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Canine Behavior/Afraid or the dark or losing vision??

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Question
I have a 6 year old great day that has slowly started to fight going outside at night before bedtime. He generally will lay down on his dog bed and not move. My boyfriend is working nights and before he leave put the does out to use the facilities. My Dane has started to fight going out nearly everyday now.

I am working in a deployed location and at first thought he was just acting up because I was gone. But when I am home he does the same. Our boxer goes out no problem its just him that puts up a fight.

I am not sure if he has become afraid of the dark in his old age or if he is losing vision. He is fine in the house at night in the dark?!?!?!?

I don't know what I should do to help him.

Thank you for any advice that you can give,
Bobbi

Answer
Thank you for your question and thank you for your service.

Any time we see a sudden change in behavior, especially in a senior dog, the first order of business is a complete medical exam that includes blood work. There are a great many medical conditions that manifest with odd behaviors and if we can diagnose and treat a medical condition, the behavioral issue will often resolve on its own. So, the first thing to do is have the vet examine your dog to see if he is in fact losing his sight or if there are any other medical issues at play.

If he's given a clean bill of health, then we can discuss the issue as strictly behavioral.

My first guess - if it's strictly behavioral - is possibly a bit of separation anxiety. This potty break is the last thing (or nearly the last thing) that your boyfriend does right before he leaves for work. So he and the other dog are alone for several hours right after that. He may be trying to delay the departure of your boyfriend. The first thing I'd do is move the potty break up by 30-60 minutes before your boyfriend has to leave and see if that makes a difference. This way your boyfriend is still home - he can pet the dogs, play with them, check email, watch TV, eat something, brush his teeth - anything so long as he's home for another 30-60 minutes before leaving after he's taken the dogs out to potty. There may still be a bit of resistance the first couple days, but hopefully the dog will see that going potty is not the predictor that your boyfriend is about to leave the house for 8 or 9 hours.

Also, if there are outdoor lights available, turn them on for that potty break. If not, get a bright flashlight and have your boyfriend use it to make sure your dog has plenty of light. Dogs with healthy vision actually see far better than humans in the dark, but if he's losing his vision, then he may be feeling less comfortable outside. Inside I expect everything is generally in the same place and so he knows his way around.

It's also entirely possible that something happened one night that spooked him and created a single-learning-event. Fear is super easy to learn and super hard to erase. Think back, or have your boyfriend think back if it was he who was present when the behavior first began. The last time he went out without resistance... did anything happen? A car backfire? Fireworks? Thunder? A door slam closed? A critter run through the yard and startle him? Anything out of the ordinary that startled him? It's possible that if something occurred he may have associated it with going out at night or even at a particular time of night and so it's possible his resistance is due to a fear of something scary happening late at night while he's outside.

If that's the case, then taking him out earlier for a week or so and then slowly moving the time closer to the normal time (by about 5 minutes every 5-7 days), you may get him over it. Putting a leash on him and leading him out may help him find courage. Having tasty treats and making a game of going out to get treats or to sniff them out on the ground can go a very long way to help him overcome any fear he might be having.

But all of this said, those options are all on the back burner until a vet has examined him to determine if there is any medical or neurological issue at play.

Good luck. I hope this proves helpful. Please feel free to followup if I can be of any further assistance, or just to provide an update.

Jody, CPDT-KA, APDT
Los Angeles Behaviorist
http://www.NutzAboutMutz.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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