The Chronicle of the Horse
MagazineNewsHorse SportsHorse CareCOTH StoreVoicesThe Chronicle UntackedDirectoriesMarketplaceDates & Results
 
Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 20 of 27
  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov. 22, 2002
    Location
    Granby,MA
    Posts
    1,293

    Default Nervous Aussie...advice?

    This may be a long post, so bear with me. I'll put as many details as possible,
    I have a 1.5 yr old neutered male Australian shepherd. This is not my first aussie, I love the breed. He lives with one other 5 yr old female aussie and a 14 week old GSD.
    Ok, so I got "Parry" at 8 weeks old. I socialized him thoroughly, did puppy school through advanced obedience, etc. He was supposed to do agility/rally o. I love this dog. He is sooo in tune to me and so willing and obedient.
    However, here is the problem. At around age 8 months he began showing nervousness. Jumping at noises, freaking out about things in the house that had been there all along, growling at people he didn't live with, trying to attack other dogs. I brought him to the vet and they did a full work up and everything was normal. She put him on clomipramine which we tried for 6 months to no avail. Also tried xanax when he gets very stressed and it didn't work.
    A few months ago, my brother came over, and Parry knows my brother very well. For whatever reason, he nipped him in the leg. It was a quick nip and then Parry laid on the ground on his back shaking. I picked him up and put him in his kennel, where it looked almost like he was convulsing. I called the vet, he went in again and got a clean bill of health.
    The problems persisted. I could now not have anyone over without putting him in his kennel. Forget taking him for walks anywhere but at the farm as he was getting in dog fights with strange dogs.
    I called a behaviorist who came out and gave us lots to work on and said he was a very, very anxious dog. I have worked so hard with him, devoting at least 1 hr a day on the things she suggested. He is clicker trained and sooo easy to train. We had thought we had made progress until a month ago when my girlfriend's sister (whom he knows) came over and he nipped at her and had the same reaction as he did with my brother, a quick nip and then a total meltdown.
    Then tonight he attacked our neighbor's dog through the fence. It was so bizzarre. He didn't have his hair up and didn't seem aggressive. He never has. Even when he has fought with other dogs on walks, his hair doesnt go up and he ALWAYS freaks out afterwards.
    Last night I was actually crying about him. He is SOO anxious. Every little noise, everything. He can't have the life I want him to have. My other dogs are wonderfully friendly to both people and dogs and have no anxiety. Last night I had to put an e-collar on my female as she has a hot spot and Parry had a meltdown. He ran, crouched down throughout the house whining loudly, terrified of her.
    Then last week I was wearing a different hat and he freaked out like he didn't know me.
    I just don't know what to do. I love this dog so much and he is such a good dog it doesn't seem right that he has such anxiety.
    Does anyone had ideas?
    Should I try different meds?
    Any training tips?
    It breaks my heart to see him like this, I just can't bear to see him so upset.
    Edited to add: Getting rid of him/euthing him is NOT an option. He's here to stay and Im committed to whatever it takes.
    If riding were all blue ribbons and bright lights, I would have quit long ago.
    ~George Morris
    Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine Class of 2014



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep. 22, 2008
    Location
    NC
    Posts
    1,930

    Default

    I'm going to start by saying that I agree getting rid of him is not an option. I'm going to follw that by saying that there are some dogs that are just SOOOO incredably unstable that euth may actually be the kindest 'gift' we can give.

    With that said, was the behaviorist you had come out a veternarian that is boarded/specializes in behavior, or a trainer who is a 'behaviorist'. While I feel trainers are great, there is not as much consistancy in their training and background, and in your case I think you really NEED the absolute top notch skills you can get. I highly suspect that some of his triggers might be you and minute changes in your attitiude could be setting off a dog this sensitive. I'm not one, so I'm going to hold off on offering advice, because from the sound of where you are with this dog you've had tons of it already, and I probably don't have anything you haven't already heard. If it was me, and money wasn't an concern, I would be calling Cesar or Victoria......

    As far as meds go, valium, prozac, and some others may give you a little relief, but I think that your biggest downfal is going to be that you are trying to rewire a breed that is by nature nervous and typically a one or two person dog to begin with.

