Wednesday, July 17, 2013

HELP! My Dog is Traumatized and I Don't Know How to Help Him!

Hi friends. I know I don't blog nearly as much as I could/should and I keep telling myself I'm going to work on that! I guess I just feel like I don't have too much to blog about these days. Moving from Florida to Massachusetts has really slowed me down on the home projects because we are just renters right now, so I guess this blog has become more about Hudson than his 'house' :p Speaking of Hudson, that's what this post is about today! I need some serious help/tips/encouragement from my friends!

When we adopted Hudson as a nine week old puppy, he was the most social little guy. He loved everyone and couldn't wait to jump all over you. I loved taking him places because everyone made a fuss over how cute and sweet he was and we couldn't get 10 feet without being stopped and asked to play.

Well a year ago, as brand new pet owners we thought it would be a great idea to take Hudson to our small town's firework show. Right at the beginning of the show he tore away from his collar and leash and ran away. Justin and I chased after him as fast as we could, but he was much too quick for us to keep up with. We were so devastated. We searched for him for hours. Finally, after all the fireworks had stopped and everyone started heading home almost four hours later, we found Hudson. We were searching the streets, calling his name and he finally trotted up to us from the back of some one's house. We cried tears of joy, kissed his face over and over and took our dog home to safety. However, what we didn't realize is that the next day when we woke up, we would have a completely different dog living with us. 

A year later Hudson is still as cute as ever and not a day goes by that I'm not thankful we got our dog back safe and sound that Fourth of July. BUT. He is not the social, let everyone pet him dog he used to be. Now when we go for walks he runs if anyone comes up to him, a leaf shaking on the trees make him jump, and any type of noise makes him try to bolt. I started to notice these things shortly after the incident, but told myself it would get better. Now that we live in an apartment where we are forced to have him on leash all the time, we really started to notice it. He has even injured Justin and I a time or two trying to get away from these 'triggers'. 

We love our dog more than anything, and he loves us back. He sleeps in bed with us every night and greets us with sloppy kisses whenever we get home. But we are the extent of his love. (Except for other dogs, he loves his dog friends!)  He's never been aggressive, just so frightened that walks and outings have become almost unenjoyable for all of us. We recently started seeing a Behaviorist to try and help him through his issues. She told us that what Hudson is going through is very similar to what a veteran might go through after coming home after a brutal war. PTSD. She asked me how I handled the situation and I CRIED. This whole time I had been getting upset with Hudson for not being as social as he used to be. When people would ask me to pet my dog I would try to force him to sit down and let them pet him. How selfish am I? Could I not see how much my dog was hurting? Could I not see how afraid he was? I will never know what happened to him that Fourth of July and because of that we are where we are today. The Behaviorist told me I was going to have to realize that this is the 'new' Hudson and that the old Hudson would not likely come back and that we would have to accept that. 

But friends, it's HARD. I want for anyone to come up to my dog and for him to be happy and excited to see them like normal dogs would be. Or to take him for a walk and him not get frightened by his own shadow. When we have visitors over I don't want him to have to hide in our room for half the time they are here. I'm guilty of wishing he was the dog I want him to be rather than the dog he has become. But sadly, I haven't been the owner/protector he needs either. 

Some of you may never understand the love you can have for a dog. I would steal the moon for Hudson if I could. The reason it's so easy to love them is because of how unconditionally they love us back, even when we fail. And although this trauma that we are trying to work through is frustrating, Hudson is one of the few things in life who doesn't constantly disappoint me. Maybe it sounds silly, but Hudson is our baby. And he's hurting. We are trying to help him pick up his little doggy pieces and put himself back together. 

So that is our Hudson story. And now I am really hoping for some encouragement. I get so discouraged/upset over this situation so much I just HAD to reach out. I hope I have some friends that could shed some light on this situation if you've ever been here. Where do we go from here? Is there anything else we can do for him? Should we just stop trying? I am so lost!


  1. I am SO sorry. These pups can be so tricky to figure out! We adopted both of our springers as adults, and they both came with quite a bit of baggage. Our first, Shalai, was TERRIFIED of people. Absolutely terrified. No one (except us! she latched onto us from day 1)could touch her or come anywhere near her. It was heartbreaking. She's still a very shy dog, but now she loves to play with people. Does Hudson like to play fetch, or another game that wouldn't involve anyone touching him? That way he has a positive interaction with another human but no one is in his personal space. Or, if he's as food motivated as our little punks are, can friends give him treats and interact with him in a really positive way but again, without any actual touch?

