Scared dog

Question:
Our 6 year old, mostly red heeler was rescued from an Indian reservation, then rescued again with her companion dog after her owner died, then rescued by us because of dominance issues in her adopted home. She came without her companion. She had serious separation anxiety and some nervous urination. We moved and now she is urinating on the beds whenever she is threatened (emotionally) by visitors, i.e. grandkids or houseguests. We can deal with her anxiety, but we sure would like her to quit peeing on the beds.

Dr. Nichol:
What? You don’t like sleeping with dog urine? I get it. One can only imagine the emotional trauma suffered by a dog who has endured so much loss. Start with simple prevention. Close the door or use a baby gate to make that room off-limits to your nervous Nelly. To reduce the power of suggestion of the faint scent of old urine use a good enzymatic cleaner like Anti Icky Poo. Interesting name, great product.

With her sad history of losing her social bonds your dog has become hypervigilant, spending too much of her life anxiously waiting for the next shoe to fall. Any change may trigger her anxiety. That history of “dominance”, by the way, is highly unlikely. An aggressive display from a scared dog is usually a defensive reaction to perceived threats. Consider how terrified a person would have to be to lose bladder control. Your poor heeler gets overwhelmed.

Reduce your dog’s stress when you have guests by putting her in the yard or in a separate room. To avoid triggering her feelings of intimidation never let anyone look at her directly, lean over her, reach for her, or even to approach her. Allow her to interact when she’s ready. The natural antianxiety supplement Anxitane (your veterinarian can order it) may also help. Friends you can trust to follow instructions should ignore your girl as they drop bits of food. With hundreds of safe interactions, scarfing up snacks on her terms, she will learn that strangers are food sources. Protect her from untrained “experts” who “know dogs” and insist on working their magic.

 

Each week Dr. Jeff Nichol makes a short video or podcast to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Dr. Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). You can post pet behavioral or physical questions at facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.