Help! My dog's mental health is seriously deteriorating! - Doberman Forum : Doberman Breed Dog Forums
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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-23-2017, 07:09 AM Thread Starter
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Exclamation Help! My dog's mental health is seriously deteriorating!

Hey all. This is gonna be a long one so I'm sorry. Many of you are familiar with Gus, my 6 year old red rescue Doberman living in northern California and his ridiculous smile. He's literally just like, the best dog. He is well trained, CGC, sweet, energetic, in good physical condition and health. He's always had a cushy life, even before the rescue took him, and he has never been subjected to physical abuse, just the occasional yelling. He's been great for the whole 5.5 years I've had him.
Until very recently.
And mind you, there have been no recent changes to his environment. We adopted a mini piglet 2 years ago, her name is Mu and she and Gus are friends mostly. He was jealous of her at first and didn't like her in his toys and stuff but they settled into a routine and established who is boss and now he seems quite fine with her.
In recent months, Gus's anxiety and behavior has been on a downward spiral. I am sure that they are related. He has always been anxious in the car, screaming, if we pass anywhere he recognizes, but generally calm in the house. I've lived with my long term boyfriend for over 2 years. He's literally at his wits end with Gus, who has been extremely disobedient, will never settle in his bed when told, freaks out in the car, is constantly pacing and whining and the last couple months he's been doing things like getting up on our bed and stealing food off tables which he knows he isn't supposed to do and has had no problems with it. My boyfriend and I have had some problems on and off and I know that dogs can pick up on tension, however, his behavior is causing us to argue more and he's getting more impatient. It's like a catch 22. Gus literally gets so anxious that I can't even get his attention with treats, and he is a very food motivated dog.
Gus is like my child. He goes everywhere with me. School, work, grocery shopping, everywhere. He gets the same amount of exercise he always has. He seems so stressed out though, he keeps chewing on his flanks and near his tail, causing bald spots, he whines constantly, he seems just, not right at all and I'm really worried. I am taking him to the vet later this morning but I don't know what to say.. He's been recently for his check up and got a clean bill of health. Why is this happening??! I know some people put their dogs on anti depressants and stuff? I live in a small town that's not near anything for like 5 hours and I don't even know if there are like dog psychologists or if that's even legit aaagh

Thank you for reading this.

OK time for some Gus pictures! His smile is the most beautiful thing on the planet <3















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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-23-2017, 07:58 AM
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I'm sorry I don't have any answers for you, but I hope you get some soon. Thinking of you both.
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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-23-2017, 07:58 AM
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I'm no dog behaviorist but perhaps Gus is super sensitive to what goes on between you and your boyfriend or a general new vibe in the house and that's making him feel insecure?
Perhaps you could do a consult with a behaviorist via Skype?
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-23-2017, 08:31 AM
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Rule out medical stuff first. Ask for a full bloodworm panel that includes thyroid. Thyroid problems can change personality - so it is always a first thing to check.

Dogs can be very sensitive to changes in the home - maybe there are more issues with your boyfriend than you thought. It might be a good idea to send them to an obedience class together for some good bonding time.... ya never know!

Good luck to you - I would ask your vet for a reference to a behaviorist... hopefully there is a decent one not too far away.
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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-23-2017, 08:45 AM
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This is going to sound nuts, but if it were my house, and my dog, I would set up a couple of nanny cams to see what was going on when I wasn't home, also recommend thyroid testing to rule that out. But you almost have to wonder what's going on when you're not around to watch
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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-23-2017, 11:37 AM
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I would also recommend asking the vet about a brain tumor. I'm sorry to be so dramatic, but a tumor could result in a rapid change in behavior like this. Has he experienced any weight loss or change in motor skills? Those would be other indicators of a tumor (either in his brain or along his spine). I obviously hope it's neither, but I would definitely ask.

If the vet can rule out medical causes, I'd encourage you to check out Fired Up, Frantic, and Freaked Out by Laura VanArendonk Baugh. Our male rescue has some behavioral issues, and this book has been really helpful in teaching us how to teach our dog to teach himself how to calm down. Plus it hinges on a ton of positive reinforcement, which it sounds like you and your pup could use right now.

