On L-Theanine and A New Crate

Avery in the backyardIn the last post I mentioned two things that we were working with to help with Avery’s separation anxiety.

One is an herbal supplement called L-Theanine and the other is a brand new crate.

L-Theanine is an all natural herbal supplement derived from tea leaves.  It helps to promote mental relaxation.

Here is a link that goes into more detail.  And here is a link that gives a great overview about all the different kinds of drugs (both natural and prescription) there are to use for anxiety issues.  If you are dealing with any kind of anxiety with your dog, I highly recommended checking out and bookmarking that link.

We’ve been giving Avery L-Theanine, one 100mg pill, a day in his morning breakfast.  I noticed a difference right away when taking him out on walks.  He doesn’t get nearly as anxious/reactive around other dogs.  This doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a reaction, it just means that his reactions are a lot more mild than before.

When we do a test run and leave him in his crate, he will be getting another L-Theanine pill along with some rescue remedy.  The vet who we chatted with about this said that the two work in great combination with each other.

I also bought a calming CD for dogs, called Through A Dog’s Ear to try as well.

We also purchased Avery a brand new soft crate. (I don’t have a good picture of Avery in his crate because the crate creates such a dark den like environment that you can’t see Avery when he’s in there!)

Happy to report that he loves his crate.  The day it arrived and we set it up, he immediately went in there to check it out.  He took to this new crate right away.

For the first couple of weeks we had it set up and I let him go in and out of it on his own.  Each time he went in, I gave him a treat.  After about two weeks, I started crating him during meal times for us because the crate is right next to our dining table.

He’s now at a point where he will go in there automatically when we sit down to eat.  He also goes in his crate all the time to play with his toys or to take naps.  He definitely considers it his safe spot and he loves his little “den”.

This is exactly what we were hoping to achieve with this.  That he would establish a good relationship with is crate and that he feels safe and comfortable in there.

We are at the stage now where we need to start working towards crating him and leaving to see how he does.  We of course will start off very slowly by only walking out the door and leaving him for five minutes.  We plan on setting up a way to record him so that we can see exactly what is going on.

We are first going to do this without the extra calming meds just to see if the new crate makes a difference at all.  Then we’ll try it again the following day with the meds and see how that works.

We are taking everything slowly so that we can set Avery up for success and not set him up for failure.  Here’s hoping our approach works!


Disclaimer: None of the links are affiliate links.

Lesson Learned

Avery on the couchLearning as much as I can about dog training and dog behavior is a top priority for me.  I read a lot of dog blogs, both personal ones and ones written by trainers.

The shelter where I work, I also volunteer there.  I help run play groups, walk the dogs, and also take their Canine Coach classes.  All so that I can learn as much as I can so that I can be the best parent to my dog but to also be able to successfully interact with other dogs that I meet.

I have learned a ton which has come in handy at my other job working at a local small pet food store.  Customers come in with their dogs all the time and I’ve seen really outgoing dogs, shy dogs, and reactive dogs.  I’ve been able to successfully assess their personalities and read their body language.

Up until this past Saturday.

A customer came in the store with her dog who was social and interactive.  I sat on the floor with the dog for a few minutes giving her treats and petting her.  I got her to do “sit” and “down”.

The lady needed help out to her car, so I offered to carry her dog food out.  I noticed the dog kept looking back at me as I followed them out.  The dog seemed a little unsure but not overly so.  Not enough that I felt uncomfortable around the dog.

I misread the situation and didn’t trust my gut enough.

The customer and her dog were behind me as I placed the dog food in the back of the car.  That’s when the dog went after me and attached herself to my calf and held on.

Luckily she did not break the skin but I have some serious bruising on my leg and my leg hurt and throbbed for the rest of the day.

Other than a few looks of concern the dog gave no indication that she felt threatened or would attack.  She didn’t even growl or make any noise as she ran at me and latched onto my leg.

