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Canine Behavior/Stress Accidents Solution?


Hi, Jill,

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions!

I have a 2-3-year-old Corgi/Spaniel rescue, whom I've had for a little over a year and a half. He has some anxiety and isolation issues, and since he was nearly (if not already) a year old when I adopted him, housetraining was a miserable feat, but overall it seems that the only times he has accidents these days are if he's too excited, and it's usually only a tiny bit.

For the first seven months, it was just me and him, but about a year ago, I entered into a relationship. He comes over at least four times a week, and he and my dog really love each other.

However, about three months in, he had three nights in a row of accidents in places he knew we wouldn't see him doing it (mostly it was in the kitchen while our backs were turned.) This has happened on and off for the past year.

Even this past week, he had two accidents. Both were at times when we weren't giving him our full attention, but instead were having a conversation or watching something on TV. One even happened a mere hour after he'd last been on a walk. We play with him and give him tons of attention, but it seems like if we turn away even for a moment, he walks over to his "go-to" place (this time, in a location he knows we'll see it) and pees.

I know that punishing these accidents won't help, and that even though it seems like a spiteful way to get back at us for not giving him our full attention, it's more likely caused by the stress of having to share me.

He's very attached to me, even though I try to socialize him as much as possible and teach him to be more independent. If it's just me and him, he never has accidents, no matter how much I ignore him to do my work.

Now we're stressed about the prospect of always having to clean up accidents every time we want to do anything. We don't want to punish him, but we know that something needs to be done. I reward him for going outside, and keep him on a (relatively) regular schedule. He knows that it's not okay and slinks into the corner when he's done.

What can we do??

The Corgi seems especially prone (from my personal experience) to fear and shyness.  The "accident" of urinating a "little" is called submissive urination.  

First: you must put this dog on a strict schedule of going out: four times daily AT LEAST to begin with (no more than five at his age) and (calmly) verbally praise him for his full urination (with tiny treat after praise).  Do NOT allow him to "mark" (that means: lift his leg or urinate multiple times when it is obvious "nothing comes out").

Second: You must FEED this dog on his "favorite" spot for "accidents" twice daily (or, if you are free feeding,put his bowl there).  The dog will choose NOT to urinate where he eats (a normal behavior in the dog culture).

Third:  I suggest you use the following protocol to reduce his separation anxiety but, remember, you have changed environments and "your" other dog is present: this complicates issues so the other dog must also be put on this regimen:

1.  You can create an emotional independence in the dog by conditioning a "time out" article.
Simply place the chosen article (something you don’t use for any other purpose, like an odd garden statue) in full view of the dog every day for thirty minutes to one hour and call a "time out", during which you actively ignore the dog.  When you remove the article, reward the dog with praise, but don’t overdo it.  Over the course of two weeks, your dog will begin to recognize the article and begin to acknowledge your unavailability (many dogs go to a corner to lie down, or their favorite couch spot, etc.)  Once you observe your dog’s recognition of the article, put it in plain sight about ten minutes before leaving the house (but NOT in the room the dog is confined to, the dog will lose its conditioned response.)  In other words, use the article as a CUE to the dog that you are not available.

2.  Make your dog earn everything for about one month, including pats, entering/leaving the home, etc.  (This is called “Nothing in life is free”.)  You will be promoting yourself psychologically, which will help the dog to feel calmer.

3.  Purchase Turid Rugaas' book, “On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming signals” or go to her web site  Observe the dog’s behaviors before you depart to determine if your departure rituals are creating anxiety.  Use calming signals just before leaving the house WITHOUT saying “goodbye” to the dog (which can set the dog up for emotional distress.)  Dogs instantly respond to these signals and you’ll begin to see that response immediately.

4.  Change your departure rituals so you do not inadvertently "cue" your dog.  This means doing things differently EVERY day during treatment (which should last about two to four weeks.)  If you put your coat on last, put your coat on five minutes before you actually leave the house; if you pick up your keys last, put them in your pocket ten minutes before leaving the house, etc.  Again, given two weeks (at least) of this treatment, along with the others, your dog’s extreme sensitivity to your departure rituals should diminish and/or extinguish.  When you RETURN home, ignore the dog for a few seconds, and then ask the dog to “sit” and acknowledge him/her; keep your homecoming attention short and sweet.  If there is any destruction around (torn objects, etc.) IGNORE IT.  What you don’t want is the dog to fear your RETURN as much as s/he fears your leave taking.  

5.  Do not allow the dog free “run” of the house when you are gone; this places a heavy emotional burden to “protect” on the dog, and might increase stress (which accounts for excessive barking!) Put the dog in a protected space (kitchen, well ventilated and spacious laundry area,  etc., NOT the basement or the garage), or use a crate large enough for him/her to get up and turn around, and only use it for short periods of time.  Keep “special” toys there the dog doesn’t have at any other time, like a “kong” with a ½ teaspoon of peanut butter, a Buster Cube which holds a portion of the dog's daily food and which the dog will roll around to obtain it, a squeaky toy, etc. The dog will begin to anticipate this treat and associate it with your leaving the house.  Try using sound technology especially designed for dogs, as seen on Amazon:

Dogs that have been rehomed often develop separation anxiety; dogs that have been heavily bonded to a person that is then “lost” (not seen again for whatever reason) can suffer serious anxiety at the leave taking of the “new” human caregiver; dogs that have moved with their human family to a totally foreign environment are emotionally “lost” and may develop separation problems.  Some dogs are generally anxious or high strung and have a greater tendency toward emotional distress.  Ask your veterinarian if your dog may benefit from a course of medication while you are using behavior modification to change his/her separation related problem behaviors.  This medication should NOT be SSRIs (“doggy Prozac”) or in the class of drugs known as benzodiazepines, which inhibit learning.   There are several medications that are presently being used to treat severe separation anxiety, but remember that all medications have side effects.  Be certain to check the web site and observe your dog carefully for potential side effects, especially harmful ones, and report these to the Vet immediately.

This behavior modification protocol and your re-training attempt, as described earlier, will take weeks.  It IS possible to prevent this dog from physically urinating indoors if you purchase belly bands, but the "other" dog may ALSO be a culprit (you simply don't know).

Let's give both dogs a few weeks on the protocol; report back using followup feature.  Never, ever "punish" or show ANY DISPLEASURE if you find a 'puddle'.  Clean it up (no Clorox) out of the dog's sight.

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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