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Pet Health
Behaviour Advice from Vanessa Amey

<Back to behaviour advice

New situations, new stresses

This information is to be used as guidelines only. Decisions made about the future of any pet should be based on a professional assessment and a course of treatment that is personalised for the pet's individual situation.

He's too shy

I have just gotten an ex-racing greyhound, Langly. He is neutered, and housetrained, and a general all around gentle giant. Now, he has only been with me for little over a week, and I understand that he has a lot of adjusting to do. What I was wondering about was how to make him a more confident, and less self-conscious dog. In fact, he could do with a few lessons on how to be a dog generally. He still keeps his tail firmly tucked down, unless he is chasing balls on the beach. My concern is that I don't push him too hard into social situations he finds distressing. I mean how much distress is normal for a dog in his situation? The reason I am prompted to these kind of questions is that Langly is not always consistent in what he is afraid of. One day he likes to go into the kitchen for his meals, then the next day he bolts back up the stairs. So, do I take his dinner upstairs, or do I get him on his lead and bring him into the kitchen to show him that nothing bad awaits him there?

It seems a difficult situation with a dog as self-conscious as Langly. He is always watching me with these great brown eyes for clues on what to do. Other than giving him a bone or taking him for exercise, I feel that his process of developing will be natural. But, situations do arise that make wonder if I am being cruel, or just being a good staunch dog owner?

What is it about situations that will suddenly make Langly want to run away? I know that he hates lingering about doorways, (those outside leading indoors). Otherwise I don't really know what specific information to really give to you.

You sound like a lovely owner for Langley. You appreciate that he has some adjusting to do and that it will take time.

Personally I wouldn't push Langley into a situation: the damage it could do to your relationship with each other could suffer a lot of setbacks. Does Langley have a favourite treat? If not find one that he really likes, cheese or garlic sausage are often popular. Have the treats to hand at all times and when Langley walks through a doorway or into the kitchen reward him. Even if he only puts a paw into the kitchen, reward him for his efforts. He will, over time, associate the kitchen with treats rather than what is bothering him at the moment. Don't take his food upstairs or put him on a lead to take him to the kitchen. Also, make mealtimes exciting, make lots of noise when preparing it, to entice him.

One other factor worth considering is the type of flooring you have in the kitchen. It may be that Langley has not encountered the flooring you have. It could be to slippery for him. It is not unusual for dogs to find walking on lino difficult, in which case you may have to put rugs down to see if that makes a difference. Good luck.

He goes in other people's houses

I would be grateful for some advice regarding my 5 year old male Cairn terrier. Before I rehomed him five months ago he was a kennel dog on a farm and initially I had problems with him peeing in the house. However, as the vet said, he began to find peeing outside more rewarding and the problem stopped - in my house. However, he still did this in other people's houses, and usually it happened when no-one was about (ie he would disappear to an empty room) so he was never caught in the act. This rendered any verbal "punishment" - or taking him outside - pointless. (Having said that, my brother is convinced that the dog no longer pees in his house since he did catch him in the act, and rubbed his nose in it....aagh). Sometimes, however, the dog would blatantly pee right in front of us, often at a squat so we didn't get any warning with him circling, cocking his leg, etc. On these occasions he would get told off, but he just didn't seem to give a monkey's! In recent weeks, he has, on occasion, started once again peeing in our house - always in the hall when we are in the lounge, so the evidence isn't found til later. It is not often - once a week, on average - but this tendency means we are now reluctant to take him to friends' and relatives' homes. This is a real shame, and I would be grateful for your advice on how to tackle this.

He could be urinating for several reasons, not least that he was raised on a farm and really does not know that he is supposed to go outside. He may be feeling a little scared and to relieve this feeling he urinates. Urinating is an effective way of relieving stress. Whatever the cause you must avoid punishing him, this is not going to help matters. He will just go in secret.

Is there anything that triggers his soiling indoors? Is it at the same time of day? Is it always in the same place? The answer below may not be enough to solve the problem if there is an underlying cause that we have not identified. But on the other hand it may be enough to make a difference.

What you need to do, and this will be time consuming to start with, is go outside with him every time he wants to go out. Stay close to him and reward him every time he urinates. Reduce his opportunity to urinate indoors by taking him into the garden frequently to begin with. When you visit friends take him into the garden or for a walk prior to entering their homes. As he already will use the garden, building on this should be quite easy. Once you are confident that your dog has learnt the link between using the garden and being rewarded for it reduce the rewards. By giving partial rewards you will encourage him to try harder to gain the reward, therefore decreasing the chance of him toileting indoors. You may always have to give random rewards.

When trying to eliminate smells from previous accidents, which may cause him to use the same spots inside, use a 1:10 mixture of biological washing powder and water or replace the powder with surgical spirit. Avoid cleaning products that contain ammonia, as this is a component of urine: lthough the floor will smell better to you it will still smell of urine to your dog.

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