Waking in the Night Six Times to Go Out

Waking in the night – six times.

The poor lady is waking in the night up to six times to take Beagle Dexter into the garden. He toilets (poo) most times.

Then, long before dawn, Dexter’s day has started. He looks for something to wreck.

The lady is exhausted.

waking in the night


She has two beautiful, friendly and very well-loved dogs, Japanese Spitz, Dakota, 3 – and Dexter who is nine months old.

As I usually do before I come, I asked for a list of issues. In Dexter’s case these included jumping up, stealing washing from the line, chewing the rug on the sofa, eating books from the shelf, destroying shoes, towels and tea towels. He pulls on lead, he bites when he doesn’t get the attention he wants and he howls when not in the lady’s presence. He bites her clothes as she tries to get dressed. He constantly jumps at her when she is trying to eat and when she showers he will remove the toilet rolls.

Since circumstances changed the two dogs are now left alone for many hours every day. Dexter howls. Dakota barks at things she hears – post comes through the door, the dogs next door barking. Stress levels are constantly being topped up during the day.

And – Dexter is waking in the night up to six times to toilet.

Perhaps he, too, is suffering from sleep deprivation, adding to his stress levels.

There are two main issues. One is the night time wakefulness and toileting. The other is the stress and lack of fulfillment that is causing Dexter’s behaviours. All efforts to stop him doing unwanted things result in frustration and he will jump at the lady and bite her.

Clicking for calm.

The lady’s home life revolves around stopping Dexter doing things. There is a lack of communication. What should he be doing? Dexter is confused.

Soon after I arrived it became apparent we would get nothing done unless we worked with the dogs – Dexter in particular.

Soon the lady, instead of watching out for unwanted behaviours, was watching for every small thing Dexter did that she liked, clicking and rewarding it.

At last he was understanding what was required of him. It was lovely.

He soon settled down and slept.

Calming him down and giving his life proper enrichment is one thing. The waking in the night to toilet is another.

The lady shares her bed with her dogs, so this means coming downstairs each time and he usually performs.

Why does he need to go so often? What can the lady do to get a good night’s sleep?

This is something that needs unravelling.

What goes into the dog has to come out!

What does Dexter eat? The food is average nutrition, containing ‘meat meal’ and other bulking things that will merely pass through a dog.

Like many dogs, he also eats dog poo – his own, Dakota’s and any other dogs he can pick up quickly enough when out.

He has a daily Dentastix. Reading the ingredients speaks for itself. Assuming that a man is about ten times the weight of Dexter, it’s like his eating a large lump of junk the size of ten doughnuts.

What can the lady do? For starters she can change Dexter’s diet. I would suggest ready-prepared complete raw food as there will be much less waste. Failing that, a much better kibble.


Dexter simply must not be able to eat poo. The only way to stop this, unless he’s tied to the lady’s waist, is for him to be muzzled in the garden until both dogs have performed. He must also be muzzled when out while recall is worked on.

(Possibly a better diet will remove his need to eat poo. ‘Coprophagia’ is a separate issue that can be looked at later).

The last meal of the day can be earlier with the walk afterwards, hopefully getting his bowels moving.

Day and night may be somewhat reversed at the moment. Because of the change in the lady’s circumstances, the dogs are left alone for a very long time. The build-up both of need to poo and of energy will then, fairly logically, come to a head during the night.

They will cut out the Dentastix and use raw marrow bones for cleaning teeth instead. The right bones (never cooked bones) will help occupy both the dogs and calm them down. The lady will install a gate in a doorway so the dogs can be separated. The degree of arousal frequently results in fights which limits the use of food when they are together.

A better night’s sleep.

What Dexter consumes will be controlled carefully.

The day will hopefully be broken up by a dog walker.

Looking for every little good thing the dog does, whether it’s just to stop jumping up and putting his feet on the floor, or simply lying down calmly, will make everyone happier. These things will be clicked and rewarded. Unwanted behaviours will where possible bring no reaction or be replaced with a desirable alternative.

