P marks the spot

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

The carpet cleaners are coming today. It’ll be expensive and leave us with damp carpet longer than we expect. But it must be done. Otherwise, we’d have to burn down the house, and that seems more inconvenient than getting damp socks from walking in the living room.

How did we get here? That’s a longer story, but I’ll sum it up with this: Puberty is messy. Dog puberty? Even more so.

About three weeks ago, we started seeing spots – small ones that left us with the distinct impression that one of our dogs was having accidents in the house. But as it turns out, those spots were no accident. They were premeditated hits.

It was easy to guess the culprit because only one of our dogs is a male teenager. Mac, our daughter’s service dog-in training, is nearing his first birthday and is therefore in the window of time when some dogs begin to “mark” territory. I’d seen this phase before when Cooper the Corgi was about seven months old. When I’d asked our veterinarian what we should do, she suggested we get him neutered. Shortly after the surgery, the marking behavior stopped.

But Mac is a larger breed of dog, a Goldendoodle, and this time our vet recommended we wait until he’s at least a year old before we have him neutered, since waiting may result in better bone health as he gets older. So, we decided to take him outside more often, watch him more closely and teach him that marking inside the house is not okay – regardless of what your teenage hormones may tell you.

No matter how much we watched him, we couldn’t seem to catch him in the act. Then one day, while I was out on an errand with Mac, my son called me.

Him: “You know that new basket you bought yesterday? The one you’re using for the folded throw blankets in the living room?”

Me: “Yeah. What about it?”

Him: “Cooper just peed on it. I saw him do it.”

I glanced over at Mac, who stared up at me with big, brown, innocent eyes. The poor dog had been framed by his furry roommate – blamed for puddles he didn’t commit. It was a stunning plot twist that didn’t make sense. Why was the neutered dog suddenly marking every new object that entered the house?

I called a dog trainer who explained that this is classic “stress marking,” and that dogs who have another male dog in the house sometimes assert their dominance by sprinkling evidence of it on just about anything. But here’s the thing about a sprinkle. When it’s urine, a small quantity doesn’t matter because even a little bit of pee is still far too much.

The trainer suggested we reduce the dog’s stress by using a certain kind of collar or air diffuser that gives off a calming hormone. When those methods didn’t work, the dog wasn’t the only one feeling stressed. I was caught in the crossfire of a literal pissing contest, and the only one who was losing was me.

Using my experience as a mother, I resorted to the only solution I knew would protect our house from impulsive pee – diapers. Technically, this type of male doggie diaper is called a “belly band,” and it’s currently making our Corgi look like he’s wearing a deflated yet absorbent cloth inner-tube around his middle. When I put it on him, he growls his disapproval and then pitifully stares at me from across the room to make sure I sense his humiliation.

But until there’s a hormonal sea change in this house, a mama has to do what a mama has to do. Those carpet cleaners can’t get here fast enough.

Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. Her book is available on Amazon.