Toby animal case study

 



An FES Certification Program case study presented by practitioner
Kamrin MacKnight

Editor’s note: This a good case showing the archetypal use of Penstemon and also Self-Heal, for helping Toby recover from a devastating injury and perform as a tracking dog. An injury to the mouth and nasal area is far more devastating to a dog as their sense of smell is their key orientation, and all the more so if they are to perform as a tracking animal. This narrative has been edited for web presentation.

Early socialization, effects of injury on tracking ability,
loss of focus, stable home environment


Goals: develop focus and concentration, develop confidence

Essences selected for Toby

More focus and concentration


Big improvements noted

Turn drills to assess focus

Blind track shows competency

Certification successful

Toby Tracking Dog

 

Watch Toby tracking in the video below—

Toby is a 4-year old male (neutered) Brittany Spaniel who suffered extensive burns in his mouth and nasal passages when he chewed on a “D” battery at about 22 months of age. It was a long recovery process for Toby and it is likely that there have been some sequelae associated with these burns. He also had a difficult time adjusting to life with his new family when he came to live with his family. The other dog is older and now has physical issues related to old age. Toby is very energetic and loves to run. He has his CDX title (obedience) and is working towards his UD. He has been taking tracking classes and working toward his Tracking Dog title for over 2 years. His person (Sandy) has been very frustrated with Toby’s progress in tracking, as he obviously has the talent to do well, but has problems focusing and concentrating on the job of tracking. She has tried various training options, but nothing seems to have worked. She and Toby took last tracking season off to focus on obedience and give him time to mature (plus she was becoming very frustrated with him when he tracked). They started up tracking again, and at the time that Toby first started back tracking, it appeared that he needed constant hydration in order to maintain the scent on the track, due to his injuries. This did help keep him focused a bit more, but did not completely solve the issue. He tracks very fast (runs), but loses his concentration, particularly on turns and if any animal comes into view (e.g., birds, ground squirrels, etc.). He has been trained in hunting and his hunting instinct is very strong.

Early socialization, effects of injury on tracking ability, loss of focus, stable home environment

Toby was obtained by his family from a breeder who did a good job of early socialization and crate-training Toby and his siblings. After his injury, Sandy had become very frustrated with him and didn’t think that he would be able to succeed in tracking.  Before he was injured, Toby enjoyed tracking and showed a lot of promise and talent. After he was injured, it was clear that the scars adversely affected his scenting ability and he was unable to follow a track for very long. Also, if there was any sort of distraction, he would lose focus and not be able to continue on his track without a lot of effort on the part of his handler. He would get very agitated and run wildly in circles around the track. It was like he had simply lost his mind and all he could do was run around. In some cases, he would stand still, alertly pointing at the view or any birds that might be flying nearby. But, most of the time he would be totally out of control, running around in circles. 

Other than the issues associated with his injury, Toby is otherwise healthy and provided a good diet (high quality kibble and home-prepared meals). Overall, I would say that the home environment is stable, relatively quiet, and dog-focused. The people enjoy doing activities with the dogs and being involved with them. It’s a very supportive environment for the dogs. Toby usually accompanies his Mom (Sandy) to work, so he spends a lot of time with her.

At the time we started therapy, Sandy was ready to give up on working with him in tracking, even though she really enjoys the sport and Toby did, too. It was too frustrating for both of them to continue the way they had been and Sandy thought that Toby might just be “blowing her off,” when he went into his wild state. After talking with Toby and finding out what his concerns were, we were able to institute an essence program that Sandy could follow and watch the progress he made.

Goals: develop focus and concentration, develop confidence

The healing program established with Sandy was designed to help Toby learn to focus and concentrate on the tracking task at hand, even though his injury makes it difficult for him to scent. He had indicated that it was not as easy for him to maintain the scent as it was before he was injured. He was frustrated by this and indicated that he tried, but it was difficult and sometimes he just couldn’t do it. However, he said that he loved being outside with Sandy and working with her, so he wanted to continue.  Although Sandy has been very frustrated with him and his training, she agreed to continue and see what could be accomplished through the flower essences. She and Toby practice training at least 3x/week, in addition to attending weekly group tracking classes. Toby also continued in obedience training. Although the trainer is a force-based trainer (rather than positive reinforcement), Toby has responded well to the training and no obvious issues seem to have been created by this training method.

