Marking or Housetraining?

When the couple go out, they usually come back to small amounts of yellow pee in various parts of the kitchen.

marking in the house

Buddy – with Marley peeping in the background

Recently this had begun to happen at night too.

So they had gone back to ‘housetraining’ the little terrier with frequent visits to the garden. Adorable Buddy is now two years old.

The only thing that has so far made any difference has been putting him back in his crate at night where he used to sleep when he was younger.

Buddy crated – no urine.

The peeing never happens in the day if people are at home. However, if they go out and leave the two dogs alone for just a short while they come back to urine.  They will be videoing them to see exactly what happens during the day when they are out. Now that Buddy is in his crate during the night there is no urine – so we can be sure the marking is not Marley.

This is not actually a housetraining problem as it never happens when the dogs have access to their humans. The cause of the marking has to be Buddy’s feelings when left.

To compound the problem, it’s only recently that the dogs have been left alone, downstairs in the kitchen, at night time.

It’s not just peeing to empty his bladder. It’s marking.

The other dog, also two years old, is a beautiful Sprocker called Marley. Now left in the kitchen with Buddy at bedtime, he too is very stressed. He cries all night and scratches at the door. He wants to sleep upstairs on their bed like he used to.

The young lady has recently moved into her boyfriend’s house and they have decided that from now on the dogs will sleep downstairs. Previously they had slept on her bed with her – both where she lived previously and upstairs in this house. Now they are shut in the kitchen.

She has left Marley to cry for a couple of nights. This obviously is upsetting and tiring for her but imagine what state the sensitive Marley will be in after a whole night of crying.

Separation is the real problem. Marking is a symptom.

They may, understandably, be cross with Buddy when they come home which can only add to anxiety which is the cause of the whole problem. Because by definition ‘marking’ is about being noticed, in case he does see any connection with their crossness and the marking which is doubtful, they should ignore it and clear up when the dogs are both outside.

Because he has always marked when left alone there is also bound to be an element of habit to it which can now be broken.

Some days the dogs are left home alone in the kitchen for nine hours. Add to this their no longer being allowed in the bedroom for the night, it does mean a lot of time apart from the couple who adore the dogs and want them to be happy.

What can they do?

Buddy and Marley

They will need somehow to make sure the long days are broken up with someone coming in the middle of the day.

Some days the young man has been working from home. He says he will now take them to work in his office when he can. They have friends who may be able to help out on other days.

Left for shorter periods, they can perhaps keep alternating crating Buddy with leaving him free in the kitchen with Marley. When he’s in the crate he won’t pee. Both dogs can be left with a stuffed Kong to work on – something not wise if both are loose together just in case there are arguments over the food. (Take a look at this: Ode to a Kong).

They can also leave toys and other things for them to do. Background music especially created for dogs could help keep them calm.

They can gate the stairs so from now onwards both dogs no longer expect to go upstairs ever again. At present they can still be upstairs in the bedroom with the couple during the day and evening but have to go to the kitchen at night.

There are some other problems we are addressing. Sprocker Marley is constantly active, running about, leaping over things, sniffing and being busy and no doubt needs more to do. The little terrier is noisy, reactive and prone to obsessing over moving shadows and reflections. They have two kittens which over-excite Buddy. General strategies to lower their stress levels along with appropriate healthy stimulation will undoubtedly help with everything.

When people work hard with only so many hours in the day, something somewhere has to give. In this case with the young man is really on board with helping his girlfriend’s dogs and I am sure they will make the changes necessary to give them more healthy mental stimulation, less arousal and less time alone.

 

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle with maybe a bit of poetic licence. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Buddy and Marley and I’ve not gone into exact precise details for that reason. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important, particularly where fear is concerned. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)

Start Off Right With New Puppy

I have just been to a divine ten-week-old Sprocker puppy. The picture doesn’t show how little Digby is.Ten week old new puppy, a Sprocker

They have had him for five days now and have signed up for my Puppy Parenting plan, wanting to get things right from the start with their new puppy, pre-empting as far as is possible any future problems and starting on basic training.

This was my first visit, to set things up.

Already he is nearly house trained with just the occasional accident. They are carrying him outside each time having read somewhere that that’s what they should do. This seems strange to me. If the puppy walks then he will learn the route and routine a lot more quickly and to stand at that door if it’s shut and he wants to go out.

We went through each area of his life to make sure things go off to the best start.

They have chosen to crate train him and he is quite happy to be left alone for short periods, so separation issues later on are unlikely.

