Do you have a dog that is potty trained “most” of the time? Maybe it “hides” accidents sometimes? Thinking about rescuing an older dog? Or do you have a new puppy and you want to potty train them correctly from the start?
Let me tell you a story about a relative of mine. She loves her dog. She takes care of him the best way that she know how to care for him. She would never do anything to intentionally harm him. She has sort of potty trained him to go on pee pads sometimes. He has some accidents — a lot of accidents. Sometimes she says it is because his stomach is upset. Or “he hardly ever does that. I just don’t know what got into him.” I do! HE ISN’T POTTY TRAINED. She has never had a dog that was completely potty trained and she doesn’t really know how or why. You can’t train a dog if you don’t know how. If you have a dog that is not quite trustworthy or even a dog that is not trained at all, the process of getting them trained is the same:
Decide whether you want your dog to pee/poop inside the house or outside. If you want your dog to think it is okay to go potty inside the house, you can go ahead with pee pads. If you want your dog to go potty outside, DO NOT USE PEE PADS AT ALL. Pee pads teach a dog that it is okay to go potty indoors. Do not use pee pads as a drop cloth and hope you will figure out where the next mistake is going to occur. You can put down pee pads in every room and the dog will go somewhere else anyway. The dog I mentioned did just that. She had pee pads in every bedroom and the dog went poo SIX times in the dining room without letting anybody know that he even wanted out. It was normal poo. He was not sick. She cleaned it up and took him on a long walk. Then once they were home, he went in the dining room and did it again! Not once did he use a pee pad. I do not want my dog using any part of my house as a toilet so I will only include how to teach your dog how to go outside. This is not a judgement. It is your dog. You can teach it whichever way suits your lifestyle best. If you don’t mind having your dog poo and pee wherever and whenever he/she wants, then by all means, don’t bother potty training them. In the interest of full disclosure, I prefer dogs peeing and pooping outside so that is what I can share and help to teach. I have never taught a dog to go potty indoors. I feel that using pee pads some of the time is confusing to dogs if you want them to go potty outdoors most of the time. Don’t confuse your dog.
Tethering your dog to you will also speed up the process. You can easily tether your dog to you by fastening their leash to your waist or a belt loop. This is especially effective for dogs that seem to go unexpectedly or “right in front of you”. If your dog starts sniffing around, it is easier to notice if they are tethered to you. If your dog starts to sniff around, scoop it up and take it outside. If it starts to go potty, scoop it up and take it outside. Yes, this can be messy. Don’t wait for them to finish. Do not scold, yell, swat, or smack them. DO NOT RUB THEIR NOSE IN IT. NO ROLLED UP NEWSPAPER. Those old methods that our parents used have been proven to not be the most effective. You will end up with a dog that is frightened to go potty around you and they will be more likely to hide going potty under tables or they won’t want to go potty while with you on a walk. Don’t shame your dog. This is not their fault. It is your responsibility to train your dog to know how to behave. If you don’t know how, here is some help. Here is an article from UC Davis that talks about the negative effects of punishment on dogs and why positive methods yield better results.
Clean up accidents with a good enzyme cleaner like Nature’s Miracle that removes the scent completely. Masking the scent is not enough. Do not make a big fuss when you are cleaning it up. Try to clean it up when the dog is not looking if possible. Ammonia based cleaners will attract more accidents. Vinegar is often recommended but I have had mixed results with using vinegar. Use a good enzyme cleaner for best results. Nature’s Miracle is a favorite of pet sitters and it is easy to find.
Take your dog out frequently (every couple of hours at first) and take them where you want them to go potty. Praise them and give them treats when they go. Walk them long enough. Many people do everything right except they shorten the duration of the walks. Huge mistake. An extra 5 or 10 minutes can make all the difference.
If you are going to just let your dog out in the backyard, will have to watch them carefully to make sure that they have gone potty and not just played around in the yard. I like to take mine out on a leash to the potty area first. I unleash them for play after I know they have gone potty when I am training them to go potty outside. That way I know that they have done their business.
If your dog is trying to get your attention, do not assume that they want to play or are just restless. They may be trying to let you know that they need to use the toilet. I have made this mistake with my own dog. She often seems overly friendly when she has to go potty.
If you want your dog to let you know that they need to go potty in a more obvious way, you can teach them toring a bell to go out.
Be consistent and patient. Your dog’s success will be directly related to your willingness to be consistent.
