Does My Dog Need A Psychiatrist?

My dog Honey has acted differently lately. She’s doing things she’s never done before.

And I’m worried.

Do you think my dog needs a psychiatrist?

Golden Retriver playing with her ring toy

Psychiatrist? Do I look crazy to you?

Who Left That Food On The Floor?

Honey has always had a good appetite.

When I fed her, she danced in circles. She’d eat anything I offered her under the table when she laid down quietly. And she did her part to make sure we never gathered ants because of too many crumbs on the floor.

Lately, she’s left a little bit of food in her bowl. She’s turned up her nose at less-than-premium treats like a tiny morsel of string cheese (cheese, people! cheese!).

And I noticed some peanuts attracting ants under our beach chairs yesterday.

What has happened to my always-ready-for-a-snack dog?

Honey the golden retriever is unsure on the tire.

This is awfully high. Are you sure being up here will boost my confidence?

What’s Hotter Than A Furry Dog On A Summer Night?

Do you know what’s hotter than a furry golden retriever on a steamy summer night?

Absolutely nothing.

Unfortunately, Honey doesn’t know the joke. Or she doesn’t care. Because my dog has insisted on sleeping pressed up against me every night. In a tiny bed. When it’s over 80 degrees F.

Honey has always preferred to sleep with us.

But she didn’t complain when we put her bed in a crate beside our bed back in Ithaca. Or when she did share our bed, she didn’t feel the need to be in physical contact every second.

Last night, I moved onto the floor to catch the breeze from the ceiling fan and get a little break from Honey chasing rabbits in her sleep (can anyone tell me why those rabbits always lead her to kick me in the kidneys?).

Within a few minutes, she had jumped off the bed and pressed her body tight against mine.

Once Honey fell asleep, I moved back up to the bed where I slept comfortably until she hopped back onto the bed, pressing her body into mine even though she had half the bed to place herself.

Honey the golden retriever hears something on the tire.

Wait a second. Do I hear a cookie wrapper being opened?

Do You Have An Itch?

Honey has a new habit when we go on a walk.

Within five steps of going outside, she sits down and scratches herself.

She usually does this when I take her for a walk leaving Mike behind.

I read somewhere that dogs who scratch may be expressing frustration.But I don’t think Honey is frustrated. I’ve seen that scratch.

It comes out when I won’t let her go bounding over to greet that playful puppy and his humans.

No, this scratch is different. I think she’s worried.

She stops. She scratches to buy some time to see if Mike is following behind. And she does it to feel better.

Like someone who bites his nails or plays with her hair.

Honey the golden retriever smiles on the tire.

Yes, I definitely heard a cookie wrapper. Now I smell it.

Is My Dog Crazy?

We’ve experienced big changes lately:

  • Selling our house
  • Quitting our jobs
  • Selling nearly everything we own
  • Moving away from our community of 16 years
  • Living temporarily in my sister’s guest room

But one of the biggest changes is moving from a climate with low humidity and average summer temps in the 70s (I have long underwear and sweaters in my drawer now because I was still wearing them in Ithaca in May).

Temperatures on Maryland’s Eastern Shore are in the 80s and 90s with high humidity. In truth, summer in Maryland reminds me a lot of Panama, which is a heckuva lot closer to the equator.

I used to think Honey was a solemn dog. She rarely smiled.

In truth, Honey was a cool dog. She rarely panted.

So maybe Honey is eating less because it’s so hot.

Perhaps she likes sleeping on the bed beside us because we have the fans turned on our bodies to stay cool.

But I can’t think of anything about the heat (and no, she doesn’t have heat rash or hot spots) that would cause her to scratch.

I think she’s… no, not crazy. But concerned. Worried. Unsure of herself.

Honey the golden retriever on a tire.

Okay, I give in. I’ll sit pretty for a picture.
But just one. Then I want that cookie.

Comforting Your Dog When Everything Is Crazy

We take Honey nearly everywhere we go with the exception of our boat shopping visits. Somehow I doubt boat sellers would be terribly welcoming of my fuzzy-toed dog on their teak and holly sole or freshly varnished woodwork.

I walk her every morning. We find fun things to do with her in natural settings.

