We are friends with an elderly couple who adopted a young rescue about ten years ago.
The wife passed away about a month ago, and suddenly the dog is peeing on the carpet three times in one day, even though he has a doggie door that he does continue to use regularly. This has been going on for a couple of days, and the housekeeper is getting pretty upset about it. She tried the age-old remedy of rubbing the dog’s nose in the pee spot, and he growled at her. What now?
– Nancy, Glastonbury, Connecticut
This dog is in grief over the loss of his owner. When someone dies, animals often grieve through changes in behaviors, which may result in more sleeping, more lethargic behaviors, and even inappropriate elimination in the home.
Rubbing the dog’s nose in the pee spot has never worked to change a behavior. The best way to restore normal behaviors is to give the dog lots of love and attention. But, keep in mind, it’s not uncommon for a dog or cat to grieve for a loved one for many weeks and months.
As for the inappropriate elimination inside the home, tell the housekeeper and the widower to act like they are housetraining a new dog. What that means is, they need to take the dog out to relieve himself after exercise and play, after he wakes up, after he eats, and before bedtime – just like with a puppy. They should see an improvement within a few days but should continue to do this training consistently for a few weeks to ensure it sticks.
If the elimination continues, the dog could have developed a health problem that may have resulted from grief or just coincidentally overlapped with the death of his loved one. In either case, he may need to see a veterinarian for a health exam.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to email@example.com. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal