Dog trains man

Saturday, April 30, 2011

What a nose boot camp, dog shows, and neutering have in common

I am excited too!
During last week's tracking class, Kenzo did his worst track ever. You couldn't even call it a track. I picked up Kenzo and our tracking backpack right after work. I noticed the sight of the backpack didn't arouse him like it used to. When we started tracking, he showed no interest. He put his nose down because I asked him, but the nose was quickly up in the air again. Sniffing frantically for something I could only guess what was.

What to do?

I was worried. Did I train him too hard or too much, trying to achieve more focus on the track? What did I do wrong? And more important, did I spoil Kenzo's fun in tracking, and should we give up tracking and look for another sport he would like to do? The trainer observing Kenzo's failed track was stunned and didn't know what to say. She was as sad as I was. I remembered our trainer went to a training school every summer to brush up her nose work knowledge and asked her if they would accept mere mortals like Kenzo and me at this school. She was worrying too much about Kenzo to note my clumsy and rude attempt for a second opinion. She scribbled the name of the school on a piece of paper and said I should try to contact them, although she didn't give us much chance.

Boot camp!

That's what I did when I came home. I wrote a long mail to the school why I thought Kenzo would qualify to join their ranks and the waiting for an answer started. We maybe didn't had much to show for in achievements but hopefully the passion for tracking touched the person on the other end. After a couple of days I got the answer. We were accepted! Kenzo was shocked with my impression of a happy dance. I also received the 3-day program with a lot of tracking and scent discrimination trained by - among others - the Danish Champion in Search & Rescue. I am thrilled to take part in this.

It is not just the nose

But lets return to the evening after the track went sour. The next morning on our walk Kenzo continued to act differently and I started to realize what actually was wrong. It wasn't Kenzo that was walking, but it was the nose. Or should I say hormones. When we came home and I gave him his breakfast, he didn't eat it. That was the final clue. Someone was in heat and Kenzo knew who it was. Later in the afternoon the black German Shepherd dog - one of Kenzo's sweethearts - and her owner passed by our house and they confirmed what I suspected. Kenzo's bark was high-pitched and frantic when he noticed them. Kenzo is in love, once again.

One more project

Kenzo's neutering has been postponed for too long. Some Hovawart experts were impressed with Kenzo's mental state - ok, he looks good too - and urged me to consider breeding with him. To do that correctly, it involves a lot of health- and mental tests, and also earning prizes on dog shows. A project that will easily take 6 months up to a whole year and I have been postponing it ever since. So we will set this in motion too. It will either work out or not, but we will close it off with Kenzo enjoying his retirement from the dating scene having him neutered.

Maybe I am in denial, my wife says it is my lame male subconscious that makes me postpone. She is probably right. What else can a nose boot camp, dog shows and neutering have in common? I therefore officially and publicly pledge that this is my last and final postponement attempt.

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

The 10 best pictures of Kenzo and Viva

If you follow us on Twitter or Facebook you know I almost daily upload new pictures of Kenzo and Viva to Twitpic. One of the fun things about Twitpic is that it shows how many times a picture is viewed. So which photo's did you like best? Here is a top 10 of the most viewed:

#1. Kenzo trying out his new Jesus shoes

#2. Kenzo: "Please?"

#3. Viva the Sofawart

#4. Kenzo the Wet Hovawart

#5. Viva: "What do you mean ... resource guarding?"

#6. Hovawart soccer world cup

#7. Kenzo Love

#8. Dancing with Hovawarts

#9. Kenzo the Dirty Hovawart

#10. Kenzo: "How do you mean ... outgrown?
Now if you like really original dog pictures, tune in to Karen Friesecke's Dog-a-Day project and subscribe to her blog. It will wake you up in the morning with a smile for the remainder of the year.
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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Embarrassment is not an option


Training class seems to be a gathering of people that all have embarrassing dogs.

