One of the most common issues for new dog owners is potty training. So, considering I am getting a puppy next month, I figured I’d come back from my hiatus of blogging to address what to many people is a complex puzzle about why their dogs relieve themselves in their homes. That word I just used, relieve, is one that should be paid attention to. What I want to cover in this post is why dogs go to the bathroom in your house, how we can make sure they start going outside, and how we can make this part of our everyday lives when living with a dog; whether it's a puppy or an adult dog that is new to our home.
Firstly, let's discuss why dogs go to the bathroom in our homes. Dogs relieve themselves in our homes for the same reason you go to the bathroom anywhere, because it feels nice. Which is why we call it relieving ourselves. Once you go to the bathroom the physical pressure associated with holding your desire to go, is released which therefore makes you feel much better. This is why nobody has to pay you to go to the bathroom when you have to go, you're going to go anyways! It's important to understand that dogs don't go to the bathroom in your home simply to be jerks. They relieve themselves in our homes because it feels nice it doesn't matter to them if it's on your carpet or if it's outside in your grass.
Now that we've covered why dogs relieve themselves in the house, we can cover how we can start teaching them to relieve themselves outside. The first thing to remember is that dogs live in the present. They do have a memory, but the majority of their time is spent thinking about things that have occurred within the last 10 seconds or so. What this means for us is that we have to make sure if we're going to reward our dogs for going to the bathroom outside, we must reward them outside, in the grass, immediately upon them relieving themselves. NOT once you've brought them back inside your house! If you wait to reward your dog once already back inside, your dog will understand that coming in the house is excellent, but they will not ever fully grasp that you were trying to convince them to urinate outside. When potty training a dog you want to bring treats with you every single time you take that dog outside for a bathroom break. Continue rewarding the dog after every repetition that they pee outside until you are completely certain that the dog understands you want them to relieve themselves outside only. This is usually made very obvious by dogs when they urinate and turn around to look directly at their owners looking for a reward. Once your dog understands this, you can start rewarding them every other time they go to the bathroom outside, and eventually phasing out the reward completely.
The next step of potty training is making sure your dog does not have enough freedom in the house to urinate without you being present. It is unrealistic to think that you can avoid ever having a dog go to the bathroom in your house, but you do want to minimize the amount of time that a new dog is spending without any supervision. Most dogs do not go to the bathroom directly in front of their owners, they walk off to a different area and go where you can't see. If your dog does eliminate directly in front of you in your home, you can give a good no and then immediately bring the dog outside and reward them if they have relieved themselves outside.
The key to stopping urinating indoors, is confinement. Whether that means you're using a crate, baby gates so they stay in the kitchen, or tethering the dog to you with their leash, it is important to make sure that the dog does not have complete freedom inside your house. With absolute freedom comes absolute freedom to make mistakes. New dogs generally don't understand that relieving themselves in the house is wrong so they do it because it makes them feel good. When using the crate it's important to make sure that the dog does not need to view the crate as the high rollers suite. There does not need to be excessive blankets, toys, or pillows. When crating a dog it is best to have the crate be the only surface the dog is on. With dog beds and blankets inside the crate, many dogs will urinate on the blankets or dog beds and then simply push them to the back of the crate while the blanket or dog bed then absorbs the urine and they no longer have to deal with it. This can also be true of a crate that is too large for your dog. If there is enough room, many dogs will relieve themselves in one end of the crate, and relax in the other end. It is best if the crate is large enough for your dog to be comfortable laying down or standing, but there does not need to be enough room to throw a pool party. Leaving blankets and toys inside a crate can also pose a safety hazard if the dog is not being supervised at the time because there's a good chance that the dog can chew something and swallow it. Another added benefit of using the crate is that once you take the dog out of the crate you can take immediately outside and prompt them to go to the bathroom, where you can again reward them outside for urinating outside.
Many people have complained to me in the past that they bring their dogs outside and their dogs do not go to the bathroom. But when they come inside their dogs then relieve themselves in their homes. If this begins to happen what you want to do is bring your dog outside and if they do not go to the bathroom they come in the house and you put them back in the crate. Wait two minutes, and then bring them back outside for another chance to relieve themselves outside. Repeat this until the dog relieves themselves outside, then reward them, then bring them in the house and they have earned their freedom. This process of outside > no potty > inside > crate may take a few days before the dog realizes that they must relieve themselves outside or else they do not get freedom inside, but once they realize it, it is a huge step to correcting an otherwise irritating problem.
Now that you understand how to reward your dog outside for going to the bathroom, and how to use the crate to limit your dogs opportunity to relieve themselves inside you want to focus on making those two things an every day practice. Dogs are very much creatures of habit and if you allow them to create the habits of going to the bathroom anytime they want, wherever they want this will be an issue that you will continue to have for a very long time. When new dogs are first coming into your home there is absolutely nothing wrong with using the kennel frequently throughout the day to stop the dog from having opportunities to go when you cannot give them your undivided attention. If you are folding laundry, washing dishes, vacuuming the floors, or anything else that requires your attention you can use the crate to confine your dog and not allow them to go to the bathroom. This also gives you a prime opportunity once you are finished with your chores to bring your dog outside and again reward them for relieving themselves outside.
If you're rewarding your dogs for relieving themselves outside, limiting their opportunity to relieve themselves inside, and using those techniques regularly to create good routines and habits, you will not have any issues with dogs eliminating in your home ever again.