Alvin sticks out his tongue when he is nervous

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Alvin, the Bucking Dog

My computer has been on the blink and so I have been unable to update, but oh boy, have there been happenings around here.  I will try to post them all in the next week or two but for starters, Camp Cocker was kind enough to send Alvin a Thunder shirt.  For those of you that don't know what that is, basically, it's a shirt that gets velcroed on and is supposed to help anxious dogs feel contained and safe.  The philosophy behind it made sense to me because when I worked in foster care and we had newborns that were going through drug withdrawal and cried continuously, there was a specific way to tightly wrap them (very much like a burrito) that seemed to give them instant relief.  It was always a marvel to see because if you did it wrong, the baby kept screaming but if you undid it and got it right, the baby almost instantly stopped.  There are similar methods used for autistic children and when they receive constant pressure to certain parts of their bodies, they tend to be very soothed.  The Thunder shirt idea comes from Temple Grandin, who is the autistic woman who was able to write about what it feels like to be autistic and came up with specific techniques for anxiety ridden animals.  There is a belief that autistic humans have a much broader, better understanding of animals and from the reading I have done, I suspect that is very true.  So, the idea seemed like a good one but it kept nagging in my head that Alvin doesn't like being touched and so how was that going to work?  Well, it didn't!  Let's just say that putting Alvin in a thunder shirt resulted in a lot of crying, running, and tripping, and that was just me.  Alvin responded by turning into a bucking bronco and ran around the house bucking his back legs out from him.  He then resorted to his circus pony routine and ran in tight circles while still bucking like a maniac.  I wonder if I should have left it on longer but the two times I put it on, he seemed so wigged out that after a few minutes I took it off.  I have a feeling that a thunder shirt could be helpful for many dogs and according to the manufacturer, 80% of owners report a decrease in anxiety when they put it on their dog, but I read nothing about a bucking, circling, pony routine. 

Speaking of touch, Alvin has responded very well to going out on walks more often.  He thrives on the additional stimuli and he seems the happiest he has ever been when out walking.  What recently occurred is that when we are on our walks I can reach down and pet his back and head as much as I want without him shying away.  We have a routine of going for our walk, going to the "park" (grassy area in the middle of my neighborhood? and us both sitting down facing each other while I just pet and pet him.  I have had my mom come out with us and she gets so tickled at being able to pet his head and back.  She always shows him her hand so that he knows it's her, in the hopes that the behavior will transfer when we get in the house.  As soon as we come back in the house and my mom inevitably tries to pet him, he runs away and won't let either of us near his head or back.  My mom tries to shame him into complying by telling him that he is being just plain weird but he won't conform to her expectations.  It is odd and mystifying to have just pet a dog on his head and back with absolute ease and then walk 20 feet into the house and have such a different response.  With that said, he has started to be more receptive to allowing me to pet his head and back inside the house.  I have posted in the past about him being an utterly different dog on the bed and allowing me to pet him all over but he gets far more skittish on the floor, particularly when I am standing.  We have experienced a bit more progress in that area but it's just too much to ask him to let me pet his back right after coming in from having done it outside. 

What I have found particularly interesting is that whenever I pet his back or head when inside, he immediately has to shake his whole body, much like a dog does when they get wet.  It is as if the touch itself is irritating or itchy to him, but when I touch him outside he does not shake it off.  Who could even guess why?

There is much more to report, particularly our first try at taking a walk on the walking trail but I will leave it for another time.  In the meantime, it is bedtime and Alvin is going to need to get his cute little self up on my bed so he can be my cuddle partner.........does anyone else see the insanity of all the contradictions?

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