All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Old Dog - New Bad Habit

Dear Marie,
 I have a 16-year-old poodle who always was perfectly housebroken. Recently, she began urinating on the carpet and I don't know why. I took her to the vet, and he said there is nothing wrong. I can't understand why she is doing this. It's almost like she is doing it on purpose because I will open the door for her and she won't go outside – she'll just look at me and then start "going" while I'm holding the door wide open and calling her. This is not an accident. She is very deliberate and looks right at me the whole time she is going potty. I can't get her to stop – and at this point, my carpet is ruined. Why is she doing this and what can I do?

Dear Frannie,
As dogs get older, they tend to start having problems like these. Sometimes it's simply because it is cold and damp outside and their poor, old, arthritic bodies and minds aren't up for taking a walk in the elements (from their perspective) just to go potty.

You have a few options. The first is quite simple. Get her into a warm doggie sweater, throw on a jacket yourself, and physically take her outside. Give her lots of praise because even at her age, she needs positive reinforcement.

Don't expect her to go out on her own, because at this point in her life, she's made it clear that she has no intention of doing that. I'm sure the recent rainy weather has a lot to do with her behavior. And yes – this means extra work or hassle for you; or you can look at it as some quality time.

Attitude is everything for people with senior pets. There are so many changes that go on during this phase of a pet's life, and you need to find a way to make it pleasant for you and for her. Changing the way you look at this situation is probably going to be your best bet because your frustration may possibly aggravate the problem. Stay calm and in control. That's what your pet needs more than anything.

Here's another idea – there are several manufacturers of indoor doggie grass. They are raised squares of a special deodorizing, artificial grass that is made specifically for dogs to use for bathroom purposes (somewhat like a doggie litter box). The idea originated from the need of big-city, high-rise-dwelling pet owners to have easy access to a potty location for their pets. But owners of senior pets, or people who live in cold, wet climates, quickly found the advantage to such an item. You can see some of these products at I first saw these demonstrated at the Pet Expo a few years back and was quite impressed.

Some dog owners resort to using specially designed diapers for animals who are aging and becoming incontinent, though I don't believe this is the right solution for you since your dog seems to still have control. However, you could use a diaper as a preventive tool. Have her wear it, and when it seems like she needs to urinate, bring her over to the door, remove the diaper, then go outside with her.

The last option would be to take out your now-ruined carpet and replace it with tile flooring. If your dog continues to have "incidents," it's much easier to clean up messes on hard flooring. You can even go back to using newspaper or potty pads if there is a specific area that your dog has designated her "bathroom."

Still, I feel very confident that if you go outside with your pet, rain or shine, and wait out there until she goes, you'll begin to retrain the good manners that she exhibited in her younger years. She won't be happy about going out in the cold or the rain, but if you are out there too, she'll feel a little better about it. Be patient with her; she deserves that from you – and be patient with yourself.

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