    Katherine
    Vet Tech(and owned by two Aust. Cattle Dogs)



  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov. 22, 2002
    Location
    Granby,MA
    Posts
    1,293

    Default

    Thanks for the response. I don't think he is unstable to the point of needing to be euthed. He enjoys life on the farm, frisbee, ball, training/tricks, and long hikes. But some times he just gets so anxious. I don't feed into it and never have, never saying "its ok boy..." etc.
    And I don't want him to be an obnoxiously friendly dog. I don't expect that of him. One of the things I love about the breed is that they are 1-2 people dogs. He is wonderful with my girlfriend and I, and loves my mom and sister when we go to visit them. I just want him to be ok with people coming over the house. I don't even need him to let them pet him. I just want for him to be able to be relaxed and calm and quiet when people are here. I want him to be able to go for walks without freaking out about people on the street or other dogs.
    The trainer was recommended by the vet, but she wasn't a vet.
    I am going to do a search for a veterinary behaviorist right now and see what I can find.
    Cesar would completely fry this dog to the point of no return. Victoria might do better with him. And if I thought it'd help, I'd do it. But camera crews etc might just send him into orbit.
    I will ask about the valium and prozac, I wasn't sure if there were other meds to try. Thanks
    If riding were all blue ribbons and bright lights, I would have quit long ago.
    ~George Morris
    Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine Class of 2014



  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan. 16, 2007
    Posts
    2,169

    Default

    If you decide to try an SSRI (prozac) then be aware that it may be weeks to a couple of months before you see it working. Or at least ask what to expect.

    The anti-depressants do not act immediately like Xanax or valium. They basically help to rewire the brain, and that takes awhile.

    It sounds like something that would really be worth a try, though, given your description.



  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr. 1, 2008
    Posts
    4,558

    Default

    Does anyone had ideas?
    Should I try different meds?
    Any training tips?
    It breaks my heart to see him like this, I just can't bear to see him so upset.
    Edited to add: Getting rid of him/euthing him is NOT an option. He's here to stay and Im committed to whatever it takes.[/QUOTE]

    Get thee to a veterinary behaviorist. Preferably Dr. Karen Overall PhD.

    you need a through blood work up (even if you have already had one) and you need to get him on meds. But the dosage, the combination and the length of time to work it out varies so you need to be under the guidance of a Vet who specializes in behavior. Where are you located? What state/part of that state?



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr. 9, 2008
    Location
    Alachua, Florida
    Posts
    644

    Default

    I'm sorry for what you are going through. I can absolutely relate.

    To go out on that BB limb of by-internet diagnosis, it sounds like a somewhat atypical presentation of a seizure disorder. There are many types of seizures; not all are the convulsive type, although it sounds like he may have had at least one that included convulsions. Basically the brain misfire or short-circuit can be in any part of the brain, in people (and probably in dogs) this can cause what amounts to visual and or auditory hallucinations. Aussies as a breed do have a higher than average risk for seizure disorder, and the age of onset also fits.

    We had an Aussie (one of three at the time, and Aussies before and since) that started seizures at between 1 and 1.5 years, and were accompannied by an assortment of behavioral changes. He was otherwise a fantastic dog. But his behavior became increasingly erratic (I could no longer trust him with my mother or child), and he had breakthrough seizures on all the treatment regimes we tried. In the end, we opted for Euthanasia.

    I worked as a veterinary neurology technician, and frankly, I has never seen seizures and behavior changes like his, and at that age turn out well, although I have seen people go to great lengths to try and find something that works. I found it very hard on the people and the dogs. I choose to consider that I maximized the overall happiness in his life, by giving him the gift of early release. Almost all his days were happy ones. On top of that was the very real behavioural aspect; I do not think re-homing a dog that could not be trusted around my own family would have been responsible, and subjecting him to a drug induced stupor or chronic confinement seemed likewise unfair.

    This may not be your situation at all (it is only an internet diagnosis). Maybe it is all behavioural, and I hope you find something that works, but opting for euthanasia is not the same thing as giving up. There are things we can't fix, and some of them cause chronic distress, and the kindest treatement is release.

    Our decision was traumatic, and in fact, it was the day my old man came out in the morning having finally lost control of his rear legs (and pretty panic stricken about it) that I had both dogs euthanized at the same time. We knew both were coming, but it was an awful day. In the end though, I would do the same thing again.



  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul. 13, 2008
    Posts
    2,907

    Default

    You've done so much already, it's hard for a non-vet to suggest anything else. I think exploring the the seizure possibility is a good suggestion, and looking into other medications. It seems like a very extreme anxiety, but maybe look into homeopathic options as well. And in the meantime, try to prevent situations that have led to extreme reactions - when someone comes over, crate him in a quiet room where he ideally can't hear the stranger. If there's a behavioral aspect, you don't want him practicing, and if there's a physical aspect a bad reaction might worsen his problem.



