What Do Your Dog’s Urination Rituals Really Mean?

An extensive study on canine scent marking published recently in the journalAnimal Behaviour provides conclusive evidence dogs of both sexes compete for status through urination.

The characteristics by which canines judge one another’s position in the doggy hierarchy include the location chosen, angle of leg lift, height of the marking and quality of the urine.

Overmarking is when a dog pees on or near the mark left by another canine. Adjacent marking is when a dog urinates very close to, but not directly on, the mark of another dog. Both types are known as countermarking.

Putting to rest previous assumptions that overmarking is done exclusively by males to hide female urine marking, this study reveals both male and female dogs do it. And they do it to urine marks of either sex, not just marks left by the opposite sex. The dog’s status plays an important role in the tendency to countermark.

According to Anneke Lisberg, study co-author and a researcher in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater:

“Although both sexes countermark, they do it a little differently: Males are more likely to overmark than females, and high-status males exposed to a place like a dog park are the energizer bunnies of marking. Males and females investigate urine, and the higher tailed dogs of both sexes urinate and countermark. But the males don’t stop after the first mark or second or third.”

(Dogs of either gender with high tail positions are assumed to be higher status dogs.)

Lower status dogs, more submissive than their higher ranking counterparts, often don’t do any countermarking at dog parks. Based on studies of other animals that urine-mark, it’s in fact risky for a submissive individual to even pretend to overmark. In the world of canines, it seems attempting to fake elevated status with countermarking is inviting trouble from higher ranking dogs who know the difference.

Dr. Lisberg explains how scent marking probably helps dogs relate to one another:

“Because these are signals that can be investigated from a safe distance, it may be that dogs are able to sort out a lot of their relationships through marks before they ever meet face to face. If they can sort out things chemically, it could help them make smarter decisions about whom to approach and how to approach them.”

All of you dog guardians out there know how much time your beloved pooch spends investigating pee, and peeing.

If you’ve paid attention to your pet’s urination rituals, you know he’s using his keen sense of smell to gather information. As he stops and sniffs and sniffs and sniffs, he’s picking up facts about all the other animals — in particular, canines — that have relieved themselves in the area.

Canine Scent Marking and Facebook

Unfortunately, despite how much time our canine companions spend in pee-related pursuits, very little is known about urinary communication among dogs. Anneke Lisberg and her colleague, Charles Snowdon, would seem to be research pioneers in the field of canine scent marking.

Their study suggests dogs of both sexes use a variety of different urination activities to:

  • Assert social status
  • Find potential mates
  • Size up unfamiliar dogs
  • Limit potentially threatening close contact during social introductions

Dr. Lisberg believes dogs may use urine investigation and scent marking in an attempt to establish safe social connections with other dogs. According to Discovery News, she thinks it is possible dogs “might be able to assess many personal aspects of health, stress, virility, diet” and more just by sniffing another dog’s urine.

Dr. Lisberg believes marking and countermarking could be the canine equivalent of Facebook. It allows dogs to easily gather information about one another’s personal lives, from a safe distance.

Another interesting if arguably unscientific viewpoint on canine scent marking comes from a 1944 novel by British philosopher and author Olaf Stapledon, titled Sirius: A Fantasy of Love and Discord.

Sirius is a sheep dog with human-level intelligence. He attends Cambridge University with his guardian, and among other scholarly activities, has plans to write a book called The Lamp-post, A Study of the Social Life of the Domestic Dog. The opening passage, as written by Sirius:

“In man, social intercourse has centered mainly on the process of absorbing fluid into the organism, but in the domestic dog and to a lesser extent among all wild canine species, the act charged with most social significance is the excretion of fluid. For man the pub, the estaminet, the Biergarten, but for the dog the tree trunk, the lintel of door or gate, and above all the lamppost, form the focal points of community life. For a man, the flavors of alcoholic drinks, but for a dog the infinitely variegated smells of urine are the most potent stimuli for the gregarious impulse.”

Scent Marking Behavior by Gender

In Dr. Lisberg’s experiment, she presented peed-upon, short wooden stakes to a group of dogs that included intact males and females, neutered males and spayed females.

