. . . for Oscar to get over his chronic anxiety and stop peeing in the house. This is an official plea for help.
If you are or know a dog whisperer, will you please respond to or pass along the following open letter? I could (and still may) go over to The Dog Whisperer’s website and start barging my way into the forums, but . . . I have a lot to say, and I have high hopes for the Readership. You go, the Readership! (Sorry. I pretty much live with teenagers.) In my experience that six degrees of separation thing is pretty accurate, and it just seems like I’ve gotta be not more than six degrees separated from someone who could actually give me some good advice here.
Dear Dog Whisperer,
In 2008, shortly after a bout with cancer, I adopted a rescue dog, a three year old cockapoo whom I named Oscar. From all reports, Oscar used to belong to some sort of breeder down South, who either got bored of breeding or got shut down; anyway, all of her dogs ended up at the rescue shelter from which I got Oscar. From all appearances and behaviour, Oscar had been at the very least neglected, and quite possibly also abused, in his earlier “home.” He doesn’t know how to play, he’s very timid, he gets stressed out easily, he doesn’t really like to cuddle much even though he is obviously very attached to me and he also has a tendency to pee in the house when we are not home. The first two years saw me getting him mostly house trained and leash trained. I also let him sleep on my bed with me (which turned out possibly to be a mistake, but I’m getting to that.
Last year I met the man who is now my husband. We’re both dog people, and in spite of their drastic personality differences (my husband’s dog, Shemp, is also a rescue but is very self-assured, energetic, playful and laid back) both Oscar and Shemp get along very happily. When my husband and I began dating, we were optimistic that Shemp would help “teach Oscar how to be a dog,” and at first it seemed that our hopes would be realised. My husband has a no-pets-on-the-bed policy, and frankly, it would be pretty crowded otherwise, and so we also instituted a new no-dogs-upstairs policy, which was a switch for both dogs. It took Oscar a little while to get used to not retreating upstairs whenever he felt nervous about something, but now it doesn’t seem like he even considers the option anymore.
However, about three months into our marriage, Oscar began to revisit his peeing-on-the-carpet habit of old. At first this seemed to be related to him expecting us to feed him or let him out before we actually did. We started crating him again at night, and I began taking him with me to work, as I used to do when I was single. That helped prevent the peeing, but then he started freaking out in his crate if we didn’t get up at our earliest possible time (5 a.m.). When I say “freaking out,” I mean freaking out. He would shake the crate back and forth, rattle its door, tear up the foam mat and carpet we put in there to make it more comfortable and keep him from dancing his claws up and down on the plastic floor, pant and sometimes yelp, and he would continue to do this until we either yelled at him from our bed upstairs (but he’d always start up again), or until we got up and let him out. We never let either dog out in the morning until 6.30 at the earliest, but sometimes my husband has to get up earlier, and then on mornings that he doesn’t, Oscar seems to fear we’re never getting up or something, and begins what Paul calls “rocking and rolling” in the crate. It’s completely miserable. I tried something Pavlovian with alarms which worked for a little while, but its effectiveness has completely ceased by this point.
Finally, about three weeks ago, my husband decided just to leave Oscar out of his crate overnight again, and it went fine. He waited to be let out with Shemp at 6.30, he stayed home when we weren’t at work, and he was perfectly behaved. Then suddenly this week he has regressed yet again, peeing in the same spot at least once, and sometimes twice, a day. We’re back to crating him, and this morning he was quiet, but we both know it’s only a matter of time before he begins freaking out again. We are at our wits’ end and so, it appears, is Oscar. We can’t afford a “doggy therapist,” and we try to provide as regular a schedule for this anxious little dog as possible, but nothing seems to be working. Can you help us?
Most sincerely, and kind of desperately,