Dogs and distraction (aka: my house-trained dog keeps peeing in my mom’s house!)

Hi, all!

Well, I packed up Cash, Lily, and Tango and we drove 8 hours to Southern California to visit with my family. We’re having a great time!

Every time we come to SoCal, though, I have this issue with Cash: he pees in my mom’s house. There are only two houses  he pees in — this one, and my friend K’s house. K’s dog had marked all over, and my mom’s dog was unspayed for several years and took some time to housebreak. In both cases, there are GREAT dog scents to replace with his own!

The hardest thing about your dog doing something that you know they know not to do is believing they did it. Did that make sense? Probably not. Let me give an example.

Mom: …I think Cash peed up here.
Me: What? No. He’s housebroken. Are you sure it wasn’t Sheba?
Mom: Sheba lives here and hasn’t peed in the house in a year.
Me: But she used to. Maybe the stress has brought it out?
Mom: That’s more pee than she has.
Me: But Cash is house trained.

Do you see what’s going on here? First, I’m having a hard time believing that Cash did something he knows he’s not supposed to. But even more importantly, what’s going on here is that whether or not it’s Cash, I’m not taking steps to find out or deal with the problem. So. I swallowed my dog-trainer pride several visits ago (it took several visits, I’m embarrassed to admit), and I realized I had a problem.

Now I had a bigger problem: since I hadn’t swallowed my pride earlier, this had become a habit. To fix it, I needed to first assess the situation.

1. He always pees upstairs, on the carpet.
2. He pees both when we’re home and when we’re gone, at night and during the day. There is no specific spot nor a specific time.

Now I can figure out what to do. Ready? Here we go:

First, I started sleeping downstairs. This gives him NO REASON WHATSOEVER to go upstairs. (I can’t sleep downstairs at Christmas, so we’ll have to change things then, but it’s a start.) Next, I chased him downstairs any time I caught him upstairs. I made a big production out of it, hissing my heart out and making him think he was going to die. As soon as his feet hit the downstairs, I stopped. That is his safe zone. I want him to stop going upstairs, because that’s the only common thread: it’s always upstairs. Therefore, he needs to stay downstairs.

The first few days I spend a lot of time either following Cash around (best, so I can catch him and scold him) or keeping him near me (worst, because he’s not learning; I’m just managing). Which I do depends on how much energy I have. Everyone needs breaks, and I know my own limits! Sometimes I even put him outside to play, so I don’t have to think about it.

At night, he stays in the bedroom with me so he can’t sneak off and pee somewhere. This means I don’t get much sleep, and I need some extra decaf coffee in the morning. (The sugar matters. *grins*)

I know after a few days of this, we’re probably in the clear. Regardless, I go check upstairs daily because I need to know if it’s working! If he sneaks off, I go follow him as quietly as possible.

When I’m tired and cranky and I want to throttle him, I take a deep breath and I remember: there will be setbacks. We are dealing with this. It’s not a personal shame that my dog has accidents. Now, take a look at the title of this blog post: Dogs and distractions. An unneutered, male dog in a new place, with new scents, and new dogs and new people, left to his own devices, might just get swept up in a really cool scent and want to tell the OTHER dogs, “Hey, I was here too!” In that moment, he might be too excited to remember what he’s supposed to do human-wise, and instead follow what his instincts say he’s supposed to do. Which is, leave his calling card — urine.

This is my job: remember that my dog is distracted. My dog, like all other dogs, is imperfect. If I can acknowledge that this is just him, being a dog and managing a human world as best he can — with occasional slip-ups — then I remember that I just need to guide him through it when he forgets. I also need to remember that he’s most likely to forget when he’s distracted. Doesn’t that sound compassionate and happy? It involves a lot of deep breaths and grinding of teeth!

So, next time your dog does the unexpected… remember that it’s not a reflection on you. Take a deep breath. Stop grinding your teeth. Accept that it happened, and take steps to solve it! It, or something like it, will happen again when your dog is distracted. Life is better when I’m not a perfectionist. *grins*



3 thoughts on “Dogs and distraction (aka: my house-trained dog keeps peeing in my mom’s house!)

  1. This is great Jenna! All your posts lately remind me of Riley.

    Riley has peed at Clover’s place twice over the last few weeks for no reason. She’s been there a million times, there’s nothing new, and we had just taken her out 15 minutes before each instance. I added a bell to the front door so Riley can ring it to indicate she needs to go out like she does at home. I also take her out many more times, but I’m afraid that’s not teaching Riley to hold it. Any suggestions are welcome =)

    Thanks, Doris

    • *laughs* Oh, dear! If she’s peeing in the middle of play, start taking her outside right after they start roughhousing (which means breaking them up briefly). Sometimes young dogs will forget they have to go!

      If she’s peeing after/before play, watch her like a HAWK. As soon as she starts sniffing with interest, that’s when you want to hiss, and as soon as she stops, take her back outside to pee. If you can catch it a few times, it should short-circuit her habit!


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