Getting a Handle on Housetraining Issues

For many dog owners, housetraining is the #1 thing we want our dogs to learn. In my experience it is also one of the most frustrating and emotionally charged training issues that dog owners struggle with, and I can relate.

Yes I’m a dog trainer and, yes, I’ve had house training issues…

When Epic came home with us, for the first few weeks, I was amazed at how well she did. She peed or pooped outside every time I took her out.  “Housetraining ain’t so hard”, I thought.

Then the “incidents” started happening.

  • Epic would pee in her crate at home or poop on the floor right after we brought her in. From outside. Where she peed or pooped 2 minutes earlier.
  • We would go the whole week without an incident and then have 2 or three on the same day.

Things finally came to a head for me while Sean was away, I was sick , and we had multiple incidents in a weekend, including one on the carpet. It might have been the sleep deprivation, it might have been the cold meds but I remember calmly letting my puppy into the yard coming inside and then breaking out in tears as I reached for the paper towel. Again.

puppy pee drama

Once I calmed down and let my puppy inside, I sat down with her in snuggled in my lap and thought about what I would tell someone in my place.

What everyone needs to know about housetraining

  1. Use an enzymatic cleaner to clean up pet messes. Dogs have a natural tendency to return urinate and defecate in the same place. You want to make sure that if there is an incident in your house that you remove all traces of it. Unfortunately, all the scented human products in the world will not hide the odour of a previous doggy indiscretion from your dog’s high powered nose. You need to use a pet specific enzymatic cleaner that breaks down organic stains and odours. I use the Odor Out products by EnviroFresh and Nature’s Miracle, both are available at pet supply stores or in the pet aisle of your local department store. Do not use other cleaners before using these products and make sure to follow the directions on the bottle.
  2. Rule out medical causes.  If your dog is suddenly peeing more frequently than she used to, if she appears to be straining a lot, or if she has frequent diarrhoea indoors, a trip to the vet may be warranted. A number of illnesses, infections and parasites may be compromising her ability to go when, and where, she should. If you have ever had a bad case of gastritis, or a urinary tract infection you know how urgent nature’s call can be when you are not feeling well. When you contact your vet, tell them about your house training issues and tell them you want to rule out any health related causes. The fact that you took your dog in for her annual exam last week does not mean she is healthy: Specific tests need to be run in order to diagnose certain illnesses and parasites.
  3. House Training 101. Assuming your dog is free and clear of infection and parasites. It’s time to implement some house training protocols. Whether your dog has never been housetrained or your dog is having a relapse, the approach is the same. Whether you want to teach your dog to go under the maple tree in your yard or in an indoor dog pats, the protocol is the same. I won’t  reiterate the great resources already out there on the internet, but if you need a housetraining refresher, investigate the following FREE resources:
  4. Seek Professional Help. If you you have given housetraining 101 (or the refresher course) an honest try and are not seeing improvement, now is the time to contact a canine professional. There is a possibility that the issues you are experiencing have a deeper behavioral cause. The two professional organisations that I recommend are the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC). Each organisation has a search function on their home page to help you find a professional near you.

No more crying over poop in our house!

In our case, the solution to our problem was relatively simple, but it required a level of commitment on my part to resolve.

I realised that Epic’s housetraining lapses were my fault: During the week, at work, it was is easy to keep Epic a regular potty schedule but once we got home, my internal clock is not set to “puppy time”. Once I actually started setting a timer on my phone to go off every 30 minutes (no joke!), and rewarding Epic with a cookie every time she went outdoors, incidents decreased to nothing.

What was a real pain the the rear for a week or two has paid off in spades. Epic still goes outside frequently (every hour or so) but in my books, getting off the couch for a minute or two is much less frustrating than having to clean the floors!

2 thoughts on “Getting a Handle on Housetraining Issues

  1. I hear ya. I’ve met people who say their dogs have been housetrained since they are 8 weeks old. I tend to not believe them. My girlie was the same as yours, seemed to be getting better, then would relapse. She was 6 or 7 months old before she could go longer than 30 min. It was a pain. Even at a year and a half, if I were inclined to let her out ever 30 min, she would pee every time! Her control is getting much better though.

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