Seeking advice: very anxious small rescue dog

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anniep
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Seeking advice: very anxious small rescue dog

Post by anniep » Tue Jan 23, 2018 9:51 pm

Hi. I was searching online for any advice that might help us settle in our little adopted dog Ziggy (7 year-old male silky terrier/papillon cross) and came across your forum, and have already found the posts on other queries very helpful. But I do have a few questions of my own - some of these have probably already been asked and answered over the years, so apologies if I'm going over old ground. When we adopted Ziggy from a local rescue group we were told that he had been surrendered because his owner too busy to give him the attention he needed and that he'd been moved around a lot recently and need stability. His owner apparently had 2 other dogs and there was no mention of them being surrendered. We were also told he was very loving with those he knew but very wary of strangers, which made perfect sense. When we went to the meet and greet he came to the door to meet us and allowed us approach him, but he would growl when overwhelmed by too much attention. The foster carer told us that it was the first time he had greeted anyone who came to the house and that he had spent most of the time there sitting under the table. He had only been there for 4 days at that stage. We felt that our home would provide somewhere for Ziggy to finally relax and feel secure - there are only 3 of us (myself, my husband and our 21-year-old daughter), we live on acreage in a very secluded spot and there aren't people constantly coming in and out of the house. I work from home, and my husband is retired. We have always had a dog as part of the family, but have usually raised them from puppies. But Ziggy is effectively our first rescue dog (we adopted a little dog rescued from a puppy farm late last year, but at his first vet check-up our vet picked up severe anemia, found an obstruction in his bowel, operated, and in the poor little pup died only 6 days after we adopted him) so we feel like complete beginners. Sorry for the lengthy post, but I felt some background was important. We really want to get this right, as Ziggy is a really affectionate sweet little dog when he doesn't feel threatened. He snaps at us when he becomes anxious, but it seems to be just air snapping as he almost never makes contact - and he only weighs 3.4kg so isn't a physical threat. My main questions at this stage are: Ziggy is very affectionate with us most of the time, but then retreats to a safe place when he's had enough. As he's such a small dog we gave him his own bed in a quiet spot, but he doesn't seem familiar with using a bed, so he finds his own safe place. Should I persist with the bed by giving him a treat when he hops into it, or is it better to let him find his own safe spot? He has become severely constipated (I guessed from so many changes in environment and/or food) and screamed in pain when trying to poo 2 nights ago so we took him to the vet yesterday - he found this very stressful and I'm wondering how we minimise his anxiety in such situations? Finally, and probably after we resolve the other issues, we were told he'd spent time in a house with cats and was fine, but he reacts really strongly to our 12-year-old cat (who grew up with our previous dog) and we can't tell if it's aggression or excitement. Any tips on gradually introducing them down the track. While I realise this is something we have to do gradually I'm very concerned about whether they will actually be able to adapt to each other. Thanks for persisting with this long post, and I really would appreciate any advice - I'm happy to just be referred to other sources so you don't have to keep going over old ground with me. Annie

Lotsaquestions
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Re: Seeking advice: very anxious small rescue dog

Post by Lotsaquestions » Wed Jan 24, 2018 4:27 am

Hello Annie and welcome to the forums!

Because Ziggy sounds like he can be an independant chap at times, when you give him affection it might be worthwhile to try the '5 second rule.' Basically you stroke the dog for 5 seconds (how you normally would) then stop, if Ziggy asks for more affection give it to him for another 5 seconds. Eventually you'll be able to tell when he's had enough before the air snapping, and he'll feel confident enough that he can have his space when he needs it. He probably learnt long ago that humans didn't respect him because he's small so he had to tell them to 'leave me alone!'.

For his bed you can make his bed a safe and happy space if you want to, and there are benefits to this if you need to him stay in one place, but if he's found his own space you might be best to work with that especially as he's so new to you. My own dog has lots of beds, but his favourite spot is on cold stone under a table. Whenever he's there he gets left alone to sleep.

I don't know how to help him out at the vets other than suggesting bringing lots of treats with you, and having the vet spen some time just tossing treats on the floor. If he's worried about handling there are handling exercises you can do to make checking his ears, eyes, legs and.... bits more comfortable for him.

As for cats I do have experience with this. We had an old cat chasing Lurcher and we bought a kitten. It took a month or so but eventually they got along. The best thing to do is keep the cat safe at all times by putting Ziggy on a lead, and whenever the cat and Ziggy are in the same room Ziggy gets lots of treats (when he's not trying to get to the cat). Keep these sessions short, but eventually Ziggy will begin to calm down around the cat. This will work for either excitement or aggression so long as you reward the calm. Make sure the cat has some high ground or baby gate so it can retreat to safety if it needs to. Keep these sessions short to begin with (5mins) then slowly build it up when you see gradual progress. It took us about two weeks of walking our Lurcher into the room for about 2 minutes then walking him out for us to see any progress, but he had a long established want to catch and probably kill cats.

