Millie is a Beagle, a Lemon Beagle, ten years of age. She has lived with my lady client for eighteen months.
She is a sweet and gentle dog but she carries some baggage. Three things in particular make her very distressed. Her bedtime behaviour, her panic when left alone and continuous barking and crying when being driven in the car.
Distressed at bedtime
Bedtime is a puzzle. Last thing at night Millie is asleep on the sofa beside the lady and very comfortable. She has to be woken and goes out into the garden calmly.
The lady then fetches Millie’s bed and takes it into her bedroom, followed by Millie. She gets ready for bed then gives the dog a treat for getting into her own bed. She goes to bed herself.
Immediately everything changes. Millie jumps onto the lady’s bed.
She trembles. She whimpers, jumps on and off. Obviously very distressed, she drools.
This can go on for a couple of hours before she gives up. She has done it from the day the lady brought her home eighteen months ago.
Millie has sometimes asked to be let out and then does nothing but mooch around the garden. She doesn’t need to toilet. There is nothing in the bedroom that is different from daytime apart from the fact the lady is in bed. Leaving the light on makes no difference.
Meanwhile the lady is repeatedly saying, ‘Go to bed, Millie’. Understandably she is tired and will be getting a little cross and stressed, unable to do anything about her dog’s distress.
Eventually, after an hour or two, Millie settles on her own bed on the floor.
The same ritual is followed every night and will now be a pattern of learned behaviour. Normally if we can deal with the ‘why’, the behaviour improves. We are doing a bit of detective work along with trial and error in an effort to get to the bottom of why she gets so distressed, so immediately and every night.
The night-time behaviour will most likely have its roots in her past history. (While I am writing this I wonder whether it could be something perfumed on the lady st bedtime that Millie can smell with her Beagle nose. Something she associates with a past terrifying experience).
One thing is certain, if the lady carries on doing exactly what she’s doing now, so will Millie. Changing the ritual has to be a place to start.
I suggest the lady lets Millie out to toilet a bit earlier and then lets her go back to the sofa for another hour or two. She can ditch her whole bedtime ritual and just get herself ready for bed. Millie can choose for herself what she wants to do.
Shutting her out of the room isn’t an option. The second major problem the lady has with Millie is separation – another matter we will be working on. She can’t let the lady out of her sight.
It will be hard, but I suggest that the lady tries turning over and ignoring all Millie’s distressed pacing, whining and drooling. Her constant trying to tell her to settle doesn’t help at all. It’s just possible that her constant agitation and ‘Go to bed, Millie’ is in some strange way reinforcing.
Could pain be involved?
We also noticed that Millie looks a bit awkward when she sits and when she lies down. She was spayed recently and nothing picked up, but I wonder whether she has pain in her hips. Her distressed behaviour at night is certainly panic, but maybe it’s pain as well. Pain always affects behaviour
The separation problems will also be baggage she brought with her. The way forward is to deal with the emotions she is feeling – the panic – and gradually get her to feel differently about being left.
Getting into such a distressed state at night time and again about four times a week when she is left alone for a few hours, Millie’s stress levels must be constantly raised. Added to this is the car ordeal. This happens daily as they have to drive somewhere for her walks.
Although Millie looked calm and slept while I was there, there will be more going on inside.
All her problems are due to fear in one way or another. Each thing we can do to build up the lovely, gentle dog’s confidence and reduce her stress levels will have a knock-on effect.