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Canine Behavior/Holding urine/questionable fear of backyard


QUESTION: Hi Jill. I first would like to thank you for any insight you can give me.  Background info:  We have 6 dogs. Elliott-Maltese 12 years, Willow - Cavalier KC 8 years, Henry-Chihuahua 5 years, Lillimae-Chihuahua 3 years, Sunny-Chi/Min Pin 2 years, and Quincy-Chihuahua 6 months. We have had everyone since they were 8 weeks of age, with the exception of Sunny, who is a rescue, whom we have had since December of 2013. She is the reason why I am writing to you.
Our understanding from what we were told is that Sunny was dumped in a lady's backyard by her previous owner.  We were told that this particular lady took in all stray dogs and that Sunny was 1 among 25-30 dogs. It was not known how long it took before this lady realized that she had a "new addition". She stayed there for approx 3 mos before this woman was reported for neglect and the local rescue foundation became involved.
We adopted Sunny when she was nearly a year old. At the time we got her, we were told by her foster mother that she "pottied" in her backyard just fine.  This obviously ended up not being the case.  
All of our other dogs go out in the backyard, while supervised and do all their business. Initially, we also tried putting Sunny out w the other guys, but found she would hold it and sneak off and go in our on a blanket we had down for the dogs to lie on.  We realize this is our fault for not observing more closely and relying on what we were told by the rescue org.  Having said that, we then removed all the blankets and started taking her on her leash to do her business.  Eventually, 25-30 min later, most times, she would go. If not, we would repeat the walk in 30 min or so later, until success.  
So, in a "hopeful" perfect world we enlisted the help of a local trainer to get insight in helping Sunny learn to go outside with the others.  He felt she was holding out due to fear and suggested offering numerous backyard outings (one on one)with massive praise and treats with success combined with crate training.
We are on week 4 of training.  I have seen improvement and she will urinate and poo out back, but with hesitancy and inconsistency.  We have only had 1 slip up during this time frame. (Husband thought I was watching her, I thought he was) She is on the strictest of observation and is now never "left to roam" My question is how can I help her to continue to grow in her security?  Example, She peed last night at 9pm and it is now 11:15 am the following day.  I have taken her out back 3 times since 9 am and she still has yet to do anything.  I have never seen a dog hold urine and stool for as long as she can.  Help :-)

ANSWER: First: congratulations on being superlative Humans.

Second: you have many dogs, this is a complex "pack" with a complex social hierarchy.

This particular bitch may feel quite low in that hierarchy and feel inhibited (unable) to "mark over" the scent in the ground of your other dogs.  So we must take her somewhere the other dogs cannot "go".

Also, she might be the product of a dam (mother) under considerable stress who was unable to teach her puppies to leave the whelping area, unable to keep it clean for whatever reason, and so all her puppies have house training issues.

What we must do here is take a new approach:  NO CRATING (this further demotes her in social hierarchy and, unless she SEEKS THE CRATE HERSELF to "den and nap", it is a PUNISHMENT).  Put her on long very lightweight leash and take her out another door to a place (you choose) every single opportunity (at least four times daily: after waking (let's say 7:30AM) four hours later, four hours after that, before bedtime.  Feed her twice daily on as strict a schedule as you can (first thing in the morning and again mid-afternoon) and this should produce defecation first thing every morning, and second walk (sometimes third if first is large production) so you can be ready for extra time outside, encouraging calmly.  Carry treats: chopped up hot dogs or string cheese.  As she is eliminating, calmly and softly praise and the moment she is done, pop a few treats into her mouth AND PICK UP THE STOOL (this is a signal her dam would have given her that she was behaving appropriately since the dam always cleans up after the neonates, if she can).  Maintain as strict and fair a schedule as you can.

Indoors: go to a pet supply store and fit her for a diaper.  Now, my experience is that there is not one single doggie diaper available that doesn't require "help" (meaning, strapping tape).  NO bitch will repeatedly soil her diaper since this goes against her own instincts.  She will have "accidents"....take her out if you see she has had one, leave the diaper on the ground calmly, go back indoors.  If she has defecation "accidents", put her on leash calmly with a happy attitude, pick up the poop in her sight with a happy attitude, take her to her "place" outdoors, put it down, praise her.  If and when she defecates in that place, pick it up happily after offering a small treat or two (carry it inside and flush it out of her sight).  This is exactly the behavior her dam would offer when she was a neonate (the dam always cleans up after her puppies).

Meanwhile: observe this particular bitch in your "pack" structure.  When you are greeted, who is who in the lineup?  Do other members of your "pack" bully her, shove her aside, force her out of her resting place(s)?  Try to determine who is who in your "pack" and this will help to make her feel more secure.

Eventually, within weeks, you will segue into the space the other dogs use to eliminate, still keeping this one on leash. At that point, use followup feature to report your progress and observations.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you for your insight. I have a few follow-up comments and questions. I'm going to address them in the order of your response.  
We live in a condo and the backyard is really the only area in "our homesite" that she can go.  We live in Florida and the front yard area is a pool surrounded by shrubs followed by a 5 foot concrete wall. So, I'm limited there.
With regards to her crate, she actually goes in there by herself ALOT and also is joined at times by the youngest member.  They are very close and play and sleep  together quite often.
The suggestion on feeding will only work on my days off.  Otherwise, we all work during the day, preventing an afternoon feeding. ( Usually fed at 7 am and 5-6 pm)
I have tried the string cheese, lean turkey bits and apple (her all time fave) and she won't eat anything while in the backyard.  She spits it out every time.
With regards to the diaper, Am I to leave it on her all day while we are at work? Will this confuse her?  One of my largest concerns is her developing a urinary tract infection or the like from not going during the window of opportunity she has in the morning hours before we leave for work.

With regard to hierarchy, she is near the top.  She is currently challenging the Maltese who is the patriarch for his spot on the couch/bed.  I have to remove her from the situation and focus her on a toy or something to prevent it from escalating. She definitely is not passive.
So... based on this, do you feel the same?

There's something about the "back yard" that is putting this dog under serious stress.  A dog that won't "bait" (accept very, very high value treats) is a dog in a fight/flight situation that is the result of a conditioned fear response.  The situation in your home regarding social hierarchy is equally problematic since the Maltese, being male, should (and Maltese can be known for temperament flaws) acquiesce to any bitch (intact or spayed).  The crate appears to be her natural "denning" space but being absolutely confined (without freedom to leave) changes that situation AND affects her placement in social hierarchy.  When you say you must "remove her from the situation" during her efforts to confront the Maltese, you are describing a serious problem that may very well have nothing to do with what's going on outside.  I can't see anything from here.

I suggest you find a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (NOT a dog trainer! Be certain there are educational credentials, references - including a veterinarian - and check them) from the following sites or by calling the veterinary college in your immediate geographical area:

"Eyes on" is almost always essential in a multiple dog household and in your household it is absolutely required.

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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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