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"I'm at my wit's end! My dog will not stop using the bathroom in the house.
If it doesn't stop soon, my husband will make me get rid of him."
It's the most common plea to dog trainers. Please help me housetrain my dog, or I will have no choice but to get rid of him. Housetraining can be one of the most frustrating things a person teaches their dog. Imagine what the dog is thinking. Can I potty here? How about here? What's wrong with this spot? Boy this is confusing! It seems like a lot of work, but a few weeks of extra effort in the beginning will avoid a whole lot of frustration and mess. It's a small price to pay for years of not worrying if your dog is soiling your new rug while you're out shopping.
The Secret To Successful Housetraining is...Never let your dog use the bathroom in your house. That is the key. Dogs are creatures of habit. It's much easier to prevent a habit from forming than it is to change it later. If your dog never has the opportunity to use the bathroom in your house, he will never form that bad habit.
It's not as easy as it sounds. It requires that you be diligent and supervise your dog every second that he is loose in the house until you are sure he is reliable. Crate training your dog will make housetraining much easier. Dogs do not like to potty in their dens, so you can crate him when you can't give him your full attention. Another option is to put him outside when you cannot supervise him, provided you have a secure fenced yard.
Add 1 to your dog's age in months to determine approximately how many hours he can hold his urine. For example, a 3 month old puppy can go for about 4 hours before having to use the bathroom again. This is only a general rule. Your dog may need to go more or less. With puppies, you may even have to get up a couple of times during the night, just like with a baby. It helps to try and get him on a schedule so that bathroom breaks are about the same time every day. Then, you can relax a little between bathroom breaks. Just keep in mind that unneutered males mark with urine even when they don't need to pee. If you have an unneutered male, you won't be able to relax much.
With practice, you will get to know your dog's signs that he is getting ready to use the bathroom. When you see him sniffing the ground or circling or whatever thing he does, you know it's time to go out - NOW. If you aren't fast enough and he starts to go, make a startling noise to interrupt and then take him out immediately.
For every time you fall down on the job and your dog is able to potty in the house without interruption from you, housetraining will be set back further. You will still be able to housetrain your dog, but it will take longer, and in the meantime, you will have to clean up smelly accidents in your house. Be sure to use an enzymatic cleaner for any accidents, such as Nature's Miracle. Regular household cleaners will not do the trick. You may not be able to smell it, but your dog can. As long as he can smell traces of urine, he will continue to urinate in that spot.
Hitting the Right SpotIf you have a secure fenced in yard, you can just let your dog out by himself to potty. This will work fine, especially if you are diligent about allowing accidents in the house. However, if you want housetraining to go quickly, you will need to go out with him on leash. Remember, as long as he can smell traces of urine, he will continue to go in that spot. This can work to your advantage. Pick a spot where you want him to potty, and go to that spot every time. That way, he doesn't have to guess about where to go. This will help him more quickly put two and two together that inside is not ok but outside is.
As soon as he does his business, praise him like he just won the Olympics. If you can grab treats fast enough on the way out the door, give him a few. Let him know how pleased you are that he used the bathroom... in the right place.
Dogs usually pee in one spot and poop somewhere else. They also don't usually do both at the same time. Your dog may go out and pee, then come inside and need to poop 15 minutes later. This is normal. If you're keeping a watchful eye on him, you'll be able to catch either one and take him to the right spot.
The Wrong WayPlease, do not hit your dog with a newspaper or any other object, or drag him to the accident and shove his nose in it. This will not help your housetraining efforts and may even undermine them. He may learn that using the bathroom makes you hit him, but not that it's only when he goes in the house. Then, he won't go in front of you AT ALL, even outside when you want him to. Instead, he'll wait until you aren't looking and hide in a corner where you will smell the odor but not be able to find it. If he has an accident in the house, you weren't fast enough. Clean it up, and watch him more closely next time.