Maggie is a beautiful, friendly ten-month-old Mastiff Staffie mix. Unfortunately, Maggie pees and poops in the house.
Family members are at their wits’ end. The man gets home first and is often met by puddles, sometimes both pees and poops. His understandable reaction is to be very cross.
Maggie is impervious to scolding. Zeus, their other Staffie mix, creeps off to his bed. He immediately picks up that the man isn’t pleased though I’m sure he won’t know why.
Maggie lacks general impulse control in many ways – particularly where pees and poops are concerned. She wants to jump up? Maggie jumps up. She wants to pee? Maggie pees. She wants to move in on Zeus’, food? She does it.
Maggie is largely driven by arousal. For this reason, lowering her excitement levels is key to her gaining some self-control, particularly where both indoor pees and poops along with jumping up is concerned.
Stress itself can make dogs pee. Stress and excitement make dogs drink a lot; drinking a lot makes dogs pee.
Key also to success is getting her brain to focus. We did this beautifully using a clicker for feet on the floor and for desired behaviour. She concentrated for short spells of time.
Then she spoilt it all.
The excitement of a new person in the house and things being a bit different resulted in the dogs erupting into play fighting. In front of us, Maggie squatted and peed on the carpet.
They got Maggie at fifteen weeks of age, before which she had never been outside. Already doing pees and poos indoors was well established – a learned behaviour. Now they must help her to break that habit.
So far their emphasis has been on try to stop her doing it. Their method clearly doesn’t work.
Now they will concentrate on showing her what they do want instead.
Breaking the habit
When the family is at home, the dogs have run of the house. Maggie’s favourite place for her pees and poops is the landing at the top of the stairs. Her second favourite place is on their young daughter’s bed.
The first step is a no-brainer now – and until they have reliably broken the habit. They will gate the stairs. They will make the environment impossible for her to go in these places.
Now they will go back to the beginning. They will take her out every hour until she has got the message. We discussed a family rota.
Simply sending her out won’t do. Each person must accompany her.
Pees and poops on the grass
They need to continually show her exactly where she should go. They should strongly reinforce pees and poops on the grass with special food that she gets at no other time. I suggest chicken. Performing only outside will become particularly rewarding for this food-motivated dog.
They will drop it on the grass in front of her as she finishes so that there is no mistaking ‘toileting anywhere for ‘toileting outside on the grass’.
Finally they can put it on cue, pairing the action of doing pees and poops with words like Quick-Quick and then dropping the chicken. She will learn to go on command.
After she has performed, they should hang about for a short while. If she thinks that toileting always ends the fun, she may hold it in.
Our other work using a clicker should really motivate Maggie to use her brain and think before she acts – working things out for herself.
Finally, as it’s both pees and poops, it’s unlikely to be the same medical problem and two separate problems would be a big coincidence. However, if after four weeks or so of sticking to the whole plan things don’t improve, they need to take her to the vet again.