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Suddenly Afraid Of Bird


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Our Opie is 9 1/2 yrs old, and we have had him since he was 4. He is a big boy, not afraid of anything, is pretty much bombproof - watches fireworks, pays no attention to the very occasional thunderstorm. He hates the crows outside, and always wants to get them. He has never paid much attention to our bird, except he doesn't like it when he flaps his winds, he runs out of the room. But all of a sudden he is terrified of our bird (African Grey) and refuses to eat, as his bowls are near the bird cage. Nothing has changed, same house, same everything. The bird makes this kind of "dink dink" sound and that is it - Opie runs for the bedroom where he lays there trembling, refusing to eat.

 

The bird cage is big, and really can't be moved. It is where it is. We have taken to moving Opie's bowls to around the corner at the far end of the kitchen, at the entrance to the living room, where he can't see the bird. Still it has taken DH getting aleash and leading the trembling dog out of our bedroom (where he hides) and over to his dish to show him it is "safe" to eat, and that he can't see the scary bird. I really don't like having dog bowls in my doorway to the living room either. We all used to eat together, no problem. I can't figure out why all of a sudden he has this "fear of bird" to actually make him not want to eat, even the yummiest of food, and even refusing turkey necks. DH just brought him over on the leash to eat a neck, and he took it to his bed. Normally this is a no no, he has to eat it on his towel (which was right next to the bird cage), but we let it go so he will eat.

 

Any suggestions on how to make the fear go away, and where this fear might have come from? Oh, and I need to say that Opie is babygated out of the kitchen when we are gone, so there are never any close encounters when we are not there.

Mom to Toley (Astascocita Toley) DOB 1/12/09, and Bridge Angel Opie (Wine Sips Away) 3/14/03-12/29/12

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Guest kkaiser104

Poor baby :( My parents have birds--3, actually---and luckily none of the dogs have ever been bothered. No one likes when they're loud, but they don't mind it either. My only thought is maybe the bird did something to scare Opie when you were away? I know Tah (the african grey) likes to yell at the dogs and call them into the room and I can see how that would bother a more sensitive dog.

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Maybe his thyroid levels should be rechecked? His medicine was stopped a few months ago, IIRC. Maybe he does need it.

Mary with Jumper Jack (2/17/11) and angels Shane (PA's Busta Rime, 12/10/02 - 10/14/16) and Spencer (Dutch Laser, 11/25/00 - 3/29/13).

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We have covered the cage - doesn't make a difference, he still hears the "dink dink" noise.

We are beginning to think something happened when we were away too. But the bird (Woodstock) has always made a racket, he's very vocal, and loud. It never seemed to bother Opie before. He does talk very well, and he knows Opie's name, and calls him.

And ME - no, we never ended up taking him off the thyroid meds, so he is still on them. Tonight DH got him in to eat his food, although it took like 5 tries of leading him to the bowl. Once he starts eating, he eats with gusto - he's hungry! My poor scared baby. :(

Mom to Toley (Astascocita Toley) DOB 1/12/09, and Bridge Angel Opie (Wine Sips Away) 3/14/03-12/29/12

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Something must've happened that freaked him out pretty good. If you can rule out a medical reason, I would start doing some re-training with him near the bird's cage. Lots of high-value treats (chicken, cheese, hot dogs). Let him associate the bird with positive things. Does he know how to target? If so, work on hand-targeting around the bird's cage. Whatever you do, don't coddle him or give him unneccessary attention in the presence of the bird. This can make his anxiety worse and reinforce the idea that the bird is something to be fearful of. Keep your training sessions short, five minutes tops, a few times per day. If you're consistent, you should see some improvements fairly soon.

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Hm, that makes me wonder if his thyroid dose needs to be lowered, as we had to do with Spencer. He was taking 5 mg twice a day since age 5, and at age 10-1/2 got very whiney and restless, especially at night. We cut the dose in half when testing showed that though his T4 was low, his FT4 was high. It worked. It seems their needs change with age, where some dogs need treatment for the first time and others need their dosage adjusted. But that doesn't mean that's what's going on with Opie, of course. I was just thinking it's a pretty fast and easy thing to try if you don't have any better ideas. The only thing about the behavioral approach is that an animal who has become extremely anxious may not be receptive to instruction. (Spencer could not keep his mind on his work in obedience classes before we figured out the thyroid thing, and he's the furthest thing from an innately skittish dog.)

 

Give Opie some special scritches from us! And hugs for you and DH too. This can only be stressful for all of you!

Mary with Jumper Jack (2/17/11) and angels Shane (PA's Busta Rime, 12/10/02 - 10/14/16) and Spencer (Dutch Laser, 11/25/00 - 3/29/13).

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No, no chance of biting, he is never alone with the bird. During the day, bird is in his cage, and Opie can't get into the kitchen - babygate. It's "possible" he kind of came down at him, perhaps when Opie went in to get a drink of water or something, while we were home. But mostly we are in the kitchen in the evenings.

But tonight, I did try some of the above advice - We put his towel down in the regular place (by the bird) to get his turkey neck. Bird made his "dink" noise, Opie bolted into the bedroom. So DH put leash on him, and both of us are sing-songing - Lets go get the neck, Yum! We get him by the towel, DH positions himself between Opie and the bird cage, I am standing on the other side, still singing about the yummy neck. Dh is petting him, bird "dinks" again, I feel Opie tense up, we kept up the petting and good boy, good boy, and he finished his neck! Progress!

So I think we will keep this up.

We also will be having the thyroid checked, We just didn't get to it this summer.

Mom to Toley (Astascocita Toley) DOB 1/12/09, and Bridge Angel Opie (Wine Sips Away) 3/14/03-12/29/12

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I can't imagine that a thyroid issue would cause him to suddenly be afraid of ONE thing.

 

It's far more likely that the bird just scared him, and like many dogs, he's over reacted to it. He'll get over it. Sounds like you're working through it well.


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Susan,  Hamish,  Mister Bigglesworth and Nikita Stanislav. Missing Ming, George, and Buck

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