We just picked up a 3-year-old Golden Retriever female from a kennel who retired her from breeding. She has lived in this kennel for all of her 3 years. The problem is she is very timid and submissive to the point to where I have to literally pick her up to take her out to potty and do the same to bring her back in the house. As soon as you get close to her she lays on her stomach and will not move…even with treats. Is she damaged merchandise or is there a chance she will start coming out of her fear of her new surroundings and what can we do to help her? ~Doug
So sorry to hear your new dog is acting so fearfully! Bless your heart for opening your heart and home to this girl. If she lived in the kennel for all of her 3 years, I am assuming she must have not been socialized much and may have missed out being around people and experiencing all the sights and sounds of life outside of a kennel.
It sounds like she is intimidated and when you approach her, she freezes and just cannot function normally. When dogs are fearful, they may react this way. They may fight (act defensively), flight (run away) or give up and freeze, which sounds like your case. If you get frustrated by her behavior, things will only get worse and she will freeze even more. If the treats are not working, I am guessing that she is to a point of feeling very stressed. If she lived in a kennel for her 3 years, it could be that she never really got a chance to understand the concept of “being taken out to potty.” She likely just went in the kennel. So this is perhaps this is all new to her.
It is hard to tell if she will ever completely come out of her shell or how long it would take. I am tempted to think that eventually she will get used to the idea of going in and out of the house to potty, but there are really many things to evaluate. Here are some things to consider and options that you can try.
Many new dogs go through a period of time when they are adopted during which they are more intimidated and fearful. It may take weeks or months for new dogs to come out of their shell and behave normally.
She might be scared of being in the yard. If your yard is noisy and it exposes her to stimuli that can be overwhelming, such as other dogs in nearby yards, scary noises or traffic. If your yard is noisy or scary in any way (put yourself in her shoes being raised in a kennel most of her life) you may want to take her when things are more quiet (early morning, lunch hour, late evening).
Instead of carrying her out, try to open the door, head out and see if she’ll follow you in the yard. She may follow you if she feels lonely and vulnerable to be left alone in the house all alone. If she does come out, make sure you praise her, but do it calmly without scaring her.
Instead of carrying her back in, try to go back in the home first. She may feel vulnerable being left alone in the yard, so she’ll likely come back inside. Again, make sure you praise her when she does, but calmly so not to scare her. Carrying her in and out, may only make problems worse.
You can try enticing her with higher value treats. We’re talking about the real high value stuff, think freeze-dried liver, low sodium hot dogs, boiled chicken, some canned salmon. Don’t use the food to lure her straight out, instead, every day start feeding some near the door, then by the door with the door open, then one step out until she’s out. Baby steps!
From your description it sounds like she’s not only fearful of the yard, but her new surroundings as well. It takes time to get used to new places, new sounds, new smells especially in a dog that has likely been under socialized and perhaps never lived in a home. A DAP diffuser, may help and so may some calming aids such as a calming cap, calming treats etc.
You need to be very patient, calm and encouraging. If you get frustrated at any time, she’ll notice it and this will only cause her to become more and more intimidated and shy. Slow and steady wins the race. I hope this helps, best wishes and good luck!
I am trying to train puppy to stay calm while being left alone. However, the room I am keeping him in has everything he needs. I have played with him in this room, he has a bed, plenty of chew toys and food and water he also has radio on. I also put an old shirt with my sent on it so he feels close to me. My concern is him getting hurt. I have been leaving him a few minutes at a time so he gets used to it. However, when he realizes he is alone he frantically keeps running in to the door. It is a hardwood door. He also will howl and whimper. What do I do?? Please help I am afraid he is going to hurt himself or have severe behavior issues. Thanks, Stephanie
Hello and thank you for reaching out.
It sounds like you are doing everything correctly and are on the right path. It’s a good idea to keep the radio on, your old shirt and safe chew toys around to keep him busy. He has his bed, food and water so everything should be fine, yet, you mention your puppy is still having trouble being left alone. Leaving him a few minutes at a time to give help him adjust to your brief absences is also the right procedure for dealing with an issue as such. So what’s left to do? There are several options that you may want to try, but as you mention, safety should be top priority. Here are a few ideas you may want to give a try:
With a puppy, you may want to not give him the full reign of the house, at least not yet. If your puppy is slamming against the door, you may want to set up a safe play pen or install a sturdy baby gate so you can confine him in a small area of the house where he can be safely confined. I am not sure of the size of your puppy, but the sturdier these enclosures, the better. You may also want to provide some sort of cushioning if he would also tend to slam against these enclosures.
When you leave for a brief period of time, make sure you do not come back when your puppy is actively howling and whimpering. Wait it out, when he stops to catch his breath, even if for a split second, make your return. If you come back every time your puppy whimpers or howls, you risk reinforcing that behavior.
I would not leave food out for the puppy to eat whenever he feels like it. I would feed him at specific times of the day. When it’s meal time, I would give the food and then leave out of sight (not out of the door yet through) for brief periods of time. Just go in another room. Alternatively, you could give him wonderful treats stuffed in a Kong and then leave the room for a handful of minutes. Ideally, your puppy should work on getting the goodies out. When he’s done, come back in the room. The goal of this is to make him associate your absence with good things.
