Albuquerque Journal Article – Freaked-out by Strangers & Sick when Alone

The Mind-Body Connection is Worth Investing

Lulu is a sweet, 2 year old Australian cattle dog. She was adopted from a shelter just 2 months before she and I met. She had itchy skin and a rather delicate gut. She’d already started eating a special diet and was taking an anti-itch medication called Apoquel. Lulu landed in my exam room because of her sudden reactive aggression toward men of all shapes and sizes.

Actually, anybody who rushed onto the scene could trigger Lulu’s fear-related displays. She never actually bit anyone. Those histrionics were intended to send a message. “Scary monsters don’t belong here. Move to the next county and nobody gets hurt.” Poor Lulu’s anxiety was also manifested when she was home alone. She wasn’t destructive but she often urine soiled.

Antianxiety medications, while not the entire solution, were necessary to make it possible for Lulu to learn better behavioral responses but longer absences were still a challenge. As mom exited her house she was to fully ignore while dropping a stuffed food toy on the floor. Strangers were to sit before Lulu was allowed out. This would make them appear smaller and less threatening. Target and clicker training made it easy for Lulu to earn an immediate reinforcer, a treat, and, best of all, an interaction with her magnanimous leader.

Lulu’s physical symptoms were another drag. Following one stint at the kennel this poor girl broke with a mange lesion on her face. Her intestinal issues would be a greater physical challenge; she’s had stress-related diarrhea and vomiting. Having largely recovered from her last bout she is taking a probiotic called Forti-Flora to repopulate her intestines with healthy bacteria. But if she doesn’t turn the corner soon she may need more diagnostics to uncover the underlying cause.

Lulu’s challenges are complex but her life is getting a lot better. We rarely cure the malfunctioning neural circuits in pet’s brains. Instead, we custom-fit research based behavior modification methods to bring out their best.

I’m optimistic for Lulu in part because her person’s self-assurance and confidence are infectious. People like this lady inspire health and wellness. Helping a dog find peace can bring good things to everybody.


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 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 or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.