Dear Doctor: Why has the dog started urinating in the house?
Q. My three-year-old, 10-pound Malti-poo (half Maltese terrier, half miniature poodle), Teddy, has started leaving little drops of urine around the house. I let him out in the morning, and he does his business beautifully, and I also let him out at night, when he also does what he has to. My husband is so upset about this new behavior that he is ready to give the dog up. Please help.
Dear Ms. Costello,
A. A dog who starts urinating indoors out of nowhere should be seen by a veterinarian to rule out any medical issues, such as a urinary tract infection. But medical issue or not, Teddy needs to be let out in the yard more than twice a day. Dogs that are left too long without an opportunity to urinate may urinate in the house. And once the house smells like urine, the problem can be self-perpetuating.
Another possible explanation for Teddy’s behavior is urine marking. A common reason for urine marking in the house is stress. Little dogs have the same need for exercise and mental stimulation as their bigger species-mates. It’s easy to ignore small dogs’ needs for environmental enrichment because they don’t require as much exercise as a large dog, but Teddy should be taken for leashed walks at least a few times daily. A dog needs “we” time, not just pee time. That includes time with your husband as well as you. If he is upset with Teddy, Teddy most assuredly is picking up on that and needs assurances that all is okay. Environmental enrichment inside the house is important, too — playing chase and fetch and giving belly rubs as well as fun training with tasty rewards to sit, stay, etc. — all the good stuff. These steps will make Teddy feel more engaged with the household and less anxious — and perhaps less apt to urinate indoors.