But everything is still weird.

I’ve reintroduced her old food back into her diet. We won’t be able to get it on the boat. But we’re not on the boat yet.

We let her sleep on the bed with us without complaining too much (shhh, stop laughing; Honey doesn’t read the blog).

I continue to train her to build her confidence.

But I wonder what else I can do to make Honey comfortable in the chaos.

I bow to your wisdom and will humbly receive your suggestions.

And if anyone can help, I’ll be eternally thankful. Especially because I’m tired of ants following us around looking for the snacks Honey snubbed.

Your Turn: Do you have any ideas for helping Honey feel more secure while we’re in transition. And is there anything else we should be doing now to prepare her for moving aboard the boat?

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  1. Martine says:

    Unfortunately, I don’t have any suggestions for you other than to give Honey lots of attention, which I’m sure you’re already doing. The boys and I feel for Honey. She must be feeling very out of sorts to have passed up cheese. The upheaval will soon be replaced with a new normal, and things will fall into place for her over time.

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Martine.

      I think we’re all a little discouraged by how long this is taking. The sellers are making a final repair on the boat 8/13 and hopefully we can close the sale and move aboard.

      I can’t wait for all of us to feel like we have our own “home” once again.

  2. We moved several times when Sally was younger and I know what you mean. It got so as soon as she saw the boxes, she started getting clingy. I just tried to keep everything as normal as possible with the same routines. And of course gave her as much loving as possible. Unfortunately, while they’ve mastered a lot in being our companions, they still don’t understand enough english for us to explain these life events to them.

    • Yes, there’s no way to explain “we’re only going to be homeless for a couple months and then we’ll have our own place again” to a dog.

      And no matter cool we humans are, there’s our own stress which dogs are so alert to.

      I wonder if taking tranquilizers myself would make Honey calmer? :)

  3. That’s a tough one. Torrey is the same way, very routine oriented. If something is not right in her world, I can see that it troubles her. Al is gone for a week right now and she is kinda flummoxed about the whole thing. Time, time will help her adjust. She has you guys close and that’s the most important.

    • Make sure you get video of Al’s arrival back home. Torrey might go viral with enthusiasm. :)

      It’s encouraging for me to realize that Torrey feels the RV is home with you two. I’m hoping Honey feels the same way about Meander.

  4. I think it’s natural for her to pick up on the stress. She’s getting lots of time and attention from you, which must be helping. Training and games that keep her mind occupied may help.

    • Yep, we’ve been spending lots of time doing sniffing games and exploring playgrounds together.

      But I got rid of her food toys when we moved. I didn’t see flying dog food fitting with live aboard a boat. Now I wonder if I shouldn’t find a new toy that will make her work for her food while also working for the boat.

      Any suggestions?

      • No, I’m sorry, food toys don’t work for us. We’ve had a few disasters with those – my biped’s words not mine. I either ignored them, broke them or sprayed the food about and left it – but the cats had fun playing hockey with the little bits of food. The bipeds didn’t think it amusing when they had to move the furniture to clean up though!

        • Yeah, you need a big open space for food toys. Honey used to drop them hard on the floor.

          I don’t mind that. But I don’t even want to think of having the bilge pumps on the boat blocked with kibble. It could be the first time dog food ever sank a boat. 😉

  5. I can’t think of anything you’re not already doing. I imagine the heat is definitely an issue, and she probably just needs to time adjust to that and to all of the changes. I’m sure you are feeling unsettled too and she picks up on that. Once you get settled in on the boat and into your new life you’ll all adjust in time. Of course, that doesn’t help you sleep better now!

    • We’re definitely unsettled. But I talk myself out of getting too stressed out by reminding myself that we signed on for a life that will have us subject to the wind and weather.

      Poor Honey. She didn’t have a choice.

      I think we’re all ready to move aboard. Hopefully we’re down to the last 2 weeks of waiting.

  6. Sam eats less when it’s hot, even when I add premium treats to his bowl. I know I tend to eat less as well. I wouldn’t worry if she’s otherwise healthy and eliminating normally. Here’s to a great weekend! :)

  7. I like your idea of general confidence boosting, I’m going to try more of that. For the dogs, too :->

    • I think your trip is the best confidence booster of all. Of course, you do have to survive some close calls to gain the confidence that you can handle stuff.

