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As I have discovered and written about over the past eight months, there are daily ‘danger points’ which Isis and I have to negotiate. These are routine events and situations which are potential triggers for rage spins and self-harming. Serious rage spins culminate in her biting out chunks of her hair or, worse, biting her feet or tail and making them bleed.
I had begun to think that Isis’s behaviour was so intransigent that the damage she was doing to herself would just get worse. Kerry suggested researching local canine behaviourists, which I did. I felt that the behaviourist needed to be very highly trained and very experienced to be able to work with Isis who seemed to have spent the first two years of her life learning how to hurt herself. I found such a person but his fee is over £1,600. This is a scary amount. I also felt that anyone less well-qualified would be unlikely to do any better with Isis than I could. This is not because I am the most conceited dog owner in Britain but because I am able to spend many hours observing and analysing her behaviour.
Something had to be done. I began keeping a very detailed record of every rage she had, what appeared to trigger it and exactly what she did.
We had all but eliminated the ‘putting on the lead and harness to go out’ rages and the ‘things dangling against her’ rages. In my more optimistic moments, it seemed that it must at least be possible to eliminate more.
I find being one hundred percent consistent and following a very strict routine difficult. Here I must stop as it’s grooming time – yes, I mean that consistent!
Holding her food bowl, saving three bits of meal to be fed to her straight after her bowl has been emptied and one to lead her away from the kitchen into more food neutral territory, has continued to pre-empt ‘my food’s all gone’ rages.
Dark evenings have been another problem. Isis, I have realised, tends to be grumpy when she is tired. Accidentally touching her with a wandering foot while she is sleeping provokes a rage. And unless she is sleeping very soundly, so does lighting and the t.v. At last I have managed to discriminate among lights, lamps and t.v. grumpiness and to adjust things accordingly. Putting up a screen between Isis and the t.v. has worked wonders.
Being free to run around in the garden for as long as she wants to without having to interact with people or animals is, I’m sure, a great stress reliever for her. And now I know just how much sunlight she can cope with in the park I never take her when it is too bright; and, if the sun pops out unexpectedly and she becomes nervous, we come home.
We still have a way to go, but at present she is a much happier little dog and life is much easier.
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 email@example.com or www.dogwatchuk.com