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Reluctant Greeting, then urination

January 27th, 2007, 10:26 AM
Our Elkhound exhibits strange behavior when my girlfriend comes home. When she pulls up in her car, Elsa, our Elkhound, often runs to me and if I'm working at my desk she'll run under it. She will not go to greet her. When my girlfriend then comes to us and calls Elsa, she won't move. Commanding Elsa to come usually results in her urinating.

Generally Elsa will be more likely to follow her around the house than me so I'm confused by the behavior. If it's fear, why is it only exhibited at this one time?

Any insights would be appreciated.

January 28th, 2007, 02:52 PM
Interesting behaviour! I am sure there is a lot going on and an explanation as to why... you might be able to figure it out by thinking back to any changes in Elsa's schedule, any negative experience or even a fear period (it may or may not be something that directly effects her)

With regards to what to do now, the last thing you or your girlfrined should do is "command" Elsa to greet her. In fact, I think your girlfriend should ignore Elsa entirely until she chooses to approach. Depending on Elsa's body language when she does approach, your GF can either continue to ignore her or reward her with treats or petting.
I also think that starting a "regime" of socialization and training will help! Instead of putting a bowl of food down, use the kibble as training treats or work on distraction training like stays and leave it's! Iteraction and stimualtion always have positive effects on our dog's behaviours!

January 28th, 2007, 10:59 PM
Thank you for responding. I guess the first thing will be to ignore her and we'll take it from there.

As far as trying to think back to events that may have caused it, we're at a loss. I've been the disciplinarian. If Elsa is to run from anyone, I'd think it would be me. LOL

January 28th, 2007, 11:28 PM
I agree with Lissa about the ignoring. Perhaps you should also have the girlfriend be the one to feed Elsa.

January 29th, 2007, 12:56 AM
Could Elsa be associating your girlfriends car, or even an article of her clothing, that possibly scared her at some point?

This isn't a situation I would offer advice on, without first knowing what is causing this fear (the urination concerns me). The only thing your girlfriend can do at this point, is be as non threatening as possible, and to allow Elsa to come to her on her own time (no pressure).

No eye contact, and no petting. Once the dog is "allowed" to approach her and sniff on HER (Elsa's) terms, then further steps can be made (petting, offering treats, etc). Having your girlfriend feed her by putting food in her bowl (setting it down and walking away) is a good idea, but it might be a bit too soon to offer treats by hand. I could be wrong, but it sounds like Elsa needs to come on her own terms right now. Once she does, then offering treats is an excellent idea.

Can you tell us anything about her body language that might help us help you more?

Also, regarding the peeing, it is little drips, or does she release her bladder completely?

January 29th, 2007, 09:11 AM
When she pees it's never full bladder, but sometimes is still quite a stream. She'll do it either laying down, sitting, or sometimes standing. When she does, her head is drooped below her shoulders.

My GF does feed Elsa. We share in that duty and when we do, Elsa sits until we say, "ok" and then she eats and it's always after we eat.

Elsa, being an Elkhound, can be quite a spaz at times but she does pretty well at sitting or laying down when told to by either of us although if really worked up she's probably more likely to listen to me.

The quick abridged story of Elsa is we got her through an Elkhound rescue a little over 3 years ago, and she was 11 months old at the time. The guy who had her before kept her crated mostly, with little interaction with others and no discipline so she was a terror when we got her home (which was nothing like how she was when we met her previously). She challenged me, but after some dominance downs she stopped but afterwards turned on my GF (jury is still out over whether that was to establish herself at #2, jealously trying to hog my attention, or both). We put a stop to that as well within a few weeks and ever since she's been gentle, happy and very clingy (which is different from the last Elkhound I had who was more aloof). As I said earlier, she's probably more likely now to follow my GF around the house than me. I wake first every morning yet she stays in the bedroom until my GF rises. When each of us are at our desks, Elsa is more likely to stay with her (and often squeezes herself to fit either under her chair or under her desk around her feet). The link in my signature is a little funny journal of Elsa, starting off with her first coming to us.

