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Stem cell therapy – progress

When I wrote the first entry on stem cell therapy for Yarpen’s HD, the plan was that we would probably wait with injection till after Christmas. Luckily, his cells were growing extremely well (which was a nice surprise considering his history of weird ailments!), and we managed to have the procedure done on 23rd Dec. He had the cells injected directly into his hips joints, as well as into the spine around the affected area. This was followed straight away by the first (of 6) laser treatments, with a grade 4 laser

The standard expectation for the improvement is that the dog will show an immediate improvement, followed by a slight dip (still way over the initial status), and a stabilisation which will last for several months to couple of years, depending on various factors.

We are now a week in, with 2 more laser treatments. At the moment Yarpen’s walks are limited to 10min on lead, 3x a day. As such, I can’t really say just yet how much better he is, but I can definitely see a change in his behaviour at home. He is actually naughty… he’s eaten a gingerbread ornament from Christmas tree, something that even Falka didn’t attempt! He’s also now fully expecting that sofa is his dominion (after all, there is the pesky puppy on the floor…) and in general, he’s back to his cheeky old self.

I am very, very happy with the result, as even though it might wear off in time, it gives us the chance to build some of his muscles back with hydro- and physiotherapy. This is such a change compared to the previous status, where due to chronic pain, we couldn’t even attempt the exercises… I am very keen to start him on the new regime when we get an all clear from the vet, especially that his boredom is turning him into a slightly annoying monkey!

Yarpen and his hip dysplasia

While this blog has been mostly about Falka, this post will be all about Yarpen. Though it won’t be as fun as the other posts… As I write it, Yarpen is curled up, spaced out on Tramadol, with an incision in his belly and bald patches on his hips. But let’s start from the beginning….

Yarpen was bought as a pet foremost, but also I had hopes he would become a stud dog. When he was 3 years old, I had his hips and elbows Xrayed to see where we stood. I expected good results, as other than not being particularly jumpy, he didn’t have any problems that I could see. Well, a HD D score was a very brutal wakeup call… Unfortunately, I don’t have copies of his original Xrays, but I do know that his right hip was worse than left. We followed the specialists advice and modified the exercise a little, but other than that, made sure that he had enough of it to build up muscle mass to hold up the joints. Of course, breeding was out of question.

Fast forward 3 years, I started noticing first signs of the dreaded disease. It started very gently, with a shorter gait on the back right leg. Then it moved on to reluctance to pee while standing on right leg. So, we started physiotherapy. It was absolutely amazing and I could see progress pretty much straight away. However, due to progressing osteo-arthritis (OA) we had to limit Yarpen’s exercise further. And this becomes a very slippery slope…  The more pain the dog experiences, the less they want to move. But, with a severely deformed joint, it is the muscles that need to hold the joint up. With no exercise, the muscles start to shrink, other body parts are taking more load than they should and the consequences spread from the affected joint to the whole muscular-skeletal system.

Yarpen is now over 8 years old. According to our physiotherapist, I managed to keep him in optimum condition, with him still being able to jump on a grooming table or in the bath. But, he is extremely fragile to contusions… Over the last 3 months he has had several strains on both hips, requiring heavy medication and rest. Of course, the rest = no exercise, which leads to further muscle loss… His last strain was probably the worst, as I couldn’t even pinpoint what cause it. He didn’t slip, Falka didn’t jump on him, he didn’t get hit by anything… and yet one day he woke up with trouble to get up and refused to put weight on the right leg. At this point I realised that we need to do SOMETHING, or this will be the beginning of the end.

Our options were:

  1. Continue with medication, strict rest to heal up and then physiotherapy.
  2. Surgical procedure
  3. Stem cell therapy

Option 1 was what we did up until now, and it seemed to stop working. The outcomes of option 2 are not really well guaranteed, and considering the recovery time is about 6 months per one hip, it would mean that for the rest of his life he would be in pain. Plus, as he weighs just a little less than me, this would not be practically possible, as my husband works a lot, and I wouldn’t be physically capable to carry him in and out for toilet. So, we have decided to go for the stem cell therapy. The one major drawback to it is that this is the only treatment not covered by our insurance, which means Christmas (and whole next year by the looks of it!) will be tight, but hey, it’s just money….

We have had the first stage of the process done yesterday. Yarpen was measured and examined in any way possible. Of course, he had an Xray done. Not only on his hips, but also his back, as he started showing symptoms of back problems too.