Dogs that smell the opportunity to embarrass their owners and do so with every chance they get. Kenzo fits right in there, and does his out-most to make sure I get my weekly fix of embarrassment.

Our class mates discuss how embarrassing I must feel after the latest failure, and try to decide who has the most embarrassing dog. It is a harmless discussion fueled by a lot of humor, yet it shows the roots of a wrong mindset. Not everybody takes it well, some get embarrassed and never return. That is a waste.

Some dogs, like Viva, take it a lot further and embarrass us in daily life too. They lunge and bark, don't come on a recall, chase cyclists, and more. Do whatever needed to add further to the embarrassment. People send nasty looks, call each other names. Whisper among each other. The embarrassment can be overwhelming.

Embarrassment is just an emotional state we humans have imposed onto ourselves. It is not necessarily a bad thing. But when we overdo it, it prevents us to grow and learn. It blocks us from achieving things we might think could embarrass us. Embarrassment gets in between us and our dog's. Anticipating an embarrassing moment coming up will remove our focus from our dog to the moment itself. We are about to miss that valuable clue which is coming up. We send our feelings down the leash, making it difficult for our dog to judge a situation correctly. It prevents us from enjoying dog walks, or maybe even makes us drop walks as a whole. Embarrassment can put us in a vicious circle.

But I refuse to feel embarrassed. Dwelling in those kind of thoughts makes me miss out on what really transpired. Therefore I embrace them as little moments with valuable pieces of information. My dogs just showed me something I didn't anticipated. Something I didn't know about them. I just have got to know them a little better. Step by step. That makes me happy. Not embarrassed. As with many things, it is changing one's own perception of a situation which is the key.

If you are with me on this one, spread the word also in the real world. Getting rid of embarrassment is also not imposing it on others. Like the other day when a dog lunged at Viva. I send the owner a smile and said, "It could just as well have been my dog". Judging the expression on her face, it was not what she had expected me to say. Welcome to the club.
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Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Scent Box

Kenzo impatiently waiting for his turn to track
Kenzo joined his first tracking class for this season. We used the time between classes to reflect. What have we achieved so far and where do we want to get better? This season will therefore be all about improving focus and concentration on the track, and a proper marking of the objects Kenzo finds on the track.

The situation we find ourselves in is not uncommon. It happens to many trackers. We all rush ahead and experiment with new elements on the track. Turns, distractions, different types of vegetation, etc. Any issues, like in our case Kenzo's ability to keep his focus, regularly come back and hunt us. Things that have been simmering under the surface from the start and only seem to get worse over time.

The track itself as reinforcer

Those problems could all have been avoided with a proper start. Correcting unwanted behavior later on in tracking is very difficult. We cannot help by instructing or showing the dog what to do. Or reward them for everything they do correct. They will loose their ability to problem-solve independently and when they encouter an issue on the track look up at you, asking "ok, what now?". We cannot correct, in the punishing sense of the word, either. As that will spoil their interest in tracking as a whole. Why do something that is no fun? All the reinforcement should come from the track, not you. Therefore it requires a lot of planning and creativity to work on a problem. How to let the track itself teach your dog to track? A good start can prevent all these problems.

Starting tracking by not tracking at all

The newbie trackers in class have started with something new and very interesting. Actually they start with tracking by not going tracking at all. The only thing they do is something called The Scent Box. Any issues the dog (or the handler) might have will turn up in the Scent Box. And they first start tracking when those issues are solved.

In short, the Scent Box is a small trampled area with a lot of treats. In the box is your scent. Outside there is none. The treats attract the dog to the box. They quickly learn scent discrimination. The treats are where the scent is. No treats where there is no scent. This way they build up the necessary understanding and confidence before they start actual tracking. Here is a short video introducing the concept of the Scent Box (starting 1 minute into the video):



The Scent Box is "invented" by Joanne Fleming-Plumb, a dog trainer with a long and impressive resume in tracking, obedience and defense training.

