Lucius has anxiety?

Discussion in 'Labrador behaviour' started by Lucius Maximus, Jun 4, 2018.

  1. Lucius Maximus

    Lucius Maximus Registered Users

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    Hi all,

    Lucius is what we in the family call a bit of a wimp, a scooby doo of labradors. He is by far the most nervous lab I have ever come across. He seems to be calmer when the whole family is together and sleeps on my feet for most of the day. The lying on my feet is so if I get up to move he knows I'm leaving and he has to follow. I believe he's alway been a little bit anxious, even when he was a puppy (although not as bad). On days when I am away at college he seems to get anxious and bark at the slightest sound ( a car door slamming, children running up the street) we live in a fairly quite neighbourhood (minus the car that engines far too loud and gets driven at all hours - which Lucius doesn't seem to mind!) and he seems to lie and wait for the next sound, then will jump up and bark as soon as he hears something. When I come home he plonks himself back on my feet after a good five or ten minuites of tail wagging, butt wriggling, toy presenting and face licking. He proceeds to sleep soundly for the rest of the day. When we are out on walks the slightest thing will scare him, even when I walk him, such as a childs toy in the pathway (a more recent fear) some people have even been known to leave out washing machines for the scrap collector to take away and scrap. Anything unusual and he hides behind my legs, tail low and either growling or trying to run for it. He seems to have become more fearful just recently, he has gotten over a lot of fears such as his fear of people - which I am proud to say he has only barked at one person this year ( a lot better than every stranger he saw each day. He is, funnily enough, not scared of fireworks, thunder or lightning (infact he slept through the last thunderstorm!).

    I wonder why he is the way he is, and if there's anything I can do to help him, especially with the barking. I wonder if its because his eyesight isn't the best or if its something else? Any advice greatly recieved!
     
  2. Naya

    Naya Registered Users

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    How old is he? He might be going through a fear stage. If I see something unusual that I think Harley might growl/bark at, I play a game around the object or close to it. Once she realises that it’s ok she will relax. I started by touching the item, talking to Harley in a really upbeat voice and throwing treats towards her so she seen it as a good thing.
     
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  3. Lucius Maximus

    Lucius Maximus Registered Users

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    He's 3 years old. He went through something similar when he was a puppy with people but managed to get him over that with extra socialisation.
     
  4. snowbunny

    snowbunny Registered Users

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    My boy Shadow sounds similar to Lucius; he's always on much higher alert when I'm not around compared to when I am. He's a naturally nervy boy, full of anxious energy, but completely unfazed by thunder etc. He is very quick to startle, but also quick to recover. Those two things are governed by different genes, did you know that? So just because someone startles easily, it doesn't mean that they will remain afraid. Shadow will flinch away from ridiculous stuff, and if we go into an unusual environment, you can see he's on high alert. He was also reactive to strangers, and especially to children, and would bark and lunge towards them. We've worked through a lot of those issues now. On the other side of the coin, he's apparently fearless - throwing himself into thick undergrowth and leaping onto/off of things that no dog with an ounce of common sense would do. He's what I call a "fast twitch" dog. Very quick to "do" things, finds it hard to stop and think. Which means training him is super fun as he's go-go-go, but can be frustrating when you need him to work out a problem. You see this a lot with reactive dogs - they can be very high energy in other ways. We think of "reactive" as a bad word, but when it means the dog is quick to react to cues etc, it's not always the end of the world :)

    In the summers, we're in rural Spain on a large olive and almond farm, where there are very few noises that will trigger him, but in the winters we live in an apartment block in a ski resort. He will trigger to all the noises in the corridor - not ideal! I did a lot of work on it over this winter and greatly diminished it. I downloaded all the "sounds sociable" noises from the Dogs Trust website and set up a good quality bluetooth speaker by my front door. This meant I could play the noises very quietly and remotely from my phone, feeding him for not reacting, and gradually increasing the volume of the noises. I combined this with going out into the hallway myself - to start with, just literally out the door and back in again, rewarding for calmness. I worked up to being able to go into the hallway, clatter around a bit, knock on the door and come back in without him reacting.

    It was more of a challenge when he wasn't aware of it being a training environment, but I asked my husband to call if he was near home and we'd use it as a training scenario where he'd make some noise in the hallway, or knock on the door, and I'd reward calmness. Other times, when he reacted to noises that happened outside of our control, I'd throw a handful of biscuits on the floor. This helped enormously to stop the barking in the moment, to calm him down and, over time, start anticipating that a noise he would normally alert at would actually mean good things. In the very early days, he would ignore the food on the floor if someone knocked on the door, but it didn't really matter, as he'd eat once the person had been let in, albeit rather frantically. But it was the change over time that I was interested in, and it definitely helped.

