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Discussion Starter #1
So, I've had Rocky since February and recently moved back to NYC with him. He is VERY leash reactive- towards dogs mostly, but also skateboards, scooters, buses and trucks. We have been working very hard on his reactivity (LAT), and he shows marked improvement, which is always followed a rapid, bewildering regression and sometimes worsening of the behavior. He becomes periodically aggressive toward familiar dogs on the street (which is different from his normal reactivity/barking), he is anxious in the house and has panting, whining panic attacks for no reason I can discern. His thresholds for stimuli change daily- sometimes things don't bother him, and other times he flips his lid. Some days a cat on the trash can is an even to wag about, others he is whining, barking, drooling and having a total meltdown.

Today was the final straw for me- he was greeting a familiar dog, a good doggy friend of his. He didn't react negatively, and was happy to see him (tail wag, open mouth, no stiff legs or hackles up) and while they were doing their happy, relaxed sniff a dog barked from a nearby window. Rocky just lost it- flew at his buddy and latched himself on to his neck- really attacked him. The other dog was fine, but I'm just exhausted and feeling hopeless.

Tomorrow, we are going to consult with the vet about meds. I'm hoping we can lower his arousal enough that he can learn to be okay with stimuli instead of just learning to suppress or redirect his insensity (i.e. hyper-focusing on the treat instead of the other dog) which is just as problmematic. No matter how much we work together, just when he starts to seem like his emotional state is changing, he takes a giant step back and starts to scare me again.

I am going to start crating Tribble and Rocky separately at night and when they are alone, and step up the training sessions with both of them separately (as Trib needs to learn to be calm in preparation for knee surgery and Rocky needs to stop being a jerk). There will be no more walks together because I can't prevent them both from reacting when they are together.

I just don't know what else to do...
 

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Thanks, Tess. I find that really reassuring. =)

I am just concerned (reasonably so, I think) about side-effects. And then (maybe less reasonably) I can't help but wonder if maybe his behavior is caused by some kind of physical pain. He never limps, isn't sensitive to touch (you can rub him all over, pick him up, cuddle, etc), and he vet says he is healthy. I guess though if the meds don't help after a few weeks, we can revisit some other possibilities.
 

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Yea meds sound like they'd help. It makes things less frustrating. I'd also check out some of kikopup's videos about training 'calmness into dogs' and similar...it can't hurt.

I think that your concern about side effects is valid, and the fact that you are concerned means you will watch out for them. The vet visit will help and def rule out pain as triggers (could be something upsetting his stomach etc, doesn't have to be muscular) but even if that is the main problem it sounds like's he's leash reactive regardless and the training in combination will help.

Good luck!
 

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Ditto Tess. Based on your description I would absolutely be trying out meds.

While you are working with your vet on meds, also consider taking a week or two off on a lot of your outdoor activities and reactivity training. Goal being to give Rocky a really relaxing vacation so stress hormones can leave the body.

I know you're into training (or a trainer?) but have you considered hiring a behaviorist or behavior consultant to work with you? Someone with more experience may be able to help you take things with Rocky to the next level, not to mention learn methods and tips that can help you out in the future with clients. :)

Seeing as Rocky is sound sensitive, have you done much work with the "Listen to That" game? If not that would be possibly something to start working on. It's a variation of LAT so should be pretty easy for you to learn seeing and you already use LAT.;)

Oh! One more thing! Again I know you said you play LAT but have you named Rocky's triggers? If not, then at some point in the future you may want to consider doing so. Sudden environmental contrast (a trigger suddenly appearing) can be incredibly difficult to work with and being in a large city is probably a big source of stress for Rocky. Naming triggers can allow you to basically play "find the dog/person" (not an official name :p) cueing Rocky to look for and find a trigger (earning a reward) as it suddenly comes into view. Just helps to alleviate stress by preventing a dog from being startled (assuming you see the trigger first). It's been really awesome for my reactive guy.:)
 

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meds can make all the difference they are not something I take lightly but in some dogs cases they make a huge difference & are deff warranted.
 

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I think you're doing the right thing.

Prozac isn't perfect but it sounds like life for both of you right now is far from perfect and it may well be a net gain. I haven't done much research on side effects but it's possible there are other supplements you can use to offset them to some extent.

I understand the inclination to rule out a physical cause. But mental illness is very common in people after all. Stigma is often the greatest barrier to treatment and recovery. I think you're wise to not let the stigma of mental illness stand in the way of his health and his (and your) happiness.

Layla has her own issues with anxiety and I've thought about meds too. She's not as extreme as what you're describing though. And I'd like to at least see where we're at after her spay, and after having had her for a year. It's a big decision undoubtedly but I think you're right to at least explore it.

