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Lisa, Certified Vet Tech
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 16432
Experience:  AAS Vet Tech. Bully breed rehab & Behavior modification
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I have been widowed for ten years, and I adopted a Cairn terrier,

Customer Question

I have been widowed for ten years, and I adopted a Cairn terrier, Robbie, when he was a pup. It has just been the two of us for the past six years. He is the third Cairn that I have owned, so I am very familiar with the breed. I have been dating a man for the past year, and he has now moved in. Since the first time that my dog met my new boyfriend, he has been petrified of him. He runs under the bed, and hides whenever he is around. The dog tentatively takes food from my friend, and he will reluctantly go on walks with him and with me. My boyfriend has owned several dogs, and he has tired to befriend him to no avail. This has taken a toll on our relationship, and my dog is suffering. We have tried a trainer who was a strict behaviorist, and my dog developed stress colitis. I woud appreciate any suggestions about this very painful situation! The two need to bond and Robbie needs to relax. I love Robbie so much that this breaks my heart.(By the way, my boyfriend is small in stature, serious, and has a loud voice. He has never been consistent in greeting the dog, either.)
Thank you!
Geri Shouba
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Lisa replied 4 years ago.
Hello! My name is Lisa, and it will be my pleasure to help you with your dog today. I have a few questions...just to make sure I don't suggest something you've already tried.

Have you tried having your boyfriend completely ignore Robbie?

Have you tried having your boyfriend do everything for Robbie, from feeding/watering to walking, ect?

Is Robbie generally an anxious or nervous dog?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Yes, he has tried completely ignoring him. That does not seem to work.

No, he has only periodically given him treats and gone on walks.

He is jumpy when it comes to unexpected loud noises or movements. Overall, he is not a nervous dog. He is very high energy, though, and is a runner if he gets loose. He thinks it is play to be pursued.

Robbie has gone to a doggie day care facility regularly for several years. He is a happy, sociable, an very well-liked dog. He loves the men working there. He especially likes kids!

Expert:  Lisa replied 4 years ago.
Thanks so much for answering my questions. I really appreciate it.

It sounds to me like Robbie is a sensitive dog who is having a hard time adjusting to the new person in the house. Sensitive dogs (and my boy, Vinnie, is the kind of sensitivity..he's actually pouting on the back of the couch right now because I yelled at him for chasing the cat) pick up on changes in the environment super fast, and the fact that his whole world is being turned upside down right now (because lots of terriers are very one-owner dogs, so having a new person in the house is probably upsetting him) is likely causing him some anxiety. The fact he still acts like his normal self at daycare actually makes's the one thing in his world that has stayed the same.


There's actually a couple things we can try...


First, there are a couple over-the-counter products you can try to help ease his anxiety:


Melantonin is an over-the-counter drug that can be used to treat some anxiety issues in dogs. The dose you would give would be up to 3 mg given orally whenever necessary up to every 8 hours. More information can be found here: , which includes risks, warning signs to watch out for and other bits of useful information.


Try a DAP collar. These are collars that are impregnated with a man-made version of the dog appeasing pheromone, which is a pheromone that nursing bitches give off to their pups to help them feel calm and secure. It's something that humans can't smell, but it has an amazing effect on dogs with anxiety and other issues. Although you can find them at your vet's can also find them online at places like and Ebay for much cheaper. Just make sure they're DAP brand, as they seem to work better than some other versions.


And I would have your boyfriend do everything for Robbie from now on. If Robbie needs to go outside to the bathroom...your boyfriend lets him out. He walks him, feeds him, waters him and does absolutely everything for him. I know it will be hard for you because you and Robbie have been a team for so long...but you're going to have to remove yourself from the situation when Robbie needs something.


You could also consider having your boyfriend take Robbie to a basic obedience class...not because you want him to learn to sit/stay (because I'm sure he already knows that), but because this will build the bond between your boyfriend and Robbie. Terriers form relationships while working...and this class will be working for Robbie.


Over time...Robbie will realize that good things come from your boyfriend and will be less timid around him.


I hope this helps.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you for your prompt and caring reponses!

I love all of your ideas, and many are new and interesting to me. I'll share them with my boyfriend. I especially am intrigued by having him do all of the care for Robbie.Right now that looks like the most feasible to start.

You have encouraged me a great deal.

Thank you so much!

Geri Shouba


Expert:  Lisa replied 4 years ago.
You're very welcome Geri.

I tend to be a strict trainer like the one you saw...but part of being a good trainer is knowing when your usual methods won't work....

Even after you rate/accept my answer, please let me know how it's going with Robbie and your boyfriend...we can always tweak things as we go to help things along.
Expert:  Lisa replied 4 years ago.
Hi Geri,

I'm just following up on our conversation about Robbie. How is everything going?