Selfie Sunday – Working Through It

Selfie Sunday – Working Through It

I’ve been talking a lot about my dogs here lately, and while I gave y’all a pretty thorough background of Eliot’s aggression and our recent issues.. I didn’t say what we’ve been working on to fix it.  I realize this situation can’t continue without a serious intervention.  We can’t risk our dogs getting hurt over and over again, and Eliot isn’t happy either.  Faced with the possibility of re-homing him or euthanasia (worst case scenario, but let’s be honest… it could happen if he gets a lot worse) I jumped into overdrive.

At the advice of a really kind & helpful animal behaviorist I had been talking to on Facebook (thank you so much – you know who you are :)) I took Eliot to the vet for a work-up.  Our vet wanted to do blood tests as well as have his eyes checked by a specialist.  The blood work was to test for a low thyroid, which can cause aggression and aloofness.  When the results came back, they showed that Eliot indeed had a low thyroid.  We started him on medication immediately.

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The next possible physical cause for aggression was his eyes.  For the past several years, Eliot’s pupils have always been almost fully dilated at all times.  It’s a little eerie if you’re not used to it, but I never realized how extreme he was until we got Pascale.  My vet wanted a specialist to see if there was anything wrong so we headed to that appointment last week.  The good news is, his eyes are great.  In fact, she said he had “the best eyes she’s ever seen in a springer” and if we were testing him for breeding she’d pass his eyes with flying colors.  The reason for the dilation was simply due to old age, and he happened to be more severe than most dogs.  Okay, eyes were checked off the list.

If we need to pursue more physical test, the next step is basically a MRI of his brain.  I don’t know the costs, but my pocketbook aches at the thought of it… so I instead went to another specialist my vet recommended – an animal behaviorist.

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Arguably, this is the most important part of the “fix Eliot” process because it combines training with physical treatment.  The behaviorist we used is a vet who works with a trainer (also a vet tech) and they come with amazing credentials.  After our consultation, the general diagnosis is that Eliot is on high alert because of fewer resources in the house… at least in his opinion.  He has less tolerance of Pascale because even though she looks like an adult dog and is the size of an adult dog, she still acts like a wild puppy.  Plus, Eliot is usually on edge or nervous due to a variety of reasons – a lot of it being the stress of a big bouncy puppy in his house.

Physically, we will treat this with some medication that is helpful for anxiety and reducing seizures.  The behaviorist team doesn’t think it’s outside the realm of possibility that he may have some focal seizures or seizure like episodes that we aren’t noticing.  This new prescription will help that.

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On the training side, we are to institute some new rules in the house with the goal of making it 6-8 weeks without any aggressive episodes at all.  Right now about every two weeks he will go after Pascale, but the longer we increase that time period the better their relationship will be.

Tim and I will be doing training sessions with the dogs at least daily.  I’ll work with Pascale on “touch” and “crate” so she has some action items we can tell her to do when we notice her bothering Eliot.  Tim will work with Eliot on “touch”, “go to bed” and “look at Pascale”.  This will give him positive reinforcement (treats) when he looks at Pascale and “go to bed” allows him to go off to a happy place when he’s being snarky.  We will also make sure then get a 15-20 minute walk together every day (as opposed to 3 days a week now).

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The big change for me will be ignoring my dogs (mostly Eliot) outside of these training and walk sessions.  This is to reduce the “alliance” I’ve accidentally formed with Eliot by giving him a lot of casual attention.  It should also help him stop guarding me, since I’m a big trigger for his aggressive episodes.

On day one he’s mopey and sad and not used to the changes, but I’m going to stick with it and hopefully we’ll see some long term improvement.  Definitely not ready to give up on my beloved spaniel, and I’m feeling optimistic that we’ll be able to get his aggression safe enough to have him a happy member of our household for years to come.

14 thoughts on “Selfie Sunday – Working Through It

  1. Aw hope it gets better soon! You’re definitely doing everything you can, so cheers to you on on that! We have been raising our dog on a program that involves a lot of ignoring them when you aren’t giving them purposeful attention (like walks/training/etc.), and it has made SUCH a huge difference. Oddly (but happily), he’s more comfortably/happily bonded to us when we aren’t paying him attention so much of the time–so I hope it’s the same for you and Eliot!

  2. Best of luck with this plan, I really hope everything works out. Having one dog who has required lots of training and another who constantly seems hurt, I sympathize with the time and expense involved. Hopefully it is all worth it!

  3. Sounds like you’ve got lots of great ideas but I’m sure it is going to be challenging and some hard times but it does sound like the long term will be worth it. Good luck to all of you guys!

  4. Our heeler is aggressive towards out aussie over my hubby. We’ve had to make some changes in the house in order to keep the aggression at bay. Funny thing is that the aussie was in our house first – aye why can’t they all get along! lol

    Heres to your puppies getting along well!

  5. Lauren, you are seriously the best dog mom EVER. Truly truly truly. And that you have a husband who stands right there beside you for it all? Even freaking better. How fortunate your animals are to have you. How Freaking Fortunate. They seriously won the mommy/daddy lottery with you two!

  6. Look At That has been huuuuuuge for my reactive girl. Best of luck through this process! I hope your household is harmonious again ASAP.

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