help for doggy PTSD?

quirkJune 26, 2009

Wondering if anyone has any ideas for helping my dog get over a traumatic experience?

She is 14 years old, has always been active, loves going for walks, enjoys playing wresting and chasing games with other dogs (and cats, given the opportunity), sucks up attention from humans, has always been a bit distrustful of children but otherwise very people- and animal-friendly.

About a month and a half ago, she was attacked by two larger dogs while just as we were entering the local park where I usually take her for walks. She was slightly hurt; one tooth-puncture which healed quickly and a limp which only lasted a day or so. But she was quite frightened. She now refuses to have anything to do with other dogs or people she doesn't know, which is bad enough. Worse, she is frightened of walks. She still gets excited when I pull out the leash, but actually going anywhere is an exercise in frustration. Sometimes, it's nearly impossible to even coax her out of my yard. Much of the time, she refuses to go more than half a block or so from my house. When I do get her to go anywhere, she is constantly stopping and looking around and looking behind her to make sure no ones coming after her. I've tried altering our normal routes, which helped a little at first, but didn't last. Then I tried constantly coaxing her to keep going whenever she stopped, which I can eventually get her moving again, but she's obviously on edge the entire time, and as the weeks go by she's getting less and less willing to go any distance from the house. The last week or so, I've been letting her decide when to go back and turning around when she stops and won't go further. I don't really think that's the right thing to do; I think it just tells her that I'm not really in control when she needs to feel I am, but I am at a loss as to what else to try.

I hate that she's lost something that she enjoys; both going for walks, and playing with other dogs. Besides which, I don't know how else I will get her any exercise if I can't walk her! True, she is an old dog and has slowed down a lot, but I am sure she still needs regular exercise. She never would really play fetch, she gave up chasing squirrels a year or two ago, and I don't think the occasional game of tug-of-war is really enough exercise.

Any ideas? Do you think I'm better off pushing her to take normal-length walks, or letting her turn around and come home when she wants? Other thoughts?

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So sorry this happened to your dog, but I sense she may also now be picking up apprehension vibes from you as I'm sure you too are a bit uncomfortable walking her, not knowing if this could happen again. Which is very understandable.

You'll need to make her walks a very happy experience and try using her favorite treats to help her along on her walk. Start off slowly and build up a little more each day. Food is a great motivator with dogs.

I'm sure other people here will have more specific suggestions for you to try. Good luck.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2009 at 4:30PM
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Does she enjoy car rides?

If so, taking her in the car a couple blocks away and walking home may work. You can gradually increase the distance.

Then vary the ride to after the walk.

Generally, dogs get over such difficulties as long as the owner does not have the same anxiety. You have to ignore the bad behavior to eliminate it. Feeling sorry for the dog and petting it to comfort just reinforces the unwanted behavior.

Granted, ignoring the fact the dog will not lead is difficult, but changing the routine---making the walk more rewarding by going towards home instead of away may help break the cycle.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2009 at 8:31AM
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handymac, that is a really good idea. I should have thought of that! She does walk toward the house, once I get her away from it. Rather as quickly as possible, but still...

I have been trying my best to keep my tone happy-happy-fun when we walk, vs. oh-you-poor-dog or getting mad or upset, but of course it's still possible she's picking up on my underlying mood, which has been getting somewhat frustrated lately.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2009 at 9:10AM
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I agree about the car ride, you can take her to other places. You might even go back to the place where she was attacked, get her out of the car and just stand around for awhile. Don't try and force the issue by making her walk. Just hang out, show her that she is not going to get hurt.
If you see a dog she has played with before you might want to let the owner know what happened and ask if you can hang out for awhile.
Since your dog is elderly more dogs will try overwhelming her or fighting with her, it is paramount to picking a teenager picking a fight with an 80 year old woman.
You might also use a half dose of Rescue Remedy before you go out for walkies.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2009 at 4:41PM
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