She then observed and recorded the behavior of all 4 categories of dogs. Contrary to what you might expect, the females in the group spent just as much time investigating the urine of unfamiliar dogs as the males did. The males primarily investigated the urine of unfamiliar males, however, the females were equally interested in the urine of both sexes.

Dogs with the highest tail positions (assumed to be the highest status dogs) spent less time sniffing; dogs with low tail positions spent the most time at it.

As you might guess, dogs with high tail positions did the most overmarking. None of the females overmarked. Instead, they adjacent-marked from a distance of 4 to 5 feet. (Lisberg has done another study that suggests overmarking and adjacent marking are actually different responses with different motivations.)

At the Dog Park

Another experiment Dr. Lisberg performed was at a popular dog park. She set out to observe pee investigation, Ano-Genital (AG) investigation (butt sniffing) and peeing behavior at the entrance to the park. Some of her observations:

  • Male and female dogs were equally likely to urinate immediately upon entering the park. Males peed more frequently, however.
  • Male dogs already at the park overmarked or adjacent marked more than females. They also spent more time doing pee investigations of new dogs entering the park.
  • Dogs of both sexes with high tail positions marked and investigated more than dogs with low tail positions. And no female dog with a low tail position either peed upon entering the park, or countermarked those that did.
  • Ano-Genital sniffing was done more by dogs already in the park than those just entering. It was also done more frequently by dogs who appeared relaxed. There didn’t seem to be any relationship between AG sniffing and either the sex or status of the dogs.

Dogs entering the park were frequently quickly surrounded (for purposes of butt sniffing) by several dogs already at the park. If you’ve ever taken your dog to a dog park, you’re probably aware this is a potentially threatening situation for your dog as she enters the park (and often for you, as well).

Dr. Lisberg noted a consistent tendency of dogs getting the AG treatment to quickly move a few feet away and urinate. This caused the other dogs to sniff the urine rather than the new dog, which ended the potentially stressful physical contact. Lisberg speculates urine marking may be a way for dogs to reveal social information about themselves while avoiding the tension created by AG behavior by strangers.

Perhaps if more dogs were free to greet one another through the pee-and-sniff method vs. the butt sniff method, there would be fewer issues when leashed dogs are introduced to other leashed (or unleashed) dogs. Maybe our canine companions need the freedom to communicate information about themselves through urine, without the threat posed by close contact sniffing among strangers.

Food for thought!

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Getting Your Hyper Dog to Relax

Does your dog run when he could walk, or pace back and forth when he should be snoozing?

Does he lurch forward on his leash, yanking and tugging — threatening to dislocate your arm?

Does your pup bark at nothing, chase his tail, counter surf looking for food left behind, or just plain wear you out with his constant need for activity and attention?

If your dog is so wired he bounces off walls and can’t ever seem to sit still, believe it or not, chances are his behavior isn’t a sign of a clinical condition like hyperactivity.

It’s more likely your pup’s energy level is a result of his breed, his lifestyle, how you react to his excessive behavior – or a combination of factors.

High Activity Breeds

Every dog, regardless of breed or size, has a requirement for physical movement, exercise and playtime. But several breeds are characterized by a high to very high need for activity and stimulation.

If your high energy dog is one of the following breeds, or is a mixed breed with primary characteristics of one of these breeds, it’s important to know your pup is designed by nature to be much more active than other breeds.

Akita Irish Setter
Alaskan Malamute *Jack Russell Terrier
*American Foxhound Low Chen
Basset Hound Manchester Terrier
Beagle *Old English Sheepdog
Bearded Collie *Otterhound
Border Collie Pekinese
Boston Terrier *Poodle (toy, miniature, standard)
Borzoi Rhodesian Ridgeback
Canadian Welsh Corgi Saluki
Dachshund Scottish Terrier
Dandie Dinmont Terrier Sealyham Terrier
Deerhound Shetland Sheepdog
*English Foxhound Siberian Husky
*English Setter Silky Terrier
English Springer Spaniel Skye Terrier
Finnish Spitz Standard Schnauzer
*German Wirehaired Pointer Welsh Terrier
Golden Retriever West Highland Terrier
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Whippet
Greyhound  
*Breeds characterized as “very active.” Remaining breeds are characterized as “active.”

