She has always been a bit highly strung, but we are a fairly calm family and it seems to have always suited her well. A year ago we got another dog, and the two of them got on really, really well. It seemed that she had been missing a proper companion, and ddog2 is very laid-back and suited her perfectly. She appeared to be more chilled and relaxed.
Then, a few weeks ago (I posted about it here actually) ddog1 started attacking ddog2. After a couple of days, they went back to normal, but then it happened again and I've had to keep them separate since then.
They are both bitches, ddog1 is 8yo and ddog2 is 1.5yo. For many reasons we didn't have either of them spayed, but given ddog1's increasing problems with phantom pregnancies and after discussing the current problem with our vet, we decided to get both of them done (did it last Friday).
I have been trying to see what the problem is, and I've sort of come to the conclusion that it's....almost everything. She is SO stressed, so nervous, highly reactive to every movement, every sound - even things which she's never been bothered about. I have been reading and looking up everything I can find which might help, but I honestly don't know if I have the strength to cope with this. She goes from being calm to manic high-pitched barking and yelping within a second. I am trying to bring her stress levels down by not exposing her to anything she finds stressful but it's proving almost impossible.
I could just cry. We have something of a family crisis at the moment anyway (I've considered that she's picked up on my anxiety and this is contributing to her stress too), but I just don't know how to go about helping her.
You need to get proper professional support. As you will know if you have been researching this issue, some bitches will appear to get along fine but then when one reaches adulthood problems can appear seemingly from nowhere. Sometimes this is fixable, sometimes not.
You need to get a good behaviourist in to assess this situation and only then will you have an idea of how much effort it will take to resolve. You will have the benefit of someone being able to demonstrate real action you can take, which will give a much more lasting feeling of being in control than reading a book will. Plus, they generally offer follow up support via phone or email.
Not all behaviourists are qualified or practising modern techniques as this is an unregulated area, so make sure you enlist someone from www.apbc.org.uk/help/regions
I know, that would be ideal, but I'm not in the UK, and have yet to find a behaviourist that anyone can recommend round here. There are lots of places doing basic dog training and things like agility, but I've yet to hear of anyone who's helped with a problem dog. The one that I went to last year to help with some other issues (lead walking) was useless and I ended up doing it by myself (which did work, ddog1 does walk very well on-lead, and ddog2 has followed suit, so that's one problem we don't have!).
I don't think the problem is specifically between the two of them though - ddog1 seems to be highly reactive to everything, she's growling and snarling at ds when he just moves. She seems to have gone into sort of sensitivity-overdrive, if that makes sense.
I couldn't do that to her - she's a rescue and very attached, I think kennelling would be bad for her. I'm going to look again to see if I can find a good behaviourist, the thought of doing this on my own feels overwhelming.
Could you contact a uk behaviorist who might be able to point you on the direction of someone where you are (or know someone who might know someone!) Failing that perhaps a Skype or email consultation at least?
So, I've been trying to de-stress her as much as possible before we start any sort of training, plus she's needed time to recover from the operation. Removing as many known stress or anxiety triggers as possible, keeping her calm, walking them seperately etc. She's already a lot more chilled out, so I think we're on the right track!
Oooh, that is slightly spooky as after posting here I went off and looked up more stuff I could try and did indeed come across the adaptil collar, which I've now ordered and am hoping will arrive today.
You can also get plug-ins of adaptil that you could put near where her 'safe' area is.
We have found that a Thundershirt works wonders for our dog who gets very stressed in thunderstorms and when there are fireworks - I have seen a collie being walked in one locally, so clearly they can also be used in those circumstances too - I would certainly consider seeing if something like that helps her when you know that you're going into a situation that will cause her more stress - I would also make sure that any exposure to more stressful situations is done gradually and for very short periods - preferably doing things like taking her for a car ride and then home, then taking to her where you eventually want to go, opening the door and letting her see it for 1 min / 2 mins and then driving home - getting there and simply taking her out of the car then back in and home - out of the car sit on the outskirts for 5 mins and back home - and so on - very small steps but each step may need to be repeated several times until it isn't causing stress and she realises that she's going to be OK.