The woman apologized of course and was concerned (as she should be) about the situation.  I gave her a card for a local trainer so that she can talk with her about what happened and how to avoid in the future.

I learned a lot this weekend.

  • Sometimes dogs give off very subtle cues and I need to be way more vigilant about it.
  • Working in a pet food store does come with it’s own risks.
  • The minute I think a dog might be uncomfortable, I need to back off and communicate that with the owner immediately.

You can be certain that I will now be way more cautious about loading food into a car!

Avery’s Separation Anxiety Symptoms

Avery RunningI kind of left everyone hanging after the initial post where I mentioned that Avery has separation anxiety.  Whoops!  Totally didn’t mean to do that!

We realized that Avery does not like being left alone and he would basically have mild panic attacks when he was left alone.

Drooling, licking, panting, and whining the entire time.  He was also chewing on his crate.  Not trying to escape but stress chewing.

He and his crate would be a mess by the time we got back home.  His crate would be covered in drool and so was he.  He would be soaked from his chin all the way down his legs, back legs included.

When let out of his crate, he would bolt right for the water bowl and basically inhale as much water as he could.  We would have to stop him because we didn’t want to risk him getting bloat from drinking too much too quickly.

Not crating him is not an option.  He would still have panic attacks plus he would go to the bathroom in the house (#1 and #2).

He was a hot mess.

Frequency made it worse instead of better.  Instead of getting used to be left alone and thinking, “oh hey I did this yesterday and everything was fine.  This is cool. I’m okay”,  he would think, “OH MY GOD I’M ALONE AGAIN! THIS IS THE WORST EVER!”.  And his anxiety levels would escalate with each time he was left alone.

Rescue Remedy and a Thunder Shirt did not help.  He would get 8 drops (the recommended dose is 4) of Rescue Remedy along with the Thunder Shirt and this didn’t even begin to help him.

So taking the normal approach to crate training isn’t an option. When you have a dog with separation anxiety, we have learned that you have to look at the situation differently because you’re dealing with a majorly stressed out dog who’s coping skills are non-existent.

Once we moved into the new house, we decided that we were going to start completely over with crate training and take things super slowly.  Like molasses on a winter day, slow.

Currently Avery hasn’t been left alone in several months.  He either comes with us if we can take him or only one of us will go to an event while the other stays home with Avery.

This also means that Scott and I haven’t been out together for several months.  Which quite frankly, stinks.

But both of us are committed to working towards getting him past this.

We are using an all natural anti-anxiety pill call L-Theanine along with a new approach to crate training.  More on both of those in an upcoming post!  I will say that so far both of these things have gone over really well.

Dealing With Separation Anxiety

Avery laying down

Avery can be an anxious dog and being that he has reactive tendencies, getting worked up about stuff is probably par for the course.

Most dogs get excited if they think they are going out for a walk or going in the car.  But once they go, they tend to calm down and enjoy the moment.

Avery does not.  If he gets really worked up before a walk, then he is more likely to be reactive.  And in the first few minutes of the walk we have to stop, sit, and regroup so he can remember that he needs to mind his manners.

In the car, he’ll pace, whine, drool, and pant.  Sometimes it’s really bad and sometimes he’ll eventually try to calm himself down and lay down on the seat.  If someone is sitting in the back with him, he’s totally fine.  He’ll lay right next to you and be an angel.  By himself he is an anxious mess.

We really didn’t want to admit to ourselves that he had separation issues when he was left home alone.  Mostly because separation anxiety is a tough nut to crack in a dog and it’s a very challenging and difficult thing to work through.  Not to mention very overwhelming when you realize that you can’t just leave your house whenever you want and have the freedom to do whatever you want.

Or at least it is to me and I’m still very overwhelmed by it.

But we have come to terms with this and it’s now something we are actively trying to work through.  It’s been hard when we have to tell friends that we can’t meet them for dinner or drinks because we’re working through some issues with our dog.  Most don’t get it and I don’t blame them because when it’s something you haven’t had to deal with before it can be a hard situation to understand.

