Recently I met a woman whose small two-year-old dog poops on the expensive carpets throughout her house, typically early in the morning before she is awake. She has had him for over a year and a half, and she doesn’t know what to do. She is thinking of getting rid of him, she said in exasperation.
Housetraining problems are one of the main reasons people do get rid of dogs, and what is the likelihood of such a dog coming across someone with the knowledge and the patience to deal with this problem? Not too great. Far better if people can get some help with their dog and work it through!
This woman and I talked about some of the things she could do, and I referred her to my webpage on housetraining puppies and dogs. so I’ll leave her story now, and talk more generally.
What are some of the things that can be done with an adult dog who pees or poops in the house?
First, I think it’s helpful to realize that the dog has somehow learned that this is acceptable behavior — even if he gets yelled at sometimes, he hasn’t learned the desirable habits, and this is due to the messages he has gotten from people. In other words, the context is that this situation has been created by both dog and human. And that’s how the solution will come: from the interactions of both, the communication. I’ve observed that often it’s happened at a time when the humans have had full plates with other aspects of their lives and simply haven’t found the way to deal with the dog problems too.
Do be sure to have your veterinarian examine the dog, to be sure there are no physical problems involved.
You have a management situation here. From now on, the dog should not be allowed loose in the rooms that he has used for elimination. This probably means using a crate at times — I love the many benefits of crate training dogs and that link takes you to my page about how to crate train. Do take the time to let the dog come to accept the crate before confining him in it.
Another way you can keep tabs on your dog in the house is to attach yourself to the dog by means of a medium-length leash which clips onto a belt you wear.
Okay, so with this level of management, you should immediately see little or none of the undesirable behavior. But what about teaching him what you DO want?
Spend a LOT of time taking him outside, to where you want him to do his stuff. Luckily, since adults can hold it longer, you won’t need to follow the puppy schedule I outline on that housetraining page, but you likely will need to stay outside longer on each trip. This can be a time to play ball or walk together — just be sure to keep your eyes on the dog rather than getting distracted into weeding the petunias because then you may miss the moment when he does his stuff.
You want to notice that moment for two reasons — it means you are free to go back in the house shortly but it also is a time when you want to praise the dog effusively for being so good and smart. Tiny bits of something delicious can be given too.
Over time, this method will yield results. Just don’t slack off too soon! It’s always harder to unlearn a bad habit that to learn right in the first place, but it can be done. And it’s worth it!