Sunday, December 8, 2013

Anxiety: Dr. Phil McBeagle

The doorways at the Dog Training/Foster Shack are not nearly
this scary looking. It seems this may be how Dr. Phil McBeagle
sees them.
Our newest foster boy, Dr. Phil McBeagle, seems to have some anxiety issues. I suspect that his fears are the result of some previous trauma.

Even your macho dog trainer friend would be apprehensive
of crossing this particular doorway!
The most concerning phobia that he seems to have involves interior doorways. He is really scared to cross doorways inside the shack. He does not seem to have as big of an issue going inside or outside the structure. In fact he is house trained and has not had any accidents since he got here.

He just appears to be terribly frightened of crossing doorways from one room to the next. Once he is in the room he is okay.

He also cowers if you try to pet him on the head. I suspect that this is also the result of past trauma, Perhaps someone hit him on the head in an attempt to discipline the poor little guy.

It thought it may be helpful to some of you if I write about this problem and how we are going to address it here at the shack.

It is very important that the dog not be forced into a situation that he fears. It will not help to try to force him through the doorway. In fact, in Dr. Phil's case, it is almost impossible to force him short of physically carrying him through.

In Dr. Phil's case, The Lovely Shane and I are using techniques that involve what us dog trainers, just to sound cool, sometimes call desensitization and rehabilitation. Basically, the objective is to help the dog to become less sensitive to what we call, the stimuli (doesn't that sound cool). In Dr. Phil's case the stimuli is the interior doorways. This seems to be what stimulates his fearful behavior. So, our objective is to make him less sensitive to the stimuli or to the doorways. We do this by using a motivator that is desirable to him. In his case, and with most beagles, tasty treats make a very good motivator. So, we have to make him associate the treats and the praise that he gets from us with walking through the doorway. It is not as fast and easy as it sounds. There are certain techniques to learn and the timing is really important. But, with persistence and patience, this method can be very successful in addressing this type of anxiety.

We have already begun this technique and it is beginning to work a little. But, I can not stress enough, this is a slow process. We do not know what sort of trauma the little guy has been through. Nor do we know how long this phobia of doorways has been an issue for him. As with all dog training, patience and routine is essential.
Dr. Phil McBeagle (I still think that is a cool name)

For the critics of my approach, I will state that the treats are only used to give the dog an immediate motivation. The treats will not have to be used permanently. I think that eventually Dr. Phil will not show any outward signs of being afraid of doorways. It is not that he will be going through the doorway to get the treat, it is that he will associate the doorways with good things rather than traumatic things.

I have successfully used this sort of approach for various other anxiety problems in the past. This is the sort of approach that I would use for a dog who is afraid of the veterinarian or a dog who is afraid of the clippers a groomer uses.

It is difficult to state with precise accuracy how this approach, or any other approach for that matter, will work for a particular dog. Each dog, like each person, responds differently to a particular treatment or approach. What is effective for an individual dog may not necessarily be effective for another. However I am very optimistic that this approach will be very effective with Dr. Phil McBeagle!
Veterinarians are not evil aliens.... not sure
about lawyers though :) 

If you have a dog that seems to have a phobia or anxiety, please do not give up! The intent of this post is to inform you that there is hope! Many people get frustrated and give up when dogs have anxiety issues. From our prospective, as humans, it can be very frustrating. This is particularly true if we do not understand the proper techniques. It is important that your dog does not sense your frustration. This is something that you can effectively address!

If you have a dog with anxiety issues, please contact me at anytime! I will be more than happy to help you develop and execute a training plan to address the issue. This is precisely why I am in this business!

Till next time


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