We are missing out on a lot of great events around town right now and we are so totally bummed out.  But Avery needs us and he needs us to help him through this situation.

I don’t know how long this will take.  This is the first time we have had to deal with separation anxiety.  We are taking it slow and doing a combination of calming herbs and behavior training.

I will definitely be sharing what exactly we are doing and how it’s going.

Have you ever had to deal with separation issues with your pet?  How did you handle it?

Looking For Something To Do

Avery in the sunIn the mornings, I get up before everyone else does.  Once I’m up and out of bed, Avery can get in the big bed with Scott for snuggles and more sleep.

I go about my morning routine and then around 9ish I wake the boys up.

They are slow to rise but eventually they both get up and come stumbling upstairs.  Avery eats breakfast and then goes for morning potty run.

Then he’s up.  He’s up and he wants to do something! Anything! Let’s play!

And this is the part of the morning I’m struggling with.  Both Scott and I need to do work (we work from home) so we view the time before lunch as “quiet time”.

Avery is dying to do something and he’ll pace around and lay his head on our laps.  Anything for attention.

He can’t go out for a walk yet because his breakfast needs to settle and digest.  I don’t want him playing too hard because I don’t want to risk bloat (boxers and other deep chested dogs can be prone to this).

Normally after a meal when a dog needs to chill for a bit, I would provide them with a bone, like a Nylabone (not the edible kind, ick) or antler.  However Avery’s teeth are horrible from chewing on inappropriate things in his previous life, so chewing is just right out.

I’m wondering if I need to maybe purchase some games and have him work on those while we eat breakfast and get some work done.  Or maybe I need to take him for a walk first thing, before he even has breakfast.  I don’t think he’d like that though, when he gets up he very much wants to eat.

Any suggestions on things Avery can do while we are occupied with work and breakfast?  What is your morning routine like?

Reactivity In The New House, Progress

Avery at the front doorWe live on a much busier street now where there is more car traffic and more foot traffic.

Our neighborhood is what I call an “actual neighborhood”.  You can walk around the block, walk down to a park, or even walk downtown to go shopping.

There are alleys and the streets are tree lined.  The houses are all different from each other and it feels very welcoming.

Because of the increase in activity, we were naturally curious about how Avery would handle this.

The front of our house has a big window along with a glass front door which means that Avery can see everything that goes on.  When the window and front door are open, he can also hear everything that goes on.

Since Avery is reactive, we were definitely wondering just how he would deal.

Our worries and concerns were needless.  As I mentioned before, Avery seems much more relaxed in this space.  Nothing has proven this more than his lack of reactivity.

If someone walks by, sure he might go to the door and watch but that’s about all he does.  Occasionally if he sees another dog or if someone is being loud, he may snort and that’s the extent of his reactivity.

A snort.

He doesn’t bark and only rarely does he let out a low growl.  The low growl only happens if someone is walking a dog right by the front yard fence and stops.  If the dog is across the street, then he goes back to the snort.

Avery at the front doorWe have folks who come up on the porch like the mail carrier, and the milk delivery guy.  Avery does not bark at them.  He whines a bit and wags his nubbies because he wants to say hello.  That’s it.

For a dog that can be reactive, this is a HUGE deal.

He is the same way in the backyard as well.  He doesn’t bark at the neighbors when they leave or enter their house.  He doesn’t bark if people go by in the back alley.

Instead he’s a typical boxer who watches and observes.  Let’s out the occasional snort to say, “I see you out there. I know you’re there.”

Now if someone does knock on the door he will bark and I’m OK with this.  I do want a dog that will bark to let me know something is going on.  The key is that he needs to stop when I tell him to and so far he is doing just that.

This is a huge sigh of relief for us to know that Avery isn’t stressed about the increase in traffic and that we can have the doors and windows open without worrying that he’s going to act a fool.


Avery in the sunAvery is a graduate!  He graduated from his basic obedience training class a couple of weeks ago.  He did amazing and was even able to sit still for a group photo.

