Piddling – Why Your Dog Does It and How to Stop It

Now, cryin’ won’t help you
Prayin’ won’t do you no good
When the levee breaks
Mama, you got to move
- Led Zepplin, When The Levee Breaks

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

Orion peed on the floor last week.


I’m not going to say it’s my fault, because I let him out, I saw him go, and I let him back in.  Besides, I’m not a big fan of blame.  I’m surely not going to blame Orion.  He’s a dog. What happened was this:

I took Sparta for a walk.

I know what you’re thinking.  How on earth could taking Sparta for a walk result in a mess on the floor from Orion.  Was Orion trying to get back at me?  Answer: No.  Dogs don’t work that way.  Here’s the blow-by-blow.

1) I know Orion is a super-hyper dog with a lot of energy.  If I don’t help him get rid of that energy in productive ways, it turns into nervous energy.

monkeyboy-oklahoma-oThat’s a bad thing. Orion had a lot of energy that morning.  I’ve been pretty busy, and haven’t been giving him quite enough outlets during the day.  Yes, we still hiked, but he’s a dog who needs a LOT of physical activity to be at his best. And while each day he had enough exercise to skim the energy off the top, I didn’t empty his cup, if you will.  Unfortunately, that builds up over time.

2) Orion has a nervous temperament as well.  He’s like a skittish racehorse. And when he has some shock to his system (like my taking Sparta for a walk before him, which is our usual MO), he literally can’t hold it anymore  Like a 4 year old on Christmas morning.  Yes, the child has been potty trained, but if you add too much excitement, nothing is stopping the flood.

Or as I refer to it, The Fountain of Youth

Or as I refer to it, The Fountain of Youth

3) I forgot who my dog was.  Orion has a bit of separation anxiety, especially with Sparta.  I know Orion initially self-soothed by, uh, eliminating in a high stress situation.  Yes, we worked on that, and he’s been amazing these past few years.  But this is a behavior you manage, rather than cure.  Orion hasn’t eliminated in the house in a very, very long time. I just happened to create the perfect storm for him.

So what should I have done?

1) Paid more attention to his need for activity.  Yes, I was busy, but that’s a reason, not an excuse. If I blow the engine on my car because I was too busy to change the oil, I don’t get a pass from the mechanic who has to replace my engine.  I’m the one who got the car/dog.  It’s my responsibility to change the oil/exercise the car/dog.  No excuses. Figure something out, or, in my case, clean something up.

2) Control the situation. So the amount of activity in our house has been down, meaning I was already setting Orion up for failure.  So I added on top of it.  I know he’s used to going for the walk first, and was ready to go!  Except, I reneged on him.  And rocked his little world.  That merely added to the stress he already had from lack of activity.

giphy (12)

 

3) Know your dog. This is Orion, not Sparta, who hasn’t gone in the house since, like, ever!  I know his triggers, and as I work with him, they trigger him less and less, but still, he has them.

So this week I’ve been proactive.  His amount of activity per day has been increased.  I’ve gotten him accustomed to being along in the house first, while I take Sparta for very brief walks, (like out the front door, down the driveway and then back) so he gets used to the idea and isn’t traumatized by it.

So now when I’m presented with two dogs who are each waiting for their (separate) walks, each with a lot of energy, I’m able to manage the situation better.  I hold up a leash and let them know I’m ready for my first solo dog walk of the day with one of them.  And rather than this reaction from each of them:

giphy (13)I get this.

giphy (14)Orion knows now that just because he isn’t first doesn’t mean he isn’t skipping his walk.  And I know now that good enough is only good enough for so long.  Now I’m very careful to make sure I get rid of all of Orion’s energy.

Keep calm and pilot onKerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

 

 

 

How To Get Out of The Trouble Urine

Patience is not simply the ability to wait – it’s how we behave while we’re waiting.
- Joyce Meyer

funny_dog_pictures_housebroken_soon-s500x375-220006Last week I did a post about identifying the different causes of improper elimination in the house (I would strongly suggest reading the post on how to identify the problem before reading how to fix it – cart and horse, ya know). Knowing why your dog is acting the way they are can be important in deciphering  how to address the situation.  Again, sometimes there can be a combination of reasons why a dog does their business inside instead of outside perhaps they were never housebroken and they are trying to dominate.  Let’s take a look at how to address each of these issues.  Just remember the three steps to working with a dog in any situation:

Control Yourself.  Anger gets you nowhere.  When you are dealing with housebreaking, it actually tends to put you backwards.  Get a grip, grab some paper towels and cleaner and realize you are dealing with an animal who is trying their hardest.  My kids weren’t potty trained until they were 2-3 years old.  Now remind me, you’re expecting what from a 10 week old animal?
Control the Situation.  You can’t add stimulation to a situation to gain control of the situation.  As it applies here:  if your dog isn’t trustworthy yet to go to the bathroom outside, why are you giving them free reign of the house?  Control what you can, and remove the rest until you are at a point where you can manage a bit more.
Answer the Question.  
Dogs are always asking questions, such as, “Can I go here?” or “Am I going to die if I try to poop outside?”.  Answer their questions.  Read how here.

So, now that you’ve got the groundwork laid, let’s start unravelling this problem.

images3421Your Dog/Puppy Isn’t Housebroken. 

