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Canine Behavior/Anxious dog

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Question
I have a 10 year old neutered Shiba Inu.  He is a lovable little dog who has always been a little clingy, however in the last couple of weeks he has gotten significantly more so.  His abnormal behavior has been noted at home and at day care which he goes to for a half day twice a week for socialization. He is not destructive at home but he has started chewing on wood at day care unless they tend to him constantly. At home he just demands more attention and he gets panicky when he thinks we are leaving or jumps into a lap when the other runs out to get the mail. He has a minor knee luxation which seems to be bothering him a little more but we don't want to get surgery because of his age and it doesn't seem to bother him too much. Nothing has happened out of the ordinary in the last few weeks that we know of.  He has been to the vet and they gave him Prozac for his clingyness saying that he was very high strung. My question is do you think this sounds like seperation anxiety if so any ideas to help?  If not do you think it could be a medical problem or possibly the start of cognitive decline?  Thank you for your opinion.

Answer
Prozac is NOT a drug of choice for a dog demonstrating high anxiety.  In humans, Prozac can (and does, frequently) increase anxiety to the point of hysteria and suicidal thoughts.  

Your dog appears to be experiencing some cognitive dysfunction.  Now: this could be acquired (something that happened whether you were home or not that frightened him and left him with a strong fight/flight response, and it's more than likely you would have no memory of it) or it could be physiological.

You need to wean this dog off of Prozac, very, very carefully.  And you need the expertise of a Veterinary Behaviorist or Veterinary Neurologist.  Below you will find links to Veterinary Behaviorists.  You can also call the veterinary college in your area for referral:

http://www.veterinarybehaviorists.org/
http://www.avsabonline.org/avsabonline/

The use of SSRIs (such as Prozac and the many others that have appeared on the scene) is contraindicated (strongly) in the presence of severe anxiety (in humans); it is also a known cause of increased aggression in dogs (dogs can't talk, they can't share why they're afraid and becoming aggressive, the use of such drugs must be done quite carefully).

I don't know what dose your dog is on: cut it in half every other day, then every third day, then cut that dose in half the fourth, fifth, six, seventh day, and (if there is something left to cut in half), halve the remaining dose and then stagger the days (every other day) you give the drug.  Meanwhile:  IGNORE his fear.  This may seem cruel but, in fact, by giving him extra attention when he is fearful you are, in fact, validating and rewarding the fear.  Should he appear especially fearful, put him on leash and simple keep him near you.  The leash is not just a physical restraint to most dogs but also a psychological one.  He should calm (faster and faster as you use it), at which point you can casually get up from your seat, walk him in a wide circle (left, then right), ask for "sit", verbally praise, and release him from the leash.

If this is strictly behavioral, the medication used to ease cognitive dysfunction will not harm him and your veterinary behaviorist will further interact with you.  If your dog has (under examination) acquired a condition (such as cataracts or neurological insult), your veterinary behaviorist will advise you.

Canine Behavior

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.

Expertise

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.

Experience

30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for ThePetChannel.com for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, K9Shrinks@egroups.com. 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.

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

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

Education/Credentials
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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