My big boy!

Eventually I’m going to get him signed up for another class so that we can work on minding our manners in different environments.  Right now that class is scheduled on a night I have to work so we can’t attend.  Next session hopefully we can!

We are also getting ready to have our first group walk this week!  We had a brief orientation last Saturday to go over the rules and expectations.  We also had everyone fill out a questionnaire so we can get some background info on their dogs and their training.  We have about six folks and their pooches meeting up for the walk.  Very exciting!

We took Avery to the farmer’s market on Sunday for the first time.  I went and shopped while Scott kept Avery around the perimeter in a nice grassy and shaded area.  Avery did fantastic!  He sat like a good boy and watched everyone shop and go by.

A gentleman walked past and reached out to Avery who handled it like a champ.  Of course he was sad to see the guy go!

There was a dog that walked by and Avery only whined a little bit at the dog.  Progress!  We are working very hard to help him learn his leash manners.  The more situations he gets exposed to, the better he becomes!

And then he did something ridiculous, when I opened the trunk to put away my purchases, he jumped right in and sat down like we did this all the time.

Oh rescue dogs, always learning about their past lives in little snippets.

Life is still going full speed ahead but by summer’s end we are hoping to be more settled!

Checking In

Avery in the sunIt’s time to check in!  I know that as a blogger we are not supposed to apologize for taking breaks but that always feels very cold to me.  I’m a rule breaker by nature so I’m going to go ahead and apologize.

Sorry for the break!  I have been trying to get a routine down and I think that I’ve finally got one going.  Sort of.

New routines are always hard for me because I like a set schedule.  I get all off balance when my routine is messed with.

Being at these new jobs for a couple of weeks now, I think that I’m starting to get used to everything.

But enough about me! Let’s chat about Avery!

He will be having his last basic obedience class on Sunday.  I don’t know if there is a formal graduation or not but regardless I am proud of him!

Next steps might be taking another class.  I’ll have to talk with the trainer to see if he’s ready and figure out if the next class works in our schedule right now.

Our walking group has not had our first walk yet!  Bummed! But we were waiting for Avery to be done with class first. We have everything ready to go though and we should be having our first walk this month!

I cannot wait to get going and get Avery into a supportive group where we can work on his reactivity.

We will be moving (again) this summer.  Our rental will not be available again and we either need to find a house to buy or find another rental.  With the way the market is right now, my bet is that we are going to have to move into another rental for a year.

Booo!  I always feel displaced in rentals and I really don’t want to have to keep moving.  However it is what it is, so we need to make the best of it.

Plans for the rest of the summer are to try and relax and spend more time outdoors.

How’s your summer going so far?

The Heat Is On

Avery laying in the sunThe temps are starting to warm up here in Fort Collins and seem to be staying consistently warm-ish.  Because of this we have to take extra precautions while we’re outside with Avery.

When he’s out in the yard laying in the sun, he regulates how much sun he gets pretty well.  If he gets hot, he’ll get up and either lay on the patio or go lay in some shade.

Once I feel like he’s had a good amount of “outside” time, I’ll bring him back in the house for a little while.

Walks are what we need to watch the most and we monitor Avery to make sure he doesn’t get too hot.

Because Avery has a squishy face (he technically falls into the brachycephalic category of dogs), it makes it really difficult for him to breathe in extreme temperatures.

In my experience with boxers (and pitties), heat seems to effect them a lot more than cold weather in terms of breathing difficulty.

Avery can get very hot and thirsty when out on walks if the sun is shining bright and it’s warm out.  His daily walks have now moved to early mornings when the sun is just starting to come up or isn’t very high in the sky yet.

We make sure to have water with us on walks and we take breaks in the shade if he needs it.  We also will immediately take him home if we realize that he seems to be getting too hot.

We do not want Avery to over-heat, suffer from heat exhaustion or heat stroke.  Because he’s got darker fur and he doesn’t tolerate the heat very well those things can quickly become reality for him.

