Pain Toileting. Poo Related Phobia and Rituals

Pain toileting after castration traumatised poor little Monty

Four weeks ago the 9-month-old Cavapoochon experienced traumatic pain whilst toileting. After that he got into a real state. He squealed and spun, dropping it behind him as he went. If they’re not quick enough, he eats it as he does it – something he never did before.

pain toileting after castrationJust why Monty ended up circling and screaming when pooing is impossible to prove. They assume it had something to do with the castration four weeks ago but maybe it’s not directly that, but the chain of events that followed.

Could it be the trauma of the operation being painful and at just the wrong time, coinciding with a fear period maybe? Combined with this, was it the affect of anaesthetic, the painkiller that upset him followed by wormer, resulting in diarrhoea for days and nights along with the panic of the frequent baths etc.?

Due to pain toileting – or probably now the memory of the pain toileting – poor Monty’s not wanting to walk. As soon as he needs the toilet, he sits down and won’t move.

He has had two very thorough checks by the vet and they can find no cause for pain. The vet suggested a behaviourist now.

It sounds to me like he was so scared with the pain toileting, that the whole poo process and everything associated with it now terrifies him. He even stopped wanting to go into the garden.

Trauma or pain toileting

I believe the little dog’s screaming and circling whilst pooing is a mix of trying to run away from it and trying to grab it out of himself. A cat of mine once, I remember, had difficult giving birth. She ran in cicrles, crying like she was trying to escape from from the kitten that was stuck on the way out. (I managed to catch her and help her, all was ok).

We can only guess at why Monty rushes to eat it, but I suspect he simply wants to quickly get rid of everything associated with his pastpain toileting. He’s not coprophagic (a poo-eater) as such.

The whole business of their little dog’s toileting has become a centre of huge concern for his owners. Where he would previously go at least twice a day, now it may not even be once.

What should be a natural process is now surrounded by extreme pressure in terms of anxiety, watching and persuasion. Even the fact they anxiously hover to prevent him eating it will add to the pressure.

An obsession with his bottom

For these past few weeks Monty also seems to have become obsessed with his bottom. He circles and tries to ‘catch’ it. His head frequently darts towards like he has a sudden itch.

What I observed was that the slightest bit of frustration, excitement or arousal triggered Monty’s head going round towards his bum. It didn’t seem to happen otherwise. It looks like the tiniest stress has become the trigger for this. He has developed a kind of ritual that gives him displacement behaviours when things get a bit too much for him. Because of his recent experiences lots of things get a bit too much for him at the moment.

The more he practises this behaviour, the more of a habit it becomes, like a default response now.

Is it something to do with humans? I suggest they record him to see if it happens when people aren’t about.

The main work will be to break this ritual by preventing things from getting too much for him – stress reduction. He also needs to be given something else that will serve the same purpose to him as the repetitive habit, that of a displacement activity which helps to calm him. Something incompatible with chasing his bum. I suggested they tried giving him something for his mouth – a yak chew perhaps.

Relaxation and freedom

Dealing with tension and stress is key. A less restricted type of walk will be a good place to start.

Neither Monty nor his owners really enjoy walks anymore because he pulls. Very conscientious with their training, they are struggling with this. I feel he needs a bit of freedom and relaxation in order to get his bowels working!

I suggested (probably for the first time ever because I don’t like them) that they use their old Flexilead from when he was younger – when walks had been relaxed fun. They can continue work on walking nicely as a separate exercise when ready.

He can do more sniffing and foraging in general. The little dog can walk from sniff to sniff and choose where to go. He can be semi-free on a 30-foot long line in open spaces. They will relax around his toileting. (The more they try to pounce on his poo before he does, the quicker he will be to get there first!).

Monty can be taught, as soon as he’s done his job, to run away from it instead whilst associating it with something nice – by their rolling tasty/smelly food past him. It will catch his eye and instinctively a dog will follow something moving. Later, if he still does it which I doubt, he can be taught to run to them instead.

I suggest the owners just try to take it a bit more easy. Their little dog’s dreadful distress has been horrible for them and their own anxiety will be now adding to the situation. If they do miss a bit, never mind. I feel the poo-eating won’t go on for ever. He doesn’t want it for its own sake – just to get rid of it and all it stands for.

