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Canine Behavior/my dog is afraid to go into the bedroom.


QUESTION: my dog is 6 years old. he has always slept with me in my bed,either at my feet or against my back.about 7 days ago we went to bed slept all was normal. then the next night he down out refused to go into the bedroom. he will not even go down the hall leading to the bedroom. if i carry him to the bedroom, the closer we get to it the louder he cries and the more he tries to get down and go back to the front room. when i go to bed i will call him but he won't come. he just sits in the front room crying ll night till i get up and go lie down on the couch. he will not go beyond the first bathroom. he will follow me when i go to the back of the house but always stops at the front bathroom and sits there and cries till i come back. i am a very light sleeper and i don't recall any unusual noises the last night he was in the bedroom. when i have to bathe him, i have to carry him because we have to go through the bedroom to get to the back bathroom. he whines and cries until we are out of the bedroom and in the bathroom. as soon as we are in the bathroom, he stops crying and stops trying to get to the front of the house.he is so unhappy with me in the bedroom and him in the front room, but i don't know what to do. i can't sleep every night on the couch.

ANSWER: Something HUGE (to the dog) happened, what I don't know: lightening outside, critter in the room (mouse), mosquito bite (pain), and this dog has generalized it to that room and is now generalizing it to areas approaching that room. Your reaction might be accelerating this.

He won't even go down the hall at this point!  Your anxiety and concern is palpable, the dog is reacting to your response to him and it is further conditioning his fear response (i.e., be afraid, be very afraid, because I am so anxious).  RELAX.

Let's do this:

For the next 72 hours (three days: Friday, Saturday, Sunday), do not attempt to force the dog, carry the dog, or in any way influence the dog to come to your bedroom or even approach the hallway leading to your bedroom.  IGNORE HIS FEAR.  Go on as normal.  IGNORE HIS "CRIES", go on as normal (no matter how hard this will be for you, and I know it will be hard).  Don't call him when you go to bed. You may think you are a light sleeper (I did for years!) but there is a time during your normal sleep patterns where you are truly asleep, no matter what your opinion is about it (I discovered this about myself, much to my amazement!)  Buy earplugs for short term use (next 48 to 72 hours) so you can sleep through the crying and whining.  If he is crying, do not respond at all.  Let's say you get out of bed in the AM and approach the living room: if he is crying, clap your hands, whistle, sing a loud song, INTERRUPT his crying and, the moment he has stopped, go to him, ask for "sit", reward and go on as usual.

Let's see if this 72 hours begins to allow this strong fear response to self extinguish.  Report back using followup feature on Monday 8/25 or Sunday night.

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

QUESTION: even though his crying has decreased considerably is there any chance that he will go into the bedroom again ? if i take him back through the bathroom to get to the bathroom to give him a bath will it traumatize him even more ?

Yes there is a strong chance whatever created this fear response WILL SELF EXTINGUISH but YOU CANNOT FORCE THIS DOG down that hallway for any reason.  He has to do it voluntarily.  Most dogs don't need to be bathed more than every three months; if your dog requires grooming (long haired dog) you must, for now, find a groomer.  STAY WITH THE DOG AND OBSERVE THE GROOMING.  If the groomer won't allow that, FIND ANOTHER ONE.  Bad groomers can cause all sorts of problems and one such almost killed my neighbor's dog by injuring her with the clipper: she got a bone infection!  A good groomer will understand that you want to watch the first grooming to be sure the dog is not being left alone on the grooming table, yelled at, hit, abused, or injured.  

We already see the beginning of the extinction of fear response.  If you force this dog down the hall toward that bedroom or through it, ESPECIALLY FOR A BATH (which most dogs hate), you may "set" the fear response and it will be quite difficult to address.

PS:  The dog's barking should extinguish entirely IF YOU ABSOLUTELY IGNORE IT.  The DAY AFTER he has not barked at night for 48 hours, in his sight go down the hall and sit yourself in the doorway of your bedroom.  Have a "party", sing a little song, toss a squeaky toy around (keep it, it is your created trophy for him) and no matter what he does, IGNORE IT.  Do this every day, briefly (no more than three to five minutes).  IF the dog begins to proceed down the hallway, he will STILL BE FEARFUL.  Do not encourage him or verbally reward him in any way, just continue with your "party", then get up and leave the bedroom.  Eventually he will come all the way down and eventually he will enter the bedroom: observe his body language: ear set back, tail between legs, hackles raised, head down: these are fear responses.  DO NOT REWARD them by telling him he's a good boy, just keep on with your "party", get up after a few seconds and walk away.  IF and WHEN he can calmly walk down the hallway to investigate your "party", engage him by tossing the trophy toy in his direction.  WATCH HIS BODY LANGUAGE.  If he even remotely seems to have become fearful, stop.  Get up and leave.  At some point he will ENGAGE the "trophy" object.  You can then let him have it for a minute or two, laugh and have "fun", then get up and move away.  Be sure to retrieve the trophy object only AFTER he has dropped it.  Now you are ready for food reward: if he confidently comes down the hallway to join the "party" and gladly and happily accepts the trophy object, pop a piece of string cheese of chicken frank into his mouth, while praising him.  Stop.  Go about your business.  Repeat a few more days.  This should totally extinguish his fear response ONLY if you are very careful NEVER to respond to his fear or in any way reward it.

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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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