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The beagle's getting weird.

I mean, obviously he was already a pretty defective beagle to begin with, but Brandon's passing has affected him a lot more than I expect.

I'll be honest--I didn't expect him to be terribly concerned. They weren't close buddies. They lived in the same house and I would have sworn up and down that's as far as it went. There was no snuggling, no playing together, none of that. Other than defending the food dish from Brandon (Gir's got some food aggression issues) they interacted as little as two dogs in one house could possibly interact. (The cats, now...the cats luuuuuved Brandon. Gir did not.)

Nevertheless, in the last three days, Gir has started acting...weird.

He's still limping pretty badly from his kneecap, but other than pain meds, there's nothing much to be done. He takes stairs cautiously but without any problem. (The vet said flat out that you can't do knee surgery on a dog this old, so pain meds are all we've got to work with.)

Previously he would occasionally refuse to go into the backyard, and have to be physically plopped onto the deck and then cajoled into the garden to use the bathroom--and then an hour later would happily charge out the back without a care in the world, because beagles are weird. (I think he just hated getting his feet wet. He's an incredible prima donna.)

Now, though, he won't go out back unless you drag him. He avoids the back door like it's cursed and if we do physically dump him onto the deck, he runs into the corner opposite the garden steps. He has to be carried down the steps. He won't even go to a human crouched down and offering petting, which used to be Gir's kryptonite.

Put a leash on him and he will gladly go out front (although he is terrible disappointed that we are not getting into the car) and tackle stairs twice as tall, but the backyard has suddenly become some kind of Forbidden Zone, even with the leash.

I am completely stumped. Nothing terrible happened to him in the backyard, the only difference is that Brandon's not there. I'm starting to wonder if he's much more nearsighted than we guessed and Brandon had been functioning as a seeing eye dog for the last few years. (He can still track a hot dog with laser-like precision, though, so he's not blind.) But he goes into the backyard a dozen times a day and should have it completely memorized, as opposed to the front yard, which he gets into once a month--and yet the front yard is great and the backyard is made of lava.

I got nuthin'. Beagles, man.

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Backyard's full of mulch monsters and Brandon protected him? (Or at least kept them all herded neatly away, which would have the same effect.)

(Deleted comment)

spam spam spam green eggs and spam

*grumble* Normally the filter catches that...

Dogs are entirely pack animals, and the loss of a pack member can be pretty traumatic.

It's possible he was simply used to Brandon marking the back yard as safe. It's also possible that he still smells Brandon and is freaked out because he doesn't know where Brandon is.

From his perspective: he got hurt, and now can't think well, and the other pack member has abandoned him.

Doggy xanax may be worth considering; talk to your vet about it.

Otherwise you could try coaxing him out and getting him re-used to the back yard, perhaps with the aforementioned hot dogs.

Poor boy. I hope he gets through this soon.

Yes to all that.

Or maybe he thinks Brandon is still there and he's worried because he can't see where exactly Brandon is. If he considered the back yard to be Brandon's territory maybe he is afraid that Brandon is lurking somewhere and will leap out and attack him.

yes, all of this.

good luck to your beagle buddy. /hugs and pettings

He could be vision impaired and tracking that hot dog by scent. Our beagle got really depressed when the other dog in our household passed away (this was back when the beagle was a fairly young dog) and they didn't seem to interact a lot either, fwiw.

Sorry about Brandon. Hope Gir feels better soon.

Yeah, we have blind dogs at the shelter where I volunteer who can track hotdogs with laser-like precision. One of them could go into a room full of people and find the one volunteer with a hotdog in her pocket. (Yes, he was happy to see her.)

I'm sorry that Gir is depressed. Is he worried that since Brandon went outside and didn't come back, if he goes outside he won't come back?

That was my thought as well, about tracking by scent.

A dog's sense of smell is a magnitude or more greater than their vision. Beagles were bred for scent tracking, so it makes sense that Gir could track a hot dog when blind, or virtually so. A well trained scent dog can follow a person's path through a crowded public space up to a day after that person went there. Or find one specific plant in a nature reserve a few dozen miles in area.

Try changing the surface of your stairs

Put some cheap rug strips on the stairs and see if that changes anything. Sounds like Gir pulled something in the backyard and has associated it. Our dog had similar behavior right after her litter ate died. She had pulled a nail on the stairs and thereafter avoided them. It's coincidental that your other dog passed the same time probably, especially if he's limping.

Urf. Giiiirrrr... poor duders. I hope he starts acting more like himself soon. I don't have any theories, but I'm sorry for your loss and for everything the whole household is going through.