If he is stressed by the conflict between you and your BF, his misbehavior might be a way he's trying to either seek attention or redirect your interpersonal conflict when it becomes too much for him to handle. Our trainer gave us very helpful guidance earlier this week for what to do when our dog does the same thing -- she said to never correct him for misbehaving; that just gives him the attention he desires, which means you're reinforcing the exact behavior you want to eliminate. Instead, very calmly replace the bad behavior with a good behavior (our dog will chew my husband's shoes, so I will calmly pick up a rawhide, take the shoe out of his mouth, and give him the rawhide. After a couple of seconds, I pet him and tell him how good he is for chewing the rawhide). He gets what he wants (attention), but only for doing what I want (chewing on appropriate items). The shoe gets none of my energy, which is making it less appealing to him, because it doesn't get him anything. He's starting to pick up a rawhide himself and bring it to me, which -- of course-- leads me to praise him profusely, as if he's just cured cancer. If he's counter-surfing, the idea is the same -- don't scold; just take the item from him, replace it with something acceptable, wait a second, then praise him. If he's on the bed, ask him to smile (it seems like he does it on cue), praise the smile, then very calmly do a "okay, let's go!" and have him follow you away from the bed. Bottom line -- ignore the behavior you don't want to see (starve the energy from it) while rewarding the behavior you do want to see. No idea whether you can get your BF on board with this approach, but it really does seem to help our dog. The bigger issue is that he's so stressed out. The book I mentioned has a great plan for helping with that. Ideally, you'll be able to find a behaviorist in your area or who's willing to consult on-line, but these are some things you can start to do now, while you look for someone you like. Good luck!

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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-23-2017, 12:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AugustusMcCrae View Post
..........My boyfriend and I have had some problems on and off and I know that dogs can pick up on tension, however, his behavior is causing us to argue more and he's getting more impatient. It's like a catch 22. Gus literally gets so anxious that I can't even get his attention with treats, and he is a very food motivated dog.
............
Gus is extra sensitive & is Momma's protector & point of true happiness.
- but now his mom is angered at times / more now than before
- she don't smile so much anymore...I put up with the pig, but BF dynamics are different / NOT an easy fix
- BF and her raise their voice, when they communicate / BF likes to argue with my mommy, or he wouldn't do it
- the foundation of Gus's house, is now on shaky ground

GUS is STRESSED & resorts to helping anyway he can / breaking rules gets full attention.
- smart Gus is using bad manners to redirect BF focus off Mom & onto himself
- Gus will be the sacrificial lamb, and soak up the abusive elements

^^ Once relations have their Ups & Downs, eventually time makes matters worth.
- loose the BF, sorry to say...after 2 years, he is NOT the one for Life
Gus knows this.

PS - this is what I read into your story, ruling out a tumor (or something).
- just something to share & think about / I hope I am wrong

------------Kelly & (Amy - RIP @ 11.7 y/o)

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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-23-2017, 12:41 PM
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I'm no expert or trainer but glad you're getting him to the vet to check things out. I also am a believer that dogs can pick up on their owner's feelings, emotions, etc. When my hubby and I were having some issues about a year and a half ago, Zuko somehow could feel that there was tension, anxiety and frustration in the air. He urinated on the carpet near us as we were talking. He hadn't had an accident for over 2 years. They just know. Maybe the problems are only starting with you and your boyfriend. How do you get along now? Besides Gus's behavior of course. Not trying to pry, but it could be a possibility he may just be reflecting the state of tension in the household/relationship currently.
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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-23-2017, 01:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rjohnsontx View Post
I would also recommend asking the vet about a brain tumor. I'm sorry to be so dramatic, but a tumor could result in a rapid change in behavior like this. Has he experienced any weight loss or change in motor skills? Those would be other indicators of a tumor (either in his brain or along his spine). I obviously hope it's neither, but I would definitely ask.

If the vet can rule out medical causes, I'd encourage you to check out Fired Up, Frantic, and Freaked Out by Laura VanArendonk Baugh. Our male rescue has some behavioral issues, and this book has been really helpful in teaching us how to teach our dog to teach himself how to calm down. Plus it hinges on a ton of positive reinforcement, which it sounds like you and your pup could use right now.