To quote, ‘We just want our Monty back to how he was before the op. It is causing us a lot of anxiety to see him struggling so much’.

Six days later: Things are much better with Monty. We are so v pleased. By Thursday he had started squatting to poo again, the spinning & squealing have stopped & instead of eating it, He looks to us for sausage. He does still look behind while pooing.  Walks are much better & he has stopped sitting down. We had been mindful to walk him after he had poo’d in the garden though so he could relax & enjoy his walk. He did poo in public today on the beach & again there was no spinning on squealing. We have been mindful to keep things generally calmer for Monty & have definitely noticed him being calmer. The bottom checking is happening less. We are truly heart warmed at the difference in just 1 week. He is a much happier dog all round. 
Two weeks later: ‘I had a lovely time on the beach with Monty, I think it was wednesday afternoon & I remember feeling so grateful to you that we were able to go away as the week before, I really didn’t think it was going to be possible. He loved the beach, shame we don’t live a bit nearer!
So things are good with Monty, he has continued to be much happier. The toileting issue seems to be pretty much resolved…..He seems to be generally going for his bottom area a lot less’.
NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Monty. Neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you can do much more harm than good. The case needs to be assessed correctly. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page).

Adolescent Dog and Raging Hormones

Adolescent dogI have never met a Longhaired Weimeraner before – and what a stunning dog!  Rocco is about one year old and deliciously friendly.

The family put in a great deal of thought and research before getting him and a lot of effort since. There are three sons, two in late teens and a younger boy, and this is a family venture where each person plays a part.

They are still taking him to training classes and he is a model student. They have researched canine diet and feed him on the best possible food.

A few weeks ago, adolescent dog behaviour hit them!

To quote Nicole Wilde: Adolescent dogs are fur-covered containers of raging hormones. Even if the dog is spayed or neutered, the body–and temperament–is changing. The dog who formerly ran in fright from other dogs might now take the offense. And many dogs who are genetically predisposed to aggression begin showing the signs at this time. Whatever the cause, aggression often manifests between the ages of six months and eighteen months. Intact male dogs are the most likely to show adolescent-onset aggression, particularly toward other intact males’.

A few weeks ago, Rocco began to throw his weight around with certain other dogs, standing over them and intimidating them. He has been going to daycare once a week where the now adolescent dog has been picking on a smaller dog, also a male of similar age. This is causing problems.

Many people now would be advising castration, but this is another thing the family have looked into closely. When is the best time to do this? Whether to castrate or not is a huge topic, not least because there are far too many unwanted dogs in the world already. 

To castrate, or not to castrate, that is the question.

Here is some food for thought when considering neutering or spaying a larger breed dog, from Dr. Becker. With Rocco, it’s not going to happen yet.

He can be very excitable and this is not surprising with three boys who play enthusiastically with him. The younger boy gets the brunt of Rocco’s excitement, particularly when he is running around the garden. This is common.

Freedom in terms of space can make a young dog more wild. He jumps at the small boy and, when too aroused, mouths or nips at his clothes. His unwanted and pushy behaviour with other dogs also seems to be when he has more space and has built up a head of excitement.

Our objectives are both for the adolescent dog to be less aroused/excited when meeting other dogs and to take note when called. A mix of self-control and owner-control.

This requires the adolescent dog to take a lot more notice of his humans in general and have a very solid recall before he is set free again. A long line, when the technique is learned, makes the handler into a safe human flexilead without the constant tension from a retractable-type lead.

There was an unfortunate incident with an irate owner hurting Rocco and making him scream. It was probably the first dog that Rocco took on a few weeks ago and may have started a downward trend – a negative association with certain kind or colour of dog. He has never actually caused a dog harm. He just seems to want to intimidate or dominate it. It seems he picks his victims.

It is sad for the conscientious family. It’shard to know what more they could have done. He has been very well socialised and is generally friendly and playful with all dogs. The best of families can have difficult teenagers, can’t they/

Excitement and self-control aren’t compatible.

