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Hi,

I'm looking for advice because my puppy's regular vet has no clue what to tell me and redirects me to the specialist and the specialist does not return my calls or emails so I feel pretty lost.

My 15 mo old hound/pit mix had a laminectomy 7 weeks ago to correct spinal cord compression from overgrown vertebrae at T13-L1. She's doing a ton better but still has symptoms. I understand that neurological damage can sometimes take FOREVER to recover and may never recover completely. She's young and extremely HIGH energy and has responded pretty badly to all this bed rest. I have made every effort to spend every moment not at work with her to the detriment of my friendships and provide her with mental stim. We are now walking a lot but she's become stubborn when we turn around to head home even after walking for hours and this never ending heatwave and intense humidity (I live in NYC) make no difference. The vet said jogging is ok but she never liked it before surgery and likes it even less now. I feel she is depressed at home either stalking me or laying in bed and sighing. If I try to just hang out with her and stroke her body she gets up within 30 seconds and walks away from me and will literally lay down 4 feet away from me (she was never a lap dog so this isn't new behavior). I want to know what activities are safe. Is jog-walking safe? Are long walks safe? are there any activities that will strengthen her core and support her spine better? what type of harness is best? she has a freedom harness but I was wondering if a fusionpets whiz harness would be better or worse. She is a masterful puller and we are working on impulse control around distractions. A lot of obedience training has suffered from bed rest and confinement. Before she became symptomatic I was considering agility training since she is food motivated and active or tracking (i have no idea where) because of her hound nature.

So along with her seeming depression in the apartment, she pulls away from home. We have a battle of wills on my block while she pulls in every direction away from home. she will drag on leash when we walk TOWARDS my home even if we are 30 blocks away. If we walk past my building she suddenly sprints forward with joy and practically flips out with joy. Yet, once I get her inside she is calm and walks/runs up the stair happily on her own with no encouragement.

She has also started growling and alert barking while staring into space and even laying down. That freaks me out actually. I wonder if she's just suffering from cabin fever or if there is a bigger issue I need to address that I can't see. I'd have her trainer over asap except $ is an issue after the cost of this surgery.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

I know that a tired dog is a well behaved and happy dog. what activities can help us accomplish a tired happy dog?

Thank you in advance.
 

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Hi, there. Well it certainly sounds like you have reason for concerns. If your vet says that jogging is safe, then it probably is. Have you looked into aqua therapy? It places the dog in harness and submerges them up to the shoulder in water. There is a treadmill underneath them, and they do water jogging. Its great because there is zero impact on the joints/spine, while allowing the supporting muscles to grow and develop correctly. It also expends tons of energy. If this isn't an option in your area, you might want to just try swimming if you can find a dog beach in your area.

As for being bored in the apartment, it sounds like you two need some quality bonding time together. I would purchase some kind of "puzzle toys" like kong which dispense food/treats while you are gone. While you are home, simply just sitting with him and stroking him doesn't seem to be what he needs. Think about him as a toddler, needing play/learning time. Take 30 minutes to work on his obedience training every day, but make it a game using treats. Teaching him new words is also very stimulating. Teaching him the words for his paw and nose can be fun for target training, and helpful when you go to the vet. You can also give different names to his different toys and teach him to retrieve them on-call. Then once his brain is throughly exercised take him for the walk. He is likely to be more relaxed, has just had a meaningful bonding experience with you, and is more likely to listen to you and not pull (especially if you take a few small treats with you). As for the harness question, I would definitely go with a head halter like the "Gentle Leader". This would put zero pressure on his spine, and many dogs respond immediately. My brother's goldie would pull him up and down the street until they started using a head halter. It literally worked instantly.

I hope this helps at least a little, and I will keep my ears open for anything else that is helpful.
 

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Hi, thank you for responding.

We use a freedom harness and a Halti for leash walking. She doesn't need the Halti anymore because she doesn't pull ahead or lunge as we have been working on leash training for a long time. The pulling is to delay going home, or go anywhere other than home. I've been using her toys this week to excite her about the idea of home and playing in the entry way for a few minutes after our walks and that is working fine for now. Hopefully it sticks.

She hates jogging and definitely has a limp so I won't force her to do so. We do go to the dog park daily when I expect it to be empty and throw a ball around while reinforcing recall and target training. She has known targeting and tactile stimulation since the day I adopted her over a year ago.

Additionally she has an array of nylabone durachews, chew ropes, old T-shirts, several kongs, a kong wobbler, neba ball treat dispenser and other toys that I rotate on a daily basis to keep them "fresh" but they have lost their appeal and few toys can withstand the power of her jaws...

We spend a lot of time together learning new tricks with clicker training but her enthusiasm is dead, it seems. the power of the food is fading. Her vet and I are working to determine if she has GI discomfort on top of everything, but that's currently out of my control until we see if this new diet/med plan works. I'm putting off prescription science diet until all else fails because I really don't trust in hydrolyzed protein and that is the food she was supposedly on at the shelter and her condition was atrocious when I adopted her. Also, I am allergic to some of the ingredients myself.

I feel as though this surgery, while saving her life and limbs, has dented our trust and bond severely. I purchased some paw pods from fit paws to train her to stand on them for physical therapy since she does favor her right hind leg. Water therapy is extremely costly on my grad school income, espec after forking over so much for diagnostics and surgery (8K$). I was thinking of the beach but they also cost money to rent a car to get to. Likewise with Central Park being 2 miles from my apt, she can't make the walk there let alone there and back and that's the closest low impact ground I can find. Cabs cost $ and the bus won't take her because she's 50lbs. Starting to regret NYC very much...

I just considered hiking trails today, i think metro north takes dogs on weekends.
 

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Hi there, you obviously care for and have done a lot of work with your girl and I am really sorry you find yourselves in the position. I do not have any experience with her surgery but I owuld think 7wks post is pretty early. My previous dog had a TPLO (knee) surgery and the recovery time for that was several months.
- Is your dog on pain medication? Pain meds and/or experiecing pain can certainly have an impact on a dogs behaviour.
- It does sound like she is bored and possibly depressed. Does she get along ok with other dogs? Could you arrange some time for her to interact with some chilled out dogs?
- One game that can help with "bonding" is hide & seek - so that when she finds you she gets a big reward (food)
- Something we did with my new girl, who we adopted at 9mos and was quite "aloof" and definately depressed (would always choose to be in crate when at home; no real signs of emotion/happiness such as tail wagging, etc)... was Nosework or Scentwork. We did this in a group so there was a cost but you could probably set up a course in your place/at a nearby park. It is about trainig dogs to hunt for a particular scent. You can start off by putting treats in various locations/boxes and the dog has to find them, etc. I am sure there is info on the internet about this..it also is not that physically involved.
Otherwise, I am sorry that I cannot offer more. best wishes to both of you.
- Cara & Lucy
 

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one other way we worked up excitement about toys was making a "motivational" toy. you can google it. It may help to bring some interest back....
 
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