We try to avoid that at all costs.

A few things that you can do during the hot months for your doggie:

  • Always carry water and a bowl for them to drink out of.
  • Bring bandanas that you can soak in water and tie around their necks.
  • Keep an eye on them. If your dog is tired and doesn’t want to go, don’t force them.
  • Don’t leave your dog tied up outside in the sun with no shade.
  • Remember that pavement and streets can get hot and will burn the pads on their feet.
  • Walk in the mornings or evenings when the sun isn’t the strongest.
  • Have cool treats for them when you get back home.

How are you handling the hotter weather? Do you change your schedule around at all because of it?

This post is part of FitDog Friday!

Avery’s Swim Session

Avery in a lifevestAvery had his big swim session last Friday.  He seems curious about water and he doesn’t hate getting baths so I was really interested to see if he’d be a swimmer.

Our previous guy hated water so having a dog that might turn out to be a swimmer would be a totally new experience for us.

I’ll give you a heads up and tell you right now that Avery is most definitely not a swimmer.

Nope. Not one bit.

But he tried and did everything we asked of him which is all that we can really expect.  For that I am most proud of him!

Now for how it all went down!

I took Avery to Advanced Animal Care for his swim session.  When you sign up for the orientation, you also schedule a 15 minute appointment with their rehabilitation doctor.  The doctor gives the once over on the dog just to make sure there isn’t anything going on physically that would become worse or aggravated with a swim session.

Once you get clearance, you sign up for an orientation time.

At orientation the dog is fitted with a life vest as a backup because if the dog can’t swim or panics the life vest is there to help them stay afloat.

Avery swimmingThe dog is then taken into the water, right down the steps and in, with the orientation instructor.  I wasn’t a huge fan of Avery just being dragged into the pool right away.  I like to have dogs gently introduced to new things.  But in he went and he splashed around and definitely showed that he was not cut out for swimming.

The instructor had a hold of his vest and was guiding him around and gently talking with him to keep him calm.

Avery swimming

Avery wasn’t having it and wanted out.  Poor guy was so confused on what just happened.

Avery getting a treatOnce he was out of the pool he got lots of loving and treats for being such a good boy.  Then we tried a gentler approach and introduced him to the steps so he could get in and out on his own.

Avery at the poolThe steps are very hard to see and I completely understand a dog not really wanting to step down on them.  We tried to coax him in with treats and I could tell he wanted to step down but was nervous.

Me putting on waddersSo that meant I got suited up and got in the water with him to help show him it was okay.

Avery and I on the pool stepsI had treats and would place my hand on the step so that he could see something was there to step on.  It took some time but he got his paws on the first step.  Then it was time to get him on the second step.

Avery and I on the pool stepsHe got his front paws on the second step but that was about it.  The second step was a big drop from the first one and that made him concerned about what was happening.

I wanted to end the experience on a positive note so at that point I called it a day for him.

Avery in a lifevestHe was such a great boy during the whole experience!  The swimming part freaked him out but I think that’s because he’s never swam before.  That was completely clear the moment he hit the water.

I fully believe that he would enjoy swimming if he could ease into it, like maybe at a lake or something where he could gradually go into the water on his own terms.  And I definitely think it would be beneficial for him to have a swim buddy because that would keep him calmer.

I would always have him in a life vest though if we were to be around water.  I wouldn’t take any chances on him sinking or getting too scared to swim.

If you are local, the check up with the rehab doctor and the first swim orientation are completely free.  Yes, that’s right.  It’s a free service that this clinic does.  The pool is heated, four feet deep and is a salt water pool.

Just make note that the pool is right next to the entrance/exit for doggie day care.  So you will hear dogs in the background and it’s possible that people will be in and out to drop off or pick up their dogs.  This can be a little distracting to the dogs. The pool is fenced so you don’t have to worry about dogs coming into the area while you are having a session.

That’s our experience with swimming!  Does your dog swim?