Ask the Pet Expert | Potty-training problems

I have a 2-year-old female pit bull and a 13-year-old male husky mix. They are house-trained. However, the pit continues to urinate on my living room and dining room carpet. We took up the old carpet and treated the subfloor with Urine Destroyer, but she has gone on the new carpet in different places. She does know that it is wrong because she hides and is contrite when confronted. Can you help?

In my way of thinking, a truly house-trained dog will never eliminate in the house, no matter what, until you take them out to specifically do so (excluding medical conditions or parasites). The concept is the dog should be able to eliminate on a schedule we set for them. 

Are you certain your senior dog is not also going in the house?  As they get older, many dogs need to urinate more frequently than before.

There are four critical elements to reliable training: use a crate; establish a schedule with reasonable expectations; be disciplined; and use proper methods for cleaning up accidents.  Follow these guidelines, and house training can be achieved in seven to 21 days with most dogs 8 weeks and older. Review these guidelines below and hopefully you'll see where the gap is:

Use a crate for safe confinement when you can't supervise. Proper sizing of the crate is very important: The dog should have enough room to comfortably stand and turn around. Normally, dogs are fastidious and don't want to lay in their own excrement.  If they have too much space, they can eliminate in one area and move away from it. 

Establish a consistent schedule for mealtimes and walking. Set reasonable expectations; puppies and seniors require more frequent breaks. Do not provide food or water within two or three hours of bedtime. Take the dog out on a leash so you can learn to recognize her individual behavior and body language for urination or defecation.

Set the dog up for success by being disciplined enough to follow your plan. While indoors, the dog is under direct supervision or crated until fully trained. If you observe signs that the dog needs to eliminate (for example, intense sniffing or circling), startle the dog to break her concentration, hook on a leash and hustle her outdoors. Provide a command, then after the dog eliminates in the area you want, give her tons of praise.  

Dogs' noses are sensitive and they can find any spot where they previously eliminated, so it's critical to use the right type of cleaner. The only types that work include an enzyme solution — for example, Nature's Miracle or Simple Solution. Enzyme cleaners are not intended to spray and wipe up immediately, so read the label for specific instructions. Do not draw attention to cleanup or you might inadvertently reward the dog for eliminating indoors.

Never reprimand or punish the dog after an accident. It doesn't work. 

Pauline Houliaras is a certified professional trainer and behavior consultant with Doghouse Girls.

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