Marking or Separation Anxiety?

Black greyhound lying downWhether marking or anxiety through being left, the root cause will be Herbie’s feeling of insecurity.

Greyhounds have hidden depth. It’s easy to assume that because five-year old Herbie lies around quite a lot and appears peaceful and a bit lazy, that he’s calm inside. I noticed a lot of jaw-chattering that is usually associated with stress of some sort, along with yawning and lip-licking. In Herbie’s case, it seems that it’s not ‘stress’ necessarily in an anxiety sense, more slight arousal.

He loves a cuddle – seeking the affection himself – but his jaw may still chatter. He’s a very friendly boy and gave me a happy but polite greeting, very curious to smell my own dogs on me.

The signs that there is more going on inside him than most people might immediately notice, however, is one big clue as to why, over the past few months, Herbie has taken to peeing in the house.

He is a retired racing dog they have had for eighteen months. At the time the couple were both out all day at work and they had a tight routine. There was no marking or peeing indoors at the time.

Then came a lot of upheaval. The lady took maternity leave which meant Herbie had company much of the time but her comings and goings were unpredictable. They had extensive building work done opening up the house which at times upset him so much he had to be shut in a bedroom. This is when the trouble started.

Then six months ago the baby arrived. The toileting indoors is now becoming a real problem because the baby will soon be on the move.

Initially the ‘marking’ could be anywhere in the house and not necessarily when the couple were out and seems to stem from all the change making him unsettled. Initially I felt this might have been marking ‘his’ territory, scent marking anything new that was erected or appearing in his house.

Black greyhound lying downMore recently, though, the weeing has only happened when he has been left, and nearly always it is in the same place – by the window from which he watches them disappear down the garden path.

The next question is whether it’s because he doesn’t like being left all alone per se, whether any company is sufficient, or whether is he pining for the lady in particular and to whom he’s closest.

Possibly he actually feels that it’s the lady who needs him, and that he should be keeping an eye on the baby? The only time he has shown any aggression has been when a large dog rushed up to the buggy.

Another questions is, does he pee immediately as he watches them go or some time later?

Answers to these things can affect how we approach the solution.

They will video him. During the week the lady may go out a couple of times a day with the baby, and nearly every time she comes home to a puddle in the same place, on the rug by the French windows. At the weekend the couple will go out together.  I suggested they tried the man staying behind with Herbie while the lady takes baby down the garden path, then five minutes later he joins her. If this improves things, we know the lady must then work on the dog’s separation specifically from herself and possibly the baby.

The dog disturbs them in the night also, going upstairs and whining – probably waking when he hears them get up to the baby, and this is disturbing their nights even more. They eventually take him back down again and nearly always find a puddle in the morning.

It’s only since the building work that he has gone upstairs at all. They want him to come up in the morning only now.

My feeling is that they need to be consistent and start to set up some solid boundaries and routines again – as they had when he first came to live with them. They can once more stop him going upstairs. The house wasn’t open plan before and Herbie was more contained.

I suggest they gate the front part of the house from where the stairs lead during the day. They can first do this for a couple of days so he gets used to more restriction before shutting the gate at night. This then gives the lady lots of opportunity to depart from Herbie, taking baby with her. He won’t be able to follow her everywhere – good preparation for leaving him when she goes out. If she drops a couple of bits of his kibble over the gate each time she leaves him behind, over time he should be associating the sight of her walking away from him with something good.

What’s more, these short indoor departures will reinforce to Herbie that she always comes back.

Separation issues can take time and patience to conquer. In Herbie’s case there could well be a bit more to it. With insecurity being the real problem, it’s his feelings of insecurity that need to be addressed.

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 Herbie. Finding instructions on the internet or TV 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 specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).

 

Highly Stressed Dachshunds. Two Little Dachshund Firecrackers

Lying down at last

Alfie

Highly Stressed Dachshunds

Alfie

Here they are – lying down at last! Miniature Daschund Alfie on the left and Eddie on the right. Both around four years old.

Highly stressed Dachshunds

Barking, excitement, peeing indoors, nipping, jumping up, easily spooked, scared of people……it’s a long list all coming back to one thing – stress.

Alfie was very scared of me, barking and hanging back, but eventually I could walk about, give him treats and even tickle him under the chin.

Eddie constantly jumped at me and barked and tried to get attention – becoming increasingly nippy until we put a lead on him. It’s surprising how high he can leap on his little short legs! They see this behaviour with callers as happy friendliness, but I don’t agree. Looking at the body language and behaviour, I saw a brave and anxious little dog.

Both highly stressed Dachshunds live on the edge – ready to explode, like little firecrackers and only settle for quiet cuddles when all is calm in the evening.

Too much of everything

The teenage son, who adores them, misguidedly teases and winds them up. They go mental at barking on TV and computer games which makes people laugh. It’s not really funny though. It is distressing for the dogs.

Play is too exciting with too much chasing and tugging for a dog that already grabs and nips. Tug-of-war is only a good game when done properly because it teaches letting go rather than grabbing, and it also teaches very careful control of teeth.

The actual reason I was called is that the two little dogs both constantly pee in the house – all over the place. I see this as a symptom of stress as much as an issue in itself. The door to the garden is always open but it makes no difference. It’s an old building with nooks and crannies and the dogs simply have too much freedom.

The people need to go back and do as they should have done originally when the dogs were puppies, restricting them to a really small area unless with them in the room where they can be watched for prowling, sniffing and disappearing behind things. I have given various strategies and ideas which, with time and patience along with working on the general stress and over-excitement should do the trick. One symptom of stress is excessive drinking – which of course will lead to more peeing.

Self control

I believe these highly stressed Dachshunds should be taught a bit of self-control by way of learning to wait calmly for things. They should get fuss and fun when calm, not when hyper and demanding. This self-control will eventually extend to the toileting as well. After about four years it is an entrenched habit, so it won’t be quick.

Everything must be done to calm these two dear little dogs down as much as possible. The highly stressed Dachshunds will be a lot happier for it – and so will their family.

Jack, Stressed Jack Russell X

PainJackI went to see Jack, a Jack Russell/Staffie cross,  four days ago. He lives with Amelia who is three years old. He is only fourteen months old himself, but is scared when Amelia approaches him. He does not want to be touched, pulled about or played with. He is stressed little dog.  About five weeks ago everything got worse. Weeing indoors increased. Because it was Christmas, more people were about. Dad shouted at Jack.  He is now weeing everywhere – the kitchen flooded in mornng. He wees on his bedding, he wees on his toys. His owner is at her wits end.

Dear little Jack was so stressed that he bites himself, circles, licks himself until he is raw and constantly yawns.

I had this email four days later:  “I still can’t get over the difference in him, he’s not done any wees inside the house, he’s only jumping on us occasionally. It was really great meeting you the other day, I just wish I’d got in touch with you soon, that way things would never have gone as far as they had”. I did tell her to expect good days and bad days while all the work was being done on his stress levels. I am sure with an owner like his, Jack will come through this to live a happy life.
I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.
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