Doggy Ritalin?

Remember how I said that our awesome little dog Gibson really liked the new apartment?

I gushed how I could finally take her on walks and runs and she was really liking the new neighborhood?

I might have spoken too soon.

Since moving into our new apartment, Gibson’s normally shy and kind of strange behavior has turned pretty territorial and aggressive.  She bit a friend who was hugging Brad and then a few weeks later she nipped at another friend.  She wasn’t allowed out at all when we had people over anymore, and Brad and I were at our last straw.  Why couldn’t our cute little puppy be a cute little puppy to everyone else?  What were we doing wrong??

So I had a mini-mental breakdown and we decided it was way past time to suck it up and pay a trainer to come into our house and teach us how to help Gibson.

I’ve only ever had one dog before, Ginger.

Ginger never had any of the social problems Gibson does.  She may have been abandoned on the side of a highway after giving birth to a litter of puppies, but she loved humans.  She wanted to cuddle and play and be pet by anyone who would love her. She is 15 years old now and she is still burst-of-of-her-skin happy every time I come home.

Ginger was never trained in any way.  She would kind of sit sometimes when you needed her to and she’d get of the couch when you asked her to, but she kinda just always did her thing.  And it was almost always the right thing.

Gibson, on the other hand, knows how to sit.  She knows how to stay.  She knows lay down, shake and even high five.  She is a super smart dog, picks up on things quickly and listens to Brad and I really well, but she is absolutely terrified of the world.  And now she’s becoming a bit crazy.  What gives?

So when our new trainer, Diane, came over the other morning, I was hoping for some good news.  I was hoping for a few new ways to communicate with my terrified little puppy and a couple of pointers to cut down on her anxiety. I was hoping for a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel – for someone to tell us that we were doing a good job, and here’s a way to do even better.

I learned a lot of new terms at our two hour Gibson-training session.  “Whale Eyes” is apparently the look Gibson gave our trainer that made her uncomfortable enough to ask us to put Gibson on a leash.  And “Through a Dog’s Ears” is the classical music that I am listening to right now that is supposed to soothe dogs because it is in a key that their nervous systems respond to.

Gibson’s nervous system didn’t respond to the music at all.

Then our trainer gave us a hand out about signs of a fearful dog.  There were 11 pictures on the handout of different “fearful dog behaviors”.  Ears back, panting, licking lips, acting sleepy or yawning, ears to the side, pacing…

Gibson regularly does all 11 of them.

I was getting more and more depressed about the situation when the trainer said something along the lines of, “You have a very, very unhappy dog”

My heart just about broke.

We rescued this scared little puppy and gave it love and food and shelter and a million toys to destroy, and it still wasn’t enough?  I felt like a puppy-mom failure.

Diane suggested that Gibson was wound so tight that maybe we should see our vet about putting her on something before we start actual behavior modification.

Here’s where I would love some advice.  I’m pretty sure that I am against medicating when it comes to most human problems that our society has started over-medicating for.  Does my dog REALLY need a pill to make her relax?  Isn’t there some other way, something that we’ve been doing wrong or something extra that Gibson needs, and then she’ll learn to be more brave?

I have been absolutely heartbroken since hearing from a professional (that we really liked, by the way) that Gibson was probably OCD and needed medications to deal with her high stress levels.  And not knowing what else to do, Brad is making an appointment and we are heading over to the vet on Monday to try and figure out what is best for our stressed out girl.

Until then, I will be listening to “Through A Dog’s Ear” and giving Gibson dog massages.  And I will be trying not to curse the little puppy who gets to run around a nice apartment and play and eat treats while her two human owners are the ones who are majorly stressed out.  Doesn’t she know how easy her puppy life is???

So for now, I am seriously bumming.  Turns out there is no easy fix or Google search answer for helping my fearful dog.  Fingers crossed that the road to recovery is speedy and rewarding and that our Gibson finds a way to relax and coexist in this world with all of the mailmen, strangers, and squirrels that torment her at our window every day.


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