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Jane Lefler
Jane Lefler, Animal Behaviorist
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 18809
Experience:  Dog breeder/Trainer and Behaviorist 18+ years
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My 6 year old Westie has, on and off, been nervous and shy

Customer Question

My 6 year old Westie has, on and off, been nervous and shy of coming up to sit with me- most of the time he loves this. And more recently he has become nervous of crossing thresholds, both within the house and even more recently, fearful of crossing the back door threshold to both exit and enter the house. He won't drink water of any kind inside the house and yesterday I popped out and found him just sitting in a corner- near where he was when I left. This is worrying me and I am struggling to understand this behaviour.
Help please.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Dog Training
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 2 years ago.
Hi JaCustomer,

My name is Jane. I have been working professionally with animals especially dogs in both health and behavioral issues for over 18 years. I have over 14,000 satisfied customers. It will be my pleasure to work with you today.

In order to supply you with the best information, I do need to ask for some additional information. Once I receive your answer, it will likely take me about 30-45 minutes to type up your response. I hope you can be patient.

What type of collar does your dog wear?
Does he have tags or a ring on the collar?
Was there fireworks recently or around when this happened?
Does he still drink water when outside?
Do you reassure him each time he does it?
If you leash him and just walk out, does he go?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

He wears a nylon collar but only when walked on his lead. He is 'bare' at home.There is a ring/tag with my contact details on, but again, only when we go walking. He still gets excited about walking and this is probably the only things that gets him where I want him- the promise of a walk.

He does drink from puddles and rain water, sometimes even from his household bowl if I fill it from the water butt, but only if it's outside.

A friend of mine looked after him for 24 hours over Christmas at her house. He had two long walks, but again wouldn't drink inside and she was very concerned because he wouldn't eat anything either! I love him so much and concerned for his welfare. He is still a great 'guard' dog, barking for attention when anyone passes the window or front gate.


Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 2 years ago.

Thanks for the additional information. It did bring some other questions to mind though.

Did this start at your friends house?
Does your friend have dogs or cats?
Were there any loud noises at her place?
Did she keep his collar on when he was there?

Sorry for the additional questions, but I am trying to understand the situation completely.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

No, this has been on going here at home. All apart from the eating. He has become fussier here and waits til I have eaten until he is sure there is nothing coming his way- I occasionally give him a tit bit, but not often.

He is not underweight. It is his 'fear' or nervousness of the house which concerns me, and of course the drinking. How can you tell if a dog is becoming dehydrated?

Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 2 years ago.

It sounds to me like something scared him. I thought that perhaps something happened at your friends house that scared him. Sometimes when a dog is taken into another house, the resident animals will prevent the dog from eating, drinking and even going outside. The resident animals "own" the territory and frequently in these cases, all they will have to do is move between the food and the dog or stand outside and just look at the visiting dog to discourage that dog from going outside. It doesn't take a fight, just a look from an alpha dog which is why I asked about what animals your friend had. Since you didn't tell me if the friend has an animal, only you can determine if this is a possibility.

Lets work on how to correct the situation. The first thing is to go ahead and have a quick vet check to determine if there is a medical issue causing the behavioral changes.

The way to tell if a dog is dehydrated is to pull the skin up between the shoulder blades. If it is slow to return to the normal position or stays tented, the dog is dehydrated. If your dogs gums are not moist but tacky or dry, then your dog is dehydrated. If your dog is dehydrated, you need to have him seen by your vet immediately.

If you are feeding dry food, try adding water to food. A dog only nees a cut of water for every 8 pounds of body weight daily, so adding fluid to the food in an alternative way for a dog to get water. You might also try feeding ice chips or cubes. Many dogs that won't drink will eat ice and get their daily water requirement that day. Some dogs will drink from water bottles much like the ones used for rabbits and guinea pigs. You might try one of these to see if it makes a difference. It might have been the id tag hitting the bowl at your friends house that spooked your dog, especially if he wasn't used to having it on that made him stop wanting to drink inside. At this point, all I can do is give you possibilities. If he will drink from a bowl outside, the you can slowly move the water bowl closer and closer to the house until it is in the threshold andd then move it inside. It will need to be a slow process, but this type of slowly changing where something the dog uses is at usually works well. Of course, if one of the other ideas works, all the better. I just want to give you several things to try.

You need to stop giving your dog table scraps since it is affecting his appetite. You can give him things like a spoonful of yogurt in his food or some cottage cheese but try not to give him table scraps.

If you are showing him lots of attention when he goes to exit or enter the house and he stops, then you are inadvertently encouraging the behavior. I want to give you an training exercise to use to help with the doorway issue. Take a vienna sausage and slice it paper thin or make some raw liver slivers to use as treats. These are high value and most dogs love them and will pretty much follow you anywhere when you have them. Start inside and give him a few treats so he knows you have them. Put some more in your hand and close it, letting him sniff your closed fist and then walk outside propping the door open if you need to. Ignore the dog and sit down outside and wait for the dog. When the dog comes out, give the dog the treat. If your dog prefers being inside, then start outside and move inside. Either way will work but you do want to work on it from both directions. If for some reason he still won't go over the threshold, then just sit right on the other side of the threshold with the treat in your hand so the dog has to at least stand on the threshold then after a few days, move it an inch further away. This lets the dog see there is nothing to fear from the doorways and starts to associate going in and out with the treats. Just be sure not to give him a treat if he stops and refuses to go out or he will think you are rewarding him for stopping.

The other way is to put the leash on as if you are going for a walk and taking him out if that works to get him outside. Having a dog on the lead is never a bad idea. He may even be stopping at the door because he want to be on the leash and with you.

I also want you to try a DAP collar. Dap collars use a pheromone much like the one a nursing mother produces to calm her pups. Studies have proven that they work well for dogs having anxiety issues such as noise phobias or separation anxiety.

Another thing I want to mention is that dogs with back problems, such as a disc injury, may be reluctant to go up and down stairs or jump. So if your dog has to jump up to sit with you or use steps to go in and out of the house, this might be the problem as well. It might be causing him discomfort to do those things. It might even cause him discomfort to lower his head depending on where the injury was, so you might discuss that possibility with your vet as well. Diagnosing that problem might require a ct scan or a myelogram. Read about disc problems below.

Unfortunately, the site does not allow me to make clickable links, so to view the supporting websites, you will need to copy and paste the link into a new browser window or tab.

I hope this information is helpful to you and you are satisfied with my response. If you would like any additional information or have more questions please don’t hesitate to press the reply to expert or continue conversation button so I can address any issues you still have .

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