It seems to be mainly home situations that she gets stressed in - the usual ones like people arriving, going out, us giving attention to the other dog (or even ds), food time etc. She didn't used to be so nervous - it has got quite drastically worse in the last 8 weeks or so. And I know that it's probably got a LOT to do with the fact that I'm very stressed and worried at the moment due to a family situation which I can't do anything about
I've had them outside on the terrace, each on lead attached to a fixed spot, own water bowls, enough space to move around but within good sniffing distance of each other and there's been lots of tail wagging and friendly licking, and they're quite happy to lie within a short space of each other, so I am hopeful that we are going to be able to manage the situation. I love them both so much, it's so hard to see ddog1 having such a hard time.
Thanks for the suggestions! So, I've tried the Adaptil collar, which imo just made her even more nervous and edgy all the time, so I took that off after a few days.
I've been given her a Valerian supplement (which I am also taking myself, for my bloody nerves!) and this is possibly helping a little bit - she does seem a bit more chilled.
However, the list of things that she reacts to seems to be getting longer. Evenings are definitely more of a problem than during the day. She appears to be extra tense and on high alert every evening and anything can set her off. I can't calm her down then, either.
I've been back to the vet who has suggested I get in touch with a dog behaviourist who specialises in stress/psychological problems as they may be able to help. The problem really is that I think she's just one of those highly sensitive/stressed dogs and is reacting to her enviroment - while we're quite calm and there's not much actually going on as such, the situation is not a good one (illness in the family) and so I am very stressed and nervous myself and I really do think she is picking up on that and can't cope with it the way ddog2 does (she is totally oblivious to any subtle emotions - as long as she's got food, water and playtime, she's happy).
I've noticed that my ds is more clingy to me at the moment too, and I'm sure it's not a coincidence. Hard times affect everyone. My main problem is that I just don't have the time and energy to deal with everything at the moment
I can only empathise. I have a nervous highly strung dog too. In my 2 years of having her I have done lots of research and tried many things. We have had 3 behaviourists over that time. The high pitched frenzied yapping at the slightest thing still makes me jump. Just this morning a friend popped round to share her child's A level results, and I actually couldn't hear a word she said our dog was yapping and shrieking so loudly. The holidays are the worst as the children are around all day (the idea that this was going to be a "family" dog now seems like a sick joke.) She finds it incredibly hard if they have friends here (even though they all stay upstairs out of her way) she can still hear them. When they do come down to eat she barks and yaps loudly at them. It looks aggressive even though I know it isn't. She is well trained and will easily run to her basket when asked to in that situation, but will continue to bark. It seems that is just "her" and no amount of training to do this or do that, can change it. It's heart breaking and I have often in my darkest hours considered re-homing her to an elderly couple who don't move much and lead a lovely quiet life. I know she behaves like this because she is anxious and nervous. I have also found out that her grandfather is well known in breeding circles for being a "nutter". But because he was an award winning show dog he has been used as a stud dog extensively. This makes me so incredibly cross and depressed. I wish Crufts would have some tests to see how these dogs cope in unusual situations or outside playgrounds and then breeders might start paying more attention to the importance of a broader temperament, rather than just being able to cope with sitting still and being physically examined in a show ring. Sorry for the long post. Just wanted you to know you are not alone.
Oh I feel for you! My ddog was not always like this, it has definitely been a build-up over time. She has always been quite barky when people come round but then calms down very fast. We've been away with her on holiday many, many times with no problems at all. And slowly, she started being intolerant of some other dogs, and then she would react to things like the doorbell, or DH coming home. And now, she's really very nervous and we have to go out of our way to make sure she doesn't encounter any stressful situations, which is bloody difficult when to her every situation is potentially stressful!
The valerian seemed to be helping (or it could have been changes due to the castration a few weeks ago - they said it would take a while to notice any difference), but gave her horrific diarrhoea which had her whining to go out at night, so I've stopped them and am back to Zylkene. I have decided to just manage the situation as it is for the time being ie walking them seperately, keeping them apart in the home, and reducing ddog1's stress as much as possible. Once our family situation has been resolved in some way (which i hope will be by the end of September), then I will look into getting someone in to help, a trainer or behaviourist of some kind. There'd be no point now as I don't have the time or energy needed to help her.