Housebreaking problems

jeevdawg has lately been experiencing some trouble in the housebreaking department, and I am hoping that one of the Teeming Millions might be able to help jeevgurl and I out.

jeevdawg was adopted from the pound, having been placed there after being found on the mean streets of Chicago last winter. We know nothing of his history prior to his being picked up on the street. jeevgurl adopted him several months before I met her. Other than an initial instance (where he pooped on the floor immediately after being brought home), he’s had very few troubles in the housebreaking department. While I won’t say that accidents never occurred, they were very few and far between, and tended to occur when we had been absent for an unusually long period of time (in excess of 8 hours).

jeevgurl and I started dating approximately seven months ago, and I’ve been spending pretty nearly every weekend for the last six or so months at jeevgurl’s place, since my building doesn’t allow dogs. After some initial adjustments, jeevdawg has accepted and welcomes my presence.

jeevdawg is left alone at home while jeevgurl is at work. Generally speaking, he seems to be fine at home. He’s confined to an area consisting of the dining room and kitchen, and has access to his water dish while he’s home alone. We usually don’t fill the food dish after his breakfast, but we do leave some treat-filled toys, like Kongs and a talking treatball, to occupy him.

Although, as I said, he doesn’t usually have any housebreaking incidents, he’s lately had several, and we’ve come home to be greeted by puddles of urine. We can’t seem to figure out why this is happening. We asked the vet, who said that it appears to be behavioral, not medical. (This was just a phone consultation, though, not an actual examination.) The vet suggested that maybe he has too much freedom and we need to confine him more. This is difficult both geographically (because of the way the rooms are laid out) and economically (jeevgurl can’t afford to buy many more gates to create a smaller pen for the dog, and while I can afford it easily, jeevgurl won’t let me pay for it, which is a whole separate discussion.)

Anyway, the theories we’ve been bandying around are as follows:

  1. During the winter months, we’ve been letting him have unsupervised playtime in the enclosed backyard. He has taken to letting us know that he wants to go out, play, and bark at strangers by jumping on the back door, and we usually accomodate him. Perhaps this has led him to be less inclined to hold it. We’re trying a new routine where we only let him out when we choose to, and will keep him on leash until he pees, after which he can have off-leash playtime. We just started this, so we’ll see how it goes.

  2. Separation anxiety. He had early problems with separation anxiety when jeevgurl adopted him, which is why the sofa cushions are slightly less than intact. But he seemed to have gotten over that. We’re wondering, though, if he has bonded with me to the extent that my extended absence from home (since I’m usually not at her place during the week) has led to housebreaking problems. It seems far-fetched, but we’re at straws here.

Crating jeevdawg while we’re gone is not a really good option for us. He is completely afraid of his crate (and I would be too, it’s kind of more like a travel crate than an open cage, so he can’t see much except out the front. But I didn’t buy it. ). We think that between his time in the pound and whatever happened with his previous guardians, he’s developed a crate phobia. Plus, we know that he is physically capable of holding it, and don’t think that keeping him confined in one corner of the house for 8 hours a day is necessarily good for him. He’s an active dog (terrier/lab mix), and needs to move his legs.

Any thoughts?

I’d take him to the vet for a check-up. He might have a urinary tract infection that makes it difficult for him to hold his urine for more than 8 hours.

I used crating for my dog until I was sure he was completely house trained, but since your pup is terrified of his crate you might try getting him something like this. That’s the extra-large there, they have different sizes.

I don’t understand how the vet is ruling out a bladder infection without running a test or seeing the dog.

Can you clarify how you know he is physically capable of holding it all day?

Also, is the dog neutered? I assume he is since you said he is a pound puppy, but thought I’d ask. My dog used to do something similar when he was a doggy adolescent. Specifically, he’d pee out the side of the crate after the dog walker was there but before I got home. It was definitely separation anxiety/acting out. Once I got him neutered, the behavior stopped after a couple of weeks.

My late dog had this problem after developing bladder stones. Required surgery, and she wasn’t very old.

