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Pointers for a Perfect Potty: House Training 101

By October 21, 2015 No Comments
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Are you living with a lovable little pisser like Spanky?

By Dawn Todd

Although Dr. Todd and I kid about what a “pisser” Spanky is, the issue of house training is actually no joking matter.

Dogs who don’t “get” house training are at serious risk of abandonment. In the largest study of it’s kind, researchers looked at nearly 2,000 dogs surrendered to shelters in four areas of the United States. House training accidents in the house was the most common reason given for surrendering a dog to a shelter, when more than one reason was listed. Nearly 20% of dogs were surrendered because they never learned that humans don’t like it when you use their home as a toilet.

Good house training manners are best taught to puppies, but don’t despair, all dogs can learn if they understand what you expect them to do.

Let’s start first with what you should NEVER EVER do…

1. Never punish or yell at your dog while they’re “in the act.”

2. Never come home and yell or “rub their nose” in an old accident. 

Our relationships with our pets, spouses, and kids are all healthier and happier when we reward the behaviors we want more of, versus punishing behaviors we don’t like.

There are two very common mistakes I see humans make when trying to house train their dogs. 

Mistake #1. Yelling at (or worse hitting) your dog when he squats and eliminates in the house. 

If your dog does this in your presence, he hasn’t learned that this is not what you want. When you yell, instead of teaching your dog where to eliminate, your dog learns to never “potty” in front of you again. If you scare your dog badly enough, he can learn in one lesson to hold his pee & poo when on a leash walk, to run behind the sofa to eliminate, or go to a room at the far end of the house.

Likewise, if you come home and scream because there’s an accident in the house, I promise you the dog does not look “guilty” or know why you’re yelling…she’s just learned to be very submissive when you walk through the door because sometimes you act crazy.

Mistake # 2. Inadvertently punishing the dog for eliminating by making the fun stop.

Here’s what happens…it’s the morning rush hour and you’re late for work. You run puppy outside and the second he’s done his business, you sweep him back inside to a crate to wait until you get home for lunch or dinner. These pups learn very quickly “when I eliminate, the fun stops and I have to go back in my crate.” I’ve heard of many dogs who learn to hold their bladder through their entire morning walk. Once they get back inside they can’t hold it anymore and they have an accident inside.

It’s much easier to train your pooch where you want him to eliminate by teaching him to exchange pee & poo for their very favorite treats. You do this by using one consistent word to signal to your pet that you’d like them to empty their bladder (most folks say “go potty”). You want to train your dog a word that he understands means drop and go now. This is super helpful when it’s cold, raining and you don’t want to be outside freezing. Click here to read a great article Ian Dunbar wrote, explaining how he uses treats to encourage elimination in the appropriate spot.

Responsible Pet Parents Top Tips for Rock Solid Potty Training:

1. Never punish accidents, only reward behaviors you want to continue. When your pooch eliminates outdoors in your presence, quickly (and happily) say “GOOD POTTY!” and give a really good treat.

2. Be consistent with an elimination schedule. The younger the pup, the more frequent the potty breaks. I often advise setting the timer on the stove each hour for new / young puppies.

3. Use GREAT treats when teaching house training. Save your dog’s very favorite treats to reward elimination outdoors.

4. Be consistent with a location. You choose where you prefer your dog to eliminate and then keep walking your dog in circles in that area. The more times the dog eliminates in that area, the more the previous smells will encourage continued elimination in the desired area.

5. Be consistent with your language. It may take 10,000 repetitions, but with enough practice, your dog will learn that when you say “go potty” it means drop and empty your bladder.

6. Be consistent with your feeding schedule. We never recommend “free” feeding (having food available at all times). Best practice for house training purposes is to feed one or two meals per day at roughly the same time so you can know when to expect your dog to have to “poop.”

7. Understand that dogs develop a distinct preference for the surface they’ll prefer to eliminate on. If you want to save your grass, walk your dog in a mulched area. We often see dogs confined long periods in shelters prefer hard surfaces like driveways to eliminate on. You’ll have to use lots of treats to alter that preference.  Dogs who prefer to urinate on grass often substitute a rug because it seems most like grass to them.

8. Start out with a crate. It’s not impossible, but it’s much trickier to house train when you don’t crate train your dog…heck…we don’t call them crates, we call them “bedrooms.” Your dog should be crate trained for lots of reasons… easier house training is just one. Click here to learn more about crate training your canine companion.

Click here to link to our website to learn more tips for puppy house training.

Still have questions or concerns about house training your pup? Dawn is available for behavior consultations relating to matters of the potty or any other concerns you might have…just call the office to make an appointment! Remember, all Well Plans include one behavior and nutrition consultation.

Leg Lifting and Urine Marking

Nearly everyone who lives with a male dog has seen urine marking behavior. Urine marking generally involves a leg lift and small amount of urine sprayed (or sprinkled) onto a vertical surface. This is a normal behavior that most male dogs, and even a few females, engage in.

Somehow at the Todd home we’ve ended up with nearly all male dogs. When we’re out in the yard on our potty breaks, you can watch the pecking order of dogs line up to mark over each other on the same tree or leaf. It’s a dog’s natural tendency to leave urine as a signal to other dogs “I was here,” or, “This belongs to me.”

The problem arises when urine marking doesn’t end when dogs come back indoors. Urine marking issues aren’t quite the same as housebreaking. In multiple dog homes it can be hard to find the culprit, and if one dog starts, it encourages the others to “go for it.”

The easiest solution to the problem of urine marking is neutering male dogs.Researchers find that neutering decreases urine marking behavior in 60-90% of dogs. But what if neutering doesn’t work and you find yourself living with a persistent pisser?

1. Use Belly Bands. We sell belly bands at Noah’s Ark. They’re simple bands that wrap around dogs prone to urine marking. If they lift their leg indoors, the band catches the urine. These are a staple in the Todd home, especially for Spanky.

2. Use Urine Off. This is a great product we also sell at Noah’s Ark. It’s an enzymatic solution that eliminates the residual odor of urine. If you’ve got marking going on at home, we’d highly recommend you get some of this product.

3. If all else fails, there is drug therapy for really persistent cases. We are here to help you with any and all health and behavioral issues for your furry friends, so give us a call if you’re particularly perturbed by your pampered pisser.