There may be other meds to consider as well...?
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I know you're into training (or a trainer?) but have you considered hiring a behaviorist or behavior consultant to work with you? Someone with more experience may be able to help you take things with Rocky to the next level, not to mention learn methods and tips that can help you out in the future with clients. :)

Seeing as Rocky is sound sensitive, have you done much work with the "Listen to That" game? If not that would be possibly something to start working on. It's a variation of LAT so should be pretty easy for you to learn seeing and you already use LAT.;)

Oh! One more thing! Again I know you said you play LAT but have you named Rocky's triggers? If not, then at some point in the future you may want to consider doing so. Sudden environmental contrast (a trigger suddenly appearing) can be incredibly difficult to work with and being in a large city is probably a big source of stress for Rocky. Naming triggers can allow you to basically play "find the dog/person" (not an official name :p) cueing Rocky to look for and find a trigger (earning a reward) as it suddenly comes into view. Just helps to alleviate stress by preventing a dog from being startled (assuming you see the trigger first). It's been really awesome for my reactive guy.:)
I have definitely considered hiring a behaviorist, but unfortunately it really isn't in my budget atm. I'm back in school full time and trying to figure out how to pay for Trib's knee surgery. :eek: If the funds miraculously become available, it will be my first priority.

You know- I had been so focused on working on Rocky's visual triggers, I hadn't really thought about the auditory ones. Where we were in MA, it was pretty quiet, but he has been reacting to noises from outside more and more since I moved to the city. I will definitely start working on that ASAP, especially in the house. I'm sure that oversight on my part hasn't helped his stress levels.

I have named some of his triggers- we play "where's the puppy?" and "where's the kitty" which is good, and he knows those two. Skateboards we haven't even broached yet, though thankfully he seems to tolerate/not react to little kids on skateboards/scooters on the sidewalk. He also knows "truck" sort of.

It is all a work in progress, and of course moving and having a totally new routine hasn't helped. If the vet okays the meds, I hope it will help us manage his baseline and let him learn to relax. Even when he doesn't react, he is still super tense.

We will see the vet tomorrow. Fingers crossed.
 

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Vet gave us a script for prozac- 20mg/day. We also got Trazadone to take "as needed" like for car rides. I'm feeling pretty hopeful right now. =)
 

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sorry to hear about such bad anxiety, this reminds me of my brothers dog ozzy even though he has since gotton better and not as bad without medication. I was once taking prozac but allergic to it.

I really hope this helps him alot. good luck
 

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My dog was on Prozac for about 8 of her 14yrs. She was a rescue at 6mo but had a very bad start and was sort of aggressive towards my other two dogs and had a horrible guarding issue plus other weird things.

After we put her on meds she was almost a different dog. She still had issues. If I accidentally forgot to renew the meds she had anxiety and went back to being her old self.
She lived 14 yrs with no side effects and they actually helped her live a happier life. I remember taking her into the vet when she was about 12 to talk about putting her to sleep because she was scaring my whole family. We decided to up her dose and it helped and gave her 2 more years with us. The meds are not expensive and it's worth a try. Good luck.
 

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He just started yesterday because we were traveling over the weekend, and I didn't want to miss any side effects or anything. He takes the pill no problem, but it is too early to tell how it is going to affect him. I will definitely update in a week or so- sooner if anything changes.
 

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So- it's been a week. My dog is still psychotic. In some ways worse- more snarling, lounging, barking, screaming and generally being a psychopath. On the other hand, sometimes, instead of his usual whining, whimpering, anxious self once the dog/truck/skateboard/scooter/guy-with-hat has passed, sometimes he just seems delighted. Like thrilled that he scared it off. Smug. And I want to smack him and tell him he is a very bad dog, but of course I don't because it would be counterproductive.

I am so so hopeful that the drugs mellow him out. If they don't, I don't know what I will do. He is SUCH a pain and I am actually stuck here for at least another 8 months. I know Rocky is really the kind of dog who needs a fenced yard and occasional off-leash hikes or what not, and I know it is my responsibility to provide this for him, but I just can't understand why after 7 months of training and getting better and doing AMAZING on visits to the city and walks around our neighborhood and all the other tests I put him through, he has suddenly become SO much worse than he was when I got him.

I just really don't have the time for this, and every time I take him out is counterproductive because there is no way to avoid the dogs and he WONT go to the bathroom and there are just no options but to pull him between cars and let him have a meltdown while whatever it is goes by. I really resent him when this happens- when my neighbors rush past and apologize to me. When the people whose dogs I trained walk by with those dogs and I am standing there in the street holding the leash of a dog who is completely out of control and there is NOTHING I can do about it.
 

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Issues like this are really frustrating, I completely understand and a lot of us have had days where we wanted to just lie down and do nothing and hope the problem away, I'm suspecting.

I know it took Koda a long time to adjust to living in the city, is there a way to get him used to things like skateboards on a leash in the house (find one used and roll it around with a teddy? XD) so at least you can eliminate things like that slowly?

As well, I realize it's not really in your budget but a one-time visit to a behaviorist isn't TOO much and they might be able to really help you out and give you a bunch of ideas. I know my obedience school takes questions from complete strangers and encourages us to ask for help when we're stuck on a problem even when it's nothing major. It might be worth finding one that you trust and not going for a session until you can see their results with other dogs.

I hope things start getting better for you!
 

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I'm not really sure what to say that would be remotely helpful. It sucks when you're going through this kind of stress and feeling alone and hopeless, so I partly feel the need to let you know that your update has been read and acknowledged by more than one person. I wish I had some helpful input. I guess at this point it's a matter of waiting a bit longer and then discontinuing the prozac and possibly looking into alternatives. I'd tend to feel that if it's not appearing to have noticeably positive effects, it's really not worth it.

I've heard L-theanine can be good for calming anxiety but not sure it would have much of a noticeable impact in this case. Still, it certainly wouldn't do any harm and it's not expensive.
 
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