What a busy year!

 Buttons 2017

Buttons 2017

Hello folks!

Now that Ty and I have had some time to settle into beautiful Jersey City, we're hoping to bring you more site updates in the upcoming weeks. 

While we refine a few new articles to post, here are a few exciting things we would like to share with you:

  • Hound About Town and Mantra Pet are working together to assemble community pack walks every other week this summer! Our first pack walk had a great turnout and we look forward to seeing more of you there in the future. Keep an eye out for flyers posted at Hound About Town as well as on our event page!
  • Ian is now open to booking new clients for pet photography. We are offering a 10% discount on any photo packages (and an additional 10% off for active Mantra Pet training clients) booked before September 2017!
  • Ty has dusted off our instagram to start posting photos and short videos of client pups during their training sessions, if you haven't already, follow mantra_pet on instagram for more cute updates! :)
  • In the upcoming weeks, we plan to launch a monthly online newsletter! The newsletter will have updates regarding any local events on our radar, answers to frequently asked questions, a review/advice column ("written" by our fluffy friends), and more. We will be sending out an email to current clients as well as adding a button to the front page to subscribe to the mailing list once we've started!

We are so excited to be bringing you more content and look forward to updating you again soon!

Ian & Ty

How busy can we be?

Very!

Seems we've taken JC by storm, and I'm happy to say Mantra Pet is currently happily filling our schedule with pets and owners in desperate need of behavioral counseling. Seeing so many pets succeed so quickly is a dream come true.

I'm also very happy to announce that our first catification project in JC has begun with a client - baby on the way, multicat home, and an excitable pooch too! Perfect formula to get vertical kitty realty rolling in an apartment setting.

Expect actual article updates shortly - a piece on "Force Free" training, as well as a Catastrophe: Multicat Tension in the Home are both sitting on my desktop, waiting for my hands to free up a smidge.

 

Dogs Living with Disability: Mudra

 Mudra stands at the baby gate, eyes a soft almond shape, tongue lolling in a spoon shape, filling his lungs like he just ran a race. Like he is overheated. Like he has been playing.

 In actuality, he just awoke from a brief nap, and sometimes this upsets him.

When people talk to me about dogs with anxiety, I used to think of my old crew: Chen, Dougal, and Midas. Three dogs so completely different, but all lived happily and safely to ripe old ages (16, 13, 12) with emotional and mental disabilities. Dogs that were considered in the field to be extreme cases, and scheduled to be euthanized before they found their way to me.

Now a days when I talk anxiety, my old pack are my “severe” examples. Mudra, when not managed or cared for appropriately, is my “1%”. “1%” is a classification I have met four times in my life, with the inclusion of Mudra. All dogs these dogs had a genetic makeup that drove them to mania and impulse control disorders. All dogs that could not shut it off easily (or at all) on their own, which was then compounded by negative or a total lack of life experiences.

As I write this, Mudra stares, and waits. He has been out to potty before said nap, we had a play session earlier than that, and he is currently having a minor version of one of the explosive panic attacks that once plagued our household. Naps and other forms of inactivity are his biggest trigger, and he wants me to fix it. Now.

When I turn to look at him, it’s slow. Disinterested. My eyes are also soft, sleepy almond-shaped. I blink once and take a full three seconds to complete that single blink, ending it with a deep inhale through my nose, exhaling it the same way. After about another four seconds, I repeat the blink, breathing normally, and look back to my computer.

I have told him that I see him, and am busy. My closed mouth shows him that I want space, that I am not going to play right now.

Five minutes later, Mudra leaves the gate and enters Bowie’s crate, scratching the bed.

“Mudra. Off.” comes out of Ian’s mouth before mine. The scratching intensifies for a second, and then stops, as he doesn’t hear us coming to engage with him.

Sitting, panting in the open crate, Muds takes another two minutes to walk out into the middle of the living room and lay down.

Once upon a time, Mudra could not sleep loose. He would spin, bite himself, claw walls, screech, hyperventilate, and methodically destroy things. Every animal in sight would be harassed, panic would be pushed on everyone in his vicinity. A single look from us led to play bows mixed with warning teeth as he would fight his own internal conflicts of “Come here play don’t touch me get away”. This was his life, and our life with him.

Once upon a time, Mudra could not self-soothe in nonharmful ways. Now, he’s my emotional support dog.

