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Toilet Problems - 1 Year Old Cocker Spaniel


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Hi everyone,

I'm hoping someone might be able to suggest some ideas or shine some light on why Shadow my 1 year old Cocker Spaniel still can't seem to hold it through the night or even for a few hours.

We've had him since 9 weeks old. From day one he has been much much harder to house train than my last dog but since moving house has been alot better during the day as long as he has constant access to the dog flap. Since we got him we've taken him out regularly, waited for him to pee or poop & praised then played with him & brought him back in.

The main problem now is at night. Nearly every morning since we've had him I've had some sort of mess to clean up, it used to be both wees & poos but these days it's mostly just poo. He sleeps in the laundry, we started off crating him but he would just pee & poop in there & sleep on top of it...

We've tried many things to try & help him understand he has to hold it until morning but nothing has ever worked more than about 2 weeks.

We've tried:

Changing food,

Getting up in the night to let him out then gradually moving the time closer & closer to the time my husband gets up for work,

Penning him to the dog flap then gradually increasing the space,

I thought he might be toileting out of anxiety from being shut away, so we let him have access to the hall outside our bedroom (he knows he's not to come in the bedroom) which connects to the dog flap but he just peed & pooped all over the hall.

At the moment my husband gets up at 6:15am to let Shadow & his sister (she doesn't have any house training problems) out to the toilet then lets them back in at 6:45am. I then get up with my toddler at 8:30am. But again the last few weeks Shadow has begun pooping before my husband gets there to let them out. Then sometimes if he hasn't made a mess there will be some poop or a wee between then & when I get up.

To top it all off the other evening while everyone was awake he went from the room that has the dog flap to my bedroom, pooped on the rug then went back to the room with the flap & went outside :eek:

& this morning after my husband had let them out as usual they were waiting quietly (normally Shadow will fuss until I get up) so to reward his quiet I decided to let them out of the laundry & into the hall only to catch him a few mins later weeing & then found a poop :mad

I keep hoping the older he gets the better he'll be able to hold it but I'm starting to fear this is going to go on for the rest of his life :( . He doesn't seem to care at all if he gets covered in poop & will quite happily stomp it all over the laundry floor so when he does that I have to clean the floor & then wash his feet.

Would really like to hear if anyone has any suggestions or ideas whats happening :confused:

We've got a baby due in January & the thought of juggling toddler, newborn & cleaning up after his mess is rather daunting :cry:

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A couple of thoughts very quickly...make sure he has had a thorough vet check (not just a once over). I think that is very unusual behaviour for a one year old cocker. Even the puppy farm dogs I have helped rehabilitate (been in a pen for the first 12 months of their life) get the idea in their new home once you treat them like a puppy. I would also think about WHEN you feed as well as what. My own pup (that I bred) was a bit slower to toilet train as I was busy with her littermates before they went to their new homes plus she grew up in the living room (winter litter - never again!!!) so was quite comfortable peeing on the slate. However at about 5 months something finally twigged and she's been really fantastic for the last month.

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Thanks for your replies :)

I was thinking maybe a vet check might be a good idea too, hopefully nothing is wrong with him :(

He's from a reputable breeder, not from a pet shop or anything like that. Also his sister doesn't seem to have any problems.

In our old house the laundry where he slept had a dog flap to the outside, it didn't make any difference though, he'd just do his business on the floor. Then we started penning him to the dog flap & gradually increasing the space. It worked for a little while but then he just started going on the floor again. We were going to go back to penning him to the dog flap but I found that on rainy nights the pair of them were going outside having a great time getting muddy & sometimes digging holes :( so we decided to pen them in the kitchen & I started getting up during the night to let him out. That worked for a while too but then he'd just start going once when I let him out & then again between then & 6:15am even when the gap was down to only about 2 hours!

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So how many times a day does he poo ??? If it were just pees, then a belly band works really well. If he is doing more than two, or three poos at the most, in 24 hours, then maybe it is his food doesn't agree with him. Just out of curiosity, what do you feed him??

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I'm not too sure how many times a day he poops, it's a bit hard to tell with both dogs going in & out all day. I'd say it must be around that number since we switched them to Royal Canin. At first they were on BlackHawk but since changing the amount of poop has dramatically reduced. They also get the odd bone for their teeth.