As I stated last week, this one is pretty obvious, but frequently overlooked.  Just because you adopted an adult dog doesn’t mean they have been properly housebroken.  Housebreaking a dog should be done with almost 100% positive reinforcement, (again, read about when to give positives vs. negatives here). You are trying to catch and encourage a positive behavior, and, ahem, eliminate the negative behavior which you don’t want.  So we need to contrive as many positive behaviors as we can get.  Again, remember the steps:  Control yourself; control the situation; answer the question.  We need to catch the behavior of “going” outside as many times as we can, so we are going to make sure that’s the only time they can relieve themselves.  To achieve this follow these simple rules:

No more reign of the house.  They should be either in their crate (or in a small room), outside going to the bathroom, or attached to you with a leash.  I loop the leash around my waist and allow the dog to follow me, freeing my hands.  Yes, the first 20 minutes of this is pure hell as you constantly trip each other, but like all other things, pretty soon you get good at it. Now, I know what you’re going to say.  I can’t go my entire day with my dog attached to me!  But here’s the thing:  nobody said you had to .  If you can’t take it any more, put them in their crate.  Don’t be a martyr over this.  It’s okay to give yourself a break, even for a couple hours.  The key things we’re trying to do it catch when they’re eliminating.  If you can’t see it, you can’t control it.  A lot of dogs will sneak away to do their business, and you never know about it until you stumble upon it hours later.  Give your dog plenty of opportunity to relieve themselves, but keep in mind certain key times:  first thing in the morning and 20 minutes after they eat.

Okay, so now you’ve prevented them from going in the house.  How do you get them to understand that outside is preferable? Every time you take them outside, while they are eliminating, repeat the same word over and over, like a drumbeat, “potty, potty, potty”, or whatever word you choose.  The moment they are finished, start praising them and offer a high value food reward along with a big dose of love.  Congratulations:  you are now on your way to training your dog to go on command.

Gradually you can start to widen your dog’s area inside the house.  Leave them off the leash for 20 minutes while you are keeping a close eye on them.  If you catch them starting to lift a leg or to squat, immediately scoop them up, take them outside.  There is no punishment for miscommunication.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

Your dog is stressed.

This is overlooked for by a lot people.  Orion is one of these dogs.  He’s completely housebroken, but if he gets extremely stressed, his first reaction is to eliminate.  How to work with this issue?  Pilot them.  Calmly.  Excess energy is what’s causing the problem.  You can’t add more energy to the situation to control it.  (Re-read the steps to working with a dog at the top of the page).  Think about the stressful situations you may be putting your dog in:  separation anxiety is stress driven.  With Orion, even positive energy can do it, such as excitement over going for a walk.  This is where maintaining calm is crucial.  Positive things happen when your dog is calm.  I will never put the leash on Orion when he’s anything other than calmly sitting and waiting.  I won’t wrestle the leash on a hyper mess of dog.

Think about what might be stressful for your dog, and remove the energy from those situations.  Also, look at your body language.  Sternly standing over a very submissive dog can trigger these kinds of reactions. In these situations, approach your dog calmly.  No yelling.  No high-pitched whiney praise.  Just good old calm, boring body language and calm, gentle praise.  And never discipline them for their accident.  The issue in these situation isn’t their improper elimination – it’s the lack of Piloting.

They are claiming something. 

This one is a bit tricky.  It’s usually done because your dog has more money in their Piloting Piggy Bank than you do.  If they are Pilot, they rightfully own everything, or are allowed right of first refusal.  They are doing what is normal and natural for a pack leader to do: put their scent everywhere.  Favorite places include children’s rooms, couches, your laundry that’s on the floor or even your bed.  This is the one situation you will use very mild negative.

But let’s look at the impetus for this problem:  you aren’t Pilot.  Start Piloting your dog, and usually the problem with naturally abate.  If your dog is no longer Pilot, and you’ve taken all their money out of their Piloting Piggy Bank, a lot of times you won’t even need to address this problem directly!

However, that doesn’t mean that when your dog lifts their leg on your new couch you just sit idly by.  Typically they aren’t doing it because they have to go…they are using their urine to mark their territory.  To claim something.  Well guess what – as Pilot, you don’t have to sit idly by.  Claim it right back!  Use calm, but firm, body language to back the dog off the item they are claiming.   And work on your Piloting in other areas!  If you Pilot your dog on a walk, when company comes over, etc., that transfers over to this issue as well.  Round-about approach and all.  It works.

They know that going outside is good, but they don’t realize that going inside is completely undesired.

Follow the steps to housebreaking a puppy. Again, gentle negatives can be used on dogs like this, gently backing them off from where they just went and removing them to where it’s preferred they eliminate.  You are answering a legitimate question, “Is it ok to go here?”.  The answer is “no”, not the verbal and physical equivalent of an interrogation.

They’re scared to go outside.

Again, this is a Piloting issue closely linked with a dog who’s problem is over-excitement.  A dog can indeed be afraid to go to the bathroom outside, as they are extremely vulnerable at that moment.  So Pilot them through the situation! Initially you may have to go outside with your dog with them on a leash.  Follow the same steps for housebreaking a dog, but remember, this is also at heart a Piloting issue.  If you can’t even answer your own door without your dog going berserk and interfering, then you can’t possibly expect them to trust you that hey, it’s okay to go to the bathroom outside where everyone can see you, including those big scary dogs next door.  Pilot them in other areas, and this will fall in line.

As you can see, Piloting is integral to almost all areas of a dog’s life, including housebreaking.  Work with your dog.  Earn their respect and trust, not your fear and your wrath.  Also remember, you are trying to communicate a very tricky concept to an animal.  Lay the positives down thick every time you get your desired result: elimination outside.

Keep calm and pilot onKerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio