Friday, September 28, 2007

P is for Prozac

So...ahem...I'm about to post something that is a bit embarrassing to me. It's not horrible but in a way it makes me feel like a failed puppy parent.

Ever since we got Toby, the bull terrier, we fully expected to have a happy pet family. We knew that we would have our work cut out for us with him since he was a rescue case. And boy in the beginning I had thought about packing up Toby's belongings and sending him back to the bull terrier rescue place in Houston. He was a holy terror and he was the most stubborn dog I have ever come across. It was probably four to five months before we finally got him to sit or lie down on command just as an example of how much this dog could care less about pleasing his new masters.

Our older dog, Josie, did not care at all for Toby. She had been living a pretty peaceful life for about six years and all of a sudden...BAM...she has a little one year old brother. And some background on Josie: she has always been an anxious dog...a big time nervous nelly.

When we first adopted Josie from the pound she was a scared five month year old, which I would assume is very normal for most dogs entering a new situation from the pound. The thing that wasn't too normal, I think, is that when we brought her home she shook for like the first three hours. She was wide eyed and scared for her life. K and I left her be and ignored her talking to her every once in a while. Eventually, she came around us and showed us her fun loving personality. Even though she let her guard down with us we could see that she was an over anxious dog. It was definitely stamped onto her personality.

In the beginning Toby looooooved his big sister. He was Josie's shadow at all times, which seemed to really frustrate Josie. Toby would try to touch or even lie by Josie and would in return get nipped and growled at. This never deterred Toby even though sometimes he looked a bit rejected but he always got over it quickly by pestering her again in about five minutes.

Today, Toby still tries to be near Josie. But now he doesn't only adore her he now pesters and bullies her at all times too.

The only time there was a major problem between Toby and Josie was during feeding times. The first time we had to pry them apart from a dog fight and clean their wounds we didn't hesitate to take the hint that we would never feed them in the same room again.

Every time they got into a dog fight it usually revolved around some type of resource guarding. In the old house the fights had started to become few and far between.

So here we are now...

We're in the new house and their routines are the same but the environment is different. The fights have begun again and Kreg and I are at our wits end trying to figure out WHY!? It's hard to tell who starts the fights because once they go at each other it's a simultaneous agreement to tear each other up.

What we have noticed, though, is that Josie has been cringing from Toby. When it all begins she starts to cringe from him, her body gets really stiff, and her eyes are huge. He'll come around her sniffing and she'll growl and next thing we know they are going at it.

At this point it doesn't matter who actually lunges first. What we do know is that our nervous nelly, Josie, is the one who puts out the signals that our human eyes can see. All I can figure out is that she has gone into fear-aggression mode and I've talked to my vet about all the things that have occured between the two dogs.

Toby has always pestered Josie but never seemed to be an aggressor, which in the beginning I of course always blamed him since he was the new guy. Josie, however, has always put out bad vibes towards Toby. In the dog world Josie is very rude. Toby has always let Josie sniff him from head to tail without moving and being ever so accomodating. As soon as Josie is done with her full body sniff Toby goes to do the same to her and she's always growled and snapped at him. I guess from puppyhood Josie did not learn proper socialization skills that showed her what polite behavior was between dogs.

Plus, Toby is around two years old now and another possibility that could be occuring is he is looking to up his status to top dog in the house. If Josie would willingly step down to the subordinate dog status then there is a possibility that this wouldn't be occuring, but I can tell you if this is the scenario then she is not willing to step down.

And if I had access to a pet behavioralist then I could go this route but Cesar won't be coming to East Texas any time soon. I checked his schedule. And I cannot wait any longer on this because these fights are not just love taps with a "I'm just playing" attitudes. These two are willing to step into Vick's ring when they go at it and we just don't have the stomach to watch our dogs do this.

So...here is where my embarrassment begins. After speaking with my vet and going over some options my vet had suggested a puppy Prozac for Josie. I was speachless even though at times K and I joked about that was exactly what Josie needed.

I guess I feel embarrassed for even going this route and what's worse is that I feel like a failed puppy parent. My vet assured me that it is not K or my fault and we had adopted dogs that came with issues and these issues were not implanted by us.

I cannot even imagine what a real parent to a human child feels like when they are advised to medicate their child's behavioral problems. I'm sure it's triplefold to what I am feeling for a dog.

Josie is on day two of puppy Prozac.