Enriching activities will be added to Dexter’s life. Soon the lady should get a better night’s sleep. She will have more energy for these things.

With a positive approach, cases like this tend to improve quite quickly.

The lady will be getting her life back.


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 Dexter. 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).

Eating Plaster off the Walls, but Why?

Five year old Golden Labrador Milly has to be just about as near the perfect dog any family could wish for. She is sweet and gentle with their four-year-old boy who, thanks to his parents, treats her with unusual respect for such a young child. She is perfect apart from just one thing.

Eating plaster.

Milly is making holes in the walls.

The young family moved into a brand new house six months ago. There are two holes each side of the front door, one by the back door and damage to the plaster in various rooms both upstairs and downstairs.

Why is a dog that seems so happy and well-adjusted eating plaster?

My detective work could only deduce that it could be any or all of several possible reasons.

My first suspicion before arriving was that it could be something like calcium lacking in Milly’s diet. As soon as I entered the kitchen I saw a bowl of Bakers Complete on the floor.

This immediately gave weight to my first thoughts about nutrition. A good food should have the required amount of everything in it. Bakers for all it’s pretty colours and extra flavouring, is rubbish.

The first time Milly started eating plaster was the day their first baby was born. It would be safe to assume that it was due to stress. She had been left at home alone a lot longer than usual while everyone was at the hospital. It was a one-off.

Then a couple of years elapsed until at a BBQ Milly swallowed what I think was a bamboo skewer. It punctured both her intenstines; she was in vet hospital for days and nearly died. This was undoubtedly a huge upset for everyone.

The eating plaster habit then began.

On the day of their new baby’s arrival, five weeks ago, the plaster eating escalated.

All but one of the incidents occurred on occasions when Milly had been left alone for eight hours – and it didn’t happen every time. Some days it was after she’d had a long morning walk with lots of ball play but other days she has no walk at all. It’s possible that either too much arousal on walks (ball throwing) or no walk at all on the day of the chewing or the previous day may be a factor also.

Possibly she has mild separation issues when left for hours? Could it be boredom? Taking a video could be difficult as she roams the house although they will now restrict her to part of downstairs. Frustration at being shut in one place may cause more trouble, so we won’t risk it.

result of dog eating plaster

Milly’s does have one other fault. She pulls on lead. The young lady is unable to walk her whilst carrying or pushing the baby (something we are addressing). For Milly to be healthy in both mind and body she does need a daily outing and some days walks are missed. I say ‘outing’ because she needs time outside to do dog things. She doesn’t need to be stirred up with too much ball-chasing.

Milly is a sensitive dog and will pick up emotions from her humans who have been through a lot of change recently. Stress builds up and perhaps eating plaster ‘does the job’ for Milly.

Being scolded scares her, isn’t working, and may well be adding to whatever emotions are driving her to do it in the first place. Sadly today she showed fear when they come in the front door.

Eating plaster. What apart from the obvious does Milly get out of it?

Does it just make her feel better? Is it build up of stress? Is she suffering from separation problems? Does it supplement her diet? Does it relieve her boredom? Is it to do with exercise? Is it a habit?

Is it simply a mix of some or all of these things?

As a precise diagnosis into why she is eating plaster is impossible, we will try to cover all possibilities.

HoarMilly1Her food is already being changed in case plaster eating is due to lack of calcium in her diet. Low quality nutrition isn’t good brain food either.

Stress will be reduced in every way possible.

The humans will no longer scold if they again come home to find damage.

Milly will be given regular walks whilst not over-stimulating her and also teach her to walk nicely so that the young lady can walk her with the baby.

Any possible separation issues will be worked on.

She will be left with plenty of stuff to do and chew when they go out, including a marrow bone – lots of calcium – much better than eating plaster!

They are going to make arrangements for Milly not to be left alone for so long on certain days.