His hips look like this:

yarpen-hips-dec-16

You will notice the horrible socket of the right hip, with severe OA. Note also the shape of the femoral head, it should be like a ball. Yarpen’s resemble more a pyramid than a ball… The neck of the bone is also malformed, instead of clear narrowing under the head, the bone just started building up. If you look close enough, you will also see a difference in the thickness of muscle on both sides.

His back Xray showed that he started to have changes in his spine. Because of abnormal movement, his disk started to calcify, with some changes on the walls of vertebrae. This will need addressing too.

spine

A thermal-image camera showed clear signs of inflammation in his pelvis, radiating through his lumbar region (white – hot, going through yellow, orange, red to green and blue being cold). There is also some muscle inflammation in the thoracic region, as shown in the thermal signal and in physical examination, but this appears to be only muscular. The lack of heat signal on his glutes shows a muscle mass loss.

heat-back

A weight-spread analysis showed that he is now walking evenly, with one back leg carrying only 12% of the body mass. This is of course compensated by the front legs, which carry more than they should.

The hip joint fluid, instead of being clear and viscous, is watery, filled with blood and leukocytes, showing clear signs of inflammation. In both joints….

The diagnostics left us in no doubt – Yarpen is in pain.

What we are going to do about this now. First, he had a blood sample collected, from which a platelet rich plasma was extracted. This was then injected into his hip joints, which will hopefully stimulate the “clean-up” process of the inflammation. We hope to see no blood in the fluid next time we sample it. We also collected a sample of his adipose tissue (fatty cells) from his belly. This required a general anaesthetic and a small incision. These cells will be sent out to a lab and grown for a couple of weeks. After Christmas, these cells will be injected in his hips and spinal column to regenerate the deteriorating cartilage. All this will be followed by a series of laser treatments and physiotherapy. We are hoping to do this soon after Christmas. And it should give us in excess of 18 months of vastly improved life… We’ll see what will happen when we get there!

Writing what I think about breeding against HD would take a whole book, so I will state it only very concisely. Hip dysplasia IS genetic. Whether it causes problems or not is affected by environment to a certain degree. But there MUST be an underlying genetic predisposition for this to happen. Selecting against HD is not easy, but it is absolutely doable. I am a quantitative geneticist, working on traits exactly like HD in my day job, and it just boggles my mind how many breeders prefer to hide behind the “you can get a good pup after dysplastic parents, and a dysplastic pup after good parents”. Yes, the same goes for conformation champions, and somehow this doesn’t negate the drive you have for breeding for the next rosette! Some dogs may be more affected than others, some will have horrendous Xrays and seemingly no issues, other will go limp with slight strain. But, there is nothing worse than seeing your dog wanting to walk, wanting to work with you, and not being able too. So I implore you, please, test your breeding dogs, and for puppy buyers, PLEASE make sure you don’t make the same mistake as me, don’t buy pup after untested parents! The fact that the pups parents appear to be fine at the age of 3-5 does NOT mean that they are free of dysplasia.

Yarpen’s score is HD D. This table shows the translation of the score to the systems in other countrieshd-scores

The median score for the Russian Black Terriers in the UK up to 2014 was 25. According to this, an average RBT in the UK has hips similar to Yarpen. I feel absolutely sick to my stomach to think that so many of our dogs will suffer from this horrible disease…

Puppy Classes

We have now completed one of our puppy classes, with the other due to finish next week. Falka has been a star pupil, with most of the exercises almost being reliable on cue. These behaviours are mostly pet dog behaviours – but for now this is what makes our life together easier. We have covered:

  • Changes of position – sit and down are now on cue, although we need to work a bit more on generalisation. Stand is almost there… It works well from down, but sit/stands are still a bit iffy. Definitely not cue-worthy yet!
  • Leave! – this is one of our favourite exercises. We have used the It’s Your Choice Game for this, which we have practiced from very early on, and the results are great. She actually turns her head away when presented with kibble and told to leave it… We have built it up so that she can leave a treat gently tossed on the floor in front of her.
  • Loose leash walking – as Yarpen, she is generally very good at that. I am pretty consistent at not letting them move forward if they pull and that seems to work well, so this exercise didn’t cause bigger problems.
  • Touch – We have started this early on, so the beginnings were quite easy… until we started moving! I was a little stuck, as Touch is one of those tricks/commands which usually comes really easy and dogs tend to enjoy it. And yet, when I would start to move, Falka would lag behind and show no great desire to actually make contact with my hand. Initially I thought that I need to go back a step and increase the reinforcement frequency and/or value for stationary touches. But, while I did that, I also raised the criteria for the actual touch. When before I would be satisfied with a gentle contact between her nose and my hand, now I was asking for a push. Then for some duration. And… voila! It seems to have sorted the issue with movement too. Now her devotion to the touch is very good and I can both lead her on a hand target (without a treat in hand), or ask for a couple seconds of a strong sustained touch.
  • Stay – we have two different methods for down stay and sit stay. With down stay we are now well over a 1min without reinforcement, after which I took her to 2mins with a few treats in between. She could probably stay for a bit longer, but I didn’t want to push it too far. We haven’t done any distance work on down stay yet. With sit stays we don’t have much in terms of duration, but we have practiced adding some distance (about 2m) and some very mild distractions.
  • Weave between my legs – a trick which we prepared as a homework, but I never put it on cue and will probably leave it here, as soon she will be too tall and long to be fluent with this.
  • Switch sides behind my back – very useful trick which I have never really trained with Yarpen, but might just give it a go with Falka!

