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Canine Behavior/Dog has regressed after 4th of July

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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."

About a year ago my husband and I rescued a Wheaten Poodle mix from a shelter, we knew little about him outside of his age being 4-7 and that he was taken from a horder situation with 11 other animals. When we first got him he did not know how to walk on a leash, appeared to have never been left alone in a backyard, was not totally house trained, and needed a lot of TLC. He also seemed to be wary of men, and partial to women. Fast forward a year and he's going for walks, doesn't have accidents in the house anymore, loves his "mom and dad' so much he waits by the front door at our usual time to get home, comes over to each of us for cuddles, and LOVES to play in the backyard with a tennis bar. That is until 4th of July. He's always been afraid of loud noises, but 4th of July seems to have caused him to go back to being the dog we rescued a year ago. He does not want to go outside at all after his morning potty break, not in the front or back yard. He puts on the breaks and we have to force him to go out to go potty, which he does do, but then when he comes in he acts afraid for hours after. It's July 8th, no more fireworks are going off. We've also noticed that he is acting odd towards my husband again, he cowers when my husband puts on his leash, and he acts like he's expecting to get hit and neither one of us has ever laid a hand on him. What can I do to help him? I want my loveable happy guy back, it's worrying me that he's been stressed out for days.

ANSWER: Hi, Kryste,

Thanks for taking the time to read my bio and for selecting me to respond to your question.

I know that it seems almost intiuitive, but I don't want to assume anything, so I'll ask:  Was your Wheaten/Poodle mix exposed to the sound of fireworks proximate to your home on the 4th?  If so, how close were the fireworks, what did he do while they were being set off, what did you and your husband do and where were you, and for how long did the fireworks last?  How long did it take your dog to recover if he was panting, hiding, or otherwise expressing fear of the fireworks?  Was he sedated at that time?  If you were not at home on the 4th, was he alone?  Or, did you take him to a place where fireworks were being set off?

Once I know the answers to these questions, I can respond in a more informed manner.

Thanks!

Best,
Madeline Friedman at AllExperts

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Was your Wheaten/Poodle mix exposed to the sound of fireworks proximate to your home on the 4th?  Yes, we live just outside of Chicago, and people started lighting off fireworks the week leading up to the 4th sporadically. There were occasions where he was outside and something would go off in the distance, but he was not ever purposely exposed to anything.

If so, how close were the fireworks, what did he do while they were being set off - the day of the 4th neighbors were blowing off their fireworks so the surrounding houses had some activity. We took him out in the morning when it was quiet, and the early afternoon, and then he would not go out again until about 1:30am when everything had quieted down. Typically he starts to shake, cowers, starts heavy panting, runs and hides, or freezes up when he hears something like that. He reacts similarly to thunder.

what did you and your husband do and where were you, If we know there is a storm coming or fireworks coming we try and give him a sedative beforehand. The vet prescribed 1/2 a Xanax. We'll also take him down in the basement and put the TV on louder there and stay down with him as long as we can.

and for how long did the fireworks last? fireworks were off and on for a week, on the 4th, it started in the afternoon, and lasted until around midnight

How long did it take your dog to recover if he was panting, hiding, or otherwise expressing fear of the fireworks? The day of the 4th it probably took him the whole night to get back to normal. He was sedated, on a Xanax. Typically when he hears a thunder or a firecracker, as long as it does not continue, he rebounds in a few hours.

Was he sedated at that time? Yes  If you were not at home on the 4th, was he alone?  we stayed home with him all day. We took him in the basement where the fireworks were harder to hear.

Answer
Hi again, Kryste,

Thanks for the additional details.  

Xanax or Valium work ideally for noise phobias such as thunder and fireworks when the dog is already sedated before the noise starts.  Once the dog starts to become anxious, dosing the dog afterwards may result in the medication not having the desired effect or not working in the  most efficactious manner.

Also, be aware that xanax usually sedates a dog for only a couple of hours, not usually more than three.  I don't know the weight of your dog, or the level of anxiety, but 1/2 a xanax, depending on the mg., may not be the ideal dosage.  Valium takes longer to work as it metabolzes into two forms in the body before it has a sedative effect, but I personally like it better for noise phobias for most dogs as it works longer.  What you should do is discuss what has happened and what is occuring now with your veterinarian, and revisit whether your dog is getting the correct dosage for the magnitude of his reaction to thunder and fireworks.

It sounds as if your dog has had regressions in the behaviors you've described due to panic from the trauma of being barraged for several days by the noise.  You wrote that he refused to go out until 1:30 a.m. when all the fireworks had stopped, and that is a clue that he was highly motivated to stay in even though he probably had to go outside and eliminate.  In addition, if it thundered as well, it all may just have been too much for him.

Once a dog has panicked and experienced this level of trauma, your dog's fears may start to generalize to many behaviors and your dog may not recover to where he was before without additional help and, possibly, training.  If you find this is so, especially at this point in time, you may want to find a veterinary behaviorist in your area to discuss the possiblility of putting your dog on Prozac, Elavil, or another recommendation from the veterinary behaviorist.  If your dog's fears generalize and he doesn't recover within a couple of weeks, it's best not to let this go on too long and to address the issue as quickly as possible.  Dogs' fears tend to worsen with time once they've been traumatized, not get better.  You want to change the dog's neurology as quickly as possible.

In addition to any medications a veterinary behaviorist may recommend, you might want to find a trainer experienced in helping owners assist their dogs with noise phobias.  It's best to let a medication such as Prozac, e.g., take effect, which could take up to six weeks, and then start working with a trainer.  What the medication does is open a behavioral window of opportunity for the right trainer to insert training and behavioral modification which will help your dog.  

Expect that this will NOT be a quick fix, and you may need to work with a trainer once every week, or every two weeks, for several months.  Make sure you find a trainer who uses positive-only methods and who does NOT employ punishment of any kind, including shake cans, choke collars or prong collars, which can only make matters worse.  Certifications don't really matter as much as experience, the ability of the trainer to articulate and demonstrate exercises which will help your dog, and feeling the trainer is a good fit for you and your dog.

You can start to look for a veterinary behaviorist by going to www.AVMA.org

Vet behaviorists are a specialty.  There are only about 50 some-odd of them in the United States.  Typically, vets don't get much behavioral education in vet school; but, vet behaviorists specialize in behavior.

If your dog has gotten better and is seeming to recover, that's great.  But, if not, you may need to explore the other interventions I've suggested.  I would be interested in hearing how it goes.

Thanks again for your question, and best of luck.  I hope everything turns out well!

Madeline Friedman, M.A.
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Serving NYC, NJ, Palm Beach County Florida

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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