Each dog within a breed is an individual, of course. Within each breed characteristic there is a spectrum of what is considered typical.

Within the Golden Retriever temperament spectrum, for example, you can expect dogs with a high need for activity and dogs that are often content to nap at your feet all evening.

Puppies and young dogs will have different energy levels than adults within the same breed, as well.

Breed characteristics are simply guidelines for what is usual or expected for a breed. If your dog’s activity level seems excessive, understanding his innate temperament can give you important clues about how to channel his energy in ways that will benefit both of you.

Could Your Dog’s Diet Be the Problem?

If you’re feeding your dog a commercial pet food, she might have an allergy to one or more ingredients in the mix. Many of the so-called “healthy pet foods” on the market contain inferior meat meals, cheap grains like corn, rice and soy, fillers, by-products, food coloring, pesticides, preservatives, and other contaminants.

If your pup has a food allergy or intolerance to ingredients in the diet you’re feeding her, it can contribute to restlessness and hyperactive behavior, as well as sub-optimal health.

I recommend a diet that mimics your pet’s biological nutritional requirements as closely as possible. Ideally, your dog should be eating a species appropriate, nutritionally balanced, raw food diet.

Your next best option is to go with a human grade, USDA approved canned food.

I don’t advise you feed your dog kibble (dry food), and especially not an exclusive diet of it. If you do feed kibble occasionally, stick with a blend made with human-grade ingredients and little to no grains. Whenever you serve kibble, make sure your pup has access to lots of fresh, clean drinking water.

Why Exercise is So Important

Every dog, from the smallest to the oldest, needs regular physical activity to be healthy, and this is especially true if your dog is a high energy model.

Dogs are workers by nature and many were bred for a specific purpose, like hunting, retrieving, herding or guarding. Canines in the wild have very busy lives tending to the business of survival, raising their young and socializing with other members of the pack.

Unfortunately, many companion dogs today have sedentary lives. They don’t get enough physical or mental stimulation, and they often spend many hours alone at home every day.

Dogs with very active temperaments, in particular, can develop behavior problems if they aren’t provided with appropriate outlets to work off their natural energy.

If your dog is under exercised or bored, he’s likely to exhibit some or all of the following behaviors and seem as though he has a clinical case of hyperactivity:

  • Barking or whining for attention
  • Excessive mouthing and play biting
  • Predatory and rough play
  • Destructive chewing, digging or scratching
  • Counter surfing, garbage raiding and other sneaky type behaviors
  • Rowdiness, crashing into furniture, jumping up on people

Suggestions for Exercising Your Dog

Insuring your high energy pooch gets an adequate amount of physical and mental stimulation is a priority.

Many parents of former hopelessly hyperactive dogs have found the key to a calm, well-behaved pup is plenty of exercise and playtime.

Contrary to what many dog owners believe, your dog – no matter how small – can’t get adequate exercise running around your home or backyard. Only dogs in the wild, fending for themselves, get all the physical activity they need on their own.

Your dog needs your help to get the most out of exercise and playtime. There are lots of activities you can enjoy with your pup, no matter your own level of physical fitness or limitations, including:

  • Take a walk or a hike with your dog.
  • Play fetch the ball. If you don’t have a strong throwing arm, you can use a gadget like a Chuckit! Ball Launcher to lengthen the distance your dog must run to fetch and return the ball.
  • Take a bike ride alongside your dog using a special dog bike leash.
  • Roller blade or jog with your pup.
  • Take your dog for a swim and play fetch in the water.
  • Play a game of tug-of-war.
  • Play hide-and-seek with treats or your dog’s favorite toys.
  • Get your dog involved in obedience, tracking, flyball, agility or other types of sports. If you can match an organized activity to your dog’s breed characteristics, all the better.

When your dog is indoors, and especially when she’s home alone, challenge her with food puzzle toys like the Clever K-9.

