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How do I stop my new rescue dog toileting overnight?

First off some background to this question…

My Mum has taken on a rescue dog as a companion for her and my Dad, following the loss of their much loved Polly last year. She wanted a 2 year old Cocker Spaniel and has ended up with a 6+ year old Cocker Spaniel ex breeding bitch (I suspect). My Mum has completely fallen for her, but……….

When they got her she wasn’t house trained, which they have more or less sorted in the day. The problem is that she messes in the night and barks getting my Mum up every night to let her out and in some cases clear up the mess.

They have tried confining her to a crate, but she messes in the crate.

Once she gets my Mum up (usually about 4.30am) she then doesn’t settle. My Mum is exhausted and very much on the verge of trying to rehome her, which my Mum has never done before.

They have tried an anti bark spray collar for after she has got them up, which has worked to some extent as she has then settled better.

Thank you for getting in touch with your question – and don’t worry, I think I have some suggestions that your mum hasn’t tried yet.

One thing I always try to do when I’m presented with a problem like this, is to look at the bigger picture – the other factors that are affecting the dog in the situation and what history surrounds it. It’s really helpful that you’ve given a bit more background to your mum’s dog for me to take into account.

Assuming she’s been checked out by a vet and there aren’t any underlying physical problems, here’s how I think the dog might be viewing the situation:

  • Finding it hard to settle into a home environment (previously kennelled?)
  • In a kennel it didn’t matter where you went to the toilet
  • Feeling generally anxious and a bit stressed because of such a big life change
  • Feels much safer when owners are present – suffers from separation distress/ anxiety when left without them

So the easiest thing to help the dog settle is to manage the situation in the short-term whilst working on the dog’s confidence levels in the new situation. When I say manage, I mean avoid the problem – in this case, being left downstairs overnight as I think it’s possible the dog is having accidents out of stress and worry.

Being crated/ having a bed in your parents bedroom is likely to make her feel much more safe and secure, and therefore less likely to mess in her bed.

This need not be a longer-term solution, but what does need to happen is a break in the cycle for both the dog and for your parents! Meanwhile I would suggest the following ideas for increasing her ability to cope with her anxiety:

  • Adaptil Diffuser (see below) or the Adaptil Collar. Some people find spraying the Adaptil Spray on a doggy bandanna that they wear round their necks works quite well.

  • Consider changing her diet. Behavioural issues are quite often exacerbated by a dogs diet. My favourite would be to try a complete raw food diet for a while (Nature’s Menu, Natural Instinct), or else a dry food with a lower and better quality protein source (Burns, Skinners).
  • Two meals a day – this may already be the case, but worth mentioning if not.
  • Varying how she receives her meals – using a Kong will give her a nice chewing session that will release some lovely endorphins to counteract her worries (see below).

It is obviously difficult for me to give specific advice to a dog that I haven’t taken a full history from, but I hope the above will give you some ideas of how to address any problems you may be having with your own dogs. Please leave me a comment in the box below to let me know if there’s anything you’d like further clarification on 🙂

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