The short-term goal was to get Toby to be able to handle short tracks well—staying focused and working out the scent problems. The medium-range goal was to get him to be able to handle longer tracks, including blind tracks. The long-rage goal was to get his confidence to the point where he would be successful in certifying and then passing his Tracking Dog (TD) test. Indeed, the over-arching goal was to increase Toby’s self-confidence and teach him that it was okay to ask for help if he needed it. He also needed to learn how to focus and stay focused for long time periods (at least 10 minutes). These goals were all eventually met, through a combination of hard work by Toby and his Mom, as well as the essence program.

Our goal was to have Toby happily working with Sandy on his tracks and being successful in the short, medium, and long-term. The flower essence therapy has been successful in the short-term (~ 3 months) and will hopefully continue through Toby’s tracking career.

Essences selected for Toby

Based on discussion with Sandy, as well as my conversation with Toby, I started looking for essences that would help Toby overcome the frustration, despair, and disappointment with not being able to focus on tasks, as well as his issues with other dogs, birds, and worry. Upon review of the Flower Essence Repertory and reflection, as well as use of a pendulum, Penstemon, Self- Heal, Madia, and White Chestnut were selected. Later, he received a new dosage bottle that also included St. John’s Wort.

Penstemon
The Penstemon was used to address the deep scarring associated with the battery burn in Toby’s mouth and nasal passages. I wanted Toby to start feeling a great inner fortitude, despite the hardships associated with the burns and scars. I wanted him to start feeling like he could persevere, even if the tasks he was given were difficult for him. He seemed to feel a bit sorry for himself and somewhat persecuted (as reflected by Sandy’s comments that other dogs pick on him, particularly intact males). 

Self-Heal
The Self-Heal was used to help Toby heal from the burn scars, gain a healthy sense of himself, and feel whole again. I thought it would help him feel like he was involved in the healing process and actually kick-start it. I was getting the impression that the burns had not really healed properly (or optimally) and help was needed in that regard. There needed to be additional healing in order for Toby to again be successful in using his sense of smell to track. 

Madia
The Madia was used to help Toby focus, think, and concentrate on the tasks at hand, such as tracking. I thought it would be good to help him stay focused on tracking and not be distracted by birds, the views at the top of hills, other animals, etc. Prior to using flower essences, if there were any birds flying near his tracks, Toby would go into “hunt dog” mode and basically lose his mind. His total focus would switch to trying to chase the birds; I thought this might help him with that.

White Chestnut
The White Chestnut was included to help Toby be calm and have a clear mind. He seemed to always be worrying about something and I thought White Chestnut would help resolve this issue, so that he wouldn’t need to worry all of the time.

St. John’s Wort
The St. John’s Wort was added to the formula to help Toby with issues he was having with his eyes. I thought this might help, and provide additional strength to Toby, particularly since he was getting close to being “test-ready.” He was sneezing a lot and had running eyes when he was out in bright sunlight and seemed very uncomfortable, so I thought this would be a good essence to help him be less over-sensitive to light.

More focus and concentration

Toby’s tracking became much more focused and he seemed more confident. There was some food on his tracks, but he was still much better than he had been previously. Sandy reported that he was doing well at home, too, and she was enjoying working with him and practicing during the week He seemed much more confident and happy than he was before starting the essences. At this point, I think that the Penstemon and Self-Heal were the most important essences helping Toby. The others were helping him focus, but it seemed that he was feeling good enough physically, that he was willing to work things out and stay more focused and confident. Without the physical issues being addressed, I don’t think that he would be able to be as focused and self-confident as he needs to be to pass his TD test.

