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Canine Behavior/dog peeing in house


QUESTION: We have 2 dogs, both we had before our kids were born.  They used to be our babies but unfortunately now that we have 2 kids they are just the dogs now.  They are constantly peeing in the house.  They will go out and do their business and 20 minutes later they will pee in the house.  Last night the one dog peed 3x in an hour (they were just taken out too).  We aren't sure what to do anymore!  Any advice on how to correct their behavior would be appreciated!

ANSWER: I ask you kindly to answer some questions before I can help you:

1.  How old are the dogs
2.  What sex are the dogs and are they neutered/spayed
3.  What do you mean by "just the dogs" have you changed your attitude toward them
4.  How old are your children and are they allowed free, unsupervised, interaction with your dogs
5.  WHERE do your dogs urinate in the house and how do you know which dog is initiating this
6.  What do YOU DO when you find the urine or see the dog urinating

I can help you but I need a great deal more info, as well as anything else you can think of.  Please re-post your answers, 1 through 6, in FOLLOWUP FEATURE so I can recognize your situation.  Thank you.

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

QUESTION: The dogs are 7 and 9 years old.  The 7yr old is a female and the 9yr old is a male and both are neutered.  When I mean just dogs, I mean we don't give them the same kind of attention as we did before children.  Our kids are 4 and 1.  They are rarely left unsupervised with the dogs.  They tend to pee in spots we won't see right away, it varies though not the same spot.  When they pee in the house we will tap their bottom or gate them in the same room as when we aren't home.

Best educated guess: ONE of your dogs is peeing, the other is peeing "over" it.  You can check this easily by adding red food coloring to the food of ONE dog and not the other.  The chance is good that you will find "marking" with red tint very obviously present.  You can also add green food coloring to the other dog's food, in which case (if one dog is marking over the other) you will see a much different "color" than plain red tint.

Physical punishment and confinement DO NOT WORK and are extremely confusing to the dog(s).  Unless you catch a dog in the ACT (in which case, you clap your hands, whistle, do anything but YELL, take the dog out on leash and wait for urination, praise heavily and pop a treat into the dog's mouth), the dog has no idea what s/he is being punished for.  In fact, the dog does not connect his own behavior to the punishment but may connect the presence of urine to your anger.  Since your 1 year old is in diapers, a dog may have begun to generalize the scent of human urine to his own punishment and your anger, thereby increasing his anxiety and increasing his marking behavior.

First: observe both dogs closely over the next few days.  Which one greets you first, lies in the most privileged "spots" in the home (top of stairs, doorways which require you to walk around the dog, at your feet so you can't get up without stepping over the dog; which dog shows obviously higher placement in social hierarchy: THAT dog is most likely marking over the other dog's urination.  

Second:  Put both dogs on a moderate Nothing In Life Is Free program.  Be certain the "top dog" is the first to be greeted, fed, petted, etc.  Once you think you understand their social hierarchy, ask each dog, in turn (top dog first) to "sit" before being taken out, brought back in, fed, petted, played with, etc.  Keep this NILIF up for about two months.  It will help both dogs to relax; it will put the "top dog" literally in a higher social rank than the other (which should help both dogs relax), and it will give you a better relationship with both dogs.  You must make time for your dogs, even with young children.  A walk with both of them once a day, even if it is for a block or two, is helpful.  Teaching your dogs to "take it, leave it, find it" is fun for them, for you, and will help your four year old to understand how to interact with the dogs.  See this:

Dr. Ian Dunbar has MANY training tips, videos and problem solving articles for free on his web site, from which the above video was taken.

Now: when a human lives with a dog and treats that dog like a "child", the dog always suffers.  Then, suddenly, another person appears (dogs do not recognize young children and babies as like us unless they are heavily socialized to same from a very young age) and the dog is "left behind".  This is very difficult, very punishing and confusing, for most dogs.  On top of this situation, your dogs are aging (going into their elder years) and some cognition loss might be occurring.

I don't know what size your dogs are, I assume they are opposite sex: using a belly band will prevent the male from successfully urinating in the house.  If the female is the culprit and the male is marking over her, there are sites online that sell special garments which also prevent urination by a female.  These work by retaining the urine against the dog's body, something the dog will quickly learn to avoid.

Don't allow the dogs free run of the house; keep them in the room you are in (except the bedrooms, they should be sleeping together in the kitchen area on comfortable beds).  The variation of "spots" (rather than several "favorite" spots) makes it difficult to deter the behavior (by feeding the dogs ON THE SPOT, literally, where the urine was found), but you can certainly DO this every day.  If you find a spot, feed the dogs on, or close to, the spot.  

Meanwhile: GO OUT with your dogs to re-establish appropriate house training behavior.  Praise lavishly when either dog urinates.  I suggest you also talk to your veterinarian; inappropriate urination can be a sign of various things (kidney disease, urinary tract infection, diabetes, etc.)  In a multiple dog household, when one dog urinates, the rest of the "pack" will mark over that spot.  It's most likely one dog that is the "problem".  A behavioral approach takes time and patience but it should also be done with a veterinary examination to rule out physical problems.

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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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