I would also work on desensitizing him to the noise of you opening the door. Just open the door as if you’re leaving, toss a treat his way and then shut it closed. Stay inside for now. Repeat several times. As your puppy gets good at this, you can then increase criteria and start moving out of the door as you toss a treat, then toss a handful of treats and leave for split second (the time he gobbles them up) and then return. Gradually, make these absences longer, but in the midst of them, also add some brief ones so he’s not stressed knowing that you are leaving for longer and longer times.
Desensitize him to any pre- departure cues. Pre-departure cues are things you do that tell your puppy you are about to leave. Put your shoes on as if you’re about to leave, but then just sit on the couch and watch TV. Grab your keys and then go read a book. Repeat several times.
Puppies hate being alone, but boredom and anxiety is generally worse in pups who have loads of energy. Try to drain some of that energy by playing a game of fetch or going on a walk before you leave.
Start teaching your puppy to stay away from you at times. Teach him to go to his mat and enjoy a toy or long-lasting treat on it. Don’t let him follow you from to room all the time.
Finally, record your puppy’s behavior when you are out. Often the howling and whining is most tragic the first few minutes when you leave the house, then you might be surprised to see that your puppy may play or even take a nap. By recording your pup’s behavior while you are out, you can also track progress on your plan. If you continue having problems, enlist the help of a trainer so you can nip this problem in the bud before it gets too out of hand. I hope this helps, good luck!
I rescued a Pomeranian chawawa mix dog that’s about 4 years old. I’ve had him for 4 months and he’s a great dog. For some reason for the last week he stated scratching at my door and carpet when I’m away. I live in an apartment so he can’t go outside when I’m gone. What made him start doing this and how can I stop it. He’s one of the best dogs I’ve ever had and I don’t want to give him up.~Lee
Hello and thank you for your question Lee,
If this behavior is exclusively happening when you are away, it could be that your dog is developing separation anxiety. This is not uncommon in dogs who are rescued. With these fellows it’s often unclear if they are surrendered by their previous owners because of this problem or if these dogs are more prone to it because of their history of being surrendered which causes a great deal of instability and a strong need to form strong social attachments with their new owners (even to the point of the attachment being dysfunctional).
Why is this behavior happening now and not in the previous 4 months? One must consider that many rescue dogs go through what trainers call a “honeymoon period” during which behavior problems aren’t apparent. During this time dogs are getting used to their new homes and settling down. It could be your dog has now realized that you are his caretaker and has started bonding with you. In some cases, separation anxiety tends to erupt when owners have been around for a while and then sudden they get a new job and they’re out more. In any case, it sounds like this is something that needs addressed. A first step would be identifying if this is truly a sign of separation anxiety of something else.
At times, what looks like separation anxiety is just a dog who is bored and trying to find ways to keep himself occupied. In these cases though, dogs are more likely to chew up items not related with departures such as remote controls and shoes and they may also chew up and scratch rugs, upholstery and couches. These dogs tend to improve if their needs for exercise and mental stimulation are met. Offering these dogs a walk prior to leaving and a few stuffed Kongs or safe toys to chew, often provides them with enough outlets for their boredom.
Dogs with separation anxiety instead focus on barriers that prevent them from reaching their owners. Their strong desire to be re-united with their owners causes them to focus their attention to doors, windows and anything close by. If the carpet is right by the door, chances are it’s part of the manifestation of anxiety your dog feels. In these dogs, providing them with walks, toys to chew etc. is often not enough as these dogs are anxious and entirely focused on the door as they’re nervously waiting for their owners to come back.
I would suggest to record your dog’s behavior next time you go out. Then when you come back, take a look at it to have an idea what your dog is doing in your absence. Dogs with separation anxiety typically, pace, whine, bark, scratch and chew at windows and doors. They also tend to drool, act restless and even eliminate indoors. Please keep in mind that this is not done out of spite of being left alone, this is a real form of anxiety. Showing the video to your vet or a trainer/behavior consultant will help confirm if you’re really dealing with a case of separation anxiety.
If that’s truly what your dog is diagnosed with, consider that there are solutions. Based on how severe it is, your vet may suggest behavior modification along with prescription drugs or behavior modification alone. May I suggest a great read? “Don’t leave me! Step-by-step help for your dog’s separation anxiety by dog trainer “Nicole Wilde.”
How do I keep my dog from eating cat poop outside in the yard? ~Royallynn
Hello, and thank you for reaching out. Dogs are often attracted to cat poop because cats eat a diet rich in fats and proteins so their feces have a strong appeal to dogs. Dogs are animals who like to forage for food, so going out in the yard to hunt for kitty nuggets is not only a tasty hobby but also an entertaining way to pass time. However, dogs can get much more than a tasty treat when they’re hunting for cat feces. Veterinarians warn that eating cat poop can also cause dogs to develop pesky parasites as they ingest potential eggs found in cat feces and dirt. Once ingested, it’s just a matter of time for these parasites to hatch and lead to problems. Owners of dogs who tend to eat any kind of animal poop should frequently have their dog’s stools checked for parasites. So for sure this is a habit you want to curb!
