September 23, 2013

An Interview

Posted in: Dog

This week we interview Sophia Morgan about her gorgeous cavalier, Ruby who developed a habit of urinating on her own bed as well as Sophia’s bed. We ask Sophia why she thinks Ruby started this habit, what strategies she put in place to stop it and how challenging behaviour from your pooch can impact your daily life.

1. Firstly, how would you describe Ruby?
I had to think about this for a brief moment. Ruby is a red King Charles Cavalier. She’s got a big bushy tail, huge heart, melting eyes and the prettiest face you’ve ever seen. The best way I could describe gorgeous Ruby is a rainbow of characteristics. She’s reserved yet playful, timid but sometimes outgoing. She makes us laugh on a daily basis with all her silly, cheeky antics. But she’s the most loving, affectionate, beautiful little soul you could ever hope to have in your life. She trusts implicitly and loves unconditionally. Like all dogs! But of course, Greg and I think she’s the best. Not that we’re biased or anything!! She’s got a few house nick names, which include The Ginger Ninger, Little Ginger Snap and probably the most appropriate, Pissy Pants!

2. Ruby has recently began urinating on your bed, why do you think this is happening?
It’s been on the bed recently because she’s only just been able to get up there herself this past month or so. Ruby sleeps in the laundry for this very reason but the few times she’s done it on our bed has been when we’ve naively left her there or she’s snuck up herself. Before that, she would urinate on her own bed. Every time we would wash it she would do it again, of course this was frustrating to wake up to most mornings so I knew there was some work to be done to eliminate this kind of behaviour. We soon realised the reason why she was doing this, it was a comfort issue. After washing her bed blanket it would smell unfamiliar, and because Ruby had some confidence issues this made her nervous so she would each night urinate so the smell would again become familiar. The same with our bed. When she eventually got up there she too would ‘mark it’ with her scent.

3. What strategies do you have in place to prevent this from happening and eventually one day stopping?
Firstly, we had to rule out Ruby in the bedroom. As much as we both adore her cuddles she just had to learn her boundaries and that this wasn’t acceptable behaviour. Urinating on her/our bed was only part of a big behavioral problem we’ve been working with though. We threw out her old bed and bought a new mesh bed that was elevated from the ground. The only thing we kept was her old blanket. We left her with the new bed and no blanket the first night, and then introduced back the blanket the second night. It was almost as if throwing out the old bed threw out the old habit. She’s never urinated on her bed since! Setting boundaries helps Ruby recognise her place with in our ‘pack’ and this seems to work with us. However, I will admit to a few cheeky weekend cuddles in bed but she seems to know now that it’s a treat and she’s never left unattended just in case. Old habits die hard don’t they?

4. How does Ruby’s behaviour effect your daily life?
Ruby has been a challenge but a great one. Her behaviour added extra stress on daily life, especially when we were constantly washing and cleaning up after her. She has had huge confidence problems, she also suffered with submissive urination and would pee everywhere when Greg approached her or if a stranger came near her. After reading Ceaser Millan’s books and some extensive research on submissive urination I put into place some house rules that have done the trick. Ignoring her for the first 10 minutes of arriving home after work helps her wind down from the excitement, speaking with more gentler voices (Greg’s voice does tend to boom) helped her to feel less scared and timid and then I worked with her on some confidence issues and tried to help her get out of her shell.
Encouraging her to play with me rather than shy away, she used to just bury her head in my legs when I initiated play time, helped her gain confidence, as well as always praising her when she made progress. We tickle her under her chin as opposed to on top of the head until she is comfortable and I always ask our friends to do the same when they come round. The changes we’ve seen are amazing. She’s a different dog now and a complete delight. She interacts, barks, plays and bounces around and of course, no longer urinates on submission or comfort. It was a challenge for us, and we butted heads on a few things but we worked together like the great team we are and we all came out winners.

5. What advice do you have for other owners who are going through challenging behaviour from their pooch?
Don’t despair, don’t give up and please don’t take your frustrations out on your doggies. Ask yourself, “What am I doing that could be causing this behavior?” Our dogs are beautiful instinctual creatures that can and will mirror our characters, including the imperfect parts. As Ceaser Millan says, train yourself as well as your dog. Do your research, ask friends and family for advise or opinions and most importantly if you implement a house rule or training strategy, stick to it! Dogs NEED stability and routine. Never be afraid to ask friends and family to abide by your training and house rules when in your house and finally, be patient. They will get there. It will take time, patience and love but they’ll get there.