Not all dogs are house trained and although it is quite easy to house train a puppy, things can and do go wrong with this process if not carried out correctly. With some dogs, it may not have been attempted at all if, for example, they were kennelled outside. Consequently some dogs reach adulthood having not been fully house trained. This can be rectified with time, patience and a dedicated person.
How long it takes depends on the following: • How well the handler keeps to the routine. • How quickly the dog learns. • How old the dog is. • What experience the dog has had in the past.
As well as not being house trained, there are many other reasons why a dog will go to the toilet in the house. Some of these are: • Stress and tension in the household. • Anxiety about being left alone. • Territory marking.
WHAT TO DO?
BEFORE STARTING THE NEW ROUTINE Carefully clean all areas the dog has previously soiled using a warm solution of biological washing powder (for example, a teaspoon of powder in a cup of warm water) or a specially formulated product from your vet, which will remove all traces of the smell from your house.
EVERY DAY When you first wake up, last thing at night and every hour during the day, take the dog outside to a place in your garden that you have chosen and let your dog walk up and down or run about and sniff the area (both exercise and sniffing helps stimulate elimination).
Put soiled newspaper or faeces in this area so that the smell tells your dog where to go next time.
Stay out with your dog and patiently walk up and down for at least 5 minutes. If the dog starts to go to the toilet, give praise. It is important that, for the first two weeks, there is constant supervision so that the dog cannot go to the toilet in the house.
During the times that you cannot supervise the dog or when you go to sleep, confine the dog to bed. You need to find a suitable way to do this, either by restricting them to bed with a barrier, or investing in an indoor kennel/crate (see crate training). The dog will become accustomed to this, without making a noise or trying to break out, when left there for short periods of time. Few dogs soil their own bed and, if confined to bed, they are unlikely to relieve themselves. Although it is unfair to confine them for long periods, this does provide a way of preventing them from soiling in the house for short periods when you cannot supervise. This avoids perpetuating bad habits at times when you need to concentrate on other things.
WHEN YOU SEE THE DOG ABOUT TO TOILET IN THE HOUSE If about to go to the toilet indoors, take the dog immediately to your chosen place in the garden and praise the dog by giving a food treat or a game with a favourite toy. It is essential the dog associates going to that place with a reward. Catching in time means the dog will still need to go. Wait until the dog has performed and praise well.
WHEN YOU FIND A PUDDLE OR MESS DO NOT punish the dog for any "accidents" discovered too late. It may make YOU feel better but it is most unpleasant for the dog and ultimately does not teach the dog anything. Consider instead that these accidents are now YOUR fault rather than the dogs, since you were not supervising closely enough.
You need to continue the above routine for at least 2 weeks. During this time the dog learns about getting praise for going to the toilet outside and, since there is no chance to go inside, the habit of going outside develops.
For these first 2 weeks and a short while after continue to go with the dog into the garden in order to praise them until the training is firmly established in the dogs mind. After the two weeks gradually increase the time between visits to the garden. Eventually the dog will want to go at a time other than the one you select. You need to watch to see how the dog tries to tell you this, which could be things such as going over to the door, appearing restless, whining. Reinforce these signs by letting the dog out and the dog will soon be asking to go out whenever the toilet is needed. House training will happen more easily if you keep to the same pattern of feeding and exercising each day.
AT NIGHT The easiest solution is to position the dog’s bed somewhere just outside your bedroom door and confine it in the usual way. Leave the bedroom door open so that if the dog wakes up and needs to go during the night, you will hear it whining or moving around. Get up and take the dog outside, following all the 3 daytime procedures. Remember that if the dog is forced to toilet in the bed, then it may develop a habit of doing this and you may have lost the chance of teaching the dog to ever be clean.
WHEN YOU GO OUT If going out for less than 2 hours, you could leave the dog confined to bed in the usual way, but ensure the dog cannot be hurt when confined.
You also need to ensure the dog has had the chance to go out and toilet before doing so. If you have to go out for more than 2 hours then do not confine the dog. Leave the dog in one room only and cover as much of the floor as possible with a large sheet of polythene covered with newspaper. This does not teach the dog to be clean but makes any mess easier to clean up and prevent the house from becoming soiled.
DO NOT scold or punish if you find that the dog has gone to the toilet on the floor when you return.
"HE KNOWS HE HAS DONE WRONG!" Some owners comment, "He knows he has done wrong because he looks guilty". In fact the dog has learned that if humans walk in to a room where there is a mess on the floor, a telling off or punishment follows.
The dog is actually showing submission to you, hoping you obey the dog rules, see the signals and stop your aggression toward it. Unfortunately a submissive posture can look like a guilty one to us and we often mistakenly believe the dog knows that what they have done is wrong. Punishment or scalding teaches the dog NOTHING and may even make the problem worse!
Some dogs learn just one thing about house training, that it is wrong to toilet in the house in front of their owners. This is only because they would have been scolded or punished if caught in the act of going in the house.
Good luck with toilet training your adult dog, we wish you all the best of luck and remember, patience and perseverance is the key.