He only does it when we’re out of the house. If we’re home, he holds it, and he holds it all night. I think that’s the reason for the vet’s position. This is actually part of why we think that the unsupervised outside playtime may be contributing to the problem - maybe with frequent access to outside while we’re home, he’s not having to hold it as long. But he really only gets that kind of time on weekends, and it’s only really been this month that the problem is noticeable.

Another thing I’m wondering about is the cold. Chicago in winter is always cold, but we seem to have had more “cold snaps” this winter, where the temperature oscillates from milder to freezing in the space of a day or two. It’s also been a colder than normal winter (at least according to the developer building my new place, who swears that’s why the drywall took longer to finish and why we’re closing on March 31 instead of the contracted-for January 31 date. But I digress.)

And yes, he’s been fixed.

Wht do you do to keep the dog occupied while you’re gone? Does he have toys to play with? Keeping him occupied may help with the problem. I’d suggest a Kong (which, frankly, looks like a big, hollow turd.) Fill with penut butter and treats and then freeze overnight. Give it to the dog before you leave, and he’ll have hours of fun trying to dig out the goodies. If he likes the TV, leave it on, or play a radio for him.

There are also products which will calm the dog while you’re gone. I have tablets which are all-natural and, according to my vet, completely harmless which help remove some anxiety the dog may have. They’re also sold at pet stores, but make sure you have your vet look at them before giving them to your dog.

How are you cleaning up his mistakes? If he can smell traces of urine, he’ll return to the spot. (Which is why you should never use an ammonia-based cleaner.) Pet stores sell great products that will completely remove the tempting odor.

Has he ever urinated in front of you? This could be a behavior known as “submissive uriniation” if he has.

As to his “let out” times, try putting him on a schedule. Dogs are creatures of habit, and it might help. However, don’t ignore him when he asks to be let out. Take him to his spot, let him pee, and bring him right back in without play time. Play time should also be strictly scheduled, because he may just want to play when asking to go out.

With my dog, I had more problems when I restricted her access to the rest of the house than in giving her free range. For some dogs, and considering his past, he may be one, any imprisonment in a certain area, no matter how large, may be stressful. Is there any particular reason he MUST be confined to the kitchen and dining room? (Destructiveness is another issue and can be corrected.) Maybe if he has free-range of the house, he may be calmer. You could experiment by leaving for a short time, and letting him roam, and gradually increasing the time if there is no problems. My dog generally choses to go sleep in the bedroom while we’re gone. The dog simply may not be comfortable enough to relax.

I would highly recommend crating as well, but I totally understand: my new rescue hates his crate too. I believe it exacerbated the sep. anxiety in him to the point of hyperventilating, peeing and pooping in his crate, barking and howling all day – the whole nine yards. Note: I’m also having trouble with house breaking, so I’ll be subscribing to this thread to see what others post.

In the mean time, the only thing I can think of to suggest is a very firm disciplined schedule. Just like a baby. Treat him like a baby pup: take him out every two hours (except at night when you’re sleeping) whether he has to go or not. If he does okay, then progress to every 4 hours, then every 6. I believe no dog should be made to hold it for more than 5-6 hours. I certainly can’t, and my pups’ bladders are smaller than mine, so how could I possibly expect them to make it that long? I’d pee on the floor too, if you made me wait 8 hours or more! (Not a pretty visual, I bet.)

I think your pup may be confused as to exactly when is pee/poo time and when is play time. Don’t let him play outside if his mission is to become empty. The important point here is to take him out – for the sole purpose of peeing and pooping – at exactly the same times every day. Dogs like a set scheduled routine… just like many babies.

A trip to the vet for some urinary tests should be your first plan of attack.

It does sound like separation anxiety though.

As mentioned above, make sure you are using a cleaner that completely eradicates the urine smell. Nature’s Miracle is a good one, you should be able to get that at any pet store.

Also, I’d recommend trying a more open crate, also mentioned earlier. Fill it with a nice pillow, & some toys. You could even feed him in there. Let him know it’s his ‘safe place’.

A regular schedule will be a must for this dog. Try to teach him to pee/poop on command as well. Just pick a word like ‘hurry up’ and praise him when he goes. Make sure you don’t make fuss until after he does his business, you don’t want to confuse him!