If your job or other obligations keep you away from home for long hours, consider taking your pup to a doggie daycare facility a couple days a week. You might also hire a dog walker to take your pooch for a daily stroll or a romp at the dog park.

Be Careful Not to Reinforce Unwanted Behavior

Many parents of highly active dogs unintentionally reward their pets for excessive behavior.

Some dogs — especially hyper what-about-me types – regard any attention, positive or negative, as better than no attention at all.

Attention-seeking behaviors can run the gamut from non-stop barking every time you take a phone call, to games of “keep away” involving your cell phone or watch. There have even been reported cases of dogs feigning lameness or illness in a bid for attention.

The way to put a stop to unwanted behavior in your dog is to ignore it. Depending on the behavior this can be a challenge, but if you remain consistent and determined, your dog will ultimately lose interest because his bid for attention is having the opposite effect.

The first few times you ignore him when he’s performing an attention-seeking activity, understand that your dog will most likely escalate the behavior temporarily.

But if you continue to ignore him, and only pay attention to him when he’s not engaged in unwanted behavior, eventually his attention-seeking antics will grind to a halt. His goal is to get your attention, which is the opposite of being ignored, so he’ll soon learn which behaviors are getting him the opposite of what he wants.

Meantime, be sure to lavish attention on him with petting, praise, food treats and shared activities when he’s behaving as you want him to. Remember — attention to good behavior begets good behavior, and ignoring unwanted behavior extinguishes it.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

If you’re at the end of your rope with your energetic pooch and your efforts to properly socialize, train and exercise him don’t seem to be helping, it’s time to visit your veterinarian for a consultation and workup.

Certain drugs, especially bronchodilator medicines and thyroid hormone supplements, can contribute to symptoms of hyperactivity. Aging can also be a factor, as can diseases of the central nervous system.

And of course it’s possible your dog really is clinically hyperactive, in which case all your best efforts to modify his behavior may not have much effect without simultaneous drug therapy or treatment with natural remedies.

If your vet determines there’s no physiologic basis for your pup’s hyperactivity, the next step is to consult a dog trainer or other animal behaviorist.

What you don’t want to do is become overwhelmed or completely exhausted trying to modify your dog’s behavior on your own.

Commit to finding answers for your dog’s behavior, and seek the help you need from knowledgeable sources. This will strengthen the bond and long-term relationship between you and your best furry friend.

 

Source: http://healthypets.mercola.com

Crate Training Your Puppy

Prime Time for Housetraining

The age at which most puppies can begin to learn potty etiquette is about 8.5 weeks. Younger puppies don’t yet have the neurological development necessary to control elimination, much like human infants. They aren’t yet able to ‘hold it.’

By 8.5 weeks most puppies are capable of selecting a preferred surface – an outdoor grassy area, for example, or a puppy pad indoors – and eliminating in that spot. Your puppy’s brain is developed enough to begin to associate the smell and surface of his potty spot and the act of elimination.

Not only can most puppies at 8.5 weeks start to make these mental connections, but they are also better able to control when and where they relieve themselves.

House training your puppy is a two-fold process. First she must learn to go in the designated potty spot, and then she must learn to hold it until she is in that spot. In order to successfully housetrain any dog, the first rule is to never leave puppy unsupervised. And I mean not even for a minute.

For most of us this is an unachievable goal, which is why I highly recommend crate training.

Why I Like Crate Training

A dog crate (kennel or cage) has lots of uses for both you and your pet, with house training at the top of the list.

Dogs are den dwellers by nature, so a crate works with your puppy’s innate need to have a small, safe, preferably dark spot to call his own. And nature has arranged it such that a small, enclosed area will help your little guy learn conscious control of his urge to eliminate.

In the wild, mother wolves teach their litters to potty outside the den. If you provide your puppy with his own ‘den,’ you’re working in harmony with his natural desire not to soil it.

Other uses for a crate include keeping your pet safe from a long list of dangers and potential disasters – everything from electrical cords to the cat’s food bowl to the tail-pulling toddler visiting from next door.

