Toy anxiety?

Dog Food Advisor Forums Off Topic Forum Toy anxiety?

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  • #23130 Report Abuse

    I adopted a 9 yr old dog 2 weeks ago, I got her from a rescue. They were a little fuzzy on her background. They told me about her food allergies that at one point she was bald, and also she was often left in a crate in her own filth. She is spayed now but you can also tell she had puppies at some point. She has nightmares frequently so I bought her a stuffed toy with a squeaky yesterday thinking it may make her feel more secure… Well she immediately took it but she started whimpering and cring with it in her mouth. Then she started in and out of her crate with it (we leave door open) and circling the living room. She also started panting, so I took it away.. Then she started looking for it.(she is not a dog who looks for her toys after we finish playing she is generally content after. What should I do give her the toy, throw it out? I don’t want to cause her any additional pain. She is here to have a good rest of her life and I am so upset (I cried) that I may have caused her and pain)

    #23134 Report Abuse

    If she came from a puppy mill, she may not know what to think of stuffies. She could think it is a puppy that isn’t acting right or anything at all. At the very least, I would but it away until you know she is very secure with you.

    #28540 Report Abuse

    Ummmm, what?

    #29240 Report Abuse

    I had a similar issue with our older female Bichon Frise from the local shelter. She wasn’t likely abused and certainly didn’t suffer the way your dog seems to, but we definitely suspect some kind of neglect. Not only was her coat shaved down almost to the skin [probably due to matting], she had ticks and fleas and couldn’t even jump up on our low mattress because her muscles were weak and under-developed. [The shelter said she was 5, our vet says closer to 8]. She has had some weird behavior with toys as well – she doesn’t seem to know much play behavior even though she was living with other dogs and it has taken some time, patience and conditioning to get her to where she is now.
    She is only interested in plush toys and now she loves squeakers… but she wasn’t like that in the beginning. No rope or rubber toys seemed to entice her and she would immediately drop an item if we started to tug back – no rough chewing. We got her a plush toy and she seemed to like carrying it around, hiding it in dark corners, and gradually got more bold until it squeaked in her mouth. Sometimes she licked and coddled it like it was injured. It was hilarious to watch, but she was terrified and suspicious for the most part. After that, she would run away to another room and stay there whenever we tried to engage in play with a squeaking toy. A few times we hugged her still and squeaked a toy and she struggled mightily to get away. After about two weeks of daily desensitizing sessions, she finally learned to love to play with her plush squeakers. A squeak is enough to get her to come to a room. She loves attacking her toys [prefers hedgehogs, bears and other brown woodland creatures] until the squeaker has died. She is learning the basics of fetch, but is still very polite with her toys. We don’t think she has ever really played before.
    I wouldn’t get rid of the toys, but instead show that they are superfun by having all household members plays with it in happy voices for a few minutes a couple of times a day. Don’t push it, but let your dog know that it is okay to take joy in some little things!

    #29264 Report Abuse

    You have just described to a T a puppy mill breeder. How sad that greedy people do this to precious puppies.

    #29273 Report Abuse

    I would also suggest [when your dog has settled a bit] taking her to a smaller pet store [Petco and Petsmart might be a bit overstimulating, especially during the holiday season] and showing her several different toys. She may enjoying browsing the aisles with you and may even pick out her own toy that appeals to her. We pull things off the rack for our girl to inspect; when she tries to take it from us or looks excited, we tend to get it because we want her to play.
    There is also a toy that may bring your dog some comfort – I think it was designed for weaning puppies, dogs with separation anxiety or mourning pets, but it is a plush toy with a warming pack and a “beating heart” powered by a battery. There is a popular brand available at online retailers and Amazon called SnugglePuppy from Snuggle Pet Products. It is kind of expensive [you may be able to find another brand/model for less] for an experiment, but it may comfort her and help her transition her to her new environment and to liking toys/playing.
    I would also recommend wrapping a plush toy in an old tshirt or stuffing it inside a sock that has your scent on it – you’re her pack/people now and she wants to smell like you so she won’t have to be alone again. [Our girl likes to jump in our dirty laundry and thrash under our bedcovers after her bath, probably thinking we won’t recognize her. She also takes off her Doggles whenever my fiance reenters the car]. Making the toy smell like you by putting it in the dirty clothes hamper will help reinforce that this toy belongs in the household, toys are fun and playing with you is a nice thing to do. Some non-plush toys can also have food smeared on them or treats stuffed inside to help get entice her to interact with them.
    Playing is a great way to bond with your dog and give her a chance to exercise and feel comfortable inside in her new surroundings. Keep trying to teach her to play – no dog is too old to learn to have fun.
    The most important thing to remember is to go slow and have a really positive attitude when dealing with toys – even if your dog’s behavior is upsetting – don’t get upset! Dogs read our emotions and getting worried and stressed over her reactions might be causing more of an issue. If you feel like crying over her reactions, take a break, take her for a walk and then just try to cuddle with her and her toy quietly. Rub her and pet her with the toy if she doesn’t act scared. If she wants it in her crate, let her have it there. Maybe she wants a toy to cuddle and protect and you could get her another toy for tossing, pulling and playing with you in the living room.

