When we think about bringing a new dog into our home, we think of a lot of things – snuggles and belly rubs, long adventuresome hikes, silly tricks that amaze our friends… Somehow in that idyllic daydream, we always seem to forget about bathroom habits. Face it, almost any new dog that comes into your home will have to be re-trained to eliminate in the appropriate way, as she learns to adjust to your family’s schedule, and learns to tell you how she needs to go outside.
Adult dogs may have accidents inside, but are generally easier to train because they are physically capable of restraint for reasonable amounts of time (assuming they have no medical cause that prevents it – if you have a difficult time housetraining an adult dog, mention it to your vet and rule out physical causes!) but puppies are limited by their tiny growing bodies, and shouldn’t be expected to hold things in longer than about one hour for every month of their age. No dog should be expected to wait longer than 9 hours, and less is always better. In fact, it’s usually worth the expense to invest in a trusted dog walker to give your pup a midday bathroom break and fight off some boredom – not only will you come home to less mess, your dog will be happier and better behaved. You will still need to teach them appropriate potty manners when you’re home, though!
The key to this is structure – feeding your dog on a set schedule (so you know when he’ll likely have to go – for most dogs, that’s about half an hour after a meal) and taking them out on a set schedule (so they learn to tell you when they have to go) is important. Pick a feeding time that can be adhered to by your family comfortably. Whether once a day or twice a day for an adult dog is up to you; young puppies usually need more frequent meals – talk to your vet to see what is best for your dog. When cleaning accidents, mop up urine and scoop feces, then place them (or the towel) in your preferred spot in the yard (use a rock to hold the towel down).
Next time you go outside, lead her right to that area. Since it already smells like her bathroom, she’ll learn what is expected of her more quickly. Wait there. Let her sniff around, scratch a little at the ground, and find just the right spot. When she eliminates, very calmly say “good dog!” and offer her a tiny treat. Unless it’s uncomfortable for her to be outside (because of heat, cold, or precipitation) do something fun like go for a walk, play a game of fetch, or just snuggle in the yard for a bit. Don’t make the mistake of rushing her back inside before she’s ready – you don’t want her to learn that eliminating in your chosen place will be “punished” by going back in! Add to your routine some simple bells hung at Fluffy’s nose-level from the doorknob – bought at a pet supply store for around $20, or make your own with a spool of ribbon and some bells from a craft store for about $2. Each time you open the door to take Fluffy outside, swat the bells lightly with your hand. It won’t take long for Fluffy to figure out the bells make the door open, and she’ll start bumping them herself with her nose or feet, to alert you she needs to go.
Be sure you’re cleaning up inside accidents with an enzyme made especially for pet messes – many household cleaners will rid the area of scent to a human nose, but dogs’ noses are much stronger than ours, and it’s possible she could still pick up the scent and think it’s okay for her to potty there. And never yell at her or rub her nose in it – doing so will only teach her not to potty in front of you, and could damage your relationship.
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