As I write this entry, Muds has finished up his breathing exercises on the floor, which he does for himself, by himself, when he knows he needs them. When I pass by him to get food or water from the kitchen, I’m met with a glance from him as he lays flat on his side on the floor, breathing slowly, eyes alert but softening again. The most I possibly do is give him a thumbs up as I’m heading out of the room, if that. I don’t do more than glance at him, because by now I know when he needs me to let him concentrate. I can not be a distraction to him, if I want him to succeed.

As I close this, he’s now curled up in bed, having gotten through another panic attack thanks to a combo of Settling/Calming behavior mods, and a prescription medication that allows his mind to slow down enough to think properly (instead of in a 24/7 manic state of sleep or panic). A medication we hope to one day minimize, but accept that he may be one of those rare dogs that need it for life.

I live with a dog who succeeds every day despite obstacles and quirks that would leave him homeless.

I live with a dog with emotional and mental disabilities.

 

Over the next few months, one of our topics will be Mudra's story, as we highlight animals living with emotional and mental disabilities.

Mantra Pet Pals Highlights: Chloe

 As we run about to meetings, create partnerships and make friends in the community, and continue to get things rolling here in JC, we once again can't give enough thanks to the people and pets in RVA that we've known over the years. So with that said, it's highlight time!  I met Chloe, a cattle dog/anatolian mix when Rowan first started coming to basic manners classes, and despite being a bitty tween at the time, Chloe graduated and excelled at not only Basic Manners, but Calm Dog as well. We all still laugh about Chloe showing her skills on one of the many manners courses, giving Settles when other dogs gave standard Downs, and then learning to differentiate between the two. I can still hear other students in my head right now:

As we run about to meetings, create partnerships and make friends in the community, and continue to get things rolling here in JC, we once again can't give enough thanks to the people and pets in RVA that we've known over the years. So with that said, it's highlight time!

I met Chloe, a cattle dog/anatolian mix when Rowan first started coming to basic manners classes, and despite being a bitty tween at the time, Chloe graduated and excelled at not only Basic Manners, but Calm Dog as well. We all still laugh about Chloe showing her skills on one of the many manners courses, giving Settles when other dogs gave standard Downs, and then learning to differentiate between the two. I can still hear other students in my head right now:

  "Wait, are we supposed to have our dogs do that?"   Nope! Chloe was just showing off her extracurriculars.  With a move that took two months instead of a few weeks, Rowan reached out when we were scrambling to make things fit and stepped in to help out, further showing that people can and will go above and beyond to help one another (something we all share in  common).

"Wait, are we supposed to have our dogs do that?"

Nope! Chloe was just showing off her extracurriculars.

With a move that took two months instead of a few weeks, Rowan reached out when we were scrambling to make things fit and stepped in to help out, further showing that people can and will go above and beyond to help one another (something we all share in common).

 Our Bowie is still missing Chloe and Rowan (Mudra adjusted a little faster, but that's Muds for you), and we often joke about the fluffkids skyping together. We look forward to Chloe growing into an adult, and all the antics that will come her way (especially with her new kitten pals).  Miss you both (and Tilly too)!

Our Bowie is still missing Chloe and Rowan (Mudra adjusted a little faster, but that's Muds for you), and we often joke about the fluffkids skyping together. We look forward to Chloe growing into an adult, and all the antics that will come her way (especially with her new kitten pals).

Miss you both (and Tilly too)!

In An Awesome Wave

It has only been four days, and in that time I have met so many people that already have made me feel that not only have Ian and I done the right thing by going through the "two-month move of terror" as I now call it (or hellmove when I'm really needing a laugh), but that this was meant to be.

My SCORE mentor Sue Melamud is a dream, I can already say I can't adore her enough. She was just the additional confidence booster I needed. Talk about positive reinforcement! Next week we head into the SBA offices and paperwork continues rolling.

Ian and I hit up both Hound About Town locations on Wednesday (I actually had to check my calendar to be sure of what day it was - it's been that full of a half-week!) and got our furkids their bags of food, and started chatting about getting in on the Force-Free Trade initiative, where owners can trade in their prongs, shocks, chokes, and other equipment for more humane and reliable means (Freedom harnesses, Gentle Leaders, etc). Next week we'll be sitting down and getting things rolling!

Thursday I met with Jeff and Steve of Club Barks and toured the daycare/boarding facility, talked classes and major donation event opportunities to give back to the community, and was invited to Dog Days of Summer down by Zepplin Hall. Ian and I will be there tomorrow talking to people in the community, meeting ups and their people, and likely enjoying plenty of photography from Ian later!

