Let me first say, you do not need a trainer or behaviorist to help you with potty training. You simply need this article!
Whether you just got a new puppy, rescued an adult dog or have had a dog for years, one thing is for sure: you want to make sure your 4-legged buddy is potty trained!
I have dog owners that call me quite frequently about their dogs having accidents in the home: everything from new puppies to adult dogs. I've had clients with dogs that can be outside for an hour and never relieve themselves and then the minute they come back in the home they urinate or defecate. I've had clients swear, "My dog is doing it because he is mad at me!" I've had other clients tell me, "He has not had an accident in the home for years...why now?"
Simply put: your dog is having potty accidents in the home for 1 or more of the following reasons:
1. It has not yet learned where it should and should not relieve itself.
2. It has had enough accidents in the home that it has become a learned behavior.
3. Something has changed in the dog's life or environment: a stressor has been added
4. The dog has a biological health issue
5. The dog is simply not getting enough potty breaks.
Here are some tips and strategies to getting your dog's potty training (regardless of age ) under control:
#1.) If it is an adult dog that has been potty trained for years but is suddenly having accidents again, then its a good idea to rule out health issues by a simple Vet visit.
#2.) Use a crate! This is a must! This will set your dog up for success with potty training. Make sure it is an appropriate sized crate: too small is stressful and unfair and too large will open up options for the dog relieving itself in the crate. While puppies may still have some accidents in a crate (which is normal), it is uncommon for adult dogs to do so.
#3.) Make it almost impossible for your dog to fail and very EASY for your dog to be successful. This is done with no free roam in the home until the puppy is fully potty trained and/or the adult dog has re-learned/reshaped the correct behavior (going potty outside). You basically have 2 options here:
Option #1: Use a leash: the dog comes in the home from being outside and you put a leash on the dog immediately. Where ever you go in the home... the dog goes too. The dog is basically tethered to you 100% of the time when moving around inside the home. Then use common sense- if your dog is demonstrating any peculiar behavior- take it outside!
Option #2: No roaming the home at all: The dog comes in from being outside and goes directly into the crate. We are attempting to break the pattern and make it easy for the dog to be successful and virtually making it impossible for them to fail. By doing this, you are basically eliminating the option of the dog relieving itself in the home. The dog goes straight from the crate to outside for exercise and/or a potty break and then right back in the crate. I know this may sound cruel, but if the dog is getting proper exercise & stimulation every day, whether it be a 3 mile walk, play time in the yard, a trip to dog daycare, or a long bike ride, the dog will be just fine :) Again, if you don't do this, then the dog has the option to relieve itself in the home again (and it only takes a few seconds of you taking your eyes off the dog before you realizing it is urinating in the home again)...furthering the dog's bad learned behavior of going in the house. Make it almost impossible for the dog to fail. Over time, you can slowly start to give your dog intervals of free roam in the home.
#4.) LOTS of supervised potty breaks (at least 4 or 5 per day): go outside with your dog and immediately after your dog relieves itself throw it a "party:" Lots of praise, treats, touch, affection, etc. Really let your dog know it did an awesome job!
#5.) Clean up any accidents in the home as well as possible. Carpet is really bad for reinforcing potty accidents for dogs. Steam cleaning helps.
#6.) Lots of exercise outside the home. All that stimulation and movement gets the bowel movements going and at some point: the dog will have to go. Plus, with all the crate time, we need to be fair to our dog- Wear your dog out :)
#7:) Evaluate your own life and your dog's life. Has anything changed that could be causing undue stress on your dog? New home? New family member or pet member? Stress at the workplace? The smallest changes can really impact dogs in peculiar ways. If you suspect that your dog is going through some stress, then all of the above suggestions still apply. And one of the best ways to alleviate stress: EXERCISE! Your dog doesn't need you to feel sorry for it. Get out and do something FUN with your dog!
#8.) Generally speaking, I do not recommend punishing your dog for accidents in the home. Chances are if you were to try to use punishment you'd be too late with timing. As we all know, dogs understand the "now," so punishing your dog for something it did 4 or 5 seconds ago (let alone 4 or 5 minutes or hours ago) will most likely confuse and possibly frighten your dog. You also want to make sure that your dog doesn't think "going to the bathroom" is wrong. The act itself is never wrong (the location can be wrong...to us humans that is).
#9.) As your dog continues to do well, you can start to give it more roam/freedom in the house but I would highly recommend supervising your dog closely. Within time, you should have a dog that is completely potty trained and free to roam the house with no worries .