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Canine Behavior/Dog is suddenly afraid


I have a 4 y/o male lab x (fixed)- adopted from the dogs home 2.5 years ago.
He has always been highly strung / scared of a few things (pedestal fans/loud noises/car rides) but none of this has really interfered with his every day life.

For the last two weeks though, he has been afraid of something else in the house, and we can't work out what.

He spends most of his time while he is inside either in our bedroom or study at one end of the hallway or in the lounge room (at the other end of the hall).  At the moment, we can't seem to get him to come into the lounge room from the bedrooms.  He will get to the end of the hall and start to cower/cry and when we force him to go into the lounge room (he has to go that way to get outside), he will slide around on the floorboards (like a cartoon character running on the spot) and race to the door to get outside.  If we do manage to coax him into the lounge room while we are in there, he will pace or sit on his blanket and cry.

His food bowl is in the lounge room and he hasn't been eating well since this all started. My partner and I have been approaching this differently.
-I have been trying to ignore his behavior (he is a Lab, I figure he won't let himself starve).
-My partner has tried feeding him outside a few times, or will stand next to him while he eats in the lounge room and gives him verbal praise (which does seem to help - but I don't want to get him into the habit where he only eats when he is getting attention)

We did move a few items of furniture around (but the behavior started a few days after this) - could it still be the reason?  We have tried moving them again, or putting screens in front of them, but this doesn't seem to help.

Please help!

Moving furniture CAN disrupt cognition in a dog that has a biologically based problem (eyesight, low level seizure disorder, or acquired conditioned fear response).

Feed the dog IN THE KITCHEN.  Why force him to confront his fear in order to survive?  Makes no sense at all.  Put the food down, take the dog gently to the bowl, LEAVE THE ROOM (do not stand next to him or praise him) and give him 15 to 20 minutes to eat.  Do this twice daily (be sure to measure the amount of food since we want to avoid obesity but that shouldn't prove a problem).

Take the dog to a veterinary behaviorist.  You can find one from the following sites or by calling the veterinary school in your geographical area.  He should be tested for visual acuity, base line neurological response, and comprehensive blood work all to rule out biologic cause.  This professional will be able to prescribe medication that will help the dog to be calmer AND will also be able to make suggestions (having evaluated the dog personally in a thorough manner) to attempt to counter condition him to this room he seems to dread.

Once we have a result from veterinary consult, we can then attempt to counter condition the dog's fear response (even if there is a biologic cause).  Re-post using followup feature so I can see original question/answer.  Meanwhile, do NOTHING to attempt to persuade the dog to go into or near the area he fears.

Canine Behavior

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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