Getting Your Dog To Use A Designated Potty Area

Ayla writes to us about getting her dog to use a designated potty area:

“I have a 6 1/2 month old Labrador/chow mix puppy. She will only use the potty area [gravel section] when I have her on a leash, but goes where she wants to [outside] off the leash. When I take her on the leash she will go straight to the correct area to pee, but only after I walk her for long periods of time before having a bowel movement. It seems as if she does not really know that she is outside to go potty. I have been saying “get busy” for months now and I think she knows what that means, she just doesn’t want to go until after we walk, and walk and walk and then she wants to play [I don’t play with her at that time, but tell her to ‘get busy’. Sometimes she goes in 10mins. and other times it could be 4-5 hours after eating. I can not figure out her schedule.”

Lynn (DPTrainer4) replies:

Hello, Ayla. One of the things that seemed to cement the idea of pottying in a certain area was to let my dog make a mistake. It’s a similar concept in housetraining–you can set the dog up for success, never have an accident and it can go one of two ways: the dog will understand the idea and never go in the house, or it’ll try at least once to see if the result of pottying inside is any different than outside.

Part of it was to let her run free in the yard on a long line (our yard is not fenced, and until she was trustworthy off-leash, we long-lined her). If she made a mistake and squatted in the grass, she was immediately corrected and taken to her potty spot. She did try it again, and defecated in the grass, and again she was immediately corrected on the long line. At this point, she can be in the middle of an invigorating fetch game and when she has to go, she goes to her own spot.

If she doesn’t want to go after eating, that is fine–it’s her schedule and her perogative. When you take her out to go out potty, that is what you’re out there for, you’re not out to play. There is business to attend to, and it seems like you’ve been establishing this. If she needs to walk around, she can walk inside her spot so that when the urge strikes, she is right there (although admittedly, dogs have excellent control over their bodies and CAN “hold it” unless medically impossible). While maturation will hopefully get her on a schedule, the idea is for her to associate the area with the urge to potty and the relief she feels when she does so. If she decides to not go, that’s fine: back inside and try again later.

Hope this is of assistance to you!

When Older Dogs Start Urinating In The House

Bruce asked us: “I have 2 Papillons who are about 5 and 4 years old. They have been house trained but have now starting going in our sun room even after they were just outside. I don’t know which one it is or maybe its both of them. This problem seems to be escalating for some reason. I just downloaded your Secrets book and will start reading it… but where should I start or what should I do so the problem can be “nipped in the bud.”

Thank you for your help

Adam replies: Hi, Bruce:

Definitely start with the Secrets book. Then watch “Housebreaking In A Hurry” in our video vault. It’s about 45 minutes long and will reiterate what is in the book. For people who are more visual learners, it works well.

If you still have questions, please start another thread and we’ll be happy to help you along.

Keep me posted.

Bruce responds: “Okay I watched the movies and yes they reinforced your book. Things are a little clearer. You didn’t explain too much about using that short leash that hangs on the dog’s collar to correct him. Do you just give him a tug when correcting him?

Now a couple of specific questions:

Remember I have two older papillons. Don’t know which dog it is (or both). Why do you think this problem started? They can go out side and we can watch them go but yet a few minutes after they come in they go in the house. Why are they doing this now after being reasonably good for so long?

Since we have 2 dogs, any suggestions for handling them and this problem? They are almost always together and do things together.

Thanks again for your help

Hi, Bruce:

Yes… The tab correction is the same as the leash.

The trick is to keep the dogs confined to the crate (whenever you cannot supervise) the same as you would a baby with a crib– until they’ve proven themselves 100%.  [That way, you’re in a position to be consistent with your motivational corrections, too.]

As to why the dog started doing it? Impossible to say 100%, but usually it’s a result of an initial accident, and then the dog discovers that it’s a lot more comfortable doing it on the carpet than outside. So, he tries it a second time… And since you didn’t correct him (or correct him consistently) he thinks it’s okay.

Dealing with Strange Housebreaking Issues

Cruzmisl writes to me about some strange housebreaking issues: “I took my 4 month old Great Dane out for a long walk in the woods today and everything was great. We were gone an hour and everything was as usual. She came in the house, took a drink from her bowl upstairs and then went downstairs to take a drink from her other water bowl. Why she does that I have no idea but I follow her down anyway. I don’t trust her when she’s out off my sight and I like to wipe her mouth (she hates that though). Once she’s done drinking she plopped on her bed in front of the fireplace.

It seemed like a good time to check my email so I grabbed my laptop. All of a sudden she’s barking/moaning and she’s sitting up, urinating on her bed! I just had her outside for over an hour and she pulls this stunt? I grabbed her by her collar and told her “outside” and put (dragged) her in the backyard.

I’m a little confused though because she hasn’t pee’d in the house in months. She’s old enough now that she can hold it for 8-10hrs at night (in her crate) so I’m curious what spawned this. Later on that night she pee’d on the carpet while my wife wasn’t looking. It was only a little bit though.

Any ideas?”

Adam replies:

Hi, J:

She’s testing you. (And also: Your prior corrections probably weren’t motivational enough.)

