Both conventional wisdom and common sense conspire to prove I’ve got a “naughty” dog. He’s not housebroken.

Until now, my thinking has gone like this: “He’s not housebroken YET...but he will be.” At that point, my other dog, dominant SOB that he is, will cease and desist with his incessant, “you-peed-there-so-I’ll-have-to-mark-it-too” behavior.

Wishful thinking? I wouldn’t blame you if you deemed it such. But in my defense, Slumdog has been showing zero evidence of “getting it,” despite everyone’s best efforts. The only thing that works is constant surveillance so at least I can scoop him up in time for the poop or pee-pee to land on the outdoor surface (it hits my feet occasionally, though). Crating doesn’t even help all that much as he’s sometimes willing to go right where he sleeps when the urge strikes.

Naughty. Not nice.

Recently, however, it’s come to my attention that perhaps my Slumdog isn’t so naughty after all. In the process of researching the latest thinking on hydrocephalus for a genetic disease library I’ve been commissioned to write (more news on that soon), I found an interesting statistic I’d been previously unaware of.

Get this: A reported 75% of hydrocephalic dogs experience severe difficulty with housebreaking. In many cases it’s an impossible task. They simply do not understand that anything is expected of them in this regard.

Hydrocephalus. As in, “water on the brain.”

This inherited disease is common to breeds with dome-shaped heads. Maltese, Chihuahuas (especially “appleheads”), pugs, and more are all highly predisposed. Severe cases will manifest as dogs who have trouble walking, progress to seizures and eventually die of brain swelling. Meanwhile, mild cases can display scant evidence of its presence.

Ventrolateral strabismus, a downward and outward orientation of the eyes is one known sign (Slumdog has this) in about 20% of dogs. And now that housebreaking difficulties has been correlated with its presence it's on the list of signs-to-look-for, too. 

It's still hard to know for sure, though. Housebreaking difficulties are tough to blame on hydrocephalus unless we're willing to spend thousands of dollars to image brains with CTs or MRIs. Is it worth it just to prove that mommy can’t housebreak her Maltepoo because he’s hydrocephalic?

Sit? Stay? Come? All can be achieved with the proper motivation (treats, etc.). But the urination and defecation connection is just not there for many of these dogs. And no one knows why.

All of which makes me think that maybe...just maybe...mildly hydrocephalic animals like my Slumdog (and there are probably many more than you might imagine) are just.not.trainable. Not in this area, anyway.

Am I looking for an excuse? If so, I think I found one.