As you may know from my previous post (“My First Pandemic Birthday”), I recently adopted a dog, Maya. She’s a sweet little terrier mix. All was going smoothly until a week ago, when her behavior changed. I’m hoping you can provide some “pointers” (no pun intended) on how I can help her out of her funk.
But first, here’s Maya:
Note: As a school psychologist who’s worked with children with ADHD, PTSD, ODD, OCD, FAS, SLD, and a multitude of other acronyms, I’m finding that my little RD (rescue doggie) is the most challenging of all. But that’s probably just because I’ve never received training in “Getting a Dog Out From Under Your Bed,” or “Getting a Dog to Stop Running Away When You Make Eye Contact.”
I think it’s important to fill you in on Maya’s history, so here’s the scoop (again, no pun intended!):
April, 2020: As a recently-retired single person coping with life during the COVID-19 pandemic, I thought it might be smart (and therapeutic) to adopt a dog. I could provide a loving home, and in return I’d gain a companion. I registered with an animal shelter and met a few dogs, but they were either too big, too aggressive, or already spoken for.
May, 2020: I saw a story on the local news, described as a “hoarding case.” The owner loved her animals but felt overwhelmed and called the shelter seeking help. It’s no wonder. There were 40 dogs and 3 cats. Their coats were all severely matted. (I saw a video of them being removed from the home and then groomed at the shelter. The house was later condemned.) The dogs were said to be sweet and well-behaved, but a little shy.
June, 2020: The Humane Society called me. They had a dog from the “hoarding case” that they thought might be a good match for me. I made an appointment to see her.
July, 2020: When we first met, she was shaking like a leaf, but soon she jumped up on the couch next to me and extended her paw, pulling my hand toward her as if asking to be petted. She even licked my hand. From that moment, we were bonded. Or so it seemed.
The shelter said she was 6 years old and weighed 12 pounds. They’d spayed her, pulled some teeth, chipped her, and given her all her shots. They didn’t know her real name, so I renamed her “Maya,” which means “love,” “water,” “mother,” “courage,” or “illusion,” depending on which language you’re referencing. Besides, I’ve always liked Maya Angelou.
As soon as we got home, Maya jumped on the couch and seemed to be settling in. She started following me around and was very affectionate. She wanted to jump on my bed but she couldn’t quite reach it. I decided to see if she’d sleep on her own bed on the floor instead. I folded up a quilt and a blanket and put them down on the floor of my room. She didn’t want to sleep on it, but when I moved it right next to my bed, she immediately curled up on it and fell asleep.
That first night, she woke me up at 3:00 a.m. and I took her out. Then she woke me up at 5:30 a.m. and I took her out. After that, I decided to try getting her on my schedule. The next time she asked to go out in the middle of the night, I just said “no, lay down,” and she immediately did so! She was very well behaved and I guessed she’d been trained pretty well before her former owner had become overrun with other pets.
Then I made her a little “pen” in the bathroom area using a dog gate. I tried putting her in there whenever I had to leave the apartment for short trips to the store, but when I’d return, I’d hear her barking. I decided to switch her “pen” to my bedroom, but now I worry that she’ll chew electrical cords while I’m out, so I have to unplug everything each time I leave.
I took her for her first vet visit and she had a clean bill of health. For the first couple of weeks, things seemed to be just about perfect. Each time I sat on the couch, she’d come over and snuggle up next to me. She asked to go out about 3 times a day. Each time, she was obedient on her walk and even seemed to understand when I said “time to go home.” I did notice that she slept a lot during the day, though. She seemed to be nocturnal, getting a bit frisky at night and wanting to go out around 7 p.m. and again around 10 p.m. instead of during the daylight hours. I thought maybe it was due to the intense daytime temperatures we’re experiencing right now. And she was not the least bit interested in playing with toys. But other than those few idiosyncracies (which I attributed to her being a rescue dog), she seemed to be adjusting well to her new home.
About a week ago: Things suddenly changed. She started hiding under my bed and staying there all day, only coming out around 7 p.m. when she was ready to go outside, even though I’d offer her food at 7:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., shaking her bowl so she could hear the sound. When she does eat, she has an appetite, and her stools are normal; she does not seem sick. She has lots of energy at night. Things improved a bit for a day or two, but now she’s back to being very withdrawn. In fact, yesterday, she stayed under my bed, or on the floor next to it, for a full 24 hours! I wonder if she’s depressed, and maybe missing her former brothers and sisters.
Things I’ve tried: Closing the door to my bedroom so she can’t go in it (when I can get there before she does, which is rare) – that just makes her cry. Luring her out with treats (bananas, peanut butter, real chicken, hot-dog-like treats, Milk Bones) – it worked for a while until she got wise to my tricks. Now she just sniffs them from afar, stares at me, and runs back under the bed. Gently pushing big objects under the bed to coax her out – she just moves over.
Last night: When she finally came out from hiding at 10 p.m., she let me put her leash on, went outside, did her business, and then was very affectionate when we came back in, cuddling up next to me on the couch as usual.
Today: But this morning, as soon as I made eye contact with her and reached down to pet her, she ducked under the bed and has been there all day again. I decided to try to gently encourage her to join me in the living room by moving her bed out there. I even made a trail of Milk Bone treats leading from my room to the living room, but she hasn’t even come out to snatch one. I don’t believe I should force her out of her “cave” until she’s learned to trust me more.
Does anyone have any experience with pets like Maya, and do you have any suggestions for me? Thanks in advance if you have any advice!