    #54320 Report Abuse
    bart s

    Did you discover anything further about this behavior?
    I have a 4 year old Doberman. We got him when he just over a year old.
    He’s acted similar to your description, and I’m a little confused.
    We don’t get him stuffed toys very often because he wants to rip them apart.
    But I got him a non-stuffing “fuzzy toy” that we want to keep as an inside toy (to watch and make sure he doesn’t try to tear apart and eat ).
    He holds it in his mouth and paces around the house, and wants to go outside.
    I let him do this for a while, and then put him in his “place”. I pet him and tried to calm him down, but I could feel his heart beating pretty fast.
    After I took it away, he was panting and still very excited for quite a while.
    (Almost the same behavior as when we had a intense thunderstorm a few weeks ago, but not as intense)
    Although my description sounds pretty negative, I do feel like he enjoys his toy and would like for him to enjoy it. I’m Just trying to figure out where all this anxiety is coming from, and how I should deal with it.
    My only guess is that it’s a prey drive and he “needs” to bury it or rip it apart? Any ideas?

    #104059 Report Abuse
    Caitlin F

    I realize this is an old post, but it is the closest to describing what my recently adopted five year old pit mix is doing. He has been protective of his belongings from day one in our house. But he has never exhibited anything like he did the day I brought home the rubber squeaky hedgehog that is his new favorite toy. He obsesses over it, hides it, paces the house to “patrol” the area in which he has hidden it, etc. I closed off the closets to see if maybe the cave-like environment of the closet was I don’t know, triggering his primal tendencies.(I know that sounds absurd but I have never seen a dog he so obsessive). I practiced with him the command to “give” so he isn’t aggressive with me over the toy, but it appears to give him actual anxiety. He doesn’t play with it, just moves it from place to place guarding it. When I closed off the closets he decided to curl up with it in the corner, but he shook anxiously for awhile, like trembling, til I reopened the closets and let him hide it in there. Then he acted. Normal. Is it okay for. E to let him have this toy or should I get rid of it?

    #104060 Report Abuse

    Some dogs are like that, they will become aggressive when you try to take the toy away from them.
    My terrier is like that, he has a favorite ball and a waterproof fetch toy that he loves.
    He only gets them when we are outside to play ball or at the lake to play fetch.
    I take it away from him prior to entering the house, it is kept in a cardboard box on top of the fridg. He knows it is there, but he also knows he can’t get to it. So, he doesn’t try.

    Your dog is trembling because he doesn’t want to hurt you…but he will, if you take the toy he is obsessed with away from him. I have been bit, that’s how I know.
    Distract him with a bite of food, if you have to.
    Do not leave him alone with any plastic toys, he will tear that thing apart and swallow the squeaker in seconds flat which could require a trip to the emergency vet.
    Some dogs have a OCD reaction with their toys. You are the alpha, don’t let him have it in the house just to guard and be possessive about, someone will get hurt.
    Use it as a tool to play fetch and get exercise…that’s it.
    This is what has worked for me.
    Otherwise go pay a trainer and pay $50-$75 an hour, they will probably tell you the same thing 🙂

    PS: Get some very hard rubber balls (big enough to fit in his mouth but not big enough to swallow and sturdy fetch toys for outdoor activities.
    Get rid of those plastic crappy things with squeakers. I just saved you a vet visit.

    #104068 Report Abuse

    Also, be careful around food. This dog may be food aggressive. Don’t get too close when he is eating, pick up the dish when he is through and don’t leave food down (free feed) But of course, always have fresh water available.

    #104069 Report Abuse

    Food aggression in dogs
    Dogs with food aggression may stiffen their body, show teeth, growl, snap, or bite when they are approached by a person or another animal when they are in possession of or near a food-related item such as a rawhide chew, bone, pig’s ear, food bowl, sandwich wrapper, or food that was dropped on the floor.

    Here is another article excerpt below
    Guarding possessions from humans or other animals is normal behavior for dogs. Wild animals who successfully protect their valuable resources—such as food, mates and living areas—are more likely to survive in the wild than those who don’t. However, we find the tendency to guard valued items undesirable in our domestic pets, especially when the behavior is directed toward people.
    Resource guarding in dogs can range from relatively benign behavior, like running away with a coveted item or growling at an approaching person, to full-blown aggression, such as biting or chasing a person away. Some dogs only direct resource guarding toward certain people, often strangers. Other dogs guard their resources from all people. Dogs vary in what they consider valuable. Some dogs only guard chew bones or toys. Some guard stolen items, such as food wrappers from the trash can or socks. Many dogs guard food.

    #104070 Report Abuse

    Hi Caitlin-

    Gosh poor boy. He sounds very stressed and anxious. Have you spoken with a professional dog trainer? There may be someone who has dealt with anxiety like this before that could help. Wouldn’t hurt to talk to a vet about it too.

    #104095 Report Abuse
    Caitlin F

    Thanks guys! Lots of helpful responses! We had an issue with him food guarding from the other dog, but he has never been aggressive with the humans in the house. He is ultra-submissive with people. I will be speaking with the vet about it next week when he goes in for his checkup. I am mostly worried about his mental health ( I know that sounds crazy to some people because, he’s a dog. But it can’t be healthy for him to be stressed out all the time). I do understand the potential for nervous aggression though. Just because he sees me as in charge doesn’t mean he’d see a neighbor or relative in the same light. I will definitely be contacting some professionals about it. Thanks very much everyone. I’ll let you know what I learn.

    #104132 Report Abuse

    Ask your vet about medication. At least while he is going through the transition of adjusting to a new home. Doggie Prozac? He would not have to be on it forever. Once he is stable after about 6 months to a year and under the guidance of your vet taper him off and see how it goes. It’s not very expensive. They are not sedated, it just takes the edge off.
    I had a dog with separation anxiety/thunderstorm phobia and this method proved to be effective.
    PS: Do not feed the dogs from the same bowl, separate bowls on opposite sides of the room. Meals must be monitored. Believe me, I know of what I speak.
    Do not leave food down/free feed. Food aggression is part of their personality, it will not change. Regardless of training or medication. It is a manageable condition, but you have to keep the dogs away when food is involved or children are around.

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