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec. 4, 2007
    Location
    Ontario
    Posts
    1,953

    Default

    I'm not going to repeat the advice you've already gotten, but I'm going to throw something else out there.

    These dogs need jobs. If they don't have sufficient outlet they display nervous behaviors. Explore that route a little.

    And I also agree that if it gets to be too much, the kindest thing you can do is euth. Aussies often don't rehome well, especially one with this kind of nervous behavior.
    Riding the winds of change

    Heeling NRG Aussies
    Like us on facebook!



  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov. 22, 2002
    Location
    Granby,MA
    Posts
    1,293

    Default

    Thank you everyone! I am in Granby, MA. I know Tufts has behaviorists but I can't tell from the website if they are DVM's as well.I have been using Karen Overall's protocol for relaxation, but Im not sure where she is located, I will look into it.
    My first thoughts when this began was seizures. I know it is common in aussies, so that's why I thought of it immediately. As a pup he would have episodes where he would just go in circles, and lick his lips excessively. We have supposedly tested for all seizure disorders that are testable, but I'll bring it up again with my vet today when I call. Maybe it'd be worth trying phenobarb or something similar.
    As for having a job, I would like to say he has one. He doesn't herd, but he is an active part of the farm and has tons of mental and physical stimulation daily. Every morning he gets a 1 hr hike off leash. He also does frisbee, loves agility, and lives for clicker training. He is sooo easy to train with the clicker that at one point I was determined to teach him a trick a day. He is a fun, entertaining dog. Overall though, he is actually the laziest Aussie I've known. He's not hyper or destructive and doesn't have a strong herding drive. We have ducks loose at the farm and he pays them no attention whereas my female has a very strong herding drive and she can't be out when the ducks are loose.

    One interesting thing to note. As I mentioned, we have a 13 week old GSD puppy. We were initially very reluctant to get a puppy with Parry's dog aggression issues. But my girlfriend wanted a dog (the aussies were mine before we met) that could be "ours" and I wanted one that I could compete rally o and agility with as Parry can't go out in public and the female doesn't have the drive for it.
    When we first got the puppy, we put him in a crate in the kitchen with Parry loose. Parry was TERRIFIED of him. Every time the pup would move he would yelp and run away then make the same snarling/lunging behavior I've seen on walks towards other dogs. We continued like this for a week until Parry started acting like the pup wasn't even there. I would click and treat for positive behavior, like laying down next to the crate or ignoring the pup. We then progressed to having both dogs on leash, then puppy on leash and Parry loose, and finally both loose. Now, they are best friends. They LOVE each other. Sleep together, play together, even share bones. This gave me hope for Parry. But it also provided me with a lot of information. It seems Parry reacts first and thinks later. He is VERY sensitive to fast movements. But it also showed that he can learn not to be fearful of things and perhaps there is hope.
    If anyone has suggestions of veterinary behaviorists in MA or CT, please let me know. I'm willing to try anything for my boy!
    If riding were all blue ribbons and bright lights, I would have quit long ago.
    ~George Morris
    Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine Class of 2014



  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr. 4, 2007
    Location
    Jasper, GA
    Posts
    2,148

    Default

    I don't know if this helps or not, as I have not had an Aussie that was near as bad as you are describing, but a couple of mine have gone through a "junenile period" that started in the six month age window and lasted until they well over two years (really three) old. This period was marked by extreme nervousness. They did they "grow" out of it -around three years old. It took that long and has happened with more than one of my Aussies. None of mine ever bit though but one of my females would kind of threaten people by circling and growling. She did grow out of her fear based behavior. We like far off the beaten track and sometimes our dogs dont' get socialize as well as dogs living off the farm.

    So, things may turn around as he matures a bit. If it were me, I would continue to lightly socialize him, where possible. Continue to expose him to new things/events/outings etc but don't stress his nervous system to where he shuts down (as you have been doing).

    The niping may actually be a herding reaction gone bad, he is trying to control those humans! He reacted (nipping is most definitely a herding behavior, expecially those who have been bred for cattle), before he even thought and then had a melt down. Same with the attacking another dog through the fence. I know exactly what that looks like and have seen it with Aussues many times! The issue sounds like he is having issues controling his impulsiveness/inhibitions.

