Labradoodle & Goldendoodle Forum
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.
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.
It seems to me there was a discussion here not too long ago about a dog who suddenly acted fearful and it turned out that it did have to do with some new system that was humming or beeping or something along those lines.
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 :)
Cheryl, you might want to try working on his protective/territorial behaviors at home (although I'm guessing you probably already are). If he's feeling like protecting you is his "job" that's a lot of stress which gets exponentially worse when he's in new territory. I watch for this with Murphy and as soon as I see him "going there" I do something to distract him. Right now he's lying by my side facing the bedroom door...for him that's something I can't allow because he's guarding. So I'm going to move him and close the door until he relaxes. I kind of watch for signs from him that he's acting as my personal security guard all the time. I may be totally wrong but the way you describe him as "your shadow" sounds so much like how Murph can be...and for my guy it's because he's anxious.
I don't think you're wrong -- no, change that -- I know you're not wrong. There are strong similarities between sweet Murph and Finn. It's so hard to be their "world" isn't it? As you know, we've gone through a lot of training and socializing - where Finn has excelled because his engagement in us being a team has played to our advantage. But in the world according to Finn, all's well as long as we are an inseparable team -- any change in our environment that threatens that causes him anxiety. I'm not sure how to proceed, but I'm willing to commit to behavior training although I'm not sure how much you can change their emotional make-up. Home sounds like a good place to start though. I should add that when we got home, FInn slept for a day, poor guy.
Don't get discouraged. Once you learn how to manage his "world" things will get better. My Murphy is now relaxed and really "anxiety free" most of the time without meds. You won't actually change his emotional make-up, but you won't need to as long as you know his triggers. Once you've ruled out a physical cause you can go from there. I need to again say that I'm NOT an expert....it's just that I've been down this road with Murphy and it kind of sounds like Finn has some of the same "worries". They react differently in some situations...but some of those underlying behaviors are very similar.
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...