Madia and White Chestnut were also becoming large factors in his progress.  This was a major step, as both ends of the leash are now engaged and trying to work together more collaboratively as a team—a big deal for a tracking team!

Big improvements noted

Toby’s tracking became awesome! View the video of his track; he has definitely turned into another dog. He was able to solve the turns and even when he got a bit off of the track, he was able to keep focus and find it! Sandy was ecstatic (we all were)! To see Toby come this far in such a short time frame was remarkable. The benefits of Madia and White Chestnut were definitely shown today!

Turn drills to assess focus

To help Toby with his turns, he had a “turn drill” track. He did quite well and stayed focused on his tracks for most of the time. Sandy was happy with his progress. This is a big step, as the dog must be able to negotiate turns on the track and find the footsteps. In a TD test, the dog will have to be able to handle 3-5 turns, some of which are right angles (others are open turns). Because of the difficulty and need to stay focused, it was a big day for Toby’s progress. By staying on task and not giving up at the turns (which he did before starting essences), we could see that he was becoming even better at maintaining his focus and working through issues. He was doing this quite well prior to this, too, but we needed to make an assessment of how he was progressing towards becoming test-ready. Again, the benefits of Madia and White Chestnut were apparent, but also the Penstemon and Self-Heal were still helping with the healing process and making it easier for Toby to scent than before he received therapy.



Blind track shows competency

Toby did a track that was mostly “blind” (no flags were used to mark the track, so his Sandy did not know where the track went). He had some difficulty on some legs, but overall was quite good. Given the complexity of the track, Toby actually did quite well. Again, the combination of essences came through in benefitting Toby. He subsequently did more difficult blind tracks quite well and Sandy reported that their practice days had been very good, too. She was very pleased with his progress and encouraged that he would be able to take his TD test this season. She has become much more patient with Toby and willing to help him work things out or let him work them out himself. 

Certification successful

Toby passed his certification track, and now he can enter tests. Sandy was very thrilled that he was able to focus and pass, even with distractions along his track. In previous attempts, birds and other animals on/near his track were too distracting and he was not able to pass.  

Toby Tracking Dog

His track had some difficult sections, with areas that had a lot of milk thistle and prickly plants. Toby had some trouble at the first turn, but Sandy was patient with him and he figured it out. After the initial problem and getting some water to refresh his mouth, he took off down the track and did an awesome job. The combination of the essences seemed to have been synergistic, in that Toby was able to take on the challenge of a TD test, the nervousness of Sandy in a testing situation, track in a different location than he normally works in, ignore some wild turkeys near his track, and pass his test! Everyone, particularly those who know his story, was thrilled! Toby went from a dog who lacked the confidence in himself to be successful on a full-length TD test track to becoming a titled TD dog; what a wonderful success story! Sandy was so thrilled and Toby seemed pretty proud of himself.

About Kamrin MacKnight

Kamrin MacKnight is an FES certified practitioner, as well as an animal communicator, dog trainer, Usui Reiki and Violet Flame Reiki Master, and shamanic practitioner. She routinely utilizes flower essences and other tools to assist animals and their human companions. In addition to working with wild animals, Kamrin uses flower essences and other tools to help animals and their people work through behavioral issues that cause tension between them. In addition to a Ph.D. in Microbiology (UC Berkeley) and a J.D. (Santa Clara University Law), Kamrin earned her Diploma of Advanced Canine Nutrition and Fitness, and Diploma of Canine Behavior Science and Technology, both with Distinction, from the Companion Animal Sciences Institute. While she is a practicing biotechnology patent attorney, Kamrin is also an advocate for the use of flower essences and alternative modalities for animals and humans. She is a full member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) and is involved with various other dog-related organizations. She promotes positive reinforcement training methods for all species, building strong bonds of empathy and understanding between people and their animals, and increasing acceptance of the use of flower essences and other healing modalities in "mainstream" animal training and pet ownership.


 


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