If possible, give him a good workout before he’s left alone but don’t make a big deal when you leave! That will just reinforce anxiety.

Once any medical problems are ruled out, you may try talking to a behaviourist.

Also, check your local library, there are lots of books that cover this subject.

Thanks, everyone, for your thoughts.

Lissa, he has a plethora of toys available to him, including the Kong filled with treats (for a while, even with melted cheese and little bits of Beggin’ Strip) and a talking treatball. These last him minutes, not hours. He’s extremely persistent when food and treats are involved. (Example, for the anniversary of his adoption, we got him a frozen beef soup bone. He had the damn thing hollowed out in about an hour.)

He was confined to the kitchen/ dining room area after a few peeing incidents this summer. (I said he’s usually good- not that he’s perfect :)). It seemed to help that he didn’t have run of the house. And we clean up the mess with vinegar solution.

OK, he had another accident yesterday, so we got a urine sample (an adventure in itself), and had it checked out at the vet. It’s normal, so there’s nothing medically wrong with him. The vet has suggested that it’s either separation anxiety or some unpleasant stimulus that happened while we’re gone.

We’re at a bit of a loss, since he’s never really seemed to experience separation anxiety before. One factor that may be playing into this is that his playtime has been slightly less active of late. Normally, he gets some off-leash romping time with canine playmates at a local park. But with the weather being cold, his doggie friends aren’t at the park any more, so his exercise is limited to a 15-20 minute walk that jeevgurl takes him on before she goes to work. (She lives with and cares for the dog full time - at present, I do not.) Maybe it’s not enough to tire him out in the morning. I suggested that maybe she take him to the park anyway and play some fetch with him to give him more exercise or take him on a longer walk, but she’s vetoing that idea on the grounds that she doesn’t have time in the morning. His recall is also not 100% reliable, so she’s afraid that he’ll take his time coming back and make her late for work. Quite frankly, I’ve never really had this problem with him, so who knows?

Well… a tired dog is a good dog. If you both can find a way to give him a bit more exercise, you might be able to cut down on his anxiety. Sep. anxiety can be caused by a change in routine, living arrangements or circumstances in general, in addition to trauma.

I’m surprised your vet didn’t recommend Clomicalm – it’s an anti-anxiety drug specifically for dogs (generic name: clomipromine. Other anti-anxiety drugs include people drugs like Elavil and Prozac). Both of my pups are on it – and I had to get a recommendation from a certified animal behaviorist in order for the vet to approve. It has helped significantly with the anxiety issues, especially for my rescue. It helps them calm down and focus so you can work on training, commands and housebreaking. You wean them off the drugs when the dog’s confidence is built by the additional training. YMMV

Here’s a few links to websites that address canine sep. anxiety: good luck!

There’s a ton more web sites: just google for more!

If you can afford it, how about hiring a dog walker to take him out for a half hour walk during the day?

Also, try getting a Buster Cube for him to amuse himself.

Well, the simple answer to that is that, while I am more than able to afford it, jeevgurl is not, and until jeevgurl becomes jeevwife, or at least jeevfiance, I’m not allowed to pay for such services. She forbids it. (Whole 'nother thread there, borderline Pit material.)

Sorry, jeevmon, I missed that part in the OP. Maybe you better propose to benefit the dawg. :smiley: [sub]And since you’re in Chicago, are we gonna see you at the next ChiDope?[/sub]

Having been instrumental in the introduction of jeevmon and **jeevgurl, ** I can vouch that it is likely impossible to convince her to accept financial assistance on behalf of jeevdawg, unless and until there is a more comprehensive combining of finances. She is one feisty and persistent person, which I’m guessing is part of the reason she appeals to jeevmon.

(And dude, keep that in mind, willya? Your current troubles are just the flip side of something you like about her. Try to understand us pigheaded feminist independent-minded types, willya? I know you’re a generous person, but well, there is a time and place for generosity, and you just differ on the details. You’ll laugh about all this years from now.)

Will this larger merger-type event happen, and if so, when? Well, those of us who know both of them would ordinarily be placing bets right now, but since we all seem to agree more or less, no bets have been placed.