Just as I thought the week couldn't get any more full of meeting some fantastic people, I was contacted by Mary Ann at Downtown Dog Walk (who was on my email list to contact Saturday or Sunday - she beat me to it! I love it!) and we had a fantastic talk on the phone. Can't wait to sit down in people and trade stories and ideas.

And to top it all off, our google listing launched just an hour ago. I know my clients back in RVA are waiting in the wings to give their reviews, and any excuse to talk to them about life in general is an excuse I take, so they'll be hearing from me bright and early tomorrow morning.

 

On a totally separate note, expect pictures soon of Mudra in his TokiDoki travel bag, which I picked up today showing a friend around Chinatown. He's already pretty hyped to get rolling on the Lightrail, but I as usual want to make sure he's truly comfy before we take our first trip. That said, I think between his stepping into the bag and giving my the "let's work!" eye and the fussy face I received when the bag was put away (hey, training time was over!) means I might need to take my minimutt down to Liberty Park and Paul's Hook for long-line recalls, freestyle, and settle work a little sooner than planned!

Thanks for being amazing, Jersey City. I'm pretty sure I'm already in love with the place.

Reaching Out

With the apartment unpacked and the myriad of things finally in place that come with getting a new apartment situated, I was able to finally sit down this morning and start contacting people in the area (beyond just Liberty Humane) to start networking with.

I was looking forward to networking most of all with Jenna Teti, but was taken by surprise that she's headed out to Colorado! Seems the past few months is a whole lot of passing others while they do their own major life changes (behaviorist Hannah Mercurio in RVA who was once a LI resident being another example). None the less, I sent a good-luck and networking email her way, and the morning was spent full steam ahead on contacting shops, rescues, daycares, and the like to start getting to know everyone here in Jersey City and in NYC (I can never get called under-zealous, can I?).

Like everything else, this networking is another reminder to remember to be mindful of my own limits. Emails get spread out to minimize the typing and keep my arms healthy, and exercise about town (walking and arm exercises) is constant while remaining respectful of the heat. I can't wait to get the boys out to Berry Park and Liberty Park to get their own fun work in (long line recalls, freestyle, settling, etc), but hopefully, next week will be cooler.

Mudra is already walking along the Light Rail platforms with no issue, and soon he'll be learning to hop in a bag to wander the city with me. Brings back memories of Chen back in the day and how much he loved the 6 train and the L in NYC

Emails from clients & friends back in RVA are a nice morning reminder, but always have a tinge of sadness as everyone adjusts to the transitions of my not being there to help out. My hope is things will smooth over quickly, and any ripples in the water will make for great changes for everybody.

When Walks Get Scary: Bowie Moves to the City

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No one is ever fully prepared for when reactivity comes into their dog’s life; the surge of energy always surprises the owner just as much as the dog. Seasoned trainers and behavioral councelors are no different. Yet there are things you can do, preferably with the aid of a trainer or counselor experienced in phobias, desensitization, and a complete lack of force/punishment training.

While Mudra seems to be in his element with living in Jersey City after a life in the countryside of Virginia, Bowie showed his houndyness on day two. Mudra is showing his own minor signs of understandable stress (we’ll go into that later), but Bowie has developed the tell-tale lunging for home behavior to the end of his walk, as well as wanting to bolt across the street, and generally being on the edge of his threshold during walk time. While inside definitely was a calmer place for him, we still had a telltale sign of his discomfort: Bowie refused to nap on the couch, which is prime realty to our houndie.

We’re on our second weekend now, and Bo’s ability to decrease his anxiety is right on schedule. Last night he climbed the couch and flopped bodily on Ian’s legs, and his tail has been wagging in the mornings before his walk.

Are the walks easier? Somewhat. So if his walks aren’t all better, how is he making progress?

Because reactivity can sometimes take a few weeks (or months), to work through depending on the animal. In the case of phobia in extreme cases, it can take longer.

Now in mornings Bowie heads out the front door and whines. He whines the whole walk. And we do not attempt to quiet him or shush him. We also don’t make concerned voices, anxious sounds, or anything too exciting in tone. Both Ian and I talk calmly in a relatively level fashion the entire walk.

Why?

Vocalization is the common step for most dogs that are finding their comfort zone, and if they’re not forming a nasty habit, they should be allowed to work through that necessary step of expression. Some dogs totally skip it (a qualified trainer or behavioral counselor knows how to identify this, and should be sought if your dog is showing repeated stress vocalizations). Due to Bowie’s genetics, disposition, and level of anxiety in adapting to the city, the behavior is expected.

