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Dr. Taus
Dr. Taus, Veterinarian
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Our rescue dog goes into manic behavior at night. It seemed

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Our rescue dog goes into manic behavior at night. It seemed like brain chemistry issues, but we have tried to handle it like abuse issues with no measurable improvement. We recently learned she spent a short time in a home with 15 year old drug abuser boy and her behavior drastically changed after that. He was arrested for marajuana. It has been 5months, I was under the opinion there are no long lasting issues. However a friend told us about an experience with one of her dogs that still has episodes under certain events. We would appreciate any information or suggestions. She has an eating disorder that seems related. Thank you. Barbara
Hi there,

I am so glad that Esme has found someone so invested in helping her adjust to having a forever home. Behavior issues can be so difficult, especially when we do not know exactly what happened to her, and getting a behavior specialist involved is a great idea.

I am glad she has had a health check. I assume she was neurologically normal? I would be concerned about seizure activity causing the manic behavior. Catching it on video and showing it to the specialist is the best way to rule this out.

In the mean time, I suggest you focus on building trust and a stable social structure for Esme. If she is able to tolerate obedience class, that is a good place to start. If that is too scary, work with her at home to develop one simple behavior (sit, lie down, etc) she can do every time she is asked. The idea here is that when she starts to act in a manic way, you can interrupt her, ask her for the good behavior, and reward her when she complies. This only works when she is just starting to get wound up, though.

I dealt with similar food issues with my own dog when I first got him. 9 years later, he still has problems in a new or unfamiliar environment. Dogs that have had food given and taken back sometimes become neurotic about food or develop food aggression. What worked for us was to put the food on a flat plate rather than a deep bowl (I do not know why this helped), put the portion down, encourage him to eat, and walk away. If he wasn't interested in the food within a few minutes, no big deal. I put it away and tried again later. Eventually, he ate it, nothing bad happened, and with time he got better about it. When he voluntarily ate, he got a reward. I don't recommend extensive hand-feeding or making a big deal about meal time with healthy dogs because it reinforces to the dog that there is something to be nervous about.

If she is having trouble settling down for bed time, giving her some Benedryl (1 mg per pound) at dinner time for a few weeks may help her go to sleep after dinner. This would only be for long enough to teach her the dinner then bedtime routine.

I hope this is helpful. If so, please rate me positively and do not hesitate to let me know what questions you have.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

The truly manic stage starts around 7:30 and no matter what we have tried from ignoring yet being present (isolation time out was the worst.) to play and exercise (just as bad as isolation). She wants to rough play to excite herself. I've spent hours and nights just observing her behavior. Just petting her can be the trigger she is looking for.

We are pretty sure her experience over 5 days with the 15 year old included her eating marijuana and being played roughly (or abused some way) while under the influence and it probably happened after the family came home at night.


My first question is there any hope she will overcome and learn to handle her panic enough to socialize with the family. My next question is how should we handle the panic stage. I haven't found a way to prevent it. Benedryl didn't help. I've not given her any herbs with valerian in it; what do you think about using it.


It sounds as if you've really tried a lot of methods to solve the problem. I've had patients that "shared" their drug of choice with their pets before, and I've never seen the result you're describing. Which is not to say that it can't be the cause, since all dogs are individuals, but I'm skeptical that the single, 5 day period would be the sole cause of her behavior problem, especially since marijuana tends to have a calming rather than excitative effect. I do wonder if something happened over the long term with her prior to her experience with that family.

The combination of seeking rough play and yet being frightened is unusual and I think this is where a certified behaviorist will be helpful.

Some dogs do benefit from valerian or bach flower remedies. We usually expect small changes (such as you might see with Benedryl) rather than huge effects, but it's worth a try. I don't like to leave dogs on them in the long term because we don't always know all the ingredients (because they are not FDA regulated) and we don't know what kind of stress they place on the liver over time.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you for replying back. We have selected a behaviorist to try. I spent most of the last four nights watching her and tried a new response last night that may help. We believe that the experience with the drug and rough play (even perhaps an effort to make her a mean big dog) at one house was then compounded by punishment for bad behavior (she had not previously had) confused her terribly. We have to change the time we feed her to before 5 pm, acknowledge her but not play with her in any way. When she becomes insistent and aggressive we put her outside, trying to leave the door open so she is still part of the family, but unable to get to us to hurt us. She becomes very destructive to property, which I hope is more of a puppy tantrum. If I sit out with her, but ignore her, she plays with her toys and barks at sounds in the dark. Eventually she gives up on getting me to play and I can go inside. She continues to be active until much later, and only slightly destructive. If we interact to feed her or anyone plays with her at all in the evening, the manic is much worse.

Thank you for the comfort about the drug, it is the same response I've gotten from other sources we have consulted. It is possible that the drug (if not laced with anything else) probably heightened the feeling and emotion of the experience of abuse. She might have even gotten beaten for eating a stash and that relates to her eating fear.

I'm anxious to see what the behaviorist can do.

Thanks again.

You are welcome. I wish I had a more complete answer for you, but your case is quite complex, with multiple interacting issues. I do agree that not engaging her in her destructive behavior is important. I do think she will greatly benefit from structure and learning manners as your .behaviorist helps you move through these issues.
Dr. Taus and other Veterinary Specialists are ready to help you
Hi Barbara,

I'm just following up on our conversation about Esme. How is everything going?

Dr. Taus
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Up and down. We gave her a new pad to lay on knowing she would destroy it, but what surprised us was how she bundled it up and frantically "humped" it for a long time. Never saw a female do that and she showed aggression to it at the same time...totally destroying it. The behaviorist meets with us today, Monday. We are all anxious to get her input. We made some good changes: no direct play, little rubbing (primarily petting limited to three strokes at a time), no squeaky toys, and learning some of her dominant gestures. We talked with friends that train hunting dogs and got some ideas that seem to be helping. I now can see the male behavior is part of her manic stage. You have any ideas. She was spayed about 5 months ago.


Often, humping behavior in dogs has little or nothing to do with sexuality-- it's a dominant behavior, and it does sound like it's an extension of her other behavioral problems. It's actually not uncommon for females to do this.

I'm very glad you are getting a behaviorist involved, as her case sounds more complicated than average.