(Oh, and **jeevmon, ** sorry I have no insights on doggie behavioral issues…although a certain guitar buddy of mine might, and if you want, I’ll ask her for you. And consider yourself SDMB-stalked!)

Oops, he did it again. When left alone for only three hours. But his mom has been confining him to a smaller and smaller area, which I think may be increasing his anxiety rather than decreasing it. Being a mix of two active breeds, he’s naturally inclined to want to wander around a bit, and his confinement anxiety (as above re: the crate), means that he’s more likely to experience anxiety when confined in a corner (IMHO).

jeevdawg is being boarded this weekend because we’re going down to visit jeevfolks. (The decision to board him was made before he started having these problems, FWIW). He usually comes back from a weekend at the boarding kennel exhausted (and, unfortunately, stinky) because he gets lots of running around time with other dogs. I’m hoping that we can start getting and keeping him more tired so that he’ll be less inclined to be anxious. Once the weather warms up a bit and he gets more doggie playtime, his situation may improve, although jeevgurl is adhering to the theory that it’s my absence, not hers, that is provoking the anxious reaction from jeevdawg. Flattering, but I’m not sure how true it is.

sigh OK, update time.

We’ve started a new regimen. Since I am now living with jeevgurl, and get up earlier than her, I take the dog out for a walk after breakfast. We go to the park (about a 7 minute walk away) and play fetch with the frisbee for about 10-15 minutes, then walk again for another 20-30 minutes, depending on our route.

Day 1 (Monday) of the long walk routine - bad accident. He apparently had some kind of diarreha attack while we were gone. His stool was normal when I took him out for his morning walk, so it’s not clear what could have caused it.

Day 2 (Tuesday) - I didn’t walk him. But jeevgurl was home half the day because she had a job interview in the afternoon. The dog was fine for the four or so hours that she was gone.

Day 3 (Wednesday) - hour long walk, including about 15 minutes of frisbee time in deep, fresh snow that sometimes comes up as high as the dog’s shoulder. He’s having a ball. And, joy of joys, NO ACCIDENTS! :smiley:

Day 4 (Thursday/ today) - 45 minute walk, including about 10 minutes of frisbee time. (shortened frisbee time explained, in part, by the fact that he started to forget the rules of the game after about 10 minutes, usually a sign of fatigue). Also in deep snow. Bad news, though - an accident. Just urine, no stool, but in two locations. :frowning:

It’s admittedly a small sample of days. There aren’t any dogs in the park when we go for our morning walk (usu. betw. 5:45 and 6:45 AM - yes, I’m an early bird), but there aren’t any later in the morning, according to jeevgurl. I can lengthen the walk, but I’m not sure we’re even on the right track here, and doing the “separation anxiety” training is something we can, practically speaking, only do on weekends because we really do have to leave him alone for eight hours a day and (for the reasons discussed above), we can’t get a dog walker to take him out.

It’s just getting frustrating. I mean, the problem came on fairly suddenly, and now it seems intractable. He’s getting used to peeing in the house while we’re gone, and, by definition, we can’t correct him when he does it. I’m going to keep trying with the exercise thing, and we’ll see how that goes.

My dog has had occasional accidents when she has diarreah. (Praise whatever Gods may be that she goes down to the cement floor in the basement to do it.) Dogs’ tummys are touchy. It could be an emotional upset, something he found on the floor or stole from the trash, and also, it could be just plain occasional tummy trouble as humans have.

I know it’s frustrating, but give him time. He sounds like a wonderful dog who just needs a lot of patience to understand what his people want from him.

Two steps forward, one step back.

He was fine on Friday. Left home alone all day, and also was given a soup bone to hollow out. Kept him occupied.

Sunday, we had to leave him to go and run some errands. We left him for four hours, and he did fine.

Today, jeevgurl reports more urine than she’s ever seen out of him when she got home.


Quick question: Did you ever have his urine tested? Even though he holds it overnight, I’d still have him checked for a UTI/bladder infection to rule it out 100%. Maybe he’s drinking less water in the evening, and that’s why you don’t see the problem then. When do you pick his water up for the night, and when is his last walk? I have some friends who was sure their dog’s problem was behavioral, and it ended up being a bladder infection.