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Is My Dog Expressing Her Grief?


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I wish there were dog psychologists/bereavement counsellors! About 2 wks ago my 3 yr old black Lab decided to urinate on my bed! This bed used to be my Mom's bed and it is the bed my Mom died in. I took over that bedroom about a month after my Mom passed as I want to be on the same floor as my son at night and his room is directly across the hall. (Prior to that I had been sleeping on the couch when my Mom was really ill.) The first time Princess did this I was angry but thought maybe she wasn't getting enough attention so I have made sure she is now. She is a good clean dog who NEVER did anything like this before! She always lets us know if she has to go out to pee etc -- she lets us know loud and clear by nudging us, barking at us and going toward the back door. I used the carpet shampooer on the bed, air dried it and then strayed fabric freshner on it. Last night she did the same thing! I went into the bedroom, noticed the sheets/comforter were messed up then felt it and sure enough it was a puddle of urine! I went ballistic! Screaming and yelling at her that she was bad, to stay off my bed or I'd take her back to the humane society where I got her as a puppy, on and on! My son ran to her to console her and told me "Calm down! You are not taking her back! You've lost it Mom! Don't you see she's hurting about Nana just like we are?! She has been depressed and mostly mopey since Nana died! She's trying to tell us that by peeing on Nana's bed! She only does it on Nana's bed!" I felt like the wicked witch of the west looking at my beautiful dog looking terrified at me and my son holding her while I was screaming like a maniac! I had to finally go stand outside on the back porch (about 11pm) with a cup of tea and a cigarette (something I stared doing again since my Mom died -- yeah like I can really afford that too! I try to curb it.) I finally calmed down, went inside and stripped the bed, shampooed the bed once again and so on until 2am when I nearly dropped of exhaustion on the couch until this morning. I am buying a mattress cover today in case it ever happens again. So any insights? I love my dog and wouldn't really take her back to the humane society . I felt awful as I have never yelled at any of my animals like that over the years! Do you think she is trying to make a statement? If so how do I help her? She loved my Mom and my Mom loved her.

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Whiteswan I'm not a dog behaviorist but I do know quite a bit about dogs. It is not normal for a dog to deliberatly urinate while laying down under any circumstances. If the bed is wet when she gets up from laying down, she most likely has a physical problem such as a urinary tract infection or a leaky bladder. These things are treatable and can be corrected.

It's possible that she's leaking urine everywhere she lays--just not enough to notice if she doesn't lay there very long. I strongly suggest you take her to the vet and rule out physical problems before assuming she's doing it because she misses your mom.

I hope this information helps to relieve one of your problems during this incredibly difficult time for you.

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Tori, That's a really good point. I hadn't thought about if the dog had been laying down, or maybe did it in her sleep. I wanted to add though, that once when we came home from a vacation, my labrador went right into my son's room and peed on his bed. We took it to mean that she was mad at us for leaving her. I also remember my aunt having a cat that would get a real attitude each time she'd return from being away. The cat would stay under the bed ignore my aunt for days.

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Whiteswan,

Yes, ruling out the physical is the very first step. Second, either find an animal behaviourist &/or Google this behaviour and see what you can find on the 'net. In both dogs and cats, inappropriate elimination is often emotionally driven ( although maybe, like Lori said, not so much when prone ), so a behaviourist could almost certainly help if there's no medical cause, as can many natural remedies. You might also want to get her kidneys checked, as well as her urinary tract. I also wonder if it might be possible that your mother had been incontinent on this mattress and you didn't know about it and your dog has discovered such a spot and so is drawn to it?

I hate to say it but since you did yell at her, it would be wise to now go back and tell your dog clearly and abjectly that this was said in frustration and anger and reassure her you WON'T be abandoning her, and will be working on getting to the root of her problem, to help her...they understand much more than you might believe and I'm sure you don't want either this problem to get worse or create another one, too. Best of luck.

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If she is deliberatly standing up and peeing on the bed, that would be dominant behavior--staking her claim.

