When your dog urinates unexpectedly on the floor it's natural to feel distressed, even angry. If your dog does this, be aware that he's equally distressed—possibly more so. Spontaneous urination in inappropriate places can be a sign of emotional disturbance, or even an underlying health problem.
Is There a Doctor in the House?
Assuming that Rex was properly house-trained as a puppy, his sudden accidents aren't accidental. The problem could be behavioral, but poor health, such as a urinary tract infection or, worse, a kidney infection, should be your first concern. Illness often causes sudden behavioral issues. So watch for signs of dizziness, disorientation, lethargy, loss of appetite and discolored or concentrated urine. If you note any of this, take Rex to his vet. A course of antibiotics and plenty of fluids should quickly bring your boy bouncing back to health.
All the Presidents' Dogs
If a behavioral issue is the cause, don't go it alone. Talk to Rex's vet, as well as knowledgeable friends and family, for help finding a certified trainer you and Rex can trust. Two major training techniques can deal with sudden, inappropriate behavior: positive-reinforcement and alpha-dog. The late Dawn Sylvia-Stasiewicz—who trained President Obama's dog, Bo—was an adherent of the positive-reinforcement school. "Dogs learn good behavior," she said, "by being rewarded for doing well." Bob Maida, an alpha-dog devotee who trained Ronald Reagan's dogs, refuses to espouse one technique to the exclusion of others. "There are no bad tools," Maida said. "It's the misuse of the tool by a fool that's bad."
Breaking It Down
Positive reinforcement means using rewards, like food, toys or excursions, to encourage "good" behavior and strengthen trust in human companions. Systematic desensitization then diffuses underlying "bad" behavior. Alpha-dog training, however, shapes dogs' attitudes to instill subservience toward their owners, using forceful techniques and devices. Both techniques have proven effective. Nevertheless, according the Humane Society, positive reinforcement has the best track record, especially for soiling. It argues that Rex's behavior likely stems from separation anxiety. One thing on which all trainers agree, however, is the key role exercise plays in eliminating this and other behaviors.
Of course, it's natural in this situation to feel frustrated. Yet keeping calm will keep your dog calm. Letting negative emotions take control makes matters worse. After all, pushing Rex's snout into the mess or swatting him with a rolled-up newspaper will terrify him, making him likely to wet the floor again—and more often. So consult professionals before attempting anything. Nevertheless, whichever training technique you choose, if you expect self-control from Rex, lead by example. If you think about it, dogs rely on humans for everything they have—even a timely opportunity to relieve straining bladders. Respecting this relationship is a dog owner's privilege and obligation.