Dog Behavior-Advice needed

cindyb_vaApril 23, 2010

We have a 4 year old male dog (coonhound &? mix) named Sawyer. Since puppyhood, we have taken Sawyer to doggie day care 2-3 times a week. He has always enjoyed it there and typically pulls on the leash to get into the lobby when we arrive in the morning.

Last week, his behavior changed. He gets out of the car just fine, but will lay down in the parking lot and refuse to go inside. Treats don't work. Prong collar doesn't work. Waiting it out doesn't work. What has worked is that one of the attendants will come out and take the leash from me. I walk towards the building, and Sawyer follows me inside, with the attendant holding the leash. When the attendant is walking behind me, Sawyer's leash is loose; no pulling or refusals at all. Once inside, he is happy to see everyone and scampers out into the play yard like his normal happy self.

This has happened 3 times now. It is not a question of him being ill, or tired.

I have asked if anything happened at the daycare that might have generated this behavior and was told, no, that Sawyer enjoys himself and plays wonderfully with the other dogs. The folks who run this place are very professional and I feel certain that they would tell me if something had happened.

Now some background. Sawyer has always been a fearful dog. We walk him 1 hour twice a day. He is obedience trained, but he is very fearful of new things, including people. This is one of the reasons we send him to daycare, to get him socialized with both new people and new dogs. The daycare frequently has new staff, but they have not noted him being particularly afraid of any new staff.

Nonetheless, I need to figure out a strategy to deal with this. My owner instincts tell me that this is some form of separation anxiety. But, he does not have separation anxiety when we leave the house without him, so I may be misreading his behavior.

I need to figure out what this behavior is and a way to eliminate it.

Anyone have any ideas?

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I'm sure that plenty of much more qualified people will jump in and solve this problem for you but my 2 cents is this: My dog is perfect. My dog is completely socialized and enjoys any sort of activity, new situation, new people, new dogs, etc. but sometimes my dog acts odd about something that seemed so routine to me. I have never figured out what it was that caused the problem. You many never figure this one out either. It could be something so trivial and tiny but it means a lot to Sawyer.

I would sit in the car a while in the parking lot. Let him gather his wits before getting out and heading for the door. I would also take him to different places and see if he acts the same in different parking lots in front of different buildings.

I think you're doing everything right.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 11:14AM
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Only thing I can throw out there is to look at any changes at home or between you and the dog. Anything different in the way you're handling him? Do you tend to talk to him a lot, or baby him, when he acts scared? I ask because the fact that Sawyer walks in perfectly with the assistant seems to point at your interaction with Sawyer once he exits the car.

Have you tried just staying in the car and letting the assistant come out and get Sawyer? If he exits the car and trots into the building, then I think Sawyer is reacting to something you're doing. What's strange is you've been doing this for 4 years, right?

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 12:08PM
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The key to me is the fact when an attendant has the leash, Sawyer is fine. That indicates you have an anxiety that transfers to Sawyer at the moment it is time to go into the day care.

It may have been something as simple as a bad situation you had the first day there was a problem and your emotions were unusually tense.

Sawyer pickled up on that. Any further attempt simply reinforced the problem, since you were in a different frame of mind when trying to make corrections.

Try parking farther away, and going on a 10 minute---or even 5 minute walk before heading for the day care. And remember to recognize how your emotions are during that time. Calm and confident.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 2:48PM
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Anything happen to you or at your home? Construstion, do you have an illness? Do you need to see a doc?? Your dog may be picking up on something going on with you physically or some change in the environment? Are you feeeling bad because you are dropping off your dog? Maybe next time you drop him off, stay for an hour or so see how that goes...Good luck

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 4:15PM
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Wow, some great ideas posted here.

For the past few weeks, I have been prepping for a huge presentation I had to give at work. I made the presentation last Friday morning (the day before this presentation was the first day Sawyer acted up). So, yes, I have been anxious, and Thursday was my "peak of anxiety". I never considered that Sawyer might be picking up on that energy. And, although the presentation is now over, I am now waiting for feedback and am still anxious.

So, handymac, I suspect you hit the nail on the head. Next week, DH has offered to swap vehicles with me and take the dog to daycare. My husband is the most laid back person on the planet. So, if I am the cause of the behavior, this should prove it.

I picked him up from daycare tonight and was told he had a blast; played, swam in the pool, etc. So I am more certain than ever it has nothing to do with the actual daycare.

Thank you all for reminding me how attuned our dogs can be to changes in the environment and our emotions.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 7:05PM
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Dogs focus on different things than we do and can be very "visual". Here's a good example of what you are experiencing:

Lately, my Rusty has stopped wanting to walk from the dining room through the kitchen to our den. He has done this for many years. But suddenly, he doesn't like the threshhold from the dining room to kitchen. He hesitates, even when I'm feeding treats to the others in the kitchen (trust me, he's always first in line for this!).

I recently read where they are visually focused on an object that they feel might have hurt them. He get's "goofy" when I return home from a trip (I travel a lot), and sometimes "skids" on the linoleum. We've narrowed what we think the problem is -- he skidded into a nearby table leg.

Now every time he has to cross that space, he keeps glancing at the table leg.

Try parking in a totally different area and see if that makes a difference. There may be something he is focused on visually that is making a barrier for him.

Since we're in the middle of starting up a major kitchen remodel, we think our problem might be solved. Good luck!

    Bookmark   April 24, 2010 at 1:35AM
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