He’s now past the tightly shut mouth and silent, wide eyed panting. His walking is typically much looser and relaxed, with what can seem like random bursts of anxiety or stress where he will whine louder, sit down quickly, or make a motion to weave about instead of walking mindfully. But are these behaviors actually random?

Not in the least.

It’s hard to inhibit stressful responses. Any animal that puts that much effort into trying to self soothe and keep their head on straight is going to have moments of panic. To try and force an animal to not feel any form of fear or stress is detrimental and typically causes more damaging behavior in the long run.

So how are we sure that this is helping our big brave Bowie out?

He’s happy to go for that walk. Tail wagging before we go, exhausted but calm when we return home (and right now his walk is only 4 blocks). At his checkpoints his body is loose despite whining, and he will lay down on his own in these places. When he does feel stressed, he typically stops moving at all or pulls off to the side, creating a natural break and an ability to think, instead of allowing his stress to overwhelm him. Allowing him to make better decisions.

He’s doing well, and he’ll continue to do even better as we progress if we maintain our patience and consistently stay within his threshold.

What a Month!

It's been a month since my last update, and during that time we've moved in, set up the house, and started to get the boys adjusted. As things finally fall into place here with Mantra Pet in Jersey City, updates will become far more frequent.

As of the 25th, I'll be attending orientation at Liberty Humane Society to begin donating volunteer hours to the shelter. My hope is to be able to lend them my services as much as I'm capable, with a minimum of 2-5 hours a week, if not more if the Sponsor a Pet idea gets off the ground! Only time will tell.

Beyond that, it's all kinds of paperwork time. I'll be meeting with my SCORE mentor on Weds to help me get this business rolling, our Google Maps listing has it's verification code in the mail (will take a week or so to get to me), and I'm researching LGBTQ owned small business grants and the like.

But enough about set up - our next post will get us back on track with talking reactivity and phobias!

Fear& Reactivity Series

When your pet is reactive (from avoidance to aggression), it can sometimes feel as if the world has flown out from under your feet. Depending on the severity or your sensitivity to it (or the sensitivity of others to it), your perception of a nice day outside can completely change. The way the of structuring your day becomes different. You stop enjoying walks with your pet or having people over because it becomes too stressful. Over time, you may even stop taking walks on your own. I’ve myself not only seen people who used to hike and jog become the type that over time only go out to work, run errands, and hang out in a way that doesn’t involve taking much of a stroll.


Once upon a time, I even was one of those people very, very briefly while I helped Dougal, my newly adopted and extremely reactive GSD/Hound/Akita/??? 8 year old adjust. And like most other animals, Dougal's only problem was extreme fear and no coping skills beyond reacting instinctively.


More often than not, we're told these are the pets (and I've known all kinds, from dogs to cats, parrots with serious bite risk issues, large mammals, bunnies, the list goes on) are unmanageable and can not be helped, while everyone around us tells us a myriad of ways that are supposed to "fix it". Often, those ways are antiquated or just plain well-meant nonsense passed down through media, family, or friends, and what's more: they can make the problem worse. Suddenly you no longer even have the support of the people who were giving you advice, who not only refuse to take responsibility for pitching bad ideas your way but tell you that you're still not doing it right.
By now, you might be even feeling enough resentment that you think your pet does this to spite you, not because they too are stressed in their own way.
So what’s a burnt out, compassionate animal lover to do?


Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting articles and essays specifically about reactivity and fear, and how to help yourself and your pet. We’ll be talking about minimizing reactions to phobic or overstimulating triggers (people, other animals, kids, noises, cars, you name it), building confidence, and then slowly increasing the intensity of said trigger, and throwing in other distractions. While not an overnight cure, these short sessions (which should be attempted with the aid of a certified professional for best results and increased safety) will make a difference in your pet, and allow them and yourself to start enjoying the things you want to enjoy together.


