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Canine Behavior/Yorkie shaking and wont sleep



I really do hope you have a answer for me.
Have a little yorkie his name is Tiger he is turning in June 2013.

For about a month or 2 now he has been acting strange and i really do not know what to do.

i still live with my parents and i am moving soon,i would like to get to the bottom of this before then.

he just does not want to settle down and if he does he sleeps for about 20min then he jumps on my bed or sits infront of my door and whimpers to get out.

I do go and pick him up and comfort him  but that does not work, in the beginning he would just go and sleep in my moms room but lately he doesn't even want to be there.
Last night he shook so much, he stresses himself so much that he actually pukes.

I do not understand what the problem could be i have not changed my room or anything, this is becoming a big problem because i need my sleep to be awake and fine for work the next day.

he keeps looking at the ceiling or at the fan.
but i don't understand even if i rub him and hold him he just wants to get out.

some weeks he is fine and then it all comes back again.
i don't know if he is just being naughty or what.

Please help me..

ANSWER: I'm going to need more information before I can comment. I can tell you that from what I was able to get from your question that there is absolutely NO WAY that your dog is "just being naughty". It sounds like a full blown panic attack if he's shaking uncontrollably and stressing to the point of vomiting.

I would start by suggesting he may be ill, but if this is only happening at a particular time of day and not throughout the day, that suggests something environmental and not physiological - though I'm not a veterinarian and have no medical experience, so I cannot rule out a medical problem. You'll need to have a complete vet exam sooner rather than later, which includes blood work and a thyroid panel, to ensure that he is medically sound.

Your question doesn't actually tell me how old he is, it says, "Tiger he is turning in June 2013", but you failed to put the age.

You don't actually tell me when this behavior is occurring, though your complaint that you need to be well rested for work, indicates it's at night. When is it happening? When you first go to bed, middle of the night, just an hour before you're to get up? What actual time do you go to bed and what actual time is this occurring?

What is he doing just prior to this behavior? Sleeping, snuggling you, pacing, chewing on a favorite toy?

Have you ever taken him to go potty when he starts becoming anxious? If so, does he go? If not, does he potty in your room during this process? How are his potty habits in general? Does he always go in the right place?

What has the weather been like in your area for the last few months? How warm? How cold? Have you had the air conditioning on? The Heat? A fan running? Where does your dog sleep normally - on his own bed on the floor in your room, on your bed? On top of or under covers?

All of these questions are meant to give me a mental image of your dog's routine and his environment. Because it's happening only sometimes, and because when it does happen it seems to happen at a particular time of day/night, it suggests that something is scaring him. It can be difficult to have patience when we are half asleep, but we must be investigators and try to determine what is in the environment that's scaring him. You said that he's staring at the ceiling or the fan (ceiling fan?). Is the fan on at the time? Could there be a critter in the ceiling that's making noises which might be frightening your pup? Is there weather outside - thunder, rain, wind - or severe weather coming which is changing the barometric pressure dramatically?

What specifically have you tried to do to soothe him? How do you finally get him to stop? How long does it last before he does finally settle again? When he's in this state, can you get his attention? Will he look at you or come to you if you call his name or offer him a toy? How does he respond when you pick him up?

How many times has this behavior gone from shaking to vomiting? How did he behave after he vomited? You may need to be checking for toxins that he may be ingesting that are causing this reaction. If this was the first time it's led to vomiting, and if it is a toxin, that suggests a higher concentration was ingested or has built up in his system.

I look forward to your reply - addressing each of the questions I pose here. I know there are a lot of questions, but I'm not physically there and so I can't observe your dog myself. I need you to be my eyes and ears and paint me a picture so I can have a clearer understanding of what is going on with him. Then, I will hopefully be able to offer you some suggestions on how to address it. Please speak with your vet and have the exam before responding so that you can tell me what, if anything, the vet found to be a potential issue.

Jody, APDT
Los Angeles Behaviorist

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sorry my dog is turning 1 this year.
Yes this happens at night, he is fine for about an hour in my room , i normally go to bed between 9 and 11pm.
He does not have a specific time at night but it does happen every night say between 11:30pm to 2am.

Before it happens he is either asleep or playing.
Yes i do take him out every time this has happened he goes out 1 out of 5 times.
his Potty is perfect he does not do anything in the house, unless he really cant help it like a runny tummy or if i cant open the trellie door quick enough.

The weather has been fine, warm but not so intense that we cant sleep.
No winds or storms nothing.

I do have a ceiling fan yes and it runs every night. I have switched it off to see of its not the fan but he still does that even if the fan was off that night.

He sleeps on the floor next to my bed or on top of the covers.
also no noices that could scare him.

He normally comes and licks me and jumps on top of me shaking and panting like crazy until i get up and open the door for him.

he still shakes and pants when i pick him up , just licks aswell.
he has only vomited about 2 times , both was in my moms room , he always just wants to go and sleep there. After vomiting he would jump on moms bed and sleep.

There are no toxins.
I try to soothe him by holding him and cuddling him and talk to him mostly anything to calm him down.

he only stops when i open my door and he either sits in the passage and whimpers the whole night or he goes into moms room.

