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Non-Grey Phobia Help

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Daisy the 12 year old terrier is a great girl. She handles most things really well, even if they make her nervous or she doesn't like them.


Except for bears. I adopted her from the humane society here, brought her home 2 hours away, and just recently moved up here to stay. She's familiar with this area which is great, but being back has triggered something that must have just been dormant where we were before (without bears). She has some phobia of something outside. I'm pretty sure it's bear, but a neighbor's cat was attacked by a coyote this week so it could be coyote too.


She was a stray before landing at the humane society, so I don't know her history. From the way she acts, though, I would be willing to bet she had some encounter with a bear when she was out there because she goes into a full-on panic (flight mode) if she smells one.


A few weeks ago, a bear got into my trash. I cleaned up the mess then took her out for a potty and she flipped out. Pulling to get back in, darting every which way to try to escape... She didn't relax for two days, and she was still jumpy after that.


Last night she was really bothered by something inside but acted fine outside. I had to sit on the floor and hold her before she'd stop panting and pacing around the room. She was making herself (and me!) crazy. Once I was on the floor next to her bed, she got in and laid down, but would only relax if I was touching her.


Tonight we stepped out the back door, she took one sniff of the air and tried to bolt back inside, running into the closed door in the process. She needed to pee but it took ten minutes for her to finally decide she could without getting eaten, and even then it was as quick as she could make it.


When we got back inside, she spent half an hour pacing from room to room, woofing quietly under her breath at the back door whenever she's near it. Won't come in the kitchen. Will only eat dinner if I'm standing behind her, 'protecting' her.


She's also started getting on the sofa when she panics. We established fairly early on that she wasn't allowed on the furniture, but that as a compensation for such a rule I would provide her with fluffy sleeping arrangements. She hasn't gotten on the furniture in months bur all of a sudden in the past two days, she's up on the sofa every time she gets nervous. It's like she gets so panicky that she just...forgets.


I've seen nervous dogs and she is definitely sensitive and nervous about a lot of things, but only mildly - she's usually willing to investigate or ignore things as long as I'm with her. The second she smells a bear, she's in total and complete panic - darting around to get away, pulling as hard as she can to get back inside, blindly running into my legs or the door in her fright, doesn't want to be touched, ears pulled way up on her head, eyes wide, legs shaking. I swear it's like PTSD or something. It doesn't matter if the bear was a recent visitor or not - if she catches the smell, it's the same panicked, run-for-your-life reaction. And it's probably a totally justified fear (bears are scary after all!), but it's not healthy for her to panic this much for this long.


I put a thundershirt knockoff (the AKC version) on her tonight and it helped - she laid on her bed and stared for a while instead of pacing around. She slept too, which was good. She seemed better until we went out again, then it was more panic, but less intense with the thundershirt on. We also did a "follow mommy around the kitchen when she says 'come!'" exercise and it got her mind off it for a little while, but once the treats ran out it was back to nervous pacing.


What else can I do? I've tried l-theanine for other anxiety and it used to work, but now it has the opposite effect and upsets her (can't tell if it's just making her antsy or making her stomach upset). I can't take the smell of lavender oil, so I can't use that. I have a vet appointment Friday for another mass biopsy and I'm planning to ask about "in case of bear" anti-anxiety drugs, but I'm worried that with her heart problems there won't be anything he can prescribe. Is there anything else I can try to help her? Usually with a dog with fears I'd gently and calmly expose them to the trigger and build up tolerance over time with lots of positive reinforcement, but I can't predict when the bear will show up, and it's not like I can just go get a bear to use for this because bears are big and dangerous and not readily available training aids :rolleyes:


It breaks my heart to see her panic so much over something that can't hurt her (I check for actual bears before we leave the house, so the likelihood of us running into one is low, but she doesn't know that). She must have had quite the experience when she was a stray because her reaction is way too intense for just a strange smell :(


Eta: This is horribly long and I'm sorry!

Edited by Roo

Mom of bridge babies Regis and Dusty.

Wrote a book about shelter dogs!

I sell things on Etsy!

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"I swear it's like PTSD or something"


I don't think it's "like PTSD" but really PTSD. Especially if she had encounters before she came to you. In addition to your vet, you should consult a certified behaviorist for this as it's so strong and so unusual. I doubt if homeopathic remedies will be enough to get her through this. There's got to be some sort of anti anxiety med your vet can prescribe. After all, being in panic mode for so long has got to be really bad for a dog with a heart condition.


I wonder if something like citronella spray around your yard would cover up or dilute the bear smell (or whatever it is) she's smelling? Or planting citronella bushes or another smelly herbacious plant?


And, there must be some source for bear smell (urine? fur? scat?) for training hunting dogs down in your neck of the woods. You may be able to use this for counter conditioning - though I would definitely not try that on my own, only under the advice of a behaviorist.


She's more than likely getting on the couch because she wants comfort. There's another thread here now and the dog jumped on the bed after he was anxious about something - he wanted reassurance and comfort, same as your dog.

Chris - Mom to: Felicity (DeLand), and Andi (Braska Pandora)

52592535884_69debcd9b4.jpgsiggy by Chris Harper, on Flickr

Angels: Libby (Everlast), Dorie (Dog Gone Holly), Dude (TNJ VooDoo), Copper (Kid's Copper), Cash (GSI Payncash), Toni (LPH Cry Baby), Whiskey (KT's Phys Ed), Atom, Lilly

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I can't afford a behaviorist unfortunately, but I'm hopeful the vet will have something we can give on occasion to help. I did a little googling and found one, though, and if my finances improve, I'll definitely give them a call.


She's doing much better today, but she's still nervous. She's shaking occasionally (mostly in the kitchen), and she still slinks around outside like something's going to jump out at her. She got playful with me a few minutes ago which was good. And she ate all her dinner! I moved the bowl so the scary door is further away and not in her line of sight. We did a 1 mile walk this afternoon and I think that helped (too tired to fret :lol). The thundershirt is still beneficial.


We went outside a few minutes ago and my neighbor's plant was swaying in the breeze - this was apparently rather terrifying.

Mom of bridge babies Regis and Dusty.

Wrote a book about shelter dogs!

I sell things on Etsy!

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