Maybe eating plaster is now becoming a habit?

If we cover all angles the behaviour should cease. If it doesn’t, then I suggest she has a thorough vet check to make sure she’s not got anything else going on inside her.

Three weeks have gone by. From an email: She is doing much better on the loose lead, it does take a lot of patience but it’s definitely better. We are just taking it slow but it’s good to see the progress…. It works best leaving Milly in the lounge when we are out. I will video again this week. But I am happy to say no more damages walls…. She is now eating both her meals and seems to like the duck with rice. (Their little boy) loves getting involved too and helping Milly, he really loves her 🙂

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 Milly and I’ve not gone into exact precise details for that reason. 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. 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)

Pica? Swallow Could End in Tragedy

The dictionary definition of pica in medicine is the “pathological craving for substance unfit for food”  Dictionary.com.

Does he suffer from Pica?

Wilson – one pale eye and one dark eye

I would hardly interpret Wilson’s ingesting of inappropriate items as a ‘craving’. It’s not constant. From my questioning the behaviour is likely to happen under certain circumstances.

Five weeks ago the wonderful young Bernese Mountain Dog had to be cut open for a second time to remove a buildup of things he had swallowed – a child’s sock and a dummy.

Just fourteen months old, Wilson suffers from IBD in the small intestine. He was referred to a specialist vet for his stomach issues and is on daily steroids. For medical reasons they won’t be able to open him up again.

If he gets another blockage it will be curtains for the wonderful Wilson.


Are there degrees of pica?

If from time to time the swallowing of inappropriate objects is pica, then that’s what Wilson has. However, if pica is defined by being a craving, it may not actually be pica.

Not being a vet or expert in this I can’t say. Perhaps someone will enlighten me. There is a list of possible medical causes for pica of which IBD is one.

Malnutrition or vitamin deficiency is another – pica can be caused by lack of nutrition. In this case it does seem a bit chicken and egg. The dog has a delicate stomach so can only eat certain things without an upset so his diet could be better and possibly he doesn’t digest it properly.

In addition to this, I can see a strong behavioural element. Mainly it’s when Wilson becomes frustrated, bored or stressed that the lifting of anything he can put in his mouth objects is triggered. He lives in a family with two very young boys. Noise and excitement could well cause Wilson to steal toys and any rubbish.

The walk situation gives a big clue to the main trigger.

Because he is mostly walked by the lady with a buggy, the big dog’s pulling could be disastrous. He wears a Halti. He hates it. All the way until he’s is let off lead he is trying to scrape it off on the ground.

To see him so unhappy with it is distressing for the lady also.

One can imagine that when he does get the instrument of torture and restriction removed, Wilson will be brimming with frustration and built-up tension.

He is free! The lady may well then be paying attention to the little children. Not to Wilson. About six weeks ago he took the tiny boy’s sock as it dangled from his foot, ran off with it and swallowed it. Later he picked up the child’s dummy from the ground and ate it. Neither items passed through.

Hence the final operation.

When Wilson is walked minus children he is less inclined to pick things up. So long as they call him soon enough he will usually come back. He now has to be much more motivated to listen to them and come away from things every time when called, rewarding to him in terms of food, fun or both.

I suggest they train him to the whistle – something a lot more piercing. Even if the walks have to be shorter, one of them should walk him alone more often and give him their full attention.

They must abandon that Halti. With a bit of practice he will walk a lot better on a Perfect Fit harness with a training lead fastened front and top than he does on a head halter, and they will have just as much physical control. Wilson will then arrive at the park happy and in a good state of mind.


A muzzle is a must.

As it’s so vital he swallows nothing else that might get stuck, if they are walking with the children or any other time they can’t give him their full attention, they must muzzle Wilson so that he simply can’t pick things up.

I feel that, medical issues aside, psychologically Wilson is trying to find some fulfillment in one way that he has control over – by swallowing things. It’s exacerbated by frustration and boredom. It earns attention of a sort. He’s a clever dog lacking sufficient mental activity. This vacuum in his life needs to be filled by his humans with activities that provide him with healthy stimulation.

