Sorry for the drought of blog postings. This has been a very difficult period for us. Hawk is a very strong-willed puppy. It makes sense that he was the largest puppy in his litter, he got his way likely by being rather pushy with his littermates and that makes him more difficult to deal with people. On top of that, he was always doing a lot of scratching. Because the numerous times we looked for a rash or even bugs or fleas, nothing was evident, we thought perhaps it was his way of showing he was uncomfortable with a situation (like a comforting sign that dogs do, akin to a yawn or lip licking). However, he has been extremely difficult to house train and kept waking up all through the night, and we took him into our vet for a check up, the same day a visible rash showed up on the insides of his back legs. The testing showed no evidence of UTI, no fleas or other parasites, no mange, etc.
He was put on antibiotics, because he kept scratching open some of the rash, and Benadryl. I do not think either medication did him any good. The scratching continued, and the rash would show up in different areas, sometimes a stripe down the middle of his belly, sometimes his belly and under his front legs and it would also change how it looked, sometimes a light pink, sometimes a bright pink. Hawk discovered that if he laid down in the grass and army-crawled across the lawn, this was just about the perfect way to itch the whole rashy area all at once! We went back to the vet and received a stronger antihistamine called hydroxyzine. Still no effect on the scratching, and now he had rash appearing in his ears, always areas where he had very little hair.
About this time, we decided to change his food, which needs to be tapered down and gradually work in the new food to his diet. Doing this too quickly will often lead to stomach issues, vomiting and diarrhea, something we certainly did not want to add to his list of problems. We were also given some anti-fungal and antibacterial shampoo and some coconut oil to add to his food to help with the itching. Another half week, and nothing seemed to make any difference, and we were at the end of our ropes, and I am sure Hawk was nearly out of his mind since he was experiencing all this itching and uncomfortable feeling constantly. Little wonder, it affected his personality and behavior as well.
Back to the vet, and I reluctantly took a prescription for steroids. I knew this would cause him to be extra thirsty and drink even more water than he already does, thus needing to potty even more often and I thought house training would be back to square one, and it might also change his personality for the worse. However, if there was a slightest chance it would make him more comfortable, I was willing to try it. Within 24 hours of starting it, we saw a marked improvement. Hallelujah!! The rash was gone, the itching was gone, and he actually seemed more compliant with us and eager to learn. He also became more cuddly, something he had never done in the weeks prior to this. We assume his skin was so uncomfortable that he did not enjoy being touched, but now you can hold him and rub his belly and he often cuddles right up to us. He is now big enough that he can jump right up on the couch with us, and now we have to work on showing him it is only when he is invited that he can come up (but we'll get to that after we make up for some of the cuddling we missed in those early weeks!). He is also doing so much better with noises. He no longer tucks his tail and runs, throwing himself against the front door when a car goes by our house. He does not like to hear big dogs barking, but he will sensitize to that, too.
He still wakes up at 3 AM, but my theory is that that has become more of a habit for him. He thinks 3 AM is when he is supposed to wake up for the day. He is doing soooo much better at letting us know when he has to go outside to potty. He will run to the front door (he does not vocalize, so the success is limited to us being hyper-aware of where he is at all times so that we catch this behavior and reward it) and potty the minute he gets to the yard. Do I expect there to be mistakes still, either on his part or our part? Of course, he is still just a baby after all, but I think (as I knock on wood and hold onto my St Francis medal) there may be light at the end of the tunnel. He will always be strong willed, but it is up to us to figure out how to train him and use that as an advantage. I am feeling more hopeful than I was a week ago, that's as good as it gets for right now.