So all of this has us stumped because this odd behavior only happens at this one time, and not 100% of the time. One way usually to prevent the peeing is if I go to greet my GF, then Elsa will actually race past me to get to her first, and then either jump on her or throw herself at her feet.

I suppose most of her eccentricities come from her first home. Maybe she fears the loss of attention. She has tremendous separation anxiety as well if we have to leave her somewhere, but she's ok left alone at home.

Thanks everyone, especially for reading this long post.

January 29th, 2007, 10:24 AM
Does she have a crate?

When dogs go under things, more often than not they're trying to den. A crate is sort of like your dogs private bedroom. It's a safe place they can go when they need to be alone or just get away from all the household commotion.

I would strongly suggest buying a decent sized plastic crate (not a collapsable metal one) and placing it somewhere in sight, but with the door not facing the room. This way, when your girlfriend comes over, Elsa can run into her safe place (crate) and the likelyhood of her urination will stop (less fearful). The plastic ones have those little bars along the top sides (and back), so she can even "peek" through those to watch what's going on in the room. In her mind, she can see you, but unless you make eye contact, you can't see her. In my opinion, this is MUCH better than trying to hide under your desk, chair, etc.

The door doesn't have to close and lock, so long as she's inside, she will feel safer and less stressed.

As for her jealousy (trying to greet her before you do), a stern "sit and wait" until you greet Elsa yourself will help (then releasing her to greet). But depending on who's giving the order, it could help or hinder. Is it you she's jealous of, or of your girlfriend? (I would assume this would benefit if your girlfriend gives the order, but I could be VERY wrong.)

Before advising further, I would strongly reccommend that you speak to a behavioral therapist about her. Seperation anxiety combined with jealousy and dominant behavior (or submissive/fear unrinating) could escallate into a dangerous situation.

January 29th, 2007, 11:15 AM
Just to clarify, Elsa is my dog, Hiroko is my GF. When I go to greet Hiroko when she comes home, Elsa will race past me to greet Hiroko first.

Hiroko jokes that Elsa is jealous of her taking my attention away, but honestly I think Elsa just always needs to be the center of attention so she'll be jealous of me if I got to Hiroko. She'll do everything from merely trying to poke her head in between us to throw her rope around or squeak her toy to get our attention. Honestly, everything seems to go back to her early isolation I think. Elsa is spoiled in that I work from home so I'm around a lot and Hiroko too is home most of the time so she spends very little time without anyone in the house.

We don't use a crate. She literally spent 22-23 hours a day in a crate before we got her and to this day putting her into a cage or crate is quite an episode. Generally she seems to prefer lying in the middle of a room or hallway or on her bed. I understand many feel the solution to everything is a crate and understand the pros of having one.

She's 4 years old now. We have not had any aggressive incidents with us after the first month or two. She can be touched while eating, she can be called away from food, she can be touched if she has a bone or rawhide and even let you take it away (although she's reluctant, but no growling or biting). We do not see her exhibiting anything aggressive towards us.
She will growl and do warning snaps at others sometimes if I'm not present for things like nail clippings or certain vet procedures.

Just curious, where would I look for a behaviorist? Yellow pages? Under what?

January 29th, 2007, 09:58 PM
We don't use a crate. She literally spent 22-23 hours a day in a crate before we got her and to this day putting her into a cage or crate is quite an episode.

All the more reason why you should buy one. Using a crate can be a positive experience for her if used on her terms (not yours), and like I said above, a private place for her to go to when she wants to be alone. Buy a crate, remove the door, and NEVER force her to go in it.

As for where to find a behavior specialist, I'm not too sure how to find one in your area (sorry). Can anyone else help?

January 30th, 2007, 01:08 PM
Ok, thanks.

January 30th, 2007, 01:13 PM
I LOVE this lady, and have done clinics with her and have all of her books.
She may be able to help, or know someone close to you.

Good luck!