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fayeth1989

Anxiety outside of the house getting worse with time - considering medication

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Hi everyone,

I have posted previously about my girl Tess and issues outside of the house, but I am honestly so stressed and at the end of my tether, I just don’t know what to do for her any more.

We have had Tess for almost 4 months, and in that time we have had issues with her “freezing” on walks, and just when we thought we were getting somewhere with her, she seems to have regressed massively and we are back at square one.

 

Some background:

  • We adopted Tess in November 2019 and at the time she was living with a senior staffy, her foster mum said she was quite anxious on walks but that this had gradually improved to the point where she skipped out of the door. When she came to us, of course she regressed, which is understandable.
  • Tess has never willingly walked near our house. We live on a busy road but when we turn the corner it is quiet residential streets. She freezes in various places, by the door, outside the door, on the main road, etc. She flat out refuses to go down some streets.
  • We started driving her to a local park where she would walk, but if I attempted to go even slightly off path (I’m talking one step to the left), she will freeze. And when I say freeze, she will not move. No matter what we do. It’s like she is glued to the floor and won’t listen to me or look at me. Then, on this walk she started getting bolshy on the oval, barking in other dogs faces, jumping all over them. She also got to a stage where she would freeze on the way back to the car, a walk she previously did with no issues (stubbornness or fear?) Please note no matter what we do Tess has not (yet) shown aggression towards us or another dog.
  • I recently met up with her foster mum and staffy friend for a walk who suggested walking her on the collar instead of harness, holding her close with the “let’s go” command and showing her I am in charge of the walk and will keep her safe. This worked briefly, but has gotten gradually harder and harder until yesterday she just flat out refused to move again until we turned around to go home.
  • As of this week Tess has regressed back to a stage where she won’t even leave the house. She trembles if we put her collar, lead or coat anywhere near her and hides on her bed.
  • If we take her to the beach she transforms into this confident dog who will walk for hours with no issues. Problem is, we don’t live close enough to a beach for this to be a feasible option, and I want her to be able to do a 10 minute walk locally in the mornings before I go to work.
  • She has now started howling when I leave the house (only for 5 minutes on and off), but she has never done this until this week. She ignores all of her kongs and toys until we get home.

 

So, I’m at a loss and last night, I ended up in tears which is obviously not helping the situation. I really thought we were getting somewhere and now I feel like all of our work with her never happened.

 

What we have tried:

  • Harness and gentle encouragement
  • Playing “find it” and throwing treats for her – she has zero interest in treats once we have gotten out of the house
  • Collar, walking her close, confidently saying “let’s go” – this results in us dragging her and most of the time doesn’t get her moving, so I am not comfortable doing this anymore
  • Walking with me alone, my partner alone, me and my partner together, makes no difference
  • Hired a behaviourist, who told us to encourage her to sniff and not go further than she wants to (this is the opposite to what her foster mum has said; note: when she was in her foster she was walking by the end with few issues, but they live in a quiet area by a park)
  • Adaptil collar, adaptil spray, rescue remedy before walks – I really can’t tell if this has helped
  • Walking her with another dog – sometimes helps; she still freezes, but is more likely to get moving again. This is another thing that seems to be getting worse with time and not better
  • Pulling her by the collar or harness whilst saying “let’s go”
  • Carrying her "over the threshold" and trying to walk again
  • Walking in a circle, changing direction, pushing her gently (after 2 or 3 steps she freezes again unless we are walking in the direction of home).

 

We know from Tess’ foster mum, that she was in a VERY bad way when she got her, and she suspects she never walked for the first 3 years of her life (she just turned 4). Apparently she was extremely skinny and had fur missing all over her body. Tess has come such a long way, she is truly amazing in every other aspect and we couldn’t ask for a more amazing dog. It breaks my heart to see her trembling with fear and I just don’t know what is the right thing to do anymore. I’ve got an appointment at the vets on Friday to rule out anything medical (but I doubt it is that as if we take her to the beach these anxieties disappear). I feel sick to my stomach with how frightened she is and that we have been basically forcing her and clearly we are making the issue so much worse. We’ve gone back to basics, and have decided to stop walking her altogether for a week or so and work on desensitising her to the lead and her coat (but it’s again just another disruption to the routine we have been trying to establish for her). I have been working on training in the mornings to bond with her, but she seems so unfocussed and just tries to go back to bed. We are going to the beach for the whole weekend so I am hoping to work on some “let’s go” training whilst she’s in a positive state of mind (although all she wants to do is chase the seagulls)!