While in a home setting, a litter box can be kept out of the way, things get more complicated in a yard, where the cat feces are scattered about and likely buried under ground. There are ultimately only a handful of options to resort to and they are mostly based on controlling access to the environment.
1) Keep your dog on leash every time he goes out in the yard. If your dog isn’t too fond of being on a short leash for his outings, you can invest in a long line. These are like long leashes measuring about 10 to 15 feet or even longer and are often used for horses. A long line gives your dog more freedom to walk around, but you also have a level of control, so when you catch your dog sniffing an area and about to dig out a treasure, you can say “leave it” and gently guide your dog away as you get ready to praise and reward him for leaving it.
2) Fence off an area of the yard with a cat proof fence and use it only for your dog. This way you can be sure that only your dog has access to it and Fluffy no longer uses that part of the yard as a toilet. This can be costly and a bit time consuming at first, but it sure pays off in peace of mind!
3) Close supervision with a solid “leave it” command. This takes time and requires loads of practice. Basically, you will have to closely supervise your dog outside and at the very first signs of him detecting poop, you will say “leave it” and call your dog to get a treat from you that is far higher in value than the best cat poop in the world. You want to train this on leash first and as your dog gets good, then you can try off leash. Keep in mind though that if your dog manages to eat cat poop when you are not watching, all your hard training will have a big set back.
4) Use Forbid for cats. This is a product that can be given to cats and it makes their feces taste horrible, so dogs are discouraged from eating them in the future. While this may seem like a good solution, consider that there are some downfalls. Your dog may resume eating cat feces the day you no longer give it to your cat and it doesn’t always work. Some dogs still like the taste. You can ask your vet if this is something you may want to try on your cats.
As seen, there is really no easy fix for this unfortunately frustrating problem. Some dog owners have such a serious problem they must muzzle their dogs when outdoors to keep them from eating the feces. Even then, the dog may try to get access and get their muzzles smeared in cat poop, something probably even more annoying than the dog eating it! Not to mention, that dogs on muzzles should always be supervised!
A few months ago my dog ( 2 years old in May ) started acting territorial and nervous around dogs she’s not familiar with. She was always quite a timid dog so we socialized her when she was young. She has a couple dog friends which she doesn’t growl at but I’m starting to get worried because she even growled at a puppy (2-3 months all) which didn’t do anything to her. Usually she would sniff the other dog as normal then lie down ( I think this is a submissive thing ) but then If the dog gets too close and for too long she starts growling at them and sometimes even lunges at them! She also seems possessive over her food and toys with other dogs. She’s not territorial with food or toys with humans, it’s just other dogs… What is this? How do I solve it? Thank you so much, Mica
Hello, and thank you for your question,
Most puppies and young adolescent dogs get along pretty much with any dogs they meet. This is up to generally about 12-18 months. Things can change a lot after this time frame. At 2 years old, most dogs reach the social maturity stage and this is a time when they are prone to changes in social settings. While they were friends with all puppies and dogs earlier, now is the time they get more selective and may no longer accept certain behaviors from other dogs. Your description isn’t unusual at all, countless dog owners experience this with their dogs. The dog who used to go to the dog park now no longer wants to be friends with all dogs, the dog who wanted to meet every dog on the street, now ignores other dogs, the dog who eagerly played with ANY dog know is selective. It’s a time of social maturity, where they start seeing things differently and may no longer be eager to engage in rowdy play with a group of other dogs. This is not at all abnormal.
Something to consider though is also the possible impact of some negative experience. It could be your dog one day felt uncomfortable in an interaction with another dog and this has made her more selective on who to “befriend”. The growling and lunging is reinforcing as it likely sends the other dog away (or you intervene to remove your dog or the other dog from the situation), so it soon becomes the default method to tell other dogs to back off, the moment she’s uneasy in a social situation. Soon, a new behavior pattern puts roots.
Also, it never hurts to see the vet, especially if the behavior is uncharacteristic or started out of the blue. Sometimes underlying medical conditions can lower a dog’s tolerance threshold making dogs react in uncharacteristic ways. Ear problems, low thyroid levels or any form of pain can make a dog a bit more grouchy than usual.
The growling towards the puppy isn’t unusual either. Puppies often engage in boisterous behaviors that can trigger a warning growl in a grown-up dog. It may look like the puppy didn’t do anything other than just acting “puppyish,” but from your dog’s perspective, the puppy likely got into your dog’s space or didn’t pay attention to your dog’s previous “leave me alone” signals. We often think of a growl as something bad, but we often forget that it’s a form of communication. Dogs tell each other “please, leave me alone” just as grown up may tell a child “I have had enough, please give me a break.” While it’s not unusual for an older, well-socialized dog to growl at a hyper puppy, you must also consider though if your dog was socialized with puppies in the past. If your dog hasn’t been around puppies much, there may also have been an element of fear.
