We have a border collie mix that we’ve had since he was a puppy. He used to eat his food in the hallway between the basement door and the wall. We noticed as he got older that he would not go near his water or food, so we moved his dishes into the kitchen area on the rug. He stopped eating his food by the kitchen table and now we have to move it into the middle of the living room. We noticed that he’s scared of walls and doors. I don’t know why he’s so scared of everything. It’s almost like he’s afraid that the walls are going to fall on him. Please help. — Robyn, Lehighton, PA
It’s hard to know what’s making your dog fearful, but when dogs suddenly change a routine behavior, there may be a few reasons.
Your dog may not have heard you come around the corner one day or he heard a loud, unfamiliar noise, and got startled. Dogs often associate fear with their current circumstances or location, and never want to be in that location again.
When dogs act differently, there could also be a health problem. It doesn’t matter what the health problem is; it just matters that the dog doesn’t feel right and may change a behavior as a result. If your dog is a senior, doggie dementia can sometimes contribute to unexplained behaviors as well. Take him to the vet and rule out both physical and mental health.
If your dog is healthy and it’s just an undetermined fear, retrain your dog to become accustomed to hallways and doors again through play and reward. Start by dropping high-value treats on the hallway floor and near doors or smear peanut butter on the walls or doors at lick level, so he discovers these treats naturally, and begins to feel safe in the space again. Try to play ball with your dog in the hallway.
I am struggling with the decision to have our beloved pet put down. She is a 14-year-old lab. Our previous pet had cancer and I knew he was in a pain, so the decision was easy. Our lab has multiple issues, but nothing as serious as cancer. Her back legs are weak, and she won’t go down the four steps into the backyard, although she can manage the two steps in the front of our house. She now relieves herself in the house occasionally, even if she is let out 10 times a day. We are retired and don’t leave her for more than two hours, but she often still has an accident. We wake up in the middle of the night to let her out to reduce the number of accidents. She has short seizures a few times a day that don’t seem to bother her although if we are on a walk, she may fall down during one.
She is sweet and very loved and seems content although there isn’t much that she enjoys. She doesn’t play with toys any longer. We are not going on vacation this summer as we can’t take her and don’t feel we can leave her with anyone with the likelihood that she will pee or have a bowel movement in their home. I know it’s inevitable, but is it cruel to have her put down when there is no catastrophic illness? — Pat, Smithtown, NY
You don’t have to have a pet with a catastrophic illness to be faced with an end-of-life decision. Most pet parents can handle some of the things you describe for a time.
But as things continue to decline, it often can get more difficult to manage a pet’s care. If a senior pet is not eating, drinking or playing anymore, has pain that can’t be managed, or has mobility or incontinence issues, you are likely facing an end-of-life decision based on her quality of life.
At 14-years-old, she sounds like she has had a great life with you. In my experience, thoughtful pet owners, like you, tend to wait too long because they fear making the decision too early. You’re just needing some affirmation to know if you are doing the right thing. I completely understand.
I often need affirmation as well when making end-of-life decisions for my pets. If you’re asking the question though, then it’s probably time for making the decision. Do what you think is best for her, and you won’t have any regrets.