Saturday, December 4, 2010

Canine Post Traumatic Stress

Watching Shaker go from happy well met to hyper-reactive was painful. Soon I noticed him having bad dreams. His eyeballs popped and darted during REM sleep. Low whimpering became pathetic sobs. His feet paddled the air.

I couldn’t take it. I’d wake him, then thump him and play with him. We’d end up snuggling on the sofa together.

My way of seeing this is that a dog who is attacked by another has had his innocence taken. It comes as a big shock when some surly presence crosses the line beating the snot out of you. Could it be possible to hurt more than this? In that moment the world becomes a monstrously scary place.

Shaker has been well socialized from birth on, when he started acting out, I hoped that his social experience would out weight the effects of the trauma. We put him with select dogs he knew since he first began day care. I worked with my staff to get better at recognizing body language and redirecting. Paula is getting exceptionally good.

My staff is good, but they are not behaviorists, so Shaker was removed from day care, except for certain groups and only with Paula.

It’s interesting to note that the first forty-five minutes Shaker is joyously running with his buds like old times. When the edge of needing the exercise is softened, he begins to look around to as if to see who could do him harm. It is at that point that we are bringing him back in.

The safety of the day care dogs trumps Shaker’s rehab so we’re pursuing other options.

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