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Dog Anxiety/ Reactiveness(8 Posts)
Hoping someone might have some nuggets of advice.
We have a 3 year old collie (from working stock) who is very anxious and reacts to a number of triggers, the main issue is unfamiliar men but also things like hoover, wheels bins, gas cooker ignition. She will mainly bark, but if not will whine and is clearly agitated. She also exhibits ritual like behaviour eg she hears a bin and will run around in a circle twice.
She gets a fair amount of exercise, walked every day and out with other dogs with her dog walker at least three times a week. Although I suspect she would happily run about for 3-4 hours a day. Admittedly we struggle to give her a lot of attention with work and a toddler although in the evenings she gets lots of attention and affection.
We've contacted behaviourists and are waiting for an appointment. I'm fully prepared to hear that the problem is partly down to us as much as her. Wondering if anyone has had anything similar or has any tips? Thanks.
Very common behaviour unfortunately in collies. No it is probably not down to you but how you proceed from here will make a huge difference to you dog.
Collies can be very noise sensitive so lot of what you are saying could be stimulated by noise. Your behaviourist should be able to help you with this but basic things to consider are distraction and focus and avoiding all triggers for the time being.
So if you are hoovering put your dog in an area where she can not hear maybe even in the car. Re the men at the moment avoid all contact is possible. You need to get her stress levels down before you can proceed with any behavioural management.
I hope your behaviourist will ask for a full vet check - I would ask for full bloods, check anal glands and through body check. It may be that medication could help but that would not be the first port of call.
A simple thing to do eg when the gas cooker ignites is to scatter feed food on the floor obviously do this at a distance your dog is happy with. Collies are great at focus so if you can focus their attention on something else this helps and also cc the dog to the noise.
Go slowly hopefully your behaviourist will be qualified and will take a slow but steady approach.
@PollyRoulson Thanks so much for your response, that's really helpful. Do you think the distraction techniques eg with the food and cooker will be able to desensitise her long term? Its hard to be consistent with these things as we can't know when someone will move a bin outside and she's off before we get a chance to respond!
It depends! (not the answer you want to hear) your behaviourist will be able to see how deep rooted it is. The degree of reaction does not necessarily determine how bad she is - if that makes sense.
If she is inside and they move a bin does she react? If so I would still scatter feed food on the ground - she may react and then come back to the food but it is still giving out the same message good things are happenig when bins are moved. Hopefully she will spend less time barking but move quicker to search for the food.
Consistency makes things work better and quicker - if you can not always do this then look at ways you can prevent her getting stressed eg can she hear the bins at the front of the house, keep her in the back of the house, draw curtains etc.
It is also important that she has a safe haven. Does she have somewhere she is happy to chill out in - usually if they choose the area it is better so maybe behind a sofa , under a bed or it may be somewhere convienent like their bed! either way encourage the use of this and let her have free access to it at all times.
Bringing down her stress or anxiety levels means it is easier for her to learn and focus. If she is too stressed or anxious it is very hard to learn new behaviours.
However all of this is guesswork without seeing her in real life your behaviourist will be abel to give you a plan. It is so much easier to deal with when you have a working plan.
@PollyRoulson Thank you for recommending a chat with the vet first, our vet has now referred her to another vet who is also a behaviourist and it may be covered by our insurance!
Can you try an adaptor plug in or collar for now? We have a very nervy rescue lurcher who is much better now, but in the first few months we were recommended a plug in, spray and a collar by our vets and it definitely helped to take the edge off. They can be quite pricey, but we found the collar most effective (as it was on her all the time). It just helped to calm her down enough to get through to her with training and support.
@Lurchermom Thank you, I've had a look but it says it won't help stress issues ☹️