Find the Cause; Avoid the Misery
I have a miniature dachshund, 1 1/2 years old. About a week ago she started shaking/trembling when it was bed time and every night since then she starts to tremble at night and hides behind my couch. Could something be wrong with her or is she just scared of something?
Your little dog sounds frightened. Disc disease in her neck or back or internal pain can cause trembling but the consistent occurrence at the same time every evening causes me to suspect a fear association. This could be triggered by a high-pitched sound from a nearby appliance. If your dog is easily startled there may have been a one-time fear-provoking event that is causing her to dread a reoccurrence at the same time and place.
Easily scared dogs can be rather fragile. Repeated exposures to the fear trigger would intensify your dachshund’s reactions and her misery. Do your best to help her extinguish her conditioned response by eliminating its cause.
Try unplugging all electronic gadgets prior to your dog’s witching hour. Ask your neighbors if they’ve installed an outdoor ultra-high frequency booby trap to discourage roaming nocturnal creatures. You can also dredge your brain for the memory of a sudden noise or other terror-inducing event that may have set this recurrent bedtime meltdown into motion. If you folks celebrate Halloween in March, your dog’s problem may have started with someone rushing into the room wearing an unusual getup.
On the other hand if you identify a household noise, like some odious musical genre that terrifies your dog- but that you just can’t live without – you could try desensitizing her. This would mean exposing her to the stimulus at a much lower volume that does not elicit signs of fear. At the same time you can countercondition this girl by sharing something enjoyable with her. Teaching her a fun new trick and reinforcing her with tasty morsels can redirect her attention to earning food instead of wigging out.
On a personal level, I’ve been having a similar problem during the nightly news. I’m planning on extinguishing my pain by allowing my TV to die of neglect.
Each week Dr. Jeff Nichol makes a short video or podcast to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Dr. Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). You can post pet behavioral or physical questions at facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.