Don’t make excuses and live in denial. Either your dog is potty trained or they aren’t. If a dog is sick and can’t hold it, that is something that needs to be addressed. UTIs, parasites and upset stomachs happen. Always rule out medical conditions first.
If you have a puppy and are starting from scratch, this is not going to take very long. I have potty trained puppies in a few days. Older dogs that have been allowed to have accidents, have used pee pads, or have not been trained will take longer because they will have bad habits to overcome. The longer you wait and the more you let it slide, the longer it will take for your dog to learn the correct way to go potty. As long as the dog is healthy and has no medical or psychological conditions that cause incontinence, they can and will learn. They are not bad dogs. They just need proper effective training. Eddy, I am talking to you!!
The idea of a dog park is wonderful. Your dog gets to run around off-leash as nature intended with other dogs while getting much needed socialization with other dogs and people, plenty of exercise and new things to sniff. Ideally, only pleasant and healthy dogs will attend. What actually happens can be very different.
Here are things to keep in mind before you go to your local dog park:
Is your dog healthy? If you have a dog with a compromised immune system or an illness, you really shouldn’t be going to a dog park. This seems like commonsense to me. But, when I was at a local dog park in Los Angeles last week, there was an owner that brought his dog to the park with a very nasty looking eye infection. The eye was oozing and the dog could not see out of the eye. When other dogs were on his bad side, the dog became frightened and then defensively aggressive. This dog did not need extra playtime. He needed to heal. The owner said that it was not contagious — but 50/50 on whether or not he would lose vision in the infected eye. I personally did not want my healthy curious dog anywhere near that dog. Any time that you bring your dog in contact with other dogs, you risk illness. Dog parks are for healthy dogs. Make sure your dog is current on all recommended vaccines. Consult your vet if you are not sure. Many parks do not allow dogs that have not been spayed or neutered. In California, it is the law that dogs must be neutered or spayed to be at any public dog park.
Does your dog get along well with other dogs? Tell the truth. Has your dog been in a fight or bitten another dog? Do not be that person that feigns shock when you dog starts a fight for the first time — except people recognize you and it happens weekly. Please. Just. Don’t. Is your dog frightened of other dogs? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, try a play-date with a dog you know that your dog likes. A dog attack is not worth the risk. As the owner, you will be liable. If your dog is the victim, it can cause additional behavioral issues with any dog — especially with a dog that is already timid. If your dog needs to be muzzled, he should not be brought to a dog park. This will be extremely stressful and potentially dangerous to the muzzled dog. When you arrive, take you dog for a short walk to help them calm down a bit. Most parks have an enclosed entry area with double sets of gates. These are to give your dog a chance to sniff around and calm down before you open the second gate. Give them a minute or two to relax before entering the main park.
Can you watch your dog and supervise their behavior or do you have a “dogs will be dogs” attitude? Nobody want to see you texting or surfing Facebook while your dog humps every dog in the park and jumps on every person. If you cannot supervise and control your dog, please do not bring them. It is not cute. Perfection is not required and probably not possible. Just watch your dog. A dog should have some basic manners before going to the dog park. Again, you will be liable for injury if your dog jumps on someone and hurts them (think about the elderly and children).
While we are mentioning children, dog parks are for dogs. Babies and toddlers can be hurt very quickly at a busy dog park. Some dogs love to play with other dogs but will chase small children and bark at them. Herding dogs are notorious for this. Children (and adults) that are afraid of dogs will attract barking dogs. It is not a good idea. If you want to help your kids be comfortable around dogs, that is wonderful and I wholeheartedly encourage it. Start smaller. Find a friend, neighbor or family member with a good dog and introduce your child to them. Any older child that enters the dog park, should know how to be safe around strange dogs. They should not run or scream around strange dogs. They should be supervised at all times. I have a border collie that naturally wants to herd. She has been taught how to behave around my small grandchildren that do not scream or dart around her. If I see a bunch of little kids running around making a lot of noise, I can’t bring her into the dog park. I won’t risk her getting too excited by the kids and playing too rough. The next person may not be as diligent.
Does the dog park have faucets or water for the dogs? All that running around and playing can make a pup thirsty. Communal water can be filthy and harbor disease. Bring your own bowl and fill it with fresh clean water. Keep your dog from playing in stagnant water.
