Help me help my traumatized pug
July 22, 2012 7:48 PM   Subscribe

How to help my traumatized dog?

Recently my dog witnessed me getting attacked by my ex and two of her friends. My poor dog even tried to protect me only to get kicked across the room. Ever since then she has been skittish and she doesn't like anyone coming near me, I can understand that she is feeding off my energy and my anxiety. But I cannot have her attacking anyone that comes near me, granted she's only a 25lb pug but still my neighbors aren't gonna take this from her for very long.

I need my fun loving baby back, please help me. I'm being told I need to re-socialize her and I'm trying but it scares me to have her around people. What can I do?
posted by roxiesmom to Pets & Animals (20 answers total)

Bacon and a dog park.

Then more bacon.
posted by matty at 7:53 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hang out with people she knows and reward the hell out of her for trusting them. Then, widen the circle and reward, reward, reward.

She's being extra vigilant, but will follow your lead. Make sure your behavior cues to her are also reinforcing that you're ok. Dogs are incredibly good at picking up your subtle cues and emotions. If you're nervous, she'll be nervous and on alert.
posted by quince at 8:05 PM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: She's extremely nervous as am I at every noise we hear outside, I don't sleep so therefore she doesn't sleep. I know most of it starts with me and I've got to get my emotions under control.

Unfortunately I've got a work trip coming up in a few weeks, it was planned before everything happened and a friend was going to watch her while I'm gone. Now I'm nervous bout the trip and the friend watching her. I don't know how she's gonna act without me there and around the other dogs and the kids. I can't get out of the trip and I'm not sure I can take her with me.
posted by roxiesmom at 8:09 PM on July 22, 2012

Can you visit the friend and family she'll be staying with a few times before the trip? It could help her get used to them with you around. She'll see things are ok and associate the family with happy visits and treats.

I'm so sorry to hear about the aftermath of the attack. Are you ok? Are you connected to the resources you need to recover? The police or domestic violence advocates can help immensely.
posted by quince at 8:26 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't know how she's gonna act without me there and around the other dogs and the kids

This seems to be your immediate concern - so this is what I'd do:

1) inform your friend that your dog's being skittish and should not be left alone with kids unsupervised (I would actually write this down, just in case, so you can said you adequately informed them of the dog's temperament).

2) in the upcoming weeks, take a few trips to the friend's house, so your dog knows it's a "safe" area. Do the bacon and rewards there.

3) Bring a crate for the dog so your dog has a safe place of its own at your friend's house.

Unfortunately, just like humans dogs can't simply "get over" a traumatic experience. To compound it, they are primarily driven by instinct. Getting over it will just be about time.

In fact - since you say it's your behavior that's influencing the dog (which is likely partially true) - you going away for a bit might be a good thing.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 9:06 PM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I'm taking her over there tomorrow but my friend is already nervous bout it after I told her that my baby is acting different. They've met before but there are other dogs and kids there that she hasn't been around so that makes me nervous. I've got treats for them to give her cuz one person told me to have my friend and her family give her treats when I'm over there but I don't know how that's gonna help.

Yeah I'm doing better, I know it's going to take time for me to get completely better and therefore her as well. I am hoping that my being away will help her cuz I do know she feeds off me and I want her better. I tried to keep her away from the attack but she took it upon herself to try and protect her momma.
posted by roxiesmom at 9:12 PM on July 22, 2012

It will take time, but maybe a Thundershirt might help?
posted by bolognius maximus at 12:14 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

But I cannot have her attacking anyone that comes near me, granted she's only a 25lb pug but still my neighbors aren't gonna take this from her for very long.

Your dog needs to be in a harness and leashed at all times when it is not just the two of you home alone. You absolutely cannot allow her to attack or become aggressive to people when she is not under your physical control. Additionally, this dog is now an extremely poor candidate to stay in a house with unknown children. Extremely. Do you understand that?
posted by DarlingBri at 2:58 AM on July 23, 2012

(I say the above as the owner of a previously abused, high-needs dog. It is not that I am not sympathetic but you need to be looking at this from a wider and smarter perspective than "my poor baby!")
posted by DarlingBri at 3:00 AM on July 23, 2012

Absolutely NOT a dog park, at least in the beginning. You need to start with controlled environments with people who have consented to help you train your dog.

But FIRST...

Call your vet and ask them if they have anyone experienced in animal behavior, particularly aggression. If they don't, ask for a referral. You need to tell them the situation and ask for help and advice regarding the care of your dog during your trip.

You absolutely cannot leave your dog in the presence of children or anyone else who isn't a professional or (in a pinch) a trusted friend who is good with dogs and has consented to the risk of being bitten, and who will not have the dog around strangers. You need to keep your dog and everyone else safe above all until get back from your trip and are able to work on the situation in earnest.

With professional guidance and work it is likely you will be able to get your baby back. A proper trainer will work with you as well as your dog to help alleviate the problems. I would not recommend trying to do this on your own even if you weren't traumatized, yourself.
posted by rocketpup at 6:46 AM on July 23, 2012

Does your vet board dogs? If you can afford it, you may want to have the vet board her during your trip, so they can monitor her behavior. You should also ask the vet if medication to temporarily help calm the dog would be useful.

Now, what are you doing about your fear and anxiety? Have you reached out to a doctor or therapist? Becuase what's really going to help your dog is you getting to a more stable place. And you need to be able to sleep and not fear random noises for your own peace of mind.
posted by lootie777 at 9:01 AM on July 23, 2012

You are correct in saying that your own emotions are affecting your dog. You're anxious (understandably), so she's anxious, but now you're also anxious because she's anxious, and it's only going to create a negative feedback loop for the both of you.

