I have been thinking more about the link between underlying health issues and the overt behaviour we see in our dogs. I have now worked with many different dogs, quite a few of which have been rescues I took in to train before they went to their new homes. Many of these dogs had extreme behaviour problems that required considerable work to modify, sometimes with only limited success. For the first several years I used solely training techniques, based on positive training methods, to help these animals. It has only been in the last couple of years that I have been including a health component to the rehab program. Since doing so, I have seen much greater progress, and typically with less work.
For the last two years, I have been studying homeopathy. This was a new concept to me when first introduced, although I had worked with a number of holistic practitioners, prior to actually studying this modality, who included homeopathy in their repertoire. I have found it to be an incredible tool and resource, and am a devoted advocate.
That said, I am wondering if my focus on homeopathy and chronic disease led me to overlook something more obvious in my dog Mira.
I had noticed upon picking her up that she had some reactive behaviour, and was also very domineering with the other puppies in the litter. Mira was mini, but she was mighty, and was definitely alpha among her siblings. Furthermore, she was the most wild and outgoing. At five weeks she had climbed out of the whelping pen and no one could contain her after that. As such, she had free reign of the house and did as she pleased for the next two months. By the time I brought her home, she was well entrenched into patterns of taking flying leaps to the counter or table tops, and climbing out of or over just about anything. I should point out that she was all of 8lbs, smaller than my cats.
Many of these behaviours – the not being able to be contained, escaping from everything, the wildness, the reactiveness, and the bullying of her siblings – are symptoms chronic disease. Since Mira was naturally reared, this imbalance in her life force was likely inherited vaccinosis. Her parents apparently received limited vaccines, but nevertheless, Mira seemed to have received the brunt of it.
By 14 weeks, she was presenting a whole collection of behaviours that had me very concerned. Much of it was fear based, with a good dose of aggression mixed in. I was quite dismayed and struggled for a long time about what to do with her. Should I keep working with her? Should I send her back? Should I rehome her? I maintained some optimism that I could work her through this and that eventually she would turn into a nice dog. Then at around 7-8 months, she started showing signs of a weak hind end.
In hindsight, I feel horrible that I didn’t do something sooner. At the time, my first impulse was that this crazy puppy was also dysplastic. I was heart broken and very frustrated, and debated long and hard about what the best thing to do was. I am back in school full-time and am operating on a very small budget, and x-ray costs are astronomical around here. Again I considered sending her back to the breeder, and also asked the breeder for help with her medical bills. But I couldn’t go through with the former, and was refused the latter as that had not been part of our agreement.
Eventually I decided to go to the chiropractor and have her thoroughly assessed. The news wasn’t optimistic, but Mira was adjusted and we were sent home with a low impact exercise program. Well, as I have commented several times now, the change in this dog is mind boggling. Most of her problem behaviours stopped almost overnight, and the second visit to the chiro revealed a considerable change in her hind end musculature. Apparently she is now weight bearing symmetrically and has gain tremendous muscle mass.
I now am wondering if many of Mira’s fear aggressive behaviours were linked to being in chronic pain. Of course her early habit of escaping from the pen is definitely a symptom of rabies vaccinosis, but many of her other issues may have been caused, or at least exacerbated, by pain. I had never even once considered this because she didn’t show any overt signs of discomfort until she was nearly 8 months old. It is quite possible, however, that she hurt herself as a small puppy while engaged in her escape artist antics.
Trying to figure out the cause of behaviour is often like looking for a needle in a haystack, and the most obvious reason is not always the cause. Years ago I took my old Jake to a really fantastic acupuncturist who told me that every dog she treated was in pain, and nearly every one of them was aggressive. Jake had been aggressive for years, but he also had a lot of chronic pain. Perhaps this is what was going on with Mira as well. She is still a little skiddish and has some remaining unresolved fear issues, but if she associated pain with everything in her environment, it’s going to take some time to let that go. I am continuing to treat her homeopathically, and hope to sometime soon have her hips x-rayed to find out if there is an underlying chronic problem, or her discomfort was caused by an accident.
Of course I will continue to treat her homeopathically because I do firmly believe it makes a difference and she still has room for improvement. But in the future I am going to remember the cardinal rule of homeopathy: take into account the WHOLE picture. Obviously I had blinders on when assessing Mira and didn’t do this. An animal communicator once told me that Mira was here as a teacher of health for me, and I have to say, this is one lesson that I obviously really needed to learn. I’m sorry she had to suffer in order for that to happen, but I am eternally grateful in return.