Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Working Through Fear

If you are a long-time reader of my blog, I am sure you have read the posts and references to Koira's fear of garbage trucks, which extends somewhat to include all large vehicles and, in some cases, all vehicular noise. This amounts to her basically not being able to walk calmly downtown or within hearing distance of major roads or streets with large trucks.

154. "On Black" - Take a picture of your dog today with a black or very dark background. It can be natural or created. - last day Apr 8

Recently, my vet had to give Koira some tranquilizers to keep her quiet in her crate while on crate rest (for her shoulder injury). Acepromazine was the first prescription we tried, but resulted in some bad side effects including aggression towards my other pets (likely from the inability to flee, forcing her into a fight response instead). So we tried lorazepam instead of the Ace. It works for the crating problems (though she no longer needs it while crated since she is ramping back up to normal exercise so isn't going so stir crazy as to chew on her kennel and break her teeth).

151. "Happiness" - Create a photo that makes you happy today! - last day Apr 5

While she was on the lorazepam, however, I found out that it not only kept her from wigging out while crated, it helped bring her down from scared-out-of-her-mind fear level to a ear-flicking, I-wonder-what-that-sound-is-and-if-I-should-be-worried-about-it level. It was an amazing difference to see, and so I talked to my vet about getting a prescription for anti-anxiety meds for Koira. Instead of putting her on a regular dose, however, we decided to just go with an addition prescription of the lorazepam. Koira can now get a dose about an hour before we go out for a walk or a training session, and it helps keep her fear level below threshold, so that she is willing and able to accept treats, praise, and play and is able to think clearly enough to realize what these rewards are for.

Yesterday, I drove a friend to a job interview and brought the dogs along in the car. I forgot to give Koira her pills before hand, but decided to see where we were with no medication, since I had to wait in the downtown area anyway. It was awesome. While obviously worried about the traffic noises, and more fixated about them than she is when medicated, Koira was able to redirect. She was able to tug with me. She could think clearly enough to follow directions. She didn't hit the end of the leash in a full-strength pull to get back to the car or into a safe building (or rather, when she did hit the end of the leash, I was able to call her attention back to me without having to physically redirect her by grabbing her collar or physically turning her).

148. "A Day in the Life" - Be your dog's photojournalist today and capture a picture of some part of your dog's day for us. Feel free to add a creative spin to it! - last day Apr 2

We will continue to work while using the medication. But, yesterday has given me the hope that the work we are doing is making a difference. That Koira will be able to be in high traffic areas without losing her mind to fear. And that maybe, someday, I will be able to wake up on Friday without my dog in a melted pile of garbage-truck-fearing goo, desperate to hide under the covers.

As a mark of our triumph, all of these photos were taken downtown around 4:00 in the afternoon- traffic wasn't crazy, but it was there. Koira was able to tug, to perform a sit-stay, and was able to even appear to be enjoying herself. I can tell by her ear set that she is worried. She will probably always be worried about traffic (which is not necessarily a bad thing). But, my dog is no longer paralyzed with fear. She is no longer filled with the single thought of getting away from it.


  1. It's a tough road dealing with dog fear. Love the picture of Koira with her green froggy!

  2. I'm really glad you've had success with medication. Sometimes that's what it takes to create a thinking-dog. Koira looks fantastic! I really love that wall!

  3. I'm glad it's working for her!
    Dachshund Nola

  4. We wish you much success! What a beautiful smile!!

    Following from the blog hop!!
    Miley and Maggie

  5. that is so great! i think i will ask my vet about meds for yuki. i like how you don't medicate all the time, just before a stressful situation. i know yuki's problems are anxiety and stress related, she's come so far, but it breaks my heart when i see her shutting down and having a doggie anxiety attack on the sidewalk when kids on bikes are zooming by her.

  6. Poor thing. What a strange fear for a dog to have. She's gorgeous though. Hope you keep making progress.

  7. I think Koira is so lucky to have you - you are so dedicated and work so patiently with her. It's wonderful to hear about her progress!