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Miniature Poodle sneak in four or five wet spots on the carpet a week

Six weeks ago we adopted a 4-year-old Miniature Poodle. She quickly learned to use our dog door and did her business appropriately outside for the first week. Then she started wetting on the carpet in the living room. She is never alone . . . either my husband or I are always home. We started escorting her out every few hours as a reminder, but she still manages to sneak in four or five wet spots on the carpet a week.

The dog is brilliant, healthy and definitely knows better. . . . It's a psychological thing or a game that's going on. This is her fourth home. We don't know much about her past, but she has been debarked, unfortunately, somewhere along the way. She seems emotionally fragile, so we have refrained from doing much negative disciplining and always praise and reward her when she goes outside appropriately.

We are trying to be very sensitive to her and make her feel secure, loved and welcomed into our quiet home. She is the only dog in the house and is allowed to be up on all furniture and sleeps with us on our bed. Today she urinated in the middle of our guestroom bed! We're confounded! We've had lots of dogs in the past and have never had a situation like this before. We're afraid this problem of hers might have been the cause of her previous homes not working out. What do you think is happening here; and what can we do?

Your dog is not playing a "psychological game" with you, no matter how much it may seem like she is. Elimination behavior is biologically based, and only develops behavioral aspects once owners start assigning more meaning to it and responding to their incorrect interpretations. The first step with an elimination problem is to rule out possible underlying medical problems. An undiagnosed urinary tract problem or even a seizure disorder could cause spontaneous elimination. Schedule a visit with your veterinarian right away to make sure your dog is totally healthy.

From the behavioral perspective, when it comes to house training, people make mountains out of molehills. Rewards, praise and punishment are really not the primary tools for successful house training. Relief, and locations associated with relief, are. Excessive focus, either positive or negative, and an owner’s emotional over-involvement on a personal level with their dog’s eliminations, can result in a dog developing elimination behavioral problems. During house training, accidents do happen, even when dogs have "free access" to the outdoors, or when they have people home all of the time to tend to them.

Cleaning up the mistake, using an odor-neutralizing product to destroy bacteria, and then using better supervision and restraint help dogs learn a pattern of success regarding eliminating in appropriate, designated locations. But when an unsupervised dog wanders off and eliminates in a slightly remote area of a large home (for all practical purposes going "outside" commonly inhabited areas), the dog experiences immediate positive reinforcement--eliminating offers its own reward in the form of relief. The dog will associate the area with this positive experience, and hard-to-neutralize scents from previous visits work to further increase the likelihood of a repeat performance. Scolding and punishment simply cause aversion to eliminating in the owner’s presence, further increasing the likelihood the dog will wait until it can find a moment alone, most likely indoors.

Another behavioral aspect to indoor elimination can be the result of canine over-dependence. If your dog is uncomfortable spending one minute alone, she may opt not to use the dog door, preferring closer indoor relief locations where she can remain near her new family members. Accompany her outside, to be sure she actually eliminates outdoors. In between visits outside, limit her activities for the next several months to the same room you or your husband are in, at all times. If necessary, tether her to yourself with a leash to prevent her from slipping off for a moment of privacy. If she does go inside, do not draw attention to it. Clean it up, and increase your supervision at the same time the next day.

Meanwhile, counter condition her associations with the areas where she has had accidents. Feed her in those rooms, while she remains under your watchful eye, or sit in there with her and read or just hang out together. As she begins to recognize these areas as part of the living space she shares with you, she will reduce her eliminating behaviors in them if she is physically capable. Be patient; a dog that may have been inappropriately eliminating for four years cannot be expected to suddenly "find religion" overnight.


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