The relationship between pain and behaviour
About 6 weeks ago I was contacted by a lovely couple with their first 9 month old miniature dachshund. He was very bitey, barky and was to be frank, driving his owners cuckoo.
On visiting, it became clear the owners, despite being new owners had done it all right. They had been clicker training him, doing brain games, lots of things to ensure he was mentally satisfied as I’d suggested over previous weeks. He also goes to daycare to ensure he has fun times with other dogs: they literally know the Dachshund Breed Council advice better than I do. The ideal owners! It wasn’t a lockdown issue either.
During the session we worked through the list of issues they had. However, as I watched him move, some subtle red flags presented - the way he sat, the way he walked, the fact he didn’t try and jump on the sofa and tripped slightly when going in his crate. Thankfully due to my knowledge of conformation and movement and experience of showing my dogs plus years of observations of dogs in general I am very comfortable in knowing the way a dachshund should move, stand and sit and he wasn’t comfortable…..plus a big red flag for me – he didn’t like being cuddled. This really upset the owners as part of the reason they wanted a dachshund was because they are notorious for being affectionate cuddle-monsters which often outweighs their other ‘quirks.’
After going for a walk, it was evident something wasn’t comfortable, we videoed me doing a pain check and every time I went near his hind end, especially his right rear leg he would gently hold my hand in his teeth and move it away. There was no malice, but a noticeably clear “please don’t touch me there.” He was pretty tight in his muscles too. After this, I urged the owners to speak to their vet and show them the video. Thankfully they listened and took the dog in to see the vet, armed with the video who agreed there did seem to be some pain, but his reactions weren’t quite the same – which, to be honest, they wouldn’t be in a strange situation. We know what they’re like! He was put on a week’s worth of anti-inflammatories and did show some improvement over that week in his behaviours. He was then referred for a CT and thankfully skeletal issues were ruled out, but they suspected muscular or ligament pain due to tissue damage of some sort around that right hip. He was then put on another pain medication. Two days after the medication was added (he needed a day to recover from sedation) I received a video and this message “So… I’m wondering how much pain he’s been in?!” And I watched the video (have a watch), it was of this little man doing zoomies. He’d not done it in months. We all cringed when he leapt up onto the garden, but we’ll forgive that as it was unexpected…..but…..suddenly he could jump! Over the next few days, I received amazing videos and photographs of him cuddling his mum which he hadn’t done since he was about 16 weeks. Unfortunately, they’re now having to overcome the worry of his ability to jump on things….including the bed! Since the new medication was given, the owners have worked hard to address some of the issues that have become habit, but overall he’s a changed dog. It’s not often pictures bring a tear to my eye, but some certainly did.
Receiving that “you have fixed our puppy” made my heart sing. LG was happy, and so are his owners. And the most recent message “Today we had possibly the best day we have ever had with LG in 8 months of having him. We literally cannot ever thank you enough!”
Now this post is not to feed my ego, I’m thrilled for these owners and would have quietly smiled at how happy this family are, especially now they are no longer dreading their family Christmas. However, the owners and I agree that this story could help others. We often don’t realise the impact pain can have on behaviour especially when it is subtle. The aim of this post is to remind you that with ANY change of behaviour, or any behaviour that is ongoing or disrupting your lives please seek out a professional, be it a vet, a qualified dog trainer or qualified behaviourist. We are trained to spot pain-related issues and to help you overcome the issues as part of a team effort – in LG’s case the vet is managing the pain and I am guiding the owners on addressing any behaviour issues that remain…..thankfully they are now typical of a nearly 10 month old puppy.
Do not underestimate the effect pain can have. In LG it was more likely building up during the day as his behaviour was worst in the evening and he’d just reached that point of “I’ve had enough now!” We’ve all been there, when you hurt your back, or twist your ankle…..too much and you have to stop. Dogs don’t stop, they soldier on. Do not dismiss things as puppy behaviour or “he’s getting old”; look at the whole picture.
These owners did the right thing, they saw a behavioural issue, and they contacted a professional, which lead to a happy ending. He may need physio or hydro in the future, but for now the pain is managed.
By Sharon Alton of Perfectly Polite Dachshunds.