Five steps to recovery

By Sindhoor Pangal, Bangalore Mirror Bureau | Jul 20, 2015, 09.51 PM IST

It all started when Nishi was just a nine-month -old puppy and a car ran over her face. She was in and out of surgery for a year after that which left her emotionally damaged and dog-reactive. I had the seemingly impossible task of trying to help her out of that. Back then there was no one in India with the knowledge of helping dogs recover from PTSD. That’s when I reached out to noted dog trainer and behaviorist Turid Rugaas in Norway. Turid guided me through a program that seemed deceptively simple which helped my little Nishi. Here’s the five-step programme I’ve documented.

Take away the pain
The first step with any behavioral issues is to look for underlying health problems or pain. In some cases it may be joint and muscle pains where pain killers might go a long way in helping. In dogs suffering from digestive problems fixing their diet can help. In other cases, it could be equipment like collars, choke collars etc which is the cause of the pain. Whatever it is, take the pain away. No therapy can start when the dog is in pain.

Accept the fear
Journey from the fear is a personal process. You cannot force me to get over my irrational fear of reptiles by feeding me cakes and having me sit next to reptiles. I don’t know how you will choose to conquer your next fear. A dog will choose to conquer his fear when he is ready to. 

Increase wellbeing
A dog needs upto sixteen hours of sleep a day, if not more. To achieve that provide a high tryptophan diet, which gets converted into serotonin in the body and induces sleep and sense of wellbeing. This can be achieved with a rice and chicken diet. A dog also needs a good fifteen minutes of chewing each day. Bones are good for this. If not, try green coconuts.

Decrease anxiety
One of the biggest sources of anxiety in an urban dog’s life is playing fetch. It triggers a dog’s hunting instincts sending a the body into hunting mode. When in the hunting mode the body is pumped with adrenaline, and is not capable of calm and collected thinking. However, the conquest of fear is a thought process. It’s not a training process. If the brain is flooded with adrenaline there is very little quality thinking that can happen. 

Build confidence
Find activities that can increase a dog’s confidence. It naturally builds up when he can use his senses to problem solve. So nose-based activities are great for confidence building- toy search and treat, slow sniffing walks, visiting new places to explore. Providing dogs with choices in as many different ways as possible gives a dog food for thought and helps him grow. The best way to give him choices is to let him pick his own walk path. 
It was these five rather simple sounding steps that helped us get our Nishi from where she was to a happy little puppy that she is today.


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