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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
This is going to be a little long to explain all the context so please forgive me and thank you so much for reading it all.
So my wife has never owned a dog before. Her family had 2 cats growing up but that's the extent of her pet ownership experience. She got really interested in a dog the more I talked about my childhood dogs and really wanted to try getting one. I told her I was down but I wanted to rescue an older dog so I didn't have to go through puppy phase for her first dog. We ended up rescuing aa 7 year old chihuahua/jack Russel female. She's fantastic! She was already house trained, crate trained, knew basic obedience commands and is super super mellow. She took to us right away, on our first meet she jumped into my wife's lap and started giving her kisses.
We've had for for about 4 years now and it's been great. She loves cuddling with my wife, she'll lie on her lap for hours at a time if my wife will let her or she'll cuddle into the crook of my wife's legs she she's lying on the couch and go to sleep. My wife adores her and though she's close to me too and listens to me more when it comes to commands she's my wife's lapdog for sure.
Now we rewind to Thursday. My wife got sick (not Covid thankfully.) But it's a respiratory infection of some sort, she's got a sore throat and she's coughing/clearing her throat/coughing up phlegm a lot. Now this isn't the first time she's gotten sick in the last several years and it isn't the first time she's been coughing or clearing her throat a lot but something has changed dramatically with the dog.
Suddenly our dog wants nothing to do with her. She'll only stay in the same room with my wife if I'm there, the second I leave she's with me. She won't lie on my wife or lie touching her, she gets as far on the other side of the couch as she can and watches her like a hawk, just stares at my wife non-stop. There are glimmers of the old dog, she still listens to commands and will come to my wife if she calls her but she leaves within a few seconds of coming to her and today when we came home from running a couple quick errands the dog was excited to see her, she jumped up on the arm of the couch and wanted pets from my wife, she even gave her a few kisses today and yesterday but overall she acts very reluctant/hesitant towards her.
If my wife makes a noise such as taking a deep breath, coughing, or clearing her throat the dog reacts. She leans back, she jumps, or she opens her eyes really wide and moves away from my wife even further. In the past if she's with me in the evenings she is on a pillow in my office while I work but lately she has to be behind me. If I'm in my office she's lying on the floor behind my chair, if we are on the couch together she's behind me. She stays behind me and keeps her eyes open for my wife, looking down the hall or across the couch at her.
Yesterday she was in the hall when my wife came out of another room and the dog immediately darted into my office and got behind me again. Only 2 things have changed lately, my wife getting sick and she went back to work full time last week after being home everyday for over a year. I can't tell if the dog is mad or scared but she won't go near her alone. I tried to move her over to my wife tonight on the coach and she dropped her weight and leaned against me with all she had to try to stop me from moving her to my wife.
It's breaking my wife's heart that her little lap partner doesn't want anything to do with her anymore and I'm getting increasingly more frustrated because I don't understand the sudden change and I can't fix it. Right now I'm just letting the dog do what she wants which is basically follow me around every place I go. I don't want to force her to be with my wife or anything because I don't want to reinforce this new fear or whatever it is or make her thing I'm being intentionally mean to her but I want things back the way they were.
Today my wife is staying home sick and I'm going to work. I was off Thur/Fri and home with the dog so I'm interested to see how the day goes with the two of them alone together all day but I'm just feeling sad and stressed about this whole situation. It's been three and a half days of the dog hiding from my wife and staying glued to me. She's even reluctant to take food from my wife, she offered her a bite of her food tonight and the dog very, very slowly leaned towards her stretching head/neck towards my wife to take the food without moving her body closer to her at all.
I may call the vet today. I know the suggestion of abuse will crop up somewhere, my wife's been at work for 2 weeks she hasn't been alone with the dog at all in almost 3 weeks. I have cameras in every room of our house and I've never seen anything other than her hugging and loving on this dog like it's her child so I no reason to suspect anything even remotely abusive has ever happened.
If anyone has any insight or ideas I'd greatly, greatly appreciate it.
 

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My first step would be to bring the dog in for a vet check with bloodwork. I know that it's your wife who's obviously sick, but illnesses/injuries can cause behavior changes, either directly as a result of something being wrong with the thyroid or other hormones, or indirectly due to pain or discomfort that isn't immediately obvious. She could have something going on and the stress of your wife behaving oddly (from her perspective) and making strange noises (the coughing and throat clearing) pushed her over the edge.

Noise aversion can also increase in older dogs, which may or may not be related to an underlying medical condition, so it's interesting to me that she specifically seems to be reacting to the sounds your wife is making. If the physical comes back clear, there are ways to work with sound sensitivity at any age and help her be more comfortable with strange or unexpected noises.

In the meantime, I'd just say give it time. Have your wife spend time with her, but not pressure her to come up and cuddle right away. Try to avoid even a lot of staring at or talking to her. Praise and reward when she chooses to interact on her own, and let her realize that life's back to business as usual at her own pace. Try to avoid your wife bribing her to come close with food, because that can cause a lot of pressure and internal conflict that can set you back ("I want the treat, but mom's been acting weird and something scary might happen"), but you can absolutely have her try tossing kibble or yummy treats behind the dog, away from her, so the goody is still connected to your wife, but your pup doesn't have to struggle with her current anxieties to earn it. If this fear persists and doesn't show any signs of resolving, and no physical problems are found, you may need to move onto options for treating anxiety, but I'd rule out the other possibilities first.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
My first step would be to bring the dog in for a vet check with bloodwork. I know that it's your wife who's obviously sick, but illnesses/injuries can cause behavior changes, either directly as a result of something being wrong with the thyroid or other hormones, or indirectly due to pain or discomfort that isn't immediately obvious. She could have something going on and the stress of your wife behaving oddly (from her perspective) and making strange noises (the coughing and throat clearing) pushed her over the edge.

