Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Building resilience in a brain wired for PTSD

You all know by now that my wee Berlingo van was hit by another driver in December, causing quite a lot of damage and trauma. Bronte shook it all off and started to make friends with the emergency crews immediately! It’s taken rather longer for Freya and me to find out confidence again.

I’ve joked in the past that collie brains in particular seem almost to be hard-wired for traumatic experiences.

This isn’t meant unkindly, I really do love my collies and smart super-sensitive dogs in general! But collies are so often hyper aware of their environment, have incredibly acute hearing, pick up on the smallest changes, learn amazingly fast and in unexpected ways.

Depending on the individual dog, if they have a more “pessimistic” outlook then it might take just one bad experience for the dog to feel those situations are never to be trusted…  Freya is pretty typical of this. She started out really confident about travelling, relaxed, would sleep through anything and was my best co-pilot.

In the last 5 years we’ve been in two minor and one more serious accidents together. Telling Freya that the whole process of travelling is safe is hard. She’s learned to be worried by sudden changes in speed, bumps, traffic noises and more from those accidents, even though 98% of our journeys were okay.

We ARE making progress thankfully!

  • Freya is back to coping well with almost all traffic noises when on walks (she was terrified of buses and vans 6 weeks ago)
  •  Freya will confidently approach the rental van, play games around it (Parkour, Scentwork and Tricks), and is learning to slam the van doors herself.
  •  Freya will often choose to jump in the crate in the back, and stay in with the crate open even if I walk away or move the van doors.

We’re almost ready to close all the doors, and sometime after that we’ll start playing with the engine noises.

Why has she been able to make this pretty considerable progress?

Partly because I’m doing everything I can to take pressure off her, so we can do things at her speed.

Partly because we’re using supportive medication – I’ve worked through these issues with her twice before without meds and its taken longer each time. Being able to travel with me is essential to both of our quality of life so we’re taking help from every angle.

Mostly we’re making progress because Freya is amazing!

In our training sessions over the years Freya has learned she can problem solve with my support, she can choose to do or not do things, and she can always come back later after a break.

Specifically, Freya knows the crate game REALLY well, she can shove things with her nose, put two paws or four paws on something, and how to make noises in the house.  We’re using all these to build her confidence interacting with the van and putting her in control.

Ultimately I want to see Freya not just interacting with the van, but doing Scentwork confidently all through it without even realising.

It’s a LONG process, but I am constantly inspired by Freya and her wee brain.

So for anyone who asks why you bother training your dog, or teaching them “tricks”….

Here’s my reason.

Because it builds confidence, resilience, and gives us both something to fall back on when life gives us lemons!

Have a fabulous week

Morag and the collie girls

PS Want to get in on some of this awesome fun training with your dog? Check out our Canine Activity Foundations class where you can learn the basics of Parkour, Agility, Rally and Scentwork over 6 weeks http://www.wellconnectedcanine.co.uk/classes/canine-activiity-foundations/

PPS if you’re struggling with your dog’s behaviour don’t forget we can often help. Even just a phone consultation could give you the tools you need to make those changes. Email Laura on info@wellconnectedcanine.co.uk for more information.

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