Example Of A Problem Dog Inquiry

Example of A Problem Dog Inquiry

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Sam Basso
PHOENIX , AZ AREA: (602) 708-4531
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We have over the years rescued _______ (small breed), and have also had non-rescue ______ as pets. We just love this breed. However, we are struggling to deal with “G”. He was placed with us after being found abandoned and wandering around a mining town. Skinny but otherwise apparently healthy, our vet, Dr. ______, thought him to be between 3-7 years of age. That was four years ago. Immediately upon placement with us, he showed symptoms of separation anxiety via inappropriate elimination even if I were on the other side of a closed door, and he could still hear me. He was supposedly crate-trained, but it has been our experience that the crate is cruel and unusual punishment for him. If put into the crate at night, he will shred all of his bedding, or bang his head against the door. As time has progressed, we have tried all sorts of things with “G”, but he has always seemed to be inherently unhappy. He plays only rarely, preferring to sleep except for meals. He does not have any desire to please his people…he has been incredibly resistant to any sort of training, even the basics such as going to the bathroom outdoors. He manages to eliminate outside only because we take him at regularly scheduled intervals; it is a rarity that he lets us know he needs to go, but on occasion he does. He salivates, soaking his bedding at night; works himself into vomiting and diarrhea, frequents other rooms in the house to defecate, moves his bedding throughout the room, etc., and this is when he was sleeping in our room, in his own bed, within sight of me! He displays the hyperactive greeting, jumping, excited, etc., if I have been away for a bit. I have attempted to retrain re: elimination numerous times; I ignore the hyperexcitability until he is calm. He has been placed on elavil and melatonin, but just as with every intervention, he responds at most for two weeks, and then we are right back with an apparently miserably unhappy and uncooperative little Westie. Now, he can be “normal” about 5% of the time, so that leaves the rest. He has started baring his teeth and menacing my husband around the issue of being put to bed, so I am the one to do that. Were he to bite, we would have him euthanised. The behaviorist with whom our vet has consulted, is now recommending Prozac, but is only cautiously optimistic. The current line of thinking is that he may just have such severe emotional problems, that they cannot be overcome. Euthanasia is being put on the table as an option…I’m not sure I’m ready to let him go. He does not appear to be “happy”, as I would judge it, but he is content…at least except at night. We have had to put him outside now, with his dogloo and bedding and heat…and he still shreds and moves all around and urinates on his stuff, just as he did in the crate or in our room or wherever. He gnaws and bloodies his teeth. I’m so sure you understand what I am so wordily saying. Is it right to put down a dog because we deem him to be unhappy? Although I can’t allow him in the house at night, because we can’t trust him, and I spend hours cleaning up his messes. I know he can’t help himself, but I’m not sure that he has the genetic material to be emotionally stable, considering the signs of abuse he came to us with. Thank you, ________


Dear ______

First, I wouldn’t turn down the Prozac option. I’ve had good success with it. I assume you’ve done the clomipramine. The rest needs unraveling, picking one behavior set at a time, so a priority checklist would need to be established and work from there. Where are you located and what is your schedule like?

Sam Basso


Thank you for getting back to me. I was impressed with your website, and the piece on reasons for using euthanasis on a dog. The criteria re: breed standard was especially interesting, as “G” is about as far from a “normal” temperament as I think you can get. Our vet is just wonderful; we have worked with her for over 15 years with our animals, and we are all tenacious…she does not lightly put a dog down, so that she believes that we should think about it with this particular dog has real meaning for me. I think that the hardest thing to deal with, is that even after 4 years in a loving environment, “G” still thinks there is the sword of Damocles hanging over his head…he still flinches and jerks when a loving touch is extended in a slow and calm manner. I have to believe he was very damaged before he came here. I have often compared him to peeling an onion, one layer at a time, but there is always something else there we just can’t get to. Our vet has made the observation that it’s like he has a little devil in him…we can calm it down for a while, but then it rears up again.

We live in _____, Colorado. I know we can’t possibly meet with you, but I was interested in your impression based upon my rambling history, as your website just seemed so sane…something you don’t always find. Some folks get really carried away about their animals. I love mine, but they aren’t humans, and my responsibility and commitment is to take the best care of them I can, but that doesn’t mean going nuts with it. If “G” were as physically ill as he seems to be mentally/emotionally challenged, I would have him put down. These behaviors are worsening as he ages, so that is bothersome as well, and there is more to life than just physical well-being. But it is probably my indulging in anthropomorphism that even allows me to attribute these characteristics to him.

We’ll be discussing the prozac option today with our vet. The behaviorist won’t be in this area for a couple of weeks. I just hate having to put this little dog outside in the cold at night, but I guess that is my issue to deal with.

Thank you so much for reading my ramblings



I wish we were closer because there are some things you can try with dogs like this. Some of this can also be a control issue, where the dog has linked aggression with getting it’s preferences, but it is hard to address because it prefers safety. It’s an odd version of being spoiled and defiant. You need to correct, but the dog goes into avoidance or gets aggressive. I start them from the beginning, all over again, and I do use drugs at times in conjunction with a vet.

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