Having spoken to me on the phone, they are now upping their socialisation of Digby and acclimatisation to things such as traffic, noises, people of all sorts and ages, other dogs, the car and so on – within the restrictions of being unable to put him down until his injections are finished. He seems a stable and fearless pup.

One thing people do find hard is not to over-excite a puppy when they come home or when friends first meet him.  Another thing that can seem unnatural to people is to constantly be carrying food around with them! Teaching a puppy the behaviours we want using food is so much more effective that trying to teach a puppy what we don’t want using ‘No’ – and a lot kinder too.

Environmental adjustments need to be made for a while – chewable or eatable things removed and maybe people wearing shoes rather than just socks – there is nothing more fun to chase and chew than a socked foot attached to a human who gets excited or shouts ‘No’ when they feel his little teeth!

Most puppies have a ‘bonkers half hour’ and Digby’s seems to be in the morning. I find evening more usual. A puppy may suddenly start to race around like a little tornado, and as he or she gets bigger things can go flying and people may be nipped! The bottled up energy or maybe stress needs to vent somehow and I suggest a carton containing rubbish that he can wreck and things he can chew along with bits of food to forage for.

We looked at the best way to teach Digby ‘Sit’ for starters, more things when he’s fully settled. I don’t like the word ‘command’. I prefer ‘cue’. I showed the lady how to do a little walking around the house with Digby beside her, off lead to start with.

Amongst other things we can pre-empt are any resource guarding behaviours by always doing an exchange and teaching Give from the start. Then the rewarding fun doesn’t come from the chase and eventual scariness of being cornered as the item is forced from the puppy’s mouth.

The gentleman, like many people, may find it a challenge to avoid telling the puppy ‘No’. How else will he learn what’s wrong? There is no ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ to a puppy of course. There are things that make him feel good, things that are boring, and things that make him feel bad. Digby will be exploring his new environment, licking this, chewing that, running about, and then suddenly a loud male human loudly says NO. He may stop in his tracks but I doubt he will know what he’s done that has made his human bark at him.

Some things he can chew, some things he can’t?

It’s so much better to call him away and give him something that he is allowed to chew instead.

Too much ‘No’ can result in a new puppy becoming confused or defiant – or maybe frightened. Digby seems a well-rounded little character and his family are determined to do everything right for him, so thankfully that won’t happen in his case.

 

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle – general puppy parenting in this case. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may well be different to the approach I have worked out for Digby. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can cause confusion. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own puppy (see myGet Help page).

Puppy Parenting. Avoiding Future Problems

When I go to a family who simply want to bring their puppies up right with my Puppy Parenting programme, I feel truly blessed in my job.Benfield

Four month old brothers Ronnie and Teddy are a delightful mix of Bichon Frise and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (Cavachon).

The only problem that impacts on their family at the moment is that the puppies haven’t learnt that outside is the place to toilet. Their chosen place to wee is inside the back door and their chosen place to poo is by the front door. The gentleman made the mistake of telling them off for doing it by the front door so they now do it on the carpet at the bottom of the stairs – perhaps, if they understood anything about it at all, thinking the scolding was about the location, not the act.

What is lacking is sufficient teaching of where they should be going. They aren’t using rewards. If the back door is open it is assumed the dogs will take themselves out. There are things to consider like why, after being accompanied out into the garden, they come straight back in and toilet indoors. When examined there are three very likely reasons. One is that they simply have learnt to go indoors. Another is that they are not rewarded going outside. If the grass is where they should go, then immediately they have been a food reward should be given on the grass. Another possibility is that the puppies will love being outside with their humans so if the job, once completed, results in their humans immediately going straight back indoors, fun finished, then isn’t this another reason for not toileting outside?

I’m sure a couple of weeks of hard work from the whole family will conquer the house training problem, as they take them out very regularly and cut down the puppies’ territory to the kitchen only unless carefully watched.

There are the seeds of a couple of future problems which should be addressed straight away. The puppies are starting to play a little too roughly resulting in recent minor injuries. As the siblings grow older we don’t want them to fight, so rough play needs to be discouraged right now. Little Teddy is already reactive and barking at other dogs on walks, so this needs working on so that he is happy to see another dog and not fearful.

Next time I go, as part of the ‘Puppy Parenting’ programme, we will be looking at more puppy training and teaching them to do a few more useful things, using either luring or clicker training or a mix of both – and rewards of course.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own puppy may be different to the approach I have worked out for Ronnie and Teddy, which is why I don’t go into exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet that are not tailored to your own puppies can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with parenting strategies specific to your own puppy (see my Get Help page).