Oh my housebreaking stars, we feel you on this one. I'd swear a third of the completely housetrained dogs that come stay and play with us suddenly forget their potty manners as soon as they find an indoor fencepost around here! Since pee cleanup is a way of life in the doggie daycare world, the last thing we fearless Pack Leaders want to do at home with our personal dogs is MORE PEE CLEANUP. So, while we may not have mastered the art of not barking at squirrels, most of us HAVE picked up a few sanity-saving tricks that keep our human houses pee-free! We hope they help you too!
1. We use the same door to go outside. All the time. Going to potty? Use THIS DOOR. This is the first step in getting your doggo to gooooo to the place where he knows you take him out to do his biz!
2. We use positive reinforcement from the get-go! Even if your puppy is a little young to accomplish full housetraining, you can still celebrate the small wins right off the bat. Pottied outside? "GOOD BOY!!!!" and here's a *secret hint:* save the extra-super-special-secret treats for potty rewards. Treats are awesome, but save the REALLY good favorite ones for when he goes potty outside for you! This also works well if you're dealing with a new rescue dog that may be recovering from a less-than-stellar past life, and you're trying not to throw too much at him at once or trying to help him build his confidence and trust in you.
3. We make wide open spaces. YES we know the luxury of a fenced yard isn't something everyone has, but a small investment in a SUPER long lead (like 30 feet) might work wonders in giving your dog that little bit of breathing room he needs to get the job done (privacy please mom!). Tethers and tie-outs can help here too, but we never recommend leaving your dog on one unattended. We like this leash!
4. We call them out when they mess up...IF we catch them in the act. A simple "no" is all you need, and take your pup straight outside. They're smart and they know when you're disappointed - don't make a big dramatic scene over the accident. For the record, rubbing their nose in it later is stupid and will not fix your problem. Dogs live in the moment, they don't remember that they peed there two hours ago and they learn nothing from being punished for (in their mind) no reason.
5. We don't use puppy pads. It's SO tempting, we know. BUT making it OK to go potty inside in ANY way is just going to derail all the hard work you're doing. You're trying to HOUSE train them, not "only-pee-in-this-one-spot-still-inside-the-house" train them. Don't confuse them - focus on teaching them the difference in indoors and outdoors!
6. We crate train. Someone call PETA and report us!! ...NOT. Crate training is GOOD y'all. When trained correctly, your dog should look at his kennel the same way we look at our bedrooms -- a nice quiet place to retreat to where we feel snug and secure. When housetraining, the key is making sure the crate is the appropriate size. It needs to be big enough for your fluffer to stand up and turn around, but no more. Any bigger than that and he can walk to the other side, potty, and walk away from it, never to be thought of again. More about crate training in an upcoming post...
7. We use appropriate timing. Heck yes you should be taking your 8 week old puppy outside every 30 minutes, but as the days pass on it IS okay to start giving them the opportunity to learn how to hold it. Try crating for small increments of time here and there, especially at bedtime and overnight. Someone told me once that for every month old the puppy is, that's how many hours he could probably hold it (2 months old = 2 hours, make sense?). I watched this theory play out a bit with my two 5-month old beagles, and I have to say I think it's a fair guideline. Mine progressed a little faster in the overnight department (they were able to be crated through the night by 11 weeks) but during the day, if I needed to leave them crated right now, 5 hours is about all I think I could expect from them (at 5 months old).
8. We learn their cues. We hope you are a fortunate soul whose dog gives you a super obvious bathroom cue like going to the back door. If not, though, watch for the behaviors they display just before a potty. Barking? Sniffing the ground? Dancing? Running out of the room? All things that could mean POTTY time - and it's our job to read the cue and use it as an opportunity to take them outside, where we'll hopefully celebrate them going potty in the correct place.
FINALLY...even if you're a pro, there will be setbacks and accidents. One way to minimize these is by using a legit cleaning product to take care of those messes. We 100% believe the best products for cleaning floors and carpets are those that are enzyme-based. Dogs explore the world with their nose, and it IS true that they'll go back to that spot on the rug where they had a previous accident if it isn't cleaned up thoroughly. This is one we really like.
That's our 8 cents folks! We'd love to know your questions or what else has worked for you and yours on this sometimes bumpy road! firstname.lastname@example.org