Some more people will be along to help out, and I'm not a professional at all so you might want to compare and contrast the advice!

anniep
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Re: Seeking advice: very anxious small rescue dog

Post by anniep » Wed Jan 24, 2018 5:13 am

Thanks so much for this advice, Lotsaquestions. It makes sense, and I'll give it a try. The '5 second rule' sounds like a good idea because I don't think we're very good at reading Ziggy's signals yet so it's probably good to let him ask for more rather than us overdoing it.

His bed is a small round padded one, so I have been moving it around a bit (e.g. leaving it in the corner of the lounge during the day and taking it into the bedroom at night) but with mixed results. So today I've just been leaving him to settle where he wants but I'll take his bed into the bedroom tonight and see if he wants to sleep in it. He slept on the bed with me for the first couple of nights, and I didn't discourage him as I'm fine with it if it's what he wants, but for the last 2 nights he has stayed on the bed for a short time and then jumped down and slept on the floor behind a small table. So I wonder if he's been a bit overwhelmed.

I will try your suggestions for introducing him to our cat. I really hope it's going to be possible for them to settle into some sort of fairly amicable arrangement. I need to find a new safe high spot for the cat before I do this though - Ziggy is so small and agile that a lot of the things I thought would be obstacles to him (like that catflap) he can get through/jump onto.

Thanks again for taking the time to reply - the last few days with Ziggy have made me realise that even though we've had many doggy members of the family in the past we still have a lot to learn!

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Nettle
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Re: Seeking advice: very anxious small rescue dog

Post by Nettle » Wed Jan 24, 2018 5:19 am

Great advice from Lotsa, and just to add:

You haven't had him for very long. Relax and give him time to sort himself out. He's had lot of changes in a short time.

My own experience is that when people hand dogs into Rescue, they don't always tell the truth, and some Rescues don't either. You can't change his past but you can change his future. So it's good to acknowledge that he has good reasons for doing what he does, but you can make his life better.

Oddly to someone who has so much love to give, the best thing you can do is leave him alone! What happens just before he snaps and what do you do when he does?

He has told you where he wants his bed. So give him another bed there. Like Lotsa has said, dogs need several beds.

It's so nice to have long detailed posts - thank you! It is easier to read if you break it up, though, the way we have done. A solid block of print is rather tricky to negotiate.
A dog is never bad or naughty - it is simply being a dog

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Shalista
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Re: Seeking advice: very anxious small rescue dog

Post by Shalista » Wed Jan 24, 2018 6:57 am

a small word of warning on treats and calming down. ive often found with my own dog that he gets way to wound up devouring treats and eagerly waiting for the next one and that that is NOT the best time to get him used to affection or people touching him. (hes also a bit guardy about food) that may not be the case for Ziggy but be aware of it in case it is.

I will however double down on bringing Ziggy to the vet and just feeding him teats. i had a VERY anxious dog that i got to love his vet like a second home. he would let ANYONE touch him or cuddle him there (not so with the outside world) just because id bring super high value treats (Hot dog and liverwurst) and we'd just sit and eat treats and do some light training of tricks he knew.

id like to be clear on two things. A) its better to do these on days he DOESNT have a vet appointment. just bring him in, hangout, eat some treats, and leave, so he comes to expect the vets to be a place of treats and plenty with the occasional pinch from a vet.(Bax lets the techs trim his nails their. he doesnt even let ME trim his nails at home) B) while getting used to the vet is a noble goal you only have so much time in the day and i think it may be wiser to invest on building up safety and security at home with you guys before you venture out into the great outdoors. Hes still a baby to you guys and while it can be a great bonding experience (hey look! mom has loads of treats all the time!) you want to build up the sense of safety and security at hme so he knows he can come home, curl up on his fav spot, and not be bothered.
Baxter (AKA Bax, Chuckles, Chuckster) Rat Terrier, born 01/16/13

anniep
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Re: Seeking advice: very anxious small rescue dog

Post by anniep » Wed Jan 24, 2018 7:04 pm

Thanks, Nettle and Shalista for your advice. I've read some of your posts about Bax, Shalista, and the progress he's made, so I'm very hopeful that we'll able to create a safe place for Ziggy.

His constipation seems to be resolving itself with time and the medication, which is a great relief. Although it made perfect sense that his little system was protesting at so much change, it was an added challenge trying to work out what he did and didn't want us to do when he was so physically uncomfortable. I'm also relieved that it looks as though we can avoid another vet visit at this stage as that was understandably stressful for him.

