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).

Repetitive Behaviour. Working Dog. No Job.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the wood from the trees. Oscar is a dog, like many of our dogs, living in a world that he’s not been bred for. The couple do all they know to give him a good life, particularly by way of long daily walks, but it’s not enough unfortunately.

Oscar resorts to a ritual of repetitive behaviour.

The way to improve his life involves lots of changes. They want a family pet that is affectionate, reliable, companionable and to be trusted around children. Oscar’s primary needs are different.

There are so many things to deal with from his diet through to feeding his clever brain. Each little change links to the next so it is impossible to simplify things and extract just two or three things for them to concentrate on. It’s complicated.

repetitive behaviour

Oscar getting no reaction during his ritual

Oscar is a beautiful Border Collie, age five. They have had him since he was a year old and they were already his third home.

He is extremely easily agitated and aroused. Things that wire him up include noises outside, animals and sounds on TV, bangs and young children.

He tries to bite when they brush his long hair. He paws persistently and painfully for attention – which he always eventually gets in some form. When the phone rings he goes mental. These are just a few of the daily challenges the retired couple face with Oscar.

Staring the dog down

Unfortunately, the man believed in advice that dominating him by staring him down would make him respect them and change his behaviour. This, to my mind, will have made things worse and actually caused him to bite those few times. He has only gone for people who have challenged him like this – the man, their son and another man they met when out.

The start of the sequence – staring and licking his lips

I saw how arousal affects Oscar and causes his repetitive behaviour during the three hours I was there. People talking or his simply being ignored triggers the start of a ritual.

He runs to the window and starts to stare like he’s seen a fly to chase – he’s an obsessive fly-chaser. He then starts barking and scratching at the door. This is the start of a repetitive behaviour sequence. It results in the man getting up and letting him out – every time.

However, it’s not as simple as just letting him out. He is told ‘Sit’ and ‘Stay’ before the door is opened otherwise he will jump at the man, barking.

Once out, Oscar’s ritual involves running exactly the same circuit of the small garden, across a little path and then back to the door again. The man then gets up again and lets him in. This earns a ‘Good Boy’.

By the third time of exactly the same sequence in a short time it was obvious Oscar couldn’t possibly need to toilet again. I could see this was a repetitive behaviour – a ritual that probably gives him some control over his own life and over those around him.

Breaking the cycle

I asked the man not to get up. Let’s see what happens.

This triggered lots of frustrated door scraping and loud barking and we braved it. Oscar stopped briefly. Immediately I quietly said ‘Good’ and dropped a tiny bit of food. He went back to scratching and barking and I repeated this process many times. Eventually he walked away from the window.

‘Good’, then food.

A short break to lie down. ‘Good’.

He then went and lay down. ‘Good’ and more food. Any more chatting to him would simply arouse him again.

A few peaceful minutes would go by then Oscar would be back to the start of the routine of repetitive behaviour again, scratching the window and barking. The man, on automatic, started to get up. I stopped him.

This happens repeatedly when they are sitting down in the evening, punctuated by barking at TV and pawing for attention.

His very failure to get the man to engage in his routine of repetitive behaviour was now frustrating in itself.

Understandably, when he is peaceful they breathe a sigh of relief. Let sleeping dogs lie!

Oscar is generating all his action by pestering and getting no reinforcement or action in return for being calm and non-demanding. This needs to be reversed.

Clever brain

I gave them a list of suggestions of things to exercise Oscar’s clever brain and enriching activities that include scenting, sniffing, hunting and so on. I shall go back and do clicker work. He will love the problem-solving.

Oscar has long walks but this isn’t enough – in fact, when he returns he is sometimes more aroused and demanding than when he left. This indicates that even the walks should be done a bit differently.

The first challenge is to bring his stress levels down as low as possible. Only then will they make significant headway. Robbed of his rituals of repetitive behaviour, he needs other things added to his life to bring him enrichment and action.

Unfortunate incident involving a child

With lower general stress levels, Oscar should be better able to cope with the things that scare or intimidate him like staring men and little children. Very unfortunately a child came from behind him and hit him with a stick when he was lying beside them in an outdoor cafe. Before this he had no problem with children. Unless and until they manage to change how he feels around them – yet more work for them to do – he should be muzzled when kids are about just in case. The law never takes the side of the dog even if he’s provoked.

There is a lot to deal with. Oscar, born on a farm in Wales and now living with a retired couple in a bungalow, is bred for a different kind of life. They are very committed to doing the best they can for him. It’s not by chance that Border Collies are the dog of choice for trainers who work hard with their dogs and get them to do amazing things.

Here’s a strange thing. After a couple of weeks in kennels when they go away he is a lot more relaxed. It does him good. Is it because the rituals of repetitive behaviour that he himself creates to make ‘things happen’ in themselves stress him? Is it because the usual triggers such as TV and telephones won’t be there? In the kennels he has an enforced break.

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 Oscar and because 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 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 fearfulness or aggression is concerned. 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)