7 comments:

Mary T. said...

Do not feel guilty! I was on prozac for awhile and I don't think my mom failed me or anything. I was just born anxious--much like Josie. And hey, I don't take kindly to total body sniffs either. :) But seriously, you should be proud that you were able to give a kind and loving home to your puppies and proud of all the good things you've done; don't be ashamed for ways you imagine you've failed. You haven't! Dog fights are incredibly stressful. I have seen Molly in a couple and if I had to endure it on a daily basis with TWO dogs belonging to me, I'd have a stroke. No kidding. You are doing what you need to do to enjoy peace in your family. And maybe Josie will get really chill and start listening to the Grateful Dead while you're at work. You never know! XOXO.

Chrissy said...

wow, this was riveting! better than dear abby, even!

i promise not to think less of you or josie due to prozac. if it helps her to calm down and enjoy life, then it's worth it. i hope it works out - keep your loyal readers updated!

<3

Zay said...

Mary: aaaaw...thanks mary...you have made me feel much much better. you got me teary eyed over here. hard to see the screen when the vision becomes blurred. :)

Chrissy: i love dear abby...what a nice compliment. heh.

Pacer said...

Also, you might not have keep her on it forever. They figured out a way to co-exist in your last place, and they'll probably do that in your new place too - it'll just take time.

I do know how you feel though! I put our cat (Gabriel, the orange one) on elevil for a little while because she had an excessive grooming issue. Turns out she's allergic to EVERYTHING (grass, fleas, pollen, most cat food etc). Now that we know that we don't have to drug her, we just try not to expose her to all that stuff she's allergic to.

Zay said...

pacer: yeah, i'm hoping that we won't have to keep the josers on the P forever. we shall see. i'm hoping to see something change and hopefully for the better in about four weeks.

Barking Loud said...

I stumbled upon your site and couldn't help but read on. If I may (and its long)... you should not feel guilty for 'temporary' use of P for Josie however, you and your husband should use the time wisely to show Toby that he is 2nd in rank. Josie was there first in the home then you brought Toby in and her behavior is now elevated because her position is being threatened. There are ways to stop the feeding issues but it takes you/hubby showing domination over the furs babies. Feed them in the same room but get each of them adjusted to a differenct type of bowl so they can recognize it as their own and leave their smell on it. Stand or squat inbetween to show you will squash either one of them the moment one makes an agressive move. You must mount the one that is not following your commands to show you are the controller and use a 'bellow of a command' like Hey/No/Stop which ever one you use, always use it in an association behavior training. A $2 clicker from Petco works too. Additionally, with the loud firm voice push down on their muzzle while taking their bowl away will tame the one having the issue quickly. Even though it hurts the human heart to show what looks like favortism you need to always put Josie 1st: for example if letting them go out, always always hold Toby back and let Josie walk out first; Treats give Josie hers 1st, Toby 2nd; same with putting down the food bowls. In a dogs world its their nature to 'need' to know their place in rank and they are okay with it once they understand. Take time to pet them at the same time but always remember Josie 1st and you will soon have peace in the home. Additionally, one of the best ways to show you can 'take them out' is to hold their face and force them to look you in the eye when you are teaching them what you want. They wille struggle not to look at you but this is how you 'break' the stubborness or unwillingness to be controlled. I have three now, each from the pound and all entered the home at a different time and each had their own issues that have been worked out over time so I know your good parents and you will get back to the peaceful cohabitating with teaching them rank. Josie most likely will be able to be weened for the P. once all know their place ~ Best wishes, Mutt Mom ~

W. said...

"BarkingLoud"'s commentary will get you a trip to the emergency room and anxious dogs that have lost trust in you, who they see as their protectors. Please, any one reading this... do NOT use force methods like these. A recent study by a highly respected animal behaviorist program at UPenn links aggressive training practices to aggressive dogs. I have to ask the person who left this advice... how's it been working for you?
Trust Patricia McConnell, Jean Donaldson, Ian Dunbar, even Victoria Stillwell on behavior modification, do NOT go the Cesar road of dominating dogs into compliance. They don't know how to be human any more than we know how to be dogs. Train with understanding and patience, not fear and intimidation. I have AKC CGC award dogs, Therapy Dogs and other titles in the works on my own rescued shelter/strays and have not resorted to dominance and terrorizing! Ugh.

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