May 2, 2022 2:31 AM   Subscribe

We have a new dog with a bottomless bladder. How do we control the tide?

The new dog is a rescue, about three years old, underweight and scared of the outside world, the inside world, the telly, movement, sound, men, women, the ceiling and being in a vehicle. Bram is indifferent to the cats and me. He loves his big brother Paddington. He will go into the garden with Paddy and, if I leash him, without him, but he is skittish. He will wee outside, and we have definitely seen a reduction in the number of Code Brown events as he has settled (been here about 2.5 weeks). However, he is marking in the living room and our bedroom in particular and although we understand it, and we take him out regularly into the garden, we could do with your waterproof tips and tricks if you've been through this before.

Complicating factors - the rescue have been working with us during the setting in period and have suggested we don't take him out for a walk until he is more relaxed. He is vocally very reactive when he feels threatened, and we're trying to let him decompress. He's got a snufflemat and a lick mat, he doesn't like toys but does like treats. We've been praising him when he goes for a wee outside. He's on doggy CBD.

Note: while I've been drafting this, he's walked into our room and done it again. Maybe twice. It's got to be anxiety I think and the fact that he's been in rescue for at least two years, so there's been no call for him to be housetrained.

We will take him to the vets for a checkup, and we have a bottle of Natures Miracle, but we could really do with knowing how to help him not wee on our carpet. We're keeping on top of it for now, but I really don't want it to continue - ironically the carpet in our room is brand new, the first new carpet we've ever bought. Maybe he hates carpets?

Just in case, Bram is not going back anywhere, we want to help him get better and get happy.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence to Pets & Animals (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Can you temporarily remove the carpets?

I'd also exclude him from the bedroom as much as possible. Keep the door shut except when you need him to be in there.
posted by metasarah at 3:25 AM on May 2, 2022 [1 favorite]

I would treat this like house training a puppy. Keep him in a designated area like the kitchen, with puppy pads, and take him outside every hour and at least once during the night if he needs it. Give lavish praise and treats for outside potty. Once he's got that down, slowly reintroduce him to other rooms, supervised, still taking him out very frequently. It's all baby steps with rescues, and you have to go at their pace, so don't rush it.

If you don't have a crate, and he will tolerate crate training (i.e. it doesn't send him into a blind panic), this is a good point to begin, as most dogs will not eliminate in an appropriately sized crate. It can also significantly reduce anxiety for them, since they will have a place to retreat to to feel safe. Start crate training as you're transitioning out of the kitchen.
posted by ananci at 4:09 AM on May 2, 2022 [18 favorites]

Best answer: the rescue...have suggested we don't take him out for a walk until he is more relaxed

I am just one person, not an experienced rescue, with one data point, but I'm not sure I agree with this.

I adopted an older dog a year ago with extreme anxiety. Walks were crucial during his early days with us. It provided exercise, structured time for him and the dog I already had to get used to each other, mental stimulation, and reinforced that I was a place of safety whenever something would startle him. Walks were where we made the most progress, for months.

So I would try taking the little guy out on a couple short quiet walks a day to see how he does. Stay clear of triggers as best you can. Unless he seems to be having a very bad time of it, keep it up. 3 years old is about as high energy and high stimulation need as a dog gets and he doesn't have enough outlet for it yet.
posted by phunniemee at 4:51 AM on May 2, 2022 [8 favorites]

2nding phunniemee's suggestion of slowly introducing walks. This may also help him get out that urge to mark territory in the appropriate places (i.e. outside). If he feels safer with your other dog, maybe you could take them on a walk together? Though I would probably only do this if there are two of you in case the new pup ends up being a handful/getting really freaked out. Also, I feel like some dogs just need walks to convince them to empty their bowels/bladder more fully than they would if they just step outside.
posted by litera scripta manet at 4:55 AM on May 2, 2022 [4 favorites]

We had beagle who had, I think, diabetes insipidus. Symptoms- always thirsty, and very large pees. Worth mentioning to the vet. She had a pill 2x a day that controlled it.
posted by Ftsqg at 6:16 AM on May 2, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I agree with phunniemee (and ananci). He's basically not housebroken and so needs to be treated like a puppy in getting frequent walks, great praise for going outside, and careful restriction of where he can go in the house until he learns to hold it. Even short walks may help him establish in his mind that this is the Way We Go Potty.

