Sunday, November 21, 2010

Genetic temperament and genetic health a challenging pair

Open any book and the words can guide you to reasonable understanding of any topic, but it can never compensate for experience especially with dog or human aggression and reactivity. This involves purity of understanding, hands-on results, making mistakes and reviving from them and understanding safety and how dog's think. My dog Chancellor will be the best guide, at least for me, and I hope for others as his story unfolds.

Wild Waves of Chance is his show name and no dog ever lived up to their name better than Chance, his earlier call name (now nickname). As Chance changed, so did his name into a nobler Chancellor. Change occurred from a genetically over-the-top human aggressive dog and an innate fear of humans to a respectful 98% transformed companion. From the beginning, I always said "This has to be neurological!" He acted out of character and the world through his eyes was definitely different than through mine.

Wanting a terv for many years, I finally decided to go with a litter from a local breeder pairing her top-rated U.S. Tervuren male with a female from Canada. This little 9-week-old stayed to the back of the litter and when brought out slunk along the baseboards avoiding me. His more social brother interacted with me and when Chance came over he promptly rolled over on his back. I knew I would be in for a rough ride then and there and asked the breeder if I could have his brother instead. This pup was going to Wisconsin, all the pups had been spoken for and Chance was second pick of the litter. I would be a co-owner.

History speaks for itself, I didn't leave him there despite my reservations and if you believe in fate, this was it. He would not have survived with anyone else and may have been re-homed, in shelters or euthanized long before his ripe 6.5 years of today. We stopped off at the veterinarian immediately on the ride home and he promptly bit the vet, who came in gushing about the puppy and grabbing his face. The stress was already too much for the baby and so my work started. The prognosis came back he was filled with all types of worms and the veterinarian said it was the worst case of worms she'd ever seen. This can raise havoc with a dog's system in and of itself, but Chancellor's challenges would be greater.

It was a rough road from 9 weeks to 16 weeks. AND it was positive reward-based training all the way. The good thing was Chance loved other dogs and does to this day. By his twelfth week and after socializing to 100 people (one negative person who added to Chancellor's fear of people), plus three puppy classes, I decided he was being over-socialized. All was positive except for one incident where a teenager raced up to him stomping her feet, bent over and stooped down, he ran away yelping. This all happened in a split second with my back turned talking to her mother, who by the way came from Tervuren, Belgium where the Tervuren was obviously created. This is a 1% of the equation he still has trouble with - teenage girls and the other 1% is the veterinarian. Because of my lack of available teenage girls and desensitization to the vet (which is much better today), these two will probably always be a watch point. Still we have walked through a sea of teenagers getting off a bus in town without one reaction or even stress indications. So he has come a long way.

I pulled Chancellor from classes and during his fear periods stopped all socialization opting instead to slowly move him through according to his pace watching closely stress signals. I started my Tellington Touch certification when he turned four-months-old, with me already at my wits end and a recommendation from Melissa Alexander, author of "Click for Joy" to do so. I remember her adamant email to me as I said on Clicker Solutions I was thinking of taking Chancellor to a training center in Seattle. NO! she said they use aversive methods of training there and she recommended trying Ttouch. While Ttouch was because of Chance it soon became evident to me I would become a Practitioner despite him. It was no longer an issue and it helped a lot with transforming Chance to Chancellor. Ttouch is and always will be a daily ritual for him.

At ten months old, I thought we'd try classes again with the intent to show Chance. He was shown earlier and bared teeth at the judge. I was after all a co-owner and under pressure by the breeder to get this under control. Suggestions were to use shock, and other aversives and to send him back to the breeder. All of which I quote said "over my dead body."

