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Anxiety around bedtime and the bedroom, help!


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Hi fellow BC lovers,

I've been on here a couple times to ask questions and your feedback has been invaluable, so thanks for that! I'm here with another puzzling situation.

One night a couple nights ago, my 1.5 year old pup Scout, started acting very anxious while my partner and I were still up in the living room chatting. He came jumping up on the couch and sat on top of the back/headrest of the couch. He's never done this, he was panting and trying to jump all over me (which is his usual "I'm anxious mom, please help me" behavior. I can not for the life of me recall what happened to trigger this but I just thought he was being momentarily weird and it would stop. I did not encourage his anxious behavior. A little while later as we got into bed and did our normal nighttime routine, he would barely enter the bedroom. We coaxed him in and he went on panting and getting in and out of his bed for hours. He jumped in and out of bed with us multiple times (he's welcome there although never likes sleeping with us but prefers his own space). We let him out of the bedroom but this would lead to him pacing in and out of the bedroom and living toom. All this went on for hours. He even tried hiding in the bathroom and tried getting into the tub (which he hates). In the middle of the night he jumped in bed and slept by my head for the rest of the night. I let him do this because I wanted to get some sleep! Anyway, the next day I made sure to get him nice and tired so that hopefully we wouldn't have the same issue. The second night was ok, there were some signs of anxiety but he slept in his bed all night long. Then last night (the 3rd night) the anxiety returned. The same panting and pacing routine went on all night, although last night I did not allow him to sleep at my head. Scout is also showing signs of anxiety throughout the day while being in the house.

Today I began working on counter conditioning, bringing him in and out of our bedroom, on and off his bed and our bed with treats and his ball (the highest value item in the house), training and playing games in our room and on the bed to create better association. But here we are, as bedtime approaches he's panting and sitting as far away from the bedroom as possible. I have a sense of how desensitization and counter conditioning work and have successfully gotten through some other challenges with using those techniques, but I'm writing to ask you all if there is anything else I can do?? So far, once he is already anxious it seems like there is no turning back. I can't lure him in with raw meat or his ball. And once he seems to get to that point, he just works himself up even more by continuing to be anxious. Just now I was doing some training and counter conditioning in our bedroom and he was into it. Then all of a sudden he stopped being interested and began panting and looking at me out of the corner of his eye. 

In addition to things I can do throughout the day to work on the situation, what should I do in the middle of the night when I am exhausted and trying to get some sleep. He keeps me up with his panting and I get anxious myself thinking about how best I can handle the situation. I try luring him back on his sleeping mat with treats but he wants nothing to do with them. I'm at the point where I want to put in ear plugs and let him figure it out. My worry is that the many hours of panting and anxiety are ever creating the tense situation that he fears. It's like a little trigger is now a huge one because of the many hours he has to wallow in it. Does that make sense? 

Thanks in advance, I really appreciate having this forum of dog lovers and trainers to get support from!

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Dunno what your home/neighborhood environment is like but I'm guessing there's some new sound or something in the area that he can hear or sense and it's frightening him. One of my dogs used to hide in the bathtub during thunderstorms; I've read that porcelain might dampen electromagnetic fields and this is what appeals to dogs at those times.

Ideally you'll try to figure out what it is, but that might be easier said than done. You might try melatonin or some herbal calming formulas. You may have to experiment to find something that works; each dog can react differently. Plain melatonin is usually dosed at 2 mg for an average size collie, but you can go up to 6. I've used Vermont Naturals Calming Treats for some mild anxiety in another dog with moderate success. A vet friend uses Rx Vitamins for Pets' NutriCalm. You may need to consult a vet for something stronger. The thing is that as long as his anxiety is this elevated it'll be hard to reach him with the desensitization & counter-conditioning.

Good luck.

 

 

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I would just say continue with what you are doing and give it time. It is also possible that something happened just once - a noise or something you would not be aware of - and it spooked him sufficiently that he won't ever be comfortable in there again. that happened one time with my Kit, who was afraid of floor heater grates for the rest of her life because one time she stepped on one and it tipped up and the edge "bit" her. 

You are right that once he gets into that state there is no turning back and this is common with dogs. Once he is already anxious there's no point in continuing to try to change that, so I would not bother with luring him in the middle of the night or at any other time once the anxiety has started. Trying a calming herb as GL suggested is a good idea. If I were in your place and he went into the bedroom quietly but then woke me up I would probably just crate him outside of the bedroom at night because I hate to be woken in the night. At the same time, though, I would continue to work on desensitization because you have not been at it for very long so far. It might take months, but if it eventually worked it would be worth it.

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I agree with GentleLake and would explore sound triggers. Especially with the hiding in the tub behavior.

I had a BC, Rocket, who started to lose a few marbles in her old age. She never liked thunderstorms as a young dog but started to react to very bizarre sounds when she got old. When she was about 13 she started to become really anxious, panting and running to her crate, when the dryer dinged or when the Xbox made sounds while you were navigating menus. After awhile she started to do this whenever I got the hiccups too. I did a little counter conditioning but mostly avoided the sounds at that point in her life. 

So, long story short. If it is sound induced it could be really hard to figure out what it is. Good suggestions from both GentleLake and D'elle 

 

 

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