Back in November when I was dating Mr. I Can See Why Were Single For So Long, I felt some anxiety. I know. Shocker, right? It is now clear to me that Harlow picks-up on my moods, because during this time, even though I felt I was business as usual, she was off her rocker.
I came home from work one day to find a ripped-up tissue box, something she hasn’t done in years. When people would walk by the house, she would bark incessantly from inside the house. She was restless. More restless than usual.
Over the last few years I realized that the leash pulling which made walks so completely unpleasant was not a sign that she was excited to be out in the world but rather, she was over-stimulated and anxious about it. I thought training and practice would help this but it didn’t.
I would bring treats with me to try and get her to make eye contact with me. To get her to listen to me more while on walks, but the minute we were outside, it’s like she couldn’t hear me anymore.
When we come across other dogs during our walks, she becomes very “reactive” (meaning she acts like she wants to rip their heads off), and then she pants and pulls even harder for the remainder of the walk because her amped-upness just went from a ten to a fifteen and there’s no coming down from it.
I took her to the vet around Thanksgiving.
“It’s been six years of this behavior and I thought she’d grow out of it. It’s annoying to me but I’m beginning to wonder if she could possibly be happy being so reactive and amped-up all the time”
“She’s not, ” the vet responded immediately, “how do you feel about Prozac?”
This is not the first time someone suggested this to me. I do not feel excited about putting my dog on meds, but I thought we could give it a try. Over the next few weeks, I eased her up to the appropriate dose for her weight. She slept a lot and I wondered if that’s what “normal” dogs do, or if the drug was too much for her.
“She looks bored” Little said as she looked at Harlow on her dog bed last month.
Over Christmas she spent much of the time at my parents’ up in my room sleeping. She has never done that before and it felt too far in the other direction from anxious and amped-up.
I called the vet and she agreed that reducing her dose could be worth a try.
I still don’t love that my dog is medicated, but I have to admit that she had responded very well so far. She is her same spunky, chatty, nudgy, needy self but not functioning at Level 12 at all times.
When we go for walks she is curious about the world around her and still smells every. Single. Rose. but she doesn’t pull on the leash. When we meet other dogs she is still very reactive, but once we pass them, she calms down immediately, no longer staying amped-up well after the encounter is over.
One day I popped my head out the back door to call her in. She was standing on the back patio, and just as I stuck my head out, I could hear someone down at the sidewalk, chatting to the dog as they passed our house. Harlow’s ears perked up at the sound of them as I said, “Harlow, come”
Typically, she would not hear me at all. She would have tunnel vision and only see that dangerous dog and its owner down by the street. She would bolt to the fence to give them a good “Move along!” barking to as they passed the property.
This time, her ears perked when she heard them, but when I said “Harlow, come!”, she looked at me, and came straight to me!
I was gobsmacked and so happy!
We used that have a routine at feeding time where I would give her some commands like “paw” and “touch” before I would release her to eat. I did this because this seemed to make a routine out of eating. Otherwise, I would put the food down and she wouldn’t touch it.
The routine went to the wayside, but now what’s interesting is that when put the food down, she looks at it, then looks at me. It took me a bit to realize – she’s waiting for me to tell her to go ahead and eat!
I think maybe she is a bit happier!