As a Boston Terrier, Spud is a rare breed of dog in Ireland, but Avril’s problem with him was one that is common in male dogs of all breeds and types. He was always a lively, strong-willed puppy, but as he has grown older, a new, challenging influence has begun to take an effect on him: male hormones.
He’s only six months old, but Spud has developed the unpleasant male dog habit of cocking his leg to mark his territory with urine. There’s nothing wrong with dogs doing this outside: it’s part of their natural repertoire of behaviour, letting the world know that they have been in the area by using their natural scent. The issue for Avril has been that Spud is still not fully house trained, so he sees nothing wrong with cocking his leg indoors.
It would be bad enough if he just did this in Avril’s own home, but he’s taken to doing it when visiting other people’s houses as well. As soon as he walks in the front door, he strolls around, sniffing furniture and cocking his leg on any object within reach. This unfortunate habit has meant that Avril’s been unable to take him with her when going to see friends.
And in her own home, the habit has led to another complication: once he has marked an area with urine, he seems to feel that it’s OK to top that up with a poop. At six months of age, Spud should be fully house trained, but his hormone-driven urine marking has interfered with the normal training process, so Avril is having to continually clean up everything after him.
When a young adult dog has a house training problem, there are a number of ways of tackling it. The careful use of a dog crate is an important method: dogs instinctively know not to piddle or poop in their own den, so if they are confined to a smaller area (such as a dog crate) they are far less likely to have “an accident” than if they are allowed to roam freely throughout the house. Spud already has a dog crate, and he is happy to stay in it, so Avril is going to have to leave him in the crate for longer periods, always going straight outside with him when she lets him out. She then has to wait with him outside until he goes to the toilet, giving him plentiful praise and rewards as soon as he does his business. For the next few weeks, she’s going to have to stop allowing him to wander around her home without being under close supervision at all times, so that she can intercept him if he makes a mistake. If she is unable to watch him for any reason, he’ll have to go back into his crate.
This method will help to solve Spud’s problem but there’s something else that needs to be done: castration. The male hormone – testosterone – is the main drive behind male dogs’ urge to mark their territory. Not all male dogs do this, but in Spud’s case, it’s a serious issue. Once he’s been castrated, Spud will no longer want to cock his leg on every object within range. And once this frequent piddling has settled down, he’ll be far easier to house train successfully.
Spud came in for his operation yesterday, and as soon as Avril brought him into our waiting room to leave him off, he sniffed around himself, cocking his leg several times on chairs, in corners and at our reception desk.
The operation is straight forward, and it happens under general anaesthesia, so Spud didn’t know that anything was going on. He arrived in our clinic in the morning, the operation took place before lunch time, and he was ready to go home by late afternoon, in as bouncy good form as ever. There’s one big difference that he does not know about: testosterone will no longer be coursing through his veins.
If there was ever a dog ready for castration, Spud’s the one. The operation has now been done, and Avril is looking forwards to a drier, cleaner future.