However when they mark something with their urine as dominance--they don't lay in it after they've done it. This is what makes me think it's most likely a medical issue.

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Thanks for all the replies! First, I did as suggested and checked if my dog is leaking urine. All the spots she normally sleeps and /or lays in are dry. She also doesn't whine while urinating as I went outside with her several times to observe her urinating and she flowed long and normally. I called the vet and told him what is going on. He said if she had a urinary tract infection she would be whining while urinating , frequently urinating and leaking in between. She would also no doubt be running a fever indicative by panting and nose warm, inner ears hot. She has none of that. He said she no doubt does not like it that I am sleeping in my Mom's bed so she is claiming it as her "territory" as dogs mark territory with urine. Solution: wash mattress surface with vinegar (it destroys urine smell) and keep her out of that room for awhile. The latter is impossible as this dog knows how to open door knobs with her mouth! She was never trained for these kind of things --she just seemed to automatically teach herself this out of necessity I guess as my Mom walked with a cane then a wheeled walker and ever since my dog was a 7 wk old pup she just seemed to "guide" my Mom so to speak. My Mom was partly blind the last 2 and a half yrs and my dog would go right beside her and sort of guide her. My Mom had a hard time at times with the walker in front of her trying to reach a door knob in front of that to open the doors and one day Princess just got in front of the walker and put the door knob in her mouth and twisted her head and the door opened for my Mom! My Mom praised her so she kept doing it whenever she noticed my Mom walking toward a closed door. So keeping her out of that bedroom now is not possible as she knows how to open doors! She also used to bark at my Mom when the phone rang or the kettle whistled as my Mom was half deaf the last 2 yrs as well and I guess Princess couldn't stand listening to a whistling kettle or a ringing phone so she'd bark to get my Mom to get it -- bark then run toward whatever was making the noise. She still barks at me if I don't get either of them fast enough! She was home a lot during the day with my Mom while I worked and my son was at school so they grew quite close (I'd come home at lunch until my Mom got really sick during the year before she died then I cut my hours of work down to about 15 hrs per week so I could care more for my Mom.) Anyway, I know Princess really loves and misses my Mom. I looked in my journal and discovered another "coincidence" -ie- the first time she urinated on the bed was a Firday night between 10:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. The second time she urinated on the bed was also a Friday night between 10:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. My Mom came home by ambulance to die on Friday March 31, 2006 at 10:30 p.m. and by the time the ambulance drivers figured out how to transfer her from the stretcher to a special stretcher that could fit around the hall corner into her bedroom it was nearly 11 p.m.! She stayed in her bed the next two days where she died on Sunday April 2, 2006. Is this a coincidence or is my dog subconsciously reacting to that time of night and to that particular day of the week? Prior to my Mom's hospital stay she was getting incontinent and had to wear attends for about 6 months prior as she would leak due to a severe bladder infection and kidney failure but I had soaker pads on her bed -- one under the fitted bottom sheet and one on top of it so the urine to my knowledge never went onto the mattress and there were no urine stains on the mattress when I inspected it shortly after she died, so I don't think my dog is smelling urine on the bed. I don't know what else to do except use the vinegar like the vet said. I am going to keep an eye on her on Friday nights that's for sure! I think she really misses my Mom as my Mom would even talk to her over the phone every day she was in the hospital and after my son and I would come home from hospital visits Princess would smell us all over and wag her tail, no doubt smelling my Mom on us. She was used to my Mom's hospital visits and I think maybe she was like the rest of us hoping she'd bounce back from the illness again as she had so many times before, but she didn't this time and even said before the last hospital visit that she knew "this is the end of the road this time".. She KNEW and told me that several times as she said she wanted me to "face it and accept it so it won't be so hard on you when it happens". My Mom was always thinking of my son and I first before herself even in death! Anyway, any other suggestions on how I can now help my dog so she won't feel the need to urinate on my Mom's bed? I love my dog and I really feel helpless to help her in her grief! Thanks all and love and hugs.

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