Socialisation – continued

One of the most amazing, and at the same time annoying, things about dog training is that everything is fluent and changes over time. Most so with puppies!

In one of my first posts I wrote about the changes I am introducing to my socialisation for Falka, as compared to what I did with Yarpen. And it appeared to work beautifully… for a while. My continued effort to reward her for redirecting to me made her into a polite, mildly interested in other humans puppy which is very happy and confident to say hello.. and nothing more. This would be perfectly sufficient if I wanted her as my pet and companion, but is not good enough for an IPO prospect! The first time she was play-bowed by humans, she didn’t like it. At all…. She was sending very mixed signals: play bowing, barking with head close to her paws, both indicating playful indication, but her bark was too low (more defensive than playful) and she had an “offensive pucker” (I love this expression, it comes from a book by Jean Donaldson For the Love of a Dog, and relates to the muscles in the corner of dog’s mouth). After discussing this with our trainer, it appears that her attachment to me became a little too strong. She doesn’t understand that other people can be “fun” too. So, we have started a new chapter which sees me sitting in back seat and her having a ball with my friends. Not easy for a control freak! At the moment we are at a stage where she is quite happy to play with a new friend with a toy, but physical contact during play is still off limits.

Heelwork – part 2

In the last post Heelwork – part 1 I outlined the plan I had in my head for the pivoting. As we went along I had to modify it a little. The original aim was to shape a full circle on the platform, without my help. Unfortunately, due to rubbish reward placement I mentioned last time (i.e. rewarding mostly when she was facing me) I reached a learning dip. She would very nicely move around the plate – but only to about 45 degrees. As I was rewarding movement in both directions straight away, she would go the quarter of a circle and then go back the other way.

So, I had to change the plan. I’ve decided to ditch the attempts at shaping this, as it was getting us nowhere, and started luring the circle. This is one of the first attempts at a lure.

[Please ignore my clicking! It is horrendous in these two videos and I really should have not attempted to click when luring, as I clearly can’t cope with the two….]

We have lost quite a bit of precision, with her feet coming of the platform. This is most likely due to overshadowing (a great article written by Adrienne Janet Farricelli). Also, we have done some twists and spins (i.e. 360 degree turns in spot) without the platform, so this could add to the lack of focus for the platform itself.

In the second video I was a little bit more demanding with the feet placement and we have some improvement. I do need to be careful with the number of repetitions I ask for in each direction. I have also shortened the duration of the session as this is now becoming more demanding on her “little” legs. I do not want to over-exercise her, especially with this type of rotary movement.

The next step is to remove the food in my luring hand, and making the turns smoother. Once we achieve a high rate of success with a hand target, rather than lure, I will start to step next to the plate and click for contact between her shoulder and my knee/thigh.

Heelwork part 1

When I trained heelwork with Yarpen, my main focus was building up the duration. I didn’t spend much time initially on the position, by simply luring him to where I wanted and starting from single steps, on the lure. The results were satisfactory…. for a while. While I managed to extinguish the lure and work on hand (or face) target, which allowed us to achieve success in lower classes in obedience, I felt this wasn’t the best we could have done. It’s quite obvious in the video from the Inter-regional competition we took part in (and gained second place in our class!).

Soon after the competition, I started going to more advanced training seminars and found out about the importance of the position. Unfortunately, when we started working more intensively, Yarpen’s dysplasia flared up. His wellbeing was my paramount, so I decided to retire him at this point.

