P-mail is the social media for dogs! A telegraph pole, lamp post or that spot on the grass.
The ‘I-Pee’ address of ‘who was here’! Relieving for our dogs is a very natural act. One that can be accomplished for most dogs, easily and anywhere, in the back yard, along a walk or running in the park.
One would think that a simple natural act would not cause a problem.
Yet it can and does. Especially when their safety is threatened.
I was called out for two consults this past couple of weeks, for a similar issue of dogs not wanting to relieve in the back yard, whereas previously there had not been a problem.
The first was yellow lab Stella, who had decided the back yard, especially at night, was a scary place to go. The grass was a no-go but the patio was okay, not too far away from the back door, so easier to get back to the safety of home. This issue of not wanting to go onto the grass, was causing the owner concern as she would not go out to play and interact with her daughter or the visiting dog-friend. Stella had been skunked(for those of you who do not know what a skunk is, it is a black and white animal, about the size of a cat, that when facing you is harmless. When it turns its back on you, is scared and you do not flee, you get skunked! Sprayed with the nastiest smell on the planet, Yes, even worse than the smell of sulphur escaping from the earth!).
It took place a couple of months back in a corner, furthest away from the house however, she had been using all of the yard to relieve and play up until a few weeks ago.
Stella’s best friend, companion and resident dog in the house had recently passed away. She was on medication for allergies. The meds were causing her to drink more, so she peed more. She was now the sole dog in the household. She has a dog friend that visits weekly. Even with her dog friend visiting, she was reluctant to use the back yard, even with him being present and playing.
The next consult was with Yoda, a rescue, who first home had neglected her.
She has been with her new family for some time. She was comfortable with everything, is mollycoddled on a regular basis and loves life!
She has a big back yard with grass and was happy to go out, relieve and play.
A month or so ago, two new dogs moved into the basement with their mum. Access to the yard was for everyone. All three dogs were reported to be getting along. Then suddenly Yoda would not go onto the grass to relieve. She used the pathway between the house and the grass or waited until she went for a walk.
The ‘Concern’ is an accumulation of many other little concerns going on within the dog. Acknowledging them, is allowing us to move closer to understanding our dog.
Stella was looking and acting stressed. She had stress lines on her face and was not looking settled or relaxed in the house. When taken out to the backyard, she was worried and paced on the patio but would not come onto the grass. Her dog friend was visiting, while I was there. He trotted out with myself and Stella’s mum onto the grass. Stella placed her two front feet on the grass, then backed away.
While we stood and discussed Stella’s body language and how we could interact with her at a distance, she started to venture over to us, cautiously. I praised her calmly and quietly “Nicely, good girl”. She looked up to me, I licked my lips and looked quietly away from her. She ventured closer, now her head was to the ground, sniffing. She came over and stood by me, I stroked her down her shoulder with the back of my hand, just the once.
Her dog friend came over too, he got the same connection from me. They then went up to the back fence, investigating the ground. Stella’s body language changed to a relaxed gait and her tail relaxed, whereas previously it had been tight and slightly stiff.
She came back to near where we were standing and peed. As she started to squat, I brought in the words her owner used when she took her outside, “Go Pee”. Once she had completed the act, I praised, calmly and quietly.
On going out to the back yard, Yoda’s mum and dad Heather and Paul, were present. She started to go out onto the grass then walked on the pathway that went around the deck. She squatted on the edge of the grass. The two new dogs were out the back with their mum, off leash. The younger of the two, came over and said Hi to Yoda, very nicely and gently. The older one came over and immediately Yoda’s body language stiffened to match the other dog. Paul was stroking Yoda and when the other dog came over he stroked him down his back. I did not interfere, as I watched, Yoda turned her head away and at the same time licked her lips, hackles slightly raised. The other dog copied her and they both moved away from each other.
Yoda went up onto the deck, Paul followed and was stroking Yoda when the older dog came back to them both and walked between them. Paul stroked him again as he made his way back to the grass and his mum and buddy.
The two dogs and their mum went off for a walk. Yoda then ventured around the edge of the garden and grass to the far back corner, under the trees to check on the squirrel population. Her whole body was more relaxed.We all ventured to the middle of the lawn then walked around it. Yoda watched us, started to walk over to us, then stopped and went back.
She use to always relieve in a particular spot. Since the dogs had arrived, they had taken over the same spot to pee and poo. All was picked up after the dogs but not immediately afterwards.
Picking up the poo as soon as the dogs had finished, is really important in a multi dog household. Some dogs, like Yoda are very private about relieving. Her area had been taken over by a very young dog and an older one who was clear that it was now his back yard.
Both dogs had concerns that made them loose their overall confidence.
Stella’s emotional well being had been affected by the loss of her buddy, who had given her the safety she needed not only in the house but to venture out into the backyard, even though she had had a bad experience there. When her mum goes out with her, she is giving the aspect of safety back to her. At the same time, a stronger trust is developing. Stella has been relieving out in the yard since then. Mum always goes out with her.
Yoda is a complex dog. Her mental and body sensitivities are fairly high, hence her not being able to deal with the new kids on the block. She is also a rescue whose history we do not know much about. Taking this knowledge into consideration, she needs to know that all is safe in her world. Again, by going outside and walking around the yard quietly with her, she is learning to trust and feel safe. Giving her the private time to do what she needs to do, without the other dogs there, is allowing her to poo.
When in the yard with the other dogs there, she needs to know that her parents are keeping her safe. Rewarding all the dogs, when they interact “nicely”, without human touch but with voice alone, will bring a more harmonious relationship for everyone. It is up to the humans to maintain the guidelines.
When Yoda is on her own and with her favourite people, mollycoddling is encouraged!!
Thank You to Paul, Heather & Yoda for sending in the picture!
Supporting your dogs by being with them when they are unsure will bring Safety and Trust into the relationship, which promotes overall well-being, for You and Your Dog.
“We met Jane through her work with Hopeful Hearts Dog Rescue. She understands dogs at a level we’ve never seen before — and she gets results. Our dog Yoda was 10-years-old when she was removed from an animal cruelty situation, so bears emotional and physical scars. During the year since we adopted Yoda, Jane has taught us to work with Yoda in a way that helps Yoda to feel safe and secure. She’s gone from being a very worried girl with separation anxiety to a playful, belly-rub loving dog who initiates play and snuggles in our arms. We whole-heartedly recommend Jane and InspiredK9s to family and friends at every opportunity.
Heather and Paul”