    It's likely just how he's programmed genetically, but there's some emergent science at the moment around the epigenome - this is the layer "above" the genome which determines how your genes are expressed. Whilst we can't change anyone's genes, we can alter the epigenome through environment and diet, making the animal (including ourselves) more or less likely to demonstrate certain traits, both physical and emotional. I can't tell you how to go about that right now as it's a branch of science in its infancy, but it's hugely exciting. The research so far seems to tell us: Feed good stuff. Do good stuff. Reduce stress. Reduce pollutants. Not exactly rocket science in terms of results, but in time it's hoped that individualised supplementation plans will be able to be determined in order to reduce someone's genetic predisposition to certain cancers, obesity, degenerative diseases, mental illnesses etc. There's a transcript on the link here (the slides have been removed, sadly), that gives a bit of an overview on a study in mice: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/body/epigenetic-mice.html

    Sorry, I got off track there, but just wanted to say: the reason he's like that is very likely down to his genetic pre-programming, BUT that it doesn't mean there's nothing that can be done.
     
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  5. Lucius Maximus

    Lucius Maximus Registered Users

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    Wow, I'd never thought of that.

    We went to the vet today to ask their opinion (our vets are incredibly good and nice, he tells you how it is, no mushiness.) And he said that it is probably due to our older dog passing away recently (it was in august last year, around the time of when he became more nervous than usual) and said to try some "Nutracalm" tablets : https://www.nutravet.co.uk/nutracalm

    Nutracalm tablets contain GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid) which is a naturally occuring neurotransmitter in the brain and is responsible for relaxing the nervous system, not enough GABA in the brain can cause nervousness and anxiety especially with fireworks (I read a review with a dog who used to take diazepam for bonfire night, and now is completely diazepam free with these natural tablets.

    The nutracalm tablets are said to work in an hour after the dog eating them (he has 3 a day one in the morning one in the afternoon and one at night) and they seemed to calm him down more today. The vet did say it wasn't going to be a "cure" or fix to his nervousness but, with training as well, he should become a calmer dog. The tablets are a little expensive but if they work its worth it in the long run. We live in a street directly next to neighbours so if he barks too much they could put a complaint in and we may have had to move or, worse, rehome him (something I would never do!).

    I will try your methods of training on top of the tablets and hope for the best, he is such a sweet boy when hes not so nervous!

    It is interesting about his genetics though, will have to look more into that! I definatley think he got the short straw when it came down to genetics! With his nervousness, eye sight problems (and eye problems in general), skin allergies (hayfever based allergies) and food allergies (to wheat) he certainly got the short straw with his genetics!

    [​IMG]Lucius out for a walk in town and actually enjoying it!
     
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  6. Mom2girls1974

    Mom2girls1974 Registered Users

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    I am also dealing with a anxious boy, he was one in April and it is getting worse rapidly it seems. I appreciate what everyone has said.
     
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  7. Beanwood

    Beanwood Registered Users

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    I am struggling to find any decent evidence for the use of Nutracalm. Whilst there is some anecdotal evidence, the purported mode of action enhancing GABA, is something I can't see working on symptoms of anxiety/distress.

    I do though appreciate and see very good results in extreme cases with combinations of medications over an appropriate timescale such as sedatives (very short term) and anti-depressants (monitored course) which allow some head space for the dog to be able to get to grips with counter -conditioning around their triggers such as loud noises and separation anxiety.
     
  8. Jes72

    Jes72 Registered Users

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    Our dog Homer also has anxieties. Mostly to noise, noise in the street as there are always a number of houses being renovated, noisey cars, and thunder and fireworks are a nightmare. After he’s reacted to a trigger he’ll be anxious to any noise for a while, anticipate noise and not want to be left alone.

    We tried various anti anxiety medication and is now on a drug that is commonly prescribed for humans. Which has made a significant difference but not a clear fix.

    Homer won’t take any treats when he’s anxious and we haven’t been sucessful with training or altering his behaviour just getting better at managing him.
     
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  9. Jes72

    Jes72 Registered Users

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    Just want to add for Lucius maximus and mum2girls 1974 that there are a few of us here with anxious dogs, they are not easy and you have our support.
     
  10. HAH

    HAH Registered Users

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    This (and the whole thread) is fascinating, thanks @snowbunny - sounds familiar with Kipper, he has spikes of anxious behaviour (if we sneeze :), or make a loud noise when he’s asleep) but settles very quickly and is fine with thunder, fireworks, jet engines etc. I hadn’t recognised the value of ‘quick to settle’ until I read it here. Useful genes to have!
     
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  11. Lucius Maximus

    Lucius Maximus Registered Users

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    Thank you! It was hard when we first got him because he was so nervous, even as an 8 week old puppy, he wouldn't come near me at first when he first came home. Then decided to give me a sniff and he hasn't left my side since, I love him so much and I'm glad we stuck with him, absolutely brilliant dog and anyone who meets him falls in love with him.
     
