Housebreaking the difficult dog (Afghans, Chihuahuas, Bostons, etc)

Please read this carefully.

I decided to address this subject because it is never addressed honestly  or accurately by all the dog training experts or dog books that currently address dog training & housebreaking.  People become frustrated & then use methods that make the problem worse.

One of the biggest frustrations I hear is, “I got this dog, don’t really know how he was housed in the past, I take him out to relieve himself, he does nothing, then comes back into the house & urinates (or defecates), even if I put him in his crate.”

The reason this happens is (usually)—the dog was kept confined, to his mess, has lost his instincts to keep his bedding clean, & now  only feels comfortable relieving his urine in his bed.   Or, he  is not comfortable defecating because some idiot scolded him while he was defecating in the wrong spot without giving him an alternative!  Sad, of course, but this is what happens with the thousands of puppy mill bred puppies that don’t find homes by the time they are 3 months old.

The  general consensus is that if you keep the dog confined to a crate (or tied to your waist) & take the dog out  to relieve itself on a regular basis—either outside or to a pee pad, the dog will  eventually  learn  where  he can relieve himself…and everyone will be happy. That’s all you have to do.

Statistically…if you do this—the average, intelligent puppy (or adult dog who has had some training) will ‘get it’ in less than a week—if you are consistent & get the dog out of the crate in a timely fashion—every 2 to 4 hours.  However, it doesn’t always work.  Read on….

Why?  Some dogs —especially puppy mill bred dogs—but often dogs bred by irresponsible  breeders—are kept in their own filth, so they lose their instincts.  Some dogs are mentally defective.  What if you have the dog that is on the low end of the ‘bell curve’ statistically?  Can you get the dog trained?

According to the small breed rescue coordinators, the #1 reason the small breeds are surrendered to rescue is NOT that their owners are moving, or too busy, or ‘don’t have time’ for the dog. The reason is that they failed to  housebreak the dog & no longer want to clean up.  Since the rescues are honest about the dogs they want to find homes for, they tell the truth about the dogs they have (generally), and tell prospective adopters that they will need a crate and/or have to keep the dog belly banded or diapered.  &—they still manage to  adopt out these unhousebroken dogs for a fee.

What works?  There is no magic, and there are no guarantees.  You have to ‘reshape the dog’s behavior’. How long will it take to reshape the dog’s behavior?  There is no statistical data available anywhere.  What I would suggest is trying the following method diligently for  30 days.  If the dog is not on track to eliminate where you want or be  continent, the dog will never be reliably housebroken.

It is a given the dog is not suffering from kidney, bladder, or urinary tract issues.  You are not  trying behavioral methods to address a medical issue.

First, you have to keep the dog confined to a spot where it can only stand up and turn around.  That is generally a dog crate.  You can also try  leashing the dog to your waist.  You do not want to carry the dog—as the dog will get SPOILED and whine if not being carried, and if the dog is spoiled, it will be stressed, and that causes  inappropriate elimination.

Second, you have to put the dog on a regular schedule of  outings and directed play or observation. This is where most people screw up.  You can’t get distracted yourself, because one accident sabotages all your efforts—& this has been proven.  Set a timer if you have to.   Start the dog being released from confinement every 2 hours—& then walk the dog on a leash to the spot you want the dog to eliminate on.  Thing is—& this is what most  training books don’t tell you—the dog may need to walk  or play for  five to 15 minutes before eliminating–-to get the digestive system actually moving!  You might walk the dog to  a pee pad, but I strongly urge out of the house/’den’ housebreaking.  Give the dog 5 minutes  after the  five-to-15 minute walk to eliminate.  You can use a flexi leash or long line  if you want, but  the dog needs some exercise,  and then needs to be RESHAPED—so you are going to give verbal cues to the dog (God forbid your dog is deaf).  Tell the dog to “hurry up”  or “Go Potty”.  I start counting to 3, as my dogs, which are walked in an urban setting, will dawdle and sniff, or possibly hunt, and that’s not what we’re out for.

If the dog then urinates and/or defecates, you PRAISE PRAISE PRAISE the dog & the training session is over.  You can play for up to 1/2 hour before the dog is confined again.  Don’t forget water (up to 1/2 cup for every 5 lb of the dog’s weight).

