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Linda Simmon
Linda Simmon, Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 5197
Experience:  MVB MRCVS
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Our little Alba (whom we adopted over a week ago) is

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Hi! our little Alba (whom we adopted over a week ago) is petrified of walks and refused to go outside. We tried to lure her out, but she got really stressed, started shaking and then vomitted. We stopped trying to get her out and immediately she felt better (shaking stopped etc) but now worried she won’t go to the toilet as she has been trained to never go in the house by the previous owner. What can we do so that she doesn’t make herself sick by not going out.
JA: I'll do all I can to help. What sort of animal are we talking about?
Customer: Dog Boston Terrier
JA: This sounds like it might be serious. I'll let the Veterinarian know what's going on ASAP. Is there anything else the Veterinarian should be aware of about the Boston Terrier?
Customer: nothing else. She seems to be settling well otherwise
Hi there,you are through to Dr Linda.
What age is she?
Do we know anything about her previous homelife i.e. was she walked, was it a busy or quiet area?
Where has she been toileting for now?
Any other signs of anxiety such as hiding away, panting or aggression?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Hi Linda! She is almost 4yo. Previous homelife was a lot different: she was used for breeding, slept in a shed with 12 other dogs and was hardly walked. She lived in a quiet area and now she’s in a city. So quite a lot of change for her in the recent week. We taught her to toilet outside in a grassy patch next to our house, but then on one walk she got really scared of multiple things (kids playing loudly, man approaching her and cyclists passing) and now any kind of noise makes her jump. Since then (a couple of days ago) she has refused to be outside at all.
We didn’t go for our usual evening walk last night (as she refused to go) and thought she might go potty in the house if left alone at night, but she didn’t as she was trained not to in her last home, so we lured her out with treats in the morning and she did go toilet on the patch. But then in the evening she refused again and got really shakey and vomitted. We’ve got an appointment with a behaviourist scheduled for next week, but want to just make sure she’s ok until then - what do we do? whats worse, a dog holding it in for too long or us traumatising her by forcing her to leave the house to go to the toilet?

Oh bless her, I'm so glad she has found you and can now have a normal and happy life. Certainly, it will take time to adapt to her new homelife and we will need to be patient and gentle (as I'm sure you are!).

I suspect it is alien for her to have a lead on, be around busy streets and to walk for exercise and enjoyment; each of these things is a separate hurdle to overcome.

It sounds as though she may also have developed a noise phobia, which we will need to work on with her.

You have absolutely done the right thing to not force the walk as this would make things worse and escalate her stress levels. We need to dial it right back.

It is tricky Re the toileting, but I would continue to use that patch for now and reward heavily when she puts on the lead, leaves the home, walks to the patch, toilets and gets home. Each of these milestones deserves a 'Great girl!' and high value treat like chicken.

You can work on de-sensitizing her to the things that cause anxiety but do take it very slowly. So, for example, you could attach her lead and walk to the front door, then reward her if she remans happy and confident. If she becomes stressed, we need to take a step back. Over time, we build on what she can do so, after a week or two of building on getting to her toileting patch, we may see if she will walk 1-2 feet away from it (lots of rewards, 'great girl!') and then back in. It's all about positive experiences, building trust and her understanding that something lovely happens when she takes that one step further out of her comfort zone.

A similar technique can be used with noise. You can play a You Tube video of a noise road for example, and reward her when the volume is very low and she remains calm and settled. Gradually, over days and weeks, play the sound at slightly louder volumes, rewarding heavily as she tolerates it. If she becomes unsettled, we have taken a step too far and need to dial it back.

Be sure to bring her to the grassy patch when noise levels are at their lowest and, ideally, have a set routine so she knows that e.g. she is always brought when she wakes up, after lunch, before bed etc. as anxious dogs LOVE routine.

We can work on building her confidence in general with things such as natural calming supplements e.g Zylkene, a plug in like Adaptil, basic training commands (sit, stay etc), easy food puzzles she can solve, lots of play and lots of fuss and bonding time (if she enjoys it).

Holding in poo can lead to chronic constipation and, less commonly, bowel enlargement, Holding in pee can cause urine infections and stones. It's difficult to say if it is worse for her to hold it in, but I would try and allow her access to that patch as much as is necessary and work on hard on making it a positive experience every time.

Please ignore any phone call requests as the website sends these automatically; I am happy to talk via text if that's ok?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
thank you! this is really helpful! We are super patient and giving her loads of love +space. The problem now is she doesn’t even want to go to the patch and shakes violently when we try to get her going.
So based on your advice and other advice we shouldn’t force her to walk, but then how are we supposed to get her to go to the toilet? (shes scared of being picked up) if you have any tips we can use immediately, either for gettting her to the patch or encouraging her to do her business at home, we would be so grateful!
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
We’ve taken your advice and ordered a natural calming dog supplement now, but until it comes, could we give her some melatonin, to help with anxiety?

Oh poor thing, this is really tricky.

Picking up is usually a step too far for a lot of dogs, it is best to allow them to choose to go places.

I suspect the closer to home the safer she feels. I would avoid using any 'in house toilets' such as puppy pads because this will just create a habit that is hard to break.

I would offer her the closest and safest outside toilet option (whether it is your front garden, back garden, or small area outside your home). It can be paved or grass. Show her the spot at every 'toilet time' e.g. after each meal, after each drink, when she wakes up etc. and she will use it when she has to. We then use this chance to heavily reward her and we should find she grows more confident with this routine in time.

Melatonin is used and licensed in dogs but only for hair growth issues and is not something I would recommend for anxiety issues to be honest. It's worth saying that after her behavioural assessment, we may consider a stronger medicine e..g Fluoextine if we think it necessary.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Ok that makes sense! Should we put her on the leash when we show her the toilet spot in the garden or is that only going to add to her anxiety?
if we leave the garden door open she sometimes ventures out but wont go toilet, when we’re in the garden she sometimes comes when called but when even slightly anxious she gets shaky and ignores us, so it might be difficult to lead her there. also once we get her out there with a snack she runs back into the house - would you reccomend closing the door behind her or would that be traumatic?
I would start without the lead to minimise stress and work your way up to using the lead.
It's a good sign she will go into the garden voluntarily at times (albeit warily!).
No, do not close the door as this will add to anxiety. Its important she trusts she is safe and can makes her own choices.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Hey Linda! Just wanted to say massive thank you for your support and all the information!!! Alba did her wee in the garden this morning and we couldn’t be happier. Thank you so much
Fantastic, I'm so glad to hear this! Certianly , there is a long road ahead but you will get there :)I just wanted to mention, as you requested a phone call yesterday (which was not made) you may need to inform customer services that the request was cancelled so they do not charge you.If you were happy with the service, please don't forget to rate the answer by selecting the stars at the top of the screen. Thank you.
Linda Simmon and other Vet Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Hello Dr Linda! Can we ask you another question? We've trained Alba to go to the toilet in the garden and she seems much more confident now that she doesn't have to go out. She has however started shaking quite a lot in general where we don't think she is either stressed or excited. She also started sitting in a funny way and holding her head down from time too time. We've made an appointment with a vet but it's not until Friday so thought we'd ask here as well to see if there is anything we can do in the meantime. Many thanks in advance