    Of course, he is neutered.

    Don't give up, I honestly think you may a turn around when he gets a little older.
    Luistano Stallion standing for 2013: Wolverine UVF
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8IZPHDzgX3s



  11. #11
    Join Date
    Nov. 2, 2006
    Posts
    1,909

    Default

    How do you know he doesn't have a drive for herding- have you had him tested? There are places in MA that you ca take you dog and they will do a test to determine their instinct. I would do this with him- it can't hurt. the fact that he circled as a pup tells me he does have a strong herding instict, and this energy not channeled can make for a crazy dog.

    Where did you get him- as in the breeder? You can PM me that if you want...



  12. #12
    Join Date
    Apr. 4, 2007
    Location
    Jasper, GA
    Posts
    2,148

    Default

    I second what Gloriginger wrote. Especially those dogs bred for cattle, don't alway show "herding instinct" the same way other herding dogs do. It is often quick, instinctual and is more like "attacking" (think strong prey drive). Again, it may be an inhibition control issue.

    I bet he LOVES you so much, that he might be a little jealous of other humans who come in and "steal" away your affections? He may be trying to also show that he is alpha (I know bad word now) and that you belong to him. This kind of possessive behavior is also seen in dogs with strong instinct.

    These kinds of cattle dogs tend to really not like other dogs very much (and it is often fear based) and all I can do is repeat that I really think you might see an improvement as he gains some maturity.

    This isn't to say, don't use drugs and don't stop trying. Just keep trying and realize that with some Aussies, that have strong protective (possessive) tendences and a strong prey drive (which is great for cattle work B.T.W.), these behaviors will mellow with time. I hope it does for your guy.

    As a thought (and I have never to go to this extreme, so I don't know), is it worth playing around with some of the soft muzzles that are now available? That way, you could get him out in public more while on a lead (walks in parks, etc). I assume he knows "watch," can you redirect him with clicker and commands, when he reacts to a strange dog etc? That is a helpful tool too.

    Edited to add: You can not determine "prey drive" by if they chase and eat small rabbits. It is a specific term used to describe a specific type of herding behavior; this behavior is thought by some to be derived from hunting in packs (ergo the name).
    Last edited by Cielo Azure; Mar. 11, 2009 at 11:31 AM.
    Luistano Stallion standing for 2013: Wolverine UVF
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8IZPHDzgX3s



  13. #13
    Join Date
    May. 21, 2008
    Location
    Sonoma County, California
    Posts
    2,524

    Default

    I have Aussies and love them, but they can be high energy dogs. (Mine is 13 and very busy!)

    Many great suggestions above for you to try. If he were mine, I'd dabble with some homeopathy and see if I could bring him back into balance a bit. It can't hurt, it's cheap, and it can help.



  14. #14
    Join Date
    Apr. 9, 2008
    Location
    Alachua, Florida
    Posts
    644

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by MissCapitalSplash View Post
    We have supposedly tested for all seizure disorders that are testable, but I'll bring it up again with my vet today when I call. Maybe it'd be worth trying phenobarb or something similar.
    Can you be more specific about testing done?

    While you can check for other things that have seizures as a side affect (including some liver, thyroid, or tumor related problems), idiopathic epilepsy is just that; idiopathic (medical spin for we can't determine the cause).

    Would you say his condition has been progressing, or he just seemed to morph into a nervous nelly at some point? if it's progressive, how quickly has it changed?

    Totally from curiosity, is/was he ever very scent conscious for an Aussie (more like a bloodhound than a herding dog sometimes)?

    Still not ruling out totally non-seizure problem (it would be great if he responds to changed training plan or outgrows this), but if you were going to try a seizure control program to see if it helps, you could try something like potassium bromide, which is still pretty cheap, and has fewer negative side effects than phenobarbitol. Homeopathy would also be something to try, but I'd work with a homeopathic vet who can combine conventional and alternative therapies if warranted. Unfortunately, not all seizure drugs work in all cases, and so not getting obvious improvement doesn't necessarily rule out the problem.



  15. #15
    Join Date
    Sep. 22, 2008
    Location
    NC
    Posts
    1,930

    Default

    http://www.lindellvetbehavior.org

    Try checking her out, she goes to two clinics in CT, and she will also make house calls. If she's not close to you I bet she or her office knows someone else to reccomend who is. The advantage of a good vet. behaviorist is that they are going to be kind of a one stop resource for meds and therapies. Oh, and they often know the trainers in the area who would be the best ones for you to work with for specific problems.