Until our next update, however, do yourself a favor: Change the context.
Have walks become terrifying? Go for a stroll in your neighborhood without your pet and make it enjoyable. Get an ice cream, bring a coffee, sit somewhere and read a book or play with your phone. If you’re in a neighborhood you feel safer with some company, bring a friend. Say hi to your neighbors, strike up a conversation that “oh yes I know, Fluffy’s developed a problem, but we’re starting something to help them out”.
Friends can’t come over? Go to someone else’s house for some hang out time, or meet up somewhere with some pals and enjoy yourself. And then go home, set yourself up with something yummy and relaxing and read or watch a movie with your stressed pet.
Noises or sights at the apartment are scary? Set up a safe place for your pet, be it a crate (yes, even for a cat) or a room with it's own small den area and start pairing scary sounds or sights off with being given a high-value chew (like a kong – even for kitties!) and going to that safe space and hanging out together. Helpful tip: If your pet is reacting to reflections in a door or appliance, get some nice looking contact paper or window cling film (and it looks cool too).
So scared you can’t even get near? Get a professional trainer or behaviorist involved immediately, preferably one CPDT or IAABC certified (no force training!). In the meantime make your existence mean random wonderful things when you walk by at a distance (snacks, toys, etc) and otherwise engage them as little as possible (even if they come up to check you out). Let them greet you on their terms for a bit.

 

One paw in front of the other

The hardest things are worth fighting for. Cliché as can be, but something that’s clearly getting hit home for Ian and myself this year. And from everyone else that I’ve been talking to, it seems we’re not the only ones effected by this (something I’m never shocked by).

 

Those of you that know us and know where Ian and I want Mantra Pet to be headed in life, as well as where we know we’re supposed to be headed, are pretty aware that we had planned to be back up in the NYC area as of June 1st. However, three trips up to the NYC/NJ area later, we fell in love with Jersey City, and specifically a little place off a park on Garfield Ave (an area I wasn’t trying to continually look at, but keeps throwing apartments my way).

 

And one of the real selling points? One of Jersey City’s leading pet rescues is a mile from the location we’re fighting for, which would mean they’d be getting an email from yours’ truly the moment we know our move in date asking for volunteer paperwork and letting them know what skills I can lend to them (on site behavioral and training assistance, home visits for their foster pets in need, etc). One of the core reasons Mantra Pet exists: helping shelters for no or low cost when possible.

Being a mile walk/bike ride from my house would make that more than possible, wouldn’t you say?

 

Multiple realtors later and three apartments applied for, and we’re still in limbo. After being told we would be approved for the first two apartments and then having that denied due to Bowie’s size (after being told, yes, having a 60lb hound would not be an issue), we were feeling the pet-owner burn pretty heavily that renters everywhere know. As always, it doesn’t matter that our pooch is amazing with people, kids, other dogs, doesn’t bark, isn’t destructive, etc. So we’ve been soldiering on.

 

Currently we’ve been approved for a place exactly where we want to be, but we’ve been getting pushed back on a move in date repeatedly – to the point where it may not be worth it to wait it out due to concern over if this is really a company we want to continue working with. I’m hoping they are, and this snag lets us get go so we can move onto the next thing.

 

By this point, I think life has gotten a bit silly and we’ve paid our dues. I’m a firm believer that you have to go through a lot of trials and tribulations to get to where you know you need to be in life. However, taking the plunge into making the dream of a low cost training and behavioral counseling service real (that donates free help to rescues in need and has a certain allotted pro-bono time towards clients who cannot pay for help), was a huge decision, and I didn’t expect life to not expect a massive amount of stress and suffering back from us to get this rolling.

 

Richmond has been good to us. While we’ve been here longer than planned, I’ve watched dogs that used to not be able to even go outside become well-mannered pups on excursions to VMFA and Stony Point after putting in the work to make them feel confident and keep training safe in such high traffic areas. And through this, I’ve seen owners change – not just in how they look at their dogs, but how they look at life.

 

But now these pups have graduated their own gauntlets (at a much more managed and rewarding game of trading a little stress for big payoffs), and it’s time we graduated our own.

 

Our current realtor hopefully will pan out. If not, we’ll move onto the next and maybe fourth time will be the charm. I know however this ends, it will end how it has to. We’ll get our place, I’ll find rescues and clients, it will all come together. I look forward to the now two month hunt for an apartment to be over.

 

After all, this won’t get easier (not for a while, at least). After the move we’ve still got permits to file, paperwork to complete, advertising to keep on top of, generating a regular clientele pool and managing it, hiring in PA, meeting and working with other trainers and behaviorists in the area, doing a few classes at local pet services, the list goes on. But we’re ready for that now – so how about we get some traction?

 

Over the next few days, expect new posts of all the amazing photography Ian has been doing, our Instagram to get updated, and the like. I’ll be making this blog start getting updated weekly with tips, info, etc instead of waiting for the move to happen (which I’m currently guilty of).

 

Always striving, always thankful

-          T