Ask Ethel: Is My Dog Peeing Out of Spite?
Winnie is going on 5 years old. She's a long-haired Jack Russell Parsons terrier. Every once in a while, she goes on a pee fest in my living room! It's almost spiteful.
I'm not sure what triggers Winnie – there are days she seems to need a lot more attention, and she'll come sit by me very closely and stare at me with those beautiful eyes of hers.
Then there are days when I let her out in the morning, and she will pee on the carpet after I leave for work. It's rare that she has a BM inside, but that happens sometimes.
I love her dearly and do show her. She has a clean bill of health from the vet. Thanks for any help you can offer.
Pee fests! I can relate. And I can also relate to other things about Winnie, which makes me suspect that she might be dealing with a case of separation anxiety.
Think about this: Winnie only seems to let loose right after you leave for work. That should clue us in to the fact that she's probably reacting to the stress of your departure. Parting: more sorrow than sweet.
To manage the situation on a surface level – the surface being your soiled carpet –try confining Winnie to a place where she won't be able to release so freely on absorbant material. Greg Kleva, Barkbusters trainer and host of "It's a Dog's Life" on Martha Stewart Living Radio, suggests leaving her behind a baby gate in your kitchen or laundry room.
Also, he says even though it appears like Winnie's behavior is spiteful, it isn't.
"The dog doesn't have the capacity for that," Kleva says. "It looks like spite –'I'm mad at you for leaving the house' – but it's more along the lines of stress or anxiety."
The other clue is that when you are home with Winnie, she's taking deep dives into oceans of adoration. All she does is look at you when you're giving her attention. And of course, you do love her, but that might be making it harder for Winnie to cope when you're not there.
"We condition the dogs to want to be near us so often," Kleva says. "If you show the dog affection when the dog initiates it, it's telling you what to do. The dog is then the rulemaker in the relationship."
Don't let Winnie own all the power. You have more control and power than you think over the relationship. And knowing that is the only way she'll learn that she can be without you and still be okay.
Got a thorny pet (any pet!) problem that you can't figure out? Try Ethel – she'll do her best to help. Send your questions to email@example.com. Include your pet's age, breed and sex, and try to give as much context to your problem as possible.
Previously in Ask Ethel:
Ask Ethel: Help! My Cat Is a Bully
Ask Ethel: Why Does My Dog Eat Like a Squirrel?