    Our second dog, Beemer, looooves people but we can't trust him around other people! He'll run up to someone and want to be pet and suddenly snarl and bark at them. What the what?? But once he knows someone he wants to be pet and will stand on your feet for hours so you can't do anything but pet him. We're really careful to make sure no one pets him from the side or behind or just walks up and shoves their hand in his face. He needs to understand what's going on, sit nicely and be ok with being pet. If he won't sit when he's asked to we know he doesn't want to be pet and we respect that. I absolutely wish anyone could just walk up and pet him, but I'm more concerned about keeping everyone safe.

    I guess for us the bottom line has been figuring out how to read our dogs and know how they typically respond and what their cues mean. Even if you never get the "old" Hudson back, I KNOW you will see improvements as you work with him and step in as his protector. It can definitely be frustrating that I can't take our dogs to parades or events with a lot of people, but I know that's more stress than they can tolerate and we're all happier if I avoid those situations.

    Good luck!!! Feel free to email me anytime with success stories or frustration. It's so nice to be able to talk to other doggie mamas working through frustrations, because this stuff doesn't make sense to a lot of our friends. I hope you start to see his social side blooming again. He looks like such an absolute sweetheart!

    (sorry for the novel, but I feel for you!)

    1. Thank you so much for the encouraging comment, Cindy!! You're right, these pups are tricky! I really like the idea of getting someone to play fetch with him. I do think that would help!

      I had no idea you were experiencing a similar situation. That brings me comfort all in itself. I feel like everyone else on the planet gets to take their dog everywhere except me! But you are so right when you said it would just be too much. It's hard to accept, because its never been that way for us.

      I will definitely be in contact during this situation and vice versa! I am so thankful for all my dog mommy friends!


  2. So sorry you guys are going through this. I agree with Cindy, dogs can be so hard to figure out.

    Is Hudson food motivated? You could try taking special treats on walks with you and when something frightens him give him a treat in hopes that he'll eventually associate his triggers with a positive feelings. And I agree with what Cindy said about letting friends give him treats.

    When Jack was a pup he loved playing with other dogs. But after we began taking him to doggy daycare I noticed that he started to act more aggressively toward other dogs he didn't know. I'm thinking something happened to him at daycare-- a scuffle with another dog that caused him to start to behave this way. We're still battling this issue. When another dog Jack doesn't know is walking toward us at the park we have to keep him on a short leash and try to control him as he growls at the other dog. We've let him stop and sniff some dogs but it always results in Jack nipping at them. It's like he needs to be the dominant dog in initial meetings with other dogs-- whether they're bigger, smaller, or the same size as him. It's so embarrassing and frustrating, especially because we know how sweet of a boy he really is. Because he's perfectly fine and plays well with dogs he already knows. It's just the initial interaction that is the hardest part for him. We've tried doing the treat thing with some luck, but like you, we're tempted to bring in a dog trainer.

    When I was reading up on Jack's aggression toward other dogs I came across something about how dogs can sense what we're feeling. Before reading this, when Brad and I were walking Jack and a dog was approaching us I would start to tense up. Now, when another dog approaches I stay calm and in control. Brad and I have noticed that Jack doesn't get as crazy when we stay calm versus tensing up. So next time you're out and one of his triggers comes up try staying calm and acting like the trigger was nothing and you're in control because Hudson could be feeding off your feelings.

    Keep us posted on how things go with Hudson. Don't be discouraged. Keep trucking along and finding ways you can help him deal with his triggers. Yeah, you may never see the old Hudson again but you'll be able to see his progress-- progress you helped him obtain. :)

    1. Wow, Chelsea! It sounds like your situation is so similar to ours only with first time dogs instead of people.

      Do you work in dog training at all? Because the tips you mentioned were actually ALL incoorperated into our first training session with our behaviorist, like to the T! That's so funny!

      So what do you think you will end up doing to help Jack even more? I'm so sorry that has happened to you guys. I think it hurts me so much also because we've had Hudson since he was a baby so this isn't baggage he came with, it's baggage we kind of created. :(

      Thanks for your sweet comment. We're hanging in there! It's so nice to hear from dog moms who are experiencing similar things. It makes me feel a little less alone!!


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