Thursday, August 19, 2010

Motel Maddness

All in all, Riley is doing great, but there is still one issue that has me totally confused. There are times when she will completely freak out. Sometimes the fear seems triggered by sound and other times I wonder if it could be a scent. Either way, both have been very difficult to predict. Luckily, nothing as bad as this episode (click here) has occurred again, but it still is very perplexing.

For example, at the recent agility trial we came in and out of the building many times throughout the day. Riley had no problems with these short walks and potty breaks.... until about 6 PM. Suddenly, her tail was tucked, she was nervous and ready to bolt, and I have no idea why. The scene was a little different with less vehicles, people, and dogs in the parking lot, but the quiet environment was hardly a reason to turn inside out. Unfortunately, these episodes continue and often carry over to the next location. In this case, we loaded into the van and headed to a local park with shady walking paths. It took Riley some time to settle down, take an interest in her surroundings, and return her tail to a normal position.

There is one situation that has consistently produced terror in Riley's heart every time... the outside of hotel rooms. We have now stayed in four different hotels and she always has issues with just outside the door. Due to my past experience, I had a plan of action.

I brought rawhide chips and bully sticks. My plan was to rush Riley in and out of the hotel room so she would not have a chance to have a meltdown. Once inside the room, she would get to enjoy one of her special treats. Her meals were spiked with canned dog food and I planned to feed them right outside the door as we were coming and going so she would start to associate the area with something positive.

This worked for the first day or two, but I had to abandon my strategy as she would not eat outside the room anymore.

The rest of the weekend, I made her stay behind me on her potty walks outside the hotel or any other time she showed problems. When she is fearful, she is usually trying to drag me away from the situation so when she was unstable, I made her stay behind me so I was clearly leading the way. I think it helped. So far it has not interfered with competition, thankfully.


Greyhounds CAN Sit said...

Don't you wish they could talk sometimes. It's so frustrating when you really want to help them but you don't know the cause of the problem. Good luck!

greytblackdog said...

It's so frustrating when you can't figure it out. Maybe it is a smell or a high pitched sound that you can't hear but she can?

Sam said...

That's an odd one. the outside of hotels. Maybe it's just freaky for her to see so many doors on a really really big house?

I second the idea of maybe some sort of noise that she's hearing but you're not.

Sue said...

Maybe she associates the doors with all sorts of smells in the room behind.

Hope you can find the answer.

Sandy ~~~ said...

You are being a good dog detective...looking for triggers, handling them with consistency and compassion. She's lucky to have you at the wheel.

whygreyhounds said...

Sounds like something is environmental a 'trigger' for Riley and she is having moments of 'shutdown' or as you say 'meltdowns.'

These are hard as once the dog won't eat any form of positive/food reinforcement will not work.

If this is the case, I would turn to massage, 'clinical touches' to relax her nervous system. I have seen and worked with TTouchs with both equine & canine and have been quite amazed at the results.

One thing I am experimenting with Rex is to have a special mat that Rex only uses when I do TTouchs, massage or his stretches. This mat is associated with relaxation exercises only thus is a trigger to relax for him. I then take this mat out to places and if he becomes hyper-vigilant, reactive or environmentally focused I say to him "Place" and he drops on the mat & I commence TTouchs until the he has relaxed to the trigger that caused him to start to react.

It is a 'time consuming exercise' but I have found that he doesn't react to as many things now as he seems to turn to me for "Touches" if things start to stress him. He is learning behavior strategies to calm his nervous system rather than react or shutdown.

Just a thought that may help or you may be able to adapt to help Riley.

houndstooth said...

It drives me nuts when I can't figure out what the deal is with one of them. Maybe it somehow just looks "wrong" to her.

Never Say Never Greyhounds said...

I love the TTouch and mat idea. BUT most of these places are not places I want to spend any time in. I mean... we stay in fairly cheap hotels so I have no desire to hang out in the parking lot, around dumpsters, or outside the door amongst the strange neighbors.

One thing I am going to try when it cools off is I want to take her for walks around office parks, hotels, and gas stations. But try to get her in those areas on a regular basis.

I'm also curious to see how she likes camping in a tent. She has not done that yet.

whygreyhounds said...

Ha,I also can't see ya' hanging around a dumpster doing TTouchs on Riley ! ;-)

It is definitely a great idea to exposure Riley to different environments as this may help desensitize her. When you think of it, if she were a horse that is exactly what we would do, work around and with any triggers that cause anxiety or shutdown.

You could also apply touch/massage at any point she just starts to exhibit anxiety thus calming the nervous system before it turns into a full reaction, then when she is calm & non-reactive C&T to reshape the behavior.

Anonymous said...

One of our greys won't jump in the car. It's not to high as he's done it before. He wants to get in but just gets so nervous. The other one jumps in no problem. We have a Jeep so it should be easy. Any hints on how to help him would be great.