Ask Tom, the Dogcharmer: Potty Training

Caesar and Cleopatra need some basic potty training.—Trudy Ulmer

Dear Dogcharmer,

I have two mixed-breed dogs that I love very much. They are a Yorkie and shih tzu mix. I trained them to potty in the basement, and the female uses it on her own. The male will always poop in the basement, but sometimes he will pee on the furniture if I am not around. If I lock him up, she will not have her playmate. They are 7 years old. Any suggestions?

Thank you,

Trudy Ulmer

Dear Trudy,

After having spoken with you, I now know we are discussing Caesar and Cleopatra, which is fitting, because who else but an emperor and his queen would feel free to use your whole house as their WC? This is a housebreaking problem. We’re not talking about clueless puppies who have no concept of “holding it in” until the location for “letting it go” is right. After half a lifetime of seven years of peeing anytime, anyplace, the Emperor Caesar is convinced that the whole world is his personal urinal. Caesar needs an epiphany, that moment of realization that he, Emperor Caesar, is a clean emperor who would never pee where he eats or sleeps. That moment of clarity may also apply to Cleo, because, unless all the pees on the furniture are on verticals such as chair and sofa legs, I wouldn’t rule out Cleo’s participation in some of the puddle presents.

Dogs have a “den” instinct, the den being where they eat and sleep. Wolf puppies leave the dugout in the ground to relieve themselves, then return to the den where they eat and sleep. The farm dog that lives in the barn or doghouse doesn’t pee in the doghouse and lie in it. (Those few that did forged the expression “dirty dog.”) First thing you need to do is try to neutralize the odor of the pee spots, because they will be attracted to urinate where they smell it. White vinegar is cheap and effective for that.

Next, it’s time to revive C and C’s dormant “den” instinct. Get a crate large enough for them to share, but not so large that they can pee in one end and get away from it at the other end. The goal is to get C and C to love their “den” (crate). Meals are in the crate; treats are constantly tossed in as you praise them whenever they enter it. When not having meals, favorite cushions are in the den. When they are going in on their own, it’s time to close the door and contain them for short periods of time. Get them to love that crate because that’s where the best things happen!

If they’re not in the crate, they are being observed by you. Period. They will not have the ability to slip out of sight to pee without being caught and stopped. Eight-paneled exercise pens make containment easy. Wear a whistle around your neck, and blast it if one of them starts to pee. If you’re successful, he will jump a couple of feet in the air instead of relieving himself, at which point you can lure him to the basement and reward with praise and a treat only after he’s taken care of business. I’d also suggest that you feed them a couple of times a week right on the spots where they urinated in the living room, further incorporating those areas as eating areas instead of toilets. When they are accident-free for a month, you can start leaving them out of the crate without supervision for short periods. Increase the unsupervised time slowly, with success building on success.

Best of luck,

The Dogcharmer

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