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Canine Behavior/Foster dog with "random" anxiety

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Question
Dear Madeline, I have read you biography and I promise to read and rate your response within three days.  I understand that your time is valuable, that you are most likely spending at least 45 minutes of your time in response to my question, and I understand too that when questioners read and rate your responses fairly that you make random donations to animal shelters to help homeless animals.  In the interest of being appreciative of your time AND helping shelter dogs and cats, I agree that I will rate your response and give you fair feedback.

On Tuesday, we picked up a 3 year old male Beagle (in tact) that we are fostering.  When I went to pick him up, he was in a room with a crate separating him for a larger room with lots of dogs and people. He was excited and was whining very loudly - they told me he had been doing that because since there was so much commotion going on in the other room, but otherwise had been "great" since they had him - I assume they meant quiet, relaxed, etc.  Since we've brought him home, he has gone through spells every now and then of similar behavior. He will pace, whine excessively, and "twitch" - he'll roll around, itch a lot, and shift his body.  He does have heartworms and an ear infection - could the discomfort of the ear infection be causing it? At other times, he is relaxed and confident, and then he'll suddenly spend 15-20 minutes or so being nervous. This has happened once each day we have had him, one day in the evening and the other day very late at night.  

He seemed to habitually whine when I brought him home on Tuesday evening, but I ignored it and then only gave him attention when he was quiet, beginning after just 10 seconds or so of being quiet, and gradually waiting longer. Even in a few days, he seems to have gotten the idea, with the exception of the more intense and seemingly random "whining bouts."  It's these times that I'm concerned about. How should I approach correcting this behavior? Do you have an opinion about why he maybe whining?

Answer
Hello Beth,

Thank you for choosing me to submit your question to and for reading my biography.

I'm going to copy and paste your questions here and address them one by one so that my responses make the most sense and so you don't need to refer back to your original questions.  Responding this way will be more efficient.

Beth wrote:
On Tuesday, we picked up a 3 year old male Beagle (in tact) that we are fostering.  When I went to pick him up, he was in a room with a crate separating him for a larger room with lots of dogs and people. He was excited and was whining very loudly - they told me he had been doing that because since there was so much commotion going on in the other room, but otherwise had been "great" since they had him - I assume they meant quiet, relaxed, etc.  

Madelne writes:
Having spent hundreds of hours volunteering in shelters, the fact that your Beagle was in isolation raises several red flags for me.  

First, he might be flea-ridden.  I'll explain what makes me suspect so a little further down in response to some of the other details you've provided - and thanks for providing the amount of detail you have.

Second, if the issue isn't/wasn't fleas, then he may have been in isolation because of the whining, which may be attributable to anxiety, and which could get the other dogs to be more vocal which the shelter may have wanted to prevent.  Most dogs in shelters will experience varying degrees of anxiety, due to the noise, the new odors, the different environment, close quarters with so many other animals, confinement, lack of exercise and mental stimulation, different food, etc.  The best shelters are the ones that try as much as possible to reduce the anxiety that shelter dogs experience, either by playing classical music, noise reduction techniques, and proper organizaton, rotation and utilization of skilled volunteers, to name a few considerations.  That most dogs are more vocal to varying degrees is not unusual in a shelter environment, especially the hounds and hound mixes, which is your scenthound Beagle.

What they may have meant by "great" I couldn't guess.  It might be a good idea to call the shelter and ask for details, but you've had him about a week now and maybe you don't feel you need to as you may have gotten to know him pretty well by now.  My best guess is that they meant temperamentally, as in "great with people," which is, in fact, great if he is.  But, for sure, "great" won't always mean relaxed or quiet.  My own dogs are "great," but one is quite vocal and not what I would describe as quiet, although I love him to pieces because he is an all-around great dog in every other way and his vocalizations are actually quite communicative and beneficial, even if the do wake me at 6:30 every morning.

