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Hi All,

I'm new to this website, however when I found it I was so excited to read about border collies and the craziness that can ensue when you have one or more in your life. So, I'll start this by giving some background...which is needed to understand the extent of the problem my husband and I have found ourselves in.

 

Almost 7 years ago (7 years in October) our two border collie puppies were born (Doc and Wyatt). We adopted them from a lady who used the parents primarily as working dogs, however she had too many pups and needed to let some of them go..we got them at 8 weeks old. They are crazy, OCD, and extremly loving, which I know is normal for border collies. They are also so much a part of our family that I can no more imagine sending my 3 year old daughter off then I can them. With that said, we've been having some huge issues lately. The dogs are house dogs, however we enjoy playing frisbee, ball, etc with them. They need the play time so we try to devote several hours (at a minimum) a day to playing with them. They have always been the picture perfect dogs...except a bit crazy if they have access to a ball in the house :). However, they have ALWAYS, been terrified of thunder. We've never made an issue out of it, we simply ignore the behavior don't pay attention to them and let them find a "safe" space to ride the storm out. Unfortuately, for one of the dogs (Doc), his phobia took a turn for the worse about a year ago. We had moved into a house which was close enough to a highway that we could hear the big trucks and cars as they went by. At some point, it seemed that he began to associate the traffic sounds with thunder. Like always, he would find his "safe space"...which to our dismay became the bathtub for quite sometime. This was OK, however something that he would also do when he got scared was to run away(we lived on a farm for the first 5 years of his life...until my husband lost his job and we had to move). This actually wasn't a big deal because the farm was a family farm of 300 acres and he would hide for a few hours and make his way back to the house at some point. However, when we moved, his running away did become an issue. Simply because it's not safe in a city or the outskirts of a city. But, the dogs never stayed outside while we were gone...they always slept while we weren't there so it didn't seem like such a big deal...he would just find his safe space inside. Until at some point, he started clawing the door to get outside when he got scared. At first it was just clawing a couple of times and then he would give up and hide. However, a few months ago, we came home to a door which was literally shredded to pieces with trimming torn off and windows broken. Naively, we assumed that he had a breakdown and that it was a one time thing..however the next time we left him alone...after fixing the door...we came back to the exact same issue. Aside from the door, he had shredded his gums by chewing at the wood, and was panting and in an extremely anxious state. We of course, weren't sure what to do, however, I had been offered a job in San Antonio and we were moving literally two days after that happened and so we moved like we had to and hoped that things might change here. And actually for the first month here, they had been great. The neighborhood we are in is extremly quite and he didn't act fearful or scared AT ALL. Oh and I should say that we had begun to crate him for the 3 or so hours at a time that he was left at home, however after he literally acted like a changed dog, we attempted to leave him one day and he did great...that was a month ago so we had assumed that the move to a quiet area made all the difference. Today, however when my husband got home, he was faced with a similar situation...Doc had torn down blinds that hung from the kitchen sliding glasss door, which in the process had shredded his gums again and left a massive mess.

 

So, I'm extremly sorry for the huge post. It's just that I absolutely want to know if I have done something wrong or what hope there might be to help him recover from his fear. By the way, when he does this, it generally seems to be in a panicked state of mind...I was in the shower one time when he started to do it and he was panicky and scared. As soon as he is with me or my husband however, he is fine. I only want him and Wyatt (his brother) to be happy/healthy dogs, but also we don't know how to handle this without costing us huge amounts of money. We can crate him while we are gone, however there are a few times when we are gone longer than 6 hours...and I'm definitely not comfortable with that. If anyone has advice I would love to hear it. I've considered taking him to some sort of doggie daycare...just to see if that helps him. Either way, we're sort of at a loss. I hate that we had to take them from the farm life that they (and we all) loved, however you have to make ends meet and this was the only way to do it. Anyways, any help/advice would be extremly appreciated.

 

Oh and one more thing...he's an escape artist...we can't leave him in the fenced in back yard...because he WILL get out. He has managed to get out of 8 foot fences so that's not an option either...plus with the San Antonio heat...I'm not sure if it could be anyways.

Heather Coan

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You may get more replies if you post this in "general border collie discussion."

