DEAR DR. FOX: We found an abandoned puppy in our neighborhood three months ago. We took him in and took him to the vet: He’s had all of his shots, he has been wormed, neutered and microchipped.
He is 11 months old and healthy, but we know he has a problem. One minute he is as sweet as can be, then all of a sudden, he is like a devil. He falls asleep in my husband’s arms every night, and when he wakes up, he is combative and bites.
We think he may have a problem with his serotonin levels, but our vet’s lab does not do a test for that. Our vet suggested we find a lab that performs that test; they said they will draw the blood and send it in for us.
We are trying to do everything we can to give this little guy a good home. Is there any way you can help us? -- T.T. Fargo, North Dakota
DEAR T.T.: There are supplements that can be given to increase brain serotonin and dopamine levels, but I question if that is the answer to your problem.
Your dog is young, and wants to play and chew things. I wonder what interactive games you engage in, and what contact your pup has with other dogs to learn to play gently. Their sharp milk teeth make play-biting gently a challenge, but most pups soon learn not to bite hard when playing.
Also, are you teaching your young dog self-control, as by training to sit and stay and to remain still when picked up and held in your arms? My book “The Healing Touch for Dogs” could help you and your dog develop a calming and connecting routine of deep and relaxing massage therapy. Such contact helps dogs relax and stimulates the production of feel-good brain neurochemicals, while also lowering stress hormone levels, heart rate and blood pressure.
Let me know in a few weeks how this turns out.
“From Fearful to Fear Free” by Marty Becker, DVM and veterinary and behavioral associates, 2018.
As the subtitle of this well-organized book states, this is “A Positive Program to Free Your Dog from Anxiety, Fear and Phobias.” I highly recommend this book for veterinarians, dog trainers, behavioral therapists, current dog owners/caregivers (I detest the anthropomorphic term “pet parents”) and people contemplating bringing a dog into their lives -- especially adopting one from the shelter who may have issues such as PTSD and separation anxiety.
Perhaps in the second edition, more will be said about the benefits of essential oils, massage therapy, “cradling” and how the owner/guardian/handler can transmit fear, anxiety and phobias through how she/he reacts in various situations, such as seeing another dog while theirs is on the leash.
Serious omissions also call for attention, such as fear-related aggression and food-guarding (a fear-associated behavior for which many dogs have been pronounced unadoptable and sentenced to death in animal shelters). Also missing was a mention of breed susceptibilities to complications such as fear-associated hyperventilation, leading to asphyxia, in popular French bulldogs, pugs and other cranio-facially deformed brachycephalic breeds, and fear-associated seizures in other breeds.
With such future inclusions, I would say “Bravo” to books like this that extend our understanding, respect and care of fellow creatures -- be they our companions or in the service of other human needs. When this book is translated worldwide, we, as a species, may indeed evolve and see a world with more freedom from fear and more joy in life for all.
(Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxVet.net.)