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Canine Behavior/My English Bulldog won't eat in the house


My  1 1/2 year old English Bulldog, Mac, is totally spooked.  I think there was a mouse in my kitchen a couple of weeks ago.  While he was eating in there (i was in an adjoining room) I heard a loud commotion and he came running out of the kitchen.  When I went into the kitchen, I saw that he had completely upended his water bowl.  Later that evening I found a mouse poop.  I have not seen any sign of a mouse since then.  However, my dog refuses to eat inside.  He used to love to eat.  Now when I ask if he's hungry, he either goes upstairs to my bedroom or cowers by the door so I will let him out.  He will only eat outside - and it's starting to get cold out!  The other night he stayed in my room all evening.  I brought his food up there but he didn't eat.  I have tried coaxing him into the kitchen with treats to no avail.  I gently led him by the collar to the area where his bowls are and he was shaking - refused to eat and ran to the back door when I let him go.  I hug him and tell him everything is OK but that does not make a difference.  My other dog has no problem being in the kitchen so Mac sees us in there all time.  I should mention that he has been very skittish if there is a loud or unexpected noise since June, when he knocked over a heavy shelf on my deck and took off running.  How can I get hime back to normal?   Thank you!

I know this is no laughing matter but, honestly, imagine an English Bulldog being terrified of a mouse....oh, the irony!  If you found mouse droppings, you have mice, INSIDE YOUR KITCHEN.  See if you can do a search for "Rat Zapper".....this is a humane device (although it does not sound humane).  You insert battery, drop a peanut into the tunnel (it is a metal tunnel), turn it on and when the mouse steps over the plate to get to the peanut, it is instantly electrocuted.  This is far more human than traps or glue pads; it can be placed under the kitchen sink where dogs cannot smell the peanut (although the voltage is nowhere large enough to do anything but provide a shock to a dog's paw).  When the mouse is in there, the light flashes.  Horrible to kill anything but mice carry DISEASE both to your dogs AND to you.  If you see one, you have a heck of a lot more than one.  You might consider a hav-a-heart trap; the problem with these is that mice require water and the mouse might die between the time it is caught and the time you release it.  Plus, you have to release the mouse FAR from your house or it will come right back in.

So now to the dilemma: by hugging him and telling him everything is OK you are actually rewarding his fear (good dog, be very afraid).  Coaxing him into the area of his fear and attempting to reason with him does not work (as you see).  

First: call your veterinarian.  There is now available a special pheromone collar the dog can wear at times he is most stressed; the vet might also have other suggestions regarding some short term anti-anxiety meds (NO "doggy prozac"!)   Second: feed this dog three small meals a day (divide his daily portion into three meals).  Place the bowl of food at the front door in plain sight of the dog and walk away; during this time, prevent your other dog from opportunistic eating; leave the bowl there for 15 minutes then remove it with no comment.  Replace it at noon, then around 5PM, remove it routinely if food has not been consumed.  This is as close to "outside" as this dog is going to get FOR THE NEXT WEEK in terms of food consumption.  NO TREATS at all, nothing to substitute his food.  Very few dogs will deliberately starve themselves.  Should the vet have suggested the collar, put it on the dog a few minutes before each meal.

Now: within a week, if the dog has not consumed one morsel of food, we will need to begin to handfeed him throughout the day while asking for trained behavior ("sit") for at least one week.  PLEASE USE FOLLOWUP FEATURE at the end of the first week to advise any change in Mac's decision making regarding his new dining area.  Be absolutely certain water is available in every room, we do not want Mac to become dehydrated (very serious).

Mac obvious has some issues; there are thunder shirts available also for dogs with fear of loud noises (obviously storm related, fireworks, etc.) and the vet might suggest him as a candidate for one of these for a couple of weeks.  PLEASE use FOLLOWUP (found at the bottom of your answer) to apprise me of any progress.  Do NOT feed him outdoors.  Let's see if we can get him to the point where he will choose at least ONE of the three meals at the front door.  If we can do THAT, then he can be easily rehabilitated, but maybe not to the kitchen.  That might take a while longer.

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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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