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Canine Behavior/My female Shih tzu


QUESTION: Hi, I have a female shih tzu, who is 5 years old.  She is very quiet all these years, she barely barks at all.  However, over the past week almost every night and sometimes days she is barking at the hallway in my house as though she is seeing a ghost!!!  This is freaking me out.  She also sits on the hallway and stairs at this one place as though she is seeing something!!!  During this time, she wants to go out through the back door and once I let her out she just sits on the grass and does not want to come in!!!
She usually sleeps with me upstairs in my bedroom, but she refuses to come upstairs, every time I bring her up, she goes back downstairs and lays on the rug by the place in question!!!
I thought I had a mouse so I went and got mouse traps and everything else but no mouse at all
Any help would be greatly appreciate it very much.

ANSWER: Important statement:  'THIS IS FREAKING ME OUT'.  Your reaction is freaking out your dog and further establishing whatever prompted this behavior (we will never know what that was).

Examine YOUR response vis-a-vis your normal life with your dog.  Make a list as objectively as possible.  Compare your normal routine to what you are now doing in reaction.  Do not allow her out the "back door" unless she is on leash with you; have a "party" out there (a little song, walk in circles, when dog is calm pop a bit of string cheese in her mouth and go back inside).  Don't force her upstairs.

Is it possible your dog is perceiving something out of the "ordinary" in your environment (not little visitors)?  Yes.  And?  Nothing.  YOUR reaction and continuing efforts to persuade her there is nothing to fear is actually making this worse.

IGNORE the fear.  If she barks at a wall and behaves "strangely" (raised hackles, growling, etc.) leave the room.  Reward ONLY calm, normal behavior which may take a few weeks to regain.  Response perseverance is a strong factor in fear related behavior and her response may be very nicely "set" because you are also upset and she has no idea you are upset because SHE is upset.

Move the rug from the "place in question", casually.  Don't worry about the dog's comfort, dogs sleep on cement!  We will do this consistently for ONE SOLID WEEK beginning TONIGHT (or when you read this answer).  You will IGNORE fear; you will REMOVE YOURSELF when she demonstrates this unusual behavior; you will not force her upstairs; you will TAKE her out the back door, counter condition by circling and singing and speaking in a high, happy tone until she is calm, food reward, bring immediately back indoors.

Within ONE WEEK of doing all of this in a TOTALLY CONSISTENT MANNER (regardless of how you "feel") report back using followup feature so I can see original question/answer.  There is a solution here and we will achieve it.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you so much for responding.  I will do all the things you said and see what happens.  I am mostly worried about unnatural ghost.  I know that sounds silly.  But I've heard dogs can see ghosts or spirits.  She recently been staring at a set place around where she barks.

I forgot to tell you we saw a mice in the back yard, I did setup mouse traps inside the house all over, where my dog wont get hurt.
If she barks, should i tell her to stop it like I do? she does stop and does not bark anymore..but then next night she starts again.
Thanks for your help.

IGNORE her barking; whether or not she begins after you say "STOP", you are still rewarding it by your reaction.

As for "ghosts": energies outside our dimension cannot harm us unless we are open to extremely serious negative energies and INVITE them in.  If you think you have a "spirit" trapped in your house and you have sufficient evidence, approach a priest or Christian pastor to bless your home.

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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