Spring is the natural season when females of any species have youngins on their minds, and because nowadays most females of the human kind do not procreate each year anew, many acquire an animal baby in stead. It is the primal, subconscious longing for renewal. A new pooch can satisfy that need and make the female content - temporarily, until baby Rover piddles in unwanted places. Hygienic humans dislike nothing more than dogs that potty on the rug. Growling maybe, but the fact is that for many people the failure to house train is a deal breaker.
The good news is that dogs are clean also, and rather not pee and poop where they live. The bad news is that what living space is defined as, is not so obvious to dogs.
The distinction between inside and out is a no-brainer for a person. The dog only knows where he sleeps and eats, and considers all other areas as potential voiding places. He has no idea that all 2500 square feet of your home, minus the itty-bitty water closet room, is regarded urine-free zone by you. You have to teach him that.
Back to the good news, teaching it is easy if you do it right from the start. And by the way, below tips are not just for the wee pups, but work with dogs any age.
Take your pup out often; after each nap and playtime, after he eats or drinks, whenever he sniffs, seems restless or scratches the floor. The major mistake owners make at that point is to let the pooch in the yard on his own. Everything fascinates and distracts a puppy, and even an older dog in a new environment: sounds, smells, birds and butterflies. A bumbling bee can sidetrack him from the task at paw, and when he marches back into the house his bladder is still full. With the environmental stimuli gone, and his life boring again, he remembers and promptly empties its contents on the carpet. And because it feels good and he gets your attention, potty in the house is doubly reinforced.
Taking the pup out on a leash, and withholding all attention, allows you to control his outside fun. As soon as he’s voided, unclip him and play, or let him investigate, and you are teaching him that business comes first, and the faster he does it, the sooner the good times begin.
The second big mistake people make is failure to clean an accident up to the satisfaction of the dog’s nose. Any residual odor, and remember that even the dullest dog’s sense of smell is much better than yours, is like a Ladies sign for you in a restaurant: the socially acceptable place to eliminate. It attracts and invites her to pee, and she might go even if she doesn’t really have to yet, like we might passing the washroom on the way to the bar – “since I’m here I might as well…”
Another thing with residual smell is that its fading entices the dog to freshen it up, so that she won’t forget where the designated “inside” pee place is. That explains why you can have a few days, even a couple of weeks, accident free and then find a puddle again.
There are fantastic enzymatic cleaners available that get the stink out, but in addition use all accident spots and play with your dog, or feed her there; snuggle or nap. That way you add extra clarification that that particular area is also for living, not eliminating.
Difficult to potty train dogs should always get a veterinary check to ensure that there are no physical causes. Aside from that, dogs have accidents because they are stressed, learned to get attention that way, don’t know any better, or really have to go and nobody is there to take them out.
Delays in house training can happen if the pup’s been trained on paper, or was forced to live in a “dirty” environment; forced to pee and crap in her crate, for example. Be patient and remember that someone, maybe the breeder, has imprinted your pup during her impressionable first few weeks of life to pee IN THE HOUSE. Moving the paper incrementally closer and closer to the door, and then outside, can speed things up.
Potty training without tension and punishments is crucial, cause dogs that are stressed, anxious, or confused are even more likely to void inappropriately. Your frustration and anger might be understandable, but is counterproductive, cause if your dog learns that peeing when you are close by, or she’s on the leash, is not safe, she’ll try her best not to do it. That spoils a future “quickly get it done with” in pouring rain or when you’re rushed leaving for work.
That was the case with two of our foster dogs who likely were punished for an accident at one point, with the lasting effect that they refused to void in the vicinity of a human. One was a male Newf, and believe me, big Newf – big accidents; the other a female heeler cross who didn’t pee for two days; didn’t have an accident. It beats me where she stored it all. Kailey eventually did chance it on the leash outside; with the Newf it took me 2 ½ hours to create a safe association between urinating and humans. I sat in a lawn chair reading a book, Balou, who had a full bladder cause he drank a lot after a long walk, on a six-foot leash beside me. Eventually he had no choice but to pee, for which he got cuddled, and praised and was allowed back into the house where he wanted to be.
That’s the cool thing about humans. We have the more convoluted frontal lobe and can find brainy and positive solutions for almost any problem behavior. Speaking of, I will be away for a couple of weeks – PD in Calgary; conferencing with other brainy dog experts, and having a little vacation. So, no new posts till the middle of June, and then, my dear readers, I want to chat about the really reliable recall – now that summer and hiking season is approaching.