Posting days: Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
I wake up early with the vague idea that there is something I need to do today. But I remind myself that it’s Saturday. Mmmm. How nice.
Isis is nestled against the back of my legs. Last night, she had a particularly persistent dog rage; I brought her upstairs where she settled within fifteen minutes and fell asleep.
She senses that I am awake and gets up. But after a while she returns to bed. This is wonderful. I drop back into a delicious ‘don’t have to get up yet’ snooze.
It is 9.55 when I remember dog school which begins at ten thirty. Oh dear.
Here are some updates.
When I put the plastic cone on Isis she shakes her head, attempting to dislodge it for about five minutes, then accepts it and carries on as normal.
I put on her a soft cloth muzzle. She can pant, eat treats, bark and drink with the muzzle on. I assume that she will accept this too and it will be much more comfortable than the plastic cone. I am wrong. In the garden she pauses intermittently to scrape her face against the linen post and the compost bags at its base. In the house she rubs her face against furniture.
Unlike the plastic cone, the muzzle has to be removed for her to eat. When I attempt to replace it, she flips and bites me – hard.
The muzzle will be a first aid essential if I have to to treat her wounds. But it will not be a tool in the anti-self harming challenge.
She appears unconcerned when I replace her plastic cone.
The Mekuti harness
Every day, using the Mekuti harness, we practise walking to heel. Early work is done in the hall. At first I can’t get Isis to walk on. She smells the treat in my hand and knows that dogs must sit to get a treat. Gradually, over several weeks, she gets the idea and walks up and down by my side, turning to walk back. She will now do this off lead.
I think she is doing very well since it is unlikely that she had ever walked on a lead before Aeza rescued her.
Road walking to heel is proving more difficult but she is making good progress. She seldom walks across me now and is much more responsive to correction. When we first attempted road walks she pulled to go back the way we had come, sat down and refused to move, dragged me towards the road, leapt over walls into front gardens and zig-zagged from one side of the pavement to the other. I have followed the advice of Hannah (of Pawfect Dog Sense): every time Isis pulls ahead of me, I stop until she returns. This is very tedious but it is beginning to work.
Since the weather has improved and she has been able to run free in the garden again, the incidences of self harming have decreased significantly.
We are gradually eliminating some of the rage spin triggers. Now, although excited, she waits on the doormat for me to put on her harness and lead before she pops out of the front door, sits and receives a treat.
We continue to work on the food rages triggered by finishing her food, ‘losing’ bits of food or expecting titbits when I am preparing food in the kitchen.
I continue to hold her bowl while she eats. She still utters muffled barks as she gobbles but the snarling and growling has virtually stopped. When she has finished, instead of going ape, she sits to receive three small cubes of meal and follows me from the kitchen into the hall to receive the fourth. About three out of four times now she then goes about her business. When she spins it is usually a half-hearted effort rather than a vicious attack.
She used to jump at me ferociously when I tried to pick up bits of food she had dropped or tried to run my finger around the rim of her dish to collect any bits and feed them to her. Now she is more likely to smack her sturdy little paw down on my wrist to hold my hand down while she picks up a dropped morsel.
I still cut her Dentistix into small pieces and now signal to her to go to her bed to receive them. This both keeps her out of the kitchen – site of many rages – and prevents her from losing her Dentistix and her temper.
Frustration is what makes her attack herself, and usually I can work out what the trigger is.
Very different are what I call her ‘sleeping rages’. In some studies which I have read, they are referred to as ‘dog rage’. Descriptions of these resonate with my experience. She begins to growl in her sleep. If she is woken the ‘attack” will usually end there. If, however, she has gone into the snarling and barking phase, the ferocious rage continues after she wakes and it can take up to fifteen or twenty minutes to calm her down.
Isis’s ‘dog rages’ almost always happen either while she is dozing in the evening and I accidentally touch her or very soon after she retires for the night, when, I assume, she is sleeping lightly.
Isis’s responses when I blow the whistle appear to be very random. I begin to think that she is responding not to the whistle but to the smell of the treats.
After extensive trials in the garden, however, I am changing my mind. I now believe that her lack of responsiveness may not be entirely down to her limited hearing and lack of directionality but also because she has not been taught to listen. Repeated practice is yielding results. It’s as though she’s suddenly realised that the strange noise means run fast (if you’re not busy) and you’ll get a treat.
Isis came from the Aeza cat and dog rescue and adoption centre in Aljezur, Portugal. For information about adopting an animal from the centre, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or www.dogwatchuk.com