Soiling indoors…inappropriate for whom?
After many months or even years spent shut up in a concrete shack or fenced in area with other dogs, our long-awaited greyhound or galgo is suddenly catapulted into an entirely different reality: our home.
As new adopters we have to manage a variety of unexpected situations, and inappropriate soiling – in other words defecating or urinating indoors – is one of these.
The first thing to make clear is that in a shack or a small shed a dog doesn’t have the option of organising his time and space as he would like: the overlapping of the areas where he rests, eats, urinates and defecates is total, and it is precisely this overlapping which is at the root of the problem.
In fact, defecating and urinating outside is an acquired skill which is learned in the first months of a puppy’s life, and if something goes wrong this learning could be delayed, or even never take place. So an adult dog who has lived in the situation of complete overlap referred to earlier could have some initial problems in identifying the outside of a dwelling as a place in which to attend to his bodily needs.
Another important point is to differentiate between urinating to mark territory and urinating as a physiological need.
Generally you can tell the difference by considering the amount of urine produced, which will be less and against a vertical support when it is about marking, and abundant when it is a physiological need.
Marking happens in order to communicate something, and just a few drops produced in strategic points are enough to send a message to a hypothetical recipient. In the urine there are pheromones, which are molecules which cannot be perceived by us humans but which have a specific meaning for our dogs. Pheromones give an indication of the subject’s position, and can mean either “here I am, this is my place” or “this thing belongs to me”.
But if it is a real physiological need, this could also be prompted by a disorder in the dog’s sensory homeostasis like the ‘sense deprivation syndrome’ or ‘social behaviour development disorder’ which could inhibit our dog to such an extent that he will only attend to his bodily needs within the house and not in our presence, in places which he feels are safe and where he won’t be disturbed.
The veterinary surgeon will need to make the important distinction as to whether there is a physiological or clinical problem at the root of soiling in inappropriate places.
We can tell that it’s not a problem related to behaviour when everything has been done to ensure the dog’s wellbeing but the soiling still persists even in abnormal places like his bed which we might find wet with urine, or our dog might often assume the position for defecating or urinating, or he might often lick his genitals.
So what should we do if our dog soils indoors?
In the first days after adoption, we should take him out frequently to quiet places away from cars and people, allowing him to sniff around, and letting him naturally find his own places to evacuate in, preferably on grass or by trees. A look or a simple ‘good boy!’ spoken in a calm tone of voice will underline the message that he has done the right thing.
If he soils at home, the dog should never be punished, whether after the event or if caught in the act. To resolve the problem we need to understand the cause of the marking.
A short sharp sound could stop the action if we see him in the act, and at this point we could then invite our dog to go outside.
There is no point in punishing a dog who soils indoors: when he has just arrived, he cannot understand which are the places outside the house where we would like him to go, but he will learn by being taken outside at the right moments.
Edited by Dr. Katia Galbiati, veterinary practitioner and canine behaviourist within the cognitive animal-human relationship based approach. She is also a lecturer, educator and SIUA dog trainer, and works with animal-human relationship based teaching methods.
Tags: adotta galgo, adozione levriero, antiracing, greyhound, greyhound racing, pet levrieri