Social greetings should be brief and up to the point. Dogs sniff each others’ rears for a few seconds and then one dog may decide to leave, one may invite the other to play or both dogs may initiate play. It’s rude behavior to stick around for too long, and some dogs will growl to tell the dog “off” if the inspection is getting too long or out of hand. Additionally, if your dog lies down, this is a vulnerable position and she may feel uncomfortable with anther dog “standing over.” I am not sure if you are taking your dog to a dog park, but if you are, your dog may be happier playing just with the dogs she’s well acquainted with rather than a bunch of other dogs at the park. Take it as a time of maturity and changes.
Set your dog up for success may setting up only positive interactions with the dog she has chosen as playmates. By choosing appropriate play partners, you can up your chances for positive interactions. If you are going to a dog park, I would suggest to no longer go. You may be surprised to see that there are many articles written by professionals that explain why dog parks can cause more trouble than fun.
Food and toys should not be offered in a setting with several dogs. Several dog parks now do not allow toys to prevent squabbles. If one must give treats, they must be given when no other dogs are around. This is another good reason to avoid dog parks or other settings with several dogs, as these should not be offered due to safety concerns.
It sounds like your dog does well with a few selected play mates. This is quite normal considering her age. There are many dogs who grow up to become selective and there’s nothing wrong with that. This is common in many herding breeds, but is also seen in several other breeds and mixes. It’s a myth that all dogs must get along. I would consider encouraging positive social interactions with these selected dogs, always keeping a watchful eye for early signs of her getting tired to play and asking for a break. In a more controlled setting as such, you and the other owners can also practice important obedience skills such as calling your dogs, giving a distance down-stay or a distance sit -stay so at any first signs of conflict you can distract the dogs and give them something else to do. There are many other fun activities dogs can do with other dogs but in a more controlled, safer setting. You can enroll your dog in classes and find a good trainer who can evaluate your dog’s comfortable levels with other dogs and suggest other venues for fun activities. This makes for happier, more obedient dogs who enjoy the company of other dogs in a structured setting. A win-win situation for all!
How do I keep my dog (a rescue) from picking things out of the trash. For example, we cleaned his ears and then threw the stuff in the small bathroom garbage pail. He was after it immediately! What’s the best way to teach him that garbage cans are off limits?
Thanks, Gail Isabel
Greetings Gail, and thank you for reaching out.
For dogs who raid the trash can there are 2 solutions: one involves management and the second involves training. Let’s look at the two options more closely.
First of all, let’s understand the behavior more closely. As a general rule of thumb, consider that behaviors in dogs that repeat and persist, have some form of reinforcement at play. If every time your dog raids the trash can he finds something enticing (from his perspective) contained within, he will be likely to visit it more and more. It’s sort of like shopping, if every time you shop at a store, you find great deals, you will be more likely to visit that store in the future. If the store though stops providing good deals, you will likely stop going there.
Dogs are sort of like toddlers, they tend to get in trouble if we leave them to access to a full kitchen with all its cabinets full of items that may look like toys. While stealing some cotton balls from an ear cleaning may not be much of a safety hazard, consider what may happen if there were bones, chocolate or chemicals in the trash. In bathroom trash cans consider that tampons, bottles of nail polish removers or boxes of hair dyes can cause big problems if a dog has access to them. Stopping a dog from raiding the trash can is therefore more of a safety measure than a training issue.
So this brings us to solution 1, the easiest solution of all: keep the trash can out of the way in a closed cupboard or closet, for instance, or invest in one that has a lid that doesn’t allow a dog to open,even if it is knocked down. There are several trash can models now on the market that are pretty much dog proof. But if you want to go 100 percent safe, keeping a trash can completely out of reach is the safest and most effective option of all. Out of sight, out of mind!
The second option which is training a dog not to raid the trash can. This option though comes with some flaws. It comes natural for many dog owners to want to punish the dog in the act, but by doing so there is a big risk factor: your dog may learn to not raid only when in your presence. So your dog will be more likely to sneak his way to the trash can when you are not looking, which is a big problem if there is something potentially harmful in the trash can.
