Avoid Fear Triggers & Teach Scared Dog that Strangers are Safe

Question:
Our 6 year old, mostly red healer, 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 somebody who has endured so much loss. Start your new management plan 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, which is available online. Interesting name, great product.

There is much more. With so much forced abandonment from past social groups your dog spends way too much of her life anxiously waiting for the next shoe to fall.  Any change may cause her to freak out all over again. That history of “dominance” 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 the stress on your dog when you have guests by putting her in the yard or in a separate room. To avoid triggering her feelings of intimidation never allow anyone to 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 Anxitane (your veterinarian can order it) may also help. Friends who can be trusted to follow instructions should ignore her 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.