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Lisa
Lisa, Certified Veterinary Technician
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 16185
Experience:  CVT with a special interest in behavior modification through structure, boundaries and limitations with positive reinforcement.
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My 6 year old, 70 lb female lab mix has gradually grown

Customer Question

My 6 year old, 70 lb female lab mix has gradually grown terrified of leash walks over the last 9 months. I believe the trigger was a nearby classic car "cruise" where multiple loud, rumbling cars were shaking up the street on one of our walks. Since then, Lacey has become terrified. It started with a little hesitation mid-walk to now where she doesn't want to leave the house. She shakes terribly. We do have one block on our walks where we cross the same busy Blvd where the car cruise was last year, but this occurs everywhere now. Even on quiet trails, and even when driving to a new location to walk. I have tried treats (reward when she is walking fine without stopping or sitting), using her beloved ball as a lure/reward. Nothing works. She is happy to go to her doggy day care a couple times a week and is social there, but leash walks remain an increasing terror for her.
Just went to vet who did a blood panel and said after those results they will refer me to a behaviorist at UC Davis, quite far from my home. I asked about fast acting anxiety med, such as doggie Xanax and was told they only prescribe calmicalm, which I was told is expensive and can take a long time to work. Is this typical? Should I try another vet?
Submitted: 9 months ago.
Category: Dog Training
Expert:  Lisa replied 9 months ago.

Hi there. My name is ***** ***** I'm happy to help you with your question today. Just like an in person consult, I have some questions of my own to help ensure I give you the best advice possible...

Do you use a traditional leash and collar on her?
When she's acting fearful, what do you do?

Does she have any other health issues you're aware of?

Has she ever been to obedience classes?

Does she act just as fearful if someone else is walking her?

Customer: replied 9 months ago.
Hi, Lisa.
I use a prong collar or harness.about 3 years ago I consulted with a trainer due to Lacey's extreme lunging at strangers on walks. The prong collar and some human training for me resolved that issue. We have had extensive walks for 3 years until this. I have also tried the harness recently wondering if she was adverse to the prong collar. Both get same response.When she's acting fearful I try not to give in or console her, but keep moving. If she freezes and I can't move her, I try treats if she takes a step or two. Sometimes she freezes up for 5-10 minsShe has been to many obedience classes since she was 12 weeks old. Very well behaved. Except for leash walks.She is fearful with me and other friends and family walking her. I've tried removing myself from the equation to see if I was part of the problem, but she still does this with others walking herThanks
Expert:  Lisa replied 9 months ago.

Thanks for the additional information. I really appreciate it.

It sounds to me like Lacey is having a bit of noise phobia due to the car crusing. This is actually pretty common in dogs and I'm actually working with a new rehabilitation dog on the same issue right now.

The thing to remember about any phobia is that it will continue or even intensify if the dog is repeatedly exposed to it. Dogs have many different phobias, but the two most common are a fear of strange places (like going down the basement stairs) and noise phobias (thunderstorms or even the sound of skateboard wheels on the pavement). Without corrective measures, some dogs will even physically harm themselves in an attempt to avoid the thing they're afraid of.

Since we've already ruled out the possibility of this being a medical issue, we can skip right to trying to change her behavior through counter conditioning.
During this counter conditions, we're going to work at desensitizing her to the noise. This means we're going to use baby steps to increase your dog's confidence. Getting her enrolled in another basic obedience class will also help as this will further the bond between you and she because you'll be asking her to do things and expecting her to respond. Dogs with phobias do really well with a strong pack leader, so getting into a class where you're going to be the leader will help a great deal. Until she's over it completely, every time you hear the noise she's afraid of, make sure to reward her with both verbal cues and treats.
These techniques require patience and may take quite a bit of time, so don't expect an instant cure. Never punish a fearful pet because such actions can actually worsen her phobias and anxiety. Instead, touch her gently and speak calmly to reassure her but avoid excessive displays of concern or petting. Speak in an upbeat tone, act happy, and divert your pets attention to a treat or fun activity. Your goal is to deliver the message that the noise is no big deal.
There are a couple over-the-counter products that you could try that reduce anxiety in dogs:
Melantonin is an over-the-counter drug that can be used to treat some anxiety issues in dogs. The dose you would give would be up to 3 mg given orally whenever necessary up to every 8 hours. More information can be found here: http://www.petplace.com/drug-library/melatonin-melatonex/page1.aspx , which includes risks, warning signs to watch out for and other bits of useful information.
Try a DAP collar. These are collars that are impregnated with a man-made version of the dog appeasing pheromone, which is a pheromone that nursing bitches give off to their pups to help them feel calm and secure. It's something that humans can't smell, but it has an amazing effect on dogs with anxiety and other issues. Although you can find them at your vet's office..you can also find them online at places like Amazon.com and Ebay for much cheaper. Just make sure they're DAP brand, as they seem to work better than some other versions.

Hopefully with some time and patience, she'll learn that the outside is nothing to be afraid of, but please keep in mind that this kind of phobia is very, very hard to work with. If none of the suggestions I've offered help, you could talk to the behaviorist or get a second opinion from another vet in your area to see if they can help you get her phobia under control.
I hope this helps.

Expert:  Lisa replied 9 months ago.
Hi,
I'm just following up on our conversation about your pet. How is everything going?
Lisa

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