House Soiling

Dogs are usually house-trained by the time they are a few months old, and once they know the rules, they'll do everything they can to reach their favorite spots in time. But even dogs with perfect track records will occasionally go where they shouldn't. These aren't really "accidents" because grown dogs know that they're supposed to go outside. Dogs who go in the house are invariably trying to tell you something.

"I couldn't wait." Even dogs with fastidious manners and good training have certain limits. Unless you have a doggy door, they can't let themselves out when nature calls. When you're gone all day or working late, it's simply not realistic to expect them to wait, says Mike Richards, D.V.M., a veterinarian in private practice in Cobbs Creek, Virginia.

For most dogs, Richards says, 12 hours is about the limit. When you're going to be gone longer than that, the only solution is to make other arrangements -- having a neighbor let your dog out, for example, or hiring a pet sitter to drop by once a day.

"I'm in charge, and here's the proof." Among dogs, urinating represents more than a comfort stop. It's also their way of marking territory and establishing their status in the family. That's why people who get a second pet are often subjected to an outbreak of housesoiling as one of the dogs -- usually the older resident -- begins urinating in strategic spots.

It may take a few weeks or longer for both dogs to feel comfortable with the new arrangement, says Sandy Myers, a trainer and director of Narnia Pet Training in Naperville, Illinois. You can speed things up by reinforcing the natural pecking order. Give special preference to the "top dog" -- which is usually, but not always, the one who's been there the longest. Try feeding this dog first, she advises. Let her go out the door first, and give her the most attention. Once your dog feels that her status in the family is secure, she'll be much less inclined to defend it on her own, Myers explains.

"I worship the ground you walk on." When a dog rolls on her back the minute you come home and then urinates on the floor, she's not forgetting her housetraining and she's not being rude. In fact, she's doing the opposite. "Such a dog is being very polite," explains Kovary. "She's saying, 'I know that you are my leader and I will do anything you ask.'" Called submissive urination, this is very common among dogs, Kovary explains. But it's not a good sign in the family because it means a dog is overly anxious or intimidated. About all you can do is try to make sure that your dog is more secure. There are a lot of ways to do this. For example, don't stand over her and look down when you first get home -- kneel down and greet her from a more "equal" level, Thomas suggests. It's also a good idea to avoid direct eye contact for a while because some dogs find it intimidating.

Extreme submissive behavior isn't easy to fix because it can be an intrinsic part of a dog's personality. If simple changes don't help, you may want to call your vet or a trainer for help.

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