Poo and peeing indoors.
Invariably during the night, alone downstairs in the kitchen, Meg has diarrhoea. When she is left alone during the day she is likely to do the same.
The challenge here is in separating facts from assumptions.
Meg is a twelve-year-old Dachshund – the longest sausage I have seen! She and her sibling Mini came to live with the couple at eight weeks old and had never been apart.
These are the facts without jumping to the inevitable conclusion that Meg is suffering from some kind of separation anxiety.
Six months ago, Mini died.
For several weeks Meg, the more confident of the two, hardly seemed to miss her. Life carried on as before. There was no poo or pee indoors either at night or when they went out and left her.
They then went away for a couple of short breaks and Meg went to the dog ‘hotel’ where she and Mini had been many times before. They reported that she was happy.
When she came home there were a couple of indoor accidents. That’s all.
Next they took Meg away in their camper van and this was at the time when there were near-hurricane winds. Terrified Meg was in and out with diarrhoea all night.
When they came back home she was toileting in the house when they left her. This then spread to night times and now it’s virtually every night.
Most times when left in the daytime for more than a couple of hours there is pee and poo. They have watched her on camera and she paces, barks and whines. She may settle for a moment before barking again.
So far there is no proof it’s anything to do with losing Mini, though they are assuming it’s a delayed reaction (which of course it could be).
They have taken her to be checked by their vet but I’m not convinced it was sufficiently thorough.
Poo and pee when alone. More facts:
They follow a strict routine both when leaving her alone (which is never for more than three or four hours) and at bed time. It’s always the same.
At bed time she’s perfectly happy when they leave her to go upstairs.
Most nights it’s both pee and poo. They know it’s in the early hours. She is quiet until about 5.30am when she whines and the lady gets up.
This is an interesting one: days start with firm poo (after she has fasted for about twelve hours) and it gets runnier as the day progresses into the night.
Finally, whenever she barks for something, she always gets it.
So far we are shooting in the dark. It’s easy to assume that she is missing her sister and that she’s having separation issues. Maybe. Possibly not.
There are questions.
After their camping holiday, is the poo and pee when they returned home connected with the terrifying wind when they were away or is it a coincidence?
Could it be a health problem? Could it be age-related? Should they demand a more thorough vet check?
Could it be to do with what she eats – both the food itself and the timing of her meals?
How soon usually after she’s left alone either during the day or at night does she toilet? Is it at the same time; is there a pattern and if so, is there a trigger?
They will video several consecutive days and nights as well in order to see if there are common factors. I would like to watch the videos and Meg’s body language.
Things they can do anyway.
Although we can’t know yet what we are really dealing with, there are things they can do anyway which should help. These fall into four areas:
Implement some general life changes including reducing all stress, altering rituals and changing Meg’s diet.
Exercises for the gentleman in particular who is home during the day and to whom Meg is most attached. He will work hard at normalising his comings and goings, associating short absences with things that Meg likes.
Ideas for when he has to leave her including a different ritual just in case the current sequence is triggering some panic resulting in poo and pee.
Things to experiment with.
He can try simply leaving her in her bed in the sitting room and walking out, rather than going through the usual routine of putting her in the kitchen and so on.
In case during the day it’s the sound of him driving off that is a trigger, he can park somewhere further away.
He goes out of the back door to work in his shed several times a day and Meg is fine with this. When he goes out for real he could try the back door.
When leaving her, instead of dropping a small biscuit he could leave something that will keep her occupied for longer, like a frozen Kong.
Examining a run of videos should give some answers
What does Meg actually DO? Is the problem causing toileting, pacing and crying pure distress at being alone or anxiety at being parted from the man specifically. Is she missing the company of Mini or is it anxiety triggered by the need to poo or pee. Can it be something in the environment or is it a medical problem? We don’t yet know.
It is possible that both Meg and Mini had some degree of anxiety when left alone of which the couple weren’t aware. Meg, now alone, may have suffered distress before she began the toileting. Many people simply don’t know how their dogs feel about being left and are shocked to find out. See BBC Channel 4 Dogs – Their Secret Lives and DogMagazine.net.
We will review the situation in a couple of weeks in the light of some video footage.