A few months ago I came home from work to find my friend, Wes, on his hands and knees in the bedroom that scrubbed our king-size quilt on the floor. I was about to ask what was happening when I saw the bottle of Nature & Miracle in his hand.
“Seriously” I said. “He pissed on the bed?”
“Yeah,” Wes replied. He shook his head dejectedly without even looking up at me. Oliver, our six-year-old Wheaten Terrier, was known for home accidents, but he had never peed on the bed (at least I knew that, Wes had Oliver four years before we met).
“What happened?” I asked, the anger rose in my chest.
“I do not know,” said Wes. “I came home, left it out of the coffin and went to the kitchen to eat.After a few minutes I noticed that it was a bit too quiet, so I stuck my head out to see what he was doing and he lay on the bed peeing. ”
” You mean that he literally stood on our bed … lifted his leg … and peed? “I asked, expressing the series of events as dramatically as possible.
“Yes,” said Wes evenly. He was calm, his standard mode when he can see that my head is about to explode.
This was not the first time that Oliver’s behavior sent me in a blinding rage: last year he broke into the garbage bin when we were not home and dragged away waste (I speak coffee grind, eggshells, meat and veggie scraps, you name it on) in the dining room. He chewed lots of cherished items including sandals, headphones, bra & underwear and underwear. And he uses the apartment regularly as a toilet. That morning I had found several casserole pellets and a pile of puddles at his “spot” in the dining room.
After months of my complaining about Oliver to my therapist, she threw her hands one day and said, “Enough, Oliver is a challenging dog, and that’s all there is, he does not respect you, and he loves you. He is not intentionally disobedient.
I thought, he is challenging, he KNOWS that he does not have to pee in the house, let alone on his bed, and he does, it’s his way of saying, “You do, I do what I want.”
Drunk with the satisfaction of a detective who has finally solved a murder mystery (and blind to the fact that it is a bit strange to make your dog psychoanalytic), I told Wes the diagnosis of my therapist: Oliver is a challenging dog, clear and simple.
“Nah, I do not think so,” he said. “He loves us. He is not trying to defy us. ”
Determined to prove that Wes was wrong (and find out how to handle Oliver’s OBVIOUS defiance), I called Robert Haussman, founder and head coach of DogBoy NYC, and patiently listened to my” proof “and said :
“The first thing we have to do is label & # 39; challenging & # 39; delete. “My heart sank.” We tend to apply human thoughts and emotions to dogs – calling everything challenging to say they love us – but that is not a concrete way to understand their behavior. It is not that dogs do not have feelings – they certainly do. They are living beings that are driven by their needs. The problem is often that those needs do not meet ours. ”
Example: when Wes came home from work, his need was hungry so he went to the kitchen to eat, and Oliver wanted him to go to the bathroom after he had been in the bench for several hours. he did not join him as soon as he came home, so Oliver sniffed through the apartment until he found a place to relieve himself.
“Peeing on the bed is actually a fairly common behavioral problem,” says Haussman. stressed – for example, Oliver can be stressed all day because of his absence – he will seek out the smell of his people and urinate on it, he will put his scent around your house, just like he does outside when he pees on a lamppost . ”
This made sense to me – although it sadly disproved my groundbreaking theory that Oliver’s behavior was his way of saying “fuck you” to Wes and me.
“Think about the way dogs use urine,” explains Haussman. “They do not use it as a fuck for you, they use it as communication.”
So what does Oliver try to communicate? Most likely he will not meet his needs, says Haussman. It may be that we leave him in the bench for too long or that his daily walks with the dog-walker are not long enough (Wheaten terriers are known to have tons of energy). Or maybe he is lonely and his actions are a cry for attention. Wheaten Terriers are also known as people-oriented dogs who are not happy when they are not with their family.
The idea that Oliver did not have his needs made me feel like a terrible pet parent. “What must we do?” I asked Haussman. To correct his problem with urinating and pooping, Haussman says that you should ask the following: What causes the behavior? What does the behavior look like? And what is the consequence for the behavior?
When Oliver goes to the bathroom in the house, there is usually no consequence. We rarely catch him in the act; “There is no point in disciplining him after the act,” Haussman agrees. “He will not be able to connect the points between his behavior and the punishment.”
A better idea, he says, is a) to put Oliver on a more regular schedule and b) use positive reinforcement every time he relieves himself outside.
“A normal routine is very important for dogs,” says Haussman. “If you take Oliver as normal as soon as you get home from work and then one day, Wes comes home first and does not let him out, then he will go pee.”
If anything, Wes and I are guilty of not keeping Oliver on a consistent schedule. We do not feed him or take him every day at normal times, so it’s no wonder he lifts himself when he feels like it – he can not depend on us to take him out when he has to go (again, terrible older debt!). Haussman says to give him food and water every day at the same time. “That way you know how long it takes to get to one end of the conveyor belt and the other out,” he notes. In other words, we can expect it when Oliver has to go and make sure we get him out in time.
Haussman also suggests rewarding him for peeing and pooping outside, which will give him an incentive to hold it and not lighten himself indoors. “That’s how you change a habit,” he explains. “You make it undesirable to conduct the behavior indoors and really positive and rewarding to carry out the behavior outdoors.”
When it comes to Oliver’s other irritating behavior (chewing, barking, leashing), Haussman says it’s probably a matter of getting his energy out of it. “Wheatens are hyper-excited animals, and if you have a very excited dog, you will show more excited and perhaps misguided behavior.” To get our Energizer rabbit out, Wes and I started to take Oliver to childcare twice a week, and yes, his behavior improved. He is so exhausted when he comes home that he is too tired to make a disaster around the apartment.
Talking to Haussman made me realize: Oliver is not challenging (or mean or malicious or any other human feeling with which I can label him). He is a dog. A wonderfully simple being that only needs a few things to be happy: food, water, bathroom breaks, physical exercise, love, attention and many stomach movements. Now I know that he is not challenging if he behaves badly. He communicates what he needs – whether it’s longer walks or more playing time – and I’ll be there to give it to him.