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Categories: Fear Aggression

Q. Our dog is frightened of everything - us when we carry things or change how we look, things out of place, etc. Do you have any advice for us?
We have a two year old dachshund spayed female named Frankie. We rescued her from a dog breeder when she was 5 weeks old. Her mom died suddenly when the puppies were just 2 weeks old and the owners did not care for them properly. The littermates all died but Frankie and her brother. She weighed under a pound when we got her. The owners got tired of feeding the puppies canned food and they were going to put the remaining two puppies to sleep. I heard about this situation and took both of the dogs, one now belongs to my sister and he is doing fine accept for a bit of seperation anxiety.

When Frankie was a puppy she was very needy, obviously because of the situation she was dealt as a puppy. She whined constantly and would only stop if we wrapped her in her "blankie" tightly and let her sleep on us. This went on for months. She would also suck (nurse) on the blanket to comfort herself. This behavior has ALMOST diminished through the years, but we do have several blankets with small holes in them, so I know she still does this at night. She sleeps with my 12 year old daughter. The two are "bonded" and best friends. We also have a 6 year old son that she loves to death as well.

We took Frankie everywhere with us as a puppy. We new being taken away from her mom and siblings was not good for her social skills, so we made sure to socialize her greatly from the getgo. We had her spayed as soon as she was big enough. We noticed after a few months that she started to get anxious around new people. That anxiousness turned to barking, and later to aggression. It got to a point where she just hated anybody that she didn't know or recognize. This would even include us if we were wearing something different, or changed our hair, or were carrying something, anything different she would bark and her hair would stand up until she realized it was us. She would also bark at things outside that were out of place, for example if a bike were left in the driveway, the garbage cans on garbage day, the cars parked differently, etc. etc. She also didn't like our kids' friends, she would bark at them like crazy and refuse to calm down. She nipped at two children, both my nephew and niece, completely unprovoked. We removed her from the situation right away. We got a muzzle for her, that we cannot seem to keep on her, maybe because her head is so tiny, she gets it off every time.

Last night we were laying in bed, my daughter was watching a movie out in the living room. She came in to say goodnight, Frankie started barking like crazy, Sarah turned the lights on and said "Frankie it's me!" and Frankie continued to bark. Sarah stood there saying "what's the matter girl?" etc. Frankie then jumped at her and tried to bite her, growling and lunging as well held her back and tried to calm her down, it was like she was in attack mode. She then peed all over my husbands chest and splashed pee all over me as she jumped around, hair on end. She would not stop. I told Sarah to leave the room, and Frankie stopped barking but was shaking badly and had all her hair up her back standing up.......she was acting like a totally different dog, and was inconsolable for several minutes.

This obviously raised concern for our children, and we also have a baby on the way due in July. We expected her fear of strangers and dealt with it accordingly, but her attacking our own daughter, and the human she is most bonded with, creates a whole different situation. We know she suffers from severe stranger anxiety, but for a moment, we believe she saw our daughter as a stranger, and was unable to "snap out of it" so to speak. With this aggression towards her, we are pretty sure she will not take well to a baby, nor do we want to even risk it to find out. Re-homing her is not an option since she HATES everybody but us. She is too small to keep outside, and she doesn't like to be away from us for too long. We do not know what to do. Our only option would be euthanasia, which breaks our hearts to even consider, but obviously the safety of our children comes first. Your advice/help would be GREATLY appreciated.

Tina

A. Hi Tina,

I believe a lot of the problem is that while you noticed the anxiety Frankie has displayed over the last 2 years, you’ve actually done the opposite of what she needs by the way you’ve handled her. The ‘blankie’ and holding her was actually reinforcement for the anxious behavior. Spaying her young probably also contributed to this, as I believe that dogs need all their “parts” intact while they are developing into mature dogs. The hormones a dog’s body produces are important to their physical as well as mental development. I don’t know if Frankie’s behavior can be changed or not, that will be up to you and your willingness to change how you live with her and give her the healthy structure she needs.

Start with our roundwork program and Pack Structure for the Family Pet.

Do some reading about pack structure and leadership. We have a number of eBooks, which include topics that may help you.

I’d also recommend Dealing with Dominant & Aggressive Dogs.

Since your dog is showing anxiety/fear along with aggression I would make sure to give her rock solid rules and leadership. She has to absolutely know what is expected of her. Get a crate and train her to be calm in it. No more sleeping in bed or on the furniture.

For anxiety, we also carry a number of supplements that can be added to the dog’s food. I purchased a puppy years ago that came to me with separation anxiety, I’ve used Calm Shen with good results. It has to be given twice a day, every day to see results but it does help some dogs. For situational use, Rescue Remedy, it works great.

Both of these supplements are safe to give and don’t alter the dog negatively (like drugs do). Many vets want to give xanax or Prozac to dogs and I’m completely against doing that.

We also have a Q&A section on separation anxiety that may help you.

We have directions on how to measure the dog for a muzzle on this page. We may have a better way to fit her with a muzzle.

I hope this helps.

Cindy Rhodes
  
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