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Can dogs have panic attacks? Very long, sorry.

(18 Posts)
Deadnettle Fri 16-Dec-16 12:22:11

My dog, a miniature poodle, is very well socialised but can be nervous of some things. The things that scare her are things that I can't control so I'm having trouble making them not scary. These things include leaves falling from trees, people walking though leaves (we've fixed this), cats and squirrels. Her reaction is to run away but sometimes she will bark or growl.

She also has seperation anxiety and her reaction is completely different to when she is scared. She screams, properly screams and is very very distressed to the point where she could hurt herself. It is pure panic and its awful.

We no long have any problems leaving her home alone for a couple of hours, its when we are out that is causing me concern. I thought she was doing better but we had an incident last weekend that really has me worried.

When we go shopping Dh or I will wait with the dog outside while the other one goes in. Her reaction depends on how many times we've been to a particular shop before but she no long screams. The same thing in the car, she's not happy she's forced on the back seat (car harness) but she doesn't scream. Her reaction to these situations has been deeply unhappy and slightly distressed but not panic. I really thought we were getting somewhere but then the weekend happened.

We were going somewhere in the car and the car made a funny noise so Dh pulled over, got out of the car and check the tires on the passengers side. He was in sight the entire time. Dog really properly panicked. I don't know what to call it other than a panic attack, it was distressing to witness but thankfully didn't last long.

I know why she panicked I just don't know how to fix it. She panicked because it was a new situation in a new place, and she didn't know Dh was going to come back. We've walked in and out of numerous shops/walked away from her 1000's of times for months on end to reduce her reaction and its mostly worked but I didn't realise that she was learning that in those locations we will always come back rather than we will always come back if we go into a shop/walk away iyswim? I really don't know what to do, any ideas?

I must add that 99% of the time she is a happy confident dog.

Thanks for getting to the end of this post!

Deadnettle Fri 16-Dec-16 21:16:15


Deadnettle Mon 19-Dec-16 14:21:35


HenDogismylife Tue 20-Dec-16 12:28:31

Yes they can have panic attacks, my old spaniel used to have them whenever we walked her following the death of her lifelong companion. We took her to a vet and they just suggested we stop walking her ( she was very old and the panic attacks were affecting her heart). I would suggest you contact a pet behavioural therapist for help with your situation

Spudlet Tue 20-Dec-16 12:33:53

They can certainly get to beyond reason with stress / panic etc. You sound like you've done a lot to get her used to the shops scenario but dogs aren't terribly good at generalising experiences - so she isn't able to transfer that learned calmness to a new situation.

I would second finding a behaviourist who will be able to give you much better advice than anyone online - they're able to see your dog and we can't.

xStefx Tue 20-Dec-16 12:40:12

Oh poor baby, im glad she has a nice owner like you. My Cocker spaniel had them , in the end I had to distract her by playing with her favourite toy or by using a treat but it didn't always work and sometimes I just had to sit with her. Animals are so strange aren't they :-)

Deadnettle Tue 20-Dec-16 14:07:23

Thanks everyone! I had almost given up on this thread.

Spudlet out of all the dogs we've had, this one is the worst at generalising. With every single situation we have to start right back at the beginning again, even if the only thing that has changed it that we are 2 feet to the left of where we were before!

I'm currently looking for a behavourist, the one locally (who was very very good) died earlier this year and finding a good one near us is proving hard. I have been speaking to the dog trainers we use though. I will also talk to the vets next year and see what they say (she's due to be spayed at the end of January so I want to make sure its the right thing to do).

Spudlet Tue 20-Dec-16 19:23:02

Oh bless her. The daft pickle smile

It sounds tricky because you're going to have to put her into stressful situations but not so stressful that she gets beyond the point where she can learn... I guess a bit like BAT training for reactive dogs, getting her just to the point of reacting, then backing off so she can see everything is ok. Definitely something that needs a second pair of eyes on her! Good luck with your behaviourist search smile

Deadnettle Tue 20-Dec-16 21:47:17

It is tricky, it doesn't help at all that she has no drive to learn (or play really) either. For such a smart dog she's really hard to train. Going from border collies to her has been quite a shock!

I have a bit of experience with sorting out behaviour issues but this one has me stumped. I need a way of making her understand that we will always come back to her no matter what but I have no idea how to teach her that.