If he is stressed by the conflict between you and your BF, his misbehavior might be a way he's trying to either seek attention or redirect your interpersonal conflict when it becomes too much for him to handle. Our trainer gave us very helpful guidance earlier this week for what to do when our dog does the same thing -- she said to never correct him for misbehaving; that just gives him the attention he desires, which means you're reinforcing the exact behavior you want to eliminate. Instead, very calmly replace the bad behavior with a good behavior (our dog will chew my husband's shoes, so I will calmly pick up a rawhide, take the shoe out of his mouth, and give him the rawhide. After a couple of seconds, I pet him and tell him how good he is for chewing the rawhide). He gets what he wants (attention), but only for doing what I want (chewing on appropriate items). The shoe gets none of my energy, which is making it less appealing to him, because it doesn't get him anything. He's starting to pick up a rawhide himself and bring it to me, which -- of course-- leads me to praise him profusely, as if he's just cured cancer. If he's counter-surfing, the idea is the same -- don't scold; just take the item from him, replace it with something acceptable, wait a second, then praise him. If he's on the bed, ask him to smile (it seems like he does it on cue), praise the smile, then very calmly do a "okay, let's go!" and have him follow you away from the bed. Bottom line -- ignore the behavior you don't want to see (starve the energy from it) while rewarding the behavior you do want to see. No idea whether you can get your BF on board with this approach, but it really does seem to help our dog. The bigger issue is that he's so stressed out. The book I mentioned has a great plan for helping with that. Ideally, you'll be able to find a behaviorist in your area or who's willing to consult on-line, but these are some things you can start to do now, while you look for someone you like. Good luck!
I second the Laura Baugh book recommendation - it's a fantastic book! Very easy to follow.

I agree that Gus is stressed, and I agree that a thorough check up, including full blood work up (with full thyroid panel) is in order.

As a starting place, you may want to try some of the non-prescription calming stuff. You can ask your vet to get you Solliquin, if you are willing. It's non-prescription, but only available through vets. The veterinarian I know that has studied it extensively recommends DOUBLING the recommended dosing on the bottle for the most effective dose. It's an l-theanine supplement.

Please keep us posted.


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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-23-2017, 03:05 PM
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My first thought was the dog might be in pain from a medical issue (arthritis / infection / other). Second thought was that you and your dog have a special bond that's stronger / different from bonds between humans, and he sees something in your relationship that you don't yet. Either deeper problems or a chance to get rid of the competition.
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post #11 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-25-2017, 08:47 AM
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I really like the vet recommendations!

Axel started paying attention to his hips as he became a senior. Axel, also, put up with some household stress. I know Gus is not a senior, but...

What is the update on his vet appointment?

Gus is a cutie patootie, by the way!

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post #12 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-27-2017, 07:48 AM
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OMG I have always loved Gus' smile

Many people have already mentioned full workup and I will definitely agree. All 3 of my dogs are actually hypothyroid (figures!) and I'll tell you the symptoms are varying. My little Min Pin mix has anxiety problems and being on thyroid meds definitely helped a bit.

There's many products out there for anxiety, unfortunately it's just trial and error to see which ones will work best for you. Adaptil, Thundershirt, acupuncture, Zylkene (natural anxiety medication from vets), Vetri-Science Composure treats (which has l-theanine). My trainer has said the best luck is if you do the Zylkene AND l-theanine. I must say it helped for a bit and then we regressed again.

........but providing nothing is medically wrong with him anxiety medication is the way to go.

Keep us posted
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post #13 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-28-2017, 12:37 AM
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post #14 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-28-2017, 02:36 AM
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post #15 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-03-2017, 04:56 PM
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Ruling out medical issues is your VERY first priority. Pending a clear bill of health, I think some others have hit on something. Gus sounds like he may trying to manipulate the dynamic in the house. He may feel he is the boss and that you and your boyfriend are making his domain rocky. I found out my Dobie was manipulating my emotions during training attempts. It took an astute trainer to notice the subtle nuances of techniques dogs use to manipulate you. Now that I understand those techniques I have been able to find tools to combat them.
Heres what my trainer explained to me... When a dog notices stress, in this case perhaps while hes on a leash. Every ounce of tension that is in your body goes straight down that leash and into his neck. He can feel your tension, worry, stress, and even heartbeat coming through that leash. Calm energy is a necessity in my opinion. They can feel it, better than people.
Atlas and I are praying for you and Gus.
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post #16 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-05-2017, 04:32 PM
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Any update?


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