After all these years, why can’t you make it outside?

Published 2:11 pm Monday, June 6, 2011

By DR. FRED SELF / Veterinarian

Owners often find themselves asking that question this question of their dog: Why can’t you make it outside?

It can be frustrating to come home one day and step through the door and into a puddle of urine. Or to walk through the house and find out that the hall rug is wet. Maybe it is the door frame in the kitchen or the side of the couch that gets hosed down.

Regardless of the location, the more important question to ask is, “What is the cause?”

Routinely dogs urinate on things for one of two main reasons. The first reason is inappropriate urination. The second is a form of marking territory or claiming objects.

It is important to be able to tell which reason is to blame in order to find a solution.

In the case of inappropriate urination, there is often a medical cause. A urinary tract infection or bladder stones, for instance, may be the cause. Sometimes it is related to diabetes mellitus or kidney disease. The point here is with inappropriate urination we are not dealing with a behavior issue or a bad dog. We are dealing with a problem outside our dog’s control. So punishing them for going in the house will not solve the problem and will likely only cause hurt feelings.

The good news about inappropriate urination is that many, if not most of the underlying causes, can be controlled or corrected.

In the case of marking territory or objects, there is usually a behavioral cause. These causes can include a new pet or person in the household, a change in reproductive status or being angry about something.

Urinary marking may also occur if the dog becomes nervous or uncertain about some change that has occurred. It may also be the case that moving to a new home causes the dog to mark its new environment.

In all these cases, the causes are, at least in the beginning, behavioral. Over time they can become a habit, but most cases will continue to be behavioral in nature.

The chances for stopping urinary marking are less good. Early on, if the behavior is stopped, that may be the end of it. However, if it is allowed to continue for too long, it may never stop.

The way to differentiate between inappropriate urination and urinary marking behavior is to identify the surface used. Most of the time inappropriate urination occurs on horizontal surfaces, while urinary marking occurs on vertical surfaces.

Dr. Fred Self is a veterinarian at Shelbiana Animal Clinic, along with Dr. Charles Thornburg. You can reach him at 669-7717.