Now, I am starting the training with a completely different approach. My plan is to combine the method of Sylvia Trkman (very well presented in her two videos, Heeling is just another trick  and Puppy Diary), and advice of our trainer Jo Hill. The broad idea is to first develop a great position at heel, classically conditioning it to be The Best Place To Be, and only starting to move ahead when the dog WANTS to be there.

The planned steps are:

  1. front feet on a platform
  2. moving back feet around the platform
  3. pivoting with front paws on the platform
  4. finding position against my right and left leg
  5. pivoting on smaller and smaller platforms, until she can do it without a platform
  6. practising turns in all directions, stationary
  7. moving a step backward, forward and to the sides
  8. moving forward

This was one of the first sessions of shaping front paws on the platform. I am rewarding heavily when both paws are on to build a positive association with the object. By rewarding on the platform I wanted to draw her attention to it (later on I changed the reward placement).

In this rather poor quality video, I am starting to reward for back feet movement.

In this initial stage I was trying to reward any movement, but now I know I should be more careful in the direction in which I was “resetting” her (by tossing treats on the floor). The way I did it, she was almost always coming on directly in front of me. After reset I was lowering criteria and rewarded for just stepping on the platform. But, because of the direction, she was always rewarded for being directly opposite to me. This caused problems later on when I wanted to build up on the full turn, as she would only turn by 90 degrees each way.

Busy puppy

In the last two weeks Falka has been learning all about her new home and getting used to new routines. She’s met her new friends, visited all local parks and started going to work with me (and Yarpen of course). I hate boredom, so I try to alternate between many of our walking spots. She has already introduced herself to our local “dog sports people” at a canine conditioning seminar, as well as our physiotherapist (for now just for cuddles and kisses).

Most importantly, she has started her formal education in a class setting. She is actually attending not just one, but two puppy classes! The more the merrier really… any chance to work in a new environment, surrounded by new people and dogs is a treasure! She’s been doing really well, with some interest in other puppies, but without losing her head. She’s also friendly to strangers, something new to us, as until very recently, Yarpen didn’t care much for other people.

Falka is also visiting vets quite often. Not for medical purposes though! We are lucky to have the Royal Dick Vet School, where we go in for weekly weight checks. At 17 weeks old, she weighs whooping 25kg! She will be a big girl…

Over this time, she has been meeting all the new experiences with tail high up and lovely, inquisitive attitude. The one and only thing which required double approach was the tunnel, introduced to puppies in one of our classes. On the first occasion she was interested in it, but going through it was a little too much. We left it then without putting any pressure on her. By the second go, she went through and, having conquered her fear in her own time, fell in love with the tunnel and couldn’t get enough of running through it!

As she is now in full blown teeth change, we modified our play a little, to protect her little jaws and budding adult teeth. We don’t tug much at all now, with most play being either chase games (perfect for training recalls!) and personal play. The personal play is something that I am really keen on, but as I have messed it up with Yarpen, I am a little unsure about how to go about it. At the moment she chases me, and I gently push her chest while she tries to grab my forearms. I am quite strict on the amount of pressure she puts on my arms, freezing or stopping altogether if she hurts me. She is becoming more and more aware of her jaws, but I fear that still, in the future this might be a bit too painful for me, even if damage would be accidental. We’ll see how it goes. For now I make it very clear when we are playing like this, and when grabbing my hands is not acceptable (i.e. I never engage in this type of play if she starts it by grabbing my hands uninvited).

Fit puppy

Finally, after writing about journeys and theories, I need to start talking about proper training.

I would like to start from something I feel very passionate about – body awareness and conditioning. I only became aware of it when I started researching physiotherapy for Yarpen’s hip dysplasia. Since then, it is one of the key areas of my interest. I believe that in our breed we need to be particularly careful with the muscle development and body awareness, as most RBTs are not long distance runners by nature. They don’t naturally build muscles and stamina like some smaller dogs who find running to be hugely reinforcing. When let alone to play, they will most likely play a crouching tiger, hidden dragon game, with a lot of pouncing and wrestling. All that is associated with exercise of course, but it’s also highly strenuous on joint, with loads of rotary movement. Not to mention the injury risks… When out and about and not playing, they will also most likely just leisurely trot, or even sit and monitor everything from a stationary position. They can be fast, VERY fast, but it’s not a calm and steady exercise, rather a quick burst of high power. On top of that, they are a bit like true Russian tanks – not really bothered what’s on their way, if they are walking ahead, they will not stop even if there is a wall in their way. As I want to maximise the chances of injury-free career for Falka, I have already started some very light work with her. Obviously, until her growth plates close there is no chance for any heavy conditioning work, we are also limited with the equipment we can use. In addition, we’ve learnt from a very experienced physiotherapist that an exercise which may be ok for a 3 month old pup is not necessarily going to be ok for a 6 months old pup. It all changes super quickly with pups so extreme care needs to be given when planning sessions.

