The number one reason people call me is because of problems with dog house training. The problems fall into two categories. The first is potty training a puppy and the second category involves a dog that suddenly begins relieving himself in the house for no apparent reason or never becomes potty trained.
Dogs have reasons for the things they do. Unfortunately, they are not always apparent to humans.
When we address the problem of potty training a puppy, the reason that they are relieving themselves in the house is pretty straightforward. They are puppies. Just like human children, they must be taught the proper place to go potty.
The more complex issue is one of adult dogs going in the house. This is either a medical problem or more likely neurotic behavior that has been created by the stress of living with humans who have mistaken notions regarding the needs of a dog. Dogs have coexisted harmoniously with humans for centuries in large part because they do not naturally soil their living quarters. An adult dog that engages in this behavior is exhibiting unnatural, neurotic behavior that requires structural changes in their relationship with their humans.
It is good to know why something occurs. When it comes to your expensive carpet being soaked and stained with dog urine and feces, it, more importantly, becomes an issue of how do you correct the behavior.
In the case of puppies, hindsight is twenty-twenty. Did you get a six-week old puppy, knowing that he would be alone for 12 hours every day and expect him to magically become knowledgeable on where he should go potty? If you did, there is good news and bad. The good news is that he probably will eventually pick up this knowledge from the short time you have to devote to his training. Dogs normally dislike soiling their living quarters. He will eventually learn that outside is good and inside is bad. And he will be potty trained. The bad news is that the key word is eventually. Without continual supervision and guidance in this new behavior, you can reasonably expect this process to take many frustrating and aggravating months. Blame the puppy if it makes you feel better. But it is really the fault of poor planning on the one part of the team (you) that has the mental capacity to plan. Enough said.
Hopefully, your puppy will have ample supervision during his potty training. If this is the case, then this is the fastest way to do it. You need three pieces of equipment. First, you need a kennel (cage). Second, you need a light leash and a comfortable collar. Third, you need a large container of dog cleanser specially designed to remove dog urine odors (you can find this at any good pet store). Put the collar and leash on the puppy and leave it on at all times except when he is in his kennel. Attach the leash to your waist and have the puppy within your sight AT ALL TIMES. If it appears your puppy has the slightest inclination to tinkle or poop, immediately rush him outside and repeat like a holy mantra the words “get busy”. Should the gods of dog poo smile upon you, your puppy will poop outside. Praise him lavishly. Should your dog somehow manage to have an accident in the house, despite your unrelenting supervision, grab him immediately (hopefully in midstream), tell him “NO!” and rush him to his designated area. Regarding, the oft proposed theory of rubbing his nose in the urine and swatting him with a rolled up newspaper, that is valid up to a point. First, don’t rub his nose in the urine. This will only confuse him. However, please do use the rolled up newspaper. This can be a valuable tool to swat YOURSELF in the head for relaxing your vigilance enough to allow the accident to occur. Use the cleaner to remove all traces of any accident. If the smell remains (which would be too faint for human noses to detect), it will prolong your training because it tends to trigger your dog’s instinct to go where he smells urine.
There will be times you cannot watch your puppy. You must sleep. You must go to the store. If you have young humans in your care, you must often attend exclusively to their needs. You must have a life. This is where the kennel comes in. Please read my previous article on crate training. It will explain how to make the crate a pleasant experience for your pup. Place your puppy in the kennel during these times. If it is the right size and you have introduced the puppy to the crate in the right manner, it will serve as a pleasant place where he will remain contented and dry.
Potty training a puppy is fairly easy stuff if you follow these guidelines. The most difficult task will be learning the universally admirable human trait of patience. Progression will come in peaks and valleys but it will come. One day you will have a dog that signals his natural desire to go to his special spot outside and do his business. If you have been faithful to my advice to teach him to associate the “Get Busy” command with toileting needs, you’ll also have a dog that will not spend endless time sniffing the ground and piddling around. When you say, “get busy” he will know what is expected and will quickly accomplish the task at hand.
If you have a previously potty trained dog that has reverted to soiling your home, you have a curable but more complex problem. The dog is stressed. Many, many different things can cause this. Have you introduced a new pet into your home? Have you changed residences? Are you leading your dog or is he leading you? Do you exercise your dog? Play detective. Determine what has changed and try to correct the source of the stress that has driven your pet to neurotic behavior. Often this needs professional intervention because if your dog is expressing his stress by soiling today, tomorrow he may very well be displaying his distress by biting you or your neighbors. Don’t be afraid to ask for professional help. The consequences of denial could be extremely unpleasant for both you and your dog.