Q: How do you stop a 4-year old dog from urinating on the rugs due to separation anxiety? We have had him for about 4 months and can’t leave the house for 10 minutes without him eliminating on the floor. He is a wonderful dog but very insecure.

A: First of all, it would be helpful if you hired a professional trainer (who uses only positive methods) to determine if the cause of this problem really is separation anxiety. The trainer will get a complete history of the dog including his diet, daily routine, how long the behavior has been going on, what training methods have been tried, whether there are other animals in the house, etc.

It’s possible this is a learned behavior. Some dogs have inadvertently been taught to eliminate whenever their humans leave the house and the dog thinks that elimination at these times is a perfectly normal thing to do.

Since you’ve only had him for 4 months, and I’m not sure where you got him from, I would suggest also reading this post: Kennel Conditioned Urination.

It’s critical in situations like this to never punish a dog or correct him even a second after he has eliminated. There’s no such thing as, “He knows he did something wrong because he acts guilty.”

Of course the first thing you need to check out is his health to make sure there are no physiological problems contributing to the situation. That being said, if he truly is insecure, three things are necessary:

  1. Set him up for success. That means don’t let him eliminate in inappropriate areas while you’re gone. Baby gates are one option to managing this situation.
  2. Change the way he feels about being left alone . This is easy but requires a professional to set you up on a step-by-step program.
  3. Training . Training your dog to do different behaviors increases confidence. Your training should include gradual departure and return routines so he becomes assured you will always return.

Our DVD, The Dog Whisperer, will really help in the training aspect.

Also, my book, The Dog Whisperer, has a section on separation anxiety.

I also suggest these books,  “I’ll Be Home Soon” by Patricia McConnell, which deals with separation anxiety, and “Help for your Fearful Dog” by Nicole Wilde.

I hope this helps.