I had recently posted in the Dog Food Forum about my picky eater Otis - 3 yr old dachshund/beagle/terrier mix and the challenges I had getting him to eat on a consistent basis. Well we have just gone through a wellness check and blood panel to rule out any physical reason for his lack of appetite and were cleared. I, and now my vet, am pretty sure that we are dealing with an anxiety issue and I am hoping someone here has dealt with this before.
Otis is now about 3 and we adopted him 1 yr ago next month.
I have been through basic obedience with him and he has started to go to daycare 1 day a week for socialization mostly. He has been 3 times so far.
His symptoms range from:
- refusing food when he is hungry.
- ears pinned back/ low carried head/ wide eyes and stiff stance and sometimes licking his mouth.
- can have quite low energy, nests/ hides in blankets, under pillows for hours!
- on a staircase faced head on with a cat (we have 3), he will stop in his tracks/ avoid eye contact and wait for someone to remove the cat before he can proceed.
- he will 'avoid' his dish, physically walking around it/ not looking at it if there is something new in it, or if I have made too 'big of a deal' about his dinner.
- sometimes a simple 'a-hem' throat clearing is enough to make him jump/ roll over on his back/ side.
- general licking of his mouth a lot of the time, if we want him to go out, get in the car, coax him from under his blankets...
My question is do I try to coax him or do I let him have space when he is anxious. Like, should I allow him to lie under a blanket for hours? He is not anxious all of time. This is something that comes and goes. When he is not anxious, he plays, has energy and is relaxed.
Vet has suggested medication. I am trying some natural therapies first/ rescue remedy and scent to hopefully help him. How do I address his issues before he gets anxious?
Is it only around food that he is anxious? Do you have a normal feeding time routine? Do you walk otis before you feed him?
I have an anxious dog and a dog that was severely anxious but is normal now. What I learned is that it is really important not to make a big deal about anything. Also, they like routines-even if mealtimes are not at the same time every day (say due to different shifts, school, schedule, whatever) there is still a routine. Like walking before a meal ("earning" their food), even if it's just 10 minutes (although more exercise usually means less anxiety). Then, my dogs each have a certain spot they sit in while I am getting meals ready. They don't get food if they are whining, pacing, etc etc. A nice calm sit-stay as I put the meals down, and then they get released to eat.
If your dog doesn't want to eat-you can't force him and I wouldn't try. Just like people, if we don't want to eat, we're not going to! Following the feeding routine, leave the food down for 15-20minutes and if he doesn't eat, pick it up.
What have you been working on with him to build his confidence and decrease anxiety since you adopted him?
Oh and straight from my own vet's mouth-"No coddling!" If he is being anxious, don't pat, soothe, talk to him, or reassure him, as you're then reinforcing that his anxious behaviour is good and deserves reward. That's why at my house whining pacing dogs do not get fed, only dogs in a nice sit stay who are not anxious or excited get food. With the new puppy, sometimes that means a little bit of a wait at meal times, although she is getting better! :)
I hope others have some more suggestions for you. I think the most important thing I've learned from dealing with my anxious dogs is not to coddle and reinfoce the anxious behaviour, and do not make a big deal about anything or it just makes them think there is something to be anxious about.
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