On top of that, consider that scolding the dog for doing something that is instinctive (dogs are scavengers by nature) can make the dog owner appear unpredictable as dogs may not understand why their owners are unhappy. “Is my owner upset because I am eating? Because I just looked at him? Because I made the trash can fall? Because I am in the bathroom? Because I stopped eating? Because I am playing with a toilet roll? “
You see, when you are training a dog not to raid the trash can, you are dealing with strong competing stimuli. In other words, the trash can is inviting your dog, while you are telling your dog not to give in. Back to the shopping example, it’s as if somebody is telling a shop-aholic not to shop. So what is left to do? Unless you are there t oalways 24/7 monitor your dog, sometimes it takes a multi-model approach
I recently adopted a stray 10 year old shepard mix at the Humane Society. He is a wonderful boy but very clingy. He follows me from room to room and I have a small house and he is a big boy so he is literally always under foot. I did learn that his past he was mostly chained up outside and left to his own. He even will bark when outside on his lead to be let in. He doesn’t seem to want to be alone at all. How can I get him more comfortable so he doesn’t feel I need to be insight at all times? ~Carol Merten
Hello, and thank you for reaching out,
It’s wonderful to hear that you opened your heart and home to such a lovely dog. Sadly, not many senior dogs are adopted as many people are drawn to puppies. Senior dogs have so much to give and they offer the advantage of being calmer and their temperament is stable versus not knowing what you get with a puppy. Your dog sounds like he’s trying to adjust to his new environment. Many recently adopted dogs are clingy, especially during the first months. Some call this adjustment period: the “honey moon period.” They are trying to figure out their new routines and want to be on top of everything. You also mention he is a shepherd mix, and being part shepherd may also play a role in his behaviors. Shepherd dogs were selectively bred to work closely with their shepherds so they’re naturally predisposed to bond closely to their humans. On top of that, dogs who lost their owners, changed homes often or were surrendered in shelters often develop an over attachment because they have a strong need for stability. Not to mention, that sometimes dogs who are surrendered were given away because of separation anxiety, a condition that causes dogs to become anxious and even destructive when left alone. Here are a few suggestions for your “Velcro dog .”
Start with a Vet Exam
Since your dog is up in the years, I would first start with a vet visit. This is to just make sure everything is fine in the health department. Sometimes, senior dogs may be prone to some health issues that make them feel vulnerable so they want to stay as close as they can to their caregivers. Loss of eye sight and loss of hearing may cause a dog to want to stay close their caregivers because they depend on them to be their “eyes and ears.” It’s not uncommon for senior dogs to develop separation anxiety as they age because of this. Also, as some dogs age, they may also develop the first signs of canine cognitive dysfunction which can make them prone to becoming anxious when they’re separated from their family. Usually, though dog with a decline in cognitive function exhibit several other signs such as whining at night, aimless wandering, staring at objects etc.
Rewarding Brief Absences
Once medical reasons for clingy behaviors have been ruled out, you can then start implementing some behavior modification to get him adjusted to brief absences. Most likely, you will find that your dog likes to sleep near you or in contact with your feet. This is your dog’s way of monitoring you, so he knows when you are about to get up so he can get up and follow you too. Your dog may get up when you put your arm on an arm chair, put down the remote or a book or when you give any subtle indications that you’re about to get up. Here’s a game I play with clingy dogs that tend to follow me around. I call it “the destination no where” game. I start by repeatedly giving indications that I am getting up or about to get up but then I do not get up. I do this several times until the dog gives up responding to these signals as he learns that they are all “false alarms.” Then, I will get up and get the dog to follow me in circles aimlessly wandering around until he gets tired of doing that and then go back to my seat. After several times of doing this, I start rewarding the dog when he stays in his place despite me getting up. So I will get up, tell the dog to “stay” walk a distance and then come back and reward the dog with a treat or a piece of kibble. I do this several times, gradually increasing the distance I walk away each time. I then will give the dog a longer lasting treat such as a bully stick or stuffed Kong to get him occupied while I walk away to grab something. With time, your dog will learn that when you must walk away, great things happen. If you do this enough, he might even start looking forward to you getting up and leaving him briefly as it becomes a sign that he’ll be getting goodies!
For difficult cases, you may need to install a baby gate or some sort of barrier so he doesn’t’ follow you. Then, you would toss a treat and disappear for a second or two out of sight. Then once he’s done eating, you would toss another treat or two, disappear for a little bit and then repeat several times, gradually increasing the time you’re away of sight and using longer lasting treats. If your dog whines, barks during your brief absence, may sure you don’t come back or you’ll be rewarding those whining/barking behaviors! Wait for him to quiet down, even if for a second, before you come back. Reward silence with your presence. Your presence is a strong reinforcer so use it to your advantage to reward good behaviors.
Another great option is to feed your dog when you are momentarily away. Let him eat with his bowl at a distance from your chair where you’re sitting, then move your chair gradually farther and farther away, until he’s able to eat with you out of sight. In other words, you are always working on making all the goodies appear when you are a briefly away. Make sure you use high-value treats as they need to be able to distract him enough. You need to do this very gradually though. If you overwhelm him in the process, he may start associating the treats with you leaving the room and may no longer want them.
A great command to teach your dog is to “go to your mat.” This way your dog no longer sleeps by your feet controlling every your movement. Teach it by placing toys or favorite long lasting treats there so your dog enjoys them. Praise him when he lies there. Let your dog sleep on the mat also at night too. Also, teach your dog to play with interactive toys when you are away. Give him a stuffed Kong or a Buster Cube. Feed him his meal or treats inside a Kong Wobbler while you do your dishes or take a shower. Other games that encourage distance from you include hide ‘n seek and hiding your dog’s kibble around the house so he must be away from you, even if briefly.