But it doesn’t mean we can’t do anything! Our goal now is to increase body awareness, more specifically, teach Falka that she has 4 feet (rather than front two and an adage of bum which just follows wherever front takes it).

We started very simply, from getting into a box. The goal is to get her to walk (not jump!) into a box, with all 4 feet consciously placed inside. With time, we will be getting the box smaller so it gets more difficult (warning! This exercise is not only conceptually, but also physically demanding, so it is safer to stay with larger boxes until pup is a little order). As usual, I did everything touchless. I shaped it, but I guess the reward placement (in the box) was a little bit of a lure. Teaching the front was easy-peasy, it took a little bit longer before I could see that the placement of back feet was a conscious effort. But overall, it took her FAR less time than it took Yarpen.

Another aspect to healthy joints is of course body weight. I remember that with Yarpen I was religiously studying the puppy growth charts, checking if he “should” be lighter or heavier. With Falka, I completely ignore charts and instructions. The most important thing is her body condition… I want to be able to feel her ribs and I want her to have on obvious tummy tuck (from the side) and waist (from above). I adjust her food intake based on that. (Her weight at 15 weeks was 20.4kg, so still a big girl!!)

Finally, one of the most debated topics – puppy walks… The most widely known recommendation of 5mins of walk per month of life is in my opinion completely unrealistic. Sometimes it takes us 5 minutes to get out of a driveway! For example, our morning walk today lasted 40mins. But, the distance we covered, walked at a steady pace, would take only 7 mins – there and back! (checked it without the pup!) For us, every walk has about a million of training opportunities, sometimes we stop just to admire the world together, sometimes we stop for a little play session, sometimes we meet other dogs and train impulse control. That obviously stretches our walkie’s time. To me the distance and intensity of the walk is FAR more important than the time it takes.

 

Back Home

We are finally back home! Puppy was super brave during the long journey, including an uneventful, overnight stay in a chalet and another night at a hotel (including lift travels!). I have been extremely lucky as neither Yarpen nor Falka seem to suffer from any sort of discomfort when in the car. In fact, they both go to sleep pretty much straight away… During our first days together Falka didn’t enjoy being put in the back of the car, but we quickly resolved it. I took her to the car several times and just sat in the open trunk with her offlead outside the car, initially feeding her treats for just looking at it, then slowly raising the criteria, until she would put her front paws up in the car (so I can lift her bum, no jumping in or out for a while!). I always reward her for getting in the car with a few spilled treats which she needs to chase (inside the car). Also, I was taking her with me pretty much everywhere I went. I spent quite a lot of time in the car and of course, I prefer to have my dogs with me! Also, it is a wide accepted practice to keep dogs crated in cars during sports seminars and competitions (with proper ventilation of course!!), so it is crucial for me to get her used to this mobile doghouse!

There is a growing list of things I want to write about, but time is still tight, so for today I will concentrate on my observations on the flat versus garden upbringing. In Poland, we were extremely lucky to have a nearly 1ha of secure garden for our disposition. The door to our quarters was mostly opened during the day, so she had free access to garden. Now we are in Scotland and while we do have a garden, it is a British-sized garden (meaning extremely small, for those who have not tried to get a house with a decent garden before!). Also, we are in SCOTLAND. That doesn’t really require more explanation, but just to be very precise, our temperatures seldom go over 20 Celsius even in the summer, and last December it rained for 23 days. Straight. So, we have moved pretty much indoors. And… my perfectly toilet trained puppy managed to pee in the house 3 times in one day! What is even better, she went out of her way to pee on the carpet upstairs, when floors downstairs are carpet-less and easy to clean. I could think she did it to spite us, but of course, simple logic indicates that she was looking for some rough surface under her paws (as that’s what she was used to) and without being able to go outside, she chose the next best thing. Now we have installed a baby gate at the bottom of stairs, and (touch wood!), no accidents since. She has actually asked twice to go outside by standing at the door.