Getting Your Puppy Comfortable with a Crate

The goal of crate training is to wind up with a puppy who loves being in there. Toward that end, you should never force your puppy into her crate or out of it.

Everything about the crate should be positive from your dog’s point of view.

Locate the crate in an area where the family spends time – not in an isolated spot, or outdoors, or in a high traffic location, or where the puppy will experience temperature extremes. I drape a blanket over the back half of my dogs’ crates to enhance the den-like feel.

Inside the crate there should be something comfy to lay on, water, treats, raw bones, chew toys, puzzle toys – you can even feed your puppy in the crate if you like.

While you’re in the initial stages of getting puppy used to being inside the crate, the door should remain open. Once she’s going in and out willingly, you can begin closing the door behind her for short periods. After she’s spent some time in the crate with the door closed (with you close by, perhaps in another room), you can leave her in there for a short time while you’re away from the house.

You can gradually extend the amount of time you leave her in the crate, providing she’s getting consistent, frequent trips outside to potty.

A young puppy needs to be taken to her potty spot about every hour, and always after eating, playing, and sleeping. The older your pet gets, the less often she’ll need to go. But no dog should be expected to last 8 or 10 hours without a potty break, and especially not a puppy.

If you need to leave your pup for longer than a four-hour stretch, I recommend you use a dog sitter or a doggy daycare facility rather than crating her for long periods of time.

You want your dog to view her crate as a safe place to rest and be calm, so when she’s in there and you’re home, resist the urge to energetically interact with her. Puppies need quiet time just like babies do. And your pup is capable of amusing herself as long as she has toys and treats in her crate.

When you let puppy out of her crate, give her a Sit command and plenty of calm praise when she follows the command. Make entry and exit from the crate a calm, neutral experience and unassociated with any of your dog’s behaviors.

Choosing a Crate and Keeping it Clean

Select a crate that is neither too small nor too big.

Your puppy should be able to stand up, turn around and lie down in his crate. The space should be big enough for him to move around comfortably, but not so big he can turn one end of it into a bathroom. A too-large enclosure can actually slow down the housebreaking process.

If your puppy has a lot of growing to do, keep in mind you’ll probably need to purchase a larger enclosure as he matures.

Make sure there is nothing inside the crate that could cause your pet harm, including anything around his neck that could get tangled or hung up on a part of the enclosure.

Clean the crate with hot water and a mild soap, or a vinegar/baking soda solution. Rinse and dry thoroughly.

Setting up Verbal Potty Cues and Reinforcing Desired Behavior

Once your puppy is good with his crate, you can begin housetraining in earnest.

When you take him outside to his potty spot (on a leash, of course), bring some treats.

Take him to the same spot each time and give him about five minutes to do his thing. If after five minutes he hasn’t eliminated, bring him back to his crate and close the door. Keep in mind that depending on the time of day, he’s likely got a full bladder and full intestines and you don’t want to give him the run of your house.

The goal of house training is to set your pup up to succeed rather than fail.

Wait 15 to 30 minutes and take him back out to his spot for another attempt. Be prepared to repeat this process a few times (crate to potty spot back to crate and back to potty spot), if necessary.

When your pup finally decides to piddle, immediately say something like ‘go potty’ in a low, reassuring tone. (I use ‘go potty’ as a urinate cue and ‘go poo’ for the other, but you can choose whatever phrases you like as long as you use them consistently.)

What you’re doing is marking and reinforcing the desired behavior with a verbal command so that he will associate the verbal cue with the act of eliminating.

Eventually, you’ll be able to take your dog to a spot – ideally any spot of your choosing whether at home or elsewhere – and give the verbal cue you’ve chosen and he’ll do his thing ‘on command.’

Within three seconds of your pup finishing his business, you must give him a treat and say ‘good job.’ Give him a couple more treats and continue to praise him before you go back inside.

Don’t wait until you’re back indoors to give your pet his treat. What will happen in his little puppy brain is he’ll associate the food reward with coming back indoors rather than with relieving himself outside. That’s why it’s very important to remember the treats when you take him outside, and then reward him within three seconds after he completes the desired behavior.