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Canine Behavior/Otherwise Relaxed Dog Urinates in the House When I'm Gone


My dog Sherlock has what I would call moderate separation anxiety. When he is home alone, he doesnít chew, destroy, bark, cry, or whineÖ but if I leave him home by himself for more than an hour, 90% of the time, he urinates. Itís always in the SAME place in the hallway (even though we always washed, steam clean, and remove the scent).

Sherlock was a rescue that came with his own little bundle of anxiety issues that, for the most part, we have resolved. We just cannot seem to fix the urination. Iíve tried exercising him hard before I leave the house, de-sensitizing him to me getting ready (putting my makeup on, getting my jacket and keys, etc), pushing his nose in it when I get back, teaching him tricks and commands to build his overall confidence, leaving him one of those complex puzzle toys with his favorite foods in it (which he doesnít touch until I get home, and then he goes to town on it), and leaving a puppy pad on the floor in the hallway where he usually pees. Nothing has worked. Iíve gotten him to a place where the act of me leaving doesnít stress him out seemingly at allÖ but at some point, while Iím gone, he simply urinates.

Here is what I know about his history: he was born in West Virginia, and dropped off at a shelter within his first year. When he arrived at that shelter, he was violent, aggressive, and anxious. They were going to euthanize him, but a border collie rescue group picked him up. He bounced from foster home to foster home for a year or two before he finally came to me. He is a VERY relaxed (pretty lazy) dog who HATES the outdoors. He goes outside to pee and poop, stays twenty seconds, and then runs back in the house. His anxiety issues are minimal to none inside the house, but as soon as he takes a step outside, heís on high alert, and acts as though every sound is terrifying to him.

Let me just say that Sherlock isnít going anywhere. He is with me for life. If he pees in the house every single day until the day he dies, thatís fine. Iíll deal with it. Iím not sure there has ever been a dog as loved as this dog is by me. He is a piece of me, and thereís no way I will ever turn him away for something as menial as urinating in the house. HoweverÖ it would be really nice to have a solutionÖ

GOOD FOR YOU, GREAT JOB!  You took a dog with aggression/fear issues and you are turning him into the perfect companion.

Two solutions I would like you to use starting as soon as you can get to a pet supply store:

1.  Purchase a "washable coverup" or "belly band".  This will prevent the dog from successfully eliminating past his body and dogs do NOT want to be close to urine.  Put this on him even when you are at home so he does NOT associate it with your leaving the home.

2.  FEED HIM (optimally twice daily, if possible, splitting his full daily portion of food: 2/3 AM, 1/3 late afternoon), ON THE SPOT he has chosen to urinate.  

Do this for ONE WEEK.  Report back using followup feature, please, and tell me if you see any progress.  Now: his anxiety outdoors may be related to having "run" the "streets" or forcibly contained outdoors in inhumane conditions and then dumped (either into the kill shelter or out onto the street).  His anxiety might be related to his retention of some urine.  Observe his urination outdoors, be sure he is emptying his bladder and NOT using little bits of urine to "mark".  Carry a small treat; if and when he appears to have made a substantial urination, as he FINISHES, calmly say "good pee", do not bend over him, hold out the treat in front of his face within a second or two and let him eat it.  IF you see him "marking" (see if any urine comes OUT), do not reward.  We will go further into this if necessary.

Never push a dog's nose into urine or feces: you are destroying trust between you and the dog and confusing him.  He does not "remember" that he urinated there (although he does smell the urine no matter how well you clean it and NEVER use clorox), but he may develop a general anxiety to urine and then you have a serious house training issue in the making.

Don't forget, please: report back!  Thank you.

Canine Behavior

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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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