This is the third article in the “Hairy Barry Chronicles,” a series about RV Camping with a newly adopted, absolutely adorable, extremely lovable, anxious dog.
In the year that Hairy Barry has lived with us, we’ve tried many, many things to help calm his anxiety, which occurs mostly when we are RV Camping. Many of the strategies have been successful, and I’m happy to report that Barry’s behaviors are improving. There are several things that we tried along the way that didn’t help The Hairy Dude’s anxiety at all. And in some cases, these strategies increased his anxiety. Read on to discover the four strategies that we tried, but didn’t work.
#1 A Foldable Fabric Crate In The RV
I found an awesome crate and thought it would be the perfect solution for Barry in the RV. It was roomy, foldable, fabric and appeared to be strong. However, many Amazon reviewers mentioned that it wasn’t strong enough to hold up against a dog that really didn’t want to be inside of the crate. I took my chances and hoped that the other strategies that we were using (in combination with the crate) could make it work. I really wanted it to work.
We left Barry alone for a short period. He was medicated with Benadryl, wearing a Thundershirt, and placed inside of this cushy crate. When we came back, we opened the door to find Barry free inside of the RV (in other words, he wasn’t in his crate). Upon examining the crate for a zipper failure, we found that he actually burst through the fabric like Super Dog. It was astounding!
Bottom line: The fabric crate is actually the perfect idea for RVers whose dogs aren’t escape artists. This was not a failure of the crate, it just wasn’t made to stand up to the awesome anxiety of Harry “Houdini” Barry.
Where To Buy: Amazon (click to view)
#2 A Big Steel Crate In The House
Dogs are supposed to like crates because of their desire for a cozy den. So, we placed a big, collapsible steel crate in the kitchen of our home. It’s roomy and we tried to make it extra comfortable with The Hairy Dude’s favorite pillows, etc. However, whenever Barry would spend time in the crate, we’d return home to an anxious, panting mess of a dog. We tried a blanket over a portion of the crate to reduce stimulation. Nope. We gave him super delicous treats inside of a giant Kong toy. Nope. He wouldn’t touch the toy or the treats until we were home and he was out of the crate. Later, Barry would sneak back in and grab the treats and zoom away from the crate.
Bottom line: We came to the conclusion that Barry simply doesn’t like crates. They fuel his anxiety instead of make it better.
#3 A Sedative
We were desperate, so we tried a sedative to help The Hairy Dude relax in the RV when left alone. Out of an abundance of caution, we gave him the lowest dose and stayed with him to observe the effects for his first time. He got reaaaaalllllllyyyyyy rellllaaaxed when we were all hanging around the campsite. The moment someone called his name or started to walk away, he immediately snapped to attention. He could push through the influence of the meds. Super Dog stikes again.
Bottom line: I felt uncomfortable giving Barry a full dose. Although the effects of the medication were hit or miss, I could see how a stronger dose would impact Barry and it was a bit concerning. It was at this point that we decided to put Barry in a kennel if we were traveling and planned to do non-dog-friendly activities.
Where to Buy: A Veterinarian
#4 An eCollar (An Exclusive Peek)
An eCollar is an electronic collar that vibrates, beeps, or provides low grade shocks to the dog’s neck whenever buttons are pressed on an accompanying remote control. An excellent trainer came to our house to demonstrate this behavior modification technique on Barry. Although I have no doubt that an eCollar is effective on many dogs, Barry became even more stressed out during the demonstration. The Hairy Dude showed signs of increased anxiety, including repeatedly licking his lips, panting, tucking his tail between his legs and hiding from the trainer.
Bottom line: There are lots of success stories out there about eCollar training. Hairy Barry seemed confused by the eCollar and became scared of it. By the end of the appointment, we all agreed it wasn’t the right technique for Barry.
Every dog is different. The strategies that don’t work on Barry might work beautifully on a different dog. What seems to be important is that we keep trying to help our anxious dog and we that keep on loving him along the way.
For more information on Hairy Barry’s “not-so-good” behaviors and the tips that have been working to help his anxiety, check out the rest of “The Hairy Barry Chronicles.”
Update 4/17/16: This is difficult news to share. We lost Hairy Barry to Cancer. We were completely stunned to learn of this development and heartbroken to say goodbye to our beloved furry friend. Thanks to all for your delight at his antics and for caring about our journey with Hairy Barry. We’ve decided to leave these posts up for the time being because they help us to remember him with a smile. Also, because we want to help other RVers with anxious dogs. Hug your furry friends for us and say prayer for Hairy Barry.
Check Out All Of The Hairy Barry Chronicles: