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Q: I need serious help with my 3-year-old puggle. I've had dogs all my life but never had issues like this! I'm getting married next year and buying a home. I don't want her to go to the bathroom all over our new place, but I've given up hope! She never has accidents during the day while we're at work -- it only happens when we're at home. She finds a moment when we're not looking, sneaks away, and does her business somewhere inside the house. I feel like we've tried everything: We walk her morning and night, give her only a little water, and watch her every move. We only stopped crating because she cries nonstop! I just want her to tell us when she has to go out, no matter what time it is. What should we do?
A: Congratulations on your pending nuptuals and new nest! Sounds like you’ve got a lot on your plate -- and the last housewarming gifts you want or need are puggle puddles and poopy parcels. I’m not the best wedding coordinator, but I’m a stellar housetraining coordinator, so you’re in luck!
It sounds like you have a strong understanding and general concept of what it takes to housetrain. Your system just needs some fine-tuning.
Generally speaking, a healthy adult dog should be given four daily potty opportunities. The ideal schedule is first thing when you wake up, midday, early evening upon your arrival home from work, and just before bed.
The one slip in your system is supervision and management. If she is planting her presents privately out of sight, it sounds to me like we need aid tracking her whereabouts.
Enter the magic housetraining tool…the leash! A wonderful invention (and conveniently the same one that escorts your puggle safely outdoors), the leash is an invaluable tool in providing dogs with hands-free supervision.
When you’re home indoors, keep your puggle on leash. As you watch Bridezilla reruns on TV, keep her tethered to the coffee table or leg of the couch. While you’re chatting with your Knottie and Nestie friends, make sure she’s tethered to the leg of the desk. If you’re moving about, she’s following you, leash in tow. Stand on her leash as you brush your teeth or empty the dishwasher. And presto! No more wandering off for potty breaks.
It’s important that while tethered, she’s wearing a harness or flat nylon/leather collar. You must also provide her with yummy, freshly-stuffed chew toys (Kong, Atomic Ball, Hollow Sterilized Bones). By stuffing her meals and a few bonus rewards into these toys, you will occupy her and prevent boredom.
I’d start this process now to get a very strong foundation. Always praise her and reward her with a special treat for going to the bathroom in the right spot. Never scold her if an accident occurs: This will only discourage her from going to the bathroom in front of you at all and will strengthen her desire to "go" in private.
Transitions in life can cause regressions in training, so it’s important that the leash system continues as you move into your new digs. Resist your newlywed urge to totally nest. Don’t lay down any rugs when you first move in. Provide her with one new place to potty outdoors, and focus on establishing a solid routine for her in these new surroundings.
Eventually, fade out the leash. This time, be sure to keep a super vigilant eye on her. If she so much as seems like she’s sniffing, take her outdoors and recognize she needs more time being tethered.
Before you know it, no more potty problems -- and man, wife (and puggle) live together happily ever after.
Colleen Safford of New York Walk & Train is one of NYC's most recognized dog trainers. As host of The Family Pet on Pet Life Radio, Colleen addresses common child-pet issues, appropriate pet selection, and child-friendly training techniques. Colleen is also the featured trainer in Nylabone's entire book and DVD series for new dog owners. Colleen's driving motivation is to keep dogs safely in their homes and out of shelters. She advocates for rescue and adoption and is proudly owned by Luna, her rescued boxer(ish).
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