It took us 6 months to teach her to be ok home alone with no issues at all but we've been working on being seperated from us elsewhere since she was 3 months old (she's now 18 months) and although we've made amazing progress in places we go often, she still panics in every other situation. I'm beginning to think this might just be her and we'll just have to manage it for the rest of her (hopefully long) life.

Spudlet Thu 22-Dec-16 14:01:16

She's still a young dog remember, there's hope yet! You can't alter her personality entirely but you can help her to cope.

Have you considered any sort of gundog training? Poodles were gundogs originally... might give her something else to think about. Will she search for treats if you hide them?

Poodles are v clever, IME they also have a tendency to ask 'Why?' when you ask them to do something... they need to think it's worth it for them.

Deadnettle Thu 22-Dec-16 17:15:46

We haven't considered gundog training, but we have (and still do) obedience and trick training. I got a poodle to compete with in rally, our last dog wasn't suitable to compete with but she isn't suitable either. Next time I'll get one from sporting lines!

Hunting for treats is her favourite game (we do scent work in our obedience class) and I'm about to teach her to hunt for a catnip toy.

I agree poodles are smart, its why we got one. I wanted a dog equal to my collies but without the crazy. This poodle is, however, a lapdog. She really doesn't care about anything other than cuddles. Despite the fact she doesn't care for treats, toys or even praise, she is remarkable good at training. Actually thats a lie, she's good at heel work and things like stays but is awful at trick training!

Deadnettle Thu 22-Dec-16 17:17:39

Oh, I have found a behavourist! A nurse at the vets in the next village is trained in behavour and is good according to the person who told me about her. I'll make an appointment in the new year.

DaisyDanzel Thu 22-Dec-16 17:39:43


Not pretending to know a great deal about behaviour issues myself (our family dog is a collie and she's bonkers) but I thought I'd share a couple of tips that may help..or may have no effect whatsoever!

People often unintentionally reward bad behaviour in dogs without realising. When a dog is scared, anxious, overexcited or displaying any behaviour that you do not want, be sure to not try to praise it. Our dog used to be petrified at the vets, so we would try and reassure her, telling her she's a good girl and cuddling her etc. She interpreted that as "I'm right to be scared, they're praising me for it". I never realised until someone pointed it out! I think it can be applied to a lot of situations.

I work at a groomers and I also see a lot of people unintentionally winding a dog up further when trying to calm it. Unfortunately I don't know an answer to why your dog responded that way or how to correct things but I will say that it's important to be as calm as possible when you're around an anxious dog. No high pitched noises or patting your knees/excitable noises. Calm, quiet, slow.

I'm not sure if the above will be of any help and I hope it doesn't look or sound patronising!

Good luck with your training smile

Deadnettle Thu 22-Dec-16 17:57:39

Thanks Daisy, you don't come across as patronising at all. A lot of people don't realise how much dogs react to their owners behaviour so its always good to let them know.

Our dogs fear or panic is utterly ignored and always has been. We will only interupt if she's going to hurt herself and often all that takes is a shape sound. Calmness around dogs is something I learnt years ago as its the only way to survive living with collies!

QueenyLaverne Thu 22-Dec-16 19:25:30

These situations can be hard, (but not impossible to solve). Id get a good behaviourist to come and watch and give you some ideas.

Dont try and solve it on your own if what you are doing is not having the desired effect.

Deadnettle Thu 22-Dec-16 19:47:35

Hi Queeny what we are doing is working but she's not generalising it. All the places we go to often cause very little problem but anywhere new causes her to panic.

There is simply no way I can desensitise her to every place we will ever go/every place we'll stop the car and get out in her lifetime. It's just not possible. I need a different way to deal with this.

QueenyLaverne Thu 22-Dec-16 21:11:35

I guess then it's similar to people. For example, I have friends who can drive round quite happily on their regular routes, but ask them to drive somewhere unfamiliar and they flip out and can't do it. I'm thinking the only way they could get over it is to maybe get some confidence issues sorted out, (counselling?) and then drive as many new places as they could and have positive experiences. (Coffe at nice places or whatever)
Now to translate that into something that may help your doggie!

Deadnettle Thu 22-Dec-16 21:35:17

Yes! That's exactly what its like!

It even affects things like crate training. Send her to her crate at night and she would be fine, no problems at all (she's no longer crated at night). Send her any other time and she'd panic. She likes routine and hates any change (hence the disliking of seasonal changes!).

What she needs is something that can be kept constant so she knows whats happening no matter where we are. I just don't know how to teach her that.

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