It’s not just puppies that need help to stop toileting accidents indoors. From little spills overnight to great big unwanted ones at any time – here are the best tips for where to start tackling this trickiest of dog problems.
Listen to the WildPaw podcast, with Karen Wild and Jon Buscall, here:
Other discussions in the podcast – Handling tips – Develop your ‘Doggy Radar’ – you can listen on the link above
House training with your dog (house breaking or potty training)
It’s a frequent question of what can be an infrequent but persistent problem. To really get to the bottom of it (sorry about the pun) you need to look at the bigger picture first of all. You can also listen to the podcast for the full version of these show notes.
Is it a new puppy?
In the podcast Jon describes his puppy housetraining routine for his 3 Bassett pups at Kennel Bjorkwood. It is well worth making sure that you establish a really, really ingrained habit. It is time consuming but worth it, for a new puppy. ‘Housetraining your dog’ is available on the Intellidogs site here
But what if you don’t have a new pup? What if you have an older dog that seems to toilet only at certain times, or overnight?
Keep a diary
What is the existing habit your dog has built up? What triggers the house soiling? Make a note of all the activities in the day, and record what, when and where the accidents occur. If necessary, leave a webcam or video camera running. Information is a very powerful tool in sorting out a problem.
What are you doing to help or hinder?
Are you punishing the dog when you find an accident? It’s probably way too late unless you catch the dog in the act. Anxiety will make a dog toilet in fear – and may even make them hide the evidence by hiding away and toileting. Or worse still, even eating what they produce. Predict when they will toilet and quickly act by taking them outside and rewarding them well when they do perform where you want them to!
Are you rewarding them enough for going outside? What if the weather is poor – why would they want to go into the dark or the rain? Maybe you have a nervous dog anyway. Some dogs will hold on during walks or outside and toilet in the house where they feel safer. You need to give them something worth going out for. Great food, or possibly a game, can follow when your dog goes in their outside space.
Build a new habit
Decide that from now on there will be no more mistakes. Set your dog up for success. If necessary, teach them to enjoy being in a crate so that you can limit accidents! You must ensure that your dog is understanding that the best rewards lie outside after they have toileted. Work out when the dog needs to go to the toilet – after they have eaten, had a drink of water, just woken up, just been paying. Go back to square one and teach from scratch! You can find a full description of this on my mini book chapter on housetraining your dog here if you are not sure what to do.
Is it ‘toileting’ or is it scent marking?
Male dogs (and sometimes females) can scent mark on territory, especially if they are in a new room, or someone else’s home. They may do it if they feel a little insecure! For scent marking behaviour, sometimes castration is the answer but it is not always a solution – talk to your Vet. There are some more tips how to prevent this on the podcast. If your dog is cocking its leg and producing a small amount of urine on a vertical surface, they may well be scent marking. You will need to have eyes like a hawk and watch for those signs of sudden alert sniffing on a vertical surface… interrupt quickly and take them elsewhere. Clean the area thoroughly using a good quality pet enzyme cleaning product to prevent revisiting!
Might my dog have a medical problem?
Any problems like this should really mean that you take your dog for a Veterinary check-up first. Your dog might have an infection or a sign of something more serious, especially if there has been a sudden change in their toileting habits. If your dog is older, they can show a gradual decline in toilet training habits as part of their ageing process. There may well be other symptoms of this as well, but do ask your Vet or a qualified behaviourist about this. There are some things you can do to help.
If the worst comes to the worst and your dog is simply ‘leaking’ or is unaware that they are toileting, you may wish to invest in a dog nappy. It sounds crazy but these can often help you cope with an elderly or incontinent dog that otherwise has no other problems.
So – get those diaries started, and do seek qualified professional help! Housetraining can be conquered!
The free download on ‘Crate training’ referred to in the podcast is available by emailing Karen on firstname.lastname@example.org
This podcast was sponsored by 2Pure Petfresh – perfect for removing those housetraining spills – recommended by pet professionals.