One walk a day may not be enough. Two shorter ones may be better.

To help him de-stress he needs lots of ‘allowed’ things to chew – marrow bones, Stagbars, stuffed Kongs and so on. They can be rotated to retain novelty value. He needs plenty of games and training in bringing things, ‘give’, ‘drop’ and exchanging things.

With plenty of company and loving owners you would think Wilson had a perfect life, but it’s mostly about fitting in with the family and children. In essence, while he’s young and energetic, Wilson needs more ‘Wilson’ time.

Then he will become a more fulfilled dog with less need to find inappropriate ways of fulfilling himself.


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 Wilson and I’ve not gone into exact details for that reason. 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, particularly where health issues of any kind are concerned where consulting a vet is vital. 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 Get Help page)

Importance of Early Socialisation

Canaan puppies

The other three ears should come up soon!

I have just been to two five-month-old siblings. Before the family picked them up about four weeks ago, despite being brother and sister each puppy had had a very different life.

They are Canaans, a rare and ancient breed. Lapidos is confident and friendly, Leah is afraid of everything – of people and anything new, noisy or sudden.

Lapidos had been bullied by the other puppies in the kennel, so was brought into the house to live with the family.

Leah had remained outside with the other puppies. All her physical needs were met but I would guess she had little interaction with the normal things of daily life at that very crucial time before about thirteen weeks old when the ‘fear period’ kicks in. She is such a clear demonstration of the importance of early socialisation.

These puppies are are settling in well with a lovely family with four very young little children in a well-organised environment. Leah has made considerable progress thanks to the love and patience of her new family so far as relaxing with them is concerned.

But she is very scared of anyone new.

She is often too frightened to go out into the garden, particularly during the day – but strangely she is more courageous outside after dark. She shies at gusts of wind, sounds, anything moving, anything new or sudden.

Leah lying where she feels safe

The two pups lived exclusively in the utility room which is off their large kitchen and they had not been allowed into the house. They are quite content to be in there without crying to come out and join the family, probably because that’s how it’s been from the start. All their encounters with the little children and other people have either been in that room, out in the garden or on walks.

There are downsides to this. When friends and even the children go into their utility room Leah, in particular, has nowhere to escape to if scared unless the back door is open which she is sometimes too anxious to go through anyway. When I came I was immediately introduced to the dogs in the utility room and Leah ran to the furthest bed, the best she could do to hide. Other people who don’t know better will no doubt try to approach and befriend her.

After I had been there a while they opened the gate so the dogs could join us in the kitchen. Lapidos was in with us straight away, friendly, curious and testing new boundaries. Leah ventured in and kept running back out again. I rolled food to her which she ate and at one stage she dared come near to me as I sat still and looked the other way.

I suggested that the dogs now have monitored sessions in the kitchen, both separately and together, where they can begin to learn a few cues and interact with their humans and with new people in a calmer environment than the garden and in a less trapped environment than the utility room.

The kids should be taught to read how the dogs are feeling and whether, at any particular moment, they want to be touched or approached. From what I saw from their body language with the very little girl who joined us, both dogs, even Leah, welcomed her proximity. Dogs and children should never be left alone together unsupervised.

Leah with the dog food they will be returning

If Leah can’t gradually socialise with new people in an environment where she feels safe, it will make things very difficult for them all as she grows older. Now that they understand the way to deal with a fearful dog, they will no longer make her go anywhere she doesn’t want to go but give her time and always an escape route.

When out, these unusual and beautiful puppies are like a magnets to people and Leah can’t escape the scary attention. It’s the owners’ job to protect her as they would their children.

If something scary happens to a dog when one of their humans happens to be present, the dog can associate the person with the fear even though they had nothing to do with it. There was an incident where a child tied Lapidos’ lead to a chair in the garden and went away. The pup pulled the chair over which terrified him and the lady was nearby and rescued him. For the following week he tried to avoid her.

