Canine Behavior/Dog Misbehavior with Roommate
About 3 months ago I adopted a 5 year old Dachshund mix from the SPCA. She is normally a very quiet, calm, and well-behaved dog. The exception is when my roommate is home. My roommate will take my dog on walks outside and immediately after they get back to the house Mazza will pee on the floor/couch and/or rug. Once she realizes this is not good behavior she will then flip on her back and pee on herself. This is not just limited to walks. If Mazza feels that my roommate is not hurrying enough she will pee even before they go outside or on the porch, just outside the house. As a result of her peeing we have resorted to keeping her space limited to the kitchen (with bed, toys, water, and a snack). My roommate was away for 2 1/2 weeks and I had no problems with Mazza making a mess in the house. When my roommate was home I left Mazza in the living room and kitchen to move around in for up to 12 hours without any incident. Also, during that time I had taken Mazza to my parent's house for Thanksgiving without a mess either. What could be the reason Mazza is having such a negative reaction to my roommate and how can I help her adjust?
Thank you for your question. I would like to have a bit more information about Mazza and how your roommate interacts with her as this sounds like a relationship issue between them.
When Mazza is peeing in the house after a walk with your roommate, or before they head out or on the porch, is she emptying her bladder? Does it seem like she just couldn't wait to pee and had an accident, or is it just a bit of pee?
When she rolls on her back and pees, that's is essentially a giant neon sign that reads: "I'm only little, please don't hurt me." She's being as absolutely submissive as she knows how to be, in an effort to avoid a confrontation.
That this only happens with your roommate causes me to wonder how your roommate disciplines your dog for what your roommate perceives as misbehaving. Does she scold Mazza? Yell at her, swat her on the nose or bum (either with her hand or other object such as a newspaper), does she physically poke, jab or kick her with fingers or foot? Does she force Mazza to the floor in a so-called 'alpha roll'?
How does your roommate's discipline differ from your discipline? It sounds like Mazza is very intimidated by your roommate, which concerns me. This may end up being a difficult conversation to have as some (or a lot) of this discipline may be happening when you're not present - like out on those walks, which would explain the submissive behavior immediately upon returning from a walk. I don't want to presume without knowing. And your roommate may be hesitant to be honest if you're too confrontational.
Even if your roommate isn't being physically disciplinary, there is something in the way they interact with Mazza that makes Mazza very nervous. The best way to address this - if fixing the relationship is the desired outcome - would be for your roommate to go out of her/his way to become friends with Mazza.
Your roommate should do all the feeding. They should practice positive reinforcement obedience training with Mazza (some book titles below, if you haven't done any such training yourself), she/he should spend time being quiet and sweet with Mazza, playing games with Mazza, etc. And all discipline should be reexamined and adjusted so it's no longer scaring your dog. If you provide some specific examples of "misbehavior" and consequential discipline, I'll be able to walk you through a better way to respond (and why) to help Mazza learn to not do those things without making her nervous.
As it is for now, make sure that NOBODY scolds or in any way punishes her for these potty mistakes. I don't think these are potty training accidents. I think these are clear communication of Mazza's nervousness in that situation, and if you punish the dog for saying she's nervous, you really only succeed in making her more nervous and increasing the potential of a future nervous pee to happen.
If it happens, make a mental note, count to 10, distract Mazza with another activity and then clean the pee up and spray some Simple Solution Pet Stain and Odor Remover
onto the area and let it air dry. If this is on hard floor, then simply mist the area and let it dry. If it's on carpet, you'll need to blot up the pee, then spray to saturate the entire area with the Simple Solution, let it sit for about 15 minutes and then blot up the excess so it's not squishy, and then let the rest air dry. Simple Solution contains a live bacteria that literally eats/digests the enzymes in the pee that make it smell like pee, which will reduce the chances of Mazza coming across it later and thinking that it's an OK potty spot because it smells like potty. Most other products do not have the bacteria, but some do. So, if you can't find the Simple Solution, read the ingredient list on whatever product you're contemplating. If there is no ingredient list, skip it. If it's just enzymes, skip it. If it says "friendly bacteria" or "nonpathogenic bacteria" - that's what you're looking for.
Books for positive reinforcement training to build your bond and for your roommate to build her/his bond with Mazza...
101 Dog Tricks: Step by Step Activities to Engage, Challenge and Bond with Your Dog
by Kyra Sundance
Totally Positive Training for Undoing Unhelpful Behaviors
by Jennifer Scott
On Talking Terms with Dogs - Calming Signals
by Turid Rugaas. I recommend this book to every client. It describes and explains a multitude of subtle canine communication behaviors that you may be entirely unaware of. Once you know what you're looking for, you'll find that Mazza is communicating with you all day long. This may also help you figure out exactly what/when she becomes nervous - before she feels the need to pee in an effort to defuse tension and avoid conflict...
If you'd like to reply to this email (using the followup button) and provide more insight about Mazza's relationship with your roommate and how your roommate interacts with Mazza, I'd be glad to provide thoughts on that. Otherwise, good luck. I hope this information and these books prove helpful.
Jody, CPDT-KA, APDT
Los Angeles Behvaiorist