Is the park secure? I always walk the perimeter checking for holes in the fence that a dog could use to escape. I also look for weeds growing in the grass called fox-tails. These can injure paws and get lodged to the point of infection. Are there tricky potholes that a dog could get hurt running through? If the park is not safe, you are better off taking your pooch for a nice walk.
Is there dog poop everywhere? It can breed disease. You must scoop your dog’s poop everywhere public- even at the dog park. It’s the law in most places these days.
Is the park too big? Will your dog come when you call? I prefer smaller parks because my dog doesn’t tire quickly and although she will come when called, she really doesn’t want to leave the park at times. A over-sized park can make it very difficult to capture your dog if they are not ready to go home.
Ultimately, the decision is yours to make whether or not the dog park is right for your dog. I think they can be wonderful for some dogs and terrible for others. I have a very social active dog that loves the parks. I enjoy meeting the other owners. I always put my dog’s safety first. If something seems dangerous or risky, we leave. We can all make it a better experience by using some commonsense and courtesy. We might even make some great new dog loving friends.
Dogs that have been crate-trained in a positive manner often learn to love crates. We would hate them so many people that have not trained their dogs in crates cannot believe that dogs would actually like this. But, they love them.
Years ago, I didn’t know anybody that crate-trained their pets. I had never used one. It seemed cruel to me at the time. I thought of it like caging my animal. It seemed to be a type of jail. I couldn’t imagine doing that to my family pet. I wish I had! A couple of years ago, I got Betty, my border collie. She was a year old and had been crate-trained by her foster family at the Border Collie rescue group. I didn’t think I needed a crate though. Well, I brought Betty home that first day and she was scared. She was pacing and nervous. She did not settle down at bedtime. I tried putting her in the bathroom because she was not completely potty-trained and I didn’t have any pens or crates yet (I didn’t realize I was bringing her home that first night. I thought I was just going to meet her.). She cried all night. She scratched. She chewed things. What had I gotten myself into? I tried letting her in the bed with me and she wanted to sit on my head. It was a rough first night. The next day at work, I was talking to a co-worker that had crate-trained his dogs. He offered me the use of a spare crate. It was the right size. I accepted the offer after he told me a little more about it. That night, I brought the crate home and set it up. Betty went right in and settled down. What just happened? I couldn’t believe it. She had terrible nightmares the first few months, so I closed the doors and she never had a problem with it. I was learning. She slept well in her crate. So, I started reading up on crate-training. I learned that dogs actually like a private den-like space to relax in. Wolves sleep in dens in the wild and dogs, like their ancestors, enjoyed a nice cozy sleeping spot. I found that she settles down in her crate and will go in it to relax when she needs some space. Here are a few things that I learned as I explored this whole crate-training thing for Betty:
Get the right size. A crate should be large enough for the dog to walk into, turn around and lie down easily. A larger crate won’t feel as cozy to a dog and a smaller size will be too cramped. Dogs don’t want to soil where they sleep. A crate will make potty-training much easier. A blanket or crate cover helps make it even more private and den-like. You can find crates at pet stores or online easily. Great places to get a crate at a good price are garage sales, Facebook Marketplace, and Craigslist. There are also a lot of great designs to camouflage the crates and make them look more like furniture. I love looking for ideas like this on Pinterest.
Find the right bedding. My Betty runs hot and doesn’t like anything too fluffy. I bought a beautiful, expensive crate mat when I purchased her crate (I had to return the borrowed crate). I heard Betty pushing the mat around at night. Betty ate the mat when she couldn’t scrape it to the side one day while I was at work. She also ate a very lovely dog bed. It was about a year before she stopped eating beds. Some of the dogs that I boarded would bring their own crates and mats. One of my customers had the great idea to use a small area rug instead of a crate mat. Betty kept going into this pet’s crate when he visited us. So I put a fluffy microfiber bath mat in her crate. It was a perfect fit and Betty didn’t eat it. This was washable too. Find what your pet likes.
Location matters. An ideal spot for a crate is quiet and not too hot and not too cold. I keep Betty’s crate in my room near me. I don’t close the door anymore and she can spend a little time with me when we first go to sleep. She always goes back to her crate to really get some good sleep though. In the beginning, I closed the doors at bedtime and when I would go to work. She loves the spot by the patio door at my mom’s house even better with her crate by the fresh air.
Start slow. I was fortunate that someone else had already exposed Betty to a crate. A dog that has never been in a crate won’t take to it instantly. Start by having the crate in the room and putting them in for short times. Gradually increase the time.
