Ask the Behaviorist: Making Time Away from the Dogs

Check out the Michigan Humane Society blog on Wednesdays to see common pet behavior questions answered by our Senior Director of Operations and pet behavior expert, CJ Bentley. If you have an immediate behavior concern with your pet, please call a qualified trainer or behaviorist! If you have a non-urgent question you would like answered on the blog, you can comment here or email us at mail(at)michiganhumane.org.

Senior Director of Operations CJ Bentley and her adopted dog, Rogue

Senior Director of Operations CJ Bentley and her adopted dog, Rogue

“We have three teacup Chihuahuas. One is 3-4 years old and is extremely jealous. I dont think she would ever hurt anyone, but anytime we come home, we let all three out of their crate and she immediately urinates on the floor. She is the only one that does this and this has always been a problem. She also will bark and growl at my husband and I anytime we hug or kiss. And during “couple time” she will urinate multiple times or deficate throughout the house. We have solved this problem by putting her in her crate, but lets face it…its not very romantic or spontaneous when you have to worry about locking up the dogs. Suggestions PLEASE!!!”

Oh you poor thing. Ok, well, this is truly serious I’m going to take a guess here that your little Chi is not behaving out of jealousy at all – but moreso out of, well, stress I think. I’m feeling like possibly any time there’s a bunch of commotion she has a hard time coping and – like many dogs and humans too – when they feel stress…well, potty happens. There are a few things you can try. Most will take some time to implement so for now – unfortunately, crating is the best plan. But hopefully we can get that spontaneity back ASAP!

Let’s start with letting them out of their crates. The excitement is probably a bit too much – so when you first get home, ignore them. Wait until they settle down in their crates before you let them out. Once they’ve calmed themselves…try letting them out maybe one at a time. Keep the calm. Ignore them as you let them out. Let one out…wait for calm. Then another…then another. Let’s see if we can’t tone down the “happy home time” to prevent her from getting overly excited.

Now…on to the “other matter.” Hmmmmmmmmm…It would be best if we could teach her that your “couple time” means great things happen for her (too!). See if you can follow my logic here. Pick a cue word. At random times throughout the day, say the word, walk calmly to your dog’s crate and drop in the best best best food dispensing toy ever. Something she can chew on that let’s food “escape” from it from time to time. At first you can close her in there until she’s through with the toy. When you’re ready to let her out, use another cue word. Say the word, then let her out (CALMLY). Eventually, you can stop closing the door, if she leaves with the toy, put the toy back in the crate – she only gets the toy when she’s in the crate. And she can only leave the crate when she heard the appropriate cue word.

Practice this A LOT. Give her time to get the hang of it. Practice when things are calm and she can concentrate. If you’re worried about her gaining weight, start feeding her her dinner out of one of the food dispensing toys (like the PetSafe Busy Buddy series). You can even use dinner time as practice time. Break dinner time up into 3 or 4 little meals instead of one big one for more practice time.

In the meantime, continue to crate her (with a nice prize waiting for her) during your couple time. When she gets REALLY GREAT at going to her crate and staying there until you release her with the “out” cue word try giving the “in” cue word as couple time starts. When she goes to her crate, REWARD with the super toy. Then use the release word when couple time is over. You’ll have to keep that up for a bit; but our goal is that eventually she’ll go to her crate when she hears the cue word and will stay there until you release her without needing the reward of the treat toy. You can get there…but for bit…couple time will also be training time. The good news is…it won’t be forever!

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2 thoughts on “Ask the Behaviorist: Making Time Away from the Dogs

  1. I have a 3 year old Shi Tsu who is very attached to me. He’s ok when I go out but I’m planning a trip out of town for a week and plan on leaving him home alone instead of boarding him. My next door neighbor will be coming over to spend time with him and take him for his daily walk and to feed him everyday. I will leave a light on for him so he won’t be in the dark. Do you think this is okay or should I just board him. I really don’t see the difference. This way he will be in the comfort of own surroundings. What do you think?

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  2. I have an 8 year old boarder collie mix & would like to rescue another dog. BUT she is soooo attached & non friendly to most other dogs. She barks, growls & carries on when one even walks in front of the house. She has gotten much worse since my husband passed. Also my other rescue moved away with my son . Can you help us?

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