Housetraining an Adult Dog

The only issue we’ve had with Machu Picchu is she was not entirely housetrained. Her favorite place to go to the bathroom is the middle of the living room rug.

Picchu: "Biski, you're lying on my bathroom spot."

Picchu: "Biski, I've been waiting in line to use that bathroom spot..."

This is understandable, because this is at least her 6th home since January (counting her original owner, family #2, family #3, Whippet Rescue foster home, the breeder, and us). Both her environment and routine keep changing. Plus she isn’t used to big city noises, smells, traffic, and a constant stream of company on the sidewalk (“in the bathroom”).

Our mistake was not being as vigilant as we had been when we brought home C-Biscuit. Biski, too, refused to go to the bathroom on the street at first. We kept her in her crate and kept taking her out every hour or so until almost 24 hours later she finally went. She had a couple accidents in the house after that, but they were our fault for not knowing things like she has to go after taking a bath, even if she went right before the bath. In other words, she had to go and we didn’t know it and didn’t get her out in time.

With Picchu, it’s different. She just prefers the privacy of the rug, period. We walked her for an hour, figured she didn’t have to go, got home and – sssss, on the rug.

Once they go in the house once, the habit is 10x harder to break. (Although cleaning up with Nature’s Miracle really seems to help.) And she’s crafty about it: Even once we started closely monitoring her, the second we turned away, she went on the rug. I felt like my grandma when she explained driving her car off the road: “I just closed my eyes for a second!”  

Breaking this habit is all about eliminating any opportunity to go inside. Housetraining tips say to “limit your dog to one or two rooms of the house.” Well that’s where living in Manhattan comes in handy: I’ve been limited to two rooms for the past 10 years (when I moved up from one room). It also helps that I work at home.

After cleaning up five accidents in one day, the next day, Picchu was on a 4-foot leash at my side. Or when I was writing, she was in her crate next to my desk. She held it and held it all day, and seemed to look longingly at the rug, but finally her only choice was to go outside.

To sweeten the deal, when she does go outside, she gets a little bit of dried duck breast. (Biski gets a reward now too, and is a faster learner – she’s looking up for her treat while she’s still going.) There’s no magic cure for this, but the solution is pretty straightforward: Stop them from going inside, and reward them for going outside. Eventually, the choice is clear and the pattern should be established. With constant vigilance, we’ve gone 3 days without any accident.

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One response to “Housetraining an Adult Dog

  1. Pingback: Welcome Home, Sesame! « Saving for Sesame

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