If the dog does not eliminate in five minutes, you are now going to either  use a suppository, or paper matches—unlit of course, sulfur end in the anus (2 or 3 for giant breeds of dogs), to start peristalsys (the pooping spasms).  Even if the dog does not have to defecate, it will squat to get the irritant—the matches— out.  As the dog squats, you will say your magic words  & PRAISE PRAISE PRAISE the dog;  you are going to make a fool of yourself praising the dog…then play, then back to confinement.  Repeat every 2 hours for the first 2 days, and if you get success,  increase the interval to 4 hours.  If you  did not get success in 2 hours and the dog eliminated in the crate, you may have to make the interval 1 hour.

I know—who has the time?  It’s not about having the time—it’s about getting the dog housebroken.  If you don’t have the time, and can’t find someone  who has the time,  forget it. The dog will not be housebroken.  If the dog is a breeding quality animal & you  want to keep the dog kenneled, it is up to you.  If the dog is not breeding quality, and  can’t do another necessary job, like guarding or herding, the dog should be EUTHANIZED.  Nobody wants an unhousebroken dog.  It is unethical to  ‘rehome’ a dog that the  taker expects to be housebroken. What kind of real dog love does that?—& this is what most people have an objection to.  They won’t take your unhousebroken dog, but they don’t want YOU to have the dog euthanized.

I have a 14-year-old dog who NEVER had an accident in the house…until recently.  The veterinarian says he has no health issue…he is just getting old and confused.  I love the dog, he does not seem to be in distress, so I have confined him to 2 rooms—one with his bed, on carpet (he has trouble getting up & down, & needs the carpet for traction), & the smooth floor  for in case he has an accident. BUT THAT IS NOT WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT.  I  am talking about the dog YOU won’t keep.  It is dishonest  to  give away or sell a dog as housebroken when it is not.  &  it is extremely inhumane to  turn   this formerly pet dog  to a kennel environment, where it is a member of a pack of dogs, not getting attention or affection, and possibly being neglected or abused by the pack.

Sometimes, doing  basic novice obedience training helps.  It  solidifies the bond between owner and dog, helps increase the dog’s attention span, and often the dog gains a ‘sense of self’.  However, there are many top obedience dogs that are not housebroken. They live in kennels.  It is a different part of the brain that controls continence.

What about diapers & belly bands? They often work.  The dog feels the urine and stops eliminating.   This method is particularly helpful for the  dog that won’t  urinate outside, but returns to the crate to urinate. Sometimes,  he just gets into the habit of being continent, so try them for 30 days.  However, we’ve  witnessed many dogs  that don’t mind being wet.  In that case, the dog will never be trained. Never.

If the dog eliminates in the wrong place—-this particularly happens with puppies & with dogs whose owners timing is off. …if you see the dog  circling & suddenly squat— startle the dog & PICK THE DOG UP & CARRY THE DOG TO THE RIGHT PLACE!!!!!  Yes, you may get urine & feces on yourself—but you will make such a dramatic impact on the dog that  you will cut your training time.  No yelling, no punishment.  I’ve had this work for me several times.

Urine has ammonia in it. So clean up with a commercial odor neutralizer. In the olden days, we used to use vinegar to neutralize the ammonia—but there are many commercial products that do a much better job.

It is extremely unfortunate that so many  animal shelters are  managed by people who know nothing about animal behavior and  have never trained a dog to off leash reliability.  It is also unfortunate that they have so little integrity that they lead people who really want to save an animal’s life to believe that all dogs can be pets.  They can not all be pets.  For every dog with a behavior issue that people ‘save’—the no-kill shelters—that really pick & choose the animals they allow in—a dog with no behavioral issues will not get into their ‘no-kill’ shelter & be euthanized.

I invite you to share this information.  Also, I will say right now that I have gotten many dogs from shelters that were  ‘clean’ in the shelter—& those dogs ‘got it’ right away.  We’re addressing dogs where you have tried EVERYTHING and had no success. It’s not you—it’s the dog.

Pat Miller of the Whole dog journal posted this on Facebook:


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4 Responses to “Housebreaking the difficult dog (Afghans, Chihuahuas, Bostons, etc)”

  1. timberplace Says:

    If the dog is not breeding quality, and can’t do another necessary job, like guarding or herding, the dog should be EUTHANIZED. Nobody wants an unhousebroken dog.


    • disparateinterests Says:

      June seems very kind & altruistic. I wonder where she lives, who she lives with, how many unhousebroken/incontinent animals she has IN HER HOUSE. I do know people who have kepts incontinenet dogs—in a carpeted room–oblivious not only to the smell, but the the animals actual quality-of-life.

    • disparateinterests Says:

      Do you really have a list of people who want unhouebroken dogs? I know some of the rescues do. Most average people do not.

  2. L-Lysine Says:

    ,~* I am really thankful to this topic because it really gives useful information ;;”

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