I received a phone call from a client I had not heard from in a year or two. They had taken a Puppy Preschool Class with me and had since added another dog to the family. They had been having some trouble over the past six months. One family member was ready to relinquish their dogs. The other called me for help in an effort to resolve the issue and maintain harmony in the home.

I was told the newer of the two dogs was urinating in the house – as often as a few times per day. They were rarely, if ever, able to catch the dog in the act, so they were having a difficult time resolving the issue.

Sometimes what seems to be a behavior issue really is not. The first order of business was to send them to their veterinarian. You would be surprised how often what seems to be a behavior issue really is a medical issue. Sure enough, the newer dog had a urinary tract infection (UTI). I advised the client to resolve the medical issue first and then see if they were still having trouble.

I received another call a couple of weeks later. The UTI was resolved, but the urinating in the house was not. Since it had been going on for so long, what started as a medical issue had also become a behavior issue. While we were not able to set up a video camera to catch the culprit in the act, I believe what was happening was the newer dog started urinating due to his UTI which developed into a habit. In addition, the other dog was marking over the spots where the dog with the UTI would urinate.

Within a few weeks of following my advice, the client called to report there had been no more urinating in the house. The issue – while still needing some close supervision – was now under control. There was no longer any discussion of re-homing the dogs. The clients were happy.

This is just one of many cases where people contact me to address what they believe to be a behavior issue but there is a medical component to the problem. This is why most of my referrals for business come from veterinarians. I like to know that possible medical causes have been ruled out in cases such as this before we begin behavior modification work.

If your dog has a sudden change in behavior that you cannot attribute to a specific incident, the first order of business is a medical check with your veterinarian. While there are plenty of behavior and training issues that have no medical component, there are plenty that do. That is why I like to work in collaboration with veterinarians. We both want your dog to be healthy – both medically and behaviorally. By all of us working together, we can help you achieve that.