Have I mentioned that Gozer is barking at night? Sometimes she only barks a little at around 1am and then around 5am, and sometimes she barks a lot - the night before last she barked continuously from 11pm until 7am - but she barks at night. It's exhausting for all three of us.
I don't know exactly when the barking started - I'm too tired to remember much - but I do remember it was around the grooming before last, which was a couple of weeks after we got the new bed. The new bed is higher than the old one so it's possible that part of the problem is that she could no longer see us at night. It's also possible that something freaked her out at the groomer's (they put her in a crate for part of her visit there). It's possible that her cataract is bigger, which means she's not seeing as well at night. There are a lot of possible reasons for the barking. I think something - any one of those possibilities, or something I haven't thought of - triggered the night barking and now we're in this terrible cycle that we just need to break somehow.
It's not like we haven't tried to stop the barking. We've tried:
- moving her crate into a different spot in the bedroom
- moving her crate into the living room (where it was when we first got her)
- playing doggie sleepy music
- putting a thundershirt on her
- keeping a light on
- keeping the lights off (including closing the door on the pepper seedling lamp)
- tiring her out with a brisk walk before bedtime
Nothing really helps. She just keeps barking: barkbarkbark pantpantpant barkbarkbark pantpantpant barkbark in this frantic barking and panting cycle all night long. Ian's parents succeeded in shutting her up by playing late-night talk shows but that required them to also be awake and that's not a long-term solution.
I took her in to see the vet today because we're at our wit's end. All three of us are exhausted. The vet thinks thinks that there's a separation anxiety component to this and that we need to stop it as soon as possible. Therefore, we're going with a multi-pronged strategy involving pheromones, drugs, food, and training.
The pheromone is Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP), which is a synthetic version of the one mommy dogs send out to calm their pups and that has apparently been shown to calm some dogs. At this point, I figure it's worth trying because maybe it'll work with Gozer. I bought an Adaptil plug-in diffuser that we're putting near her crate, a spray that can be used on both her bedding and thundershirt, and a collar for when she gets to stay somewhere else.
The drug is Clomicalm (clomipramine), a tri-cyclic antidepressant, which will help to reduce anxiety in general. I don't love giving Gozer drugs but it's clear that she's distressed and unhappy and I want life to be good for her, too. We'll wean her off this drug as soon as possible after the situation is under control.
The food is Royal Canin Calm, a food that boosts serotonin production and that should help to reduce anxiety. It's the same manufacturer as her current food and is a urinary-reduction food like her current food.
The training is separation-anxiety reducing training, which means that I need to work on getting her less attached to me, getting her more independent and more confident by practicing more basic training (stay and come, for example), and to break the associations with bedtime. Normally with dogs that have separation anxiety if their owner leaves, the owner breaks the associations with leaving by doing parts of the leaving routine out of order or without leaving, and then leaving the dog for longer and longer. So we'll (or I'll) need to practice the bedtime routine all out of order and at weird times of the day. This is not going to be easy, because she barks when we leave, too. But let's get the night barking problem under control first.
The vet also suggested moving the crate back into the bedroom and to raise the crate so that she can see us at night to eliminate that part of the equation. We're trying that tonight.