Sunday, October 9, 2011


Author, Jan Casey

I received a card from
the UT alumni association requesting I update my information with them. Just
call the 800 number and verify what I had already mailed them, which I did. We
got through the name, graduation date, degree and got to current profession –
Pet sitter and Dog Trainer. The young man on the other end paused, then asked
“Do you really train dogs for a living?” I laughed and told him I did. He told me
he had two dogs, a dachshund and a rat terrier. After another pause, he said
“You know, I have a question I have wanted to ask a trainer for a while. My rat
terrier will go to the bathroom outside, but will always mark again when he
comes back in. Why does he do that?” I have had similar questions from other
frustrated owners.

My first request of any
owner concerned about a dog who soils the house is to take the dog to the
veterinarian for a check up. Urinary tract infections are more common than one
would expect. Trying to correct a soiling problem that has a medical cause will
make an owner (and a trainer) crazy. Once a medical cause is either ruled out
or corrected, the problem can be addressed. When looking for a way to stop the
behavior, it is important to review several facts about the dog: age, size,
weight, medical history, housebreaking history, changes in the household, just
to name a few. Next , a review is made of the daily routine including how many
trips outside per day the dog makes, what times, and in what area does the dog
take care of business. From there, the owner and I work together to try to
piece together the puzzle of “Why?”

There is no way I could
address in one sitting how to correct the problem of house soiling. There are
many reasons why a dog may do this and a solution would be based on the
individual dog. The information I am providing may or may not help your dog,
but it would be a place to start. If your dog is not very young or not very
old, not sick, and is being given enough opportunity to relieve himself
outside, then here are some suggestions.

First, be sure you clean
the carpets with an enzymatic cleaner such as Nature’s Miracle. The scent of
urine encourages a dog to use that spot again and again and must be removed
completely. Next, you will be working with your dog as if he has never been housetrained.
This will mean your dog no longer has free run of the house. If you are home
and wish to let the dog be loose in the house, tie the dog to you or tie him to
a piece of furniture in a location where you can watch him at all times. If you
cannot watch the dog, the dog should be crated. The general rule of thumb for
the length of time a dog can hold his bladder is 1 hour per month of age plus 1
hour. A two month old dog should be able to hold about 3 hours. Dogs should go
out immediately upon awakening, within 15 minutes of eating or drinking, and
more often when the dog is playing.

How to take the dog
outside is another part of the equation. You must walk with the dog in order to
know if the dog has taken care of his business. Try to take the dog to the same
area each time as the scents will be the strongest there. Some trainers suggest
walking in a small circle while in that area as dogs will often circle before
they go. When you see the dog doing the job, praise, praise, praise! Do not go
back into the house immediately, especially if your dog enjoys being outside.
This will only teach them to hold it so they can stay outside longer. That can
be miserable when weather conditions are less than ideal.

If you are unable to
take your dog out as often as he needs (remember, small dogs have small
bladders), you should look into the options of having a friend or neighbor walk
him midday, hiring a dog walker, taking him to doggy day care, or setting up a
small area which consist of a crate, water, and absorbent pads or a doggy
litter box in a confined area.

How long will it take to
fix the problem? It depends on how long the dog has had this behavior. Do not
expect a quick fix, especially if your dog has been using your house as his
toilet bowl for some time. The longer the behavior has been happening, the
longer it will take to fix it. If your dog has an accident, hit yourself with a
newspaper for not watching him more closely. Punishing him will only teach him
to be more careful in the future not to potty in the house when you are nearby.

Jan Casey is a
reward-based trainer in Florida
at Courteous Canine, Inc.
and owner of Smiles and Wags Pet Services Mrs.
Casey is a member of the Association of Animal
Behavior Professionals.
Casey is a columnist for the Cookeville,
Herald-Citizen Pet
and Kid's Korner .
This column was originally written for the Herald-Citizen

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