 

I have a dog with separation anxiety. (I'm not sure if your dog's fear is linked to you being gone or just being alone when scary noises happen). When I leave him loose when I am home, he will destroy the house. When I started crating him, he was ok for awhile, then he began licking his paws raw and chewing up his crate pans (I went through 5 or six of them). He will bark and drool and the floor around him will be covered in spit. He would hurt his gums sometimes. There was nothing I could really do as far as behavior modification--my work schedule isn't flexible enough to gradually build up the duration of time I was away from him. I ended up talking to my vet and getting him on Prozac. It has really helped a lot. He no longer chews up his crate and the licking and drooling has stopped. He still barks in his crate for awhile and if I leave him loose by himself he will destroy things, but in his crate at least the destructive behavior has stopped. It's about the best I can do without taking him with me everywhere I go, and unfortunately that's not an option for me.

 

You may want to check out some noise desensitization protocols or separation anxiety protocols and/or talk to a vet about medication. In the mean time, try the thundershirt (an anxiety wrap). His issues may be too severe for it to help, but it has worked miracles for lots of dogs and really helps my other dog with anxiety issues.

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Thunderstorm sensitivity is fairly common in border collies, unfortunately, and it ranges from mild to so severe that euthanasia is required. It often comes on only in middle age, and usually gets worse with age (although sometimes is resolved when the dog becomes deaf with old age). Bathtubs are a popular choice when these dogs are seeking refuge.

 

This article is useful reading, and is especially helpful to use in convincing a vet who may not be familiar with medication for this problem to prescribe for your dog. There have also been quite a few previous threads on thunderstorm sensitivity, which you can locate by using the search function. Good luck to you. As you well know, it is an awful problem.

 

BTW, in these circumstances I would be willing to crate a 7-year-old dog for more than six hours, especially if he is willing to stay in the crate without trying to destroy it, which some dogs succeed in doing.

 

ETA: I agree that this post would get more response in the General Border Collie Discussion forum, so I am moving it there.

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Thank you both for your quick responses. I appreciate you moving the post over to get more possible advice/replies.

 

We actaully have been very happy with the way he deals with being crated. We spent a few hours working with him (he had never been crated even as a puppy) and after a few hours we could tell him to go to bed and he would go into the crate and lie down. As far as we are aware, he hasn't shown signs of being anxious or stressed while in the crate. Of course it's hard to tell for sure, but when we get home he would be sleeping, not panting, no excessive drool or obvious bite marks on the crate...and his bed which stays in there with him is fine. So we of course will be going back to the crate...I guess it's just hard for me, I feel guilty if he's crated for too long. However, it would be extremely rare that he's in there longer than 5-6 hours EVER.

 

Either way, I will certainly read the other posts and article you mentioned. I have heard that it can get worse, and I want to make sure we're doing the right thing initially.

 

Thanks again! and I definitely welcome more thoughts/replies/ etc.

Heather

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I'm at work so I am just going to re-post something I posted some time ago. Also, check into a Thundershirt.

 

I feel your pain, I lived in Charleston SC with Lacey, a Golden Retriever, officially the most thunder phobic dog I have ever met.

 

I adopted Lacey 2 years old, the story was she was an outside dog and as an adolescent during a storm lighting hit her owners garage and caused a small fire and the circuit box to spark. She had been terrified ever since.

 

I knew she was afraid but I had no idea HOW afraid she was when I adopted her. Lacey destroyed not one, but two clothes dryers ripping off the doors trying to get in; 5 interior doors trying to dig through along with 5 rooms of carpet because the digging meant she dig down through the carpet and pad; a Varikennel; several window screen and once a glass window. Her goal was ESCAPE ESCAPE ESCAPE at all costs. She nearly got out of a second story window that had been left open a crack and in the process broke the glass and got seriously cut up, she destroyed several of her own teeth trying to tear down door; she tried to escape the Varikennel and managed to pop off several screws holding it together (they just flew off with all the pressure) and tried to squeeze between the 2 halves and nearly strangled herself. She got loose twice over the years (usually because she could hear the storm long before we could and would break a screen and run away) and each time I found hr several hours later she would be MILES away.

 

She was a legend to all the local vets.

 

After 5 years of stress, a couple of thousand in repair bills and tearing my hair out, what worked was massive doses of Valium and assistance and company to the bathtub.

 

We found that of she couldn't escape she would try to hide in the tub or behind the toilet.

 

So for almost a year, whenever I heard a storm was imminent, I would sedate her with valium, and once it hit I would help her into the bathtub, turn the radio on inside the bathroom and feed her spoons of Breyer's all-natural vanilla when she would take them. Yup, I got up at 2 am several times and sat in the bathroom with her for 2 hrs until the storm passed. I would leave work early or my husband would, and ensured that she made it to the tub. After a while, I found that she started going to the tub on her own, or at least the bathroom. A few months after that, I could medicate her, help her into the tub and then leave after 15 minutes. A few months after that I could just go check on her to make sure she got into the tub OK (hey, she was taking a lot of Valium), a few months after that I dropped the dose a bit.