It was very interesting to see the newbies in class start with the Scent Box. You could already see the issues from each dog appear. Some were too eager, some unfocused. Some could already move on to their first track after a couple of Scent Box sessions, others are still in the box. One thing they all had in common. They made some staggering progress. Their issues were addressed, and maybe even solved, before they started with actual tracking. I am expecting some serious competition from the newcomers. This is going to be a fun season.
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Saturday, April 2, 2011

Pet health care taken seriously

image with courtesy of KU
Copenhagen University recently opened a brand new academic animal hospital with a special department for pets. There was a whole lot of buzz around the opening, where Her Royal Highness Princess Marie was present at the opening ceremony. "So what?" many people might think.

The new hospital embodies the new way in which we care for our pets. And these times have now seriously come to Denmark. If you would have a pet in need of special treatment, you were on your own. The average vet is more your vaccine-spay-euthanize type of vet. It was difficult to refer to more specialized vets. Let alone find them. Treatment quickly became scattered between multiple vets and clinics, depending on their specialism. It became expensive too, very expensive.

In comes the new hospital, with everything under one roof. It gets even better, as they on average only ask half of the price of what a treatment would cost in other clinics. Making it more affordable for people to treat their pets in need of special care.

The new hospital is, by far, the most complete and well-equipped in the whole country. It has all the latest facilities for diagnosis, treatment and therapy. Think ultrasound, CT- and MRI scanners, water walkers, physiotherapy facilities, acupuncture. And the list goes on. The hospital will service people and their pets directly and also service referrals for special diagnosis and treatment. The extensive staff contains the nation's specialists in treatment of cancer, neurological, heart and skin diseases.

The hospital will be used as a place to educate a new generation of vets. New vets that have the opportunity to apply treatments like acupuncture and other integrative medicine in practice and move beyond the textbook. They will spread these new health care standards throughout the country and into the regular vet practices. Pet health care in Denmark is about to make a leap forward.
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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Viva's long road to rehabilitation: reactive behavior

that is close enough, please!
When we adopted Viva, the local shelter warned us for her aggressive behavior. As we soon were to find out, she would lung and growl at any dog in sight.

How it was possible her first meeting with Kenzo went well remained a mystery for us in a long time. But more about that later in this story.

As you might remember, Behavioral Adjustment Training (BAT) was brought to our attention by dog trainer Irith Bloom and blogger/author Edie Jarolim and we started making some progress. So where do we stand now?

I'm cool when you are cool

Training different BAT setups enhanced Viva's vocabulary of calming signals. She also feels confident enough to use them in a lot of situations. We can pass any other calm dog on a distance of around 5 meters (15 feet) and her normal response would be to look away and ignore the other dog. She has no wish to come up and greet. But that is also not necessary. Just that she chooses to tackle the situation with these calming signals instead of agression, is wonderful.

One of the good things with BAT in Viva's case was that it took the edge off of things. Which allows us to use other techniques like counter conditioning and desensitizing - see Debbie Jacob's explanation of this training jargon. Something that had no effect on Viva at all before BAT.

Some of the calm and well-socialized dogs she has gotten to know in the neighborhood are allowed to come and greet. In Viva's world that means the exchange of a sniff. That will do for Viva. Thereafter it is all turning away and ignoring. Again a good display of Viva using her newly adopted social skills.

Unusual setups

We still have a lot of progress to make trying to approach a more "excited" dog. From a distance Viva will try some lip licking as calming signals, but she still will not feel comfortable to approach closer than a distance of 10 meters (30 feet). Although she will not lung or bark at them anymore if we come closer, she is clearly outside her comfort-zone. I always make sure never to go over her threshold, praise her for the lip licking, and turn around.

To help Viva further we found a great BAT setup with Kenzo's friend the Yorkshire terrier "watchdog". Because he knows me from all the walks me and Kenzo did past his property, he barks excited, and runs up to the fence, ready to meet us and receive his treats. I watch this with Viva on a safe distance and we have made it into our 5 meter barrier where we even were able to do "look at me". I throw some treats at the Yorkie too.

