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Friday, February 5, 2010

What is he Thinking?

So I'm having a bit of a debate with myself.

Yes, I do this often. Get used to it.

I'm trying to decide the motivation(s) behind the recent actions of one of my doggie clients, hopefully so I can figure out a way to remedy them. This requires a tiny bit of back-story before I get to the debate.

I walk a disturbingly cute Wire-haired Fox Terrier, who is rambunctious and silly and quite clever. I've walked him since he was a tiny lad, and I think I know him pretty well. But recently he's thrown me and his mom for a loop, and I am trying to figure out if he's being as clever as his mom thinks he is. You see, a few weeks ago he came up lame. He was limping, heavily favoring his right front paw. We gave him a few days to see if it went away on its own, but when it didn't he had to visit the vet. They diagnosed him with a sprained toe, and recommended rest.

After still another week of bad limping, he went back to the vet so they could put a little cast on it, thinking he was just too bouncy for his own good, and a cast would at least slow him down enough to heal. Well, he ate that cast off in no time, and the limp didn't get any better, so his mom took him to a specialist veterinary hospital, where the vet there said, "Hm, maybe what's causing the pain is the puncture wound here in his toe!" So the vet, his mom and I somehow all missed that he had a boo boo! They x-rayed it to make sure there were no foreign bodies still in the wound (there weren't), and sent him home with strict instructions to limit his walks to peeing and pooping trips only. Here is where the drama starts, and where my debate begins.

Since his bed-rest, so to speak, began, the pup has taken to pooping in the apartment. Not just once. He's done it 4 times in the last week with me, and a few other times for his mom. When I arrive, the whole apartment reeks and he's sitting quietly surrounded by little piles of feces. Now he's had accidents in the past that are clearly because he's not feeling well. This poo, however, is totally normal, and positioned under chairs and tables, as though he planned where to go. On top of all of this, he gets regular walks, at least 4 times a day (once with me around 1pm). According to his mom, she takes him out for 30 minutes in the morning, and he just refuses to poo! Then he leaves it for me to clean up when I arrive. Not my favorite task.

The pooch's mom has a theory. She thinks that he's just plain upset that he isn't allowed to run and play outside, and has figured out that he is generally brought back inside after he poops. She thinks he's going inside out of spite. Now I am guilty of attributing all sorts of thoughts and emotions to animals, so don't get me wrong. I'm not saying dogs can't feel spiteful. But it is a very complicated emotion that not only requires forethought, which dog's aren't great at, but also a sound understanding of how an action will make someone feel, and I'm not sure that dogs are aware of this. So my debate is this- has the dog learned through simple operant conditioning that pooping means coming right back inside, so he will not poop to avoid going home? Or is he legitimately planning to anger his mom and me by holding it in and doing it inside so we have to clean it up? I'm not sure there's any way to scientifically support either notion, so for now this will remain a conundrum. But in the meantime, he really needs to stop because I am a dog walker, not a housekeeper.

1 comment:

  1. A week late, but meh...

    In my own battles with raising my dog, I have often found myself wondering if Hera is being spiteful or not. She seems to have a uncanny ability to choose when to shred something, and what to shred (like my IRS refund check last year, for example) depending on the circumstances of the day.

    Pooping on the floor, especially close to where he's hanging out, just says to me that he didn't feel like moving anywhere else.

    But you'd know better than me ;)