Yorkshire Terrier Yelping "Attacks"
(Johannesburg, South africa)
- About Mr Louis
Please could you help me with my little Yorkie ... His name is Louis and he is around 2.5 years old, about 2.5 / 2.8 kilograms. We got him when he was 8 weeks old. He has been "snipped" when he was around 8 months old.
- The issue
He has started yelping over the past 3 months. Sometimes this is for no apparent reason and sometimes it occurs when you have something in your hand that makes a noise / or is large (such as a plastic bag, a handbag, clothes, a present…)
- Some background info
We are concerned about him so we have taken him to the vet twice in the past 3 months. The first time we took Mr Louis to the vet for a check-up to make sure that he isn’t injured. On the second occasion he was slightly sick, so the vet game him some antibiotics and now he is better but still proceeds to yelp (I do not think that him being sick was in any way related to him yelping).
The first time that he yelped is when our standing light fell over (it didn’t hit him but he got a large fright and then proceeded to yelp).
This doesn’t happen every day, perhaps twice a week. It lasts around 10 -20 minutes then he is fine.
He starts to yelp, his eyes start to close (similar to if a you, a human, look at something bright and you have to close / squint your eyes to block out most of the light), he becomes submissive and when you pick him up he will then try bury himself under your arm or he will try hide under a pillow/blanket.
- My concerns
• that he may be prone to loud noises (although he doesn’t get afraid when there is thunder or fireworks, in fact he starts to bark when there is a loud bolt nearby )
• He may be trying to be submissive (he may think of me being the alpha-male)? But I do not threaten him so there should be no reason to feel like this?
• He seems excessively anxious at times for no apparent reason?
- What we have tried
• trying to calm him down by holding him
• ignoring him
• trying to distract him
• feeding him
These yelping "attacks" only seem to last between 10 - 20 minutes then he seems to be fine.
- Please help
I know that the information that I have provided is limited and that you could make a more educated guess / assumptions / hypothesis with more information at hand, but we are concerned for his health / mental wellbeing. I am in the process of having a dog psychologist / therapist come to our house for a consultation. I would like your thoughts / opinions / feelings / views as to what may be causing his anxiety / nervousness / tension.
Actually you have given me lots of very useful information and described the problem very fully which really helps!
It sounds to me as though Mr Louis was originally scared quite badly by the lamp falling over and this has triggered some anxiety attacks. His nerves are now a little 'touchy' and things that didn't used to scare him now seem threatening and when he feels afraid he has one of these 'yelping attacks'.
This is actually fairly normal behavior and understandable given the scare he had and I would fully expect that over time these will lessen in length and severity until they eventually disappear as he self-confidence fully returns.
It sounds as though you're doing everything possible to help him get past this issue and I'd recommend that you continue with one of the approaches you've tried (diverting his attention when he's scared) and combine this with having an upbeat, cheerful voice and attitude. This will help to show Mr Louis that there is nothing to be afraid of and that all is well.
Don't try to soothe him by cuddling or comforting him as that will only help convince him that there's something to be worried about. Also don't feed him as a distraction because that may make him feel as though he's being rewarded for his behavior and make it worse.
Ignoring him totally is not necessarily going to help, but paying only a little attention to his yelping by saying "hey Mr. Louis, that's nothing to worry about. Let's play a little ball shall we?" or something along those lines is a good idea. Jolly him out of it if you can, if that fails and all he wants to do is yelp, then that's when you can safely just pretend he's not making all that noise and go about your business as usual and let him get over it by himself.
There are some natural products that can help to alleviate anxiety in puppies and dogs. I'm not sure how available they are in your part of the world, but if you check out my Dog Separation Anxiety Medication page you'll see some examples of what I mean and maybe can find them somewhere locally.
Hopefully the dog therapist will also be able to give you some ideas and coping strategies to help you help Mr Louis, but personally I think that he will get over this himself given some time and love, support and encouragement. He's a lucky little dog to have an owner who is so understanding and willing to help him feel less worried.
I wish you the very best of luck and hope your little guy is doing much better soon.