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Canine Behavior/Red Healer/territory odd behaviour


QUESTION: Hello and thank you for taking the time to help me and our dog.
When I met my wife I had two pugs and she had a Red Healer. When we decided to marry and join homes my wife moved into what would become our home. In the last few years our pugs have passed and Red, the Healer being far younger is now the only dog in the house. We have usually always keneled our dogs in the basement when it was time to sleep. Red has always been opposed to this and let us know by whinning or using a varied vocal tone unique to his breed until after realizing we weren't going to let him out would settle down and we would sleep. On and off we would put bedding in our spare bedroom and allow Red to sleep on the bed and give the pugs the floor. This would work until Red would (at some point) puke on the beading and before morning consume the vomit leaving behind a wet spot. At first I thought this was an example of being sick or having an upset stomach, yet after cleaning up, this would happen again and again. When it did the dogs lost their upper floor room and were kenneled again. After a period of time we would attempt to reintroduce Red to the upper room, yet within a short period of time he would again repeat this behavior almost in a way of substituting another way of marking his territory. I can't think of any reason why this happens with such frequency and only on the bed he sleeps/lounges on in his spare time. Is it possible he is eating his food twice to double the pleasure of the earlier meal? As the sole remaining dog (our pugs have both since passed on) I would like to allow him the ability to feel comfortable, yet every time this happens his bedroom privileges are revoked and he is kenneled for a time. I don't think he has ever accepted me as the Alpha despite our marriage dynamic, probably because of his early and strong bond with my wife before we were married, yet I seem to be the only one that finds cleaning the bedding more of a hassle than bending over backwards to please a companion animal that  is smarter than any dog I have ever encountered, yet doesn't see the drawbacks of leaving a mess for me to find and clean in the morning, then finding himself in a place he clearly feels uncomfortable. Allowing him free reign while we sleep has ended with messes of urine or bowel movements unless he has a certain amount of confining space. He has never vomited while in the confines of a smaller kennel so unless I can solve this, it will be another couple of weeks of whaling in disapproval until he readjusts. Please help.
Jason Sorensen

ANSWER: First of all, the "alpha" theory has been disproved by modern studies, so you need not concern yourself with that, other than to simply address unwanted behavior by training a substitute behavior (isn't that a relief?).  As to the messes, my guess is that, despite your best efforts, he may simply be insufficiently house trained, but ANY adult dog that has symptoms of repeat vomiting should be seen by a veterinarian at once.  Also, if he was previously house trained, and is now having accidents, the vet visit is also advised.  Dogs do not "mark" with vomit, but they can certainly be made anxious enough to vomit/eliminate if they are in a situation where they receive punishment for doing so, and they don't fully understand why.  So, please, for now, if you have scolded the dog, please stop.  Try going back to house training 101 as if the dog were a young puppy (Dr. Ian Dunbar's "errorless house training" is what I use).  This re-training should take about a month or so, so long as there is strict supervision.  My suggestion is to crate him in the bedroom, not in another part of the house.  That way, you can set your alarm for a time just before he usually has his "accidents," take him outside, and copiously praise him (including with a nice food tidbit, such as freeze dried liver, for doing his business in the right spot.  These dogs are smart, but they don't do well with punishment.  They want to "problem solve" so you can take advantage of that by learning to train with "progressive reinforcement training."  (Google it!)  

