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Old 05-20-2013, 10:14 AM
straw straw is offline
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Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: Canada
Posts: 539
Default Sudden and Severe Fear Issue

My dog Venice (1.5 year old spayed female mutt) has had a crappy few days.

Background info - I adopted her in January, and while she won't pull to say hello to everyone in the street, she happily accepts attention from strangers when we are outdoors, and goes gaga for them when we are in the house. I lived with two roommates until the end of April, we're all college-aged and had friends over frequently. There was never a problem. Venice would curl up on strangers' laps, and a group of loud drunks stumbling home at 1am? That was cause for lots of tail wagging.

Until Wednesday. She saw a rollerblader and literally thought she was going to die. She's never encountered a rollerblader with me, so I don't know (and frankly don't care since it's not relevant either way) if had a bad experience before I got her, or if the movement just freaked her out.

We were in a tunnel and unable to gain any distance, even though I asked the person to stop and let us leave the tunnel. As the rollerblader went by Venice flattened herself to the ground and crapped all over herself.

Thursday one zipped by us again - I was able to get some distance but not enough to get her under threshold. She wasn't barking or reacting, but had full piloerection and was pulling as hard as she could to create some distance. For the rest of the walk she was leery of people, giving them a wide berth and keeping a close eye on them as we passed.

She went to daycare on Friday and the trainer who was supervising that morning told me Venice was quite shy when her husband came to visit and wouldn't approach him unless his back was turned, and then only to sniff at him briefly. That afternoon when she was hanging out by the big front windows, another rollerblader apparently went by and spooked her.

This weekend we had a lot of family over (all essentially strangers to the dog, some of them she had only met once or twice so I don't count them) and she was extremely nervous. If someone other than myself or my parents entered the room she was alarm barking/growling, pacing, and trying to find an exit. She spent most of the time in a quiet room by herself because she was clearly so stressed, and we left early.

She is also barking and growling at the sound of cars in our driveway, steps on the deck, the door opening, and becomes visibly nervous when she hears them. These same sounds used to get her happy and excited.

I've never seen this dog so fearful, and it all started literally overnight after having the scary rollerblader encounter. I can't imagine how such a sweet friendly dog must be feeling inside to act out like this. Everything about her just screams 'I need space right now' but she is still her wiggly self with those of us who are really close to her. For her to just lie down and lose control of her bowels on Wednesday she must have been totally horrified.

Sorry this was so long and rambly... I just wanted to share. Has anyone else had a dog develop such a sudden fear and become the total opposite of the dog they used to be? I'd love some support or any similar stories you have. I just want to help this nervous wreck of a dog get back to the Venice I knew for four months.
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Old 05-26-2013, 01:56 PM
straw straw is offline
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Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: Canada
Posts: 539

A little update.

After a weeklong shutdown, no leaving the house or yard, she was back to her normal self. No alarm barking at the doorbell, steps on the porch, or cars in the driveway.

Went for a walk last night. She was pretty good, slightly nervous once we left our block but happy to focus and take treats. We practiced Grisha Stewart's BAT concept whenever we saw a bike, kid, or man. She seems all right around women. Towards the end of the walk a cyclist (who was a good 20 meters further away than the threshold she'd been at for the whole walk) set her off. Loud barking, full hackles, trying to find somewhere to bolt and hide.

Today was all right. No reactivity but once we left our block she did get progressively more nervous. Scrabbling at the end of the lead trying to find a way to get away even when there were no triggers in sight.

This is not my dog.

We'll stay on the block from now on until there's more improvement.
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Old 05-28-2013, 11:53 AM
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OutlineACDs OutlineACDs is offline
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Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Texas
Posts: 1,341

Sorry you're going through all of this. You seem to have a pretty good idea about what to do and where to go as far as desensitizing her and keeping her under threshhold.

I was mainly just popping in to give hugs and wish you the best. Please keep us updated.
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Old 05-31-2013, 10:26 PM
straw straw is offline
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Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: Canada
Posts: 539

Originally Posted by OutlineACDs View Post
I was mainly just popping in to give hugs and wish you the best. Please keep us updated.
Thank you! Things seem to have been steadily improving, but she's still not quite there.

We're able to go for longer and longer walks. I brought her to work with me today (training facility/small doggy daycare) for the first time in two weeks - she did great! Some big burly guys came in to fix the air conditioning and she was crated at the time and barely looked up.

Bikes are not upsetting her anymore, which is fantastic, but I have yet to find a volunteer to rollerblade for me so I can work with her on her fear. Kids are ok outdoors from a distance of about 20 feet now. If they start shrieking or darting around she begins to look uncomfortable so I just give her distance.

That being said, my great-aunt came to visit a few nights ago while I was at work and Venice was home with my parents. She was very nervous but was not offering any distance-increasing behaviours (no barking, no growling), just a lot of avoidance. They sat down at the table and Venice circled the a few times and was doing a lot of whining, but would take treats off the floor near my aunt's feet. The main problem was despite being told to ignore the dog, each time Venice walked past my aunt reached out to touch her back - obviously resulting in Venice scooting away and being a little less trustful.

I've instructed my parents that if visitors are not able to follow directions, Venice can go in her crate in another room with a really high value treat. Touching her when she's not comfortable is really only a step backwards
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Old 05-31-2013, 10:47 PM
JessLough JessLough is offline
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Join Date: May 2009
Location: Ontario
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I know you said you're coming to TtP... are you in the Ottawa area?

If so, I have rollerblades and could plan to help out
Ella: 3 year old female ferret
Nacho: 9 year old male ferret
Summer: 5 year old female ferret
Goodbye, Rosey. You were the best girl I could have asked for. 10/15/96-03/08/13
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Old 06-01-2013, 04:41 AM
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Romy Romy is offline
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Olympia, WA
Posts: 10,234

It sounds like you're doing all the right things.

Have you considered bringing a pair of rollerblades home? Just let them sit out for her to check out and sniff, then when she's comfortable spin the wheels, give her treats off of/out of them? Maybe put them on yourself and hang out on the couch together as a start? If she sees them on you and realizes that is fine, maybe you could even progress to doing a little leash work while you wear them (in the yard) or something.

I just remember one dog in my dog's OB class who was deathly afraid of wheelchairs. He didn't get totally over the fear until his owner sat in one and wheeled around the classroom with him in her lap, then let him walk alongside it. After that he was fine.
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