Dog on the Couch

2016-10-20 06:00

Dear Susan, please can you give me some help? I have a small Maltese-type dog I adopted over a year ago. He is a wonderful devoted pet, but I am at my wits end with his peeing habits. He doesn’t seem to discriminate between peeing on his own possessions or ours, such as his bed or our couch. I don’t know how much more I can take of his dirty habit. With hope for some helpful advice.

Bel

I am sorry to hear of this trouble in an otherwise good pet. An internet survey has indicated that of dogs given up, this is the reason for more than 55% of the cases. It is clearly a problem difficult to cope with.

The first step is to exclude the possibility of this behaviour being related to a health issue, so I strongly advise a checkup by your vet. Once any likely physical causes have been excluded, history and marking behaviour should be investigated, including stress marking, anxiety urination, territorial marking, submissive urination and inappropriate or lack of proper training.

Submissive urination may happen when the dog is excited or unsure, and will usually include postures such as rolling over, cowering, head lowered and turned away and flattened ears. The dog is begging not to be hurt, and indicating his vulnerability. Any type of harsh reaction will exacerbate the problem. By ignoring the dog when he exhibits the problem mannerism, the habit should recede as confidence is built up.

Inappropriate urination may be a sign of separation anxiety or an indication that the dog is overly dependent. Behaviours like pacing, whining, howling as well as soiling may occur in an over-dependent dog who feels miserable and unable to cope in the absence of his companion.

Territorial marking shows a more confident personality, and here the dog labels all perceived possessions by urinating on them.

“News wee” is deliberately left as a type of calling card on which messages of sex, status, availability and health are left for other dogs to read.

Stress marking occurs when dogs feel stressed and are attempting to console themselves by covering new smells with their own, making them feel familiar and safe. Unfortunately just as with other behaviours this can become a habit. In this instance a pheromone collar could be most helpful. Your vet will be able to supply you with one. The best recommendations that I can make in the absence of further considerable background information about you, your dog, your environment and history are as follow.

Keep your dog within your view, whether on or off- lead. You need to be able to read the indications. Try to look out for any signs indicating that a wee is on the way, such as sniffing, and immediately take him outdoors where you will lavish praise on him for weeing in an acceptable place. Ignore any accidents, and wash with the area an enzygmatic cleaner. A small space such as a crate where you can contain the dog when he cannot be watched indoors is crucial to re-training, because he will be unlikely to soil his den (unless he is unwell, in which case you will already have established the problem with your vet). Some behaviourists are finding washable dog nappies, dog belly wraps for males, helpful aids in re-training.

Of course, always ensure that regular, adequate times and intervals are allowed outdoors to encourage good toilet habits, and when he performs, praise him profusely in a way that makes him feel he has done the cleverest thing for you. Try to make this a routine. Training a cue can help put the “pee on tap’. All the best.

- Susan Henderson - accredited animal behaviour consultant, info@dogboxtraining school.co.za

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