Frightened of His Own Poo. How Did That Happen?

Alfie, a Jack Russell Beagle mix is now in his fourth home and he’s only three years old.

Frightened of his own toiletingThis home will, I’m absolutely certain, be his last home. The young couple who adopted him three months ago are doing brilliantly with him. I was called because of his behaviour towards other dogs which is more controlling than anything else. He may jump on them and pin them down – but not all dogs. Nothing too unusual about this.

Having had three other homes you would expect some fallout. If life had been perfect, he wouldn’t have been abandoned.

One thing though is particularly unusual.

Alfie is frightened of his own poo.

He won’t toilet, pee or poo, in the garden either. Absolutely not. He can hold on for an incredibly long time and sometimes has to do so because he’s frightened of rain as well.

They have to take him for toilet walks.

As soon as he has performed he backs away from what he has done. On his lead, he digs into the ground with his front feet, desperate to back away from it.

His young owners now drop the lead so he can escape. He sits a few feet away and they tell him to wait while they pick up, which he does bless him.

How on earth could this have happened? One can only guess, but a couple of times I have seen hints of something similar where the owner has been insistent their dog only goes in an allocated place. I have also seen anxiety in dogs not allowed to go on lawns where the family children play which is fair enough. 

Punishment has fallout.

Some people somehow expect the dog to understand that the location of his toileting is important. This without sufficient training and positive reinforcement for getting it right. Punishment for getting it wrong is dreadful.

I know this is only conjecture, but I bet that I am right about Alfie and a punishment scenario.

What form could this punishment have taken? One can only guess something like a shock collar, pain that comes from nowhere and without warning either during or just after he has done his job in the ‘wrong place’.

The trouble with positive punishment is it can contaminate other things at the same time. It easily generalises. In Alfie’s case, being so frightened has not only contaminated the garden location but the faeces itself. It may have contaminated rain. It means that he doesn’t feel safe enough to toilet in his garden and would probably hang on till he nearly explodes.

Another thing about punishment is that it need happen only once to do terrible damage. Perhaps it had been raining at the time. 

‘Unringing the bell’

Annie Phenix has a chapter in her brilliant book The Midnight Dog Walkers called  ‘Unringing the bell’ which is what counter-conditioning is all about. Pavlov and all that.

They need to take this very slowly in tiny increments.They must be very careful that he’s in no way frightened.

When he has finished his business as usual, they will let him go as they do already but throw a piece of food to him as well. Fortunately he is very food motivated.

After a few days, instead of throwing him the food, the can drop several bits of food but on the grass between him and the poo – not too near it. Gradually they will see if they can get him to fetch the food a bit nearer. He has choice.

Next, as soon as he has finished his business, they can drop the food around it and at the same time add a soft cue word (‘Go Poo’?).

Gradually, whenever he does his business, the cue word can be quietly and gently added while he performs and food dropped or sprinkled around it as soon as he’s finished.

Finally, they can say the cue word in advance and, bingo, so long as he wants to go anyway, he has gone on cue!

It’s not too much stretch of the imagination to hope he will then, in time, on cue and for food, go in the garden.

Frightened of rain too.

They can unring the bell where rain is concerned also – whatever it was that has caused him to be frightened of it. They can, unseen by Alfie, start by sprinkling food in the garden for him. The rainy environment will be laced and will offer the good stuff, starting with fine drizzle of rain and so on (see SprinklesTM).

Dear little Alfie is a wonderful, friendly and bright dog. With the continuing help of his lovely young owners I’m sure he will learn that other dogs aren’t out to get him unless he deals with them first.

He may even be toileting in his own garden in a few months time – in the rain. They will take their time.

 

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 Alfie. 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 fear 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).

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

Dexter

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.

Dakota

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).

Weimerana panics when home alone

weimeranaPoor Chloe is a very stressed eighteen month old Wemerana. She has chronic separation problems and because of the damage she has done she is now crated when her owners are out at work. I go to many dogs and even puppies whose owners, having to go to work, are out for eight or more hours a day, and for some dogs this can be a nightmare. Many people unwittingly take on a dog without thinking that it is unatural for a sociable animal to be left alone for too long.  I can also imagine how stressful it must be to be out at work, worrying about the dog you love being frantic and wondering what you will find when you get home.

Separation anxiety is a difficult problem to solve because it has to be done gradually.

Chloe always was unhappy and maybe bored when left alone. She would sometimes toilet in the house or chew. She used to have the run of the house and her male owner, who was normally home first, never quite knew what damage he was going to find.

She had done hundreds of pounds worth of damage already when one day, three weeks ago, the gentleman arrived home to find total chaos. There was toilet mess downstairs but no sign of Chloe. Upstairs there were clothes and belongings all over the floor, along with more toilet mess. Chloe was cowering in the bathroom, urinating. The gentleman was so angry that he lost his temper and laid into poor Chloe. It was the final straw.

He felt absolutely terrible when he discovered that all the mess wasn’t done by Chloe. They had had a break in and poor Chloe was traumatised. Where before she was distressed at being alone, now she was also terrified of her owner coming back.

To keep their house safe they bought a large crate. I was finally called in because Chloe was damaging herself trying to get out of it. She managed it once, cutting her nose and blood all over the place from her tearing a toe nail and now they have had to padlock the crate to keep her in.

Chloe has other stress-related problems – she is obsessed with eating wood when out, she tail-chases and does a lot of ear shaking and licking herself.  Chloe badly needs help.

They are going to find a dog walker to come each day now and they are going to work very hard at getting Chloe used to being alone in the sure knowledge that they will return. In reducing her stress in all other areas also, she will gradually become a happier dog.  I have spoken to their vet who is also involved and prescribing Zylkene to help tide them over the first few weeks.

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