We've been anxious to introduce you to our June Pet of the Month, George! When Deb and Steve went to the Humane Society of Huron Valley, after much urging by their grandchildren, they weren't looking for a puppy nor a hound, but a 12 week-old, 14 lb Treeing Walker Coonhound named George stole their hearts. George was sweet, playful, and kid-friendly at home, it wasn't until the family's first puppy obedience class they realized "there was something a little different about George."
As the family grew more excited to "start the lessons where all the secrets to having a well-behaved dog would be revealed," they had no idea what trials awaited them. Upon seeing the other dogs in the class, George became over-excited (though according to Deb and Steve, this may be a gross understatement) and became hyper-focused. He continued to bark at the other dogs, while they tried every treat or trick they could to distract him. While Steve and Deb waved cheese and hot dogs in front of him, he strained against his leash to play with his classmates. Recall seemed impossible because while his classmates would return to their owners, George "pin-balled" from classmate to classmate, ignoring his owners' increasingly embarrassed calls. There was little else they could do, but leave the class after four brutal sessions.
At 6-months old, George was relentless to gain access to other dogs and critters when he spotted them. He would howl, bark, and jump, whatever was necessary to reach them. His obsessive nature eventually led to his tail becoming a focal point for his stimulation. As his focus intensified, any kind of anxiety or excitement would set George to chasing his tail. With each rotation, he would bark and this could go on for long periods every day. George seemed miserable and his owners can't even describe the agony of watching the puppy that stole their hearts suffer with his obsessive behavior.
In November of 2014, Deb brought George to see Dr. Hui. While medical and physical causes were being ruled out, George began to circle in the exam room. It appeared it was behavioral and he was started on a medication to help control his anxiety. As is the case with many anti-anxiety medications, it took some time to get a good idea if it was helping and, unfortunately, for George the first medication wasn't helping much. After many conversations and a brief weaning period, George started on Prozac. After a few weeks, it appeared to be working well enough to help him start training, a key part, along with exercise, to controlling his anxiety and obsessive nature. Deb and Steve found a private trainer to help identify when the spinning was about to start and how to get his attention. They began to work with a different trainer to help with leash walking and intermittent spinning. Deb and Steve adjusted and "learned to put George on a leash indoors when he was anxious, give him clear direction when he seems uncertain, and make sure he gets plenty of exercise." George was nearly two years old and was eating better, he knew several commands, and was more manageable.
George's experience is not unique when it comes to anxiety in pets. It can take weeks, sometimes months, to find the right combination of medication, training, and exercise to alleviate enough anxiety for a pet to become comfortable. Behavioral cues can exhibit in many ways, if you have concerns, please contact the clinic. George's story highlights another important aspect of raising a healthy dog: puppy classes. They can reveal early warning signals if your pup has anxieties about other dogs or people. If nothing else, they offer an opportunity to form positive associations with meeting strangers and new experiences.
A year later, George still hasn't lost his intensity, but Deb, Steve, and George's persistence has paid off. He is much more relaxed and confident, even winning a few photo contests with his "movie-star" good looks and improved obedience. He takes all the attention in stride and is just like any other dog now: "show him a bike trail, bunny tail, or plump pillow at the end of the day, and he's the happiest of dogs."
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