Condolences to Gir the beagle: it sounds like he and Brandon were a kind of canine "odd couple" in their ways. As much as Gir may have considered Brandon to be a chaotic-neutral PC and very annoying-- Brandon was still a vital part of the well-ordered world in Gir's head. Taking something that big out of Gir's world would be the equivalent of ripping a hole in the space-time curtain to us.

In human terms, it would be like suddenly the color blue or the number 7 disappeared from our reality. Beagles are super-OCD as far as routine: it's not so much that Brandon cleared the yard of monsters by running out first...more like, that's the way the world works: Brandon runs out first, then Gir follows. It's what he's probably known all his life. To Gir, it's like you're telling him he doesn't need a doorway to walk through...just go through the wall.

When R0ndo (my bc) passed early last year, I was going to wait for some time until I got another dog...but Patch, my little female border collie, started acting squirrelly. She became a nervous, ankle-hugging dog on walks instead of the one who roamed wide and far (R0ndo was the steady-eddy who walked calmly ahead and on the trail). The border collie rescue group I work with were a huge help (so supportive) and matched me up with a great little dog...and once Patchy accepted him, she returned to her old self.

Only you and Kevin know when it's right to get another animal...but you may want to have friends-with-dogs visit more frequently: they are not Brandon, but they are a good distraction. And all dogs who are not beagles are chaotic-neutrals, so that helps.

I have a glum suspicion we may get another dog sooner than we planned, just to keep the beagle sane.

Or what passes for it among beaglekind.

He misses his Alpha and is probably worried that he is next to disappear.

The "alpha" thing is a myth: the idea of a pack with an "alpha" is based on studies of wolves in captivity. Surprise surprise, it turns out wolves in captivity don't have healthy relationships, so this was actually a study of sociopathic wolves. And then people just assigned these behaviors to dogs as well, because they're descended from wolves, right?

Alpha, no (as joenotcharles noted); fellow pack member, possibly. In the ancestral wolf, the pack is largely a family unit. So Brandon might well be missing Gir even if he saw him as less an older brother than an annoying cousin.

On the other hand, I read about a recent study that says dogs are both more hierarchical and less intelligent than wolves, so the "alpha" thing might be a better model for them. (Domesticating animals selects actively for docility and apparently against intelligence, as well as for floppy ears.)

The family unit of the wolf is hierarchical though -- it's just that instead of "alphas" leading it's mom and dad calling the shots... because they're mom and dad.

Since we've turned dogs into eternal puppies in their mindset I suspect that the appearance of greater hierarchicalness is just like a small child thinking of Mom and Dad as God and any Older Siblings (whether they are actually older or not) being worth deferring to.

Sorry, clarification: what the study showed is that there's a stronger "this is the dominant animal" thing in domestic dogs. Wolves will share a dish of food, while a subordinate dog will wait for the dominant dog to finish eating before trying.

With dogs, we got the submissive ones; with cats, we got the lazy ones.

(Grossly oversimplified in both cases, but it's a fairly useful summary in explaining a lot of dog and cat behaviour.)

Maybe the drugs are the cause?

Weirdass theory: Did he last see/interact/deal with Brandon out back, and/or last see/hear him leaving that way?

He can track a hot dog with precision because he's a scenthound—he lives through his nose.

My 8-year-old terrier's eyes have started getting cloudy, and I'm always testing him to see how good his vision is. Fortunately he has excellent depth perception, and can catch a ball in midair.

Check his thyroid

I had this exact thing happen in an older dog - refused to go out the back door, front door was FINE. Got really weird right after the death of another dog.

Turns out she was hypothyroid. And because we were too focused on the dying dog, the little things leading up to it didn't get the attention that they should have (not even from my vet, who was convinced testing her thyroid was a waste of money because she was lean and her coat looked great - the vet later apologized when the numbers came back).

It's cheap and easy to treat, but you want to catch it earlier rather than later. So these days, any odd behaviors get a thyroid test in my household - because hypothyroidism can lead to some weird stuff (like increased startle reflex, sound sensitivities, and just being odd about stuff).

I do wonder if he was in the back yard when he popped his patella out and in again. That can't have been comfortable for him, so maybe he associates it with the back?

For whatever reason, he is afraid of the backyard, so the best possible course forward here is probably to help him get over it. For the next few weeks, EVERY GOOD THING happens in the back yard - dinner, treats, hot dogs, play time, anything at all that he likes. The majority of his receiving of attention should happen in said back yard. Make the back yard a party zone full of awesome, awesome things, and when he behaves normally there, throw a dog party with hot dogs or cheese or whatever. This may not help everything but should at least ameliorate the "bad" if what's going on is that he had a negative experience there.

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