Pet Advice

So, my partner and her daughter have been pining for a dog for several years (I’m not really a dog person), but due to living arrangements haven’t been able to get one. We recently moved to a rental in the suburbs and have room and a yard now, so she’s been trolling dog rescue sites looking for an adoptee. They’re really hard to find right now. Many rescues are getting dozens of applications for adoption per day. Dogs appear to be a “COVID item”, like patio heaters and camping gear.

After months of looking she decided to try to foster and brought home a (really quite pretty) 1-3 year old 35 lb retriever mix who is a former Tijuana street dog. The dog is sweet, gentle, calm, quiet and affectionate–about everything you could ask for. She’s got a few behavioral idiosyncrasies due, probably, to her being acclimated to dog vice human companionship, but they’re minor. There’s a strong possibility we’ll have the opportunity to adopt her and at this point we probably would do that.

Her one major problem is peeing. She won’t. She will hold her urine until she’s bursting, often for 24 hours, and then let loose a torrent. And it seems she’s taken sometimes to peeing on the carpet, which we’ve definitely discouraged. The problem is that it’s hard to impress that this is bad behavior and guide her toward good behavior when she only pees once a day at inconstant times. We’ve tried taking her out for a few minutes several times a day, doing long walks, praising her when she does pee outside. (She’s also not food motivated and doesn’t particularly care about dog treats.) I don’t know how to encourage a dog to pee more often or in a particular place. Any advice?

Wish I had some, but sorry I don’t. Do you have an in-house kennel? That’s what my sister used for peeing issues.

Second the crating idea, as that’s how we’re trained both our dogs and foster dogs. Dog is in crate, the you them out to pee, and if they don’t go back in the crate. If they do, then time outside the crate (I’m used to doing this with mostly younger dogs, so time out might be an hour or two.)

Also consider upping your treat game. I haven’t yet met a dog that isn’t a slave to chicken, but if you guys are vegetarian, maybe you can live with buying some premade chicken jerky?

You might want to look for local dog trainers. Often they have consultations or short classes that can really help you understand your dog’s motivations and needs. There is no one size fits all for dogs, any more than for people, when it comes to psychology, but there are general things that are fairly common across the board.

I have three dogs right now, and have had dogs for the past 20 years or more, plus childhood pets, but I am definitely not any sort of authority on hounds. I have not seen a dog who would not pee, exactly, but I have seen dogs that are shy. One of my current beasts likes to go behind bushes or in to the trees to do his business, and when he has to do it in front of people he seems less than thrilled. You might try taking your girl out and creating a sort of screen or something that will give her some privacy if possible.

I suspect, though, that at some point she was physically and psychologically abused by people angered by her peeing, and now associates peeing with the punishment she used to get. If that is the case, you definitely need a professional dog person.

We have tried the crate twice for overnight. Both times it took her 20 minutes of throwing herself at the bars to dismantle one of the latches and squeeze herself through the gap. The second time she emerged slathered in slobber and with bloodied gums. We may try to reintroduce it later, but the crate is on hold for the moment.

Yeah, I’m coming to this conclusion as well.

Thanks for the advice folks!

Good luck. I wish I had more advice to offer, but I don’t. We had a rescue that we could never break off this habit (and when I finally thought we had, it started again when we moved). But we never used ongoing crating like that, so maybe that will work.

Is she going in a particular room? It’s possible there’s something in that room from a previous occupant.

Is it on carpet? If so, invest in a Rug Doctor.

Also second cleaning the carpet. Having that latent smell in some part of the house will signal that more action should happen there, so it’s important to clean up. We’ve used GALLONS of Nature’s miracle over the years with all the foster dogs we’ve had. Things happen, especially early on, even with good doggos when they come into a new environment. You want to erase that evidence so there’s less instinctual drive to go in the same spot again.

We purchased both not exciting carpets (because this is gonna happen especially if you foster dogs) and we purchased a rug cleaner so we can give them a strong once-over every 4-6 months . This was closer to once every few weeks when we had a nutzo foster dog, but we’ve successfully trained a few so they were better prepared for their forever homes.

Don’t start with an extended session alone.

First you show the crate. Then put them in there but don’t close the door and don’t walk away. Then start putting treats in there, then their toys, and then all meals are in there. When they regularly go in on their own, close the door but don’t walk away. If they get anxious open the door immediately. Next, same thing but if they get anxious reassure them or give them a treat through the bars, wait 60 seconds, then open the door. Eventually they need to wait five minutes, then they can watch you exercise or do chores for 30-90 minutes from a closed crate.

Next start walking away briefly as they wait, then out of sight but making noise, then out of sight and silent.

It might take days or even weeks, but the goal is to make minor changes to the crate routine until they can tolerate being in there alone overnight. This means they need to learn (a) crates are good places where treats are found, and (b) the door will always open if they wait.

All solid advice, and the last person who interacted with this dog probably did the opposite and just slammed them in there, so you’re going to have to work through some programming.

That gentle crate training is definitely the way to go. The first few months of having a new dog in the house can be a HUGE time investment, but it has an incredible payoff if you put the time in early.

One of my dogs was very tough to leash train, and we’d go out for almost an hour long walk where we progressed one block - we’d only walk forward when the leash had some slack. It’s exhausting in the moment, and can be frustrating for both parties, but spending years with a dog who doesn’t drag you around is worth it later. This is extra true if you get them while they are still small enough that you can restrain them while not injuring yourself, and they grow to be far, far larger.

Maybe all that effort is part of why the dog/human bond becomes so damn strong.

Really need to try this. Unfortunately, my wife and I have very different approaches and it’s been hard to find common ground. I like to short-leash; she prefers letting them wander more freely.

You don’t need to be super-short on the leash, but if they tend to drag you everywhere, then tension on the leash and free roam otherwise works.

For one of our dogs, I wound up doing something very very different. I would take a small bit of some super valuable treat, and put it in my hand (closed fist), then put my hand down near near where I’d want my pup’s head to be when walking (picture roughly at your thigh, on the right side.) He’d inevitably want to get the treat out of my hand, but while doing that he’d walk right along side me. After a few steps, he’d get the treat as I said some command (“with me”). [I’d also get a pretty dog saliva covered hand, but that’s not so bad.]

I did that, and then slowly dialed up the duration and make the treat intervals a bit random (think: Loot box!) and he figured out that walking right along side me was a great way to get his favorite treat. After that, he did great on the leash, as I could say “with me” and he’d get right into position.

He’s 13 now, and he still knows “with me”, and will happily walk exactly where I point on voice command, at least for a little while before his mind wanders and I have to remind him.

You are clearly very patient and diligent. We tend to get much too lazy about it, unfortunately. There are lots of well-behaved dogs in our neighborhood, and then ours 😅