Play bow

Our biggest concern are off-leash dogs. We have become quite savvy in avoiding other dogs, also when they are off-leash. But unevitably some come up and meet. The good thing is that she doesn't lung at them anymore head-on. When the other dog ignores her after the sniff she allows them to leave in the best of health.

Amazingly, the best the other dog could do is to make a play-bow. That calms her down tremendously and she will fully accept the dog. I had to rub my eyes the first couple of times that happened. She will do some tail wags and grins to the other dog. Suddenly we realized, it was also the key Kenzo used in their first meeting together, and explained why she accepted him from day one. Just luck? or another display of Kenzo outsmarting me once again on the social dog front?

Too much

Anything else than ignoring after the sniff or play-bows clearly sends her in distress and she will start focusing on trying to convince the other dog to leave. She will take a more confrontational stand, and will snap them in the neck or back if they keep on coming back. Those meetings send her stress levels sky-rocketing. She is clearly very unhappy the rest of the day, and can start with a heavy panting that goes on for hours, like some kind of constant state of hyperventilation. After such an encounter we usually take it calm for the next couple of days. Make some short walks and ensure there is not even another dog in sight.

Our biggest challenge is of course other reactive or aggressive dogs. I think I am now able to spot them from a great distance and the tactic is simple: get the hell out of Dodge! We are absolutely not ready for a meeting, on any distance, with one of her equals.

***

"Viva's long road to rehabilitation" is a series of updates how Viva is doing almost one year after her adoption:
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Saturday, March 19, 2011

The fearful dog owner

this new policy doesn't seem to work
Despite Kenzo's excellent reputation with small fearful dogs, he does not have that same therapeutic effect on some fearful dog owners.

There is one person and his dog, we call them "Big and Little Kurt", and both are terrified of Kenzo. Big Kurt was already afraid of Kenzo before he got Little Kurt. He send killer looks our way when we met on a walk. Polite greetings were not returned. I never thought that to be a problem, as not all people like dogs and even more people do not like big dogs like Hovawarts. So I just made sure to be polite and didn't give Kenzo the opportunity to greet him.

To my surprise Big Kurt was a dog person after all. I met him on a walk where he just got "Little Kurt". The cutest puppy, a terrier mix. With Kenzo on leash and approaching with a smile to break the ice, Big Kurt was not happy at all to see us. Big Kurt took Little Kurt up in his arms and walked right passed us with the usual killer look. He repeated this a couple of times, I tried to stop for a conversation, but Big Kurt would just mumble something in response and continued on his path, with Little Kurt in his arms.

What if...

I started avoiding them because this couldn't end well. What would Little Kurt think of us? We must be something horrible when my dad doesn't let me meet them? When Little Kurt grew up to adolescence the local dog drums already talked about him as not very well socialized. Especially with larger dogs. This didn't surprise me, but what really did surprise me was that Big Kurt now had decided to always walk Little Kurt off-leash.

Our first meeting with Little Kurt off-leash was a disaster. I don't blame him, he was setup to fail. We were on a narrow path and approaching the next corner when Little Kurt appeared. I made a quick turn with Kenzo. Also Big Kurt appeared around the corner. But he didn't put Little Kurt on a leash. I was stunned he continued walking towards us with Little Kurt ahead of him. After a few more moments Little Kurt decided to close the remaining gap and launched at Kenzo. Barking, hysterical, snapping at his face and legs.

Normally my reaction is to drop the leash, but my instinct didn't let me do that in this case. Kenzo could break Little Kurt in half with one bite. Using the leash to keep Kenzo's head away from Little Kurt I thereby sealed their faith forever as mortal enemies. And in addition it was the start of Kenzo's uncomfortable relationship with the leash. I should have dropped the leash and let Kenzo defuse the situation, but Little Kurt's fierceness made me choose otherwise.

