Not sure what to do next

Discussion in 'Labrador behaviour' started by LAS, Jun 28, 2019.

  1. LAS

    LAS Registered Users

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    I am struggling with my almost 8 month old anxious pup, Poppy's issues. I couldn't think of a better tag line for this post, but essentially I am feeling pretty much at a loss and out of my league. The constant preoccupation with her is draining and stressful.

    Poppy has been with us since 8 weeks, and I purposefully attended to her socialization from the beginning. She was scared of everything as a pup. We did a puppy class with her and after that had a private trainer for a couple of months. In the end the trainer recommended trying SSRI drugs for her. I considered that option but decided not to go that route for now. The past few days have broke a pattern of some improvement (i have been keeping a journal the past few weeks so I can be clearer on good and bad days).

    I would describe Poppy as super alert, wary, nervous, hyper, over friendly. She loves other dogs and people. Her favourite place is the vets or a friends house. The vet is so surprised that Poppy is anxious because she acts so fine in that environment. She's crate trained and does not have separation anxiety. She loves to play in the house and seems pretty smart with training. For exercise I have been on most days getting her to the car and we drive to a trail where she is able to walk on a long line with a halter. I have to really coax her out of the house and into the car. She wont walk in the neighbourhood on the road, and i havent been able to work on loose leash walking due to her other issues. She wont take high value treats outside when under duress.

    The big issue is that she is so nervous of the environment. Leaving the house to go outside often is a huge challenge. She slinks out , retreats, is spooked by tree branches, sounds, mist on field.... you name it. I am exhausted by her anxiety. For me this is a huge disappointment as the benefit for me of having a dog is lots of walking. We live in a rural environment close to a host of walking trails and that is one reason for me to have a dog. The prospect of having a dog that doesn't want to walk is depressing at the moment.

    This morning I spooked her trying to get her to leave the garage to go out for a poo. I was so disappointed with her backsliding on this , as the past few weeks she was doing so much better, and I was trying to grab her collar to get a lead on. I realized I was getting too frustrated and stopped. Sent my daughter out to play ball with her instead. And I came in to write this instead....!

    Anyhow, I will keep my journal/ record keeping going and hopefully the current regression will be short lived and I'll be able to start recording more positive improvements.
     
  2. LoopyLuna

    LoopyLuna Registered Users

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    Hi @LAS - so sorry to hear that you're having to work through this. I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to want to enjoy all the things you expect from dog ownership, only to have that taken away from you. Especially as it sounds like you're putting so much effort in and not feeling the rewards. So first of all, well done you! A lot of people wouldn't have bothered to make the effort, would have blamed the dog and maybe even given her up in frustration. It's okay to be frustrated but the fact is you're trying and persevering and it WILL pay off. it sounds like your training in the house and her behaviour at the vets is great though - that' really brilliant.

    I'm not an expert in this at all, but there are a few things you've said that might be worth rethinking. Have you considered speaking to your vet about referring her to a behaviourist or someone who is an expert in BAT training (Behaviour Adjustment Training)? I know a couple of people who have sought help for their anxious dogs (also anxious with their environment like Poppy) and have had great results. The other thing I would consider are the SSRIs. I know it feels like a big step, but I think that's only because mental health drugs still carry a stigma with humans, and I guess this worries us when it comes to our pets. But as with human anxiety, all they are doing is regulating her serotonin levels to give her the chance to succeed rather than her worries taking over. They also don't have to be forever, but they might help you both to make quicker progress and gain some confidence. Again, the two people I mentioned above, have done exactly this (one of the dogs was Poppy's age, and the other 4 years old).

    I might be wrong, but I think that @Jo Laurens is a BAT trainer and should be able to help you with some more practical advice and maybe give some ideas of literature to look up.
     
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  3. LAS

    LAS Registered Users

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    Thanks for your support & comments, I really appreciate it. I have looked into a BAT trainer but unfortunately there are none within a reasonable distance. I think the closest one is an hour and half away. But am going to double check. Jo Laurens did point me in that direction in a previous thread with some other helpful suggestions for things to do.

    I appreciate hearing the positive stories that you shared too....there are days when just knowing that we can eventually improve the behaviour problems is a huge help.
     
  4. LoopyLuna

    LoopyLuna Registered Users

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    Hi @LAS - if you don't have any BAT trainers nearby, then perhaps a good behaviourist would be preferable to your current situation? They will most likely be able to give some good advice on how best to understand what is going on in Poppy's head and how best to ease her into the environments she finds difficult.

    Also, if you're still concerned about SSRIs, have you considered something non medicinal like Zylkene or perhaps an Adaptil collar or Pet Remedy wipes on the lead?

    Hope you're getting on okay :)
     
  5. LAS

    LAS Registered Users

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    Thanks...again :)

    In the winter/spring I did work with a good behaviourist, and learned a lot from her. However, her communication style was not a great fit for me and so I think going forward i will find someone else. I would have liked to work with a BAT trainer but double checked and there are none close by.

    Thanks for the suggestions too. I did have an Adaptil collar on Poppy for a couple of months but it didn't appear to do anything.

    I'm not really concerned about the SSRIs, it is more that I wanted to keep things simple hopefully. Finding the right medication and dose, just like in people, can take time and effort. But I can see now that while Poppy is improving with some things there is an underlying hyper vigilance and nervousness that just isnt really receeding as I hoped to see by now. So, I will be seeing the vet next week to get a new prescription for the drugs and hope for the best.... maybe we'll be lucky and hit on the right one off the start.
     
  6. Jo Laurens

    Jo Laurens Registered Users

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    So, here's the thing: Get a 5m long-line. And learn to do BAT Leash Skills. You don't need a BAT trainer to teach you how to do that, you can do it yourself. Buy Grisha's online BAT 101 course: https://grishastewart.com/bat101/?s2-ssl=yes

    And also purchase her online, stream-able DVD called 'Walk with Me', here: https://grishastewart.com/walk-with-me/?s2-ssl=yes

    Second, buy a Snufflemat: https://www.amazon.com/LEMONDA-Sunf...s=snuffle+mat&qid=1562432265&s=gateway&sr=8-3

    Hide treats in it, and tell her to 'Find it' indoors a few times, allowing her to sniff the treats out. Then put it just outside your house and bring her out on the long-line and tell her to 'Find it'. Come back inside when she appears to have found all the treats. Repeat every day. After 5-7 days, move the Snufflemat further away from your back door. Then start to scatter some treats for her to find on the sidewalk as you approach the snufflemat, before you bring her out.

    Ditch the Snufflemat and hide the treats just in the grass verges around your house. Bring her out, do 5 mins of treat finding and return in doors. You need to scatter the treats before you bring her out. Then you just start to apply the treats less thickly and over a wider area. Meanwhile you are using BAT Leash Skills the whole time....

    You also need to redefine what a walk is - because the priority is to get her comfortable outside your house, not to follow a predesignated 'walk' route. So dont think about actually taking a walk yet.
     
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  7. LAS

    LAS Registered Users

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    Thanks for these suggestions. I am going to forget about the walking for now.
     
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  8. Henry77

    Henry77 Registered Users

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    I would suggest you take the dog to a nice open area where you can let her off leash and let her enjoy the outdoors. No halter. I’m curious to know what the car ride is like.

    Personally I’d be wary of the SSRIs and focus on making everything about field trips a positive experience, start to finish. If she gets spooked by mist or the slightest little thing, just ignore it. Throw a ball or give some treats when she calms down instead.
     

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