I cant say how long before he settles down again because i just cant leave him shaking like that so i would open my door and go sit in the living room with him or something.

I do want to take him to the vet this week i am very worried.

Thank you for your prompt reply and for filling in some of the blanks for me.

While there are no noises that you find scary, it is possible that there is or was a noise that your pup found scary. Scary things can sometimes create an ongoing fear, even after the scary thing is long gone. For example, if one night, the motor on the ceiling fan made a strange noise and woke him from sleep (scaring him), then he could be anticipating that and stressing himself out every night after that. It usually has to be something that was particularly scary to the dog, and we cannot judge what should/shouldn't be scary. We can only take notice that something did in fact scare the dog. In my home, my more timid dog will not approach the fireplace to get his toy if it's laying near it because the first time his ball rolled over there (about 3 years ago), it bounced against the  metal frame of the fireplace and made a sort of buzzing noise. That buzz scared him enough on that very first exposure that he still won't go closer than about 6 inches and will NOT actually touch anything that is making contact with the fireplace frame. Sometimes it really doesn't take much.

You can try a couple things. First, you can have him start and spend his night in your mother's room or the living room, and just not have him in your room and see if we can get a few nights (or a week) without any episodes. If he spends a week not sleeping in your room at all, and not having any episodes, then we at least know that the problem is something in your room. That's a huge start to helping him. And it means that when you move out, he'll probably be OK with you in a new space. If there's a guest room in your folk's house, perhaps you and he can sleep in the guest room for a few nights to be sure it's not something about you or your sleeping habits that's prompting this reaction (snoring, flailing during your own dreams, talking in your sleep, etc).

If we can determine that it's something about your room, but not about you or your sleeping habits, then we can begin a process of counter conditioning him to the space/noises/smells, etc to help him feel more secure in there again. Remember, just because we can't hear it or smell it doesn't mean that your pup doesn't/didn't hear or smell something that made him nervous.

Counter conditioning is the process of actually changing his emotional response from the current fear to one of happy anticipation or excitement/comfort. We do this most effectively with food because food is fun and happy just by default.

Sit in your room with him with his dinner. When he looks toward the ceiling, quietly tell him what a good boy he is and give him a kibble or two. Repeat the exercise until he's eaten all his dinner this way. If he's not looking at the ceiling, encourage him to take notice. you can point to it and say sweetly, 'look at that'. When he looks up, praise and treat. Have the ceiling fan on. Have the ceiling fan off. Turn the main light off and use a flashlight or a candle or a nightlight plugged in so you can still see him, but it's as close to the same circumstance as bedtime.

Have a few super awesome tasty tid-bits stashed nearby for actual bedtime. When you first go to bed, have him check the ceiling out and then give him a super tasty tid-bit (hot dog, cheese, a bit of chicken breast, a bite of bacon...). Keep the rest stashed away. An hour or so later, right when he starts to become agitated, sweetly get his attention and offer him another bite of the super awesome tasty tid-bit you've got with you. Repeat this several times in the real moment. If this doesn't calm him and relax him again, help him feel safer by taking him out of the room.

It's not likely to be fixed in one night. Remember, he's had 2 months practicing this behavior response and his stress has continually increased each night over that 2 months. It will take some time to help him feel better about the whole thing again. So it may be a few months that you're doing this. You may be lucky and see a total turnaround in just a week or 2, but plan for 3 months or longer to really help him get past this fear response. Be patient with him, be sweetly and quietly encouraging, and be ready to present food every time he takes notice of the ceiling and especially every time he begins to show signs of fear.

A couple important notes:

1. Order of presentation matters a great deal in this. He MUST notice the ceiling BEFORE food appears. This way, noticing the ceiling reliably predicts the arrival of something tasty. If the food happens at the same time (you're holding food in your hand while you tell him look at that), or if you show him the food before you engage him with the ceiling, then we end up "poisoning" the food because now the food reliably predicts that he must deal with something scary.

So, keep the food hidden out of sight (in a drawer or a box). Prep his food while he's otherwise engaged (or have your mom prep the food and put it in your room while you're distracting the pup). He shouldn't know that it's in there when you take him there for dinner time.

Have the super-yummy night time tid-bits hidden in a closed tupperware type container or zip lock back, also out of sight. Wait for him to notice the ceiling and THEN pull out the food for him. This way we help him learn that the scary ceiling/fan/noise/smell (whatever it is that's upsetting him) reliably predicts that something awesome will come his way - no matter the time of day/night. Of course, if you're using something that might spoil, you'll need to store it in the refrigerator and refresh it each night. But the nighttime treats really need to be something special, not just the usual dog treats.

2. If he refuses to eat at all, then he is in a full panic. Refusing super awesome food is the biggest red flag there is that a dog has been pushed over Threshold. Threshold is that line between scared-but-functional and full blown panic - at which time no learning can happen. It's important that we keep him UNDER that threshold. So, if you need lights on to keep him feeling safe, if we need to turn the fan off, if he needs to be in your lap, etc. then we need to do those things as we build up his sense of security and start to help him change that emotional response. This is also why we use super awesome tasty treats for this. We need to make sure that the value of the food is so high that it outweighs the fear of the scary thing. If you're using his most favorite food in the world (e.g. bacon) and he refuses to eat it, then you KNOW that he is absolutely terrified.