The trauma and anxiety of having been in the shelter environment may stay with a rescued dog for some time, from days to weeks, and sometimes even for months.  Somtimes residual trauma occurs forever to some degree in some dogs, depending on many factors such as the dogs' personal genetic makeup and sensitivity, what exactly occurred before the dog was sheltered and during the sheltering time, the dog's early socialization experiences, and more.  The fact that he's young and may not have spent a long time in the shelter (younger animals and purebreds usually don't malinger in shelters and are generally the first to get adopted) bodes well.  Be patient with him, understand the breed and that he's a hound and that he will always be apt to express himself vocally, and keep him occupied with mental stimulation via safe chew toys, scent games and training as much as you can considering what he will tolerate at any point in time.  It's not good to overwhelm a dog, but it is excellent to keep any dog at any age mentally and physically stimulated, so even long walks or short runs, again considering what he can tolerate at any given time given his state of physical fitness and the weather, will likely be helpful.

Pick up the book "Fun Nosework for Your Dog" by Roy Hunter.  It's a great book for any dog, but hounds seem to particularly benefit from the scent games in it.  You'll find the games fun, too, and they'll be a great bonding experience for you and your Beagle.

Betg wrote:
Since we've brought him home, he has gone through spells every now and then of similar behavior. He will pace, whine excessively, and "twitch" - he'll roll around, itch a lot, and shift his body.  He does have heartworms and an ear infection - could the discomfort of the ear infection be causing it? At other times, he is relaxed and confident, and then he'll suddenly spend 15-20 minutes or so being nervous. This has happened once each day we have had him, one day in the evening and the other day very late at night.  

Madeline:
The above description of what he's been doing is what's making me suspect fleas, in addition to any residual anxiety he may be going through from his shelter experience.  What you've described is behaviour I've seen in dogs that have fleas.  Even one or two fleas on a dog can cause the behaviour you've described, particularly if the dog is allergic to the flea bites.  Some dogs are allergic to the flea saliva in addition to the discomfort experienced by the bites themselves.  Even if the fleas are gone, a dog may experience the allergic reaction for days afterwards.  I have seen dogs experience flea bite allergies for a week even when the fleas have been eradicated.  If the issue isn't fleas, he may have a skin allergy.  In any case, you want to go through his fur carefully with a flea comb to see if he has fleas.  As well, look for signs of bites and for debris close to the skin which looks like fine dirt or fine brown sand - this is flea bite residue.

If the fleas were eradicated before you took him home, great.  If not, you need to take steps to prevent a possible flea infestation in your home.

This is something a reputable shelter should have observed and known and about which they should have informed you if fleas turn out to be the case.  Ideally, they should have been eradicated before you took your dog home.  However, and that being said, many shelters do the best they can with the often limited funds and staff they have and are overwhelmed.  Some things fall through the cracks, and hopefully they're resolvable and/or preventable in the future.  

If the problem turns out to be fleas, I wouldn't hit the shelter over the head, but I would inform them in a non-judgmental manner in writing sent certified mail that they may have a flea problem and let them know why you think so and any evidence you may uncover, including pictures.  As soon as possible put him on a topical anti-flea and tick product which is available from your veterinarian.

Barring fleas or a skin allergy, some dogs develop stereotypies, which is like OCD behaviour in humans.  This is the LEAST likely cause of what you describe, and I'm mentioning it only because if no other reasons are found and the behaviour continues or worsens, you may want to consider a stereotypy and consult your veterinarian or a vet behaviourist close to you. Again, this is the LEAST likely reason I would suspect for what you describe at this point.

Beth wrote:
He seemed to habitually whine when I brought him home on Tuesday evening, but I ignored it and then only gave him attention when he was quiet, beginning after just 10 seconds or so of being quiet, and gradually waiting longer. Even in a few days, he seems to have gotten the idea, with the exception of the more intense and seemingly random "whining bouts."

Madeline writes:
What you're doing is the right thing to be doing.  Even in a dog that suffering from residucal shelter anxiety, you don't want to "baby" the dog or reinforce the whining.  Keep doing what you're doing.  Great job!

The random bouts may be due to what I mentioned, above.

Beth wrote:
It's these times that I'm concerned about. How should I approach correcting this behavior? Do you have an opinion about why he maybe whining?

Madeline writes:
You're a good dog owner to be concerned.  I'm glad you took the time to write in and submit your question.  I hope I've been able to provide some food for thought.  If he's found to have fleas, the best thing to do is contact your vet about the best way to go about eradicating them, and also Google "flea prevention and eradication in homes" just in case you have a problem, but I hope that won't be necessary.  I hope the possible reasons I gave for the whining make sense.

