Monthly Archives: May 2016

How Vets Stop Their Own Dogs From Peeing in the House

By Dr. Becker


You love your dog and everything about him — except, perhaps, his penchant for urinating in the house.  It’s a very common problem with multiple causes and getting to the bottom of why your dog is peeing in the house is essential to stopping the behavior.

Unfortunately, some pet owners give up on their dogs all too soon; up to 25 percent of dogs relinquished to animal shelters by their owners are given up due to housebreaking problems.

Hopefully you understand that, challenging as it may be, you owe it to your dog to work through such issues instead of simply abandoning him.

Fortunately, this isn’t an issue you have to simply learn to live with because, in most cases, your dog can be taught to stop urinating in the house and/or it can be resolved with proper medical treatment or behavioral training.

5 Top Reasons Why Dogs Pee in the House

There are many reasons why your dog may be urinating indoors.  It’s essential to find out your dog’s reason before moving on to remedying it.


Some dogs piddle on the floor when they’re overly excited. This may occur when you come home from work, when a new visitor comes over or while your dog is waiting for a coveted toy, treat or activity (like a walk).

Often, your dog may wiggle, jump and otherwise continue on with his excitement all while urinating.

2.Submission or Fear

Urination can be a submissive behavior your dog displays when he’s scared or overwhelmed.  While submissive urination occurs most often in puppies, it can occur in any age dog, typically after your dog has been scolded or put in an uncomfortable or scary situation.

3.Housetraining Problems

Dogs must learn the appropriate place to go potty.  If your dog hasn’t been taught properly, he may urinate indoors simply because he doesn’t know any better.


Does your dog release small amounts of urine in specific areas around your house, like the corner of your couch or on a pair of shoes you’ve left by the door?  Your dog is marking his territory and asserting or maintaining his social standing in the pack.

Dogs may also overmark or countermark, which is marking over another dog’s urine.  If you have multiple dogs, once one dog starts marking it can trigger marking in the other dogs as well.

5.Medical Issues

Anytime a dog urinates in the house, especially if this is a new behavior, medical problems should be ruled out.  Urinary infections, bladder stones and crystals, cystitis, kidney disease, Cushing’s disease and diabetes are examples of health conditions that may cause your dog to urinate in the house.

Excitement-Related and Submissive Urination Are Behavioral Issues

If your dog urinates due to excitement or submission, this isn’t a housebreaking issue — it’s a behavioral one. In the case of excitement urination, helping your dog learn relaxed behaviors such as lying down or sitting quietly to greet people, can help.

You should also greet your dog calmly (and instruct visitors to do the same) to keep your dog quiet. It may also help to give your dog frequent walks and opportunities for rigorous exercise and play.

This will help him expend some of that exited energy. If you know your dog will be meeting a number of visitors, for a party at your home, for instance, let him make acquaintances outdoors so any accidents will be outdoors too.1

If your puppy displays submissive urination, he may grow out of it. Do not punish your dog for this behavior, as it is a natural method of communication for young dogs; it’s their way of letting you know they’re not challenging “the boss.”

Punishing your dog may actually make submissive urination more frequent and likely to continue into adulthood.

In older dogs, a trainer can help you to teach confidence-building protocols such as targeting his nose to your hand during greetings (this is a more assertive behavior). A positive training class can also improve communication between you and your dog.

You can also cut down on this behavior initially by completely ignoring your dog when you arrive home, then by turning your body sideways during greetings, avoiding direct eye contact and waiting to touch him until he’s settled down.

When you do kneel down to touch him, scratching him under the chin (not on top of the head or back of the neck) may help.2

How to Remedy Housetraining Problems

There are three keys to successful housebreaking, no matter what your dog’s age:

  • Consistency
  • Positive reinforcement
  • Patience

In addition, there are four primary principles that will work to teach virtually any dog the appropriate place to potty, provided you apply the three keys above. They’re explained in detail in my video above but here’s an overview:

  • Stay with your dog at all times. If you leave your dog unattended, it gives him an opportunity to have an accident. For times when you can’t give your full attention to your dog, let him stay in his crate. If your dog is outside the crate, I recommend you clip the leash on your belt buckle, so you can keep a keen eye on him when you’re going about life.
  • Feed your dog on a schedule. This creates a more predictable schedule for when your dog will need to go out.
  • Reward good behavior. When your dog eliminates outdoors, immediately praise him with words (spoken in a soft, loving tone) and offer a treat within three seconds of him finishing his job.
  • Avoid punishing accidents. Yelling at your dog for a mistake will not teach him appropriate behaviors; it will only confuse him, scare him and possibly make the problem worse.

