All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Difficulty in House-training a Dog

Dear  Marie:
I am having a problem house breaking my 13-month-old male Doxie.  I got him at 6 months of age and tried to housebreak him for several weeks, but without success.  I live in a condo and am gone about 8 hours every day.  As soon as I get home, I open the patio door and he goes out and does his job.  However, he still wets on the carpet so I got a 2’ X 4’ cage that I keep him in during the day.  He does well most of the time; however, this morning, after I fed him and before I put him in his cage, he wet on my bed even though the patio door was open for him to go out.

Do you have any suggestions that may help, or will he grow out of it as he gets older?

Dear Jean:
House breaking puppies is one of the most difficult and often times frustrating tasks pet owners face.  Your puppy is now 13 months old and you feel, very understandably, that your pet should already know where the “right” place is to do his “business.”   It seems as though you’re doing all the right things yet your little guy is still having “accidents.”

You gave me a few hints about some possible problem areas in your letter.  The first big clue was the fact that you allow your dog on your bed.  This is a huge “no no!”  At least for the time being..Bear with me now, because we’re going to have to think like dogs for a second or two! 

You and your family must always hold the position of “Top Dog” in your puppy’s mind.  As “Top Dog”  (or parent) you must never allow your dog on your bed because if you do, you are sending the message to your puppy that he is an equal to you.  As an equal, he will not feel as inclined to follow your rules; thus, he might decide that going to the bathroom outside is one rule he will ignore!  On the other hand, he may feel confused by being allowed on your bed.  He probably knows deep down that you are the “Alpha” in his life, and therefore he knows your bed should be off limits.   So, to show you respect and gratitude, he urinates and turns belly up in your presence.  If you were a dog, you would appreciate this act of submission and respect!   However, I expect that your sentiments at the time were far from appreciation and your resulting behavior would have further confused your little guy. 

Using a crate to house break your dog is an excellent training method.  A crate simulates a “den.”  Generally, dogs will not urinate and defecate in their sleeping/den area.  (Provided they are given the opportunity to go outside on a regular basis to relieve themselves.)  The big job is demonstrating to your pet that your entire house is “THE DEN.”  

One way to accomplish this goal is to move the crate into a different room every day.  In addition to this, you must immediately take your pet outside to relieve himself when he is released.  Use a phrase or one word consistently to let him know the reason for going outside...for example, “potty time” or some other phrase that you will always use that does not sound like any other command.  When your dog completes his “function,” be sure and praise him with similar consistent phrases such as, “Good potty.”  (And lots of pats!)  Furthermore, even if you leave a door open for your dog to go outside, you should still frequently escort him outside yourself and use your “potty command.”

Always take your puppy outside after his meals.  Wait for him to urinate and defecate before bringing him back in.  If it seems as though he doesn't need “to go” and you allow him back into the house, you are setting him up for failure...he WILL need  “to go” soon after a meal.

You did not mention if your dog is neutered.  If he is not, I strongly recommend that you make an appointment with your veterinarian immediately!!!  Not only will this help with indoor urination problems, but it will  also lead to your dog leading a longer, healthier life, and you will be doing your part as a responsible pet owner to curb pet over-population!

Above all, keep your patience.  Eventually, your little angel will learn what behavior is expected from him.  At 13 months old, he is still just a baby!  He needs all the praise and encouragement you can give him.  Hang in there!

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