My question is, with the above in mind, at what stage do you look at medicating your dog? Will anxiety medication help us to train her on walks in the short term, or is it too soon to be even considering this? Or am I completely misreading the signs, and there is something else we are doing wrong?

 

Any help is appreciated, I’m starting to feel way out of my depth and after 4 months of trying trying trying and getting nowhere, I am starting to feel like my own mental health is being affected!

 

Thanks,

Tess' mum!

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I feel for you. You have a hound with a big problem and you're trying your best and it's not working.

Have you taken her to the vets to check it's not something physical like corns, trapped nerve etc?

Take the pressure off both of you and accept that she isn't the dog you had hoped for and let her do what's comfortable for her. Have you a garden she can go out in to and sniff around and do zoomies if she's so inclined? If you feel she must go for a walk try taking her for a walk early in the morning or late evening when it's quiet but don't force her.


Grace (Ardera Coleen) born 18 June 2014
Raced at Monmore Green, Wolverhampton UK - 68 Races, 9 wins, 5 second places
Gotcha Day 10 June 2018 

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2 hours ago, HeyRunDog said:

I feel for you. You have a hound with a big problem and you're trying your best and it's not working.

Have you taken her to the vets to check it's not something physical like corns, trapped nerve etc?

Take the pressure off both of you and accept that she isn't the dog you had hoped for and let her do what's comfortable for her. Have you a garden she can go out in to and sniff around and do zoomies if she's so inclined? If you feel she must go for a walk try taking her for a walk early in the morning or late evening when it's quiet but don't force her.

Thanks. It's good to know I'm not just crazy and doing all the wrong things, I really just want her to be happy, which she is, most of the time. 

On reading my post back I feel like I am trying too much.. I am confusing myself and tess. 

We are going to the vets on friday to rule anything out but I'm pretty sure it's nothing medical as she runs around her grandparents like crazy and if we drive her to the beach you wouldn't believe she is such an anxious dog elsewhere. Tonight we took her to a friend's and as soon as we put her lead on she was shaking so much she looked like she was having a seizure. It's really awful to see her so terrified. As soon as we get to the car, she will take treats, and when we arrive at someone's house, she's wagging her tail and playing with her toys. I am thinking I ought to ask the vet about anxiety meds. It really cant be healthy for her considering the state she gets herself into and sometimes we have no option but to make her leave the house (like when we've been at work all day and want to take her to a friends rather than leave her home alone again). 

We do have a small courtyard, but it's not really big enough for her to have zoomies around. I don't want her to necessarily walk for miles but I would like to be able to take her on one 20 minute walk a day so I know she is getting some exercise. I am happy to stop this for a while however, while we build her trust in us again. 

Emotionally, I am exhausted! Any words of encouragement or advice are greatly encouraged. I don't (yet) feel like this is an 'impossible task', as I say, she walked with her foster mum eventually. Sadly she just keeps getting knocked back, I just wish I knew why. Even her foster mum is at a loss as to why her usual tactics are now failing us. 

Thanks again.

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You are trying hard for Tess.  I agree with you that you're putting too much pressure on yourself and on Tess.  I would maybe take a break from the walks.  Let her out into your small garden whenever she wants - not worrying about getting exercise out there. Since she does okay going to other fenced places and playing/running, just do that.  It may not always be this way, but for now, let her develop her confidence and not force her to do something she is uncomfortable with at this point. (4 months isn't that long for some dogs.)

I had a greyhound like that a few years back (she has since passed away at age 12, I adopted her at age 3).  She was a greyhound that never wanted to go on walks and exhibited many of the same behaviors when I forced her to.  I got to the point you are at - it's an awful feeling.  So, as HeyRunDog said, I accepted her as she was.  I stopped insisting she walk (even with my other two greyhounds going).  She went out into my fenced yard to do her business and get some time outside - which she loved. She would find a spot, dig around, and lay down to enjoy the sunshine.  She didn't do zoomies in the yard - just enjoyed being out there and feeling safe.  Eventually - and I mean well over a year - she started showing interest in walking in my neighborhood as long as my other two dogs went along and as long as the only one walking with us was my neighbor that she knew well.  She never liked long walks. It was just her.  Once we came to this understanding and developed a routine that worked for us both, her trust in me blossomed and I enjoyed just being with her.

