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Discussion Starter #1
Sorry for the long post...

We have a 20 month old non spayed Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (she goes to conformation shows which is why she is still in-tact). She is very sweet and has taken to obedience training very well, but we struggle in two areas; potty training, and anxiety/fear. I wonder if the two conditions are related, but our primary concern is getting Coco reliable in the house.

I know the problem has got to be with my husband and myself and we have honestly been trying to help Coco stop having accidents in the house by establishing a routine; controlling her feeding times, confining her when we are busy, supervising her when she is out with us, etc. We even hired a mid-day dog walker for extra potty breaks while we are at work. I have also ruled out medical issues by talking to my vet about this on two different occasions now, as this problem has been ongoing since she was a puppy. Despite being negative for UTIs we have treated her with antibiotics just in case.

Coco is a very good girl in that when we go outside she will poop or pee on command. We praise her like crazy and she always gets a treat. But she comes back inside and sometimes decides to pee or poop more in the house - and these accidents only happen when we ignore her by becoming preoccupied with something else (usually when we are working on the computer) and forgot to put her in her crate or pen. Sometimes an accident will be 30 minutes after having just gone outside, sometimes it will be after two hours. There is no pattern to it other than they happen the moment we take our eyes off her + forget to lock her up. Those two things together guarantee an accident. Every time it happens we get really good for a week or two, then slowly get lax about it again until Coco reminds us that we weren't watching her by leaving us "presents". I have a feeling there may be more accidents than we find because our carpet is dark and we can only tell if she peed when we feel a wet spot.


When Coco has our full attention she can hold her pee and poop for hours. I know she has gone up to 6 hours without a potty break while gated in the living room with us several times without having an accident, and can hold it easily in her crate for 9 hours. It seems like when we are ignoring her she will have her accidents... and that is why I wonder if anxiety might have to do with this. As a puppy she was hard to crate train because of separation anxiety but has now learned her crate is a safe and good place.

Now for her anxiety issues. Coco will stop in her tracks, eyes get wide, lowers her head, starts to growl, and then will let out one loud BARK several times a day. She doesn’t carry on barking like mad, but just follows this exact sequence. This happens usually when we are sitting all together in the living room watching TV or just casually hanging out when no major activities are going on. She has never done this behavior outside, during a walk, or during any time of fun activities for her. I did think this also could have been a medical condition and took her to a neurologist. The doctor did say it could be partial seizures due to epilepsy or a metabolic condition. We checked her for a liver shunt and she was negative.. so not a metabolic condition. Epilepsy might still be the case, but more and more I am thinking she is growling at noises because she always looks very nervous. She started this behavior around 6 months of age.

Sometimes I do hear a noise and I believe that is what she is getting nervous about. All I have to do is tell her to kennel up and she will run into her crate and relax. She does love her crate and always goes in there happily. We feed her and give her treats in there, so it is like her bedroom.

Do you think her anxiety and potty training issues are related? Either way, I know at this time we have to try something different because obviously what we are doing now is not working. Because we have been putting up with accidents for so long I do admit both my husband and I are getting frustrated and angry and we are doing our best to stay calm around Coco when mistakes happen. We have never caught her in the act of having an accident after the age of 13 months. The longest we have ever gone without an accident was 4 weeks. I am not sure how else to rehabilitate her when we can never catch her in the act, as then we can never let her know that is the wrong behavior.

We both are desperate, and my husband at this point is starting to say that he wants to get rid of her. Together, we have successfully potty trained our previous dog who sadly passed away at 3 years of age. Before that dog, I potty trained my dog at the time when I lived with my parents. In addition to that, I was a basic obedience instructor for 4 years and even ran potty training seminars! So I do know how to potty train and I know the basics of getting it done but really I know it is always the human’s fault when things like this happen. I think we are at the point where we really need help. We just have to try something different.

I don’t want to give up on Coco.
 

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A few questions so we can get a better picture of the situation.

What do you do after you find the mess? How do you clean it? Are you using an enzymatic cleaner? Are you correcting her after you find the mess?

I don't have advice for her nervous behavior though because of the repeated routine of it, it does sound like it could be a partial seizure or some similar neurological event.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
A few questions so we can get a better picture of the situation.

What do you do after you find the mess? How do you clean it? Are you using an enzymatic cleaner? Are you correcting her after you find the mess?

I don't have advice for her nervous behavior though because of the repeated routine of it, it does sound like it could be a partial seizure or some similar neurological event.
At first as a young puppy we shrugged and cleaned up her mess. I have always used an enzymatic cleaner, and also own a carpet steam cleaning machine. I use only enzymatic carpet shampoo that I buy from pet stores.

Recently, as in the past three months, I have become increasingly frustrated and angry after finding accidents. We can't ever scold her because we literally have NEVER caught her in the act. She waits until we are pre-occupied, and like I said we sometimes forget to put her away. I really hate the idea that we just constantly have to keep her locked up like in some sort of doggie prison boot camp, but she is proving to us over and over again that this is what she needs.... she cannot be trusted.

If it does turn out to be a neurological thing then perhaps she has some incontinence issues...? However I am sure if that were the case we would see her having the accident. She can go for hours holding it if she is the center of attention.
 

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tether her to you . Problem solved.
Also, WALK her for about 45 min a day briskly, stopping several times to let her pee. She may not be emptying her bladder fully. Walking briskly relieves anxiety.
Get a blacklight and find any urine residue and clean thoroughly with an enzyme cleaner. make sure you are using it correctly, as you normally leave it wet, and let it dry naturally. You don't want to mix cleaners with it as that kills off the enzymes that kill the bacteria in the urine that causes the smell.
 

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"Catching a dog in the act and scolding it" for potty issues, will only increase anxiety and fear levels.

Scolding a dog for other misbehaviours too, will have the same negative effect.

If you really want to try something different: completely ignore all inappropriate behaviour, and instead, reinforce appropriate behaviour.
 
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