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Canine Behavior/My dog's behavior suddenly changed

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Question
Hi,
I am writing because I was wondering why my dog is acting strange all of sudden. She is about 7 years old and is a sheltie/German Shepard mix. She is a well trained dog and always slept downstairs by herself. She rarely came upstairs because we disciplined her not to as a puppy. Just recently she will go upstairs and follow me. Also sometimes at night, she will scratch my door until I open it. When I was gone for two weeks, she sometimes slept in front of my door. I was wondering if her behavior is coming from a lack of attention. We have a baby living with us, which distracts most of us. Also my mother is always working and barely has time to walk them everyday anymore.
I seem to be the only one giving her attention. Anyways, these are my possible theories.
Thank you for taking the time to read my question.

Jessica

Answer
It is possible your dog is responding to a very distressing change in her environment: a baby!  And the lack of your mother who is always working.  Sounds like the most likely cause.

BUT...any sudden change in behavior requires full veterinary evaluation.  This means comprehensive blood chemistry, neurological base line test, eye and ear evaluation (for sight and hearing, a dog developing cataracts or deafness is less likely to be able to habituate to such an enormous change in domestic environment), etc.  This means the veterinarian must be sophisticated (not just some guy at the end of the block).  I suggest you look for a veterinary internist (call the veterinary school in your area and ask for referral).  This professional will require a referral from your primary vet (and they CANNOT refuse to fax over your dog's history even though they might put a lot of pressure on you to go in there FIRST and spend money).  When all is said and done, such an overall health check will either suggest the dog is beginning to experience an age related problem, or the dog will benefit from some short term medication to ease her anxiety.

Use followup option so I can see original question when you report results of this veterinary intervention.  Simply put: this dog is your personal companion at this point.  She is approaching an age where things can go wrong, both physiologically AND cognitively.  She requires the comfort of your presence.  So what?  Take her into your bedroom at night.  Put a soft bed someplace and, for the first few nights, should she attempt to get into bed with you (and if you prefer she not do this), redirect her calmly and lovingly to her own bed.

Dogs are living entities; they have needs, they think, they problem solve, and they suffer greatly from sudden disruption of routine.  They are also prone to all sorts of biological problems, just as are humans.  Most of all, because they are in our care, we have a huge moral responsibility to give them the best possible chance at a life free of anxiety.  So let's see what the vet says.

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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