A dog that messes in the house is really soiling its reputation. Nevertheless, if your mind is muddling over the puddling, lamenting over the excrementing or paining over the staining, don’t fret – there are solutions to these ablutions!
Is your dog ill?
House-soiling can be a sign of disease and illness.
Sometimes a bout of diarrhoea, the onset of diabetes, or a bladder or kidney infection can cause an urgent need to void. When the need strikes, there may not be time for your pet to get outside. A mess in the house is often the accidental consequence.
Aged animals that suffer arthritis will often take to soiling inside because their creaky old bones make it too difficult for them to travel outside. Even the canine or feline equivalent of Alzheimer’s Disease can cause house-soiling.
A visit to your veterinarian will sort out these problems, and once the medical side of the condition is solved, the soiling usually disappears.
Are there barriers to getting outside?
House-soiling often occurs when a dog cannot get outside to go to the toilet. Being able to get outside easily is particularly important when young puppies are learning their toilet training manners.
Small puppies find that tall stairs are a difficult obstacle to manage, and rather than battle the stairs, many will find it is so much more convenient to soil in a convenient location inside the house. This is one of the many reasons why lap dogs such as small terriers, Poodles and Chihuahuas are the breeds that most commonly exhibit house-soiling.
If the door to the outside is always closed, a puppy, or even an adult dog, may eventually succumb to the easier option of soiling inside. While dogs are usually quite good as signalling they need to go out, if you miss their signal too often, house-soiling is a common consequence. This is why so many dogs soil inside over night.
A dog door will help, but make sure the door is propped open after it is first installed so that the dog learns to use it without difficulty.
Another barrier to developing proper toilet manners is that small dogs hate getting their feet, and even their derriere, wet. Moist, cold grass, especially if it is a bit too long, is a most unpleasant sensation for little dogs and, while they may have every intention of using the lawn as a toilet, the wet grass in private places makes it too unpleasant.
Are you making the problem worse?
Be careful how you handle your dog’s misdemeanours. Any normal person will growl when they discover a foul deposit and, for the poor Pooch, that is when the confusion starts. From that time on, the pooch is likely to become evasive and will sneak off to soil so that you find the problem later. This makes you angrier and the dog even more confused and the little vegemite then ends up becoming paranoid about its soiling – not knowing what to do. This is especially so if the pooch perceives that there are many barriers preventing it from going outside.
Have you prepared a toilet spot?
Now you need to remove the smell of the dog’s mistakes from the house.
If you clean a dog’s mess with an agent that does not remove the smell, the soiled area remains scent-marked as the dog’s toilet and the dog will return.
However, if you clean the mess with an agent, such as a strong disinfectant, that leaves its own smell behind, that will cause a different problem.
Dogs, especially male dogs, have a strong tendency to over-mark any scent left by another dog. This is why a dog will lift its leg at every tree along the street. In some cases, dogs perceive the cleaning agents used inside the house as being equivalent to another dog’s urine and they will mark over the scent of the cleaning agents with their own malodorous signature. Any cleaning agent with a strong perfume is a problem but the worst are those cleansers that contain ammonia.
To solve this problem, mop up any urine or faeces with paper towelling. Now clean the area with an enzymatic, low-perfume laundry detergent such as Bio Zet or a product specifically designed for this purpose such as X-Tract. This product contains natural enzymes to break down the waste residue and also contains specific bacteria that will then consume the broken down particles.
Have you protected the soiled areas?
Once the area has been cleaned, prevent it being abused again.
Close the doors to target rooms and cover the now-clean area with black plastic or a painter’s plastic drop sheet until the problem is fully resolved.
Place an article of furniture or some other object on top of the soiled area so that the dog cannot reuse the area again or buy a battery-operated visitor chime from an electronics store to alert you when the Pooch visits the taboo area.
If the problem occurs overnight, consider restricting the dog to the laundry at night time if it will tolerate this, or place it in a comfortable den or crate that you could have beside your bed to give the Pooch night-time company.
Have you toilet trained your pooch?
Having attended to all of the above, the last step is to re-toilet train your dog. Unlike teaching a dog to SIT or COME, where you can create the behaviour you want so that it can be rewarded, you can’t ‘manufacture’ soiling behaviour. Therefore, training a dog to soil on command is more difficult.
If your dog regularly soils when being walked, when it shows it is about to soil, simultaneously throw a suitable command (such as ‘DO WEE’) at the dog. If it completes the action, praise it liberally.
In this manner, the dog will quite quickly learn what the word means.
Also predict the need. Your dog is more likely to need to soil after eating, drinking, sleeping or exercising and of course, when it hasn’t ‘done one’ for a while.
At these times, take your dog to the prepared toilet pit and issue the ‘DO WEE’ command. Gently squeezing the dog’s abdomen just in front if its knees will increase abdominal pressure and make the dog more likely to want to go to the toilet. Use only light pressure when doing this – about the same pressure you would use to feel a ripe peach.
Remind yourself to take your pooch out to the garden by setting an alarm (e.g. your microwave timer) to ring every hour during the day. In this way, you will be almost certain to catch the desired behaviour and will then be able to reward it.
Lastly, don’t forget to install a toilet post in the toilet pit for any male dog you may have. Marking this post with ammonia or better still the urine of another male dog (!) may stimulate the needed behaviour too.
By Dr Cam Day BVSC