Marking or Separation Anxiety?
Greyhounds have hidden depth. It’s easy to assume that because five-year old Herbie lies around quite a lot and appears peaceful and a bit lazy, that he’s calm inside. I noticed a lot of jaw-chattering that is usually associated with stress of some sort, along with yawning and lip-licking. In Herbie’s case, it seems that it’s not ‘stress’ necessarily in an anxiety sense, more slight arousal.
He loves a cuddle – seeking the affection himself – but his jaw may still chatter. He’s a very friendly boy and gave me a happy but polite greeting, very curious to smell my own dogs on me.
The signs that there is more going on inside him than most people might immediately notice, however, is one big clue as to why, over the past few months, Herbie has taken to peeing in the house.
He is a retired racing dog they have had for eighteen months. At the time the couple were both out all day at work and they had a tight routine. There was no marking or peeing indoors at the time.
Then came a lot of upheaval. The lady took maternity leave which meant Herbie had company much of the time but her comings and goings were unpredictable. They had extensive building work done opening up the house which at times upset him so much he had to be shut in a bedroom. This is when the trouble started.
Then six months ago the baby arrived. The toileting indoors is now becoming a real problem because the baby will soon be on the move.
Initially the ‘marking’ could be anywhere in the house and not necessarily when the couple were out and seems to stem from all the change making him unsettled. Initially I felt this might have been marking ‘his’ territory, scent marking anything new that was erected or appearing in his house.
The next question is whether it’s because he doesn’t like being left all alone per se, whether any company is sufficient, or whether is he pining for the lady in particular and to whom he’s closest.
Possibly he actually feels that it’s the lady who needs him, and that he should be keeping an eye on the baby? The only time he has shown any aggression has been when a large dog rushed up to the buggy.
Another questions is, does he pee immediately as he watches them go or some time later?
Answers to these things can affect how we approach the solution.
They will video him. During the week the lady may go out a couple of times a day with the baby, and nearly every time she comes home to a puddle in the same place, on the rug by the French windows. At the weekend the couple will go out together. I suggested they tried the man staying behind with Herbie while the lady takes baby down the garden path, then five minutes later he joins her. If this improves things, we know the lady must then work on the dog’s separation specifically from herself and possibly the baby.
The dog disturbs them in the night also, going upstairs and whining – probably waking when he hears them get up to the baby, and this is disturbing their nights even more. They eventually take him back down again and nearly always find a puddle in the morning.
It’s only since the building work that he has gone upstairs at all. They want him to come up in the morning only now.
My feeling is that they need to be consistent and start to set up some solid boundaries and routines again – as they had when he first came to live with them. They can once more stop him going upstairs. The house wasn’t open plan before and Herbie was more contained.
I suggest they gate the front part of the house from where the stairs lead during the day. They can first do this for a couple of days so he gets used to more restriction before shutting the gate at night. This then gives the lady lots of opportunity to depart from Herbie, taking baby with her. He won’t be able to follow her everywhere – good preparation for leaving him when she goes out. If she drops a couple of bits of his kibble over the gate each time she leaves him behind, over time he should be associating the sight of her walking away from him with something good.
What’s more, these short indoor departures will reinforce to Herbie that she always comes back.
Separation issues can take time and patience to conquer. In Herbie’s case there could well be a bit more to it. With insecurity being the real problem, it’s his feelings of insecurity that need to be addressed.