Good luck.

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My friend had a male who was exactly like your Tess. She tried private training and used a clicker, every style harness, Chinese herbs, rescue remedy, the list is as long as my arm.  No matter what and she was remarkably patient, took everyone's advice her poor boy was scared of his own shadow. His life, where he felt secure was her small enclosed patio/tiny yard and in the house. He wouldn't even go upstairs.

Going to the vet meant having a local handyman load him into the Forrester and a vet tech taking him out. 

Very special people can handle this. She finally decided that her other GH would go on walks and her frighten boy would stay in his comfort zone.

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9 hours ago, cleptogrey said:

My friend had a male who was exactly like your Tess. She tried private training and used a clicker, every style harness, Chinese herbs, rescue remedy, the list is as long as my arm.  No matter what and she was remarkably patient, took everyone's advice her poor boy was scared of his own shadow. His life, where he felt secure was her small enclosed patio/tiny yard and in the house. He wouldn't even go upstairs.

Going to the vet meant having a local handyman load him into the Forrester and a vet tech taking him out. 

Very special people can handle this. She finally decided that her other GH would go on walks and her frighten boy would stay in his comfort zone.

 

If your courtyard is secure and Tess is reasonably comfortable being out there, I'd just let her be free in there.  Put a comfy bed out there,  feed her delicious treats, sit yourself in a chair and read a book. Just 'let  her be' ....

She does not 'need' to be walked.  Due to bitter cold, snow and icy coting my hounds rarely get walked all winter...and they're just fine. 


NSK-Winter.jpg.a6ea578c2e544932c5222b81cda3216d.jpg

Nancy...Mom to Nigel (Nigel) , Sid (Peteles Tiger) and Kibo (112 Carlota Galgos)Missing Casey, Gomer, Mona, Penelope, BillieJean, Bandit, Nixon (Starz Sammie) and especially Ruby (Watch Me Dash) waiting at the Bridge.

 

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I have one like this. She has a noise phobia: big trucks, back up beepings, banging garbage bins, buses. She turns into a frozen vibrating mess...and won’t eat, nor is she treat motivated. She won’t walk at all in the neighbourhood with me, but will walk with my partner at night. Sometimes I stuff her in the car and we go to a “safer” park, and she seems to enjoy that, for the most part. (We have a very active lab cross that we have to consider as well).  She is on medication, a small dose, but I am not sure how well it works. (Clomipramine, an antidepressant). There are other drugs one can try, however. For especially bad days, like garbage day, or holiday travel days, she is prescribed alprazolan, a benzodiazepine, which works great. If she could be on that everyday, we would have a chill dog that thoroughly enjoys her life, but it is an old school addictive drug, and we do not feel that is the solution here.
We have come to the conclusion that she is much less stressed if she is not made to walk every morning, so we have accepted that her life is somewhat more circumscribed than most dogs, and that is just the sad reality.  Fortunately, she does not have separation anxiety, but does not like the idea of missing out either....Our little bundle of nerves and contradictions! 
It has taken us a long time to not impose our idea of what a dog needs, and now that we have had an attitude adjustment, we are all happier. It is truly difficult to get over the fact the your dog does not want to go for walks. Oakley doesn’t even want to to go out to pee, and will hold it until she bursts...so she has to be carried to the back door. (Thank goodness she is small). She, more or less, will then freely go outside and do her business.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Four months is a very short period, so things will likely change in many ways! Best of luck with your dog!


 

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Hi everyone,

Thank you so so much for your kind and supportive words, it is good to know we are not alone. I think I hit rock bottom this week, and now I am ready again to do the best I can to look after my girl.

I wouldn't go as far as to say that Tess is terrified of everything, she is the happiest girl at home and as I say, if we take her to the beach, total transformation!! It is just walks around our neighborhood she hates, which is fine. I have stopped even trying in the mornings. Me and my partner have agreed to try and walk her a couple of evenings a week (put her in the car and take her to a quiet park) and if she freezes up, we'll go straight home. At the weekends, we can take her to places she enjoys. The rest of the time, we can work on building her confidence and trust in us.