In conformation class, he snapped at the instructor and while not biting, it was teeth on skin. She said, "Ow that hurt!" and glared piercingly at me asking me to leave. Chancellor made it very clear that day he would never be a show dog and that is when I sought the help of Jennifer White, wife of Steve White at Melissa Alexander's recommendation. It was emotional and Jennifer said and did several things. She first asked me why I would even consider showing Chancellor, and why I felt I had to. He was my first co-owned terv and that was the only reason. So I aborted his show career and was not popular at that point with the breeders. Jennifer also in her wisdom and experience asked me to take him off lead in her facility and she observed him and did s-curves away from and toward him. He was very stressed and I was too, but he relaxed in her presence and for the first time made a move to come to her and nosed her hand. I cried because this was the first attempt of any decency toward a human, besides myself and my husband. Even then, in his early years toward us he would bare teeth, air snap and show distress even during positive training. He was claustrophobic, neurotic, worried and uptight, stressed without apparent reason. He acted "neurologically unsound." Jennifer confirmed I was indeed doing the right things with him and gave me a twelve-step process I followed to the letter.

I saw incremental changes over a two-year period and one day Chancellor showed me he could be trusted. He never left my side on walks, he over-bonded to me and I handled it as I would tell my clients to do so. As a result, he gained confidence and one day on a walk, he moved out ahead, looking back of course, and headed toward a man without a dog in the distance. He walked next to that man as if they were friends, and horror of horror, as I held my hand over my mouth, the man reached down without looking at Chance and petted him. A first. I cried, I was filled with intense emotion as I watched this from a distance as though viewing a movie. Chance did nothing just walked next to the man. I called him and he came racing back so happy. There was a change that occurred that day at 2.5 years old and I could see it in his eyes. It was as if he were telling me thank you, I feel better, I did it! From then on human relations morphed into respect with all types of positive encounters but at times still a bit on guard. Today Chancellor is socially confident at least in most situations.

At 4.5 years Chancellor had his first seizure, Sept 25th, 2008 he collapsed to the floor while playing with Kody and had a grand mal seizure. The story is told in my Canine Seizures blog and tells it better than I can write it here. The short story is he is hypothyroid and had grand mals every six to fourteen days for 1.5 years. I'm stubborn and I researched, studied everything. Tweaked everything from diet to what my requests for medication were from the vet. From medical vet to holistic vet, the journey was long.

I added the medication Keppra to Chancellor's reportoire after much study and research to include asking other owners of dogs with seizures using Keppra what their results were. It wasn't conclusive and it is a new medication for dogs, actually used for human epilepsy. Still, I liked it and decided to use it along with kBr (Potassium Bromide) because it did not go through the liver. Having a short shelf life it was cleansed through the kidneys every eight hours, meaning I'd have to give him three pills a day. Still we had a breakthrough seizure. Then fate instilled by lack of hope.

I met Sarah Stone, animal communicator, Reiki master and DNA I and II certified. I was at my wits end at this point. The day Sarah started work on Chancellor his seizures ended. She told me he could have one more seizure and he did, but several months after Sarah's work with him, 2 months and 2 weeks to be exact. We are friends today and I've referred clients to her. She continues working with Chancellor and his healing has not just been with seizures but many other areas too numerous to mention here from sores on his testicles to dry nose and sneezing and on and on. The stress from his seizures was catching up with him. Today he has a wet nose, no more sores and his sneezing has ended too.

Keppra or communicator or a combination of a lot of things all working together to Chancellor's benefit and health. I call it a miracle and the veterinarian is stunned. She did not want me to use Keppra, said she'd been on it herself and of course, didn't believe in healers and communicators. For me whatever helps my dogs is where I go even if it doesn't coincide with popular opinion, research polls or studies.

Chancellor's story is book material and if you'd like to see our journey through the health issues the blog is a good read found here http://dgarrod.wordpress.com/. Chancellor has taught me more than any textbook, class or certification ever could or would. I pass that training along to my clients often without them knowing it. He will, through his story help others, I am sure and already as a working dog has done just that and people cannot believe it when I tell his story of natural genetic aggression, change and health. A dog doesn't have to be abused at all to be aggressive or challenged and health issues can be present long before they show up and put a dog under undo stress. A good percentage of aggressive or reactive dogs I see can have health issues, not all but a high enough percentage to take note of it.

Listen to your dogs. They are speaking loudly.

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