If Rocco is more relaxed in general, both at home and when out, he will be in a much better state of mind when meeting another dog. At the moment he is ‘throwing his weight around’ as his hormones are taking over.

The whole family will be working together to avoid unnecessary arousal. They will avoid triggers such as the dog and youngest son running around the garden together, and rough and tumble play with the older boys. Even scrapping with one another gets Rocco very worked up so they need to go and do that somewhere else.

Mental stimulation is a lot more helpful, particularly the kind of training that gets him to use own brain (which clicker would).

Despite all the training classes, Rocco still pulls on lead. This is because they have been told to ‘teach him not to pull’ rather than ‘to teach him to walk on a loose lead’. Negative v positive. He’s a big dog and they have resorted to a head halter which he hates. He must be uncomfortable and very frustrated by the time he’s let off lead and has his freedom.

They will now work on walking him on a loose lead – force-free so that he likes walking beside them.


They will all also work on being much more engaged with him when out. Being more relevant, he will then be more likely to take notice of them when it’s really important. (Like many dogs, his recall is fine until they really need it!).

For now the adolescent dog should lose all total freedom, particularly in open spaces.

A long line can be up to 20 metres.  Rocco will learn, over the next few weeks or months, that when he sees another dog he automatically ‘touches base’. They can then decide whether he can go and play – or not. If they simply drop the line to start with, they can easily get him back if he becomes too excited.

In a few months’ time, Rocco will no longer be an adolescent dog. Having already decided to wait until he’s eighteen months old, they will decide whether they want to castrate him, or not.


NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle with maybe a bit of poetic licence. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approaches I have worked out for Rocco. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important, particularly where any form of aggressive behaviour is concerned. Everything depends upon context. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies tailored to your own dog (see my Help page).

Trying Too Hard to Have a Perfect Dog

wanting the perfect dogThey think Otis is a Ridgeback crossed with a Pharaoh Hound. This wonderful young dog has been through a lot in the one year of his short life. He started life in a puppy farm, ended up in a shelter for several months, and a couple of months ago was adopted by a young couple – my clients.

He was in a woeful, thin state having hated being kennelled. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, they discovered he had a congenital heart disease so he needed major surgery.

The gentleman is with Otis all day as he works from home and has worked very hard training him to be a house dog and to be obedient. He has done amazingly well. All was going more or less to plan until three weeks ago when Otis went back to the shelter in order to be castrated.

Castration fallout

Since then he has become anxious and needy, developing separation problems; understandably insecure.

This dog is incredibly obedient, I would say somewhat repressed and over-controlled. With anxiety now part of the equation, the man has been becoming increasingly frustrated because this is an aspect of Otis’ behaviour that he is unable to control. The anxiety is affecting the dog’s behaviour towards people he meets or hears and how the gentleman feels about his dog.

Otis has been kept in the kitchen even when they are in the sitting room. He has been trained to stay in the crate even though the door is open. The reasoning being that if he’s allowed to join them once he will expect to be there all the time. When they go out for a smoke in the garden, they may leave Otis in the kitchen, watching out of the window, thinking that if they always let him out it will create a precedent.

The perfect dog.

I think this wanting Otis to be the perfect dog is backfiring on them. Just as something that is too freely available loses value, the converse must be true and if a dog is starved of something (company) he will crave it more and hence his increasing neediness for company. There is also inconsistency between the couple resulting in conflict. The lady is much more relaxed and wants cuddles while the man has been set on creating the perfect dog. I felt terrific sympathy for both of them.

At the end of our time together, he volunteered that he was banging his head against a brick wall of his own making. Otis had to be in the sitting room all the time I was there and he was as good as gold. With the ongoing self-imposed pressure to ‘get it right’ the man has been pushing himself and Otis much too hard, but in treating Otis in a way that rested comfortably with her, his wife was in effect undermining him. She, too, has compromises to make.

In his efforts to do his very best for his dog the poor man had lost his way and lost sight of the reason they got the dog – to enjoy family life with his lovely wife and their happy dog.

