'The true Soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because He loves what is behind him.' -G. K. Chesterton

27 January 2012

Complex Dog Behaviors

I got sharply reminded yesterday that dogs are sometimes smarter and more complex than we realize, or remember at least.

Angus has been house broken since he was 10 weeks old. From that time he could be relied upon to understand his need and where he was to do his business. But I forgot that habits can alter as time passes and circumstances change. The change that precipitated my epiphany was twofold. I've graveled the side yard, where the Pirate Ship is located. It's a large yard and Angus spends a bit of time out there. Not to mention doing a bit of his business there as well. Second, I installed a gate separating the side yard from the back yard. I did it when the side yard was dirt and turned into a sea of mud when it rained. Angus, among his other charming and frustrating habits, is a digger as are many Labs. I decided, in my folly, to go ahead and keep the gate closed whenever he had unsupervised access to the side yard area to keep the holes in my gravel and underlayment to a minimum. That's the set up.

Yesterday morning Angus followed me and Lu into the bathroom. Since the rest of the house was still asleep, and Angus figures that if he's up everyone else should be as well, we decided to keep him in there with us. Showers done we found that he had piddled on the floor. Odd but I figured it was my fault. he'd needed to go and with no access to the backyard had let go on the floor. Clearly an accident. I hauled him outside, gave him a fairly mild scolding and watched until he went on the new fake turf. Done and done right? Not so much. Later in the evening I watched as he stopped between the kitchen and living room and promptly squatted and started peeing on the carpet. I jumped up with a very loud NO!, grabbed him and hustled him to the backyard. Since I caught him in the act he got punished and temporarily banished until clean up was done. Lu, the DO and I talked it over but didn't come to a consensus. DO thought it might be a urinary infection or other problem. I thought it was Angus rebelling a bit. Some dogs do that at about his age. Lu was of the opinion it was something else, perhaps a more complex behavioral issue involving the shutting off of the side yard. Along with the earlier incident it might be that he just hated closed doors, a behavior that Chrisi has in spades.

I gave it some thought and decided to test her theory. I took Angus to the gate, opened it and let him into the side yard. He took off and immediately took a very long pee on the gravel with a definite "Finally!" look on his face. Problem solved. We've had no further peeing on the floor incidents.

What apparently happened was that Angus has transferred his potty instincts from the back yard to the gravel area. I believe that if I had a gravel patch in the back yard the issue would have never come up. Angus now associates relieving and gravel. I missed it completely and Angus paid the price for my ignorance. It's a good lesson and one I should have seen coming from a mile away. Luckily Lu, once again, showed that her instincts and knowledge are better than my own.

It's something to think about and remember. If a dogs behavior suddenly makes a sharp turn it's time to slow down, investigate and give it some careful thought. Maybe the problem is both simpler and more complex than it seems and a quick reaction might be a wrong one. Food for thought.



Coop said...

Nice post... I've found dogs to be creature's of habit and routine, if they are not acting " normal" its time to take a step back and see what has changed. What may seem insignificant to you and I, may be a life altering event to your 4 legged friend.

Six said...

I think you're dead on Coop. I considered myself an experienced and knowledgable dog handler and trainer but this has sharply reminded me that I still have a lot to learn.
Crow. Tastes just like chicken.