Big Kurt was chasing Little Kurt in a circle around us. And finally stopped the spectacle by kicking Little Kurt so hard the little fellow squealed in pain while he was launched in the air and fell down a couple of feet away. Now I have had it with Big Kurt and to put it short we finally had our first conversation. Just not the intelligent kind.

Locked in battle

We still regularly meet, I always make a turn and recall Kenzo when he is off-leash. Big Kurt never makes any attempt trying to avoid us and keeps on coming head-on with Little Kurt off-leash. I don't know what he is thinking, but he is not helping. Kenzo is bracing himself for an incoming attack, he has no calming signals for Little Kurt as he would have for other small fearful dogs. Neither does Big Kurt seem to pick that up.

I am so worried. This will end wrong. We are heading towards the next confrontation. Even worse, I also had Viva with me on some of the walks where we meet, and she will show no mercy. Little Kurt doesn't stand a chance and I don't want him to get hurt. Neither do I want Kenzo and Viva to end in dog fight with all the consequences for their behavior towards other dogs. When something would happen to Little Kurt all fingers will point at us, fed by prejudice around larger dogs and Hovawarts in particular. With the current razzia-like situation in Denmark against dog bites and trigger happy authorities I worry for Kenzo and Viva's safety too.

What can I do? Nobody seems to know where the Kurt's live. As it turns out, nobody actually talks with them that could pass the word. I started to make small walks by myself trying to find both Kurt's and have a talk. At least we should be able to establish some common rules, like stop coming towards us and always put Little Kurt on leash as soon as they see us coming. So far I have not met them yet. It is such a shame all of this happened, Kenzo would have been an excellent therapist for both Kurt's.

I hope some owners of smaller dogs read this that are afraid of larger dogs. I understand how you must feel meeting larger dogs that can possibly harm your dog. Please leave a comment if you read this and tell me what we, as larger dog owners, can do to help Big and Little Kurt.
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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Viva has Cushing's

Helping Viva to get better and improve health is a lot like peeling the layers of an onion. Just when we think all bases are covered and all issues addressed, we find out we are looking at yet another layer.

Warning signs

ear-nibble please?
The warning signs have been around all the time. High liver numbers returned from her very first blood-work. Not too high to worry about, treat or investigate further. But we kept on monitoring her regularly just in case. The first external signs came about one month ago. Viva was slowing down on our daily work-out. We gave her some rest, an additional acupuncture session - maybe she was in pain ? - but to no avail. She rapidly became more lethargic, and stopped playing and ear-nibbling with Kenzo, her favorite past-time!

We did a round at our vets and found out her spondylosis had not gotten worse, but her liver numbers had exploded. High liver numbers could be caused by just about anything and further testing was needed. We were in for a couple of painstaking weeks of further testing, investigating, and discussing theories. Our regular vet started suspecting Viva of having Cushing's disease after some additional testing. Although not all the signs have been adding up. She turned out to be spot on.

Cushing's disease

Cushing's is caused by a tumor in the pituitary or the adrenal gland, causing an over production of ACTH hormones which in turn triggers an overproduction of cortisol. A life threatening condition affecting inner organs like kidneys and liver. Some of the most common signs are hair-loss, a pot-belly, lethargic behavior, incontinence, and being overly interested in food and water. Apart from being lethargic, Viva had none of those signs. Yet she always had been overly interested in food and water as a former obese dog. Testing Viva for Cushing's sounded like a wild-goose chase, but I am happy to have followed our vet's gut feeling on this one.

To diagnose Cushing's we started with a urine test to measure cortisol levels. They were sky high. Next was an ACTH stimulation test, which was conclusive. Now it was final, Viva has Cushing's. The diagnosis was actually a huge relief, a month had already passed and I was so worried for Viva being in discomfort for so long and not being able to help her.

Treatment

We started treating Viva with Vetoryl (Trilostane). Already after 5 days Viva was feeling better. Kenzo got his first ear-nibble in a month, which we celebrated with the whole family that day. It was awesome to witness.

