Hi John … I am looking to adopt a 2 year old unspayed female dog. She doesn’t seem be to potty trained despite the current owners best efforts and the efforts of their ‘dog psychologist’. She is “trained” as far as that she won’t soil inside her cage. I’m told that she comes to you, ask to go out, and if you can’t in the 5 minutes, she’ll do it. I’d love to adopt this dog but wondered if this problem can be solved?
The trick here is to determine why. There are 3 main reasons and in order of what I’ve found to be least to most likely with a dog of this age are; physical problems, for example – urinary tract infections, training approach taken is too relaxed or inconsistent and proness towards anxiety.
From a prognosis perspective the latter is usually the worst case scenario because the soiling is an alert by “pee-mail” and/or “poo-mail” signalling the dog is in anxiety distress. The solution isn’t so much getting the dog “more” house trained as it is making the dog less anxious, which is very tough if the dog has for whatever reason a low thresh hold for stress.
The dog seems to be at least trying so see if you can eliminate the anxiety cause by asking some pointed questions. The most common trigger is separation from owners but changes in established routines aren’t uncommon either. Ask if soiling often coincides with departures and arrivals of house hold members.
If it turns out it’s anxiety be sure you have the time and patience to establish and maintain routine because anxiety prone dogs mismatched to the wrong household all too often have unhappy endings. Even when there’s some success it’s not uncommon for there to be regression when a life event like moving or someone they are close to in the household leaves moves out or changes their own work schedule.
You might narrow it down as well by asking whether the dog has shown any anxiousness when there are storms or fireworks as anxiety-soiling dogs often pace, drool, hide, hyperventilate and sometimes soil during these events as well.
It would be unusual for a 2 year old dog to not be house trained but I’m wondering since she hasn’t been spayed if she was used as a breeder and maybe wasn’t really a house dog. Also, that she doesn’t soil in her crate and she’s at least “asking” are both pretty good indicators that this may not be anxiety.
Something physical aside, a dog gone this long un house trained requires a highly structured program to get the idea of “holding it” ingrained. Dragging a leash and popping the dog into the crate every moment supervision isn’t practical are really important. Moving away from the idea that the dog is supposed to “tell us” over to us telling the dog that it’s time works much better for this sort of dog as well. You start with tiny increments and work up, usually to 3 scheduled time and place bathroom breaks. Careful attention to diet is important and moving from free feeding to scheduled feeding more so. After a while, scheduled feedings will prompt something called a gastric colic reflex which means the dog’s plumbing starts to move 10 to 20 minutes after a meal and tapping into this natural reflex can speed things along marvellously.
Normally I’d suggest my free Puppy House Training Cheat Sheet but in cases like this it might be better to spend the $10.00 and download my ebook “House Train Your Puppy in 5 Days – 3 X/Day in 1 Spot“, as it covers a lot more in the special case department.
– John Wade