Dog Gone Problems is a weekly advice column by David Codr, a dog behaviorist in Omaha. David answers dog behavior questions sent in by our readers. You can reach him at email@example.com.
* * *
Dog Gone Problems,
We've had a 3-year-old rescue Yorkie for a year now. She was intended to be a breeding dog, so she was in a dog kennel where she peed and pooped wherever.
I get that Yorkies are a scheduled dog and consistency is important. We also share her between two houses. One house has linoleum floors and the other is carpeted. She will not pee and poop in the house with the linoleum, but it never fails that at the house with carpet, we've got a disaster. Potty pads worked for a very, very short time. At the house with linoleum, she will let us know she has to go outside, but she will not do that at the house with carpet.
I am really about at my wit's end and about done with this. Any ideas?!
Going crazy in Kansas!
Dear Going Crazy,
I’ll start by thanking you for adopting a rescue dog and sticking with her even though she has an undesirable behavior. The majority of dogs are surrendered at shelters because of chewing and soiling problems.
While all dogs do better on a schedule, it's not a requirement by any means. Additionally, just because a dog is going to have a litter of pups does not mean she should be neglected in a kennel for extended periods of time. No dog should be left in a kennel for longer than four hours aside from overnight. When you leave a dog in a kennel for too long, they are bound to have accidents. Once they do, their behavior around excrement changes in a less-than-desirable way.
I just worked with an old friend who purchased a dog from a pet store whose new puppy walks through poop and then tracks it around her long-term confinement area, leaving little poop paw prints. This is just one of the many reasons you should never purchase a dog from a pet store. A mother will teach a puppy to eliminate away from where they sleep and avoid walking through it. But when a puppy is away from its mother too early and is left in a kennel for too long, they start pooping in the kennel due to not being able to hold it any longer and can quickly forget to not walk through it.
Your dog may be having accidents on the carpet due to a urine stain that wasn’t full cleaned up. This happens often with carpet, as some urine inevitably finds its way down to the mat. Dogs often eliminate where other dogs have gone, so the smell is an attractant.
Once a dog starts doing something consistently, it quickly becomes an habit. In order to change a dog’s behavior pattern, you must first block their ability to do it the old way, while simultaneously rewarding them for a new replacement behavior. So at the house with the carpet, access to rooms without supervision should be limited.
You may also want to use a long-term confinement area to prevent the dog from sneaking off and soiling the carpet. This is where the dog should be kept (along with a good 20+ toys inside) any time you can't directly supervise her at that home. You can also get vinyl flooring and lay it down on top of the carpet in the long-term confinement area so any accidents happen there and are easy to clean up.
At the same time, you want to reward the dog for every successful potty break outside for a week at both houses following this strategy:
— Come up with a new word to use for potty. I like using the word “business,” but any new word will do. Your old word (if you have one) likely has negative associations, so it's easier to use a new word.
— Religiously take your dog out at the following times: Right after waking up, five minutes after eating and 15 minutes after heavy play starts. I'd also take her out once an hour. This increases your likelihood of the dog being in the right place when she needs to go.
— Someone needs to monitor the dog within 10 feet during each bathroom break, and each attempt should be limited to five minutes. If she doesn’t go in five minutes, bring her inside and hold her or keep her on a leash for 15 minutes. Then give her another five-minute opportunity to try again.
When your dog starts to pee or poop, say your new command word once in a normal tone of voice. Make sure you do this within three seconds of the start of elimination. When your dog finishes eliminating, crouch down to attract your dog’s attention and then give her five treats in a row. Be sure to say the new command word as soon as each treat goes into your dog’s mouth. Make sure these are super high-value treats — like chicken liver, warm chicken, etc.
If you follow these steps every potty attempt for a week tor two, your dog should develop a strong urge to go outside to potty. Once that is the case, you can use the tips in this video to teach your dog to ring a bell when it needs to go potty.
Good luck and remember — everything you do trains your dog. Only sometimes you mean it.
Meet the 10 (very good) dogs who have been at the Nebraska Humane Society the longest:
Meet the 10 (very good) dogs who have been at the Nebraska Humane Society the longest
These are the very good dogs who have been at the Nebraska Humane Society the longest. All are up for adoption as of March 10. For more information on the adoption process and to see all dogs available for adoption, visit nehumanesociety.org/adopt.