Also, you can gauge how scared his is even if he is taking the food. If he normally has a very soft and gentle mouth when taking treats, but while you're doing this, he's snatching the food from your hands in a more aggressive manner, that's telling us that he's frightened. His stress level is up and he's probably pushing toward that threshold. We want to ease off the pressure of the situation and help him calm down some - so turn on lights, sit in the doorway instead of the middle of the room, turn on some soft classical music or the TV if you have one in your room, leave the room for a while and then invite him to come back in (don't force him), etc. Help him feel comfortable and see that he can escape the scary if he needs/wants to.

There are a couple things we can try that may help him out as well. One is a Thunder Shirt This is an anxiety wrap that functions much like swaddling a baby. It creates a subtle, constant stimulation around the dog's core and can help soothe him and help him process other external stimuli without becoming so overwhelmed by it. It's about 85% effective in that 85 out of every 100 dogs (roughly) will show a reduction in anxiety. So, by putting this on at bedtime, it may help him through the night. It's not designed to be worn 24/7. It's only effective for the first 30-90 minutes that it's on, but taking it off for a few hours and then putting it back on will reestablish the effect for another 30-90 minutes. So, perhaps put it on for dinner time in the bedroom (where you're asking him to notice the ceiling and then feeding him) and about 45 minutes after the two of you retire for the evening. Then, give him the super awesome treats if/when he notices the ceiling and begins to act fearfully.

Another thing that may help is Dog Appeasing Pheromone - DAP . There are several brands that make this type of product. It's a synthetic version of the hormone that nursing mothers produce and is supposed to be calming and soothing to dogs. I've known some people who swear by it and others who found it entirely ineffective. But it can't hurt him to try. You can buy a spray that you put on his collar or a bandana that you tie loosely around his neck, you can spray it on his bedding each night or you can buy a plug-in variety if his bed is near-ish to an outlet. I wouldn't bother to buy the pre-treated collars as I think those wear off faster and need to be replaced. The spray can just be refreshed each night and the plug-in can be unplugged during the day to make it last longer.

A combination of the DAP and the Thunder Shirt may work really well together, though you should still do the counter conditioning as well so that we help him over this hurdle. The shirt and pheromone are designed to help keep him under that panic threshold while we modify his emotional response, they are not designed to be the cure on their own.

Hopefully some or all of these options will prove helpful. Please feel free to followup if I can be of further assistance.

Jody, APDT
Los Angeles Behaviorist

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Jody Epstein, MS, CPDT-KA


IF YOU BELIEVE YOUR DOG IS ILL OR INJURED, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR LOCAL VETERINARIAN IMMEDIATELY. THIS IS NOT THE FORUM TO ADDRESS URGENT MEDICAL ISSUES. I AM NOT A LICENSED VET AND HAVE NO DIAGNOSTIC SKILLS. ***I have been answering questions on All Experts for over 8 years now. I enjoy being able to offer assistance in this forum. I do need to be clear, though. If you’re looking for free advice about a specific behavior question, you MUST submit your question to me via All Experts. If you bypass All Experts and write to me directly through my website, I will ask you to submit via All Experts. On the flip side, if you’re local to Los Angeles and you wish to speak to me privately about an in person consultation, please go through my website. I appreciate your assistance in keeping my volunteer work on the volunteer site.*** I can answer questions about the following canine behavior issues: obedience, timid/fearful & fear-based aggression, nuisance behaviors, families that are expanding with either new human or new animal members and many other issues. If you have potty training questions please first read my trio of blogs at If you still have questions after reading the blogs you can post your specific questions here. PLEASE be as specific as possible when asking a question. Give me a detailed example of the situation - dog's behavior, body language, circumstances surrounding the issue, what the consequences are (another dog's response, your response), etc. I can only provide insight if I can get a picture of the whole scenario. If I ask for further details, please provide them. In person I would normally observe for at least 90 minutes to assess the situation and the dynamics before offering tools and suggestions to modify it. In writing it is ever so much more difficult. Thank you for your participation in the process.


I have been a professional obedience trainer for 9 years, and specializing in behavior modification for 8 years. I have owned dogs my entire life. I own my own dog training and behavior modification business called Nutz About Mutz.

I am a Certified Profession Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA), #2133301 ; I am a member in good standing with the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), #77763 ; I am an AKC certified Canine Good Citizen evaluator (CGC), #71253

Publications ; ; Multiple articles in the local pet magazine Pet Press (found across Southern California)

I have a masters degree (MS) in Animals and Public Policy, with a minor in Animal Behavior, from Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. I also have 3 years of graduate education in Animal Behavior and Learning from UM-Missoula and UL-Lafayette. I continue to educate myself to canine-specific behavior through extensive reading, online interactive workshops, vidoes and attending canine behavior conferences, workshops and seminars. Beginning in March, 2017, I will be the Behavior & Training Manager at Second Chance Center for Animals in Flagstaff, AZ.

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