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June 6, 2008

We had another sad training day on Sunday. Lilly spent most of the class in total shutdown mode. I have a theory on why, but who knows. It is what is is.

Class was at a park Lilly normally likes. It’s the same location from the snark episode of late April, but that time she bounced back quickly. This time … not so much.

It took a ton of coaxing to get her to belly crawl close to the group when we first arrived. We were a bit late, and and everyone had gathered in the shade of some trees. I even tried telling her there were squirrels in those trees, but she was having none of it.

There were two dogs we know well and several dogs we don’t. One of which looks a LOT like a dog Lilly does NOT like at all. Maybe that was enough. I tried body work. I tried soothing words. I tried food. Sometimes she wouldn’t even eat, which is a sure sign of stress.

Our first exercise was some groundwork (heeling, crosses, etc.), and Lilly would not budge, even though we had plenty of space between us and the other dogs. Gigi tried to help jolly her out of it, but nothing was working. So, we mostly smooched and cuddled.

When the younger dogs went off to play in the unfenced dog park at the back of the bigger park, Lilly and I stayed under the trees. We looked for squirrels up the trees. We used the picnic table kind of like an A-frame — up and over … touch. She was pretty relaxed.

When the dogs came back, though, she wasn’t in the mood to train LEAVE IT. One real fur toy amused her for about 10 seconds (She killed her first bunny of the season this week. Boo!) It took plenty of cajoling to get her to walk over and work on WHOA off a short ledge. She did a few, then laid down in the grass. She wasn’t showing too much stress at this point, but she would not work.

We returned to the big shady spot, and a couple times she did bark and move towards the one dog that seemed of concern, but she called off it quickly and regained her focus and relaxed body and face.

I’d have to dig back through these weekly reports to find a seemingly untriggered shutdown like this. It’s been months for sure. I was bummed. We came straight home and just hung out and napped the rest of the day.

Lilly seems to be reverting, and my only guess is that we’ve been out of her vitamins and essential fatty acids for a few weeks. I ordered them this week. It’ll be interesting to see if these fear behaviors go away when she gets a few days or weeks of those supplements back into her system. It’s easy to assume such efforts aren’t really helping, but I wonder now that I’m seeing what I’m seeing.

About the Author Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related.

I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

  1. I’m sorry to hear the news, Claire, but I’m glad the medicine is helping Kyna. How great to find a (possible) solution that could really change her life.

    We did have Lilly’s thyroid tested a couple times, but she’s due for her annual exam soon, so maybe I’ll ask again.

  2. Rox,

    My recent experience might benefit you.

    I’ve recently found out that Kyna has hypothyroidism. We started giving her thyroid hormone, and the change in her was dramatic. I was able to take her places in Boulder, and she behaved like a normal relaxed dog!! We’re still working on getting the dosage right, and the vet had me briefly reduce her dose. That caused an almost complete reversion to her old ways. Based on that, we’ve upped her dose again, and my fingers are crossed that we’ll see similar improvement as previously.

    Kyna does not have the classic signs of hypothyroidism and her thyroid panel values were a little weird to interpret (I can tell you the details if you want). All of this makes me wonder if you might benefit from taking Lilly for a fresh opinion from a vet about whether any physiological problems could be causing her behavior issues. I know that you had her thyroid values checked before but I’m also learning that things aren’t always black or white in that arena.

    I found a good article about hypothyroidism and behavior:

  3. I don’t think so. After consulting with behaviorist-types and reading detailed stuff on canine fear, what I’ve learned for my situation is that’s not the case. If I’m rewarding, it looks very much like something else. When she shuts down, it’s dramatic, and there’s a line she crosses where it’s clear she feels very afraid and very alone. Often the only way to “reach” her is with body work and sometimes mumurred words of comfort. Once she moves out of that shock-like state, then I begin rewarding only brave behaviors or behaviors I want. But, when she’s in that ZONE, it’s a different thing. Thanks for the thought, though. I indeed tried the tough love method early on, where I ignored her when she expressed fear, and it only made it worse. She’d amp up for 30+ minutes and not get better on her own.

  4. “I tried body work. I tried soothing words. I tried food.”

    “Gigi tried to help jolly her out of it, but nothing was working. So, we mostly smooched and cuddled.”

    Just a thought, but I have noticed that you often seem to smooch and cuddle and cajole and bribe when Lilly shuts down. I would think about what behaviors you are actively rewarding at any given moment. Do you think that you could be inadvertently rewarding Lilly when she shuts down?

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