Kate Ellam advises a new dog owner on problems with her rescue dog and toileting troubles.
Q: All my life I have yearned for a little dog, so I put my name down at a few rehoming charities. I went to see a dog who had been found wandering the streets. I fell in love with her, and knew I had to have her. Silly me, I didn’t ask enough questions (as I hadn’t had a dog before)
The following day I made an appointment to see the vet and to have her checked over.
Her back was covered in scaly, white flakes, and she was always scratching. The vet took samples, but I haven’t heard anything from her. I also had her vaccinated at the same time.
She is so sweet, and very affectionate. She follows me around from room to room and she can’t seem to bear being on her own.
Each night she is in the kitchen, with the door closed. However, most of the time I am clearing up and mopping the floor with disinfectant.
I take her out early at 6.30 – 7.30am, most days around lunchtime, and again in the evenings. I have tried not feeding her late, but it makes no difference.
I would appreciate any advice you can offer.
Rachel Halbauer, Suffolk.
A: Kate says: You obviously have a great desire to help your little dog find her way in the world. It’s good to hear that your trip to the vet’s has made sure she’s fully vaccinated and will have her skin cared for appropriately.
It sounds as though your dog is taking a little longer than expected to learn to toilet outside only. If the rescue centre you adopted her from didn’t know much about her life in the past, it might be that she’s simply never learned to toilet outside before, so it might take that little bit longer for her to learn to do so now.
You are doing the right thing in just calmly cleaning up when she does have an accident inside, because telling a dog off for anything (especially something they just can’t help doing, like urinating when their bladder is full) can make them worried about you and their relationship with you.
For example, a dog who is scolded for weeing inside might then hide away from their owner the next time they need a wee, and toilet behind the sofa or under the bed.
Our dogs need us to help them out by always telling them when they get things right, through rewarding them, and to try to help them get things right in the first place, by taking them out regularly for toileting opportunities.
You’re therefore doing a good thing by always rewarding her for toileting outside because this shows her how happy you are with this behaviour and, as well as the physical relief from emptying her bladder and bowel, she gets the bonus of a tasty treat as well.
Make sure you only use a biological disinfectant to break down any urine on the floor. Avoid bleach or any product containing ammonia, which might actually exacerbate the urine smell.
If it helps you out, don’t be worried about putting protective newspaper down for her in case she has an accident during the night — this doesn’t need to be forever, and it is still early days in her training. It will mean your floor is protected and might make any accidents easier to clean up while she’s learning.
You can also watch her as you might recognise the signs that she’s about to toilet, including sniffing the ground intently, and circling or whining at the door. Then you can encourage her straight outside instead and reward her if she toilets.
You might benefit from talking with a professional dog trainer about any worries you have. He or she would then be able to help you teach your dog how you’d like her to behave in fun, enjoyable ways.