Canine Behavior/new dog
My fiance and I took in a 6 year old Beagle/German Shepherd mix, Fred, this past November. Fred was my neighbor's friend's dog. He had been living with a 14 year old dog and the friend's mother. The friend would be there on the weekends. Fred was living there when the mother (primary care taker# had passed away. Fred and the other dog were left alone with the body and nobody to take care of them for 2-3 days. When the body was discovered Fred and the other dog were left alone for most of the day and taken out to be fed and walked twice a day by a neighbor. At that time the other dog was having medical issues and was put down by the vet. Fred was then there by himself. Upon hearing that this poor dog was by himself we agreed to take him in. We already had a 3 year old pit/mastiff and we were looking for a friend for him #he' very social#. Fred and George#our original dog# get along great and play together all the time. We did greatly change Fred's lifestyle. He was eating WAY to much and was significantly overweight. He's now a healthy weight. Before Fred did not live with another active dog and didn't play too much. Now Fred and George run together constantly. However, Fred is constantly peeing and pooping on the floor. It's only when we're not there or sleeping. He's let out a lot. We take him for walks and have a run in the backyard. I will let him outside before I leave, but even if I'm just running to the store I return to a mess on the floor. We really love having Fred there but he's ruining my house and I'm not sure what to do. Recently, we went on a vacation and my friend came to stay with the animals. Fred only went on the floor the first day. He then waited the 10 days till we returned. He immediately returned to peeing on the floor. Can you please help me with stopping this behavior? We love having him and don't want to further traumatize him by relocating him again. Thank you, Lauri
Fred was severely traumatized. Of course you deserve a vacation, but it only served to further his separation anxiety issues. You must do two things:
first, re-condition house training. TAKE Fred out, praise lavishly whenever he eliminates appropriately. Do NOT "scold" or in any way "punish" him if you come home and find he has eliminated in the house (or wake up to same). Confine him to a space that's easy to keep clean, like the kitchen, with soft bed, when you are not at home. Since he gets along well with your other dog, they can be confined together. Dogs need not be left "at large" at home. Most of the time, they sleep when you are not at home. IF these dogs are 100% safe together, it is okay to leave them alone in a smaller space.
Second, treat Fred's separation anxiety. This may appear to be a complicated process, but it will work. You really don't *know* that Fred was EVER totally house trained and, my guess is, he was not. Treating the separation anxiety in a psychological manner (as described below) will help abate his anxiety but will also help him to know his *place* in your social hierarchy. By taking him out, repeatedly and continuously for weeks, and praising his elimination outdoors, and by ignoring his "mistakes" (clean them up out of his sight), you will be teaching him what is rewarding. Dogs almost always ultimately choose behavior that is rewarded.
From my treatment protocol for separation anxiety:
1. You can create an emotional independence in the dog by conditioning a "time out" article.
Simply place the chosen article (something you don’t use for any other purpose, like an odd garden statue) in full view of the dog every day for thirty minutes to one hour and call a "time out", during which you actively ignore the dog. When you remove the article, reward the dog with praise, but don’t overdo it. Over the course of two weeks, your dog will begin to recognize the article and begin to acknowledge your unavailability (many dogs go to a corner to lie down, or their favorite couch spot, etc.) Once you observe your dog’s recognition of the article, put it in plain sight about ten minutes before leaving the house (but NOT in the room the dog is confined to, the dog will lose its conditioned response.) In other words, use the article as a CUE to the dog that you are not available.
2. Make your dog earn everything for about one month, including pats, entering/leaving the home, etc. (This is called “Nothing in life is free”.) You will be promoting yourself psychologically, which will help the dog to feel calmer.
3. Purchase Turid Rugaas' book, “On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming signals” or go to her web site http://www.canis.no/rugaas/index.php
. Observe the dog’s behaviors before you depart to determine if your departure rituals are creating anxiety. Use calming signals just before leaving the house WITHOUT saying “goodbye” to the dog (which can set the dog up for emotional distress.) Dogs instantly respond to these signals and you’ll begin to see that response immediately.
4. Change your departure rituals so you do not inadvertently "cue" your dog. This means doing things differently EVERY day during treatment (which should last about two to four weeks.) If you put your coat on last, put your coat on five minutes before you actually leave the house; if you pick up your keys last, put them in your pocket ten minutes before leaving the house, etc. Again, given two weeks (at least) of this treatment, along with the others, your dog’s extreme sensitivity to your departure rituals should diminish and/or extinguish. When you RETURN home, ignore the dog for a few seconds, and then ask the dog to “sit” and acknowledge him/her; keep your homecoming attention short and sweet. If there is any destruction around (torn objects, etc.) IGNORE IT. What you don’t want is the dog to fear your RETURN as much as s/he fears your leave taking.
5. Do not allow the dog free “run” of the house when you are gone; this places a heavy emotional burden to “protect” on the dog, and might increase stress (which accounts for excessive barking!) Put the dog in a protected space (kitchen, well ventilated and spacious laundry area, etc., NOT the basement or the garage). Keep “special” toys there the dog doesn’t have at any other time, like a “kong” with a ½ teaspoon of peanut butter, a Buster Cube which holds a portion of the dog's daily food and which the dog will roll around to obtain it, a squeaky toy, etc. The dog will begin to anticipate this treat and associate it with your leaving the house. Leave a radio playing (on soft music or calm talk shows) and a light on when you are not home, and if possible move your answering machine (at full volume) into the room with the dog and leave your dog "messages" during the day.
Dogs that have been rehomed often develop separation anxiety; dogs that have been heavily bonded to a person that is then “lost” (not seen again for whatever reason) can suffer serious anxiety at the leave taking of the “new” human caregiver; dogs that have moved with their human family to a totally foreign environment are emotionally “lost” and may develop separation problems. Some dogs are generally anxious or high strung and have a greater tendency toward emotional distress. Ask your veterinarian if your dog may benefit from a course of medication while you are using behavior modification to change his/her separation related problem behaviors.