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Pilling a Dog – Touch Sensitive Constipated Maltese

Hi John,

We have a Maltese mix. Niko has periodic bouts of constipation. What makes this difficult is he rarely let’s anyone touch him in any matter. We rescued him in November of 2016.

We need to be able to give him something to make him go to the bathroom.

Any help you can give would be helpful.


Hi CB,

While getting him more user friendly for handling is possible, it is a step by step process and worthwhile as you’re finding now. If not for reasons of pilling, grooming, or tending to injuries and of course regular veterinarian examinations, it’s safer and less stressful on the dog. However, it’s a long term solution and you have a short term problem.

Has hiding the pill in his food or inside a bit of Weiner or peanut butter or cheese whiz not worked?

If you’re at your wits end because all else has failed – in situations where a dog needs to be pilled for medical reasons – I’m not above the idea of embracing, “Niko, I’m not asking you. I’m telling you.” In other words, one person wearing sturdy gloves pins him down, straddles him and pries and holds his jaws open and another person puts the pill in his mouth and with a single finger pushes it down his gullet past the point of no return. I teach puppy owning clients how to pill a dog, (open jaws, place pill and push past point of no return) so that they don’t run into the problem down the road and have to do the gloves, pinning, team work etc. Far less stressful.

Personally, when faced with this as my only option I have found it much harder to do from an emotional perspective rather than physically. You just have to make up your mind, you’re not taking no for an answer, plan exactly what each person is going to do, get his leash on him so he can’t make a run for it and then you pounce. If you don’t have his leash on before you start you may find Niko will embrace, fool me once shame on you, fool be twice . . . and he’ll be hard to catch for a second attempt. Just be thankful you have a Maltese and not a dog the size of a Cane Corso.

Any idea what is causing regular periodic bouts of constipation? Medication related? Or, is there something in his diet? If not his main food, good chance it’s the content of the treats you’re may be giving him. People often give small dogs way too many and way too large portions when it comes to treats. If you extrapolate the size of your Maltese (let’s say he’s a giant and is 10 pounds) and put the number of treats you give him in a 24 hour period on a plate and then take your own body weight and divide it by his body weight (let’s say  you’re 110 pounds) you would have a factor of 11. Then multiply what’s on his plate by 11 and put the equivalent in another plate, you’ll see what I mean. So if you give him five treats in a day, there will be 55 on your plate. Imagine how eating that much junk food every day might impact the amount of good food you’re supposed to eat every day. How it might affect your own health over the short and long term. I’m not saying don’t give a dog treats (although people are generally too crazy about this) but use extreme moderation. You can give treats the same number of times. Just break them into tinier bits. Dogs are far more interested in receiving a treat then measuring it.

Keep in mind that almost all treats that dogs are given aren’t particularly good for them and personally from a training perspective I don’t think it’s good for them mentally or from a reliability perspective depending on how they’re used – and they’re almost always used superficially and incorrectly in dog training. They can almost always be replaced with something with the same satisfaction rate from the dog’s perspective that is much healthier (like learning to matter to your dog enough without treats and simply telling the dog, “You’re a good dog.”)

I don’t use them at all for training. Actually, I do, but as a distraction, not a motivator. I’ll be darned if I am going to have my dog focus on treats rather than me when training (it’s not the same thing) and more importantly in real life. Dog trainers typically use them because they’ve been told to by whoever trained them and don’t know how to naturally motivate a dog. It’s a long (and sad) story as to how dog training ended up relying on food to train and it does have it’s uses but it has tons of drawbacks and isn’t the best way. When you aim at a dog’s stomach (as opposed to relationship) you’re missing the best part of the dog.

When using treats, personally, I stick with dried liver and just teeny tiny pieces because too much of the wrong treats can throw their nutritional balance off, resulting in health issues down the road.


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