I found this an intriguing question so with Wynne's permission I'm posting a response from a trainer that I asked about this. Here is Mario's take on this. I wouldn't ask for a trainer to comment normally on any situation that might be dangerous without seeing the dynamics first hand, but being this is not a serious issue, I felt it was OK to ask for a comment.
This can actually be a tricky one to solve. Unfortunately, without seeing and knowing the dog and the whole situation, I can only assume the reasons and try giving suggestions based on that. It would be helpful, of course, to know details like:
- the dog's age
- is she spayed
- has she started urinating more often than usual outside? Are there any visible symptoms like squatting to urinate but unable to; holding the position longer than usual, etc (this is basically to rule out any UTI, although from what has been described, I highly doubt that this is the cause of it).
- how does she behave in new environments (outside of the daily walking/playing places), does she tend to urinate more often in new environments or does she appear to be uncomfortable leaving any marks and traces in these new environments?
- In the email it was mentioned that there was a recent tragedy that obviously jolted the whole system and routine that Maya lived in. Based on these brief details, I would suspect that we are dealing with a slightly nervous/fearful based dog that has issues handling sudden changes and sudden stress.
There can be many different reasons why dogs urinate on the bed, even the scientists are debating over the cause. Some people believe that it is the dog's dominance, or that our dogs are trying to communicate with us. From my personal experiences, I've noticed that in most cases it is the nervous and insecure dogs that end up urinating this way (similar to soiling in the house when left alone), so it is the fear/anxiety that drives the issue. But, in the case that you are describing, it is not as easy as simply attributing the behaviour to fear and anxiety because it is happening at times when there are no other triggers present.
You mentioned in your email, that this behaviour can happen within seconds. In order for a dog to perform a certain behaviour, they need to be stimulated (cued) either by an externally presented stimulus or an internal one (more commonly referred to as "genetically driven behaviours"). We know today that dogs are not as simple as we once believed. They are complex creatures that most often display combinations of multiple behaviours that change rapidly, rather than a single behaviour.
I would say, (without seeing the dog and the whole environment first, this is just a possibility), that Maya is either stimulated by the smell that is still lingering in some corner of the bed, or that she has now created an emotional attachment towards the situation of actually being on the bed (similar to how the sound of jingling the keys before leaving the house can immediately trigger a separation anxiety response in some dogs). Just jumping up on the bed, may be the "switch" that instantly brings her to that original insecurity state of mind that she experienced the first time this happened (which originally could have resulted in an accidental pee on the bed, but that has now become a normal behavioural response to that trigger).
Or it may be something else entirely. Years ago, I was on the beach with my friends and one of them brought her three dogs. There were two males and a female. One of them (one of the males) was a "weak-nerves dog" (some dog trainers use this label for fear-based dogs) that often displayed submissive behaviour to the other two. But nonetheless, he was always the last one to urinate on top of the other two dogs' markings (which some people mistake for "dominance"). At one point the owner left her towel spread out where she was sunbathing and stepped away. Not long after she stepped away, the nervous dog went to the towel and after first sniffing it, he urinated on it. Some time after that, she told us that the dog had started doing this on the bed also, and she could no longer allow him up there. Interestingly enough, according to her, this whole behaviour had started one day after her sister (who doesn't live with them) had a nap on the bed.
In this situation, the reason that this behaviour happened was attributed to two separate factors; both the external and internal triggers.
For example : Dogs like furniture (especially beds and couches/sofas) because these places are:
b) often the place where we share affection and relax with our animals (we create an emotional attachment/response for our dogs to those places)
c) one of the places in the house that contains a large/high amount of our human scent
So, now we have a dog that likes going to the bed, but once he is there the concentration of human scent triggers an internal (energetically driven) behaviour and he urinates. Normally, this doesn't happen until you have the "magic triangle" which means that either a new scent was introduced to the bed which would again trigger the urination, or the dog was stressed, which in combination with the place that contains the strong human scent, started the final sequence in the behaviour.
Perhaps the bed is now simply classically conditioned to the dog as a place to urinate, or even just entering the room perhaps returns the dog back to that stress-related emotion (that was also a classically conditioned response created during the recent tragic event).
As mentioned, there can be many reasons why this behaviour happens. These are just some examples. There are some simple suggestions that can be tried to help address this;
- Make sure that any possible trace of scent is removed from the bed (simple washing is often not enough).
- You can block the dog's access to the room (this is an easy solution) which will automatically cut the sequence that leads to the behaviour.
- You can arrange exercises where you will interfere with one of the steps in the sequence. Put a camera in the room so that you can tape your dog's behaviour for later analysis or in case you need to show it to an expert for help. Then try setting up a scenario where the dog will have access to the room (in a controlled environment, but without being seen by anyone in the house) and leave a peanut-butter filled kong on the bed (if she likes it) or treats spread on the bed. The purpose of this is that when she jumps up, she gets distracted by the treats before she locks into the final step of the sequence that leads to urinating.
Once she is on the bed, go into the room and simply play with or pet her for a short period of time to create a positive emotional experience and then escort her out of the room with you. Put the barrier back after you both exit the room and later on, you can repeat this exercise again. Remember that a faster ratio of repetitions will create a faster behaviour change.
Later on, you can increase the time that she is alone on the bed before you join her or switch to more interacting exercises, etc.
Keep in mind that if there are any traces of urine scent still on the bed, or if the exercises are inconsistent, there are slim chances that this will work. Also, it is important to make sure that she doesn't have any access to the bed unless during this controlled situation, because any step backwards in the progress during this modification plan can set her back several steps and could potentially reinforce the unwanted behaviour.
Once again, these are simply some suggestions and possible causes for this issue. The first and most important thing is to confirm that there isn't any physical cause/reason for the behaviour, and then once this is ruled out, that is when you can explore behaviour modification plans to alter the outcome.
Dave and Molly
Ian Dunbar was awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award from I.P.D.T.A. Here's a picture of me accepting the award on his behalf.
Member of IAABC ,International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants , Member of Pet Professional Guild