Extreme Fear

Looking for some advice or insights...

Finn has always been a velcro dog -- my shadow --and as sweet as his devotion is, I know it's not just love --there's some component of anxiety to it and that makes me sad for him, sometimes. I guess the correct term is hyper attachment or attachment dysfunction.  BUT Finn has been well socialized and easy to train. Always happy to meet and greet new people in all sorts of settings - as long as I'm within sight. When he sees some of his favorite people, we still have to remind him to keep 4 paws on the floor. He's never had typical separation anxiety --never been destructive when left alone. He loves going places, seems to enjoy his therapy work - especially with the kids (although the children he had become so attached to over the past 2 years moved on to middle school and he's got a new group this year). On the flip side, he's territorial and protective when he's home but once he knows you're welcome, he's back to wagging his tail. So I have no explanation for his strange behavior last week when I took him to visit family and friends in VA.

He knows everyone, knows the house etc.  He's been going there several times a year since puppyhood and always enjoys it. He doesn't feel he has to "watch over" their home (which I think must be a huge relief to him) and greets everyone who comes in or out.  But this time he was:

Irrationally fearful as soon as we walked in the house.

Looked from side to side, behind him, up at the ceiling as if something was coming after him.  This state of high anxiety/fear continued over 4 days.  It was awful to see him so frightened and not be able to help him. He fell twice on the stairs trying to get away from...what???

Would not come to anyone including me. In fact, when I knelt down on the floor and tried to talk to him, he barked and barked at me, but would not approach me.  We gave him his "space" and everyone put treats in their pockets that they would toss to him as he passed. I picked up a lot of treats.

Ran up to our room if anyone approached him. He seemed to feel safe on the bed.  He spent a lot of time there over 4 days. I was able to to calm him in the bedroom.

He barely ate (despite us cooking up ground beef and chicken) for him.  Nope, wouldn't touch it. Drank lots of water.

When he was with all of us, he avoided being touched by anyone, except once when he sought out my niece's husband.

I was about to take him to the emergency vet BUT he seemed to relax when we went for walks.  Once back in the house though, his fear increased again and he acted like ghosts were chasing him. We were all concerned. One guest asked if he was blind!  Someone else thought he was an abused rescue - not trying to be dramatic but that's how bizarre his behavior was.  

Got him home, called his vet, but once home he was back to normal (thankfully). His therapy session with the kids this week (which I thought about canceling) went ok. We just returned from some errands this morning and he greeted everyone happily -customers and rescue pups -- as we shopped for Christmas treats. Several people remarked how sweet, friendly and well behaved he was. I'm thinking you should have seen him a week ago !!!!!!  SO glad my boy is back because I don't know who that dog was in VA. The doc wants to run a panel of thyroid tests.  

Medical or behavioral?  Completely baffled.

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  • Have these people installed any type of security system or anything similar recently? An e-fence? Something that involves some kind of invisible wireless network, that kind of thing? Some of those kinds of systems emit very high frequency whines or hums that we can't hear but dogs can. Just a thought. 

    • That's an interesting thought, Karen.  They do have a security system but it's never on.  But they might have installed a new wireless network recently. That thought never occurred to anybody.  I'll ask my sister. Worth a shot.  Thank you.

  • I don't think it's medical given the pattern. I agree with Karen that perhaps some external stimulus, imperceptible to people, was bothering Finn. It could be auditory or olfactory most likely.
    • Thanks for your thoughts F. That could be it.  Will let you know what I find out.

  • I think it's a good idea to run the thyroid panel, although if it really was a physical issue like thyroid it is unlikely that he'd be fine again at home.  It's so difficult to truly understand what drives some of these fears....I know we have tried to figure out why Murph is so fearful in some situations and fine in others.  Here's my thought, although I'm certainly no expert.  If he's protective and territorial at home he has developed some behaviors that are making him feel like he has things under control and he is keeping the home and everyone "safe".  But in order for him to feel that way he needs things to be constant...under his control.  Taking him to a whole new place had to make him feel like that control was completely gone....that can create huge anxiety for a dog like this.  We see some of this when we bring Murphy to our Summer cottage.  He is a nervous wreck.  We have a whole process that we go through from the minute we get there which has helped a lot, but he never totally relaxes.  I would talk to a Behaviorist or your own Vet about getting him an anti-anxiety med if you travel like this with him again.   I once was talking to my Vet about separation anxiety and she shared that there are two completely different kinds with very different causes.  One is because the dog is insecure and is afraid to be alone and the other is that the dog feels it's his job to guard and protect the owner and they panic when the owner leaves because they can't do "their job".  This surprised me but certainly gave me even more insight about how complicated our furry guys really are. 

    • Jane, thank you for your thoughtful response.  I think you're absolutely "spot on" with your observations. He 's never acted so fearful hough. I think I'll take your advice to consult his trainer or a behaviorist and his vet. I wish you lived closer :)

  • The fact that he has been there many times, knows the people, etc. makes me wonder, as Karen and F. suggested, if there was something different in the home that he recognized- an energy or odor? At the risk of sounding odd, has anyone in that group of family and friends recently passed away or experienced any other sort of tragedy? I really believe that animals can perceive spiritual oddities that we can't see...

    • I don't think you sound odd.  I'm open to all possibilities. It's funny that after trying to figure out what the heck was going on, my sister and I agreed he was acting like he was seeing ghosts.  But no, no one has died.

  • I know you are crushed. How sad for everyone.   

    Something only Finn could see or hear was horrible and very real. I'm glad you are home 

    This conversation about wireless networks is very interesting.  Who would have thought.   

    Love Finn.   Glad you feel better, buddy

    • I wish I could remember what it was, there was a discussion where something, some new gizmo or gadget that emitted some sound that was terrifying the dog. 

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