Starting to doubt my dog will ever be potty trained
March 7, 2014 10:53 PM   Subscribe

I must be doing something wrong, because I can't seem to house train my 4 month old puppy.

Things we are already doing:
1)keeping a regular schedule with mealtimes
2)praising him and treating him when he goes in the right place
3)never scolding him when he goes inside, just cleaning it up with a proper enzyme cleaner
4) Crate training
5)Have had him seen by a vet to check for any health problems

The good thing is he's never had an accident inside his crate, and can easily hold it for 3 hours during the day inside his crate.

The bad thing is that he does not seem to grok that inside is not ok. He goes outside just fine. But then we'll come inside and he'll do a little wee a little bit later. The only way we don't have any accidents is if I take him outside every half hour.

How does a dog go from "Its nice to go potty and poop outside and inside" to "only outside is ok!"?

I am at a loss and feeling very frustrated. I love my dog so much and I'm committed to him even if this is how it's going to be forever, but I really hope it wont be so. Please help me.
posted by long haired child to Pets & Animals (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If he starts scratching, circling, or sniffing around the floor, take him outside immediately. He'll associate the need to go with your impulse to take him outside. You need to keep an eye on his activities at all times for a couple months, but especially 15-45 minutes after meals and drinking water. Puppies pee and poo faster and more frequently than adults. Take him outside at night and early in the morning, even if he doesn't think he needs to go — because he'll go.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:10 PM on March 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

The only way we don't have any accidents is if I take him outside every half hour.

Then take him outside every half hour - or put him back in the crate!

Can you elaborate on what your crate training method entails? It seems like you might need to get more regimented with your crate training. When I crate trained my puppy, he was not outside of the crate longer than it took to go to the bathroom, eat, and play for a bit. That's how you train dogs, you have to make them understand that there is only one option, there is no other way. Dogs don't avoid messing in the house because they're trying to be nice. Dogs who are trained to go the bathroom outside do that because they have been conditioned to not even see going inside as an option.

This is why crate training is so effective. You keep your puppy in the crate at ALL times. Spend at least one week making sure that when he is outside of the crate, you are watching him intently, and he is not out long enough to do anything but something very specific. Once you go at least a week this way, then you can extend the time he spends outside of the crate by 30 minutes. Go for that long and see how he does and then next week, extend his time outside of the crate to two hours. Keep doing this until eventually you don't need the crate anymore. If he starts having more accidents again, go back to the amount of time outside of the crate that he wasn't having accidents.

It's hard -- but you can definitely get there! Good luck.
posted by pazazygeek at 11:39 PM on March 7, 2014 [11 favorites]

Puppies need to go out after eating, drinking, napping or being excited (like in play or when someone comes home.)
posted by DarlingBri at 1:16 AM on March 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

It won't be this way forever.

Nthing that you just have to take him out more often at the very first. I was literally taking my pup outside every 30-60 minutes when she first came home and watching her like a hawk in between. I'd make a big deal about WANNA GO OUTSIDE and getting the leash and YAAAAAY. We'd walk around the block so she had enough time. When she did do her thing outside, I would give her extra-special premium treats and trill my voice in praise and hop around like a lunatic. I am sure the neighbors were amused. Within several days, I could stretch it out to two or three hours and longer.

That high frequency of walking was a little frustrating, esp. in winter, but it did get things on the right track.

Also, puppy pics are customary so that we may offer the best possible advice. I am just saying.
posted by mochapickle at 2:49 AM on March 8, 2014 [5 favorites]

Blazecock nailed it. The first 6 months I had my pup, we had a routine. The routine was this...I pretty much watched her 24/7 (unless she was crated), I quickly learned what the movements, actions, sounds were that meant she was looking for a place to go, and outside we went...every.single.time. And, I always took her out the same door and took her to the same spot. I had her collar hanging on the door knob (some folks use a bell).. eventually she would go paw the collar to get my attention... She still does that, 6 years later...

