Post-op dog behavior and coyotes
September 27, 2023 11:18 AM   Subscribe

Our dog's attitude has changed post knee surgery, and seems more easily triggered by coyote neighbors - what are some solutions?

Our dog is a smarty-pants cattle dog. Unfortunately she had to have knee surgery last year - it was a typical CCL procedure - and we're restricting her activity level a bit so that her other knee lasts as long a possible. She's pretty typical of the breed but is very motivated to play, play, play and go, go, go, and do everything 110% (that's how she blew out her knee in the first place). She gets a 5-7 mile trail run or walk almost everyday. Her energy level was always fine by us, but after the surgery we felt it was better to limit her to more gentle playtime (no acrobatic frisbee jumps)....but she went at it very aggressively and we noticed her limping a couple of times afterwards. That's why we've kind of put her on playtime lockdown currently.

As you might've guessed she's been acting out a bit. She's been barking at us and sometimes other people - kind of a demanding 'why aren't we playing or doing something?' There's more aggressive barking at other dogs while she's leashed at times, and when coyotes come around she is now going more bezerk than ever.

We live next to a preserve and every now and then she would go out and bark at the yotes for a bit when she smelled/heard/saw them. A few minutes tops until they got the message and slinked off. A while back one got inside our fence and had a tussle w/ her and she got a nice bite on her paw. Lately she just seems to get in a feedback loop and will be barking like crazy for a lot longer than usual, to the point where we have to go out and retrieve her. I get it - dogs bark - but when it gets to the point of bothering me, who knows how many neighbors too, it's an issue. Luckily our neighbors are easy-going and cool about it, but I'm not. I don't want to be that neighbor with the annoying dog.

So we need to either start training her again or do something to abate the coyote visits to our fence line. I'm about to pee in a big 1/4 full vinegar bottle and spread that along our fence in the meantime.
posted by kilohertz to Pets & Animals (5 answers total)
Look, I'm not an animal expert, but it sounds like pup wants and needs some more exercise, and that's what you are telling us! She's going stir crazy. What is the goal of longevity if you and she are miserable in the meantime? Abating coyote visits seems fine, but how about getting on a bike and going someplace where she can run along for a few miles?
posted by bluedaisy at 12:14 PM on September 27 [2 favorites]

Do not exercise her body more!

Agree that she needs way more entertainment, but not the kind that puts stress on her knee. However, you want to train her to do anything you feel like many times a day.

If you're able, in this situation I'd follow shirly chong's "new dog" routine for two weeks. This takes a ton of effort from both of you, but very little movement. I'm thinking especially doing long downs while being tied to you while you do your day and having lots of short (6-12 at a minute or two first) training sessions throughout your day. It doesn't matter what you train - tricks or puppy push-ups or knee PT or whatever.

BEFORE the coyotes start at night, put her in a crate with a high value bone or a puzzle toy with a meal and keep the windows and doors closed and play loud music. If that's not enough to keep her focused on the bone/chew toy/puzzle toy, talk to your vet and your trainer and consider temporary SSRIs just so she can think while learning alternate behaviors - then you can stop. How's her coat? If it's not normal, take her in for bloodwork and say yes to whatever extra tests they suggest (endocrine disorders can complicate reactivity).

I'm especially worried about her barking at other dogs/whatever while on leash - this is a perfect setup to create a leash-reactive dog (having picked one from the shelter who came that way, its a nightmare you don't want to deal with). Employ a trainer to work with you on this - even two home visits can do wonders to nip that in the bud before it gets further established/reinforced. You want positive reinforcement only, zero punishment (you control the environment to prevent the behavior you don't want and reward for a replacement - this puts the onus on you, which is harder, but punishment will make this worse).

And for others on the trail and your legal liability in case she did bite a person, child, or dog, I'd suggest avoiding peak times, leaving her at home, picking a more remote location/time, and/or muzzling her until she has a rock solid replacement behavior and months of reinforcement of it in highly stimulating/challenging but controlled conditions (ie in a reactive dog training class).

I realize that all probably sounds bonkers when you're only worried about her barking and are used to her drivey high-energy behavior, but this scenario is an excellent setup to create a really big problem.
posted by esoteric things at 6:33 PM on September 27 [1 favorite]

Is swimming or another lower impact form of exercise possible?
posted by rip at 8:30 PM on September 27 [3 favorites]

You can give a dog mental exercise by feeding it in a snuffle mat, giving interesting new foods (content warning for lots of meat animal parts being eaten by a dog at this fun link), making their food lickable, or making DIY enrichment puzzles. Dogs whose minds have been busy all day with the right kind of activities are less anxious overall. (Note that some dogs get more anxious if their food is hard to eat in certain ways, so you may need to do some trial and error to figure out what the right enrichment activities are for your particular dog)
posted by nouvelle-personne at 9:23 PM on September 27 [2 favorites]

This dog could still be in pain. I’d check in with the vet. Gabapentin is good for pain control and also making dogs tired.
posted by shock muppet at 9:51 PM on September 27 [2 favorites]

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