Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Question of the Day: Urine Marking in the Crate

This is the most recent question I've received by email.  It's a good one.  Keep 'em coming.

I have a 8month old Boxer Pitbull mix in one of my beginner classes. He is male and was altered at 5 months old. He is house trained and crate trained, but if there is anything in his crate, he strategically pees on it. If Frankie's owner puts even a small towel or t-shirt in there, he will position himself so he pees on the object. When the crate is empty he doesn't go. He doesn't go anywhere else in the house either - only if there is something in the crate. He will pee on his stuff too, even his squeaky plush toys. Also, he pees on things both when he is left alone in the crate and when Samantha is still in the room.  So its not just when he is left alone in the crate. What do you think about this?

Andrea M.

It sounds like the puppy is marking objects to be definitively his--his crate, his stuff. First, make sure the dog has urinated directly before it is crated. Also, make sure the kennel is the appropriate size for the dog. A crate that is too big would provide the puppy with a dry place to lie down after it had urinated inside. I would remove everything from the crate the dog would pee on. Then, I would try feeding the dog in the kennel exclusively. This would help discourage the dog from peeing in that space. Some dogs will urinate on food too. In that case remove everything including food and treats. You said the dog will pee on objects when the Pet Parent is there. If the dog knows the "leave it " cue or a conditioned punisher like "uh, uh!" or "no," then you could set up a training session. Place something in the crate that the dog might want to mark, then have the pet parent stay nearby to say "leave it" or "uh, uh!" the moment the dog appeared ready to pee. When the dog looks up from the item, click or say "good" and toss a treat in the kennel. Do a few reps then immediately take the dog outside to urinate and praise and reward the dog then too. There should be nothing in the kennel when the dog is unsupervised.

Eventually you could try placing a washable bed in the kennel, or wrapping the plastic bottom tray with a blanket so that it can't be moved around easily. Make the crate comfortable and clean. Teach the dog "leave it." Feed the dog in the crate. And have the Pet Parent watch closely when there is something in the crate so she is able to take the dog out every time it appears like it might pee in there.

Thank ou for the great question.  I hope this response helps.  Email me if you need more help or if you want me to answer privately.  When you send in questions, I will publish the question answer on my blog unless you say otherwise.