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QUESTION: Thank you again for your first response to my inquiry. Although I, as well as everyone else in the world wish they could read minds to solve situations for better results. I find it difficult to believe that our dog is voiding his stomach based on anxiety. His highest levels of anxiety have usually been when he is confined for an evening (our sleep time) or any length or time while both my wife and I are away in his kennel. This is made obvious with whinning/yelping or even panting heavely. Red has plenty of room to lay down, (circle if he wants to pryer to laying down) cushions. It seems to be just that the smaller space causes anxiety, yet he has never voided of any kind while in the kennel. If given enough space, the entire house for example, he has though very rarely urinated or deficated if it"s raining or snowing, and even then has chose a place that sees hidden or rarely trafficed by us. This seemed at the time more a manner of avoiding the discomfort of the rain or cold.
The vomiting always seems to happen after he has regained a comfort level in the spare bedroom atop the bed as I can only imagine as "his space." I did leave out that Red does eat other (I was told by a vet that this is a method for more wild dogs to blend into their environment by later excreating the scent of other animals/dogs.)dogs feces. Usually after they have dried to an extent. Unfortunetly while our pugs were alive the female soon after adopted this, yet only consuming hers in an effort again, only guessing to keep Red from it. Whith a back yard to himself now, if he continues this practice it would only be his own feces he would be eating. After a vomiting incident I would try to accompany Red outside yet unless he could move about unsseen he would want to come back in immediately, leaving observing only in the daylight hours and when he was visible from a window Often going to one side of the house or the other to remain unseen. Red is an intelligent canine of the many I have been around, and find it difficult to believe he hasn't made the connection that vomiting on the bed in which he sleeps has always resulted in being kenneled, this being the only thing that seems to cause any noticable anxiety. Other than that it seems he is almost pampered( Heh, probably more my wifes influence) more than any other dog I know of. His breed is high energy so I try as much as possible to throw a chew toy around with him as much as possible, yet the vomiting only on the bed he sleeps on, and the cleaning it up himself shortly after is still a mystery. I have stopped adding soft "flavor" food to his bowl of regular science diet kibble in hopes of that being a factor, yet why would he not jump down off the bed in the spare room then void his stomach? He has never done this, as well as vomit anywhere else in the house with the exception of something that came on with such speed that the gagging gave one of us time to get him outside before he was able to void. Again I thank you for your time and consideration. I will continue to research more, yet if any new information comes your way I would be more than interested.
Jason Sorensen

Dogs clean up vomit so that they do not seem obviously ill to predators - it's a hardwired behavior that is designed as a survival mechanism.  It's just a hunch, but I think dogs feel safer in a higher resting spot, and may not want to come down to vomit on the floor where they feel more vulnerable.  They think like dogs, not like humans, so we have to always be mindful that our reasoning may not be spot on for Spot lol.
I'd be more concerned about why he's vomiting as much as he is, not where he's doing the vomiting, because if you can get to the former, the latter would take care of itself.  There are many reasons why a dog could be vomiting more than is normal and occasional.  Food allergies; kidney failure; parasites; inflammation; epilepsy; and more.  Even constipation has been implicated - are his bowel movements normal daily?  Some people believe that it's helpful to try to identify the most common food allergens and eliminate them (testing is expensive, but available).  So, things such as wheat, corn, soy, and chicken might be common triggers.  It might help to try a different diet. If it were my dog, I might gradually try and switch to a single source protein food.  So, maybe a higher quality food in a lamb and rice variety.  Or duck and potato.  You could also try adding a probiotic and digestive enzymes to his food.  When I've done this, I've purchased from B Naturals, but there are other companies that sell similar products.  

FYI, I did a quick Google to see if Science Diet had any recent recalls regarding problems with dogs getting sick.  This popped up:

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Anne Springer, B.S., Dip., CAPCT


I am happy to answer questions about: dog behavior and training, therapy dogs, training disabled dogs, training recently rescued dogs, and managing off leash play groups.


Professionally involved in teaching private and group lessons, and doing behavior consultations. American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen Evaluator, Therapy Dogs, Inc. Tester/Observer. Special interest in pet/elder issues, and in therapy dogs.

Truly Dog Friendly Association of Pet Dog Trainers International Positive Dog Training Association Therapy Dogs, Inc.

Gloucester Times Cape Ann Beacon Ipswich Chronicle Beverly Citizen Salem News

Bachelor's Degree in Psychology, Cum Laude. Diploma in Dog Obedience Instruction, Graduate of NY School of Dog Grooming, Certified Advanced Pet Care Technician - American Boarding Kennels Assn., Certified Pet First Aid & CPR, American Red Cross

Awards and Honors
2002 Caregiver Award from the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, for Pawsitive Connections Program (pet/elder issues)

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