What to Do If Your Dog Marks Indoors

This is another behavioral issue that can be challenging to correct, but it’s entirely possible. Positive reinforcement behavior training is key to stop urine marking in the house, and this is the strategy I used for my dachshund rescue Lenny — who marked the corner of every piece of furniture in our home when we first brought him home.

To reduce this totally undesirable behavior and reinforce healthy housebreaking, we put a belly band on him. We called it his loincloth (and Lenny became known as “Lenny Loincloth”). A belly band is a little diaper that holds a dog’s penis to his abdomen.

Dogs innately do not want to urinate on themselves; they want to pee and mark on objects. By belly banding him, we reinforced good behavior like going potty outside and not marking in the house. I’m proud to say that in one month’s time, this strategy helped him kick his marking habit for the most part. Constant positive reinforcement was really necessary with Lenny, as it is with all dogs.

If You’re Not Sure Why Your Dog Is Urinating Indoors, Have Him Checked by a Vet

There are a number of medical reasons why a dog may urinate indoors, and it’s important to rule these out if your dog is urinating indoors and you’re not sure why. If your dog has been housebroken her whole life then suddenly begins peeing in the house, it’s safe to say there’s probably a medical issue that needs to be identified and treated.

Diabetes, kidney disease, Cushing’s disease, bladder infection or bladder stones can all cause urination issues, as can certain brain diseases that cause your dog to forget his housetraining skills. A trip to your veterinarian will be necessary in this case to get any necessary medical care.

If medical issues are ruled out, you can then assume the problem is largely behavioral and proceed with the appropriate positive reinforcement strategies. You may want to seek the help of a professional for indoor-urination issues, and please don’t give up or turn to negative, fear-based punishment that usually makes the situation worse.

With the correct and consistent behavior modification, most dogs can learn to relieve themselves appropriately outdoors and in the rare cases when they cannot the use of piddle pads, pet gates and belly bands can protect your home from being soiled.

* * * * * * *

Source:  Dr. Becker

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The Ugly Truth about Animal Shelters

** Warning: this is a departure from my typical blog post.  However, anyone who knows me well at all, knows there are two things I’m passionate about: God and animals.  You might find this post unpleasant or perhaps, dare I say, offensive …. but there’s nothing pleasant about this subject.
You’ve been warned. **  – Source

An article caught my eye the other day.  It told the story of a vet, Jian Zhicheng, who worked at an animal shelter in Taiwan.  She had euthanized 700 animals in two years – many of whom were healthy and perfectly adoptable.  The fact was there was no space to keep them and no one to want them.  She worked hard to promote adoption over buying.  But animal rights activists threatened her and called her a butcher.

She took her own life.  Distraught by the overwhelming burden of euthanizing animals who have nowhere else to go and being labeled nothing short of a killer by her fellow humans, she injected herself with euthanasia drugs from the shelter.

This story hit me hard.  Anger swelled inside me: this woman’s life has needlessly ended.  She took on the weight of other people’s criticism, the weight of solving a problem that came to feel insurmountable.  The problem that Jian Zhicheng faced is one that many, many shelters in our own country face daily.  Too many animals, not enough homes.

Having worked in animal shelters, I have heard no end of criticism of the “kill shelter.”  I have seen the distrustful glint in the eyes of the public and even volunteers.  I guarantee that if you’re an average member of the public, you hear the words ‘kill shelter’ and a shiver runs down your spine.  You automatically think of a horrible place filled with horrible people that murder animals rather than try to find them a home.

Let’s break it down, okay?

Kill shelters are in truth open admission shelters.  An open admission shelter is required to take in whatever animal crosses its doorstep.  Let’s say they have space for 100 dogs and 100 cats.   On Monday, they start out the week with 80 dogs and 80 cats.  Someone comes in to surrender their 13-year-old golden retriever that has lived with them forever.  They’re moving and can’t be burdened by an arthritic dog with a weak bladder any more.  Right behind the golden comes a mama dog with a litter of 6 puppies.  Twenty minutes later, two dogs that were adopted on Saturday have been brought back because they peed inside the house.  Three cats come in – all from the same place – their owner died and the daughter wants nothing to do with litter boxes.  Two 1-year-old labs are dropped off – baby on the way so no more time for high-energy dogs.   A litter of kittens come in with their mama, still nursing.  Five minutes later, another litter of kittens come in but there’s no mama – and they’re only four weeks old.  So, we’re up to 86 dog kennels needed (the pups stay with mama in one kennel) and 84 cat kennels (the motherless kittens have been frantically placed with the last available kitten foster).  Whew.  Still space, right?