I was told to give him more cooked mince & less dog food but that didn't seem to make any difference so I stopped.

So how many times a day does he poo ??? If it were just pees, then a belly band works really well. If he is doing more than two, or three poos at the most, in 24 hours, then maybe it is his food doesn't agree with him. Just out of curiosity, what do you feed him??

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...a few other questions:

  • how much time are the dog(s) spending in the garden?...if he does the poop in the garden: is it on grass, concrete ...same spot all the time?....if he isn't allowed to play the mud game or digging holes he might consider the garden just as another 'room' of the house so he can't differentiate.
  • how much time are you guys spending with the dog(s) in the garden?...in your first post you mentioned that your husband 'let him out'...it might be that the dog is scared to be left alone in the morning when he wants to see you and / or your husband at most after 'a long night alone' thus he is not in the mood for a 'relaxed poo'...
  • how do you respond to the dog when you find out that he made a mess?...what kind of attention do you give him?... if you don't spend much time with him, but give him attention (no matter whether it is negative of positive) because he made a mess in the house he might be trained now to get his attention from there....

Edited by Willem
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I don't think it could be that he's been in the crate too long, unless it happened at the breeders. We really only left him overnight in the crate for a week or two because no matter how much I threw treats & toys in there he just never seemed to get settled & I thought he was peeing & pooping out of anxiety. We'd take him out to go to the toilet & then put him in there but he'd make a huge fuss & pee. That's why I decided to try the laundry. During the day I managed to extend his time to an hour without him getting upset but if I went out he'd get very upset & there'd be poop smooshed everywhere when I got back :(

I try to go out in the garden at least once a day & they'll have a good play & I might throw their ball a bit. But they are regularly out there having a play together chasing each other around. He seems to know to go outside during the day as long as he has access to the flap. He just can't seem to hold it.

I don't think he's scared to be in the garden but he could be keen to see us. He's got his sister with him all night so he's not alone but he is very attached to me. I have wondered if all the difficulties with his housetrainig could be a bit to do with some separation anxiety. I never thought dogs could have it from being so young though.

We haven't really been able to do much when he's had an accident. I used to rarely catch him in the act so there was no point. No one's there to do anything about it when he goes during the night.

I'm thinking a trip to the vet might be the best thing at the moment, I really don't know what else it could be :confused:

...a few other questions:

  • how much time are the dog(s) spending in the garden?...if he does the poop in the garden: is it on grass, concrete ...same spot all the time?....if he isn't allowed to play the mud game or digging holes he might consider the garden just as another 'room' of the house so he can't differentiate.
  • how much time are you guys spending with the dog(s) in the garden?...in your first post you mentioned that your husband 'let him out'...it might be that the dog is scared to be left alone in the morning when he wants to see you and / or your husband at most after 'a long night alone' thus he is not in the mood for a 'relaxed poo'...
  • how do you respond to the dog when you find out that he made a mess?...what kind of attention do you give him?... if you don't spend much time with him, but give him attention (no matter whether it is negative of positive) because he made a mess in the house he might be trained now to get his attention from there....

edited to add: The dogs also gets plenty of attention during the day, I'm a stay at home mum so we're here most of the time. They gets lots of pats & I spend time teaching them some tricks/obedience a few times a week plus a walk most days.

Edited by Little Bear
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Did you find a way to manage it?or did you just have to clean up every morning?

I thought about maybe getting them both to sleep outside but they won't be very happy about that :(

If it makes any difference, I had one dog who never, in his entire life, made it through the night without toileting.

He simply couldn't do it.

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Did you find a way to manage it?or did you just have to clean up every morning?

I thought about maybe getting them both to sleep outside but they won't be very happy about that :(

If it makes any difference, I had one dog who never, in his entire life, made it through the night without toileting.

He simply couldn't do it.

He happily used a dog door until he couldn't jump off the bed to get there.

Then he woke me and I took him out.

Edited by Haredown Whippets
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... The dogs also gets plenty of attention during the day, I'm a stay at home mum so we're here most of the time. They gets lots of pats & I spend time teaching them some tricks/obedience a few times a week plus a walk most days.