  12. Lucius Maximus

    Lucius Maximus Registered Users

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    I am trying Nutracalm at the moment, he's been on it for maybe a week or so, and he seems to be a little calmer. I must say it hasn't calmed him down completley but he's calmer than he was. He's less nervous in the house but still barks if he hears something. I'm working with him to stop the barking, but as he's done it for so long its not going to be a quick fix. The vet has reccomended medication (which he would be on for the rest of his life) to calm him but we dont think that is neccessary, he seems fine as he is and we will work with him every day if we have to.

    The only issue with the nutracalm is that he will not eat it! The tablets are in a capsule which dissolves once swallowed but the first time I gave it to him (he usually has no problem with tablets and eats them right out of my hand!) he spat it out and smacked it with his paw! He played with it for a bit, and it began to dissolve as he had slobbered on it. I had to think fast and wrapped it in ham! Luckily when he has it on his dinner i can just take the capsule off and pour the powder onto his food, he eats it just fine then, it actually smells nice (so much so that my beagle now wants to eat Lucius' food instead!)
     
  13. snowbunny

    snowbunny Registered Users

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    I do that with Ginny’s joint meds, too. She doesn’t take tablets well but is fine with the powder mixed in her food. The Labs, on the other hand, will eat anything that’s got a bit of something tasty spread on it and I don’t even need to try to hide it!
     
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  14. Lucius Maximus

    Lucius Maximus Registered Users

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    I also thought I would update you all on his anxiety while out and about, he has done quite well! I took him into town outside a busy shop to get him used to people walking by and he lay by my feet, completely unfazed. He even looked through the shop window watching people do their shopping, no barking or growling either! He did get a little nervous of a sculpture of a person in the town centre and he jumped away. I don't think he saw it until he bopped it with his nose, he got scared of it but recovered quickly and walked by as if nothing had happened. Next time I will take treats with me to distract him a little more.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
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  15. Lucius Maximus

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    Aww Lucius generally is ok with tablets, my beagle is a little less trusting and is always suspicious of what I'm feeding him. Once, I put a worming tablet in his food like I do with Lucius and he looked at his food, looked at me in a look of disgust, and walked away. :facepalm:

    He ate it a few seconds later when he realised he was hungry. I love how they are so different with their food though, its funny to see how they are so different, Lucius generally trusts that what I give him is food and doesn't care about tablets (except the nutracalm) whereas Pup wont eat tablets unless its VERY well hidden in his food (so he can't see it) or wrapped in something smelly (usually cheese, although I don't give it to him often).:tail:
     
  16. snowbunny

    snowbunny Registered Users

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    With Ginny, if I’m feeding her tablets (she was on about 14 a day after her amputation, if I recall correctly), I use those processed “fish sticks”. I slide the tablet inside one piece about 1cm long and immediately feed her another piece once that one is in her mouth. Otherwise she clocks the tablet and spits it out. It doesn’t touch the sides with the Labs long enough for them to notice there’s a tablet in there :wasntme:
     
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  17. leejane

    leejane Mum to the Mooster

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    I'm (surprisingly) struggling to get monty to take paracetamol, I thought wrapped in a bit of ham would work but the clever beastie rolls it round his mouth and spits out the half tablet. He even moved his head away from OH last night so he couldn't see the spat out tablet! Yes I need something like this to push the paracetamol right inside, thanks for the tip.
     
  18. snowbunny

    snowbunny Registered Users

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    Hehe, Ginny does that surreptitious drop, too, if she's suspicious. I think it probably comes from being forced tablets in the shelter. A good trick is to incorporate it into your daily routine even when you don't need to feed tablets. Maybe throw him four bits of hotdog (or whatever) in quick succession. If you do this frequently, he'll just see it as "the hotdog catching game". Then, when you need to give him a tablet, you don't need to do anything that seems suspicious to him, you just be playing your everyday catching game and you happen to hide the tablet in the second one. Because he'll be expecting the third and fourth, it probably won't touch the sides :D

    The extra food after the tablet means that it'll go down even if it "sticks" on the way down as tablets sometimes do.
     
  19. SwampDonkey

    SwampDonkey Registered Users

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    You can try kalpol we used the strawberry squirty ones with Moo my vet suggested it because it was so difficult to Medicate her. The vet worked out the dose and i squirted in she liked it.
     
  20. Jes72

    Jes72 Registered Users

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    Homer has his tablets smothered in organic peanut butter. Then he gets to lick the spoon. He usually takes them well and will wait after breakfast for his morning dose but sometimes he decides to spit them out which he can be quite sneaky about.
     

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