Dear Dr. Fox: I adopted a mixed breed from a shelter. She is 1½ years old, and I have taken her for walks with me from Day 1, when she was 3 months old. She loves people and used to run up to anyone who passed us.
A few months ago, I took her for a walk and noticed she seemed frightened. There were a few noises around us — someone working on a roof, a car starting, etc. — but nothing terribly unusual or loud. I live in a quiet suburb. Ever since that day, she is excited to get her leash on, but as soon as I get about ¼ mile from home, she starts to panic, pulling me like her life depends on it until we get home.
I have tried going in different directions, going to a park, bringing treats with me, but nothing works. I took my walks without her for weeks, then tried again. She is so excited when we walk out, and then the tail goes down, she hears every unfamiliar noise and panics.
Any suggestions you can give me would be appreciated. I miss my walking pal. Other than this problem, she loves to play — she can’t get enough of chasing tennis balls in the yard, and she loves people when they come to our house.
She was at the vet in May. She got a rabies vaccine that day, and she’s also on Interceptor and Advantix. It’s hard to pinpoint when the “phobia” started, but it was definitely spring/summer because I was walking every day. — E.B., via email
Dear E.B.: I would suspect that the antiflea treatment may be responsible for your dog’s change in behavior. Advantix contains imidacloprid, which is toxic to the nervous system. It can cause seizures in some dogs and other psychological problems, such as anxiety, in others.
So I would stop using this product, then take your dog on very short walks in different locations several times a day. I recommend putting two or three drops of essential oil of lavender on a bandanna around your dog’s neck before setting out, as this natural product has a documented calming effect on dogs.
If the phobic behavior does not subside, discuss an anxiety-relieving medication with your veterinarian. Keep me posted.
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