Vetoryl is a very aggressive medicine, that messes with the hormone level. Administering the correct doses is extremely important, as Viva can die when we administer either too much or too little. Viva will need Vetoryl for the rest of her life. The doses can vary over time, and Viva has to be tested quarterly to ensure the doses is correct. Those quarterly tests include an ACTH stimulation test and 3 different blood-work tests.

The onion

It was a hard month with no blogging but we are back! Just wondering how the onion is doing. We are three layers down: allergies, spondylosis and Cushing's. Maybe we are done, maybe we are not. Yet another lesson Kenzo and Viva taught me. Health is not a shopping list with items you can check off and wrap up.

A big thank you to all my anipals for all your kind words and your support on Twitter and Facebook during the last month. It meant a lot and was a huge help getting through all of this. You guys rock!
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Friday, February 4, 2011

Introducing Diva the Mystery Mutt

Diva the Mystery Mutt
This is our entry for the Mystery Mutt Tour, where you can name the breeds of mystery dogs.

We are featuring .... Diva ! Isn't she absolutely gorgeous?

We stumbled upon Diva on Twitter through her dad Matthias Maly-Persy, an Austrian national who could speak Dutch, which caught my attention as Dutch is my mother-tongue. As it turned out, Matthias also had this wonderful "mutt" called Diva.

Can you guess which breeds are in her roots? Diva is 8 years old, 23 inches (59 cms) high by the shoulders and weighs 60 lbs (29 kilo).

To tell you some more that might help you analyze or guess her roots, Diva has an instinct for guarding around the house and hunting/tracking. She isn't a great retriever and also feels no need to herd. Yet Matthias never explored any herding instinct Diva might have any further (hint, hint). She is slightly shy of character, but very social towards people and dogs. Children can sometimes be too overwhelming, and she will quietly leave if she thinks their presence is too much.

Diva with Matthias in the Austrian landscape ... wow!
Diva loves to engage together with her family in the wonderful nature of Austria. She enjoys long walks in the woods and some swimming. Diva loves to jump over and through obstacles during the walks and create her very own improvised agility track.

Diva's favorite past time is to sing along with Matthias when he plays the piano! And she has great taste too, her favorite song is "Jump" from Van Halen, how cool is that?

Matthias had a big scare when Diva one time followed her hunting/tracking spirit in unknown territory and disappeared out of sight. It took 4 pain staking days until Diva was found again, as she happily returned by herself not far from the place they have seen her last.

Look closely, what do you see?
One other time Diva jumped on the edge of a cliff, slipped and fell 40 feet (12 m) down into the Danube river. But she is a great swimmer, and returned to the shore unharmed before Matthias could take his boots off to jump after her. She acted like it was intentional and couldn't understand what all the fuzz was about.

What breeds do you think can be found in Diva? Looking forward to your suggestions! The name of this blog might look like a giveaway, but it is not, there are 4 breeds in all you could find in Diva.

A big thanks to Edie, Peggy and Pup Fan, for organizing this fun Magical Mystery Mutt Tour.


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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Viva's long road to rehabilitation: the work-out

The shelter passed along to us from the former owners that Viva loved long walks. They probably meant measured in time, not in distance. Viva hardly ever stepped up in pace, let alone take a run. As we soon where to find out, every step was painful for her. Caused by spondylosis and a continuously infected paw.

She already lost a lot of muscle with this inactive lifestyle, and she was in a negative downwards spiral. After we cured the infected paw and managed the spondylosis, we guessed it would be easy to build up some muscle again. We were looking forward to getting started. We could not have been more ignorant.

The mind

What's wrong with a couch-potato?
Viva was in better health and pain free, but the mind still told her to spare her legs and back. We could notice her being more happy and playful, but the walks were like before. The first thing she had to learn was that it was alright to use her legs again.

We adjusted our walks and made sure to do a lot of uphill walking and swimming. Preferably on the beach, plowing through sand and dunes.