In some ways, a pup is harder than a baby. The pup is faster, has sharper teeth, and you really can't put a diaper on a puppy.
posted by HuronBob at 3:15 AM on March 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I agree with all of the above. Unlike typical dog tricks like sit/stay/roll over, which are pretty much valueless to the dog but can be shaped with treats and praise, peeing and pooping feel good physically and thus are self-reinforcing no matter where the dog does it. So, housetraining is mostly about preventing mistakes so that the behaviors you don't like can't get reinforced and become habits. Notice that the above answers all say that you must either be watching the pup very closely or have him crated, ALL of the time for a while? That's really essential. You can't be noodling around in one room while the pup plays by himself in some other room, because then if he feels the urge and relieves himself you won't see it happen, and you won't be there to correct it within the few seconds in which a correction can make a difference.
posted by jon1270 at 3:52 AM on March 8, 2014

Nthing that you need to be super-proactive about taking him out very frequently. When my pup was that age, he went out after eating or waking up for a nap, without exception. Or if it had been an hour or so and he hadn't gone out, I would take him out. Yes, it's a total pain, but it doesn't last forever.

Also, don't let him wander off into corners of the house unsupervised. Use doors or baby gates to keep him in the room with you.
posted by lunasol at 5:07 AM on March 8, 2014

My dog wasn't fully potty trained until 7-8 months. But it was a progression to that point. It will happen in time, I'd imagine.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:33 AM on March 8, 2014

How big is your dog?
posted by J. Wilson at 5:34 AM on March 8, 2014

Puppies need to go out after eating, drinking, napping or being excited (like in play or when someone comes home.)

And after chewing.
posted by vitabellosi at 6:22 AM on March 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

pazazygeek has it.

Your puppy needs to be crated all of the time - except when you're taking him out to potty, letting him eat, and getting playtime in. And during the eat time and play time you need to be watching him like a hawk so that if he begins to show any sniffing, circling, etc. (as Blazecock Pileon mentioned) you can quickly get him outside to do his business. As soon as he does his business, praise him effusively and then take him right back to his crate so that he can truly associate being outside with going to the bathroom.

It does take a while so be patient and be consistent. Best of luck!
posted by Sassyfras at 6:32 AM on March 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Came in to suggest the "umbilical cord" method. Basically, when you're home and puppy is not being crated, puppy always has a leash on that is connected to you (tied loosely on your belt loop if you're walking around, placed on your ankle if you're sitting on the couch). The length of the leash should be long enough so that puppy isn't always under your feet but is always in sight. The idea behind this method is that it forces puppy to always be near so that you can keep an eye on him and catch the early signs of his "potty dance." As soon as puppy starts sniffing around and acting like he'd like to relieve himself (or if it's been awhile since the last time he was outside), immediately take him outside to do his business there.
posted by gumtree at 6:47 AM on March 8, 2014 [5 favorites]

Has the vet checked for UTI? I had similar troubles with my puppy Kenda, only to find out that she had a raging UTI with bladder stones.

When Maeby, our Found Hound, joined the household we had a communication gap. She knew she wasn't supposed to go inside but didn't know how to ask us to go out. We taught her to nose a few sets of Mardi Gras beads on the doorknob when she wanted out.

You might also have luck using some of the techniques in the Housetraining Superthread at dogforums.
posted by workerant at 7:44 AM on March 8, 2014

Make sure you react the second you see anything that might even every so slightly be a signal the dog needs to go out. You need to train your dog to not only hold his pee, but to be able to signal to you that he needs to go out, as workerant put it you might just have a communication gap. So circling, sniffing, hanging out near the door you normally go out to pee you whip that dog outside, and keep him outside until he pees and then do the usually praise him to the sky thing and go back inside thing.

Potting training is more a three step process dog goes oh I want to pee that means I go outside, I have to signal I want to go outside, I am outside now this is the place I should pee.
He needs to relate not so much the peeing to going outside but the sensation he wants to pee to going outside, signalling and then oh when I do pee out here I get told I'm good so I'll do that.

Signalling is where a lot of potting training falls down. It took me a long time (and a good trainer) to figure this out as I have one dog that signals he wants to go out and pee by coming and sitting next to you, no amount of bells on door knobs or whatever will convince him to use any other signal. For 18 months or so I just thought he was not house trainable until a trainer got me to realise it was me letting him down by missing his cues, not saying that is the case in your situation but it might be worth keeping in mind.
posted by wwax at 8:41 AM on March 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

4 months can be an awkward point in the growing phase where their capacity to hold it is on the low side for their size (and amount of food/water intake), and you may find things get much better very quickly after their insides catch up.

I don't punish when I catch indoor going (or that tell-tale look) but I do disrupt with a big "Come on lets go potty! Let's go outside!" and run to the door, so that they start making a really strong connection with the sense of needing to go and going outside. You have to catch them every time, though, and you do have to make sure you are providing the natural opportunity every time you can predict it (after eating, sleeping, playing, stimulation, etc).

