Elimination Behavior Problems in dogs: the behavioral differential diagnosis (Proceedings)


There is probably not one simple answer to the how and why of separation anxiety!

  • Incomplete/lost/failed house-training

  • Illness leads to learning new patterns of elimination

  • Submissive Urination

  • Marking

  • Excitement Urination

  • Separation Anxiety and other anxiety disorders

  • Canine Cognitive Dysfunction


Failed House-training 

  • Verify house-training techniques

  • Take out frequently, especially after has eaten or woken up.

  • Withhold food and, if necessary, water, by a specific hour.

  • Profuse praise/treats for elimination in appropriate site.

  • Consider substrate preferences


Do not use inappropriate punishment

  • Three rules of punishment




  • Umbilical cord

  • Especially with dogs that leave owner's presence to eliminate in the house



  • Some dogs that were previously house-trained eliminate in the house when they have a GI or UTI disorder. 

  • The new behavior may continue once the medical problems is resolved.

  • Train as if were a puppy.  Usually comes back rapidly if owners are consistent.


Submissive urination

  • Dog urinates when people interact with it

  • Lies down->rolls onto side->tucks tail->urinates

  • Often puppies will outgrow this behavior if handled properly




  • Avoid eliciting

  • don't lean over

  • don't approach fast

  • don't speak to loudly



  • Walk toward the dog slowly

  • Stoop down to its level

  • Look at its ear, nose, zygomatic arch, anything but the eye

  • Use a soft/quiet voice





  • Imipramine, fluoxetine, clomipramine

  • Marking

  • Predominantly male dogs, but may occur in females

  • Small amounts of urine are deposited on vertical surfaces

  • Marking-treatment

  • Castrate

  • About 50% effective in dogs

  • Environmental management

  • Prevent access

  • Estrous Females

  • SRI

  • Progestin

  • Punishment, if feasible

  • Excitement urination

  • Urination when exhibiting other behaviors of excitement

  • jumping

  • yipping

  • spinning

  • Often occurs when owner arrives home or someone enters house

  • Avoid eliciting

  • Ignore when excited (Extinction)

  • Reinforce calm behavior

  • Do not punish

  • Imipramine, fluoxetine, clomipramine

  • Extinction


Separation Anxiety and other anxiety disorders

  • Do not punish

  • Treat the anxiety disorder



What is Canine Separation Anxiety?

  • A dog's response of distress when separated from an attachment figure or when alone

  • Separation Anxiety-Symptoms

  • Anxiety--->Fear--->”Hysteria”

  • Whines

  • Paces

  • Salivation

  • Destruction

  • Elimination

  • Persistent howling, whining, barking

  • Breaking through barriers

  • Attempts to dig through barriers


May occur

  • Only when entirely alone

  • When separated from one or more particular people, even if someone else is present

  • When separated from one or more particular other animals

  • Separation can be psychological, i.e. there are symptoms when the person is physically present, but is asleep


Primary Clinical Signs of Separation Anxiety

  • Signs that occur when the dog is separated from its attachment figure(s)

  • Excessive vocalization

  • Destruction

  • Inappropriate elimination (defecation, urination)

  • Other Clinical Signs of Separation Anxiety

  • Excessive salivation

  • Pacing

  • Diarrhea

  • Vomiting

  • Acral lick dermatitis

  • Anorexia

  • “Depression” or inactivity

  • Trembling

  • Whining/Crying

  • Underlying cause?

  • Hyperattachment?

  • “Velcro dog behavior”

  • Inadequate coping mechanisms?

  • Dog has never learned to be alone

  • Panic response to being alone?

  • Dogs from animal shelters/humane societies

  • History of abandonment


There is probably not one simple answer to the How and Why of Separation Anxiety!


Common pet owner misconceptions


  • The dog is acting out of spite

  • The dog should be taken to the site of destruction/elimination and punished

  • Getting another dog will help



  • The dog is undergoing extreme distress

  • Punishment after the fact WILL NOT HELP and can make the situation worse

  • Common Pet Owner Misconceptions

  • Getting another dog may not help and may make the situation worse



  • Environmental Management

  • Keep dog with owner at work and in car during early phases of treatment?

  • Dog proof house?

  • Keep dog in outside pen?

  • Crate?

  • Discuss the various options with owner



Behavior modification

  • Departures-Calm

  • Activity when alone

  • Give activity toy just before leave: Kong, Buster cube, Spaceballs

  • Leave radio or TV on?

  • Leave audiotape with voice of owner?

  • Returns-Calm

  • May initially have to extinguish excitement response that has previously been positively reinforced.  (Extinction of operant conditioning by removal of positive reinforcer.)

  • Extinction of Operant Conditioning

  • Extinguish classically conditioned fear response to stimuli that have become conditioned stimuli for fear/anxiety response

  • Classical Conditioning

  • Unconditioned Stimulus (Being alone)

---->Unconditioned Response (Fear/Anxiety)

Neutral Stimulus (Keys/Coat/Coffee Pot) + (Being alone)

---->Unconditioned Response (Fear/Anxiety)

  • NS becomes a Conditioned Stimulus (CS)----> Conditioned Response (CR)

  • Separation Anxiety-Behavior Modification

  • Extinguish classically conditioned fear response to to pre-departure cues. 

  • Ask the owner what behaviors of theirs elicit anxiety behaviors in their dog.

  • Getting suitcases out, Picking up keys, Picking up purse, Putting on coat, Opening door to garage

  • Talk with owner to determine what stimuli are relevant to their dog, producing a fear/anxiety response


Behavior modification

  • If owner and dog appear to be overattached, decrease interaction

  • If dog is generally hyperactive, institute positive reinforcement of calm behavior (Calm training)

  • Train control and independence with positive reinforcement

  • Teach sit-stay and down-stay

  • Reward for holding stay while owner is farther and farther away, and finally out of sight


  • At best, punishment will not help

  • Punishment upon arriving home can produce a “vicious cycle” of escalating anxiety and associated problem behavior

Desensitize dog to owner's absence

Use psychoactive medication, e.g. Clomipramine, Fluoxetine, to speed up process

Frequent short sessions



Benzodiazepines if dog panics

  • Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome

  • Minimum Diagnostic Evaluation

  • Physical exam

  • Neurologic exam

  • Diagnostic tests

  • CBC

  • UA

  • Chemistries

  • Thyroid tests

Average survival time post-diagnosis:  1.5-2 years but can live longer


Prevalence of CDS and range of symptoms ? with increasing age

  • Anipryl® (L-deprenyl HCl, selegiline HCl)

  • Environmental Management

  • Behavior Modification

  • Hill's B/D



  • Take outside frequently

  • Praise when eliminates appropriately

  • Make sure footing is secure and comfortable

  • Ramp instead of stairs
Related Videos
© 2023 MJH Life Sciences

All rights reserved.