How to outsmart a smart dog

Building up muscle is hard work. For Viva, but even more so for us. We came home exhausted from our work-out walks - which are more like runs to us humble humans. But that is by far not good enough for a dog. Therefore we tried bicycling, but that was just to stressful for her as a fearful dog. We also tried with toys, luring her into going uphill or climbing a sand dune.

But Viva is not that easy to lure. Once up on a hill, she didn't come down anymore and enjoyed her toy by herself. Or find out a less steep slope to reach the toy. Throwing another, more valued toy, didn't help getting her down either. Walking away would get her down though. But we had to find a new hill to throw the toy. Throwing it up the same hill again, she would only look at me and think "You must be stupid ...". When I asked Kenzo's help to get the toy back he was happy to oblige. But Viva thought it was very annoying he was getting "her" toy and waited for his return downhill with an attitude. Not a good idea if we wanted to keep the peace. I had to climb up and get it myself. In the end, it was me getting the exercise instead of Viva.

The water walker

The water walker was absolutely key to make any substantial progress. Walking this underwater treadmill once or twice a week forced her to use her legs. It was also a great way to follow her progress. Not only could we increase the time for each couple of sessions, we also could get a good picture of what she could cope and put a time on it. As soon as her steps became smaller, we knew she had reached her threshold. We found the water walker to be a great and absolutely necessary addition to our daily work-out schedule.

Viva started with a five minute session. Then we slowly build this up into multiple short sessions with a break in between. Today she can do a 13 minute non-stop session without getting tired. Pretty good Viva! To compare, a healthy dog could do a 30 minute session. But I am not sure if that would be realistic for Viva because that would certainly be too stressful for her back.

Stretch those legs

Slowly, very slowly, we can see her make progress. The biggest progress we saw was when her mind made the switch that it is cool to use both of her hind legs. Her gait improved into a more dog-like style, instead of using her hind legs as bouncers. She could accelerate and stop quicker. You could see her really stretch her legs to make big steps, meaning she was using her muscles.

Diary

To keep a good track of her progress we made a simple diary with videos and pictures of Viva doing the same things on the same places. That way we could track difference better. See this video here comparing Viva walking up stairs after one month of training. The two pictures above to the left and right also shows how she is able to stretch her legs now.

Because progress is so slow on a daily basis, the diary helps us to notice improvements being able to compare over a longer time. It is a mood booster too, that keeps us going.

Finding balance

We learned the hard way that work-out is more than just working out. Viva missed one of her acupuncture treatments. It was rescheduled twice postponing it in all for 3 weeks. As she needs acupuncture for her pain management and keeping her back flexible I was such a fool to wait and not give her NSAID's instead. We kept on training, and disaster struck. When she miss-stepped it indicated something was wrong. She was rapidly going downhill once more instead of improving. We had to start all over again with step 1, convincing the mind ...

There should be absolute balance between her medical treatment AND the work-out. We learned it the hard way. We have some NSAID's around might we miss an acupuncture treatment and I will not hesitate to use it next time.

When enough is enough

Ha! you make it sound like you can keep up with me ... not!
The question I struggle with now is how far I can take this. Viva will never become as agile as she once was, and I must take care not to overdo it. I am very happy with where she is now. She can do a one hour "work-out walk" with no signs of stiffness or pain the next day and fresh for a new work-out. The way she positions her legs, turned inside to better support her body, has improved a lot but could be better. When she can position them straight it will be a great indication that her muscles are strong enough. So we continue with the work-out and the water walker. Just taking it slowly, and giving Viva a chance to show how far we can take this.

A big thank you to the awesome people of the vet clinic "KĂžbenhavns dyrehospital" and the love they have given to Viva: Lea, our water walker trainer and coach, and Charlotte, a great vet with a magic pair of hands.

***

"Viva's long road to rehabilitation" is a series of updates how Viva is doing almost one year after her adoption:

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