      Let’s hope you don’t have too many.

      BTW, was thinking about your worries on your recent post. I’m making a new tag for Honey’s collar that will have a web address on it. The web page will show where we are anchored on any given day along with our boat name and contact info. That way, if Honey got away from us, people could find us while we’re on the go.

      Maybe you could do something similar while you’re on the road.

  8. Her world’s a little topsy – turvy right now and she needs some reassurance that it’s gonna settle down in a little while. She’s not crazy, she just didn’t get the memo about all the changes. She’ll be fine once you set sail.

  9. My evil twin Skippy might point out that Honey isn’t the crazy one but i would never suggest that.

    • I notice a certain someone has begun to enjoy cocktails on a houseboat with a wonderful water view. It’s only a matter of time before you’re begging your friends to slip the mooring and head out to sea. :)

      Mwa hahahaha! It’s all an evil plan to get Jan out on open water.

  10. Unfortunately, I don’t have any ideas for you. Honey just might be unsure of what is going to happen. For example, if she’s used to a certain routine in your old home, everything has changed and she’s no longer in a comfortable space. I think you’re doing everything correctly (confidence boosting, diet etc). Honey also probably likes lying close to you because she’s sure you will stay with her and won’t change, unlike everything else that’s going on. Honey might just need some time to re adjust to a new lifestyle :)

    I also wanted to let you know that I nominated you to participate in the 8 Photos of Happiness tag! I really enjoyed finding photos to share with everyone! If you choose to accept, check out the details on my latest post:

    • Yep, we’re hoping that we move aboard the boat in about 2 more weeks and Honey will start to see it as home.

      Thanks for the nomination. I’ll look for some happy pics to share.

  11. Okay, you asked for advice, so here’s mine: “Chill out”. Between the heat, humidity, and having her routine turned upside-down and inside-out, Honey is just a little unsure of things in general. It’s a normal reaction to all the craziness. Once you’re all living on the boat and have settled into a new routine, Honey will be back to her usual self before long. Shadow tends to eat less in this heat/humidity too.

    • You’re doing it all right, Pamela … confidence-building, training, keeping her close as often as possible, etc … your own and Mike’s stress plays a part too; but it will melt away once y’all are settled into your new life. I didn’t mean for the “chill-out” to come across negatively; but upon re-reading it, I feel it might. So forgive me okay?

      • I never mind some tough love from a friend. You’re right. I need to relax. And then maybe Honey will relax too.

        BTW, where were you with the “no BS, tough love” when I was obsessing over the bump on Honey’s head before I realized it was just the shape of her skull? :)

  12. At our house the scratching thing is from stress. If we feel stressed we pant a lot, but we will also stop to scratch and scratch. Maybe Honey is just not used to change and it has her stressed? We don’t have any cure for you. Mom just does what ever she needs to and we have to go along with it. If we are stressed, we have to just work through it on our own.

    • Your mom’s no-nonsense attitude is probably a good way to show you and your sisters you don’t need to worry too much. If she’s not making a big fuss, maybe you don’t have anything to worry about.

  13. Changes can be hard. I’ll bet she’ll adjust in time.

  14. I think Honey’s probably picking up on your energy, which is likely to be a bit worried, nervous, and/or stressed out about all your recent lifestyle changes..dogs are so good about mirroring us! I’m sure I would feel a bit unsure as well if I ever decided to make such life changing decisions, and Missy & Buzz would be likely to pick up on that 😉
    Once you have your boat and will be more relaxed about your new journey, Honey is probably going to be her old self again!

  15. Awww, Honey. You may even want to check with your vet to see if a super low dose of a situational anxiety med might help take the edge off, much as many pet owners have to do for vet visits or thunderstorms.

    Other than that, I’m sure just keep doing what you’re doing!

  16. I’m guessing you’re right that with all the changes she’s just picking up some nervous habits, I’ve heard that scratching is a common sign of stress. I’m certainly no Dr. but I think all things considered she’s handling all the changes pretty well.