Ziggy seems to have decided he's prefer to sleep on the floor in the bedroom rather than on the bed, so I took his bed down with me last night and he slept in it happily all night (there are a lot of other spots on the floor behind furniture etc that he could have chosen but he seemed to prefer his bed). This morning he has followed me into the study and is sitting under the spare desk so I'm just leaving him be while I work. I think maybe we were trying too hard and overloading him with attention - so I'm also using the '5 second rule' and letting him ask for attention.

I'm wondering what we should do when he growls/snaps at us. This morning he jumped onto my lap while I was drinking coffee, but couldn't get comfortable as I was in a small upright chair, so he tried to get down but the arm of the chair was in the way - so he panicked a bit and growled. I just moved the chair and pointed at the ground and he was able to jump down, but my husband had a similar situation yesterday and Ziggy got very agitated and snappy and my husband was worried he might bite. Any suggestions would be welcome.

Again, thanks to everyone for your advice. I feel we're making steady progress with Ziggy, and he's such a sweet little boy when he's feeling secure - but we have a long way to go yet. It's still less than a week, though, so I'm sure we'll get there - with a little help!

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Shalista
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Re: Seeking advice: very anxious small rescue dog

Post by Shalista » Thu Jan 25, 2018 6:14 am

oh boy bax has a reputation :roll: :lol:
EDIT: i will say that for all my trials with him bax is almost the perfect house dog right now. hes still anxious with strangers and loud thumps but hes like 90% the perfect dog so you CAN do it.

and it sounds like your making good progress. there will be set backs occasionally but so long as you listen to Ziggy he'll tell you what he needs. right now he feels you dont speak dog well enough so hes resorting to more obvious language (snapping, growling) as he learns to trust you that you can pick up when hes uncomfortable he'll go with subtler things (whale eyes, lip licks, yawns)
Baxter (AKA Bax, Chuckles, Chuckster) Rat Terrier, born 01/16/13

anniep
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Re: Seeking advice: very anxious small rescue dog

Post by anniep » Thu Jan 25, 2018 6:51 am

Yes, sounds like Bax has come ahead in leaps and bounds :D

And I'm sure Ziggy will too, given time. One great thing we discovered today is that he's fine being left at home alone. We hadn't planned to leave him alone so soon, and I was pretty anxious myself when we all had to be out at the same time. But Ziggy was quite relaxed about it all - he seems to be happy with his own company, and often takes himself off somewhere quiet even when we're home, so it's great to know he doesn't feel anxious when we leave him alone.

He seems to be settling better with my daughter and me than with my husband at the moment but he's made so much progress in just a few days (and so have we in reading his signals, I hope)... Ignoring him seems to work wonders - after some time off by himself he gets quite excited about going outside with us and he seems to LOVE the car.

Lotsaquestions
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Re: Seeking advice: very anxious small rescue dog

Post by Lotsaquestions » Thu Jan 25, 2018 7:05 am

Lovely to hear it!

The life of a small dog can be hard, because they are so easily manhandled and their warnings are often written of as 'cute' they can get pretty annoyed with the world. I bet that is what happened to Ziggy before you rescued him. In time he'll learn you are to be trusted, and you'll have a fantastic life of adventure ahead of you. Papillons are great little hooligans when they get going with the brains of a collie, and I can imagine the terrier in him will make him even more hilarious to be around!

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Nettle
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Re: Seeking advice: very anxious small rescue dog

Post by Nettle » Thu Jan 25, 2018 8:30 am

What to do when a dog growls:

Stop what you are doing and back off. Obviously you can't do this when he is trapped in a chair with you, so - you gave him space to get off the chair. Well done!

Love the growl. The growl is a gift. It shows a dog trusts you to listen to his fears. In this case it was about being trapped. As Lotsa says, small dogs get a bad deal with manhandling. If people wouldn't do it to a Rottweiler, it shouldn't be done to a little dog. Quite likely he has been manhandled in the past.
A dog is never bad or naughty - it is simply being a dog

SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS

anniep
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Re: Seeking advice: very anxious small rescue dog

Post by anniep » Fri Jan 26, 2018 8:01 pm

Thanks, Nettle.

Had a lovely day with Ziggy yesterday, and feel like we're making progress and getting to understand what he wants us to do/not do. Only a couple of growls all day, so hopefully we're coming to understand each other more.

Took Ziggy for quite a long walk in the afternoon, and discovered that he likes both car trips and walks. He wasn't a fan of walking on our long gravel driveway (understandably) so we went to a ride in the car and found a nice flat grassy verge where we could have a long walk. Ziggy walked on the lead like a little champion and just sat down when he'd had enough, so we headed back to the car. The walk seemed to really lift his mood and he was happy and relaxed for the rest of the day.

So, for a change no new questions today, just a quick progress report. If we can have a couple more positive days I'll start thinking about introducing him to our resident grumpy (but much loved) cat!

