Home invasion leads the pack in terms of being the topic I get the most questions about, hands down. The key is to really make sure you’re following a consistent plan. Consistency will make training your dog or puppy as simple as possible. However, breaking and entering is still difficult. And it’s not something you’re going to achieve overnight, or even in a week, even though some of the ads you may see online indicate that you can. Home invasion is a process. Your dog must learn through conditioning where she is and it is not appropriate to go to the bathroom.
Even if you’re following all the steps, you can still run into unexpected mishaps in the housebreaking process, namely when your dog starts using the bathroom indoors again after apparently having a solid housebreaking or when your dog starts to use the toilet in his cage. There are different processes for handling these issues, so I’ll address them separately, beginning with treating a dog that started pottying indoors after he thought he was fully housebroken.
Before we dive into breaking and entering, keep this in mind… even the best trained dogs will have accidents. The goal is to make it so occasional that you can’t remember 2 of the last 3 times it happened. Even my 11 year old dog surprised me a few months ago with a little liquid treat near my back door after being housebroken for a decade! In that case, the accident was entirely my fault. She had left town overnight and she had nowhere to go. Keep this in mind when you’re potty training your dog or puppy because a single accident may not mean your dog has completely relapsed. However, if you are dealing with accident number 2 or more in a short period of time, you need to take action immediately to prevent further problems.
The common reasoning I hear from owners when their dog starts to relapse into potty training is that the dog is angry, or doing it out of spite or to “get even” at the owner for some injustice done to him. I’ve been guilty of having these thoughts before, too, but the quickest way to find a solution is to put that train of thought aside and adopt the mantra that your dog doesn’t do things out of spite or hatred for you. Dogs generally want their owners to be happy. They are pack animals and want to be in a happy, cohesive pack. They also don’t have the same feelings as a human and don’t hold a grudge or act out of spite.
It’s actually quite simple…from the dog’s perspective. He thinks he’s supposed to go into the house now… he’s done it so many times without correcting him (or with the wrong kind of correction).
That means when you can’t care for your dog, it should be caged or confined so it doesn’t have accidents and it should be given very limited access to freely roam the house until you check the burglary again. This is the specific strategy for handling home invasion problems:
1. Tie your dog to a leash attached to your belt or to a piece of furniture so that it never gets out of your sight.
2. Watch closely and learn to determine when your dog is reaching the maximum threshold for holding onto the potty. Usually a lot of ground sniffing happens right before an accident. Take care of your dog!
3. When you see your dog bow (or squat) in that classic “I’m going to potty” pose JUMP (even if you’re standing), clap your hands to get your dog’s attention, and say “Ah- Ah” in a clear, steady voice (no need to sound hysterical here, the idea is to scare your dog into paying attention to you instead of going to the bathroom).
4. Using the leash, lead your dog outside. Pick up your dog if necessary to get him out quickly.
5. Encourage your dog to go potty with sweet praise and smiles once you’re outside. Praise your dog DEEPLY with treats and hugs and love for finishing outside. Is that what you want.
The “Ah-Ah” was enough to stop my Sheltie long enough to get her outside. He would then coax her with a smile and a friendly “time to go potty” command until she went to the bathroom OUTSIDE. Then it’s time for lots of praise and even some treats if she has some on hand. A few times of doing this and her dog will understand that going to the bathroom should only happen outside.
What I want you to get out of this strategy is that you shouldn’t just focus on punishing your dog for using the bathroom indoors. In fact, the only time you should punish them for it is when you catch them in the act (with the “Ah-Ah” or a firm “No”). Punishing your dog after the fact, even 3 minutes later, is not going to work.
Your dog will NOT, I repeat, will NOT make the association between what you did even 2 minutes ago (i.e. go potty indoors) and you ranting and raving and sticking your nose in the mess.
Clean up the mess, don’t let your dog see you clean it up, and be ready to catch your dog next time when he’s squatting.
For a puppy, this process is even easier because they tend to be light enough that you can pick them up and carry them outside. This is a good way to get your puppy out quickly before he finishes pottying inside.
With my English Bulldog I ran into an unexpected problem that you may be experiencing yourself. Even with the firm “Ah-Ah” and the jumping up and down, I didn’t want/couldn’t stop going to the bathroom once it had started. And this frustrated me to no end! But continue with the process. Get your dog out as quickly as possible and encourage him to go to the bathroom.
So show your dog where you want him to go to the bathroom when he has to go to the bathroom. Reinforce the behavior faster. And make it beneficial for them to go potty outdoors by showering them with love and treats when they do.