Disobedient? Think Again!
Pamela Dennison © September 2023
I rescued Bran in 2019. When I was looking for another Border collie, I didn’t want a super high drive one, because I didn’t know if I had the energy for one at this point in my life. So after looking for two years, I found Bran at ECHO and he’s been doing great here. A little timid at first but he’s come around nicely.
Bran is a great demo dog and a fabulous neutral dog. He quickly earned some Rally titles, Tricks titles, CGC, BCAT, HIT (Herding Instinct Tested), his CD-C and CD-CCH, a CDX-C. Bran earned multiple High in Trials and High Combined. We’ve been working on Utility. He learned each piece pretty quickly – it’s amazing how fast he learned scent discrimination! This boy is a genius! I taught him how to swim and he loves it and he’ll even tow Finn around while Finn is balancing on his boogie board!
About a year ago, he started to act a little “strange.” His interest in training gradually, oh so gradually (so slow that I didn’t notice it at first) got less and less and the slightest thing would make him shut down. At one point, his “brain fog” was so bad I took him to the Vet and had a Lyme test – he had it and once treated, that seemed to be the answer. Whew!
He had also developed noise phobia, starting with my horrible neighbor who thought it was great fun to set off M80’s, shaking my whole house so bad that I thought a bomb had gone off. I’ve been helping him with Melatonin, Ttouch and a Ttouch body wrap and he’s usually okay within a few minutes.
The last three months, he’s gone from being a rock star in training to shutting down completely. He’ll do one rep and then run away. Even with toys – one throw and he’s done, if he retrieves it at all. (I am a positive only trainer – no pops, jerks, no physical or verbal corrections and 99% of the time train without a leash).
The last few weeks, he’s really been “bad” and somehow I felt very very unhappy and stressed but I didn’t know why. I wondered if I was putting too much pressure on him or if I could change up my reinforcers, so I added in much more play, tricks, etc. Less reps, more reps, mixing up of a ton of things, thinking that it might be my training strategy, because I know he isn’t stupid or “disobedient.”
No go – shutting down even more. I know it’s going to sound weird, but when he started to refuse his “100% sure-fire OMG, I want that treat and will jump through hoops to get it” (plain rice cakes of all things), I finally really KNEW something was very wrong.
I didn’t know if this was a behavior issue or a medical one, so I listened to my own advice that I give to clients: “Take your dog to the vet to rule out physical issues.”
I made an appointment today and I chatted with the vet for quite some time – he poked, prodded and did vet things. I had come in to do a full blood panel of anything and everything we could think of including thyroid. During one part of the exam, the Vet had an “aha” moment (because even he was scratching his head as to what might be wrong, but he started to see what I was seeing – head down, hind end down, not happy, listless, back roached – could be the stress of the visit or not – “off” somehow) and instead of blood work, he took three x-rays.
Turns out Bran has either a herniated disc or a collapse of the disc and what appears to be a demineralization of the disc between C2 and C3 in the neck and a bit of narrowing of the dead space between 5 and 6 in the spine. He’s on Nsaids for 10 days and then we’ll see what we see… I don’t know what the prognosis is or what the treatment might be – I’ll have to be patient (OMG, NOT one of my strong suits) but I’ll meet it head one once we know. (Looking back it makes even more sense – exercises that he use to LOVE – glove retrieve for instance, all of a sudden he wouldn’t bring it back – probably because it hurt to lower his head)
This got me to thinking how many dogs are misdiagnosed as being stubborn, stupid, disobedient, willful, yada, yada, yada, blah, blah, blah, or the ever popular “he KNOWS this behavior and he’s not doing it on purpose, so I’m going to beat him up about it” ca-ca.
So I’m going to repeat myself – if your dog has been normal and all of a sudden isn’t, (or even gradually like Bran) don’t assume he’s being disobedient – TAKE HIM TO THE VET! If you don’t get an answer with the first one, get a second opinion!