The problem is, we have had a sudden onset of separation anxiety in the past 2 weeks and she howls and barks when I leave for work in the morning. The time this goes on for varies from 5 minutes to 1.5 hours. We have to stop this, because we live in an apartment and don't want to upset the neighbors. For now, we've left a note explaining the situation and asking for their understanding and I have got some time off next week to work on some alone training. Today I sprayed her bandana with adaptil and gave her some rescue remedy and she only carried on for 4-5 minutes so it seems to have helped. I came to the conclusion that if this were me, and I were this anxious about leaving the house or being left alone, I'd see a doctor. So yesterday we did exactly that and took her to the vet to check nothing sinister is going on. 

All good, clean bill of health. The vet however, suggested we have her put down. I thought this was a joke, and he continued .... "I'm not saying she'll never get better, but lets be honest, she probably won't. Why should this "problem child" get a "spot", when healthy beautiful greyhounds get put down every day." WOW. Not what I needed to hear. He said he wanted us to know there was a "way out" for us if we were suffering. The reason I chose this vet is upon recommendation, turns out he used to work for the racing industry. No wonder he still considers greyhounds as so "disposable". Humans wreck the dog, humans get to decide her fate. No. Would he say this about an anxious labrador? I doubt it.

Anyway I thanked him for his horrific opinion and said we just need a little something to take the edge off and make Tess more comfortable. He prescribed lexapro which is the same as fluoxetine I think (2x20mg per day - but the pharmacist and this forum said this is a lot, so we've started her on 2x10mg per day). He also prescribed valium which I won't be using unless we really need it, maybe if we know a storm is expected when we are leaving her alone. And rest assured, I'll give it time, but will be taking her to a different and more compassionate vet next time, if we need to try something else. I am now feeling guilty for "drugging" my dog - but have to remind myself it's temporary and will hopefully give her a better quality of life.

Thanks everyone, hopefully I can send good news soon :)

 

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Posted (edited)

wow, what an experience at the vet. 

have you spoken to the adoption group at all? maybe there is a retired person w/ a gh(a companion) and a fenced in garden and a heart of gold might have a spot to keep this girl safe and secure. 

 your being a wonderful owner and giving the situation your best. there used to be an australian gh group on FB led by a vet. i wonder if it's still in existence. the vet, i think dr. karen at greyhound care(found an email to her years ago) was her name was most knowledgable. OMG- look a little and i found this- she's wonderful- do reach out!!!

https://www.sentient.org.au/dr-karen-dawson

https://www.rspca.org.au/GH-Adoption-Booklet.pdf

best of luck.

Edited by cleptogrey

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8 minutes ago, cleptogrey said:

wow, what an experience at the vet. 

have you spoken to the adoption group at all? maybe there is a retired person w/ a gh(a companion) and a fenced in garden and a heart of gold who might have a spot to keep this girl safe and secure. 

dogs like kids(spouses get divorced) can be difficult. your being a wonderful owner and giving the situation your best. there used to be an australian gh group on FB led by a vet. i wonder if it's still in existence. the vet, i think karen was her name was most knowledgable. 

best of luck.

I have spoken to her foster mum but not the adoption group. We have met up a few times but she doesn't really see the "true" Tess that we see day to day, just crazy tail wagging butt wiggly Tess (and Tess used to walk for her but they live in a quiet area, last time she saw Tess we walked fine around the neighborhood with 3-4 freezes, but that was the only time she willingly left the house with us in the past week). I'll get in touch with her just to let her know things have gotten a little worse and see if she has any bits of advice left for us. She was shocked about the sudden SA when I told her about that.

After posting my last reply our upstairs neighbor text me about the note we left and said she loves dogs and will happily come and see Tess while we are at work, which might also help with the SA a bit (but we'll give it some time before we start bringing more strange people into her life). How lucky are we to have such understanding neighbors though. 

We are taking Tess on holiday to the beach for a few days from Saturday, she loves it there so much and becomes a different dog, and we all need a break! I'll post some photos of her hopefully having a great time and forgetting all about the rubbish couple of weeks she's had!

 

 

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