Then the animal control officers come in.  Officer One has brought in  7 cats – three from traps and four abandoned – and 4 dogs, all without collars, tags or microchips.  Officer Two has brought in 3 more dogs who were reported for chasing chickens.  Officer Three has been very busy – 2 abandoned kittens, 3 cats roaming at large and 9 stray dogs nosing through the trash at the landfill.  That brings our grand total up to 102 dogs (plus the puppies with their mama) and 96 cats.  Two dogs more than the shelter can hold.  A rolling cage is wheeled into the laundry room to hold one of the dogs – a chihuahua shaking with fear.  A staff member takes home the elderly golden retriever to administer meds and free up a kennel.

It’s only Monday.  And the shelter has room for 4 more cats and no more dogs.  And yet Tuesday will come with more dogs and more cats.  Followed by Wednesday with more dogs and more cats and a couple of parakeets.

Potential adopters stroll up and down the aisles, peering into kennels.  The mutt with a gentle soul and good manners is given barely a glance as one couple shakes their heads and leave, complaining that there were no yorkies.  or pomeranians.  or westies.

A young woman brings her son to see the animals, only to turn right around and leave when she finds out it’s a ‘kill shelter.’   She pauses just long enough to look over her shoulder in disgust at the front desk workers, her gaze saying,”How can you be so cruel?”

Another potential adopter wants a dog who is housebroken and already knows commands for sit, stay, lay down, shake, roll over, play dead.  Yet another wants a puppy and the puppy must be fluffy.  The little pittie-hound mix pups are totally ignored.

In the background, a shelter worker crosses her fingers that her favorite, a 10-year-old border collie with a heart murmur, weak hips and the sweetest disposition will finally find a home.  She’s been here a long time – longer than she has any right to be.

Thursday comes.  Adoptions were good this week but with so many owner surrenders and strays, the shelter is at capacity – technically over if you count the three rolling cages stuffed into the back hallway to hold the three little dogs who did not get along with their family’s new puppy.

It is euthanasia day.  Who gets to live and who will die?

And who are the people behind that grim decision?

They are the ones who everyday open their hearts to the sure prospect of hope mingled with a bitter disappointment.  They are the ones who look past the mange, the stinky ears, the overgrown nails, the tangled hair to see animals who were created with intention by God.  They see the souls – the sometimes gentle, sometimes fearful question in the eyes of those animals: is it going to be better now?

As they bathe 6-week-old puppies, frail from blood loss because they have been covered in so many fleas, these shelter workers vow silently to show these creatures that yes, it is going to be better now.  When officers bring in an emaciated dog, abandoned inside a kennel for weeks – they passionately swear that yes, it is going to be better now.  When a recently adopted dog is picked up as a stray and the ‘owner’ says to just keep him, the worker who did the adoption kneels down in front of those questioning eyes and promises, it will be better.

And when it isn’t – when no one chooses them, when the shelter runs out of space – their hearts break completely.  And these workers go home and smile for their families and try to bury the guilt they feel that they were not able to help that one.  and that one.  and that one.

The ugly truth of the animal shelter isn’t the workers pulling up the syringe of pentobarbital.  It isn’t the shelter director who is agonizing in his office about the high intake and low adoption rate as he brainstorms new ways to attract potential adopters.

It’s you.

The person who thinks it’s fine for their intact male dog to roam the neighborhood, spawning litter after litter of unwanted puppies.  Puppies that end up at the shelter for someone else to deal with.

The person who thinks they’ll make big bucks by backyard breeding … until the inbreeding starts creating puppies with deformities … puppies no one wants.  Puppies that end up at the shelter for someone else to deal with.

The person who spends $500 on the puppy for sale in the back of the truck at Wal-mart, encouraging that backyard breeder to keep right on breeding, never knowing the mama lives a mostly neglected life in a filthy cage outside until she becomes so covered in mammary tumors that she ends up at the shelter for someone else to deal with.