For the barking outside, it’s not uncommon behavior. Not many dogs are happy of being left alone even briefly when their owners are inside. Most dogs rebel and want their owners out with them or want to be inside with them. Their frustration often leads to barking and destructive behaviors. You can try to give him a safe bone when you need to put him out, but it might not work if he’s not really into chewing it.
If your dog is struggling despite these tips, you may have gone too fast in the process or you may need to invest in some calming aids such as DAP diffusers or calming chews, but consult with a vet before adding any supplements. Severe cases may require prescription medications and a consult with a veterinary behaviorist. I hope this helps! Thanks for adopting a senior fellow and best regards!
I have an Irish terrier and he is 10 months old. We never leave him a lone for more than 4 hours at a time, and that only usually happens 3-4 times a week. Only recently he’s started to pee in the house when we leave him. I wouldn’t say he suffers from separation anxiety as he doesn’t cry or bark when we leave him, and he isn’t attached to one person in particular as spends a lot of time between our house and my parents house as they are retired.
He is house trained and hasn’t had any incidents in a while when he is not a lone. I have no idea how to train him not to pee in the house when we are not there!
Greetings, and thank you for contacting Dog Training Basics!
This sounds like a case that would benefit from wearing an investigative hat and a magnifying glass! In other words, it needs some investigation to see what is really going on. In such a case, I would recommend recording your dog’s behavior in your absence. Many times, dog owners are surprised at what they see. Without seeing exactly what is going on, we can only make some assumptions. Here are a few ideas:
An Authentic Need to Potty
Some times we must give dogs the benefit of doubt. While you state your dog hasn’t had any accidents for a while when in your company, consider as well that in your absence your dog cannot go to the door and ask to be let out. You can get some important hints by looking at the urine you find when you come home. Is there an actual big puddle? If so, there are good chances your dog is actually urinating from a real physiological need to empty his bladder. In other words, he really had to go!
Excessive Drinking Behaviors
While some dogs refuse to eat or touch their water bowls when left alone, some may engage in the opposite behavior. Excessive drinking behaviors can stem from boredom or as a displacement behavior from frustration. It’s a good idea to monitor your dog’s water intake when he’s left alone. Fill up his water bowl before leaving, and then, upon your return, check how much is left. If he’s guzzling water like there’s no tomorrow, he’ll likely not be able to hold it. Monitoring water intake is another reason why it’s worthy to record his behavior when you’re away.
Urine Marking Behaviors
It may seem a bit early for your dog to mark, but consider that urine marking behaviors have been seen in dogs as early as 3 months old! Take a look at the urine when you come home. Is it on a vertical surface? Is it just a trickle? Dogs who urine mark prefer to lift their legs purposely on certain items such as furniture, a table leg or a lamp, and generally, use only a little trickle. The urine marking can be a sign of stress or territorial behavior. This is another case where recording your dog’s behavior may offer an important puzzle piece. It could be your dog sees other dogs or people from the window and he may urine mark as a way of “erecting boundaries” to his territory or leaving some “pee mail.”
Any Excitement Urination?
When you greet your dog upon coming home, make sure he isn’t actually urinating right then. It could be you think your dog urinated hours ago, when in reality the accident just happened, only it happened so fast your weren’t able to see it. Some dogs are really quick in squirting urine. One moment they’re there greeting you, and the next, right when loom over to you greet them, they release this little dribble of urine. Another good reason to record your dog’s behavior as you may not see the urination as it happens but a recording may show a whole different story!
A Case of Separation Anxiety
You mention separation anxiety is unlikely, but so do many countless owners who record their dog’s behavior in their absence only to notice behaviors that never expected. Turns out, their dogs are constantly pacing, circling, scratching at doors and windows and whining. Many times, owners think their dog eliminated in their absence, when in reality what they are seeing are actual dribbles of drool, which is common in dogs who suffer from separation anxiety. There are different versions of “separation anxiety.” Some dogs attach to a particular person and some others attach to both their owners and suffer from isolation distress.
As seen, there are several possibilities that can explain your dog’s behavior. Your strategy to reduce this behavior will vary based on your findings from your recording. Here some tips:
•If your dog urinated from an actual physiological need, consider letting him out to relieve himself before heading out. This can lower the chances for accidents.
•If your dog is drinking excessively, try to leave him a stuffed Kong to keep him occupied. Hopefully, this would distract him from the water bowl.
•If your dog is marking after seeing people and other dogs from windows, it may help to prevent access to such visual stimuli. Window film may help or you can keep him in different room. Also, make sure you clean up those soiled areas with a good enzyme-based cleaner. Using a crate may help reduce the chances for eliminating in the home.
•Excitement urination can be reduced by making greetings low key or greeting your puppy outside.
•Separation anxiety needs a process of desensitization and counterconditioning. To attain an accurate diagnosis, show a trainer or behavior consultant the behaviors you have recorded.
•If your dog isn’t neutered, neutering may lower the chances for urine marking related to hormones. It’s estimated that neutering can help reduce marking behaviors in roughly 80 percent of dogs.
•Last but not least, anytime new behaviors pop up, it’s always a good idea to rule out medical problems.