Best of luck, and thank you for adopting a dog from a shelter.

Madeline Friedman, M.A.
Volunteer at AllExperts, Dog Behavior Expert and Trainer

Canine Behavior

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Madeline S. Friedman, M.A.

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I respond to public questions only. I'm not a veterinarian & do not respond to medical questions.Suggestions: Submit a question in one area of priority, as what I am able to address in this venue is limited. Provide as much detail re: the behavior & issue as you can. Tell me how & if behavior is a change from previous behavior & when the changes occurred. Let me know what you think may have triggered such changes & what you have tried so far to resolve it, & what the results were. Let me know what you want help with & what are your concerns & questions about the behavior. I have set up a payment/donation to myself for responding to questions. I donate most of it to animal shelters & rescues. I keep a small portion for my time. The minimum donation is $25.00 on PayPal. When I see that a donation has been made, I will respond to your question. You will be prompted to make the donation before submitting your question. When you have read & rated my response fairly, which must be at the time you read it, I will refund $5.00 back to you IF YOU REQUEST that I do so in your rating comments. If I ask for more details, please respond as a "follow-up" & not as a new question. If I don't respond to your question, I will refund your donation less $5.00. DO rate me fairly at the end of our exchange. I will be pleased if you DO nominate me for volunteer of the month - why not, if I was generous in my response? I may suggest something you were not necessarily ready to hear, but I am honest in the interest of helping your dog, & that is my goal. Please keep that in mind. Please do NOT contact me privately about Allexperts questions through my e-mail or website unless I have invited you to do so. That is an invasion of my privacy - thank you for respecting it. If you would like to contact me for actual dog training & behavior consulting, you may contact me through my Web site.

Experience

Own & operate dog training & behavior consulting businesses, Hoboken Dog Trainer, and ny-njDogTrainer, in the NYC & NYC Metro areas since 2002. Work with thousands of dog owners & their dogs, & shelter & rescue dogs. Active volunteer in dog shelters and rescues (rescues being "no kill" and shelters being municipality-run urban shelters that can and do euthanize dogs). AllExperts volunteer in "Dogs, Category 701" and "Dog Training" and "Canine Behavior" since 2006. When you submit a question, please make sure it's being submitted in the appropriate category as I volunteer in two different categories. Make sure you agree to the Virtual Contract (the instructions I outline for question submissions) and agree to read and rate my response when I answer in the body of your question. I make donations to various animal non-profits based on YOUR ratings. If you don't rate my response, or rate it unfairly, you have just denied a dog rescue org or shelter a donation. Keep that in mind.

Organizations
Professional Member of APDT for five years Founding Member of Animal Behavior Associates Behavior Education Network Former Board Member of IAABC, appointed by Founder Former Member of IPDTA in Canada Founding member of Behavior Education Network

Publications
Chronicle of the Dog (APDT, peer publication, numerous articles) Popular Dog Series magazine, numerous entries AOL in Everydayhealth.com Tonowanda News Morris County News Vermont News Boston NOW New York A.M. Polo Trace Newsletter The Dodo AOL

Education/Credentials
Counseling Psychology, Caldwell College Animal Science, Rutgers University Master of Arts Degree Permanent New Jersey State Teaching Certification (teach public school and university level) Numerous workshops, lectures, and seminars on dog training and behavior Ongoing self-motivated study in my area of expertise

Awards and Honors
Best Canine Coach Award, 2006, Rondout Valley Instructor's Training Course Society of Illustrators, second place international competition Jellybean Photographics, second place international competition Fashion Institute of Technology "Commitment to Illustration" award

Past/Present Clients
Testimonials from a number of clients appear on my Web site at www.ny-njDogTrainer.com under "Reviews." My customers include: Puppy owners wanting to get their puppies off to the best start; owners of mature dogs who want their dogs to have more obedience skills; fosters and owners of rescue dogs or shelter dogs; customers with special needs who need to train or retrain their dogs; housetraining and housebreaking; owners who have behavioral issues with their dogs such as house accidents, aggression towards humans, aggression towards other animals, inattentive dogs, unmotivated dogs, overly-exuberant dogs; and, more.

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