Viva and I have continued to attend weekly Nose Work class. As we head into week 14, we are having a ton of fun. In addition to the fun, Viva has figured out the game while continuing to trust that new people are not scary. She's also trusting that while there are lots of dog smells in the facility, nothing bad comes of the dog smells.
One of the many reasons I blog is to watch how the dogs are progressing. With Viva when I look back at my initial Nose Work posts she sure has made amazing progress. Many thanks to our Nose Work instructor Kathy Weaver who has really set up and tailored a rehabilitation program for Viva with the assistance of Nose Work.
Here are Viva's past Nose Work posts:
Our first six week class series in early November.
We are moving right along in December during our second six week class series
Viva is ready for class!
In class, Viva has gone from growling, barking and lunging at people and bordering on obsessing about the dog smells to now ignoring people and moving through the dog smells. She makes the choice to play the exciting game of Nose Work. Viva's initial behavior wasn't about her being "aggressive" it was about her feeling unsafe in the environment. Having humans around her who understood this and helped her to feel more comfortable while giving her choices is what has helped her to excel. For those of you who don't know Viva's background - last spring she was dropped of at a shelter and lived in that very loud and overwhelming shelter for over 5 months. Lots of dogs constantly barking, lots of dogs lunging at her cage and not a whole lot of human contact. Life in the shelter was chaotic and unpredictable. That amount to stress that her brain and body had to manage was clearly very rough on her. We don't need to dwell on her past but, it does give us information as to why her behavior was and can still be so extreme.
Back to class - a lot of Viva's progress in class (changes in her behavior) is due to Kathy setting up the environment in a way that Viva is successful. And with all of the environmental set ups, Viva can not wait to get in the door so that she can play the game of Nose Work. I love Nose Work so much and it has really help Viva to move forward in how she experiences the world around her.
As I said, we are in our third series of classes and we have now started Viva on odor. Meaning she is now searching for the odor birch. Viva has really taken to searching for odor and it's been a lot of fun for both of us!
With all the progress Viva has made, we no longer need visual barriers and she can search in all the areas of the facility. Way to go Viva!
Below is a lovely example of the rehab work Kathy sets up just for Viva. When we first started class back in November the walls around this area had sheets over them to create a visual barrier for Viva. Of course there are no dogs in the facility when we are working but, this area is full of dog crates (there must be 50+ crates) and tons of other dog stuff. All this is chalked full of dog smells. For most dogs this wouldn't be that big of a deal but, for Viva it sure is. Viva is dog reactive and this includes seeing dogs but, Viva has a very strong behavioral reaction to smelling dogs in the air even when she can't see them or they are long gone. As you can guess this creates lots of challenges. Regarding Viva's dog reactivity - I am doing behavioral modification work with Viva outside of Nose Work class. So, no one thing is the magic bullet. But the combination of all the work we do (including Nose Work) is certainly helping to change Viva's behavior and emotional responses while giving her more positive tools and choices as she interacts with the world around her.
So here we go with three separate "searches" in the dog smell area.
You can see a lot in this video. There's a new women in our class and Viva just ignores her as we are getting from the front door and through the gate. The gate doesn't bother Viva, she doesn't feel the need to do a perimeter check to secure the area - she just gets to work to locate the birch. Kathy had placed the containers (with birch in them) close to threshold and that is done on purpose. Viva goes straight for the odor in the small container No lunging or growling at Kathy who is a ground level taping us. What I love is that Viva choses to keep her snout on the top of the container rather than pealing off to get at the dog crates. You can see how calm and focused Viva is - no obsessive behavior towards the dog items that smell of dog. Viva slowly chews the food rather than inhaling it. She looks around a bit, head back down on odor and eats a the remaining food. Then she moves onto the next container that contains the birch odor. Watch how relaxed her body is when we leave the search area!
More of a challenge as Kathy has moved the odor containers further into to area. There is interest in the dog smells and I would say that most dogs would be interested in so many smells! But for Viva, no barking, growling or obsessing over the smells and items. And she does get to work pretty quickly. So with Viva it's perfectly fine for her to check out the dog filled smells and I was just thrilled with her reaction to the room and her choice to locate the odor rather than obsessing about the dog smells. As Kathy says in the video "Good decision!".
The odor containers are now deep into the area. Way to go Viva - you are one amazing gal!
Many, many thanks to Kathy for her thoughtfulness and care of sweet Viva! As you can see Viva really loves the game of Nose Work, we are seeing some significant behavioral changes and I'm having lot of fun with Viva while learning a lot.