I hope this helps, and that you’ll be able to go to the root of this problem! Best regards,
My 14 month old cocker spaniel, seem to show me little respect. She does not respond to me when I call her name and the recall is very poor. Also if I leave a side gate open and she is not tethered she will run off and it is then a trial to get her back because of the recall. On the lead training in the garden she is very different, sits, stays, will recall. I would welcome your comments, thank you
Greetings, and thank you for contacting us! I will try to address each issue separately and divide into smaller segments so you’re not overwhelmed with too much information. There are several explanations for your dog’s behavior, and the good news is that you can work on the issues and transform your dog into an active listener by following some easy steps.
Welcome to the Terrible Teens! Your dog is 14 months old which means she’s at the peak of the adolescent stage. Consider that dogs are considered “teenagers” generally between the ages of 6 months up to around 18 months. This is a transitory phase, meaning your dog is in between two temporary, yet very important, developmental stages midway from the puppy stage and the adult one. While your dog may seem to be maturing physically, she may have moments of reverting to puppy behaviors and show little impulse control. At this stage, dogs are often looking for ways to drain their boundless energy and keep their brains mentally stimulated. On top of that, during this stage, dogs may turn a deaf ear and at times they may act as if they have never heard a command before. Gone are the days during which puppies were following us from room to room eager to please us! It’s not a coincidence that, sadly, the majority of dogs relinquished to shelters happen to be in the adolescent stage. It can be challenging, it can be nerve wrecking, but it’s only temporary and the best part is that your dog is getting towards the end of it, even though it’s true that dogs will need training for a lifetime. Don’t feel discouraged. As with the human teenager phase, this stage will pass. I will be happy to offer you some guidelines to help you out.
A Matter or Bonding
We often think dogs aren’t respectful to us, when in reality, they’re just not in tune with us because we haven’t given them the opportunity to bond with us and learn that we can be the source of wonderful things. You mention she is tethered outdoors. If she’s tethered for a good part of the day, this could be preventing her from bonding with you as she should. You may be therefore missing out many opportunities to interact with her, observe her and meet her social needs. If your dog is often tethered, she will also likely have pent-up energy, so as soon as she’s loose she’ll enjoy releasing that energy, and on top of that, she’ll likely enjoy the exhilarating feeling of being free. On her free romps around the neighborhood, she ‘ll also likely get to sniff around, perhaps meet other dogs and people, chase animals and even eat something yummy she’s not supposed to. All of this is highly reinforcing, meaning she feels good about it so she’ll try to escape more and more. Worst of all, all these positive experiences are happening in your absence, and when you go get her, all these wonderful things end, making you the party pooper that ends all the fun. It’s not surprising therefore why she’s trying to escape and ignores your efforts to call her back. As much as this all sounds like bad news, there’s some really good news coming up.
The Secret to Obedient Dogs
You can change things for the better! The most obedient dogs I have seen come from homes where the dogs are kept in the home with their owners. Often, dogs are relegated to the yard either because they are misbehaving or have poor potty manners. Yet, being left in the yard or tethered, doesn’t give them give them the opportunity to learn anything other than getting frustrated as they wish they could be with their family or escape the yard for an adventure where they get to meet other people or dogs. So I would suggest starting today, keeping your dog indoors with you and working on training her inside. People are often surprised how good their dogs become once they are welcomed indoors. Sure, they may struggle the first few days, but most dogs are great in the home once their needs for exercise and mental stimulation are met.
Keep that Brain Busy!
Your dog is a hunting breed; indeed, as you may already know, the cocker spaniel was used to hunt birds, to be specific, a species of woodcock (hence, their name cocker). This means these dogs need a certain amount of exercise and mental stimulation. Instead of letting your dog walk herself and enjoy the amenities of the outdoor world, take her with you on daily walks and make yourself the source of great happenings by teaching her to walk next to you and getting wonderful treats from you when she’s in heel position. At home, provide ample of mental stimulation by offering interactive toys. Get rid of the food bowl and hide her kibble around the home, make a trail out of kibble or stuff it in a Kong. Keep her happy and busy!
Make Coming to You Music for Her Ears!
The recall command (coming when called) is one of the most important commands dogs will learn. Often this command is poisoned, meaning that it loses it’s potency as it becomes associated with negative events. For instance, if you call your dog when it’s time for bath time and your dog hates baths, next time, you call him you can’t be surprised if he’s hiding under the bed because he has learned to associate his name with the negative event (the bath). If you have been calling your dog when she escapes, only to tether her again, or even worse, scold her and then tether her, the recall command weakens as the dog learns it’s highly inconvenient attending to the command as it means being involved in a negative situation. So how to remedy this? We change the recall command so to give it a fresh new meaning and we make it as highly reinforcing as possible. So if you used to say “Over here, over here!” let’s transform it to “Daisy coooome!” said in the most happy and upbeat voice you can make.