Having a large garden can be a huge help. It’s easy to set up all the training equipment, there is enough space to play for everyone, both dogs and people can run in a straight line (if they can keep it straight that is)… I am extremely grateful that Falka was able to enjoy this during the crucial development from a ball of fluff to a much more co-ordinated puppy. I believe that pups need to be able to run at full speed. However, there are also some less pleasant consequences of the pup having a free access to the garden. For example, Falka is now a scavenger. In a garden of that size there is always something interesting to nibble on. From acorns, walnuts, rotten apples, to delicacies like cat poop. I never had an issue like this with Yarpen, as he simply didn’t get a chance to acquire a taste for it, being a pup brought up solely in a flat and initially walked on lead only.  Some other objects in the garden, while non-edible, can also cause problems. A pup can discover that chasing birds is quite fun or develop a taste for little gardening. I was lucky with Falka as she is very human-oriented and I am still more valuable to her than those extra-curricular activities (we’ll see for how long….), but I was worried she would already learn that life can be fun – without me. Some of these activities can be as annoying as fence-running – a nasty habit that Yarpen picked up during the last weeks. Falka luckily didn’t participate.

Garden can also affect US in a negative way. Having such large space at hand, it is easy to become complacent and slack off on walks. While Falka is of course too young to be walked any serious distances multiple times a day, Yarpen does have his exercise regime that we need to keep up.

Life is now going to slowly fall into place and I am already looking forward to learning more about Falka!

 

 

 

 

 

Getting to know Falka

I haven’t had a chance to write anything during last week for several reasons. First, the weather has deteriorated and, as I am staying with the dogs in a makeshift accommodation without heating, I succumbed to a cold. Secondly, my husband joined me after several weeks apart. This meant that we spent far more time just being a family than doing any formal training. We have visited a few places together, including Biskupin, where Falka learnt how bronze age settlement looks like and more importantly, met some horses for the first time in her life.

Over the last weeks I have started to get to know her a little bit more. Of course I know that we shouldn’t compare dogs, but it’s hard not to notice the differences!

Falka is definitely more gentle than Yarpen was at her age. I am using the common method of “yelping” when she mouths too hard and she actually seems to care! It’s surprising to me, as with Yarpen it didn’t seem to have any effect, in fact it maybe wound him up even more! So mouthing training is going pretty smoothly. That of course doesn’t mean that my forearms are not covered in scratchmarks!
I tried to teach Yarpen to completely avoid contact of his teeth with human skin. Now I am trying to teach Falka that this can be accepted, but only if she is very gentle. She is already understanding it when we play, but sometimes forgets herself when she switches between a toy and my hand, or other dog and me.

She is also much more.. of a girl 😉 If she gets scared of Yarpen, she seeks protection in my arms, or between my legs. Yarpen is not to blame here, he is as gentle as he can be considering he is a goofy tank, with little body awareness. Unfortunately, Falka got scolded a little too harshly by another adult BRT and now seems scared whenever he wants to playfully chase her. They do play tug of war though (well, Yarpen holds the toy and she pulls!) and this might actually work for us (and our neighbours!), as it stops Yarpen’s yapping (he looooves to bark when playing…).

When it comes to new experiences, it helps enormously to have Yarpen with us whenever we “socialise”. She follows his lead and whenever it gets a bit too much for her, she physically seeks shelter between his legs (which of course I want to avoid, as this would mean that we are close to flooding). She is not a completely fearless puppy, but what is more important to me, she recovers extremely well and fast. For example, when we first met horses, initially she hid between Yarpen’s legs, then after about 10s came out to sit next to my right side, when my left hand was stroking the horses. She was still a bit unsure, so we stood there for about 1.5 – 2 mins just talking to the groom about the horses, during which time I fed her some treats and then we left. Similarly with a bunch of workmen. She was happy to meet everyone up to that point, but for some reason the workers wearing uniforms (and perhaps a little too happy…) trying to call her over, did not seem too appealing to her. We stopped and I rewarded her every time she turned her attention from them to me. In the meantime I talked to the guys and gently moved towards them. We stopped at about 5-6m distance and, when I was sure that she was comfortable, we left.

One of the challenges I did not expect is resource guarding from other dogs. She is very relaxed with my hands near her food, but unfortunately, she got into a few sticky situations with my parents’ foxterier, Pusia. I would actually feel more comfortable if she was guarding food from me, as this would be much easier to solve. I do hope that after we move to Scotland and she will only interact with Yarpen who is extremely gentle and non-possessive around food, she will understand that there is no need to feel threatened. If it won’t come naturally, we will have to schedule a few controlled sessions, where we will show her that another dog next to her bowl means that something even tastier is coming.

This coming week we will start our journey back home, to Scotland. After we get back and my family duties are finished, I will have far more time for Falka and Yarpen, and many things will change for the little rascal!