The person who takes that puppy home and loses interest once the puppy reaches 7 months old and starts digging or chewing or barking – time to drop her off at the shelter for someone else to deal with.

The person who decides they’d like to travel more and it’s time to dump their senior dog, the one with lumps and sores, at the shelter for someone else to deal with.

The hunter who abandons the gun-shy dog on a back road, driving away in a cloud of dust, leaving him for someone else to deal with.

The nice middle-class family who refuses to get their dog spayed and complains when a wandering intact male leaves her with a litter of unwanted puppies.  Puppies that end up at the shelter for someone else to deal with.

The person who hides behind a computer screen and leaves nasty messages, calling the shelter employees cruel, cold, unfeeling … all while petting the dog they purchased from a pet shop – shelter mutts are for someone else to deal with.

The person who complains that too much of their tax money has gone to the shelter – how could they possibly want to increase their budget for things like spay & neuter clinics or humane education or microchipping?   That should be left for someone else to deal with.

The person who complains about the massive and daunting problem of animal welfare in this country … without offering any solution or any help.  That’s for someone else to deal with.

For someone else to deal with.

The ugly truth is that so many people want to pass off their responsibility to someone else, anyone else.  That’s why animal shelters exist.  The emotional burden of what happens to those unwanted animals is passed off too – to sit squarely on the shoulders of the shelter workers and the volunteers and the rescues trying their damnedest to make a difference, to save lives.

The ugly truth is there is no easy answer.  The real answer is simple but it is so hard because it requires persistence and endurance – there is no instant gratification.  The only answer is spay and neuter.  Pet overpopulation is an overwhelming problem and the only way to solve it is by reducing the population.  Right now, society’s answer has been to reduce the population on the back end – i.e. killing.   According to the Humane Society of the United States, 2.4 million adoptable cats and dogs are euthanized every year – that’s an animal every 13 seconds.  The ASPCA reports a higher estimate of 2.7 million euthanized animals per year.

That’s madness, isn’t it?

Let’s change that.

Spay and neuter your pets – there’s no excuse for Rex to be accidentally spreading unknown litters around the neighborhood.

Adopt, don’t shop – shelter pets have every bit as much love to give as one from a breeder.

If you must buy, do your due diligence and fully inspect the premises of the breeder.  See where mama lives full-time, not just when buyers come by.  Ask about mama’s vet care.  Ask for references.

Accept responsibility for the animal that you brought into your family.  Dogs and cats don’t speak our language – they have to learn what we ask of them and that requires patience and consistency from you.  They want to love you and that requires attention from you.  They will get sick, they will get hurt, they may be inconvenient to care for – but that’s what you signed up for when you picked out the puppy with the waggly tail and the kitten with the fluffball fur.

If you do none of these things, then do this at least – look closely at those shelter workers and think – THINK about the pain they willingly take on every day because someone else chose not to hold up their end of the bargain.  And swallow the criticism that can float so easily to the surface.  They are in the trenches – and what’s more, they repeatedly choose to be there because if not them, then who?

And that is the thought of every committed person involved in animal sheltering – if not me, then who?

* * * * * *


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Celebrate Pet Safety this Memorial Day

Celebrate Pet Safety this Memorial Day

As the unofficial start to summer, Memorial Day is a great excuse to get outdoors.  But whether you’re partying, barbequing, or just soaking up some rays, it’s important to keep your pet’s safety in mind at all times.  To prevent any Memorial Day mishaps, we’ve put together some tips to help protect animals during the “Dog Days” of the season.

Party Smart
Barbequing is one of the best parts of Memorial Day, but remember that the food and drink you serve your guests may be poisonous to pets.  Keep alcoholic beverages away from animals, and remind guests not to give them any table scraps or snacks.  Raisins, grapes, onions, chocolate, and avocado are all common at barbeques—and they’re all especially toxic to animals.

Be Cool Near the Pool
Don’t leave pets unsupervised around a pool or lake—not all dogs are expert swimmers!  Introduce your pets to water gradually and make sure they wear flotation devices when on boats.  Also, try to keep your dog from drinking pool water, which contains potentially dangerous chemicals like chlorine.

Skip the Spray
Unless specifically designed for animals, insect repellant and sunscreen can be toxic to pets.  Signs of repellent toxicity include drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, and lethargy.  DEET, a common, toxic insecticide in products for humans, may cause neurological issues in dogs.

