to lie on a mat next to me with her view blocked. She’s actually incredibly intent on the treats and is dying to work, but I have to listen to Steve. And lying on the mat is not what she wants to do. So then we got to try on a Thundershirt.

And she barked at more people for doing things that really wouldn’t set her off normally. And she’s giving everyone back off signals (head turns, lip licks). But she’s still willing (more than willing, actually) to work and was shaped by a fellow trainee to raise her ears in less than 5 minutes.

I’ve never seen this level of reactivity to people or any reactivity like this towards dogs at all. I’m actually quite worried that she’s WAY too stressed out and that I might want to just not use her anymore. But Steve and his wonderful aide Casey have really reassured me and helped me out quite a bit.

I ended up leaving her in the car for the last 2 hours (for which we didn’t need dogs anyway). Even though she wasn’t crazy about it, she was a lot less stressed than she would have been in the room with us.

My plan for tomorrow is to set up a double barrier for her with a covered crate and the draped gates, showing her the perimeter so she knows dogs can’t get close to her or her crate, and playing LAT ad nauseum. And giving her frequent breaks to the car and/or walking outside. And I’ll try to move her way back. It means I’ll mess up the nice “circle” we had going, but it just wasn’t working out. And it’s stressing me out so much to know that I’m stressing her out.

I also think I’ll need to work on this when we get back home. I’m going to contact some training schools and see if they’ll let us just hang out at a class to work on her reactivity – who cares what class!

This has come out much longer than anticipated. I really needed to vent though, so thank you for reading! I’ve read all of your blogs, I’m just utterly exhausted and dealing with crappy Red Roof Inn wifi so will revisit you all when we get back home.

And Charlie and Tigress are doing well at my moms.

9 Responses to “Workshop Day One”

  1. Crystal April 9, 2011 at 10:06 pm #

    I’m so sorry to hear this. Those experiences can be so upsetting. I hope tomorrow goes better, and I’m sure you guys can work through things!!

  2. Anna April 9, 2011 at 10:59 pm #

    Sorry it was such a tuff day. Never know till you try though. I know you’ll come up with a solution, hope tomorrow goes better for you two.

  3. Brooke April 11, 2011 at 9:28 am #

    ((((((((Ettel & Emma!))))))))) At least you know what you’re up against – ie, a whole lot of “first times” for Emma, that understandably are making both of a you a little, or a lot, tense. And yet, if she still wants to work despite her stress at all the newness, obviously the training has resonated with her, and once she gets more comfortable in the class environment, I bet she will really shine. I think your plan is a good one – seems like what she needs most of all, now, is as much exposure to class settings, and strange places as possible. Hang in there – growth is never easy!

  4. Kristine April 12, 2011 at 7:13 am #

    I am so sorry Ettel that your workshop had such a rough start. I love that even though she was clearly so stressed, she was still interested in working with you. It reminds me a lot of Shiva, actually. Our instructor doesn’t even know if stress is the right word. It if it is more like over-excitedness. She isn’t freaked out, she just is so over-eager to do things and explore her new environment, that she can’t focus or control herself.

    New environments are really, really hard for us. Hopefully after the first day Emma has gotten more comfortable and is able to relax a little more so you can enjoy yourself. It’s great everyone was so understanding. I guess they have all been there as well at some point. šŸ˜› Dog training is hard work.

    Good luck! And good on you for sticking it out and doing what is best for your dog!

  5. Mayzie April 12, 2011 at 3:02 pm #

    MayzieMom here. I think you’ve come up with a good plan. I found that setting up visual barriers helped Mayzie a LOT. It’s just a lot of new stuff for both of you to absorb so I really wouldn’t worry too much. Like you said, once you get back, you can take her into a training environment and work with getting her more comfortable. When I first started taking classes with Mayzie, she was pretty stressed. But the more we went, the more relaxed she became because she realized that she got to work AND she got treats – two of her favorite things. And now our training facility is one of her happiest places in the world.

    And look at it this way – you now know what you need to work on and where you need to go from here. It’s all just one big learning experience.

  6. houndstooth4 April 12, 2011 at 9:44 pm #

    I’m sorry it’s not started out the way you wanted it to. That brings its own kind of stress, too. When you feel at odds with your dog, you just feel so off. At least, I do! It sounds like she needs time to ease into things, and I wouldn’t give up the idea of taking her again yet. Just know what you need to work on and do your best with her. Find some time for the two of you to have fun together, too!

  7. Kari April 13, 2011 at 9:12 pm #

    Is it possible she is feed off of some stress? Are you anxious about the whole workshop? Not to blame you, just a thought


  8. Lindsay April 14, 2011 at 9:50 am #

    Oh gosh, poor Emma and poor you! I know that she will slowly become more comfortable to new situations though as you continue to work with her. You know what you are doing. I think that’s a wonderful idea to take her to some class environments just to hang out.

    Good girl, Emma!

  9. Aleksandra April 14, 2011 at 12:19 pm #

    what a shame it had to be this way, but if’s something you have to deal with at some point, isn’t this an ideal place/time? you will learn so much, and so will poor emma. you will look back on this with such relief and pride!

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