Sunday, August 10, 2014

Is puppy Prozac a good option?

About a year ago, I started working with a family who adopted a 2-year old cattle dog.  Their older cattle dog, Miles, passed away (I also worked with him), and when they adopted Radar, he had some behaviors that weren't so good.  They worked diligently with Radar on a behavior treatment plan for several months, and while he made improvements, some of his triggers still set him off.  Radar was fearful and anxious, and he was a cattle dog, so he nipped and tried to 'herd' when he was stressed.  Michelle reached out to me again when they were about to give up.  Although they were familiar with herding dogs (they've adopted several), they just couldnt take a chance of Radar hurting someone.  Radar was at the end of the line.

We had spoken about fluoxetine (generic Prozac) briefly before, but they wanted to try behavioral methods, along with some all-natural anxiety supplements first.  I agreed.  But because Radar was so anxious and afraid, those only went so far to help him learn.  His brain still adrenalized quickly and he went in to 'fight or flight' mode in certain situations almost as quickly as he did the day they adopted him.  When Michelle called, I gently pushed her to try fluoxetine as I have seen it work with so many dogs like Radar.  She agreed and called her veterinarian.  Radar started on fluoxetine the next day.  Here is what Michele wrote to me after about 6 weeks...

"We reached out to Kari for help with our red heeler rescue dog.  Radar was fearful and reacted aggressively when his triggers were set off. He would bite at us and our other dog, Sadie.  Those triggers included loud noises like motorcycles and diesel trucks, accidentally touching him, and getting tangled in leashes.  We were at the point of wanting to give him back to the rescue organization we had gotten him from but decided to take Kari's advice and give anti-anxiety medication a try, along with continuing the behavior modification we were already doing.  Radar did well throughout the process and was very smart, but needed a little extra help in his brain when he was presented with his triggers.

We are so glad we tried the fluoxetine!  Radar is a completely different dog. He is relaxed, sweet and his fear is almost completely gone.  Even though it takes 6 weeks for the full effects of the drug to kick in, we saw an immediate change the first day he starting taking the meds.   He still has some issues with loud motorcycles and trucks but we are working with him to curb those behaviors, and managing him in situations that could be stressful.  Training is easier now as he is a more focused dog and doesn't immediately react.  We are very happy to say Radar is still part of our family!   Michelle and Jamie E."
Radar somewhere in Colorado 
So, what did the fluoxetine do?  It helped increase Radar's serotonin levels so his anxiety decreased.  It helped his brain stay in a calmer place so he could focus.  It took the edge off of his stress level so his triggers didn't make him so scared.  And while it did all those things, he was able to concentrate on learning, so he will be able to wean off the fluoxetine within about 8 months once he learns new behaviors.  Meds don't have to be a lifelong thing, and the best part is that fluoxetine isn't too expensive.  

If you are struggling with anxiety and aggression with your dog, and have tried behavioral intervention, it might be time to try some anti-anxiety medications in conjunction with training... I know medications have a bad stigma to them, but they can really improve your dog's quality of life!   

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Potty Training Your Puppy

Those of you who know me, know I love potty training puppies. I always have, and I have no idea why.  I don't really enjoy everything else that comes along with puppyhood, but teaching puppies to potty outside has always been easy and enjoyable for me. I potty trained my Siberian Husky, Skye, in 3 days and Paisley, my lab, took just over a day.  At the time I got Skye, I was working with Dr. RK Anderson in Minnesota and I started training her with his "Potty Outside" schedule.  I was lucky to have him to bounce questions off of, and after 3 days, she was holding it during the night and waiting until I took her to her potty spot during the day.  But not all puppies are like that- most take 2 to 4 weeks, some even  longer. Every puppy is different, just like every child is different.
Skye at 9 weeks
The most popular question I get is "How do I teach my puppy to tell me when she has to go out?", and my answer is always "You don't".  And the reason is because your puppy is going to be an adult one day, and expected to hold his or her bladder and bowels for at least 8-10 hours.  You want to set your puppy up to succeed long term, not just short term for your convenience.  What if your dog has to pee when you're at work and goes to the door and rings the bell?  You won't be there to let him out, so what is he supposed to do?  The flipside to this is what if you are home, and your puppy rings the bell just to go out, get the treat, come back in, and ring the bell to go out and get a treat again?  Puppies are very adept at training humans! The reason, I suppose, that everyone wants to teach their puppies to tell them when to go outside is because it's easier for the human.  Does your 12-year old child say "Mom, I have to use the toilet right now, can you please open the bathroom door and put the toilet seat up for me?"  No, because you trained him to hold it until he has to go, and then he goes in the appropriate spot (hopefully!).  It is so much easier to teach your puppy to hold it (within reasonable time-frames, especially when they are super young), until you take her out and put her on the grass where you want her to learn to go.
And then the other famous question... "I took my puppy out, and stood there for 30 minutes and she just sniffed around... no potty.  But then as soon as I brought her in she peed on the carpet- she was mad at me!" People- puppies and dogs don't get mad!  And they certainly don't do things out of spite (talk about anthropomorphizing!).  My answer is "Well, she just doesn't know that the outside is the ONLY place she's supposed to go yet".
The key to potty training is confinement and contigencies.  Your puppy's freetime must be contigent upon he or she going potty outside.  It's as simple as that, and once you get him or her on a schedule where they can learn that, you'll be much more successful.  So many people get majorly frustrated and discouraged when they can't potty train, and their puppy is still 6 months old going on the rug in the kitchen.  But it doesnt have to be like that!  Please read the Potty Outside schedule above for more tips.
And if you would like additional help, I offer a Puppy Potty Training Board & Train program to help puppy owners with potty training, and behavior training in general. Puppies can be difficult, but they soak up learning and are so motivated- it's so fun watching them figure things out!  It doesn't have to be frustrating, and I can help take the guess-work out of potty training for you.  Read more about the program here, and please feel free to let me know if you have any questions about your puppy.
Marvin... a 12-week old bulldog puppy who came to visit for Puppy Board & Train. Yes, he's wearing pink, but it's all I had  :)