If I would have toilet problems with my dog (we never had any toilet problems with none of our dogs - our BC needed a few days then she started to use the dog flap on her own) I would start walking the dog on a regular basis at least 3 times a day - it seems once they start sniffing they also want to leave their marks so it becomes somehow much more attractive to do a poop during a walk. When they grow up I would say 2 - 4 poops per 24 hours is quite normal (at least for our BC, she is 10.5 month old now), if you only walk the dog once a day and then even not every day, how should it become a routine for him to do it outside?...saying this it might not be the solution, but at least I would give it a go.

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Yeh 3 walks a day aren't going to happen =) thank you to everyone for all the ideas & suggestions though.

Taking him for a vet check next week & if that doesn't turn up anything we'll just have to work out a way we can manage it best

Thanks again

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I recently had a similar problem with a 7mth old foster dog that would toilet repeatedly in her crate/bed and in the house. It took months to turn her around and it nearly drove me mad!

I continued to use the crate regardless, as I didn't want her to learn that toileting in the house was ok. I took her outside and supervised every time, I also started to train her to go on command. At night I made sure she was tired before bed and put her to bed around the same time every night. At first I had to get up at 2, 4 and 6am to toilet her (always supervised and no play or interaction) - after months I was able to gradually stretch it to 5:30am. My goal was to prevent toileting in the crate as much as possible, but it was exhausting!

Initially I also removed her water around 7pm, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend this. I kept her crate in a quiet area but not too far from us, as stress did increase the likelihood of accidents. For various reasons I had to remove all bedding from the crate, which did make it easier to clean.

Initially I kept her diet pretty consistent (boring!) and only fed the very minimum amount of high quality dry food. Less food equals less poo! Routine is your friend and I tried to feed her everyday at the same times - for us it's 7am and 4pm. Don't feed dinner too late. I think that's pretty much it, good luck!

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What time is his last meal? If there are no physical issues that come up in your vet check I would look at changing the time of day he is fed ie maybe last meal no later than 4pm or switch to main meal in the morning and a small meal in the afternoon/evening. I would be trying a late evening toilet run, very early morning and early morning. He may have a sensitive bowel that when it is full he needs to go and can't hold it in. If a pup or dog is stressed it can also cause more bowel movements. I'd also be looking at how well formed his stools are - soft, hard, mucousy, dry etc as well as the frequency.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks brightstar123, that was really helpful, & good to know he's not the only one! Perhaps I will try going back to the crate

Thanks Jigsaw, they are fed at 7pm, we used to feed them in the morning with the idea being that he had all day to poop but that didn't seem to make any difference so switched to night. Perhaps it's too late now though? His poop always seems quite normal, firm.

We visited the vet & nothing came up wrong. She basically said try taking him back to basics like he's a new puppy & do that for a month. He's been brilliant the last two weeks & then we had a super rainy day & a throwing up toddler for a couple of days & right on the two week dot ended up with poop all down the hall last night & two wees this morning within an hour! *sighs*. From everyone I've spoke to it sounds like we're just in for a long slog of strict consistency & routine. Hopefully he'll get there eventually.

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I have a question someone might be able to help with.

We take him out every two hours to go to the toilet but he doesn't always go. What should I do? With my last dog I'd put him in his crate for a little while & then try again but we haven't been using the crate with Shadow.

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Thanks brightstar123, that was really helpful, & good to know he's not the only one! Perhaps I will try going back to the crate

Thanks Jigsaw, they are fed at 7pm, we used to feed them in the morning with the idea being that he had all day to poop but that didn't seem to make any difference so switched to night. Perhaps it's too late now though? His poop always seems quite normal, firm.

We visited the vet & nothing came up wrong. She basically said try taking him back to basics like he's a new puppy & do that for a month. He's been brilliant the last two weeks & then we had a super rainy day & a throwing up toddler for a couple of days & right on the two week dot ended up with poop all down the hall last night & two wees this morning within an hour! *sighs*. From everyone I've spoke to it sounds like we're just in for a long slog of strict consistency & routine. Hopefully he'll get there eventually.

He will get there far more quickly if he has constant access outside. If he has no alternative but to eliminate indoors, it will be backward steps every time there's an accident.

If you cannot supervise him and he doesn't have that access, put him outside. He has lost his inhibition about toileting where he lives and sleeps. You need to rebuild it.

Edited by Haredown Whippets
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