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Toileting Issues With Dogs

Now, we expect to have to deal with toileting problems when house training a puppy, it's part of the process of introducing a puppy into the home. And we also expect that toileting and incontinence will become an issue with an elderly dog as part of the ageing process. We may even be faced with continence issues, either permanent or temporary, if a dog is unfortunate enough to get an injury or illness during their lifetime. In these circumstances, veterinary help and advice is available, possibly including drug treatment or surgery. And for either short-term or long-term use, there are pads and pants available to help overcome the messy inconvenience of bladder or bowel problems. See the item "Urinary Incontinence In Dogs". But what if your dog has toileting problems which are not explained by the puppy stage, old age, illness or injury? In other words, a behaviour issue. It may be due to a change in circumstances eg a new home, a new pack member, fear of something specific eg noise, or even a dog going through the canine equivalent of the rebellious teenage stage.

The Place to Go

Even if you think your dog should know where he's supposed to go to the toilet, you may need to reinforce this by praising him when he does go in the right place. This means watching what he's doing (but without anxiously hovering over him) when outside so you know when he's been. If he does toilet indoors, ensure the area is cleaned thoroughly with an appropriate product which will remove all traces of scent ie something that is specifically for use on body fluids. Otherwise, your dog will have a constant reminder that this is the toileting spot. You may not be aware of any residual smell, but don't forget how sensitive your dog's nose is and how he will be able to find that spot if it's not cleaned thoroughly. If your dog doesn't toilet when out for a walk, and insists on waiting til he gets home to go, this may be a result of overly strict toilet training as a puppy or it may be because your dog doesn't actually enjoy walks and is far too stressed to relax and go to the toilet. If he's pulling crazily on the lead, reacting to other people, other dogs, cars etc he may just be too busy worrying about these things to take care of his own needs. You may need professional help if this is the case. Similarly, if your dog refuses to go to the toilet in the garden and has to be taken for a walk, this is also probably due to initial toilet training and can be changed, if you're willing to break the cycle. And that would mean not taking your dog for a walk so he has no choice but to go in the garden - with some encouragement and reward. After all, what if you were really ill one day and you physically couldn't leave the house to walk the dog. He would have to make do with relieving himself in the garden then. Maybe you don't want your dog toileting in the garden and ruining your plants or lawn. You could teach your dog to use only one area of the garden. Take him there on a lead and praise him when he goes to the toilet there.

The Time to Go

There are certain times when your dog will need to go to the toilet and should be given the opportunity and encouraged to do so. If you're so busy that you forget to let your dog out regularly or don't notice the clues, then accidents will happen. Key times are: on waking (not just first thing in the morning, but after any long sleep), after eating, after playing, before you go out and leave the dog alone, before bed. If you get into a good enough routine, your dog will rarely need to ask to go out. When he does though, don't turn it into a game that he can play just to get your attention. Simply open the door with no eye contact and no speaking, and preferably when he is quiet ie during a pause in any whining or barking. The same applies when he asks to come back in again. Alternatively, teach your dog a word or phrase so he knows when you want him to go to the toilet. Start this by saying the chosen word when he goes of his own accord and praise him for it too. Repeat whenever he goes and he will soon learn that the word relates to that action. Then you can send/take him outside with the appropriate instruction at the appropriate time.


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Accidents

The most important thing when you discover your dog has toileted where he shouldn't is: DO NOT REACT. This is difficult but shouting and getting upset will not help the situation. If you catch your dog in the act, your shouting isn't going to stop him. It might be worth trying to move him outside, calmly and quietly, so he can finish what he started - but it may be too late. If you find the evidence after the event, even only a few minutes, it's too late to tell your dog off. He will have no idea why you're stressed. And of course, smacking or the old-fashioned "rubbing his nose in it" is an absolute no-no. Instead, look at why it happened (timing, perhaps) and decide how you can prevent it happening again. Move your dog to another room or area while you clean up the mess so there can be no possibility of him picking up on any of your stress or anxiety about it. If your dog is regularly toileting in the house when left alone, it is likely to be due to separation anxiety and may require professional help. If a dog is desperate to get his pack back, one way of doing it is to provide some urine or faeces to make sure they have a scent to follow to guide them home.

Coprophagia

This is the technical term for eating faeces - either their own, that of another dog or another animal. When pups are born, mum will eat their waste for the first few days to keep the den clean. Some pups copy this and carry it on when it's no longer necessary. Sometimes, dogs eat faeces just because they like it. Sometimes it becomes an attention seeking habit - they try it once, it results in a huge amount of fuss so it's worth doing again. If this is the case, ignoring it and walking away from the dog may be all it takes to break the cycle. Long-term poo eating is not to be encouraged as it may result in the spread of intestinal worms, but don't panic about the odd occasion - we find it distasteful so feel it has to be stopped immediately but this reaction may lead to the attention seeking. When a dog eats its own faeces, calmly move or call the dog away before he has a chance to start eating (so you need to be close by). Reward the dog for leaving the faeces and responding to you. Then clear up. Some people find that adding small amounts of pineapple or courgette to the dog's diet makes the resulting faeces unpalatable. If your dog is eating other dog's or other animal's faeces, you need to go back to keeping your dog on lead for a while so you can keep a close eye on what he's doing and move him away when necessary. Go back to some basic recall training too - at home and in the garden at first - so you can call your dog away when he starts to show an interest in something. And don't forget praise and reward when he responds. Show him it is worth leaving that faeces.

Rolling

Some dogs like rolling in faeces to disguise their own scent from predators or rival packs - a natural, instinctive behaviour which isn't really necessary for the average domestic dog but is still there. Some exasperated owners notice that their dogs immediately go and roll in something dirty and disgusting after bathing or grooming, in an attempt to get some natural scent back. Fox faeces is a particular favourite for dogs and you can usually tell when a dog is about to roll - they stoop down to go neck and shoulder first before rolling onto their back. Tomatoes and tomato products are reportedly good for removing the stubborn smell of fox. So if the worst happens, drench your dog in tinned tomatoes, tomato juice or ketchup, massage into the coat and rinse thoroughly.


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