    I also second the reccomendation for a basket muzzle or something of that nature, so that if people come over he an't actually bite them, or injure himself. For anyone who doesn't know, basket muzzles are what racing greyhounds wear, they allow the mouth to be open and the dog to pant and bark, but not chew or bite. If you can get him used to wearing it around the house in relaxed situations it may come to be a big blessing for you in unsure situations to prevent any legal problems that could come from biting, since as we all know not all dogs in public are going to be well controlled, even in the vet's office...



  16. #16
    Join Date
    Apr. 27, 2006
    Location
    Maben, MS
    Posts
    974

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by asanders View Post
    I'm sorry for what you are going through. I can absolutely relate.

    To go out on that BB limb of by-internet diagnosis, it sounds like a somewhat atypical presentation of a seizure disorder. There are many types of seizures; not all are the convulsive type, although it sounds like he may have had at least one that included convulsions. Basically the brain misfire or short-circuit can be in any part of the brain, in people (and probably in dogs) this can cause what amounts to visual and or auditory hallucinations. Aussies as a breed do have a higher than average risk for seizure disorder, and the age of onset also fits.

    We had an Aussie (one of three at the time, and Aussies before and since) that started seizures at between 1 and 1.5 years, and were accompannied by an assortment of behavioral changes. He was otherwise a fantastic dog. But his behavior became increasingly erratic (I could no longer trust him with my mother or child), and he had breakthrough seizures on all the treatment regimes we tried. In the end, we opted for Euthanasia. .
    Odd, I thought the same thing. My aussie was like that as a puppy. Every noise set her off. Aggression towards other dogs, the neighbor on the other side of the fence. She went to puppy obedience, private lessons. People she didn't know, sometimes ones she did know - it was like her look was blank "who are you"? Then at 2 years old the seizures started.

    I'm glad to say she is 10 years old, still has seizures, but generally healthy. She still gets noise-triggered aggression leading up to a seizure and must be separated from other dogs (my current two would take her out if she went after them or had a seizure in front of them).

    Wish I had advise to give, but you may have an epi-aussie. I hope not.

    It works for me because Ginger has improved on phenobarb / KBr and goes in public without many issues. Still hates other dogs. My other two dogs are outside and she's a house-dog, so things are ok there.



  17. #17
    Join Date
    Dec. 4, 2007
    Location
    Ontario
    Posts
    1,953

    Default

    just went back and re-read the OP and (now that I've had some sleep after being up for 40 hours) I'm going to say age and stage.

    Aussies go through a "teenage" stage. They grow out of it around 3. Keep working with your guy, I think you will see him come out of it.
    Riding the winds of change

    Heeling NRG Aussies
    Like us on facebook!



  18. #18
    Join Date
    Apr. 1, 2008
    Posts
    4,558

    Default

    Tufts behavioral clinic with Dodman...

    http://www.tufts.edu/vet/behavior/clinical.shtml



  19. #19
    Join Date
    Apr. 1, 2008
    Posts
    4,558



  20. #20
    Join Date
    Apr. 1, 2008
    Posts
    4,558

    Default

    Alice Moon-Fanelli, Ph.D., CAAB
    Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine
    Dept. of Clinical Sciences
    200 Westboro Rd.
    North Grafton, MA 01536
    Tel - 508-887-4702
    Fax - 508-839-8734
    E-mail - alice.moon-fanelli@tufts.edu



Similar Threads

  1. very nervous jumper...advice?
    By gallopinggal in forum Hunter/Jumper
    Replies: 10
    Last Post: Dec. 16, 2011, 06:15 PM
  2. Supplement advice for a nervous horse
    By HARROLDhasmyheart in forum Hunter/Jumper
    Replies: 14
    Last Post: Jun. 2, 2011, 03:02 PM
  3. Aussie saddle for Trail Riding. Need advice
    By lostkiwi in forum Endurance and Trail Riding
    Replies: 11
    Last Post: Mar. 20, 2011, 07:51 PM
  4. Replies: 16
    Last Post: Mar. 14, 2010, 09:35 PM
  5. What do you think of this Aussie?
    By Huntertwo in forum Endurance and Trail Riding
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: Mar. 1, 2010, 03:05 PM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
randomness