Good things happen in the crate. Many people give special treats and toys that the dog only gets while in the crate. Many people feed their dogs in their crates. I save messy chews for the crate.
No punishment in the crate. Do not ever use the crate as a time out spot. You do not want the dog to associate the crate with punishment. You want the dog to want to go into the crate.
No kids in the crate. The crate is the dog’s sanctuary. Teach your kids that the dog needs a spot to have quiet time.
A crate is a safe place. If you have an ill or injured dog, a crate keeps the pet calm and contained. If you have a chewy or destructive pet, the crate keeps your furniture and home safe. It also keeps the pet from ingesting things that it should not. Thunderstorms and fireworks frighten most dogs. A crate is a nice safe cozy place for them to wait out these scary events. When I visit family I bring Betty’s crate. It comes in handy to keep her out of places that she doesn’t belong and away from kids or pets that become overwhelming. Most of my family has pets so it was nice to have a crate handy when introducing Betty to new canine family members. Betty was happy to go into her crate when we were teaching the kids to be gentle and unafraid of dogs as well as desensitizing her to small children.
If you ever need to board your dog, being crate-trained will reduce the anxiety of boarding because kennels and most private pet-sitters and boarders will crate your pet at bedtime at a minimum. Being able to separate animals into crates will also keep them safer. Many pet-sitters prefer crate-trained pets. There is always a risk of injury if the animal is allowed to roam at night because they are unsupervised while the humans are sleeping and can get into things. If there are other dogs present, fights can occur. I am not boarding animals currently -but when I did, I never allowed pets from different households to roam freely together at night. It was far too risky for the pets and my furniture. I have a client that I pet-sit that enjoys having Betty come provide companionship during our visits. I bring Betty’s crate for overnight sleeping. She sleeps better and doesn’t roam the house. I can sleep better know both dogs are safe while I sleep.
Not every dog will “love” their crate. Some rescued dogs that were abused and crated will have negative associations with crates. I do believe that every dog should have one available for emergencies and to keep them confined as is sometimes needed when injured or recuperating from an illness or injury. Having them acclimated to a crate ahead of time will reduce the stress of being crated.
If you could ask your dog why they love to dig so much, you might get one of the following answers:
It feels so good. I just love the feel of fresh soft dirt on my paws. This big hole in the cool dirt feels so great when I want to rest. I learned it from a friend.
It is really entertaining. Just watch how I can make this dirt fly through the air.
It is great exercise and I need to do something with all this energy.
I am so bored. I am just occupying my mind with something interesting.
I smelled something suspicious out there and I am going to find it.
I have to get out of here.
So it is easy enough to understand why they love to dig. A tougher question is what do you do about it once it has begun? Digging is very self-rewarding. How do you get your dog to stop doing something they clearly enjoy so much?
Have a designated place to dig. If you can give them one spot that is just for digging, It is easy enough to teach them that this is the only spot to enjoy the digging. A kiddie pool filled with dirt is great. You can even bury some toys in the dirt to make it even more exciting.
Exercise is a great way to occupy your dog’s body in a positive way. A tired dog will be less inclined to dig up the yard.Mental stimulation is a must for most dogs. The smarter the dog, the more you will need to stimulate them mentally. Obedience training is great for mental stimulation. Training sessions will tire a dog out as much as a walk — just in a different way.Monitor behavior. Catch the digging early. A firm “no dig” and re-direction helps. Reward good behavior. Bury chicken wire in the holes and cover with rocks to make the digging areas less desirable temporarily. Make sure to roll sharp edges away from digging surface. If the pet is intent on escaping, a concrete border poured along the perimeter and at least 12″ deep may be necessary to keep some breeds from digging their way to freedom. As with all habits, the longer it is allowed to persist, the harder it will be to correct. In addition to the previous tips, the one that is often the quickest and easiest is to bury the dog’s poop or coffee grounds in the holes. Fill with some cheap vinegar. I like to stock up at the dollar stores. Dogs don’t like the smell of vinegar and most do not want to dig in poop or coffee ( I have used both). Once the holes are filled, cover them with dirt. You won’t smell the poop or coffee once it is covered. But, your dog will definitely smell it. You will have to be consistent. After a couple weeks of this, most dogs will give up and go onto something that smells better to occupy their time. They may try a few other places as well. But, if you are consistent, they WILL give up. As with all things concerning dogs, patience and persistence is the most important quality for a dog owner to possess.