Mason’s Story (part 2)

Whoa! Talk about taking a little hiatus from blogging! I’m back though with lots to talk about and excited to share with you a little more of Masons story. If you haven’t read it yet you can go here! first.

So after I had Mason for about a month or so, everything changed (i now know that it was because he was finally settling into his new home, new routine, and new people). It all started one day when we were walking down a busy street in Burlington near UVM. There were people EVERYWHERE, students, professors, cyclist etc. We were passing a couple of girls when out of nowhere Mason started barking at them. I apologized to them and chalked it up to the fact that they were wearing backpacks. Next thing I know every single person we started passing Mason would bark at, for a while it was only people wearing backpacks, then it was also people in hats, then it was people on skateboards and soon it was everyone. It got so bad that I had to cross to the other side of the street to make sure Mason wouldn’t bark at anyone. With this new aversion to strangers on our walks, Mason also started to get reactive towards other dogs while on leash. I could not figure out what was going on. I was still taking him to the dog park where he got along fine with the other dogs there, so I just figured it was some weird signals I was giving him while he was on leash.

By the third month I had Mason he was completely unbearable, lunging and barking at any dog that walked past and barking at every person he saw, even when they weren’t on the same side of the street as us! He was also starting to bark non-stop at friends he hadn’t met yet. to say I was getting discouraged and frustrated is the understatement of the century. I started walking Mason during “off” hours of the day. I knew when classes at UVM let out so I would stay away during those times, I knew when the local schools got out, I kept a schedule in my head of good times to walk Mason. It was getting to be too much. Luckily we had never had an incident where he bit another dog or person and I was sooo thankful for that. He just seemed uncomfortable and was telling the people and dogs to stay away!

While all of this was going on Mason was also having some terrible GI issues. ** fair warning stop reading now if you get grossed out!** Mason was pooping blood, a LOT of it. When he wasn’t doing that his poop was bright yellow. Most mornings he would wake up with his stomach churning and gurgling so loud you could hear it from across the room. He was also throwing up intermittently, and wouldn’t eat his food some days. I figured it was the food and so I switched him to Blue Buffalo, when that didn’t fix it we tried Wellness, nothing was working. At the vet they did every test imaginable and still couldn’t figure out what was going on. They would send us out the door with anti-nausea meds (which helped), but we would be back days later with more problems. Eventually we found a combination of food and meds that worked for him. We put him on Hills Science diet (a vet prescribed diet), tylan powder, rx clay, and anti-nausea as needed. This finally worked, Mason wasn’t having any problems with his stomach and all was well as long as we didn’t feed him anything other then Hills. Even the smallest shift in diet, treats etc would send Mason’s stomach into a tail spin….

So while we were dealing with all his GI issues we still had A LOT of behavioral issues to figure out. Like I said before we were SOOO lucky that Mason had never (and has NEVER) bit a person or a dog. He was just so reactive (in the form of barking and lunging) and very clearly uncomfortable around any stranger or strange dog. The thing I couldn’t figure out though was if we got through the initial hump of the greeting reactivity Mason would completely and totally accept the new person or dog with no questions asked and would never again have a problem. It was just figuring out how those introductions were going to go that was the problem. Not to mention I wanted to be able to walk down the street without Mason barking an lunging at every thing that walked by. Life went on like this for about a year after I got Mason, I just figured I could deal with it. That I would be able to figure out the behavioral issues and resolve them. Boy oh boy was I wrong. I originally got Mason because I wanted a companion. A dog to come with me

downtown, out to eat, on walks, hiking, biking, and skiing. Since he wasn’t good off leash yet, and I didn’t want him approaching strange people I kept him on leash on our outings outside of Burlington. This is when I finally decide to get Mason (and me!) some professional help.We were hiking in the White Mountains with family. Mason was on a leash and every time we saw a person coming down the trail I would pull off into the bushes and warn the people passing that he was going to bark, and bark he did!! I would have to hold Mason by the collar while he barked and lunged while people (looking very scared!) hurried past us. It was on that trip that I realized having Mason was no longer fun it was a chore. And I knew that he wasn’t having fun anymore either, 1. because I was getting so frustrated and angry with him that I knew he was picking up on it and 2. because he was acting this way for a reason, whether it was fear or anxiety. And so we brought in the big guns (professional trainers!).

 

**Back next week with our training saga!**

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Mason’s story (part 1)

 

Recently I have been reflecting on how much Mason has changed my life. When I first got Mason I was 20 years old, still in college and living with 4 other people and a cat named Captain. For years I had wanted a dog, but the timing was never right. One day I just decided to go for it. I wanted a dog that I could take on hikes with me, go camping with, take down to Church St. and the farmers market, I wanted a dog that I could take everywhere I went.

I grew up with dogs, Pepper and Duchess. Both were the sweetest things you could have ever met, they were good off leash, they hung out together all day long outside on our porch.  You could trust them. That is what I was hoping for out of a dog…then I got Mason.

Let me start by saying Mason has taught me sooo much in the last 4.5 years since I have gotten him. He has taught me patients, understanding, compromise.. sacrifice.  Having a dog is absolutely nothing like what I had imagined. Yes I knew they were a big responsibility, of course I knew I had to take care of him, but I really only imagined it in this very vague sense. When I finally brought Mason home I was hit with a very large dose of reality. To say Mace was a handful is the biggest understatement I could make!

Not only did his behavior and disposition change when I brought him home, but he had enormous health problems.

When I went and met Mace he was in a backyard, with no collar on, barking at me. He came right up to me said hi and I took him for a walk. He pulled, he jumped, he chased things, and I thought it was all very cute. Next thing I know he is in the back of my car coming home with me. I had NOTHING for him so armed with my sister, and my roommate we went to Petco. I bought Purina (it was the cheapest and I was on a college budget), some treats, toys, 2 bowls, a leash, a new collar, and some rawhides for him to chew on.

That first weekend he came everywhere with me. We went to City Market and I tied him up outside to wait while I got him treats, we went to the Waterfront Park, and we went apple picking. Everything was going great, sure he barked at a few dogs while we went past, and no he wasn’t off leash reliable, but those were all things we could easily fix with some training.

I officially realized how hard it was to have a dog. I had to make sure he was walked before class, and then again after class (no matter how tired I was). He required daily exercise, trips to the dog park, Mount Philo and extra long walks. Most importantly vet care, I needed to get him his shots, heartworm, flea and tick and set up regular appointments. I had no idea!

When I was at class Mason hung out with my roommates, when I was home he chewed on his rawhides and hung out with me, we walked on the busy streets of downtown Burlington and we played at the dog park. All of this changed after the first month or so. Not only did his personality shift, but so did his health.

*Sorry to leave you with a cliff hanger, but Mason’s story is so long and complicated I could’n’t fit it all into one!*