Lately Gaci has been exhibiting some new strange behaviours that I have not seen before. Someday I will share on the blog her story, but to make a long story short Gaci came into the world with a bang (her dam died during the c-section her litter was born from), and as she grew up developed some different issues as she matured. She has not been an easy dog, but she has been a blessing to me and she is definitely my heart dog. So I feel it important to share her continued journey.
The first of two changes is a recent anxiety-overreaction to when my partner comes home. Up until a few weeks ago, her normal reaction would be to alarm bark when she hears the door open, bark one or two more times, and then resume with a happy, wiggly greeting. Lately she can't seem to calm herself down nearly as quickly. She continues to alarm bark for a few minutes, and will not approach him right away when he bends down to greet her (ignoring her doesn't do anything different). She does an approach-and-retreat behaviour that almost indicates fear, however once she calms down from the greeting she displays no fear to him whatsoever, she really likes him and seeks out affection, attention, and is otherwise quite her confident self. If he is home before me and greets her in the bedroom (where she stays when we are out), she does not experience that reaction.
Along those lines, though, she has on a few occasions gone to the door at night barking when there is nothing there. Other times I have found her watching the door on alert, even though she is quiet, or lets out a low grumble from deep in her chest, as though she believes there is a threat present. I can call her away easily, but if I don't distract her onto something specific she may stand there watching for some time, or goes back to check now and again *just to be sure*.
The other issue I've been noticing is that she is developing a sensitivity to certain sounds. She's never been sound-sensitive, but it was seemingly triggered not that long ago by two events - the power going out in the middle of the night and the smoke detector going on the fritz, and my partner's new Blackberry alert. But she has started to become frightened of other noises as well. The timer on the toaster oven has bothered her - one morning we were making breakfast and I was on the computer checking emails in the office and I heard the "ding" of the toaser oven. About three seconds later I felt Gaci jump up against my lap, and she was shivering quite mad. I invited her into my lap but otherwise ignored her while I finished with my emails. She calmed down within a few minutes but when I went to the kitchen she visibly sat under the table (she never used to do that), although she wasn't shivering.
I'm admittedly not super comfortable with her recent hypervigilance about the door and sounds, and I'm keeping an eye on things. I don't know what has brought these recent behaviours on, and I have a plan I'm going to set in place when my partner comes home to try to recondition her greeting to him and bring it back down to normal. Her annual exam is coming up soon so I'll be having her checked out to make sure there's nothing wonky going on with her health. She is turning seven, and I realize that sound sensitivity is age-related and age-triggered, but I'm hoping to get a handle on it sooner than later. Her hypervigilance at times has me concerned as those were some of her youth symptoms when I had ended up using Clomicalm during retraining to help ease her anxiety. It's been four years since she's been on Clomicalm, and I'm going to do what I can to avoid that route, but I know in my heart she's not enjoying herself during these times either, and I'll do what's best for her needs.
She's always been a special needs dog, but we had been on a great routine for so long now I almost forgot that she once experienced the high anxiety that she did when she was young.
A Happy Gaci