Start with Low Distractions
Why does your dog listen to you when in the garden on lead? First off, she knows that when she’s on lead, she’s prevented from escaping. Second, the recall on lead has a different meaning than the recall once she has taken off and escaped the gate. When you call her when she’s on lead, to her it may be interpreted as: “come to me since you have no where better to go” versus the recall when she’s going, going, gone from the gate may mean:”come here, come here, so I can tether you again!” It’s a no-brainer deciding which command to listen to.
Once your dog is inside with you, your dog will be more in tune with you and you can take advantage of many opportunities to make the recall command as wonderful as it should be. If she loves her kibble, prepare it when somebody else holds her by the lead or opens the crate door to release her. This will build some anticipation. When the meal is ready, call her (your helper will be ready to unsnap the lead the moment you call her) and put the bowl down. Do the same when you buy her a new toy, bone or it’s time to go on walks if she loves walks. The recall needs to be a predictor of wonderful things so she doesn’t have to think twice wondering if it’s worthy of responding to. These are natural ways to polish the recall. Then, you can make purposely set recall sessions to make the recall further worthy listening to. Again, have a helper hold her, and call her, and when she comes to you, give her several small pieces of high-value treats in a row to leave a big impact, everlasting memory on her mind. Only after she does very well in the home responding to your recall every time you call, move to the yard.
Yard Work (with Gates Closed)!
In the yard, repeat the work done indoors. Have a helper hold her on leash, and then unsnap it when you call her. She should come running to you at full speed. Praise lavishly and reward with several tid bits in a row. It’s good to use super high value treats outdoors, think low-sodium hot dogs, cheese, freeze-dried liver or meatballs. You can even create a fun game of hide ‘n seek by having your helper hold her while you hide somewhere and call her to find you. Always make a great deal of coming when called. Also, when you are in the yard with her and she’s off leash (and the gate is securely locked), practice rewarding voluntary check-ins. This means rewarding her with treats every time she voluntarily comes near you. This makes you interesting, sometimes even more interesting than other stimuli in the yard.
A Word of Caution
Let’s face it, not many dogs resist the temptation of escaping a yard or an open door! Even more so dogs who had the opportunity to taste the freedom associated with exploring the world. With your daily walks and all the positive interactions with you, the outdoors will hopefully look less tempting. Note: It’s imperative that during the training stages that gates stays always closed. Actually, a gate should still be closed anyhow no matter how trained a dog is. Dogs are animals, and no training is ever 100 percent effective, which is why it’s unethical for a dog trainer to give guarantees. Just as we wouldn’t keep driving when we notice a ball on a street assuming that a child would be wise enough not to cross, we shouldn’t expect our dogs to ignore an open gate, even if we are there calling them.
Setting for Success
Of course, we can train and work hard on proofing our recall training so that in the event of a door or gate being left accidentally ajar, we have a higher chance our dog will make a good choice and come to us, compared to a dog who has had no training, but we must think that there is no way to guarantee through training the ability to overcome all of the risks dogs may be exposed to. An option you have, should you want to work on training your dog to make good choices despite an open gate, is using a long line (often sold in horse and tack supply stores). A long line allows you to safely practice recalls with the gate open while having control on your dog should she decide to ignore your recall. This training should be done gradually, keeping the long line shorter at first and practicing at a distance from the gate, then making the line longer and practicing closer to the gate. Don’t forget to always reward a lot for coming to you!
The Bottom Line
Yes, many dogs will come to you despite leaving an opened door or opened gate, (I know many dogs who would, including mine) but we shouldn’t take it for granted. There are always chances dogs will follow their instincts and desires which exposes them to danger. Many dogs are killed from escaping doors and yards (being hit by a car, exposure to toxins, eaten by predators) so it’s our responsibility as dog owners to ultimately keep them safe. It’s by far a safer option to simple close a gate than to gamble and expect our dogs to come to us in spite of the gate open especially that day we are at a disadvantage such as not noticing in time or the dog being unable to hear us because of a loud truck passing by.
The bottom line is that we can prevent dogs from making wrong choices, by controlling their environment and setting them up for success. Your dog is young, she’s in the teenager phase and is in need of some training. With your help, if you can set higher and higher goals gradually, you can help her learn how wonderful it is to stick by your side and how wonderful it is to come to you. As she further matures, she’ll also gain better impulse control and with your help she can potentially become a wonderful companion. I hope this helps! Sending you my best wishes and happy training!
Stuck in a “Duh” Moment
Gone are the days when your puppy was eager to please you. You’ll now likely notice your dog act as if he has never heard a command before. These “duh!” episodes of memory loss are quite common during the adolescent stage and will require your patience and understanding. Getting mad and frustrated when your dog doesn’t come to you when called won’t do any good. Fortunately, this is a transitory phase and you’ll eventually see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Just like human teenagers, adolescent dogs will want to have it their way and will want more independence. We can’t blame them: this is the age where in the wild, canines separated from their families to form their own. They are lured to trying new behaviors and testing their boundaries. Gone are the days when your puppy loved to stick by your side and would come running the moment you were out of sight! There are many more interesting sights, smells and sounds at this time just waiting to be discovered.