Do everything you can to prop yourself up. I don't know what the specific situation was, but your primary focus should be on your own emotional and/or physical recovery. Your dog will notice when you start feeling better, and will relax.

Assuming your dog was not anxious before this incident, but was a perfectly well-adjusted and social dog, she remains a well-adjusted dog who is recovering from a frightening incident just like you are. You're spot on in knowing that she's taking her cues from you, and as such you should be focused first and foremost on your recovery. If, once you are feeling safe again, your dog is still anxious or fearful, then it's time to consult a behaviorist.

In the meantime, re: the dogsitting issue... Have you taken your dog for a walk since the incident? Get her out in public - I don't know your dog, but I would venture to say that she's not going to go nuts attacking everyone you pass by. Introduce your friend to the dog this way. Meet on the sidewalk. Arrange to walk past each other once or twice, and have her drop a piece of food as she goes. If your dog is fine with this, stop for a moment and chat - and ignore the dog completely. Do this a few times, increasing the time, and having her occasionally drop a tiny piece of your dogs absolute favorite food. Then, go for a walk with her. After a while, hand the leash over to her.

You may have to do this a few times before you go away, but it shouldn't take long for your dog to be okay with you handing her the leash and walking away for a while. As long as you are not anxious about leaving her, she won't be anxious about being left with someone who has been giving her amazing food for the last half hour - especially if she knows your friend already.

I would strongly advise against boarding your dog. It can be extremely stressful, and if you are still feeling stressed out when you leave, she will be left in that state of mind in a strange place the entire time you are away. Better to leave her with a friend who knows what happened and can give her attention.

Above all, do not coddle her/give her treats/comfort her when she is acting anxious. By doing that you are only reinforcing her feelings and telling her that there really is something to be afraid of out there. Recover, and she will do the same.

Feel free to MeMail me if you like, and try to take it easy. :)
posted by Urban Winter at 9:21 AM on July 23, 2012

Apologies for the double post; I just saw one of your addendums for the first time:

You have plenty of time to introduce your dog to your friend and her kids. Do it one at a time, make sure the kids understand that they should ignore the dog, and gradually build up to a group walk. I would not recommend bringing your dog to their house to introduce them - do it in a public place.

That said, if her children are very small and can't understand not to tease the dog or will not listen, it may be time to find someone else to take care of her, because that is a potentially dangerous situation for everyone involved. Another friend, perhaps, or if all else fails try to find a small boarding center where each dog is known and given individual attention.
posted by Urban Winter at 9:27 AM on July 23, 2012

The fact that your friend is now nervous should immediately rule them out as a possible option - the dog is going to pick up on this, and not react well, and your friend isn't going to react well, etc etc.

The immediate solution is simple - board the dog. Unless you are going to be gone for multiple weeks, it isn't going to break the bank. In addition, boarding is going to be less expensive than the risk of your newly nervous dog biting a child. A further benefit is that the caretakers aren't going to be nervous - fear aggression is as common as dirt and a pro can spot it coming a mile away and take steps to avoid/prevent issues. I strongly suspect that you'll come back to a calmer, less fearful dog (provided you board them in a quality place, of course).
posted by zug at 10:56 AM on July 23, 2012

Also consider asking a vet for antianxiety meds. They'll help take a lot of the edge off your pal's tense moments, which in turn will diminish any snowballing of the problem.

They make it possible for my PTSD darling dog Dexter to travel in a car with me.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:57 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

or (in a pinch) a trusted friend who is good with dogs and has consented to the risk of being bitten

Agreed - I sometimes forget that other dog owners don't understand that bites are something you risk with any dog (this site has sure opened my eyes!), but with a nervous dog the risk factor increases.

I agree that you need to find a friend that knows/make sure your friend knows dogs are not moving pillows and that a bite may be provoked from this dog by sudden movements (if that's the case).

If you're keeping this friend as a sitter, I would say keep your dog on your lap while your at your friend's house - this way you have direct control over her as long as possible. She may not feel as threatened by other dogs or children. When she has to go out, even if it's in the backyard, put her on a leash and have your friend put one of her dogs on a leash and go out together, at a safe distance (and that's it, no kids or anything).
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 12:36 PM on July 23, 2012

Response by poster: She was good with my neighbor last night and she has never met her before but she was on neutral territory. And I'm just nervous bout everything.
posted by roxiesmom at 6:09 PM on July 23, 2012

roxiesmom, it's good that she was good on neutral territory. That's really a good sign. I also recommend anti-anxiety meds, perhaps for both of you. The big thing is that YOU need to calm down. I know what you went through was traumatizing, but roxie (I'm assuming that's your dog's name) can tell when you're anxious.

You do need to re-socialize her. I wouldn't go to a dog park, but how about just a walk and have her meet the people and dogs while you walk. Keep her on her leash, of course, and keep it tight when actually talking to someone. You need to be firm and calm while doing this. Really, you need to be firm and calm with her whatever you're doing. And by firm I don't mean be mean, just make sure she knows you're serious.

PS: For us to be truly helpful we need photos!
posted by deborah at 9:18 PM on July 23, 2012

Response by poster: Need photo's of what?
posted by roxiesmom at 10:36 AM on July 25, 2012

The running joke on Metafilter pet-related comments & threads is that the poster should provide a pic of said pet, so we can ooh-ah.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:11 PM on July 25, 2012

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