Gone with the wind... Please help
Hello all, I need to ask for advice for my dog Anni. First, I'll tell you a little about her: she is a solid black 9 year old pup of Xero Z PS; she is extremely high drive and rambunctious, even at her age, but is of very stable and balanced character. I trained her in Schutzhund for a year when I got her as a puppy, but then had to stop when I went to college. She has still been a very good dog, my greatest joy and love.
The problem is I moved to Boulder a few months ago for my first job and around this time Anni developed a fear of wind. I know the cause of this: right before our move she'd had to stay with my parents for the month of July, in a town that celebrates the 4th with fireworks for, no exaggeration, the entire month. Before then, Anni had never been afraid of storms or gunfire, but since then she's developed a fear of atmospheric noises that has spiraled out of control... and now we have gotten to wind. Unfortunately, it is often windy in Boulder.
The big problem is what Anni does when I'm out at work and it gets windy: she has learned to unlock the front door and get outside to a (baby-gated) patio. She's calm once outside and will chill there until I get back. She would never run away but I still cannot have this, as she is not supposed to be outside unsupervised (this is an apartment complex and we've already gotten in trouble). If I prevent her from unlocking the door she will slam against it until she is limping and bleeding, and I'm afraid she will seriously hurt herself or break down the door (the door is glass).
As for what I've tried... She has learned to get around or over every barrier I've put up, including the new indoor 36" tall metal baby gate installed this morning, to get at the front door. I've also tried using a DAP diffuser, a thunder shirt, a fan, a white noise maker, her favorite music (Ottmar Liebert), and sun/noise blocking curtains, nothing of which has worked. I even (this will sound crazy) got her a 6mo shelter kitten to keep her company during the day. She loves the kitten but the company doesn't stop her fear of wind... I finally caved and just ordered a PetSafe Pawz Away Instant Pet Barrier that will deliver a shock if she goes near the indoor baby gate, and am considering getting a scat mat to lay in front of the door, but do not know yet if shocks will even penetrate her fear. So these are what I've tried or will try.
Some of you will probably say she needs better training, but I'll just be honest that I'm lost as to how to train against this behavior. Since terror is what motivates her to slam at the door, and as she only does this when it's windy and I'm not at home, I don't know know where to start. Do any of you have any ideas? When it's windy and I'm at home she will pant and pace nervously, but does not get out of control. I do not encourage this behavior by comforting her, and only give her positive attention or treats if she seems to settle down.
I've mentioned this problem to her vet, and he said this is a problem that only seems to get worse with time and is rarely resolved. We did not talk about anti-anxiety drugs and I don't think I want to consider that route yet.
If any of you have experience with this I'd be most grateful for your advice. I know some of you are probably wondering what the **** I'm doing in an apartment with a dog like this, but again I've had her for all 9 of her years. For the first 8 of them she grew up on a big property with plenty of space. I got the biggest apt I could afford (830 square feet) with a big patio for her to lay out on when I'm at home and nice running trails with lakes nearby. I know it's still not enough for dogs like ours, but for now am stuck in the lease for another 6 months... Anyway, hope someone can help and thanks again :help: :confused:
Can you get recordings of wind and work from there when you are home, start ultra low, then next step a lttle louder and so forth and implementing postive reinforcement with this, like crate as safe calm place to go with the sounds while she chews on a raw meaty bone or gets brushies in the crate. Then while you arae out she may just go to it to chill...just kept open, blanket over it like a cave
Also what may help is melatonin - calming, but search cautions w/this as there may be some moderate
Valerian root is calming
Lavender (make a spray with essential oil - just 10 drops to a spray bottle) and mist around apt before you leave. or spray (diluted) on a bandana for around neck (works double duty against fleas)
Ashwagandha is a calming herb that works on the adrenal glands (adrenals regulate and excrete the stress hormones). I had tremendous results with this while my dog went through a 6 month balcony reno in a 16 story building - in fact so good he bonded so well with people who hated him.
There is also bach flower essences specifically for wind I believe.
Try one of these along with the desensitizing recordings as you want her calm place prior...just for her health.
Note: you would have to give ashawagandha about 5 days or so before starting therapy
One more thing to try, when your home with her and the wind kicks up and she starts to pant and pace, is laughing. I've been told that it works with fear of thunder, although not instantly but I've not had an opportunity to try it since Cassie's anxiety is mostly related to people and anyone being in her space. It makes sense to me since dogs "reads" our racial expression and laughter is about as far from fear as you get and that laughter probably produces a phermone of its own.
I'm also in Boulder and unfortunately for you the winds get a lot worse!
