Dealing with dog dominance issues

The Problem

Hi Kristin,

As always, I think of you when I have a dog behavior question. I really value your advice.

As a reminder, I have S- (almost 3 years old), Th- (1.5 years +) and B- (1 + years). All male dogs and they have been neutered.

When I place an object of decent size (like a garbage bag not a gardening shovel) in the backyard, inevitably B- and S- will urinate on it. Usually within minutes of it’s arrival. Th- doesn’t usually partake in this activity. In the last two days, I have found urine in the house. On the sides of furniture, on an exercise ball (this was new to the room) and on a new piece of exercise equipment. Because it’s not puddles on the floor (it’s more like sprays on the sides of furniture and a few carpet accidents….I don’t think it is a dog with a urinary tract infection…..I could be wrong. When they have had accidents in the past they are always in the same exact place…not where I found them in the past two days. Now, I haven’t caught any of the dogs in the act. However, when this happened yesterday Th- wasn’t in the room so I know yesterday it wasn’t him. I can’t think of anything that has changed.

Any ideas????


My Response

A little puppy Sugar

Here we have a note on puppy Sugar from Willow‘s group…

Sugar is doing great, she plays real hard and then crashes for a couple hours. She has had a few accidents in the house and I don’t know if she knows how to let me know when she needs to go potty. I’ve been reading on your website about cleaning with the natures cure (actually the product is Natures Miracle …and it is!)  and I will try that, because she definitely goes to the same spots where she went before. I have a silly question that maybe you can help with. She loves to go out for a walk on the leash but it takes us an hour just to go down one block because she stops and stiffs and trys to eat flowers, plants and other things she shouldn’t. How do we get her away form these things, I don’t want to pull her so I usually run a little to distract her, if you have any tips that would be great.


I am so happy things continue to go well! Yea!!

You know, some people have found that putting a bell or a small wind chime on the door for the dog to ring works…you teach them to ring it by making sure it is at “nose” level and then you ring it every time you take her out. Within about 2 weeks she will get the hang of it and ring it when she wants to go! Then you must always let her out when she rings, even if she was just out, just so she makes the connection. Then after a few weeks of that you can be sure she understands it. It is a pretty cool way to have your dog let you know she needs to potty without barking at you.

About the walking…puppies are like kids – they need to explore to understand their world. This exploration also helps their brains develop, so don’t be so quick to shut this down. Try to make some time for exploring and some time for walking. I find it a good idea to get out the door in a controlled fashion (dog at your side, not out in front of you) and keep that position for the first 10 minutes of the walk. Then give the command, “go sniff” and let her leash out to the full length so she can explore. Then after a few minutes of that tell her, “Let’s go, in close” and reel her in and start walking again for another 10 minutes, and then repeat. You will find that she gets the hang of those command words eventually. Like all training, it is all about the consistency and repetitions.

Let me know how this works out!


Willow is having trouble adjusting

I received a note from the family who adopted Willow and is having some trouble adjusting. Here is her note and my response:

I need some guidance on some issues with Willow. We have some major potty training issues. I have been walking her on a leash outside to go to the bathroom. I try to take her out 6-8 times per day and usually she goes, but she is still peeing in the house. I have limited her to the main floor, but she continually pees in the living room. Even outside it is hard to get her to go sometimes.

She hates the rain and doesn’t want to go. She’s also still scared of the wind and strange noises. She’s generally very skittish about everything. She’s still scared to death of my husband. He’s trying very hard to ignore her and just puts his hand out for her to sniff him. Today we tried putting peanut butter on his finger and she actually licked him for quite a while. We’re going to try that for a while.

She’s also chewing up a storm. We have toys for her but she loves to chew anything in sight. I try to exercise her outside, but she doesn’t want to play fetch and I have some foot problems and can’t run after her. She is jumping on the kids and tends to “clothesline” them with her outside leash so they are somewhat scared of her. Any suggestions on these issues would be greatly appreciated. We just love Willow to death and she is very attached to me and the kids, but we need to make some progress on these issues. I am looking into a training class. Thanks so much!

I’m gong to try to answer all your questions, there are a lot here! But first of all I’m glad you are in love with her. She is a sweetie and I think once you get through this all you will all be fine. But this will take time – remember to think in terms of months rather than weeks. Most of the rescue dogs I have had take a full year until they feel really “part of the family”

First of all, have you made sure Willow doesn’t have a bladder infection? Also, did her stool check come back clean? I would definitely rule out any physical cause for the accidents. A few of the puppies still tested positive for coccidia and whipworm at their 9 week check ups so it is likely she may still be infected, as she was the one who came with those parasites.


Some thoughts on submissive urination

Submissive urination…ah yes. You’d be surprised how many puppies do this but if you understand why it makes more sense. Puppies in their first two weeks of life are physically unable to eliminate on their own. The mama dog has to stimulate them to do so as she cleans them. This makes sense when you think about how the mama has to keep the den site clean to avoid predators, it is easiest for her to just ingest the waste. So one theory is that puppies have a “hold over” response from those early days and when they are feeling unsure or want to tell someone they are truly submissive, they will pee a little. This can become a problem for dogs when the owners see it as a reversal of house training and punish the action. Think of it from the puppy’s point of view – they are trying hard to show good manners by telling their big strong owners that they are no threat, they are ok with their submissive position in the pack. And as a result of this they are punished! It must make them SO confused and of course it just intensifies the behavior as the puppy tries even harder to convince the person of their willingness to be submissive.


Update on puppy Koda

Here is a note received from Koda‘s family (from Chloe‘s group)…

Koda had also received the last of his vaccinations. He weighed in at 32lbs.! He is shedding his soft fuzzy fur 🙁 and is growing a longer coarse hair down his back and tail.

We enjoyed the pics of Angel. She is so cute! We hope to come to another playtime soon. We also are getting in the back to school routine.

I still would love to know the dominate breed of these pups….foxhound may be a possibility….some are white with beige also. People think Koda is a golden retriever and I just tell them its a going to be a “surprise” what he will grow up to be. He’s got the look of collie, chow, lab, retriever….you name it! I love that they all have the white tip on the tail and white paws like Chloe.

Koda is just a sweetheart. We have settled into a nice routine. He is no longer in his crate at night and we block him off in the kitchen when we leave during the day. So far he has done well. He has eight of his adult teeth and looks so cute with his big boy teeth!

However, he has developed a problem with “submissive urinating”. When one of us comes home or someone comes over or he sees another dog he gets so excited that he pees. The doctor said he will grow out of it. He said not to make a big deal about coming home, have people bend down to him, and build up his confidence with other dogs. It seems to me he is pretty well adjusted and confident, so it may be he’s just too happy…??

So, Kristin any suggestions …….? Your last post had to do with urinating…so I just had to ask : )
Hope you are enjoying some time to yourself and your family.

Advice on problem dog behavior

I got a request for “advice’ recently that I wanted to post. It is important to always remember that this sort of advice can not be as thorough as that given by someone directly involved with the family or the dog. This advice should also not be used in place of veterinary care or professional dog training.

Hi Kristin,

We adopted Jessa three months ago…she was a stray wandering the streets of Aurora. We don’t think she was a stray for very long, as she didn’t really have any physical or emotional scars. She’s incredibly friendly to all people and other dogs. She loves kids. She’s a very happy and lovely dog. The vet says she’s about a year old, give or take a month or two.