Canine Behavior/Anxiety Prone Husky
I have a 5 yo male Siberian Husky who I've had since he was 8 weeks old. He has been a fantastic companion, smart, well-behaved, and great with kids and other animals. However, when he was 6 months old he dug a tunnel under the fence at the sitters house and went on an overnight adventure that resulted in a gunshot wound shattering his front leg. He has undergone surgeries and physical therapy and has for the most part physically healed, but since then he has always been prone to anxiety (completely understandably). Loud noises of any kind have been a source of great anxiety as well as any time that I am away from him for more than a few hours at a time. As he has gotten older and we have tried different things with him by the advice of our vet he has improved greatly! I'm pretty good at anticipating his anxieties in advance and helping him through it, but I'm now at a loss. For the past 2-3 weeks he has been very hesitant to going outdoors, especially out into our fenced in back yard where he used to love to relax and run around. He'll go, but only if I'm right with him or a friend/family miner he's accustomed to and will only go a few feet outside. But over the past week, he won't even ask to go out and I have to force him to go out at all. I've tried walking him around the neighborhood on lead and he's even anxious with that. This has led to him having accidents indoors who he hasn't done since he was less than a year old.
I've been wrackingy brain trying to figure out what it could be, but haven't come up with anything substantial. We did get a new husky who is a year old about 5 months ago, but they get along great. She actually seemed to be helping with his anxiety. Also, I had him neutered not long before that. In the summer there are a lot of thunderstorms which he is not a fan of and people with fireworks and such which he feels similarly about....so perhaps that contributes? Since he is anxiety prone already and he seems afraid, I'm thinking it must be behavior related, but am also curious if I should suspect incontinence for any other reason?
Any help you could provide would be greatly appreciated - I feel like we've already tried so many things, at this point I'm not sure which direction to go.
Thanks in advance!
First stop: veterinarian. There are medications that can be of help, especially Adaptil (which can be worn in collar form only when needed). Overall health check (blood chemistry) and urinalysis also, plus checking the site of injury (is movement causing pain??? suddenly???)
Second: buy a belly band. This will prevent the dog from successfully urinating indoors.
Third (stop gap measure until you've done # 1 and 2): take your other Husky out on leash in sight of the male. Have a "party" out there with her; ask for "sit", treat. Walk in a large circle, sing a little song, stop, ask for "sit", treat. Go back indoors. Dogs learn by observation; your male will see his dog companion out there where he fears to go, having a very good time and "working" for food.
Do this randomly at least twice a day.
Fourth: buy a long training leash; put that on him and take him out (after he has seen at least six repetitions of the "party" with your other dog). When he stops and refuses to go further, still holding the leash go to the very end of it and turn your back to him. Wait. Let's see what happens. My best guess is that your anxiety is somehow feeding his (and I don't blame you for it); if that's the case, turning your back will cause him confusion. At first, he may not proceed toward you but, I believe, after several repetitions (and while seeing you and your other dog out there having fun), he WILL proceed toward you. Carry a small pocket mirror so you can watch him. If he sniffs the ground (still stuck in one spot), lies down, yawns, stretches...that is a signal that he is beginning to "think through" the experience. He will soon progress toward you. If he gets with three feet, gather the leash and walk him in a large circle; stop and circle the other way; stop and ask for "sit" (even if you have to tempt him by holding a high value food reward OVER HIS HEAD in plain sight so his butt MUST touch the ground to get the treat). Once given, take him back inside. Repeating this exercise should result in the dog coming to you more and more rapidly as you stand at the end of his training leash with your back turned. At that point, use FOLLOWUP feature for further instructions. This can take days, or even weeks.
Meanwhile: Put him in the car, go to the end of the block and walk BACK toward the house so he can eliminate. Going toward home will be a reward for him; do not allow him to "mark", be certain he fully urinates. At first, this means you'll have to go collect your car. But eventually, he will slowly learn that being outside is not something to fear. IF he is wearing an Adaptil collar ONLY for outdoors, this should help calm him. You can also ask the vet about a "thunder" wrap: this often helps dogs feel calmer and vets carry them.
I think we can fix this but we will require some medication and Adaptil is the place to start. Remember: USE FOLLOWUP feature so I can see original question/answer. You can save the email containing the link to this answer so as to easily access it and scroll down to Followup question. Also: CALM DOWN. Hard to do, I understand, but necessary. Your little "parties" with your female Husky will help you to make new associations to the backyard, too!
If someone shot my dog, I'd go looking for the culprit. It is a crime in any State in the USA to use a weapon against a dog, especially if it is near ANY HOUSES. Ask around; if there's someone out there with a shotgun who thinks it's okay to shoot at a dog, that person is a potential threat to Humans too.