Newt’s River

Bichon Frise

First in a series

The anxiety and blood pressure spikes of white coat syndrome aren’t fun for us. Most pets have the same problem. That long walk to the exam room, running a gauntlet through other jumpy dogs, is especially harrowing for those already losing their grip.

Instead, I emerged through the side door of the clinic to invite “Newt” and his folks, Anna and Tom, inside for their behavior consultation. Bichon Frise’s are usually bouncy dogs but this 3 year old slunk in and immediately crept under Anna’s chair in my consulting room. You’d think he was headed for the gallows.

I kept one eye on Newt as I gathered a history of urine soiling, fear of visitors, clingy attention-seeking, and aggression. When I peeped over the table for a better look I saw him focusing on my feet. He growled and trembled. He would rather file his knuckles with a cheese grater than spend another minute with me.

Anxiety can be crippling. Anything new may derail a tenuous grasp on stability. People, at least, can talk about it. Newt’s family had moved 3 times during his young life, each upheaval followed by howling and crying even when they were home with him. The worst part was the urine soiling – several times a day. Everybody was miserable.

Trying to catch Newt in the act made no difference. He dribbled when he approached Tom – even when this kind man was quiet and relaxed with him. He marked boxes and bags that were set on the floor. He’d hiked his leg on Anna, one time while she was getting dressed in the bathroom. He’d even urine marked her while shopping in PetSmart. Her embarrassment was epic.

Scolding Newt when they found messes later got them nowhere. He was a urine machine. They knew he was scared to death. When Anna tried reaching into his crate to take him out he’d started snapping at her. They were all in a hole together. They needed to quit digging.
Next week: People – Can’t live with them; can’t live without them.
For help with behavior problems, you can sign-up for a Zoom Group Conference on my website,

Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at Post pet behavioral or physical questions on or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.