Never-ending battle against house soiling by our dog

by Sarah

Question: We adopted a GSD in March 2012. From day one we were beset with problems with his toilet habits (urinating & defecating in our conservatory).

We sought Vets advice, he had urine tests to no avail. We were advised to go back to basics (puppy toilet training) which we have been doing with NO success. He gets 2 x 1 hour walks a day and is put in the garden every 2 hours and still he uses the conservatory as a toilet!! This happens several times a day (both feces and urine) and in different spots in the room.

When he goes out in the garden we watch to ensure he does what he is supposed to; when he does he gets loads of praise and treats.

We can't take him inside the house unless we are there with him. During the night and when we are away from home he stays in the conservatory.

It is getting to the point where we will have to consider getting him reformed if the situation can't be resolved. Any help would be appreciated

Answer: When dog house training becomes such a difficult problem, it could be for several reasons. The first thing you need to do is become a doggy detective and try to figure out when and why he is urinating and defecating inappropriately.

Based on what you have told me the following are possible reasons to think about:

  1. Separation Anxiety: This is a dog that is very much attached to his owner or family. He does not like to be left alone and gets very stressed. Urination and defecation will happen only when he is left alone and confined. He might also show distress by barking, chewing or destroying furniture or even hurting himself. Please understand that your dog is not peeing or pooping out of revenge, he is VERY stressed and afraid when left alone.

  2. Fears or Phobias: Urination and defecation will happen together with the fear eliciting stimulus. These are usually loud noises (firewords, thunderstorms, construction trucks, Musical instruments(?)) or other visual threats (other dogs, threatening people). Note that a threat to your pet might not look like it to you. Simple objects like umbrellas, crouches or wheelchairs are enough to trigger fear responses in some hounds.

  3. Urine Marking: The amount of urine will usually be small. The dog feels threatened by other dogs and will mark certain areas of his territory. This dog will often mark several trees during walks, specially after coming across other dogs. He is also likely to urinate (mark) his own territory within 30 min of getting back from a walk.

  4. The dog specially likes the carpet in the conservatory: This happens when a dog develops a preference to relieve himself in a surface that is not what the owner would have chosen. But this usually happens to dogs that are not taken outside often, or are taken to a yard that does not have the appropriate surfaces.

Based on the information you have given me I would guess separation anxiety is the problem. If he is just peeing and pooping but no other behavioral problems are seen, then it could be a mild case. But I think in the end your dog doesn't like to be left alone. What can you do about it?

  • Make a safe space in the conservatory: This could be a crate, or a dog bed. Teach him to relax on it by giving him treats every time he lays down on it.

  • Make your departures low key: If your hound has separation anxiety, it is important to not make a fuss every time you leave and every time you come back. This makes things worse. You should also use Systematic Desensitization and Counterconditioning to get your dog used to you leaving.

  • Reward him only if the floor is clean when you come back: When you apply Systematic desensitization and Counterconditioning, you will be leaving for very short periods of time in the beginning (seconds, then minutes, the more minutes). When you leave you will leave some sort of treat or toy that is safe and that your hound LOVES! This toy or treat ONLY...and I repeat...ONLY appears when you leave, as soon as you are back you take it and put it away until you leave again. During the first few trials lasting seconds to minutes you will be giving it-leaving-coming back-taking it away-many many times.
    Your dog will start associating the fact that only when you leave he gets the treat and hopefully won't mind it too much anymore.
    BUT as you increase the time of your absence, you will add another variable to this training method. You will start rewarding him when you come back (with another great treat, a different one) ONLY...and I repeat...ONLY if there is NO urine or feces! Start with short times, so you will be able to reward him for a clean conservatory.

I know you must be feeling frustrated and tired, because you have been doing all the things you were told, you take him out very often AND you exercise him a lot too! Those are great things to do! You are on the right track and I can tell you really care about your pooch.

To help along with training here are a few other things you can add to the mix, these on their own will not solve the problem, but they do complement the training very well.

1- You can leave a CD with music and noises to make your dog feel less alone. Here is a suggestion, this is a CD with music that also has house noises in the backgroun:

Dog Training Tracks: A Musical No-Bark Solution: The Blues for Buster

2- Homeopathy remedies cal help some pets relax PetAlive has some really good products, raving reviews and great cutomer service:

Get more info on PetAlive Better-Bladder Control - temporarily relieves incontinence and strengthens the bladder


Get More Info. on PetAlive PetCalm Formula for Anxious and Stressed Pets

3- Another option is DAP, a synthetic dog pheromone that lactating female dogs secrete to calm their puppies. It is often recommended for dogs with anxiety problems. You can plug it in a wall while you leave and turn it off when you come back. It does not affect people.

Adaptil™ Behavior Modifier with Diffuser, 48 ml Vial

4- Finally, make sure you clean all soiled surfaces with an enzymatic cleaner. These are design to destroy completely the urine molecules, this way your pet can't smell them anymore and this decreases marking and soiling.

Nature's Miracle Stain and Odor Remover, 32-Ounce

You don't need to buy ALL of these things or any (although the enzymatic cleaner is highly recommended). Pick one or two and try them out to see if they help with training. But training is always the key.

Hope this helps, you still have a lot of work to do but you are a great pet owner for caring so much.

Keep me posted on how things go and feel free to ask more questions if they come up.

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