 

One day I woke up in the middle of he night to thunder and found her in her tub in her "zone" riding it out.

 

After a couple of years we moved to southern CA and in the desert we had very few thunderstorms and she was much happier in her old age (plus she went a little deaf).

 

Talk to your vet and see if you can find a safe place for your dog, and teach him to go there.

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I used drugs+safe place for my dog that doesn't like storms. It has worked very well for him. Before he was panting, underfoot, shaking - not terrible, but I wanted to nip it in the bud since thunderphobia/etc tends to be a vicious cycle that only gets worse.

 

He gets Valium then I crate him in the basement. He runs right down to the basement and curls up quietly in his crate now - a couple times even without the Valium.

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Please don't feel guilty about leaving your dog in his crate when you can't be there. My three spend a normal workday from 7 am until 5 pm (sometimes longer if we have to stop on the way home) crated and content. Since your dog seems to view his crate as a safe, comfortable place (and I'm reading into your post that he hasn't reacted to thunder/traffic when crated), then that sounds like the right place for him to be - for his safety, for the safety of your house, for his comfort, and for your peace of mind.

 

Very best wishes!

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Just a note of caution: many vets still try to prescribe acepromazine for thunderphobic dogs. As many folks will tell you, this is a BIG mistake. On ace a dog still feels all the panic associated with a storm, but is unable to move. I used it once, and will NEVER use it again.

 

Aside from drugs like diazepam, which has already been mentioned, many people have had success with anti-anxiety drugs like Xanax, because when the frightening noise starts the Xanax has the dog feeling good about life in general and that good feeling carries over to the storm so that eventually the dog actually begins to associate storms with the good feelings that come from the anti-anxiety meds. You may have to work with a veterinary behaviorist to get such meds; many regular vets may be reluctant to prescribe them because of their potential for abuse by the human....

 

In the short term, if your dog doesn't try to tear its way out of a crate during a storm, crating may be your best option. Many dogs just sleep when their humans aren't home anyway, so as long as the crate is large enough for him to stretch out comfortably, he should be fine in it for 7-8 hours. I usually cover the crates of my thunderphobes because they also tend to react to the lightning, which I presume signals the imminent sound of thunder to them. Of course covering the crate may be problematic if you don't use a/c or the dog is one who would pull materials into the crate and chew them, but in that case, I would put the crate in any room in the house that doesn't have windows (my bathrooms are windowless) and close the door to close out the lightning flashes.

 

J.

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... So course it's hard to tell for sure, but when we get home he would be sleeping, not panting, no excessive drool or obvious bite marks on the crate...and his bed which stays in there with him is fine. So we of course will be going back to the crate...I guess it's just hard for me, I feel guilty if he's crated for too long. However, it would be extremely rare that he's in there longer than 5-6 hours EVER.

 

 

Thanks again! and I definitely welcome more thoughts/replies/ etc.

Heather

 

Julie has already covered this (see ^^^), but I just want to reiterate - use a crate that is big enough for the dog to stand and to stretch out when lying down. When my dog had surgery and had to spend rehab time in a crate, I bought a crate that was one size larger than he needed. Not only do I believe my dog appreciated the bigger space, but I did not feel guilty about his extended crate time.

 

Some dogs may want the den-like qualities of a smaller crate, particularly if it is covered, during a T-storm so you may have to experiment.

 

Jovi

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I'm at work so I am just going to re-post something I posted some time ago. Also, check into a Thundershirt.

 

Thank you so much for sharing your story. Even though we may have a LOT of work ahead of us with Doc, it's reassuring to hear your experience which is very similar.

Heather

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Again, thank you everyone for your comments. At least I know we have some things to try. He does seem to do very well in the crate...at least for now, so we'll give that a try first. And actually the crate is about a size to big...the only one the pet store had on the spur of the moment when all of this started to happen, so at least that seems to be ok. I've actually wondered if some of this didn't start when we started moving around a bit. Prior to our move from the farm, he had his designated "safe" areas that he would frequent when he got stressed. However, when we moved and he would get scared, rather than finding one spot to go to, he would hurry from place to place looking panicked until he would eventually settle on a place. We tried to help him find a place but he was never very receptive to the "dens" ie corners behind the couch etc that we picked out for him. so we gave up. Thanks again for all of the responses, we will also discuss with our vet using medication....and not the ace medication which sounds absolutely horrifying.

Heather

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