I'm not a behaviorist so I can only offer suggestions to you. I think since you have 6 months left on your lease the only thing I would suggest is doggie daycare, if you can afford doing it a few times a week. This may be your only option right now.
Who is your vet, I know there are a lot of vets here in Boulder, maybe you can find a good holistic vet that can offer you some alternatives to medications.
I wish I could be more helpful to you.
It's not always windy, but when it is it is bad .
Good luck :)
GatorBytes -- Thank you so much for your quick response and helpful suggestions. I have always been skeptical about herbal remedies, but if you've said they worked with your dog then I'll look into it with my vet. Thanks again!
Kath & Clan -- One thing I try to do is yawn in front of her because I read that can calm dogs down, but it doesn't seem to work. I'll definitely try laughing next time.
Bear GSD -- I currently go to Indian Peaks Veterinary and like (enormously) Dr. Lisa Sabichi for both Anni and my shelter kitten, although the other vets there are good as well. I had another kitten who was dying of FIP a couple months ago and Dr. Sabichi was on the phone with me every other day helping us through his last two weeks... She is a **** good vet, in my opinion. Do you have any other vets you like in particular, maybe one that likes to work with working breeds? About the doggie day care, I would be worried constantly that something bad could happen to her there... She does fine in off-leash parks but she's always got to have a toy in her mouth and there are problems if it gets taken away.
Thank you all for your advice and suggestions, much appreciated!
If you like you vet then I wouldn't look for another. There are soo many vets here in Boulder partly due to CSU vet school close by which brings me to another suggestion.
You may want to contact CSU and see if there are any studies going on right now that may be related to Annie's situation.
Also there are dog services that will actually come pick up your dog and take it for hikes and other doggie adventures, not sure how much that would cost? This being a college town you could also maybe hire a college student to stop in with Annie?
Another thing to look at when your lease is up is location. I don't know where in Boulder you are located but far north and south Boulder the winds are especially bad because of the way they come off the foothills. If you moved central Boulder or even a little further east towards Louisville I don't think the winds would be as bad,at least not in the noise factor.
I really hope that you can figure something out for Annie. Good luck :)
I would maybe look into seeing a veterinary behaviorist even if you really like your vet (unless she is one, of course), not as a total switch but as a specialist. Think of it like seeing a psychiatrist vs. your general practitioner. The veterinary behaviorist is going to have a lot more specific knowledge about anxiety and fear issues than your average (even very good) general vet.
I don't think you have to worry about rewarding her fear by comforting her when you're home. Fear isn't reinforced like that. Just anecdotal evidence, but I really believe that hugging one of my dogs in my lap during thunderstorms helped him get over his fear of them. It turned a negative experience into a positive one.
Is she crate trained? If not, you may want to consider it. Not only would it hopefully solve the problem of her injuring herself and/or escaping (although of course we all know dogs can manage those things in crates too), but it may help her feel secure because she has her own little "den" where she's safe. Obviously this may take some time to train as you want her crate to be a very positive, good place, but as others have said the wind in Boulder isn't going away any time soon. ;)
Finally, I can understand your qualms about doggy daycare but you may still want to research. You may not find a facility you're comfortable with, but if I remember right from when I lived in Fort Collins, there are tons of good places with a lot of different options in the Boulder area. I'm sorry I can't give you any names, but you may be able to find a place you're comfortable with. I think that would probably be your best solution at the moment, both for her safety and you not getting evicted!
I wonder if you've tried D.A.P.?
They make collars and sprays and diffusers.
One of my dogs gets nervous when the wind blows but only if it comes in from the north or is very strong (upwards of 40-50mph gusts).
I just comfort her and she is fine, I don't make a big deal of it, but let her know I'm "there" for her if she wants to get closer to me. She's really not fearful of anything else, so it's not a big deal.
DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) Calming Collar for Dogs DAP collar
Comfort Zone Spray for Dogs | DrsFosterSmith.com
I've used this extensively with rescue dogs who are new and never have been crated and it rarely fails to calm then.
That is really odd...I have heard of other age-related phobias though. Sometimes it's thought that as a dog starts to lose a certain sense, things that didn't use to bother them start to. Though she's certainly not that old at 9, it seems odd that she is suddenly afraid of something like wind, even despite your explanation. I had a Xero grandson, best dog ever, by the way.
Anyway, I would try the ashwaganda, too. Have you had a full blood panel done on her? Sometimes hormonal imbalances can manifest in odd ways. I would check thyroid if it were my dog. Is she spayed?
and what would starting therapy mean?
Thanks in advance!
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