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I don’t know

Dear Mr. Wade:
 
Dear John,

My dog Bailey has taken to peeing in the house when I am not here.  We’ve had a fair amount of change in the last year. My husband and I moved another city with our cat and other dog. That was half a year ago. Three months later our other dog died.  We adopted another cat a short while later and they get along fine. The problem is that now Bailey is peeing in the house.  The Vet has suggested that the loss of the other dog is causing separation anxiety Skyler the dog we lost to whom he was very attached. When I am here he is fine.  When my husband is here, Bailey could care less, he will pee right in front of my husband.  The Vet said “crate” him, but the poor creature would then spend a lot of time in a crate and that just isn’t fair, especially when he is unaccustomed to it.  Besides I have no where in the apartment to put that large a crate, the dog weighs 92 pounds!  Can you help? -Deborah


Dear Deborah,
 
Veterinary students in my region have the opportunity to choose various electives in their graduating year and I’ve had many of them over the years spend time with me to learn a little more about dog behaviour then they would otherwise be exposed to in their regular schooling. They consistently complain that they don’t get much in school. Certainly far less then they receive from me. The very few hours they do get in school is further diluted, as they have to cover canine, feline etc. Ironic considering that industry surveys confirm that it is a rare appointment that a question regarding behaviour doesn’t pop up. As a result I’ve come to believe that until the veterinary colleges tunes up the behaviour component of their program they should start teaching their students that it’s alright to use the word, “I don’t know.”

Your problem is an example of why the idea of “I don’t know.” should be included in the veterinary medical dictionary. Telling you to crate an anxiety ridden dog indicates a lack of comprehension of the potential severity of the problem. It’s like telling someone having a nervous breakdown to spend more time in bed.

Anxiety problems can start small and without treatment become quite severe. Treatment involves a detailed assessment, the development of a baseline in order to measure progress and then a treatment program. Often all a veterinarian has to offer is a pamphlet and a pill. There is now a doggy “Prozac” which might be of use but even according to the manufacturer, its efficacy is tied to behaviour modification. The drug is supposed to help re-establish the dog’s equilibrium so that it can be taught healthier coping skills. I contacted the manufacturer a while back to suggest it might be in the client’s dog’s and veterinarian’s best interests to provide a proper diagnosis and treatment guide. I was told as the drug was doing well in the marketplace there was no need. You can interpret that at your leisure.

Find yourself a dog trainer or a veterinarian behaviour specialist experienced in working with anxious dogs. You may find that the dog trainer mightn’t have any education specifically oriented towards dog behaviour but if they have been training full time for several years they’ll be a better bet that you’ll get some help. Bailey is likely going through a transition period and with a little help will get back to his old self within a few months if not sooner. However, if you don’t get on this you may very well end up with a dog that at the very least develops some very bad habits and at the worst gets much worse.

 

-John Wade 

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