Their first task is to look for every GOOD thing they can see their dog doing and immediately reward it with a piece of his kibble which they should keep in their pocket – whether it’s watching the cat walk by without moving, settling down after pacing or not barking when he hears something outside.

It’s amazing what a different mindset can do.

I had an email this morning: ‘It was great to meet you last night. I can’t tell you how much things have improved already! Otis seems much happier and in turn so are we’.

Humping Exhausts Both Male Dogs

Ollie pursues BuddyGetting ready to hump BuddyOlly Humping BuddySix-month-old Cocker Spaniel Buddy’s problem was unruliness, flying about and grabbing clothes – pulling on lead and generally lacking control.

I went to see them yesterday because the lady has just taken on Ollie, a beautiful Golden Retriever ‘free to a good home’ whose family were out at work all day. He is three years old.

She has had him for just two days and the relationship between the two entire male dogs is one of continually Poor Buddy is exhaustedjockeying for position. The chasing around isn’t ‘play’. There is no play bowing, play chasing or rolling about – it is non-stop humping until both are exhausted! Although young Buddy does his best to get his own back, Ollie, being the bigger and more determined dog, is in constant pursuit. Buddy gets cornered in the garden and I can see trouble brewing as he either becomes intimidated or even becomes angry which would be totally against his nature usually.

While Ollie settles in the dogs’ time together must be supervised. They will need to go out into the garden separately for a while. As soon as any humping starts, one or other (taking it in turns) needs to be quietly removed and put behind a gate or in the crate with something else to do. It’s not punishment.

Meanwhile there need to be some consistent rules and boundaries introduced because two dogs can be a very different matter from one dog. Instead of just one dog to interact and cope with, there are two, and in addition there is the interaction between the two dogs. I have five dogs and it multiplies up! Ollie has been well-trained and they don’t want to lose that, or for him to begin copying Buddy’s hyper lack of self-control.

I am not a big believer in castration to resolve behaviour problems, but in this case, with so much testosterone flying about, if things don’t calm down quickly this may be the logical step to take.

English Bull Terrier on High Octane Fuel

English Bull Terrier has manic bouts of frenzyPoor Leo, a four-year-old English Bull Terrier, is in a bad way. They were so worried that he might bite me that he was muzzled throughout our meeting  – with it just taken off for this photo.

Here was yet another dog who as a puppy that was the strongest, greediest and bossiest in his litter. Leo belongs to a young gentleman who lives with his father and has serious problems with pent-up stress, leading to aggression – around food in particular.

He gets manic bouts of frenzy, flying around and going for the two men. The young man then physically pins him down to prevent someone getting hurt. This is all getting increasingly out of hand. Castration made no difference at all.

Leo’s aggression around food is puzzling. He is reasonably calm while his food is prepared, and OK when it goes down. It’s afterwards that the problem starts. It’s like he is hyped up with high octane aggression fuel. He starts to spin around like he’s winding himself up before attacking. They have to catch him and muzzle him quickly. He is fed quite smelly cheap tinned food. Food can influence behaviour in a big way. While they prepare their own food they have to keep feeding Leo bits to stop the spinning and biting.

Putting him out of the way is also a problem. The house isn’t big so it means the garden, and then Leo simply barks and barks.  They will need to enlist the understanding of their neighbours for a while.

They really love Leo and want to do the best for him, but simply don’t know how. The confrontational dominance methods seen on TV are making him worse. These techniques create a battle which they are unlikely to win and who wants that sort of relationship with their dog anyway?  Leo is alone for about ten hours a day, and not given daily walks. Interaction is either rough and tumble exciting play, or getting cross with him for persistently barking until they do what he wants. He is allowed to lie on top of the young man, effectively pinning him down, but then may bite if removed from the sofa.

This is a dog with huge stress issues and simply no rules and boundaries in terms that he understands. De-stressing Leo is where it all starts. I suggested a technique for feeding him, after which I feel he should be left alone for a while to give him time to calm right down.  The energy rush of his food is all in one meal – understandable because they don’t want this ordeal in the morning before work as well as in the evening – but it should be spread.

I so hope that they can manage to give Leo the calm kind of leadership he so needs. It will be hard work requiring a lot of patience.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.