Local News

Sunday, Jan 17 2010 10:07 PM

Dog's hiding may hide medical problem

By The Bakersfield Californian

Jodi has a 12-year-old female dachshund named Phoebe who lived in the house until a few years ago. The family changed her into an outside dog when she began hiding under beds for hours at a time.

They found the behavior frustrating, but tolerable. When they got a cat, the behavior worsened.

Now, if she can sneak in the house, she will hide behind the couch or under a bed, sometimes for 24 hours or more.

When she is hiding, she will not eat, drink or eliminate for the duration of her time there. She barks excessively and becomes very aggressive if they go near her food or try to pick her up. They love her to death and want her to be able to come back into the house.

This story is heartbreaking to me.

Everyone loves a puppy, but there is something so very special about those gray-faced seniors.

They don't have the same exercise requirements they had as youngsters and games of fetch to tire them out are a thing of the past.

They are comfortable in the established routines they have followed for years, and their days revolve around eating on time and a little patch of sunlight to nap in. Being close to the one they love and curled up in front of the TV set, it's as good as it gets.

While Jodi did not tell me what Phoebe's personality was like as a young dog, I have to wonder if she may have always been unsocial and fearful and it worsened with age, illness or a traumatic experience. Even if that is true, when her behavior changed so radically, it should have set off warning bells.

Hiding is not a normal behavior, nor is the refusal to eat or drink. Aggression over food or being picked up may well be behavior issues, but can't be dealt with as such until possible physical causes are ruled out.

The first place to look for help should be the dog's veterinarian. There are many things that could be causing this behavior. A complete body panel will let the vet know if Phoebe's organs are functioning properly.

Dachshunds are prone to disk problems in their backs, which could make it painful for her to be picked up. Dogs in pain can't tell you where it hurts and will sometimes just "shut down."

Decayed teeth or gum disease can make it painful to eat. An ear infection is agonizing and can bring on aggression.

Not drinking water for extended periods of time is very dangerous as it can cause dehydration or a toxic infection. She could even be having seizures and is hiding because she becomes fearful and disorientated.

Hiding can be a fear-based behavior and dogs that are noise phobic may seek out a safe, dark place like a closet to escape.

If this is an anxiety problem the doctor may suggest medication combined with behavior modification techniques. Anxiety jackets, which have been used with success by many trainers, can be used to wrap dogs that suffer extreme fear from thunderstorms and other phobia. They work on the same principal as swaddling an infant in a blanket does to make it feel secure.

Taking a dog that has been a part of the family for most of its life and isolating it has to be causing this dog extreme stress and psychological damage. If not pain-related, her aggression when being picked up might be in anticipation of being put outside. Escalation of her behavior after the cat came is more than likely coincidental unless the cat is stalking her.

Dogs are pack animals.

The addition of the cat might have needed a period for adjustment, but Phoebe's being "kicked out" of the pack, has caused her to become desperate and focused on one objective. To get back in and stay there.

While forcing her to live outside may have "solved" the immediate problem of her hiding under the furniture, it did nothing to stop her compulsive need to do so.

I lost my beloved Flash to hemangiosarcoma last September just short of his 12th birthday. He was my "perfect puppy" from the moment he came off the plane at 8 weeks of age to his last stoic breath in my arms.

He rode shotgun when I made the move to Bakersfield 10 years ago.

He was there with me for every part of my "new" life for over a decade (twice as long as I was married!). Over the last few years as he got grayer and started to slow down, I was forced to face the reality that we wouldn't always be together.

I made a resolution that I might not have him forever, but I would treat every day together like it was our last. When I had to let him go I was devastated and continue to feel the loss, but I'm happy knowing that I made the most of his golden years.

Sherry Davis is a dog trainer/owner of CSI 4 K9s. E-mail her at doglady@ bakersfield.com. These are her opinions and not necessarily those of The Californian.

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