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We have a super Tibetan Terrior by the name  of Gunny who displays some odd behavior involving some toys. At times he appears he is distressed with the toy in his mouth as though he is looking for a place to hide it. he will whine and roam but doesn't seem to get any resolution. There are some toys we end up removing the toy. It can be a different toy at times and it doesn't happen all the time. What to do and why this stressed out behavior? He is two years old and really agreat dog.

Answer
Thank you for your question.

My first question in responding to this is: what's happening in the house/neighborhood when he does this? Do you have company? Workers? Is there construction happening on your street or within a few blocks? Is there weather moving in, currently happening or recently there?

Dogs often seek comfort in favorite toys and when their anxious or nervous, they may want to protect those toys by hiding them so they can be safe for later retrieval. Does your dog have a bed of his own, a crate or a room that he has ready access to that is not heavily trafficked? By providing him a place where he is comfortable resting and retreating to for quiet time, he may also feel comfortable stashing his toys there when he feels they need to be hidden. Sometimes we can even just provide a toy box and play games with the dog which teach him to put his toys away. Then, he may be inclined to hide them there on his own when he's looking for a place.

If removing the toy for the time being eases his anxiety, then that is an easy management option. If taking the toy makes him more nervous, then I might instead help him find a good hiding spot for it. One of my previous dogs sometimes hid her favorite chew toys in my laundry basket (usually with clean clothes, of course...) or even on my bed. These were safe places that smelled like her person (me) and so she felt her items would be safe there.

If you can just distract him with a game - either with that toy or another - or a few minutes of training, or a quick walk around the block or even just a few treats*, then that is a good option because you're helping him move away from whatever anxiety he's feeling.

*Sometimes just handing a dog a treat so he puts the toy down might be enough to help him move beyond his anxiety. Or your can use training for this. Or you can play various games of hide-and-seek with the food. Dogs love this game because they get to use their noses. You can do a variety of things. One that I do is a quick 'scavenge' game. I'll just grab a fistful of very small treats, put the dog in a Sit in the middle or on one edge of the room, then toss the treats straight up, letting them fall where they may (sometimes I'll more deliberately scatter them around), and then let the dog scavenge for the dozen or so treats that are now all over the floor.

You can hide treats in various places around a room or the house (put the dog in another room so he doesn't see you hiding them). Initially you want to put the treats in easy to get places such as next to furniture or right in the middle of the cushion, so he can find them. You may need to help a bit in the beginning by standing near the treat or pointing at it as you tell him, "Find it!" Dogs use their noses much more than their eyes. Don't be surprised if he goes right over and past a treat. He's following the scent, and depending on the current of air in the room, it may be pushing the scent off the food and so he has to first find the greatest concentration of odor and then, if that's not right at the food bite, he'll source back until he finds it. You'll know when he's on scent because he'll be sniffing more and panting less. His body language will become more focused and less wandering.

As he gets good at the game, you can hide the food more by tucking under the edge of furniture (where he can still reach it) or under pillows or inside boxes that he can easily access. Then, as he gets good at that, you can further increase the difficulty by hiding it more inaccessibly, forcing him to stop and ask you for help (alerting you). This is the premise of a new-ish sport called K-9 Nose Work, which teaches dogs to search for a scent and alert their handler. It's based on the same kinds of work as narcotic and explosives detecting work. It's a lot of fun for both dog and handler.

You may even want to seek out a beginner Nose Work class and then you can work on those exercises at home. Giving him this other brain activity may go a long way to alleviating the anxiety he's experiencing surrounding those toys - in fact, you may even use the toy as the thing he has to search for...

Of course, this is if there's no reason we can find that is triggering the anxiety. If there's something environmental that is making him nervous, then we want to address that, but unless I know what that might be, I can't really make suggestions as to how to work through that.

If you come up with environmental triggers for the behavior, feel free to followup and I'll try to offer some specific options to help with that. In the mean time, I hope some of this proves helpful.

Jody, APDT
Los Angeles Behaviorist
http://GoodDog-DogTraining.com

Canine Behavior

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Jody Epstein, CPDT- KA, APDT

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IF YOU BELIEVE YOUR DOG IS ILL OR INJURED, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR LOCAL VETERINARIAN IMMEDIATELY. THIS IS NOT THE FORUM TO ADDRESS URGENT MEDICAL ISSUES. I AM NOT A LICENSED VET AND HAVE NO DIAGNOSTIC SKILLS. ***I have been answering questions on All Experts for over 5 years now. I enjoy being able to offer assistance in this forum. I do need to be clear, though. If you’re looking for free advice about a specific behavior question, you MUST submit your question to me via All Experts. If you bypass All Experts and write to me directly through my website, I will ask you to submit via All Experts. On the flip side, if you’re local to Los Angeles and you wish to speak to me privately about an in person consultation, please go through my website. I appreciate your assistance in keeping my volunteer work on the volunteer site.*** I can answer questions about the following canine behavior issues: obedience, timid/fearful & fear-based aggression, nuisance behaviors, families that are expanding with either new human or new animal members. If you have potty training questions please first read my trio of blogs at http://CashewsCorner.wordpress.com/ If you still have questions after reading the blogs you can post your specific questions here. PLEASE be as specific as possible when asking a question. Give me a detailed example of the situation - dog's behavior, body language, circumstances surrounding the issue, what the consequences are (another dog's response, your response), etc. I can only provide insight if I can get a picture of the whole scenario. If I ask for further details, please provide them. In person I would normally observe for at least 90 minutes to assess the situation and the dynamics before offering tools and suggestions to modify it. In writing it is ever so much more difficult. Thank you for your participation in the process.

Experience

I have been professionally modifying behavior and training obedience for 7 years. I have owned dogs my entire life. I have just changed the name of my business. It is no longer Good Dog! Dog Training. The new name is Nutz About Mutz!. If you see previous questions with the Good Dog! website information, that is my response.

Organizations
I am a Certified Profession Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA), #2133301 ; I am a member in good standing with the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), #77763 ; I am an AKC certified Canine Good Citizen evaluator (CGC), #71253

Publications
http://NutzAboutMutz.com ; http://CashewsCorner.wordpress.com ; Multiple articles in the local pet magazine Pet Press (found across Southern California)

Education/Credentials
I have a graduate education in animal behavior and learning. (While I completed my coursework and did the requisite research, I did not defend a dissertation. I am qualified, but not certified and so technically not a doctor. This is commonly referred to as Ph.D.-ABD which means All But Dissertation.) My educational focus was with non-human primates, but my personal interest is with domestic dogs and their relationships with humans and other animals. I continue to educate myself to canine-specific behavior through extensive reading, online interactive workshops, vidoes and attending canine behavior conferences.

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