If you're having accidents, you're not keeping the dog in your line of sight at all times.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:48 AM on March 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Mine took 5 months and I would grind my teeth every time I heard another person say their puppy was potty trained in the first few days. Show offs! Braggarts!

The only think I didn't see in your list was immediately out after play of any kind (DarlingBri has it). Keep him confined to the room you are in so you can watch him at all times. I learned very quickly the sniffing signs right before he'd tinkle, and would be scooping him up and running outside every time. The quick pick up action usually stops the accident from being a big one and then I would praise when he finished outside.

Just know your not alone in having a puppy who is low on the learning bell curve when it comes to this. Keep doing everything you're doing and add taking him out after any kind of play and you should be out of this pee-pee purgatory soon!
posted by cecic at 10:19 AM on March 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, keep a log book of his potty and feeding schedule. It sounds weird, but noting times of when he goes and when he eats/drinks helps you know when a pee or poo break is likely to occur, so that you understand his mechanics. "Okay, it's been twenty minutes since he emptied his food bowl — better take him out."
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:25 AM on March 8, 2014

Is your dog a yorkie by any chance? Mine is and it was 1.5 years before I felt comfortable saying he was house trained. In the end you will be happy you put in the effort but do not feel like a failure if it takes longer than all your friends' dogs took. Here are a couple things that worked for me.

1. No treats. Praise and hugs when he went outside, angry voices when he went inside.

2. Crate training. He did go in his crate a couple times but it was better.

3. A VERY strict walking schedule (VERY VERY STRICT). We walked at 7am, 12pm, 5pm, 9pm, 2am. Every single day for about 6 months, after that I started cutting out the 2am walk. He still walks 4 times per day (no yard) but I can now fudge those walks up to about 2 hours before he starts complaining. Honestly, I think this was the biggest help of anything.

4. In the early days, if he ever sat or stood near the door we went out, just to reinforce the "telling" behavior, once the schedule was really nailed down this wasn't as necessary.

5. He was either in the crate or in my sight line. All. The. Time. He came to the bathroom with me, ok? Yeah, I knew exactly where he was at every moment. And he knew it too, he wouldn't pee if I was watching him, only if I took my eyes off of him.

Seriously, good luck. Don't give up! I'm sooooo happy I stuck to it and we got through the process but it wasn't pleasant. I know I was keeping Nature's Miracle in business there for a while. I felt like a failure when my roommate housetrained her puppy in about 2 weeks and you will too but keep with it, it is possible.
posted by magnetsphere at 1:16 PM on March 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

It also depends on the breed. Some are much tougher than others to train.
posted by freakazoid at 3:32 PM on March 8, 2014

I just wanted to offer, though I have little practical advice, that we have a four month old puppy who thinks peeing and pooping inside is completely appropriate and a-ok despite all attempts to convince her otherwise. We close off entire rooms, 24/7.

My husband is away this weekend and it is driving me insane. If I walk to get that bucket one more time I'll lose my mind. The only consolation I have is that I do have a kid, so I know this territory, and I know that these horrific moments of 'oh my god, she's never going to poop where she's supposed to' are illusionary and just come from having cleaned up poop seven times in one day.

Take heart, and keep a roll of paper towels in every room, because that is how I live now.

We don't even crate, so that makes it especially fun. But I swear, she'll get it. Part of the problem for us is that she'd never seen snow before, so being fourteen inches tall and having to walk out in to the snow and figure out a place to poop really stymied her, even after we cleared the snow it was like a big WTF is this place? I don't even want to walk on this, never mind pee on it.

I love my dog so much and I'm committed to him even if this is how it's going to be forever

I love you for this.

Really, it'll get better for both of us. In six months we'll be drinking margaritas and laughing about poop.

Okay maybe not but lets say that.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:43 PM on March 8, 2014

We had to house train two adult rescues who are both food-motivated, so a 16 to 20-week old puppy with less physical control might be a bit different. All the advice above is great and helped.

The only additional thing we did was teach them that the outdoor bathroom is *the best* place ever. We walked outside with them each time, and they hit the jackpot each time they used an outdoor bathroom spot. We would give them uber-fantastic treats (liverwurst, steak, cheese, peanut butter, etc) the moment they finished their business. (They didn't get anything for using the indoors as a bathroom.) This really helped them decide to hold it until they could get outdoors. After a few successful weeks, we started rewarding them intermittently with the high value treats, and eventually faded the treats all together.
posted by apennington at 4:06 PM on March 12, 2014

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