Re: those walks: for my rescue, who was completely overwhelmed by city life, my trainer introduced an "engage-disengage" approach using a clicker. (I felt weird using a clicker, but it's more audible through the city din.) When the dog turns its head to look at some scary loud noise, click and mark with your praise word. That usually gets the dog's attention (assuming they are not completely freaked out), and they turn their head back to you. At that point, treat. Do this consistently, and if the dog is at all food motivated they'll catch on that the proper response to, e.g., a loud cement mixer rattling past is to look at you for reassurance and tasty tasty snacks. This makes walks easier. Over approximately a geological era, along with other things such as gaining thorough familiarity with the same short routes (I mean like around a single block, four times a day), this has helped bring down my little guy's outdoors anxiety considerably. Don't get me wrong, he is still a very anxious dog, and I'm still evaluating whether this is the best place for him to live, but at least now he's not trying to bolt every time a loud vehicle passes us. In the past couple of weeks, he has even shown some interest in expanding the range of his walks.

Additionally, in these early days I strongly recommend using either two collars or a harness + collar, lashed together (you can buy the straps to do so from Etsy) for walks. That way, if he backs out of one of the mechanisms, the other can function as backup. Rescues are accidental flight risks.
posted by praemunire at 8:06 AM on May 2, 2022 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Just popping in to say thanks for the advice and we welcome the common sense. Also, we have just come back from a very short outside walk with our other dog in tow, to a little parklet round the corner. He did lots of looking round and importantly lots of marking, and although still completely freaked out, he did lots of sniffing, which I always think is a good sign.

Advice and experiences continue to be very welcome.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 8:32 AM on May 2, 2022 [2 favorites]

Same as my advice here, I highly recommend keeping your new pup leashed to you as much as possible. Take her outside as often as possible and whenever you see her start to circle around or getting ready to squat.
posted by hydra77 at 9:15 AM on May 2, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I adopted a 7 year old rescue who was skittish and scared of the big city. She had many accidents in the first few weeks - if at any point we left her somewhere with something soft on the floor and left the room, she went because she finally had some privacy.

What worked:
- removing all carpets from the ground in the apartment
- realizing she had been pad trained and giving her pad access indoors for several months until she wasn’t scared of the outdoors and giving her treats for a bit for peeing on the pads instead of in random places
- gradual exposure to city noises so she eventually became comfortable enough to go outside on walks without being skittish
- giving her treats whenever cars and trucks and other scary things went by
- taking her out first thing in the morning when she needed to go the most
- getting her a dog friend that demonstrated how to go outdoors
- giving her lots of VERY GOOD treats when she did pee outside
- moving so she had a private garden instead of a tree well on a slightly busy street for peeing and using that as an opportunity to make a hard break on the pad training
- getting her on antibiotics for an anal glad infection and on low-protein food for kidney issues
- Figuring out her preferred surface (dirt, not grass or concrete), and giving her access to that surface outdoors
- Using the Rocco & Roxie enzymatic cleaner instead of Nature’s Miracle, it seemed a bit better

What didn’t work:
- Crate training because she was scared of crates and has FOMO barrier anxiety when she can see people but can’t get to them. She also was SO SCARED of the outdoors that she went in the crate once or twice instead of going outside (this is not how this is supposed to work and we fired a dog trainer over it when she insisted on continuing on that path).
- Avoiding walks except as rewards for peeing. I think this might work for puppies but there was no way to get her over fear anxiety without being outside.
- Demonstrating ourselves what she should do
- Putting pads outside as a bridge/explanation

It’s been almost 2 years and she’s doing well, though we’re still a carpet minimalist household because she doesn’t get access to carpets when we’re not around.

Feel free to MeMail if it would help!
posted by A Blue Moon at 2:06 PM on May 2, 2022 [1 favorite]

It might be worth talking to your vet about medication short term for anxiety. Dogs can't learn if they are in a constant state of anxiety. I do this for the most anxious of new fosters, to help them better accept training and new experiences.

A consistent schedule and positive reinforcement also reduces the dog's anxiety. Do the same thing at the same time every day, as much as it can. You want to be predictable. Use reinforcement rewards that work for the dog: praise, play rewards or treats.

Sometimes, dogs are anxious about kennels but will do ok in a pen or a small room like a laundry room with a baby gate. Music also sometimes help with calming.

Dogs are also sensitive to your stress, so look for ways to make this less stressful for you. Finding a way to contain the pee will help you relax as well. That might be diapers or belly bands along with frequent trips outside, teaching a potty command, and effusive praise when it goes well.
posted by answergrape at 9:23 AM on May 3, 2022 [1 favorite]

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