Made in the Shade
Pets can get dehydrated quickly, so if you’re spending time outside, give them plenty of fresh, clean water and make sure they have a shady place to get out of the sun.  Note that animals with flat faces, like Pugs and Persian cats, are more susceptible to heat stroke since they cannot pant as effectively.  These pets, along with the elderly, the overweight, and those with heart or lung diseases, should be kept cool in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible.

IDs, Please
Time spent outdoors comes with the added risk of pets escaping.  Make sure that your pet is fitted with a microchip or ID tag with identifying information, or both.  It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Happy Memorial Day weekend – have fun and be safe!

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Some states step up to prevent dog deaths in hot cars

It's dangerous to leave a dog in an unattended car. On an 80-degree day, it takes just 10 minutes for the interior of a car to heat up to 99 degrees.

It’s dangerous to leave a dog in an unattended car.
On an 80-degree day, it takes just 10 minutes for the interior of a car
to heat up to 99 degrees.

Hundreds of dogs each year perish from searing heat in unattended cars, left there by individuals who don’t understand what a risk to the animal’s life it is.  With the car windows rolled up, even on a comfortable day, temperatures can spike in a flash and a life-threatening situation can develop.  On an 80-degree day, it takes just 10 minutes for the car to heat up to 99 degrees.  It doesn’t help much to roll down the windows, and animals don’t have sweat glands to release some of that heat.

Compelled to act by substantial numbers of animal fatalities, more than 20 states and many municipalities have made it a crime to leave an animal in a hot car as part of their anti-cruelty laws.   Now, a growing number of states are fortifying their laws by allowing good Samaritans to enter vehicles to remove animals under certain circumstances.

In 2015, Tennessee made history by passing the first such law of its kind in the nation, and since then the states of Florida and Wisconsin have come on board.  A similar bill has just landed on the Ohio governor’s desk, Michigan is considering a bill allowing the rescue of dogs from hot cars, and there is a bill in California that is moving ahead with strong bipartisan support.  Virginia just passed a new law in 2016 giving civil immunity to first responders.

On Humane Lobby Day in California, supporters rally for HB 797, a bill that would allow good samaritans to enter a car to save an animal from extreme heat.

On Humane Lobby Day in California, supporters rally for HB 797, a bill that would allow good Samaritans to enter a car to save an animal from extreme heat.

Many states have good Samaritan bills addressing the dangerous problem of children left in hot cars, and we’re now catching up to make sure that pets don’t face that same threat.  Intervention is carefully defined and kept as a last resort, only to be used when all other options have been exhausted and the animal is in visible distress.  The bills also spell out what is to be done after an animal has been removed to ensure that emergency care is provided and that pets are returned to their owners appropriately.

Most people are aware of the problem, but often don’t realize that it only takes a few minutes for temperatures to mount and a dangerous situation to develop.  Putting animals at risk of an agonizing and unnecessary death in a hot car is a problem we can all agree to prevent.

Pledge to never leave your dog in a hot car »



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Denial Can Cheat Our Pets of the Last Grace

All of us as pet owners will one day find ourselves standing on the razor’s edge of a decision:  To let a pet go, or keep fighting.

Oh, sometimes pets have left this life without any decision being made.  Often this is highly traumatic and without warning, as when a pet is lost in an accident or dies very suddenly of a disease or injury.

. . .
But in most cases, we have warning that life, or quality of life, is slipping away.
We may react with denial, cheating our pet of the last grace because we can’t face reality.
We may react by giving up far too soon, forgoing treatment that could keep our beloved pet with us in comfort for weeks, months, sometimes years.
And sometimes, the most blessed of times, we find ourselves reacting in just the right way.
. . .
Giving our pet just the right amount of time, medical care, comfort, and love until the day comes when we find ourselves giving them the gift of release, with them as safe in our arms as they have always been.  We’re not often lucky enough to have that last.
. . .
We shouldn’t feel guilt or anger that we don’t always get it right.  As a veterinarian, I can’t honestly tell my clients when “it’s time,”
and I don’t always know it myself about my own pets.
Welcome that certainty when it happens, but don’t expect it, or beat yourself up if you don’t have it.

Because there’s one thing I know without a doubt:
Your pet will forgive you if you get it wrong.

Wags and meows (and the occasional neigh),

Dr. Marty Becker,
“America’s Veterinarian”

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