Many years ago, when I was a Customer Care Supervisor at the Marin Humane Society, in Novato, California, we received a frantic phone call from a woman who had glanced over her fence and noticed her neighbor’s adolescent Dalmatian tangled up in her tie-out rope so badly that she couldn’t move. Rushing to the address, the Society’s humane officer did, indeed, find the tangled dog, but there was something suspicious about the scene. The rope was coiled and knotted so neatly around the dog’s legs that it left no room for doubt in the officer’s mind. On a sunny day, Pebbles had been deliberately hog-tied and left for hours with no access to water or shade. The officer quickly untied the dog to restore circulation to her swollen paws, then rushed her to a nearby veterinarian, where it was determined that Pebbles was mildly dehydrated, but, fortunately, suffering from no permanent damage. To add to the mystery, however, the vet found that Pebbles’ right hind leg and hip had been recently shaved for some sort of surgery. An investigation was clearly called for.
When questioned later, Pebbles’ 19-year-old owner explained that he had put his dog on her “punishment rope” because she had peed in the house, and he had forgotten to release her before he left for work. The surgery had been needed to repair a broken leg, inflicted on a prior occasion, when the owner claimed to have shoved the dog off the porch for peeing in the house. You must, he asserted with confidence, punish your dog for peeing in the house or she would never be housebroken. His method of punishment-based training clearly wasn’t working, since at the age of 10 months, poor Pebbles was still peeing in the house.
What the young Dalmatian’s owner didn’t realize was that not only is punishment a relatively ineffective means of housetraining a puppy, but his dog didn’t even have a housetraining problem. Instead, Pebbles was urinating submissively to try to appease her angry, violent owner, and all of the punishment her owner subjected her to was only making the problem worse.
Pebbles’ owner was charged with animal cruelty. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor violation and, to Pebbles’ everlasting good fortune, forfeited ownership of his dog. She was adopted to a more understanding owner who successfully implemented a proper training program, and in just a few short months Pebbles’ submissive urination was no longer a problem.