Dog owners should understand that canine incontinence is about one of two things: it is either a sign of an emotional problem in the dog or it is a symptom of an underlying medical problem. In either case, it is a solvable problem.
Canine Incontinence Meets Dog Psychology 101
The last thing any owner wants to encounter is a puddle of dog urine on the floor. In new puppies or a new-to-you dog, the behavior is at first excused as a training problem. This commonly occurs during the initial month or two of a dog taking up residence with you.
After that, an owner's patience generally runs thin. Moreover, as many dog owners think of dogs as family members, it is difficult not to believe the dog is going in inappropriate places just to be annoying. Many people react with an inappropriate amount of yelling and a general amount of frenzy. Some even grab the dog and throw it outside.
Stop, pull back and think. Common sense will tell you it is not a deliberate act of meanness on the part of the dog. Is he trying to tell you something? The answer is yes, and it is up to you to listen to his cues to find out what your dog is saying.
First Things to Examine
If you have had your dog for some time, it is probably wise to look at yourself and your schedule first: Your dog is a product of your habits.
Have you had a change in schedule that is throwing your dog off his set patterns of walks and outside time? Dogs need regular bathroom breaks, and he many not have caught up to your new schedule.
Next, you will want to examine your dog's environment. As ridiculous as it may sound, something as deceptively simple as re-arranging furniture has been known to throw some dogs off in their bathroom habits. New flooring may compel a dog to mark his territory.
Your dog is displaying anxiety to a situation and a certain amount of canine questioning, "Is this mine, too?" This is a normal reaction to a change in his surroundings. As the dog's owner, it is up to you to recognize this and respond appropriately.
Change in Family Structure
One of the classic reasons a dog can begin urinating inside is the introduction of a new member to the household. This often happens when couples bring a new baby home or with the introduction of an elderly person into the house. It can also happen when someone leaves the household, as in a divorce or death in the immediate nuclear family.
What Can You Do
Remain Calm and Firm
You are not going to yell at your dog. You are not going to pick your dog up in mid-stream in an attempt to get him outside in a frenzied hurry. These actions reinforce the behavior because it is giving the dog immediate, if negative, attention. Moreover, some dogs that are experiencing boredom or are very active actually may perceive it as fun and stimulating.If you are there and the dog starts to lift a leg or crouch, utter a firm, deep "No", and quickly move your dog outside.
If the dog has already begun urinating, you'll use a slightly different tactic. Look at the dog, and say "No" in the same firm tone. Wait until he has finished, and then immediately take him outside.
Assume the Alpha Position
The most important thing is to express disappointment with the action and take control. Dogs are pack animals, and they are looking to you to assume the Alpha role.
Time Out and Reflect
You must then bring your dog in and crate or confine your animal to a reasonable sized area for a time. While your dog's crate is not a weapon of punishment, it is a place of discipline. Call it a "doggy time out." Do not give your dog any attention for ten minutes while you re-group. Clean up the urine with a cleaner specially formulated to remove pet odor and urine.
Sit down and be calm. Re-examine your actions. Did you, for example, miss a scheduled walk, or did something happen to frighten your dog? Perhaps you were involved in an intense, emotional moment with a child or someone who is a stranger to the dog. Examine your behavior as well as your pet's behavior. It is very likely you missed a clue.
Next, you are going to begin again, and take your dog outside every three to four hours. Walks are great, but even a backyard romp for fifteen minutes is fine. Praise your dog when your dog goes. You may even offer a small treat along with the praise to reinforce the behavior. Your dog needs your time and attention, as well as positive reinforcement for a job well done.
A Medical Condition
Things that can give you clues that you are dealing with a canine incontinence medical condition as opposed to a behavioral one are as follows:
- An increase or decrease in drinking water, followed by an increase in periods of incontinence
- A foul or strong odor associated with dog's urine
- Difficulty walking or pain when getting up (Many dogs experiencing joint and bone pain are reluctant to move.)
- Lethargy and fatigue, abdominal pain and bloating
Incontinence problems can be seen in older dogs as well as dogs with a medical problem. To some extent, your dog may be unaware of this as a problem or may begin licking uncontrollably at a spot near his genitals.
Begin logging these changes as soon as you notice them, including wet spots beneath the dog or constant dribbling, and a change in fur and skin color.
The dog requires treatment if any of the above signs are present, so make an appointment with your vet as soon as possible. Canine incontinence treatment may include anything from medication to surgery.
It will take as much discipline on your part as your dog's to solve canine incontinence issues. The good news is that canine incontinence is generally treatable and curable. Even better news is that you and your pet will become closer as you work to solve the the problem.