Kayla asked me to talk to her dog, Ranger. When I started talking to Ranger, the first thing he said was that he “wanted to be a good dog” for Kayla. Kayla said Ranger was a very, very good dog — she loved him very much. When I told Ranger that, he was so happy! He said he was grateful to have someone who loved him, finally.
Ranger showed me that he’d not had very much love or consistency with the family he was with when he was young. Ranger came to Kayla a few months before from a canine/inmate program at a prison. Ranger worked with at least two prisoners — the first one was new to dog training and wasn’t sure what he was doing, but Ranger said they learned together. Ranger said that the prisoners were kind to him, but he knew that neither of them were “his person”. Ranger said that his prison trainers told him that they were training him “to be a good dog so he could get a good home”. Ranger said he worked hard to learn everything and become a good dog, so he could find someone who would love him. Kayla reported that Ranger was an amazingly good dog — very obedient, happy and a wonderful companion . . . until she was out of the house for work.
Kayla’s main concern was Ranger’s severe separation anxiety. Kayla said that she crated Ranger when she left the house (he was crate trained in the prison program) and always came home to check on Ranger at noon and let him out and would be home at the same time in the afternoon. Kayla said that she was very consistent about the times she came home. Despite this, Ranger was showing increasing signs of anxiety when Kayla left him.
When I asked Ranger about this, he said that he was very worried that Kayla would not come back. Each time she came home, it was a miracle to him — he was so afraid that she wouldn’t come back! My feeling was that this anxiety was related to Ranger’s past. When I asked him about it, he said that the family he was with when he was young would often leave, come back and then leave again right away and be gone for for long periods of time. He never knew when they would be home to stay.
Ranger showed me that he was calm all the time — except when Kayla left. Ranger knew he could trust Kayla completely, but when he became anxious, Ranger was not thinking clearly. It was clear to me that Ranger didn’t even understand that it was possible to step back from the anxiety once it started. Ranger showed me that when he was over come with anxiety it was actually painful to him.
The next step was figuring out how to help Ranger learn he could be calm and relaxed all the time. I always like to start with simple things first. I made several suggestions including flower essence blends for calming and fear and having a dog walker come in the afternoon to get Ranger out for some exercise and suggested Kayla visualize Ranger being calm. I also suggested that Kayla try a Thundershirt for Ranger. A Thundershirt is a vest that applies pressure to acupressure points associated with calming/release of anxiety. Thundershirts don’t work for every animal, but it was certainly worth a try! Kayla was willing to try anything to help Ranger and implemented the suggestions as soon as she could.
I received an email from Kayla the next day . . . Ranger’s anxiety had continued to escalate — he had tried frantically to get out of his crate and had even bent the bars of the crate trying to escape. Kayla didn’t know what to do to help Ranger. As I read Kayla’s email, it was clear to me that Ranger’s anxiety was way beyond his control.
Much as I prefer a more homeopathic solution, there are times when prescription medication is what is called for — I felt this was one of those times. I suggested that Kayla contact her vet to see if a mild calming prescription would be possible for Ranger. I suggested Kayla be clear with the vet that she did not want to sedate Ranger, only allow him to have decreased anxiety so he could learn that he did not have to be anxious. My hope was that if Ranger could understand that it was possible not to be anxious, that he could eventually get off the prescription med and even be allowed free in the house. Kayla got in contact with the vet as soon as possible and started Ranger on the medication right away.
We talked to Ranger again less than two weeks later. The first thing Ranger said was, “Now I’m a really good dog!” Ranger showed me that he didn’t worry any more in his crate — he showed me that he slept and relaxed. Kayla said she only gave the prescription med to Ranger when he would need to be crated while she was at work. He said he felt a little “dull” when he got the medicine — “but that’s better than worrying — I didn’t know I could not worry!” He was very, very happy not to be feeling the extreme anxiety any more!
Kayla said that she had also gotten Ranger a Thundershirt, which Ranger loves! She said that Ranger was a bit worried the first couple times she put it on him, but within minutes, he was happy and wagging his tail. Now, he happily lets her put the Thundershirt on and even gets excited as soon as he sees it! I asked Ranger how the Thundershirt felt — the feeling he showed me was that it felt like a hug!
Since then, Ranger has not looked back! Ranger can be left out of his crate while Kayla is at work and he is relaxed and happy. Ranger is calmer when Kayla walks in the house and isn’t desperate or frantic when he greets her. Kayla said, “This is a big step for Ranger and will eventually lead to him being a much happier dog!”
” After we talked to Ranger the first time, when his anxiety got worse, I emailed Sky for advice. Sky didn’t hesitate to give me ideas and help me understand what Ranger needed. She truly went above and beyond for Ranger and me. She treated Ranger as if he was one of her own and genuinely cared about him! I could not be happier with Sky and everything she did for us. We are both so grateful for all the help Sky has given us! ” — Kayla L., CO.
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