She may test you once or twice, even if you do everything right… though Month 9. That doesn’t mean she’s not housebroken. It just means that: She’s still a young dog, and either by accident or by “test” — you can have this occur, albeit infrequently. The trick is to make sure that she gets a meaningful correction, when she does it. As you’ve found: Pulling on the flat collar isn’t going to do it.

Have you gone through the Secrets book and the housebreaking in a hurry video, yet?

– Adam.

J responds:

I skimmed through that section because she was housebroken a week after we picked her up so I didn’t bother. I’ll go back and revisit those sections. Any other advice other than whats already contained there? It seems more of a defiance angle more than anything else.

Adam replies:

No, it’s not defiance. The dog’s mind doesn’t work that way.

You’re expecting too much from a 4 month old puppy. Housebreaking a dog this young isn’t a “scratch it off the list” and move on, type of behavior. At this age, it’s going to be more of a: We’re 99% there, but there still may be some accidents in the coming months, so I need to be 100% vigilent.

And again: If you’re not using the pinch collar, your corrections probably aren’t motivational, so you may have that working against you, too. Eliminating in the house needs to be so uncomfortable that she actively wants to hold it and tell you to take her out.

Potty Training a Puppy

Jandon writes to me about potty training a puppy:

I’m about three weeks into potty training my (four month old) puppy and now he comes and sits in front of me as a signal to go out. I take him out and he usually does his buisness rather timely. The problem is that he does this about every twenty minutes now. I don’t want to ignor him because the one time I thought I would just wait because I know he can hold it for hours when he is in his crate,he wizzed in the house. I do give him a treat/praise every time I take him out.Any suggestions? Do you think he will get tired of this?

Adam replies:

Hi, Jandon:

Make sure he does get a correction (every time!) if he eliminates in the house.

The trick is to set up a very strict feeding and watering schedule. Do not let him free feed. And if you’re home with him all day, do not let him have free access to water. Take him out at regular intervals (every 2-3 hours or so) to drink and then afterwards, let him urinate.

Because he’s learned that he can tell you “let’s go outside and play” I recommend keeping him on a “place” command. Or in the crate, when you can’t interact with him.

But the real key at this age is to set up a strict schedule, and that way, his routine will adapt to the schedule you create.

– Adam.

Jandon responds:

Thank you…I allow him to have free access to water except one hour before bedtime. I’ll change it up a bit and put him on a water schedule. I thought maybe he was just toying with me because he could get a treat more often by reliving himself more frequently. Thanks again.

Adam replies:

Hi, Jandon:

Yes, he is toying with you. Exactly. But he may be toying with you 9 of 10 times, and 1 of 10 times it’s real. By putting him on a strict schedule, you’ll know. Also, by correcting him when he does eliminate in the house, you’ll see him get uneasy when he really needs to go outside, so it’ll be easier to tell when he really needs to “go”.

– Adam.


Bulldog has a House Training Problem

Dear Adam: We have a house training issue:We got an English bulldog in Dec 2003. We received her as a gift from my in-laws. She is 2 ½ yrs old.

Since we got her, she pees and poops in the house. When she goes outside, we praise her, and sometimes it does wonders but she will only go when she feels like it. She pees in her crate almost everyday. It is getting to the point that my husband is ready to get rid of her. She has the best temperament and is a great dog.

We have another dog, a 1 ½ yr old beagle who used to pee in her crate but once we got Mattie (the English Bulldog) I don’t know what to do. We love her and show her attention but we cannot continue to have this problem. Is there anything you can recommend? We are so desperate. My in-laws said this was never a problem with them and they even had water left in her crate when they were gone. We don’t since this is a problem.

She is left out of her crate more now with us than when she lived with them. I thought all the attention would help, but I don’t see that happening. Please help me not to lose my dog. Thanks, Susan

Dear Susan: First, take your bulldog to your veterinarian and first rule out a bladder or urinary tract infection or any other type of illness.

Second, you haven’t mentioned how long you’re leaving your dog in the crate.

If you’re putting her in the crate at 7am and leaving for work, and then not returning home until 6pm, then you don’t have a dog problem. You need to hire a dog walker or pet sitter who can stop by in the middle of the afternoon and let the dog out. Assuming points #1 and #2 are non-issues, I highly recommend you read my article, Housebreaking in a Hurry! Do not neglect any of the five steps!!!

House Training a Dog Or Puppy (Who Is Marking) In A Hurry

House Training A Dog or Puppy In A Hurry — Five Things You Must Dog:

Every professional dog trainer knows that there are five keys to successfully housebreaking your dog.  Ignore any of these five keys and you’ll be dooming yourself to many extra months of housebreaking misery.

1.) Correct the dog every time (100%) that he has an accident in the house. Keep him confined to either a crate, or a dog run outside when you can’t supervise him.

2.) Praise the dog anytime he eliminates outside.

3.) Establish a specific spot, and a command you repeat (such as “Get busy!”) while you’re waiting for him to eliminate outside.

4.) Set up a rigorous feeding and watering schedule, and take him out immediately after he does both.

5.) Use an odor neutralizer, such as a product called “Nature’s Miracle” (you can buy this at your local pet store, or through a mail order catalog.) You’ll need to make sure that whatever product you’re using is an enzymatic cleaner, meaning that it actually ‘breaks down’ the urine or fecal mater on a microscopic level, rather than just masking the scent.