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Canine Behavior/dog suddenly terrified of me


I have a two year old bichon frise who has always been very confident, affectionate and as I am her primary carer we have an extremely close bond and she trusts me completely. She's very much my baby and spends as much time as she can very close to me. For the past couple of days she has been sniffing the air (in the house) constantly and whining but no other personality change. Today she went for a sleep on the couch like usual and woke up like a totally different dog. She is terrified of me! She was coming over to me a little,  sniffing me and then running away in fear. Her eyes are wide and she's running from me and hiding in little spaces shaking. I have been talking to her like I normally do and offering her treats but she is now gotten so scared she's shaking whenever I go anywhere near, she even peed on the carpet. I don't know what to do, this started early this morning and she's still the exact same now, but she seems to be becoming even more frightened of me. I  haven't done anything. She just woke up like this. Can you please help?

You must IMMEDIATELY take your dog to the veterinarian.  This is extremely aberrant behavior with no clear stimulus.  It may be an indication of underlying disease or biologic cause, including temporal lobe seizure or other neurological problem.  In GB, you are fortunate to have licensed and readily available Veterinary Behaviorists.  I suggest you contact a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (who are also state licensed) for a referral to a veterinarian with whom she/he has worked, and to have a followup visit with that Behaviorist as soon as veterinarian has done whatever needs to be done to rule out biologic cause.  Here are sites where you can find a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist in GB:

MEANWHILE: do NOT pursue the dog to "convince" her she need not be fearful; do NOT offer any sort of food reward (you are rewarding her fear); THINK about what you may have changed (perfume, laundry detergent, face or hand cream, shampoo) that might be in any way contributory and THINK about where you have been (around horses, goats, sheep, other dogs, etc.)  This appears to me to be a physically caused problem; seizure related behavior can be extremely difficult to diagnose; the Bichon Frise can develop early onset cataracts and other eye related problems but NOT overnight.  FIND THE VETERINARIAN.  Until then, do not make direct eye contact with the dog; do not approach her directly (head on) but rather on a CURVE and, as you approach her, avert your gaze, lick your lips and yawn (calming signals); do not pick her up or BEND OVER her for any reason.  If you can get close enough without panicking her, put a lightweight leash on her (cat leash) so you can use the handle of that leash to secure to her outdoor leash in order to take her outside.  Her urination is called "submissive urination"; do not scold her; do not pay any attention at all to it until she is out of your sight, then use a solution intended to remove as much of the odor (to the dog) as possible, such as Nature's Miracle.

PS:  Is this bitch spayed, could she be coming into estrus?  Is it possible you are pregnant (yes, dogs can smell the pheromones of a Human pregnant female)?  While preparing for your appointment with the veterinarian and before speaking to the Behaviorist, sit down and carefully analyze exactly WHEN this began (time of day), what you had been doing, where you had been, everything you can possibly think of.  Please use followup feature to advise me of outcome.

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


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.


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

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

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

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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