For the past couple months I've watched as Langley's behaviors inexplicably worsened, in spite of lots of supervision, training and trying to keep his brain busy. This weekend things kind of went off the deep end and after discussing things with a behavioral trainer and his vet the diagnosis is Obsessive/Compulsive disorder.
Sometimes, no matter how much a person works with a dog, the brain chemistry of the dog is off and needs the help of medication to get back on track. When this is the case no amount of behavioral work in the world is able to get through the level of anxiety the dog is ramped up on.
This video was actually a calmer moment of today. What he's looking at in the video is the shrubs in the yard where he knows the birds hide. His compulsion is the house his compulsion doesn't quit and he will jump repeatedly at the sliding glass door, trying to get to the birds.
The vet gave me some Xanax for him to help calm him until we can get him in tomorrow for an open appt at the vet. However, the Xanax hasn't touched things and he is continuing to quickly ramp up.
Keep him in your thoughts in the next few days as we work to find a way to bring down his anxiety level and help him find some comfort and peace.
When you have an active dog that tends to get themselves all ramped up, one of the best things you can teach them is to lie down somewhere so they can settle. Since Langley prefers to lie on his back to his side, and it was so dang cute we decided to turn it into a "play dead" trick. He quite hilarious now and at times when he wants attention will fall into his "dead" pose from standing since it always gets him a laugh.
Langley has a big adventure, starting tonight. He's going to be staying on a farm with one of New Rattitude's dog sitters and their 5 dogs for the weekend while we are camping on the Oregon Coast. Mary, his dog sitter, has kindly taken this boy on, in spite of knowing his anxiety issues and how he likes to eat slugs and catch and eat birds or whatever other bug or small animal comes his way. She has lots of training experience and a centered and even pack of dogs so this will be a great experience for our sweet, silly foster boy. Wish him luck!
We are helping Langley to relax after he got pretty ramped up and anxious due to he and Bo not getting along. To do this we are using all kinds of things to help him come back down to his normal young punk terrier state of mind.
The Thundershirt that he wears has taken his energy down a notch, making it easier to get his attention for the training games we work on. He's also getting an herbal tincture called K9 and Kitty Calmer by Liquid Health twice a day and his bedding gets dried with Mrs. Meyers Lavender dryer sheets. We don't know if any or all of these are working but something is because he's a little bit calmer.
The next step is keeping his mind busy on things other than his anxieties. He's a smart little guy so we are doing clicker training and marking calm behaviors, such as when he is laying on one of the dog beds calmly, or when another dog is barking and he doesn't engage. He's also learning and constantly practicing new skills. "Sit" and "down" have been learned and now we are working on a "down-stay", a skill that can be practiced and used to help him learn to settle somewhere and self soothe.
An easy way to engage most terriers' minds is around mealtime. Langley used to get a meal of kibble and canned food mixed up. Now the canned food gets mixed with his supplements and frozen in a Kong for times when he's more anxious so he has something to focus on. His kibble gets put in a Kong Wobbler toy and he has to work at that to get the kibble out. Last night was his first try at the Wobbler and he really needed help to figure it out. He wanted to just chew and lick his way into the small hole where the food comes out. This morning when I set his Wobbler out he was knocking it around the room like an old pro as you see in this video.
It's a slow process that requires baby steps but he is getting there. He has a meet up with a potential adopter in a couple weeks. They adopted a previous foster of ours and if Langley and their boy get along it would be an excellent home for him. So our goal in the next couple of weeks is to get closer to relaxed and able to play and interact with a new dog. It's a tall order for this under-confident boy, but we will give it our all.
Our little Bobo was switched to another foster home for a few weeks yesterday and while we are sad not to have the hilarious little goober with us now, for Langley and his sake it had to be done.
Bo has fear issues around dogs that are larger than him and it might have been possible to work on those issues had Langley been an older, mellower dog. We did work to the point where they could be in the same room together and from there to a point where they could actually play in a relaxed way. However play often ended in Bo getting offended at Langley's antics.
Bo became increasingly stressed out and yappy. Langley never fought back and did his best to avoid the altercations but he too suffered from the stress. Instead of seeing Langley's anxiety turned outside in the form of reactivity, he turned it inside, becoming compulsive and developing behaviors he didn't have before like digging, chewing destructively, and being incredibly compulsive about eating things outside he found in the yard - sticks, rocks, slugs, fir cones, plants.... His energy also increased from a medium level to a high nervous energy, which in turn upset Bo to the point of not just yapping but constantly pacing. Both dogs were in a state of high alert at all times. Things were in a downward spiral and no one - dogs or humans - was very happy.
So with the changes the goal is to put as much training time and energy into Langley as possible to hopefully relax him and get him back to the dog he was in his first couple weeks with us. He's getting lots of short training sessions every day and walks in the neighborhood and high speed fetch sessions in the back yard to burn off energy. We're proud he's learned "down" without using a lure this week and we are working towards a "down-stay" and helping him learn to self soothe and choose to relax.
Bo on the other hand is taking a vacation at a foster home with no other pets. Not that he can't handle other dogs - he did great with Tilly and Frodo and even with some of the female fosters that temped at our house. He is just having some time to relax in a "Langley-free" environment (thanks to a very kind and helpful foster parent who took Bo in on last minute notice) and once Langley is adopted then Bo can come back to us if he isn't yet adopted and maybe we can do a little work with him on his fear of big dogs so he's not such a little Napoleon.
Our family fosters for "New Rattitude Rat Terrier Rescue." This blog keeps a record of the wonderful dogs that we foster and of our current ratties' progress on their road to adoption.
Be sure to join us on Facebook. "Like" us on the New Rattitude Northwest community page to follow the NR foster dogs of the Northwest as well as hear about local Rat Terrier events and training information.
New Rattitude is an all volunteer group so any donation you make will be fully used to rescue and treat a rat terrier in need. Donations can also be mailed to New Rattitude at P.O. Box 14064; Lansing, Michigan, 48901. Thanks for your assistance. Woof woof!