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Housetraining - Dogs

There are a few reasons why a dog might not be housebroken. First, there may be physical reasons, such as a urinary infection, so get your pet checked thoroughly at the vet's. Espcially if a dog backslides, or doesn't seem to be learning when you have been consistent, a physical cause must be considered. I can't emphasize this enough, as I recently learned from my own dog, Copper. 

Copper is now 14 years old, with progressive hind end paralysis and a touch of cognitive dysfunction. Plus he was never really housebroken as a pup to begin with, though he was very clean on his own for years. Plenty of reason to start having urinary accidents, right? Well, even though I was pretty sure those factors were causing it, I took him in for a urinalysis anyway, almost as an afterthought. Initial test showed no bacteria, but I had ordered a culture which would take a couple extra days. Surprise! He did have a UTI (urinary tract infection) on top of it all! He may have gotten it from dragging around (he can't walk), or from polluted ocean water, who knows. But he's improved quite a bit since I started treating it, it was at least a contributing factor. So always ask for a culture when looking for a UTI, and always look for a UTI if a dog seems to be having trouble with housebreaking. 

Many dogs do what's called submissive urination, and it is actually, in dog language, a sign of respect. This is the type of dog who gets low to the ground or squats, especially when greeting you or scolded, and pees. This is not really breaking housebreaking, but the spot on the floor is still there.

Some pet store puppies (that have been crated too much and have been allowed to go in their crates) have not learned to not dirty their areas (normally it's natural not to dirty their dens) and this can result of being given no choice while on display at the stores, or at their breeder's. These dogs might take much patience and time to overcome their habits, and alternatives to going outdoors might need to be provided, such as papers, "weewee" pads or even a litterbox.

Male dogs who have not been neutered (and even some who are) lift their legs to mark their territory. Even females have been known to do this. Neutering and training often helps this. You also might want to try some of the repelling sprays found at pet supply stores, as well as cleaning solutions designed for dog urine.

Sometimes dogs just don't have the idea of what's really expected of them, especially young ones, but sometimes even older ones. Often a puppy just doesn't have the control necessary to hold on for too long - a very general rule of thumb is one hour more than a pup's age in months. A 3 month pup can often go 4 hours.  Crate training can help (which if properly taught is not cruel, but dogs see it as their den - a natural concept to them) and confinement, along with going out at the correct times, and even more importantly using praise and correction at the correct time. An 8 week puppy can't go much more than a couple of hours, yes, you will lose sleep. It will get better. Correcting a dog after the fact is pointless, they really just don't get it, their concept of time is different, and they do not see a cause and effect. While they just might associate that there's pee or crap over there on the carpet with your anger, they don't get that they CAUSED it to be there.

Praising the animal profusely when they go outside, or wherever their designated area is, can be very effective. Make sure they get the chance to go out as often as necessary, yes, even if you lose some sleep. Most dogs will not dirty their dens, crating them and confining them will often keep them from messing in the house until you can take them out and start encouraging bladder control if old enough. If you do catch them having an accident, just a sharp word will usually surprise them into stopping momentarily (the trick here is to surprise them, not correct them), and you can then rush the dog outside or to his area, where you can the tell them what a great dog he is for going outside. You can also associate a word with it, such as "get busy", or "go potty", and the dog should eventually learn to go on command when possible (great for those in snow areas!)

Be sure you get the proper cleaners for any accidents, any leftover subtle scent can cause a dog to go in the same place. You can purchase special cleaners at pet supply stores, such as Nature's Miracle.

Also realize, that some dogs might know they should go outside, but don't know to ask, or don't ask in a way humans understand.  One solution is training the dog to ring a bell hung on the door. Another solution is a dog door.

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The border graphic and background are from the painting "Copper", and is copyrightę2005 by Joan Berry. Used with permission.

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