We looked at all aspects of the puppies’ lives to make sure they get off to the best start, including diet. In the picture is Leah, venturing out of the utility room and past a new large pack of Baker’s Complete dog food. Diet affects the dogs both physically and mentally, and food like this is made to be tasty and pretty, but contains little proper nutrition and even some harmful stuff and additives. They will return it.

So, we have made a start. The purpose of having me to help are for the humans to be able to teach the pups basic training cues, to walk nicely on lead and for the beautiful Leah to gradually grow in confidence. Finally, and understandably with such young children playing outside, they would like the dogs to toilet in one area only in the garden.

Insecure Dog Barks at Son

Mastiff Staffie mis lying down


Alfie is a seven-year-old Mastiff Staffie mix who spent the first eleven weeks of his life in a shed with other dogs but no human contact. When they picked him up he was riddled with worms, had mange and colitis. He was a very sick puppy with no socialisation whatsoever. It’s hardly any wonder that, despite supreme efforts on their own part without which he would undoubtedly be a lot worse, he has grown to be a dog wary of people and insecure about being left. They have since adopted a greyhound, Kenny, who gives him a bit more security when the dogs are left alone.

When we arrived and he was let in the room to join us, Alfie was immediately barking at us. I tried gently rolling a piece off food towards him which he broke off barking to eat. That was a little clue. If he was really as upset as he sounded he would not have taken the food. He’s been doing this behaviour for seven years so some of it may well be learned behaviour – a habit. Although he sounds fierce, he has never bitten anyone.  We continued to roll food at him until he was eating from our hands and being touched. Fortunately he is a very food-motivated dog.

I suggested they now keep back much of Alfie’s dry food for him to earn – and also that they feed him better food. To quote Pat Miller in The Whole Dog Journal, ‘Poor quality protein can interfere with a dog’s ability to make use of the serotonin that occurs naturally in his system. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood ….. Foods containing high-quality protein can contribute to your dogs’ behavioral health and physical health’.

After a while I stood up and it started Alfie barking again, but he soon relaxed as I dropped food whilst standing. The plan will be for anyone who comes to the house to gradually, using food, go from sitting, to standing and then to walking slowly about whilst dropping his food. Gradually the food can be reduced and ultimately stopped altogether.

It’s not only people coming into their house which can cause Alfie to bark ferociously. He also barks at the young son who is unable to go up and down stairs freely without someone first grabbing Alfie and putting him into the kitchen. The couple themselves are unable to go upstairs together without Alfie creating – unless the man goes first and the lady follows a bit later. The dog is ruling their lives. The son can never have his friends to stay.

Mastiff mix and greyhound lying down together

Kenny and Alfie

I suggested the boy got up and walked out of the door towards the gated stairs, dropping food as he went. No barking. He carried on up the stairs, throwing food over onto the floor. On the way down he did the same thing. I had him doing this over and over. No barking. He can gradually feed less and on the way down he can later wait on the stairs for Alfie to be calm and quiet before throwing one bit of food and continuing down – changing over from desensitising him to rewarding him for being quiet.

Slowly Alfie’s panic at the boy leaving and going upstairs – whatever the reason – should disappear as it is associated with something he likes – food, and at the same time the habits of his lifetime will be broken.

I take a ‘holistic’ approach, so over the next few weeks there are several other things the family should be putting in place so that Alfie becomes a calmer and less insecure dog in general. Normally he is constantly pacing and looking for trouble. It was great to see him lie down and relax several times while we were there, demonstrating by our own behaviour and by ‘conducting’ the behaviour of the other people, that he can do it if the humans around him do things in a different way.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have planned for the complicated Alfie, which is why I don’t go into exact detail here of the methods to be used. Finding instructions on the internet that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies tailored to your own dogs (see my Get Help page).