Last year my wife and I adopted a dog from someone that was moving and could no longer keep him. In the past I had always had a dog and it had been a number of years since I had been in a situation where I could have one, and we both looked forward to Lincoln arriving in our home. Every animal has its peculiar quirks and it was immediately apparent to us that he had not had the best life up until the point he entered ours. Although he had a very loving and cuddling personality, there was also fear and anxiety – and he had apparently not been out in the world much. My thought at the time was he would snap out of both of those with encouragement, patience and time. We worked with the dog and bonded quickly. Although a mix his appearance was predominantly yellow lab and when I first took him to water it was apparent that it was his first encounter, and he was scared of it. After a few weeks he would drink out of open water – but he was sure to keep all of his feet on dry land and do a long stretch to get his drink. Being summer with some encouragement from getting in myself we got him to enter the water – it was funny that he actually tried to walk on it by lifting his feet up out of the water with each step and within a couple of months he took his first swim – I’ll never forget the look in his eyes when he seemed to “get it” and with a leap of faith pushed off the safety of the rock to swim to me.
We assumed he had been around someone with a temper – any swear word or dropped object would send him into another room. He also had what I would call a mild case of separation anxiety which waxed and waned some. At first, he would pull out our winter gloves and hats and leave them around the house, and when I moved those to a location he couldn’t reach he began targeting books and magazines to chew. I closed off his access to the books, and left an old magazine out each days for him to chew – there were days he would opt to chew it and days that he wouldn’t. Over the past year he has made improvements in getting his self esteem and being bolder.
Then, about a month ago we had a big setback. The dog had been active most of the day with a couple of walks and a long ride in the car and when we got in he went to his bed for a nap. We had the oven on for supper and unfortunately it touched off the smoke alarm. It had gone off before without inducing any problems in the dog but this particular time was different and it scared him badly – for about an hour afterwards he had symptoms of panic – visible shaking, drooling, and panting and not consolable. After that incident things changed – instead of sitting with us on the couch at night like he used to he would pick one of his two beds to lie in. He would come out to eat but warily and eyeing the ceiling as he did so. We have neighbors that like to shoot off fireworks, and while they never bothered him before, they began to visibly bother him. I was worried as all the gains we had seen were rapidly deteriorating and the days where he didn’t opt to chew the magazine I’d leave out for him were becoming few and far between. I was looking at the web for suggestions and a path to resolution when I came across dog appeasing pheromone. I was very skeptical of the product, especially with some people claiming it was great, and some claiming it was not. I read a few studies of the product, one of which you can find here. Essentially what DAP does is mimics the pheromone given off by a lactating mother and has a calming and securing affect on the dog. Studies have shown it to be effective in separation anxiety, fear of thunder and lightning, and excessive barking problems. I figured it couldn’t hurt to give it a shot – it’s available in diffusers, collars, and sprays. I purchased a room diffuser and put it in the room he spends the most time in. After several hours I took him out for his afternoon walk and upon returning home he made his usual beeline to his bed while I made supper. After we ate something unusual happened – he slowly came out of his room and joined us on the couch – something he hadn’t done since the “incident”. He was happier, less anxious, more playful..in short we had our old dog back. Over the next few days the separation anxiety stopped as well. It seems by reviews I’ve read online that DAP works for some and not so well for others – I gave it a shot and it worked for us.