Marjie from our IAABC group posted this on our IAABC list , and gave me permission to post it here only. Drug names have been omitted on her request. This is a true example where patience can go a long way. Not to mention thinking outside the box. here's her story ...
I thought I'd fill anyone interested in on how Addie is doing. She's my 9 1/2 y/o Swiss Mountain dog/ Chicken LIttle who was in the yard going to the bathroom late on the night of July 4th with someone set off an enormous, "pro-grade" chrysanthemum-style firework over my house.
Addie is a dog with a long history of issues, including compulsive licking and intense thunderstorm fear. After the night of the 4th, she would no longer go outside to potty after about 3:00 pm. I spent time getting her to go out, and had gotten her to about an hour before dusk when I left for 2 weeks to take my kids to Spain, leaving her with a non-dog person, but someone she knows and loves and who regularly stays with her.
I also put her on (drug omitted), as a previous try had had no real effect, but not a negative one (she's seen 2 vet behaviorists, a PhD behaviorist and I've worked with her with the input of my professional vet and trainer friends for, well, eight or so years!). Addie has been historically very much not a candidate for drug therapy - She reacts terribly to (so far) all types of meds tried from between 1 and 12 weeks in, with huge behavioral changes that are not healthy or in any way helpful (increased fear,increased startle response to every-day noises not normally problematic, "hiding" with her head in corner of dark rooms or closets, shaking, lack of ability to explore her environment, excessive drooling - lots of problems at minimal doses.
By the time I got back in August, Addie would with some regularity - maybe 50% of the time, pee outside at night if she was taken for a walk. Never in the dog yard. This is not ideal as my older dog Betty needs a lot of attention at night herself due to stairs etc., and it's not the eventual outcome I wanted, but it was better than nothing, and it was progress. She was no longer regularly going 18 hours between pee breaks.
I did some work with her in the dog yard, and occasionally she'd pee back there after dark and then rush up the stairs to go back inside.
All of this looked like progress, and the vet raised her (drug omitted) (these are really small doses and the drug has a really wide range of dosage), once daily. By now we were in the first week in September. Still no reliable peeing in the dog yard after dusk (rare, really, but *less* rare), and about 75% reliability peeing after dark on leash on a walk around the block.
Then on September 6th I was walking her at 10:00 at night before bed and out of nowhere the fireworks started from the town next to mine. I have no idea why - some sort of town-wide celebration. Big, loud but not visible fireworks. She almost broke her leash pulling me back to the house. And that was that. Outside only before 3:00 pm, no peeing at dusk or dark.
The vet raised her to 6 mg, and my dog fell apart. Within 3 days she was shaking, hiding in the bathroom, digging holes in tile to get small and wedge her 90 pound self between, say, the dryer and the radiator, or hide in the shower - all this without any storms or fireworks. Just dark. Staring out of windows, very worried. Ducking and hiding if she heard a noise. Planes overhead mind blowing. I started living like Howard Hughes, shades pulled by afternoon wherever possible, TV on to make the ambient noise as the same as possible from one time of day to another. THis vacuum cleaner of a dog was too worried to eat without looking around and interrupting her (normally 4.5 second) meals, glancing out windows. She was compulsively licking her legs at all times when not eating or sleeping, and she'd wake from sleep licking. She wouldn't go out the front door at night any more, so we were now out of doors except the basement door, which does not lead to a place that works for pottying a dog at night - no point in working through that.
So I did two things: I stopped the meds. Within 3 days she was HUGELY better, sleeping more normally, no longer hiding in the bathrooms or standing with her head against a wall in dark corners of unlit rooms. Eating like her normal piggy self. Ready to "talk" about going outside at dusk, or even dark, if only for a few seconds and to be out there, not to push the potty issue.
On the night of the original fireworks debacle I'd been a part of the pictures, which I knew was a problem. Me standing on the porch, Betty and Addie both down in the dog yard, night time, next to the house. Changing person in the scenario hadn't done anything even after 2 weeks of me being away. Getting her out there without Betty wasn't anything she'd consider - only Betty gave her enough confidence to go out at all after dusk. Can't fix the sky, or night, or planes flying overhead intermittently.
So the other thing I did was change the only thing I could in the environment. I changed the smell of the setting. I changed the mulch in the dog yard.
I called a yard company and asked if they'd remove the 6 or so cubic yards of existing mulch, put down lime underneath to kill existing smells and replace the mulch with another type, smelly and fresh. They suggested hemlock to replace the pine I think I had.
It's now been about 3 weeks since I changed the mulch. The first night of the new mulch was a sniffing fest from above, her standing on the porch with me in the afternoon. Each progressive evening saw her moving more easily toward the area, slightly later in the day each time. I am pleased to report that for the last 2 weeks Addie has gone out every single night after dark and peed - and even pooped several times! Yes, in a bit of a hurry to get back inside, but out the door with maybe a little coaxing some nights, down the stairs on her own, peed, came back up not panicking - just in a "get that door open and let's go inside" kind of way.
I'm writing this around 10:00 pm, so before hitting send I've just taken her out to be sure I haven't jinxed myself big time - success once again!
So I thought I'd share where we are for two reasons: one, who else but dog people can understand the pure joy of a success like this (so far... no jinxing!), and also to remind us of the power of the environment and how we can use it for good in so many interesting ways.
Thanks for reading if you got this far - and for your understanding ears!
Dave and Molly
Ian Dunbar was awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award from I.P.D.T.A. Here's a picture of me accepting the award on his behalf.
Member of IAABC ,International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants , Member of Pet Professional Guild