Thanks again everyone for your support.

jacksdad
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Re: Seeking advice: very anxious small rescue dog

Post by jacksdad » Fri Jan 26, 2018 8:29 pm

Nettle wrote:
Thu Jan 25, 2018 8:30 am
Love the growl. The growl is a gift. It shows a dog trusts you to listen to his fears.
this thought process has saved me from being bitten many times. For dogs you are just meeting, it's not trust, but being given a chance to prove your self friend or foe. They took a risk, gave you an inch, we need to respect that by not taking a mile and respect the time and space they need to become comfortable.

The latest example in my life of this approach saving me from a bit is a dog I am working with, larger GSD mix. move your hands towards his face, he curls his lips, shows teeth and occasionally advances on you. he has bitten and will if pushed.

listening to him, combined with counter conditioning my approach and hand movements towards him resulted in a dog that now seeks out pets, scratches, lets me touch his face, clean his eye "goobers", etc. all with a doggy relaxed smile. no growls, not teeth, no threats.

love the growl...I lack holes in my body because I love that growl.

anniep
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Re: Seeking advice: very anxious small rescue dog

Post by anniep » Fri Feb 02, 2018 7:02 pm

Ziggy update - and, inevitably, a few more questions...

We've now had Ziggy just over 2 weeks, and he's becoming a very affectionate little pup and seems WAY more relaxed most of the time. From what I'm reading here about the time it often takes for rescue dogs to adapt to a new environment, I feel that we've all made great progress.

One area we haven't made any progress on is introducing Ziggy to our cat - after one accidental encounter that really stressed both of them out, the cat (who is just as anxious as Ziggy, unfortunately, and doesn't like being handled) just retreated into the main bedroom and doesn't venture out. We've even had to move her litter tray temporarily. So we've put further introductions on hold at the moment - but I really feel for Tike, our cat - she's 12 years old and I worry that they'll never be able to live happily together.

We seem to be getting better at reading the growls - although every now and then Ziggy growls in a situation where I think he seems quite relaxed, so I'm obviously still missing some signs.

One question I do have is about him seeming unsettled at times - as though he can't find a place he feels comfortable. He just wanders around the house, starts to settle in one spot, can't settle, moves somewhere else, tries to settle, and so on. I am just ignoring him and leaving him to it - he eventually settles somewhere - his favourite spot when we've watching TV is under the coffee table, which is a tight squeeze even for such a tiny dog, so he must feel safe under there. I find it quite stressful when he can't settle though - is there anything we should do differently, or is it fine just to ignore him? (I usually take him outside when this starts just to make sure he doesn't need a toilet break!)

My other questions is related - he sleeps quite well at night, but sometimes just prowls around the bedroom (he usually sleeps in either his little bed or under a small table in the bedroom) and can't seem to settle. And he seems to lick himself for hours during the night (which is surprisingly loud in the middle of the night!) Again, anything I can do to help him settle.

Thanks so much everyone for your support and help - it's great to have so many willing and experienced advisers, as I feel we have so much to learn.

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Nettle
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Re: Seeking advice: very anxious small rescue dog

Post by Nettle » Sat Feb 03, 2018 5:15 am

You are doing really well - you just need to adjust your own timescale of expectations. You've had him such a short time, and he will take a long time to feel safe with you. You cannot rush this process. Imagine how you'd feel in a house full of Martians, where previous Martians haven't been a pleasant experience.

When he is restless, leave him alone, apart from your sensible move to take him outside first. if you catch yourself getting stressed, stop it. :wink:

The licking may be him releasing endorphins for comfort - repetitive movements release these. Give him something safe to chew instead, but don't worry. There is a slight chance it's a pain or health issue, but this is not the time for him to go to the vet if you can avoid it. Same with him choosing tight places to get under - autistic children do this too. Does he have a crate? Not to shut him in, but to make a safe den by covering it with blankets, leaving it open so he can go in there and de-stress when things overwhelm him. He must be left alone when he does this, or it stops being a safe haven.

He and the cat may never get on. JudyN is your guide here.
A dog is never bad or naughty - it is simply being a dog

SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS

Lotsaquestions
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Re: Seeking advice: very anxious small rescue dog

Post by Lotsaquestions » Sat Feb 03, 2018 5:46 am

Merlin paces alot, especially in our bedroom. For Merlin is one of two reasons;

a) he's really hot but wants to be near us, so he's stuck trying to find a cool spot where we are. We got him a cooling mat because of this.

b) he wants somewhere secure. He sleeps in a playpen at night, which is his den, and its open during the day. The pen is totally covered. He potters in and out of it during the day, but at night he won't settle anywhere but in his pen. He was the same when he was smaller with a crate and kept going in it during the day to sleep.

As Nettle said a crate covered in blankets that is always open for them can really help a dog settle, and if its heat a nice cooling mat can work wonders.

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