BY JANET McAFEE
My dog, Scarlett O’Hara, was rescued from an animal hoarder in Hemet who kept 135 dogs and 35 cats in a small house. The process of potty training Scarlett proved to be a serious challenge as these animals relieved themselves almost exclusively inside the house. For a while, Scarlett and I were homebound with only limited visits to friends and family. Scarlett seemed to pick the most exclusive spots to go. One day I happily realized, “It’s been a month with no accidents!” Luckily, most dogs are easier than Scarlett to house train.
If you adopt an adult dog from a shelter or rescue, they may or may not been house trained in their previous homes. However, if they were confined to a concrete kennel for any length of time, they may require a “refresher” training session. Young puppies under 6 months of age need to relieve themselves more frequently. A good supply of puppy pads may be helpful at this stage. “Paper training” on newspaper is a more inexpensive solution. Puppies normally need to eliminate just after eating and just after waking up from a nap, so this is the time to get them outside.
DOGGY DOORS – The ideal situation is a doggy door that provides easy access to a fenced in yard. Call your puppy and use treats to tempt him through the opening while holding up the doggy door flap. If you have a dog already, he is the best teacher to show the new arrival the proper procedure. Dogs are pack animals and will follow the example set by the others. A small plot of artificial grass can do the trick if you have a cement patio or balcony.
SCHEDULED WALKS – The challenge comes when you live in an apartment without a fenced in yard. Try to keep to a set schedule. Dogs need at least 3 walks daily. A young puppy may need to be walked every couple hours. Make it fun by exploring different areas and include community dog parks for increased exercise.
Encourage your pet to eliminate in the same area outside. “Go potty” and “go poop” will become part of your training vocabulary, and your dog will learn to associate these words with appropriate action. When the dog pees or poops outside, make a big fuss of him with praise and petting. Try not to be overly anxious about your dog’s training……When the human is overly zealous about their dog having an accident this can actually lead to more accidents.
ACCIDENTS – When you catch your pup relieving himself in the wrong place, use a firm voice “No, don’t pee there.” Immediately take him to the newspaper or outside where he is supposed to eliminate. If you become angry or punish him, he will only learn to sneak off and go where you can’t see him. If you find the mess after he’s already gone, pick up the poop with a tissue, put the dog on a leash and head outside, putting it in the spot where he should go. Praise not punishment is the key to success.
NATURE’S MIRACLE – This handy product in a white spray bottle with red lettering saves the day and the carpet. It contains enzymes that eliminate pet stains and odors, and this is important to discourage the pet from going in the same area again. For massive cleanups, use a mixture of white vinegar and water with 3 parts water to 1 part vinegar.
CRATE TRAINING – My research showed there is still some controversy over the use of crating dogs for potty training and other purposes. In any case, an animal should not be crated for longer than 4 or 5 hours.
MORE TIPS – Get an expandable “baby gate” available at Home Depot or PetSmart, and block the dog off in the tiled kitchen or bathroom area. This works well for those occasions when you leave the house for an extended time. The animal can see out and does not feel so confined. Usually the dog won’t relieve himself in a small room, thinking of the area as his “den”.
Another idea is to put an untrained dog on a long leash and hook the leash handle under a heavy coffee table or dining room table. The dog will feel like he’s still part of the family, but won’t go potty within the confined area. For challenging cases, try the umbilical method where you keep the dog on a harness and lead attached to your waist.
What if you’re going to visit fastidious relatives with white carpet and no patience if Benji has an accident? For those occasions, you can get a “male wrap” a cloth garment with Velcro, and place a sanitary pad inside for extra absorbency. Male wraps and diapers for female dogs are available in various sizes at PetCo and PetSmart.
Be patient and diligent and success will come. The internet is full of additional advice on this and other dog training issues. You will soon enjoy a “puddle free” home!