Pet Info

Inappropriate Urination & Defecation

It is rare to find an elimination disorder that is not due to either:

Medical conditions

Incomplete housetraining

This dog is older than 6 months and has always occasionally eliminated inside. This happens regardless of the presence or absence of the owner or a change in their schedule (that is, whether the dog is left for 12 hours or two hours). The dog has never has a period of at least four weeks where it has not eliminated inside.

These dogs eliminate inside because they have a disregard for substrate, prefer the substrate of their puppyhood (eg newspaper) or they have learned to like the substrate because frequent accidents have impregnated it with a stimulating smell.

Rehomed dogs of uncertain history may be prone to incomplete housetraining. Dogs will develop their own substrate preferences if they can not access the substrate that the owner prefers.

Insufficient access to appropriate elimination area

This dog has been housetrained however a change in owner’s schedule results in the dog no longer having access to its usual elimination area or not at the usual times. Older dogs or those with debilitating medical conditions will cope less well with a change in routine.

The dog may be prevented access to its normal elimination place by the presence of noises,people or other animals it is concerned about. These dogs will seek a new substrate or surface from necessity and can then develop a preference for this substrate in the future.

Substrate preference

Dogs develop toileting substrate preferences from 7 to 8 weeks of age. Owners can influence this preference with housetraining as described in Toilet Training.

The longer a substrate preference exists the harder it is to change so it is best to encourage the owner’s preference from an early age. A problem with substrate preference usually occurs when either the dog has accidentally used an inappropriate surface then developed a preference for it or the dog has been acquired with the inappropriate preference already in place, for example, dogs kept in shelters in concrete runs.

A preference can be changed by monitoring, startling the inappropriate behaviour and rewarding the desired behaviour.

Clients may also have a problem with dogs that have no preference and no inhibition. They may have been strays, free roaming or kennelled dogs. Not all dogs “know” where to eliminate. These dogs need to be taught to have a substrate preference.

Anxiety and in particular separation anxiety

Separation anxiety is diagnosed in cases where the dog eliminates inside only when he does not have access to people or one person to whom he is particularly attached. This dog never eliminates inside when the owners are present whether or not there is a change in schedule.

There are no detectable medical conditions and the dog is housetrained.

In addition the dog may also show one or more of the following behaviours in the absence of the owner:

This condition and its treatment is described in Separation Anxiety.

Marking behaviour

Male leg cocking behaviour is facilitated by hormones, learnt and social factors. It will be decreased by castration but not completely eliminated. Females will also urine mark and both males and females will mark with faeces.

Firstly the stimulus to the marking behaviour needs to be identified. If the dog is dominant type dog then monitoring, removing or altering a relationship with the stimulus or cue, startling and dissuading of the inappropriate behaviour and positive reinforcement of desirable behaviour will be the treatment of choice.

If the dog is marking because it is unsure, anxious or fearful then it may benefit from some anxiety-lowering medication.

Submissive urination

Other signs of submission include; sitting, hanging head, exposing groin, rolling onto back, tucking the tail, retracting and flexing the forelimbs, turning the head and salivating. These clients should encourage their dogs to DEFER to them rather than SUBMIT.

Ignore submissive behaviour and attempt to avoid situations where the dog urinates. These can be reintroduced when the dog is more confident.

Reinforce other behaviours such as sitting and looking as described in Providing Stability and Security.

Use the desensitisation methods described in Small Steps Towards a Final Goal.

Start with an empty bladder and some basic commands then gradually reintroduce the situations that previously stimulated urination. In severe cases anxiety-reducing medications may help in combination with behaviour modification may help.

As an added benefit, the tricyclic antidepressants such as Clomicalm have secondary anticholinergic effects that may result in increased bladder and sphincter tone.

Excitement urination

These dogs are usually young and exuberant and they will often grow out of this behaviour.

The owner should take the dog for frequent walks to ensure the bladder stays relatively empty. They also need to address the excitability with exercises to encourage relaxation in excitable circumstances.

Behaviour needs to be ignored in some circumstances and the environment needs to be enriched with toys and games and plenty of physical exercise.

See also...
Providing Stability and Security
Dogs with Energy to Burn

Elimination associated with fear

Reflex contraction of bladder and colon muscles can occur with a fearful experience.

Other signs of fear will probably be present- increased heart rate, increases respiratory rate, mydriasis, piloerection, salivation, shivering, distal limb contraction, avoidance and catatonia.

Fear needs to be treated by increasing confidence, desensitising to fearful stimuli and anxiety-reducing medication.

Attention-seeking behaviour

Different dogs require different levels of attention to satisfy their individual needs.

Some dogs will learn ways to get attention from their owners or others, to help them satisfy these needs. This attention can be positive or negative.

Some dogs will learn that if they squat inside this elicits a response. This behaviour will usually occur in the presence of the owner and the dog will eliminate outside at other times. Dogs with Energy to Burn and Providing Stability and Security information sheets provide tips for reducing these behaviours.

Geriatric or oestrogen-dependent incontinence or Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Spayed females or older dogs may leak urine while asleep or relaxed.

Dogs diagnosed with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction may urinate indiscriminately. Other changes may include altered sleep cycles and inappropriate vocalisation.

It is rare to find an elimination disorder that is not management related, due to an underlying medical cause or socially stimulated.