Noise aversion can also increase in older dogs, which may or may not be related to an underlying medical condition, so it's interesting to me that she specifically seems to be reacting to the sounds your wife is making. If the physical comes back clear, there are ways to work with sound sensitivity at any age and help her be more comfortable with strange or unexpected noises.

In the meantime, I'd just say give it time. Have your wife spend time with her, but not pressure her to come up and cuddle right away. Try to avoid even a lot of staring at or talking to her. Praise and reward when she chooses to interact on her own, and let her realize that life's back to business as usual at her own pace. Try to avoid your wife bribing her to come close with food, because that can cause a lot of pressure and internal conflict that can set you back ("I want the treat, but mom's been acting weird and something scary might happen"), but you can absolutely have her try tossing kibble or yummy treats behind the dog, away from her, so the goody is still connected to your wife, but your pup doesn't have to struggle with her current anxieties to earn it. If this fear persists and doesn't show any signs of resolving, and no physical problems are found, you may need to move onto options for treating anxiety, but I'd rule out the other possibilities first.

Thanks, I did talk to the vet's office. She was just at the vet 2 weeks ago and got a full check-up so they are going to discuss this with her vet and see if she thinks that I should bring the dog back in or not at this time. I'm waiting for a call back right now actually.

My wife isn't staring at her or talking to her too much, the dog is the one that won't stop staring at my wife. Long periods of time of just staring at her from a distance.

If my wife engages with the dog she does get excited. We took her for a car ride yesterday and my wife asked if she wanted to go for a ride, she ran to my wife and started jumping at her legs like she does and yelping excitedly and she responded well when my wife asked her if she wanted to go for a walk this morning.

She's not putting her tail between her legs like she's terrified when my wife is around or or makes noise but she definitely lowers her head and tries to move away. My wife is taking antibiotics right now so we are kind of in a "wait and see" situation, I want to see how the dog responds when my wife is healthy and her voice is back to normal.

This dog has always had noise aversion. She'll leave the kitchen if we are clacking plates or pans, etc. If you drop something unexpectedly and it hits the floor loudly she'll jump and run away, she definitely doesn't like loud/sudden noises, she hasn't since we've had her. I don't know her history before we adopted her, the shelter said she was brought in as a stray but I definitely worry about past abuse due to her strong reactions to loud/sudden noises and if you move too fast towards her she'll drop her head and close her eyes.
 

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Noise aversion is sadly very common in many dogs with no abuse history, whether due to a genetic predisposition or because they weren't introduced to a wide variety of unusual/alarming noises during key developmental periods as a puppy. But if she's always been sensitive that way, then that could be a lot of what's causing her stress here, along with you're wife's sudden change in behavior, routine, and maybe even smell. It does sound like she's likely to come around once things are more normalized again.

Running a blood panel specifically looking at thyroid function, if that wasn't part of her previous visit, and having someone do a careful physical assessment for low-level chronic pain (think mild arthritis) may still be worth it, because that can all have an impact on her stress response and her ability to recover after she's been scared by something. It wouldn't be unusual for a dog her age to have some kind of tight muscle, stiff joints, etc. that could be helped by targeted exercises or pain management. Might not be a miracle solution to her behavior here, but could be part of the bigger picture.
 

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Dogs can tell when we're not quite ourselves, so I would reevaluate once your wife is well again. Coughing, sneezing, and altered voices can be a bit disconcerting for dogs, especially if they already have some sound sensitivities. I know my dog became incredibly concerned when I had a terrible case of the flu a few years ago and would start whining, staring at me, and try to lay on me when I coughed loudly, which was not helpful because he is a 55 lb dog... But, he also seemed to get tired of me coughing all the time when he was trying to nap, so eventually went downstairs to sleep with my husband, instead! It's not fun for humans to listen to other humans coughing and sneezing, so I imagine dogs don't find it that great, either.

As Daysleepers said, if the reluctance to interact with your wife continues after she has recovered from her illness, I would then have a full medical workup done to make sure the dog isn't experiencing any pain.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Noise aversion is sadly very common in many dogs with no abuse history, whether due to a genetic predisposition or because they weren't introduced to a wide variety of unusual/alarming noises during key developmental periods as a puppy. But if she's always been sensitive that way, then that could be a lot of what's causing her stress here, along with you're wife's sudden change in behavior, routine, and maybe even smell. It does sound like she's likely to come around once things are more normalized again.

Running a blood panel specifically looking at thyroid function, if that wasn't part of her previous visit, and having someone do a careful physical assessment for low-level chronic pain (think mild arthritis) may still be worth it, because that can all have an impact on her stress response and her ability to recover after she's been scared by something. It wouldn't be unusual for a dog her age to have some kind of tight muscle, stiff joints, etc. that could be helped by targeted exercises or pain management. Might not be a miracle solution to her behavior here, but could be part of the bigger picture.
No idea what changed but suddenly last night she was back to her old self.

Jumped in my wife's lap and gave her all kinds of kisses, cuddled with her for about 2 hours and was playful all night. Still doesn't like the coughing, she went to bed with my wife but left when my wife woke up coughing a few hours later and went to find me in my office. But overall she seems pretty much back to normal just a strange few days with no real explanation.
 

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That's great to hear! Sounds like she figured out things were still pretty normal, even with the changes and strange noises.
 
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