Elimination Behavior Problems in Dogs
WSAVA 2002 Congress
Moses Heiblum, DVM Cert
Private practice in small animal behavior problems
Jardines de San Mateo, México


 Puppies start to form substrate preferences between 7.5 & 8.5 weeks of age

 Location and surface preferences are common

 Females may need to eliminate more frequently than males

 By 6 months of ages, the average dog defecates 1/2 times a day, and urinates 3/4 times a day

 Urination postures sexually dimorphic by 4 months of age

 Functions in communication


 Marking behavior

 Excitement- related elimination


 Inadequate housetraining

 Medical Causes

 Submissive urination

 Fear reactions

 Undesirable location

 Surface preferences

 Management related problems

 Cognitive dysfunction

Medical Conditions

 Urinary tract disease

 Renal disease

 Anatomical malformations

 Endocrine disorders

 Neurologic abnormalities

 Conditions affecting locomotion

 Reproductive system diseases

 Gastrointestinal parasites

 Gastrointestinal bacteremia

 Viral conditions

 Dietary indiscretion

 Food sensitivities

 Conditions causing painful defecation

Behavioral History

 Duration of problem ® prognosis


 Areas soiled ® type of substrate

 Timing of the episodes ® association with external stimuli

 Presence or absence of owner ® S.A.

 Underlying medical conditions

 Changes in household environment, in schedule, exercise routine

 Corrections tried and responses

 Changes in the pattern of the problem

 Substrates or location preferences

 Urine deposited in numerous locations in small amounts

 If multi-pet household, which pet is the problem

 Response to confinement

Basic Rules For Housetraining Puppies

 Puppies usually eliminate after physical activities

 Take outside frequently

 Allow puppy to play after elimination

 Reward for eliminating at the appropriate location

 Regular feeding and exercising schedules ® regular elimination

 Take the dog to same areas, Supervision / Confinement

 Recognize pre-elimination signs, appropriately timed correction

 Clean affected areas with odor eliminator

 Don't punish the puppy unless you caught him in the act, avoid physical punishment

Basic Rules For Housetraining Older Dogs

 House-train the dog as if it were a puppy

 Take the dog out after eating, physical activity and waking up

 Supervise closely in the home, confine when not supervised

 Keep rewards only for eliminating at the appropriate location

 Mildly punish the dog if you caught him in the act

 Stop feeding the dog in the late afternoon. Do not allow the dog access to water after 7:00 p.m.


Puppy or submissive older dog urinates and shows the submissive behavior when approached, punished, picked up, greeted, etc.

 Genetic predisposition ® Suspected in cases where no obvious environmental cause

 Early experience deficit ® Associated with fear of certain types of human beings because of lack of experience with them early in life

 History of punishment ® problem can result from the owner's application of punishment measures

 Unintentional owner eliciting/ fostering ® can be response to dominant / aggressive owner behavior

 Unintentional owner reinforcement ® owner stops doing something to the dog or comforts / reassures in response to urination

Submissive Signaling

 Flattening of ears

 Avoidance of eye contact

 Lowering of head and neck

 Sitting /Cowering/ Crouching

 Tucking the tail

 Rolling onto the back

 Submissive "grin"

Stimuli That Trigger Urination

 Person approaches

 Reaches toward or over dog's head

 Patting on the head

 Deep or loud voice

 Direct eye contact

 Scolding or physical punishment


 Neither punish nor reward

 Identify specific eliciting stimuli and avoid them

 Obedience training must focus on positive reinforcement

 Interact with pet in less threatening manner:

 Kneel down, speak softly, pat under chest rather than over head, avoid eye contact, ignore the greeting, allow dog to approach first

 Desensitization and counterconditioning

 Start with an empty bladder, identify a gradient of eliciting stimuli, present lowest level stimulus first, non- threatening presentation of stimuli, gradually increase intensity of stimuli, teach competing response, such as sitting for food reward


 Dog urinates while standing or walking when highly excited during greeting, playing, etc.

 Submissive signals are absent

Possible Causal Factors

 Genetic predisposition ® possible explanation of why some dogs are incontinent in excitement-eliciting situations

 Inadequate care/maintenance conditions ® excitement greater after period of social isolation / lack of activity

 Unintentional owner fostering ® owner behavior during greeting / playing may increase dog's excitement

 Physiological factors ® low bladder / bladder sphincter tone


 Avoid stimuli that elicit the behavior

 Ignore dog until excitement subsides

 Provide frequent opportunities to eliminate outside

 Increase exercise

 DS / CC

 Punishment will be unsuccessful

 Medications to increase sphincter tone

 Reinforce calm behavior


 Male raises hind leg and deposits small amounts of urine on vertical surfaces or corners of objects in the home

 Age of onset is variable; can be as early as 3 months

 May reflect relative social rank: dominant animals more likely to cover a subordinate's urine

Possible Causal Factors

 Genetic predisposition as possible contributing factor in some cases

 Urine-elicited marking ® old marks often investigated and marked over

 Social eliciting stimuli ® visiting dog in home, estrous bitch nearby, other dog marking in home

 Hormone factors: problem much more common in males, castration often helpful

 Associated with specific territorial or anxiety- eliciting stimuli


 Neutering or spaying: castration may eliminate male marking behavior in approximately 50%

 Therapy based on detailed behavioral history

 Prevent exposure to stimuli that elicit marking: limit exposure to outside dogs

 Avoid situations that make the pet anxious

 Remote punishment

 Confinement when not supervised

 Clean marked areas, urine deposits elicit remarking

 Anti-anxiety medications



 Dog never eliminates in the house when the individual is present and awake; may or may not have a problem when the owner is asleep

 Symptoms include excessive vocalization, house soiling and destructive behavior (especially around doors or windows)

 Occurs only when owners, or a particular individual, are away or visually separated from dog

 Dog often become anxious while owner prepares for departure

 Treatment of underlying problem -separation anxiety


 Changing feeding schedule

 Schedule changes resulting in insufficient access

 Fear of outside: traffic, noises, other dogs

 Elimination associated with fear

 Attention- seeking behavior

 Geriatric cognitive dysfunction

Speaker Information
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Mois├ęs Heiblum, DVM Cert
Private practice in small animal behavior problems
Jardines de San Mateo, México

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