My Dog Thinks He's A Cat
March 1, 2013 9:11 AM   Subscribe

I have a 3-year-old pomeranian that has suddenly decided he wants to get under and behind all the furniture.

The problem with this is that he gets himself behind, say, the trash can. And he has plenty of room to get out, but he is either too afraid (How did I get here? Oh no!) or...something to get himself out. So he sits quietly, ears back, and it takes us about 5 minutes each time to realize he's disappeared. When we call him, he won't make noise to tell us where he is, so it takes a few minutes to find him.

I wouldn't mind this exploring instinct he's suddenly discovered, but he's gotten stuck under my bed twice now, and it involves taking my entire captain's bed apart to get him out. As a short-term solution we've blocked everything off, but he's still finding places to get into.

This started recently, I think, because we had mice and he's trying to find them. We've gotten rid of them now, so I guess he's still trying to hunt down where they're hiding.

Any ideas on how to discourage this behavior?
posted by iarerach to Pets & Animals (12 answers total)
Have you talked to a vet about this issue? He could be hiding because he's in pain and is trying to recuperate in safety. This is also a classic sign of canine dementia, but 3 years old seems really young.

If a vet determines that this is likely behavioral, you could try working on a super-reliable recall. Basically, every time you call him and he comes, he gets just the most amazing treat in the world - like a whole turkey neck or a big ol' cupful of dog food or peanut butter. That might be enough to overcome whatever mental block is keeping him in hiding.
posted by muddgirl at 9:17 AM on March 1, 2013 [4 favorites]

Have you tried just giving him a little time to figure it out himself? One of my dogs is a bit of a goose like this and often convinces herself that she's stranded (like, on top of my suitcase, sheesh!) but once she's sufficiently motivated by, say, hearing me giving the other dog treats in the next room, she figures it out.

Also, does he know how to walk backwards? Some dogs don't, or aren't very good at it at all, or don't remember it's an option when the need arises. If you think this might be part of the problem, you could train it separately as a trick.
posted by HotToddy at 9:34 AM on March 1, 2013

This won't solve the problem, but with small dogs it can be helpful to put a bell on them (like the kind on cat collars) so you can hear them more easily.
posted by radioamy at 9:42 AM on March 1, 2013

I think muddgirl's advice is spot on from start to finish. My pomeranian does this when he is sick or in pain. I hope that isn't what is going on here! Is he eating like normal and everything?
posted by freezer cake at 9:51 AM on March 1, 2013

Best answer: Agreeing with muddgirl - check with a vet to make sure he's not just going off to hide because he's in pain. Dementia is unlikely, but distantly possible.

If there's nothing physically wrong with him, I would say just let him go into these places and find his own way out. He'll figure it out eventually. If he's in there for hours or something I would A: Take him to another vet, and B: teach him how to get out himself, such as by walking backward as suggested above.
posted by Urban Winter at 10:05 AM on March 1, 2013

(Ugh, sorry, I just realized that a whole turkey neck or a big cup of food is wayyy to much for a pomeranian - I only have big dogs! But whatever an amazing 'once-in-a-lifetime' treat is for a pomeranian is what you'd want).
posted by muddgirl at 10:24 AM on March 1, 2013

Best answer: My idiot puppy has been getting himself stuck in (stupid, often relatively wide-open) places lately, too, and I think it's because he's old enough where he's curious and wants to explore everything, but he's also young and apprehensive of new situations. I don't know what the deal is with your dog because he's older, but I'm not too worried about my dog. Yet.

One thing that's worked for me (I'm trying to get him to solve his own problems, instead of whining incessantly for me to rescue him when he's confused about how to walk around a fallen pillow) is to lure him out with treats.

I grabbed a bag of these tiny things last time I was at Petsmart just on a whim because they were extremely cheap. My dog loves them. Like, nearly bites my fingers off when I give him one loves them. So what I do when he gets himself "stuck" is build out a little Hansel and Gretel trail into open space and let his tummy lead him out.

It's working for us so far.
posted by phunniemee at 10:36 AM on March 1, 2013

Best answer: My dog sometimes acts like it can't do things, like go through the doggy door, but a high value treat like a bully stick suddenly turns her into Evil Knevil! She'll stand outside of the doggy door whining when she can totally come in. As soon as she hears the treat jar pop open, she's suddenly able to blast through the door.

You could try that test with something that makes your dog go bananas (yummy treats, doorbell, favorite toy) to see if she's able to get out of tight spaces on her own.
posted by dottiechang at 1:34 PM on March 1, 2013

Do you carry your Pom around, or lift him up so he can sit on the couch or your desk, or anything similar? If so, maybe you have inadvertently trained him to turn to you to solve problems for him related to physical obstacles.

Just an idea I have from observing my Pom, who occasionally "forgets" how to step over the threshold to the backyard, or how to climb up the 3-inch high step on to our front porch, even though he is perfectly capable of negotiating those tremendous obstacles himself at other times.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:44 PM on March 1, 2013

Response by poster: Lots of good questions/suggestions going on, guys. Thanks a ton! :)

He's due for a checkup in about a week, so I'll definitely mention it to the vet, but in the meantime my mom wants to try leaving him be at first. I can also do a little work on walking backwards; he can do it, but he's not good at it. He is good at picking up tricks quickly, though.

As far as exploring: I kind of wonder if it's a late exploring instinct, because he literally has never done much exploring. When he was a pup he kept to himself (runt), and was really good at keeping himself entertained. We also recently moved into this house, and it's a lot bigger than what we used to live in. So he might be getting more brave. We'll see.

About picking him up: This is true. He sleeps with me, and because I have a captain's bed, it's really high up. I'm 5'1" and I have to do a little hop to get on it, so he definitely can't jump up on it.

So a few things to work on, thank you all again. :)
posted by iarerach at 7:59 PM on March 1, 2013

Please check back in with an update when there's something to report. I'm really curious!
posted by SuperSquirrel at 11:01 AM on March 2, 2013

Response by poster: So, we've been trying a combination of things, and it's working out well.

The biggest thing is leaving him to his own devices for a while. If he doesn't seem to be getting out (or trying to), we've been coaxing him out through the way he got in and giving him treats off and on when he frees himself. He's getting more bold about just doing it without prompting, so definitely a good sign.

I'll talk to the vet anyway when I go in just to be safe, but I think this one can be chalked up to him scaring himself and needing a little guidance.

Thanks for all the answers guys!
posted by iarerach at 8:15 AM on March 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

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