Monday, January 25, 2010

Red Headed Stepchild - Part 3

Now for the red headed stepchild part... I would not describe Reagan as fearful, but there is something very fragile about her. An undesirable situation can change her perspective on things and I feel that I am always on guard to protect her from the unexpected.

For example, one of my favorite hiking spots is near a railroad. The tracks are across the street and behind some houses. I can hear the train, but I cannot see it and it not close enough to be loud. Reagan is terrified if a train passes while we are in the parking lot. She shakes and is obviously distressed.

This summer I discovered she has a similar reaction to horses stamping their feet in their stalls at the farm we visit. She is not afraid of horses, but she is petrified of the "thud" they produce when they are just picking up and tapping their feet back down to unseat flies. It is the weirdest thing and I cannot begin to explain the reasons. Nor can I recreate these on a daily basis at home.

Another issue I have with Reagan is that she hates sit stays. Sit stays are not usually high on a greyhound's favorite list, but I understand that. I do not take them for granted and I usually have a special jackpot ready for each sit stay practice (canned dog food, mackerel, or tuna). I have always been able to get a 1 minute sit stay out of all of my greyhounds for Novice level (even Teresa, seen below). However, Reagan often slumps immediately and appears bewildered. Despite all the praise, treats, and jackpots, she never appears confident in the task. And if there happens to be a noise, she will often fall into her terrified mode and be unable to complete her sit stay.
Lastly, we visited Stephen's parents in Birmingham over Christmas. It is a 3 hour drive and Stephen usually drives. As a passenger, I will look back at the dogs as we travel down the road. And who to I spy appearing nervous?...... Reagan. So it turns out that Reagan is not a very good traveler. Well, that is fantastic because she has to travel 6 or 7 days a week. It appears that she is very uncomfortable with the road bumps and the noises that accompany them. She never relaxes in route.

Reagan is definitely a challenge to my type A personality. I cannot control everything and that is okay (or at least I am trying to convince myself it is okay). Reagan does not have to be just like Travis and Katie. If she does match or exceed Katie and Travis' accomplishments, it will be all the more rewarding due to the additional obstacles. This is all just for fun anyway.

If anyone has any suggestions for doing an inexpensive, high quality recording of these sounds, I would love to hear it. I would love to record the train, the horses, and the road bumps so we could work on it, but I am really at a loss right now. Knock on wood, so far our training and competition environments have been happy places so she continues to do well in those areas.


jcp said...

These may not be exactly what you are looking for however I found them to be sufficiently annoying.

houndstooth said...

I have no ideas about how to recreate the sounds, but I can offer my sympathies. Our second greyhound, Hawk, was just a nervous sort of fellow. Obedience helped him to gain some much needed confidence, but it was not enough that I would have ever considered trying to show him. The thing was, it was never the same thing with him for a long time. One thing would bother him for a while, we'd get to the point where it was managable, and then it would be something else that scared him witless. It wasn't just sounds that would get him either. One summer he was dreadfully afraid of power cords on the floor. The worst was when we were startled by some gunshots near our house while out on a walk one day. He believed that the sky would fall on him whenever we went for a walk forever after that. We could drive across the country and walk at Dewey Beach and he was the most relaxed dog in the world. Things I thought would bother him didn't, like fireworks on the Fourth of July. He was fine riding in the car. However he once scared himself out of a sound sleep with his own fart. We never did completely solve the puzzle that was Hawk, but we grew to love him for his quirks! At the very least, maybe this story will make you feel a little better about where you are with Reagan.

KF-in-Georgia said...

Jen, Google sound effects. There are lots of free, downloadable MP3 files. You may be able to edit things like train sounds into a CD you can play in a repeating loop.

Elaine Summerhill said...

Jen, when Brandy started having problems with noises, Laurel had her hearing checked. Come to find out, she had lost some of her hearing. Maybe Reagan has a hearing problem?

Another thought is that depending upon where she grew up, maybe the train reminds her of a tornado passing by? I've always heard that twisters sorta sound like a train. Maybe that's the source of the thumping sounds being distressing too. Things bouncing off of the kennel during a severe storm.

Never Say Never Greyhounds said...

Thanks everyone for the ideas. I didn't think to check Youtube or Google sound effects. I had been searching for MP3s, but wasn't sure how to play them, but I could just burn on a CD and play on the computer.

I don't think it would be a hearing issue since she is only 2 years old and if it is, I probably would just keep doing what I am doing.

I do think growing up on a quiet farm didn't help. Since the farm was going out of business, her littermates were almost all the dogs on the farm. There wasn't anything going on. The runs weren't being dragged or maintained. There was no training going on. So the lack of exposure to noises probably did not help.

I just find it weird that something like a gunshot does not bother her, but a little thud coming from a horse stall does. Or that its not the loud train whistle, but the consistant sound of it rolling over the tracks from a distance.

We'll keep working!


greytblackdog said...

Poor Reagan. She just wants her mommy. I'm guessing it is the vibrations more than the actual sound that is setting her off.

Never Say Never Greyhounds said...

Blackdog, you are not the only one to suspect the vibrations.

On a happy note, she has teetered at 2 outside locations. She slams them down so hard, fast, and loud. I hope that is behind us.


Laura said...

Hi Jen,

As always, LOVE your blogs! I don't know if it could help her or not, but maybe you could try using calming signals? Turid Rugaas worked them out:

For calming, use huge yawns and lip-licking. In her book, she recounts an consult where the people lived right next to a train track and their dog was terrified of the trains, so she was very ill because the trains ran 24/7. Turid suggested the whole family should yawn whenever a train came. Within 2 weeks the dog had calmed considerably and IIRC she made a full recovery within a month or 2. I used yawns and lip-licking for my 2 Spanish galgos during all the fireworks and explosions on New Year's Eve and it really helped them calm down. After a little while they relaxed completely and fell asleep.

I hope it might be able to help. :)

Best regards,

Never Say Never Greyhounds said...

Thanks, Laura.

I actually use the lip licking calm signal during stays :-). It can't hurt.... I'll start yawning.


Life With Dogs said...

A ten dollar external mic should plug in to your laptop and record very well. E-mail me if you need software help to record...

Never Say Never Greyhounds said...

Life With Dogs, you perked my ears. I will definitely be emailing you about that.