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Find out more about your dogs
Accidents inside the house or in the wrong area can occur at any age.
There are some illnesses that can cause a dog to start going to the bathroom in the wrong place. These can be anything from a bladder infection to arthritis to ‘doggy Alzheimer's'. Your veterinarian may want a urine sample to run tests on.
Another consideration is to ensure that your dog does not have separation anxiety or distress. If this is the case, the toileting inside usually only occurs when a dog is separated from their owner. This can be just when you are in separate rooms. This is something to discuss with your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviourist.
A dog is never too old to learn to go to the bathroom in the ‘right' place. They probably have many years of incorrect behaviours to ‘unlearn' before they will pick up the new routine. You need to re-commence training as if he is a puppy. In an older dog, perseverance is the key.
Choose a place you want your dog to go to the bathroom on. It should be one location. This can be inside on a special mat or newspaper or just outside. If your dog is confined to a smaller room when you are not home they may need a second toileting spot for these occasions.
There are 4 times when he is most likely to go to the bathroom:
At these times you need to place him on a lead and collar and take him to the spot where you want him to go. Stay with him by holding the leash! You may need to wait 20-30 minutes. When he does go reward him immediately with a food reward and praise.
If you are doing this and he is not going on the spot but rather when you are inside again, set a timer to go off every hour or so to remind you to take him out for a chance to go to the bathroom. When the timer goes off, place him on the collar and lead and take him to the spot. Again, when he goes reward him with a treat and praise. Perseverance and consistency are the keys to success.
Cease all punishment of him for going to the bathroom in the wrong spot. Some dogs learn not to go to the bathroom in front of their owner because they will get punished! Then he learns to urinate when you are not looking or not around or behind the couch etc. Rubbing his nose in it will not help either — and you now have more of a mess to clean up!
If you catch him in the act of going to the bathroom in the wrong place, distract him with a loud clap or similar. Do not punish him but rather take him outside to the spot and then reward him if he goes in the correct spot.
When you are not home, confine him to a small area with or without access to the specific spot. If he does not have access to the spot, provide some newspaper or similar as a toilet in one corner of the room and place his food, water and bedding in another corner.
Be sure to clean up the urine inside the house with enzymatic cleaning products available from your veterinarian. Do not use other chemical cleaners as they can attract your dog back to the same spot. This can include steam cleaning the carpets. Ensure to soak the carpet with the enzymatic product (after testing a small area for colour fastness) to get into the carpet underlay.
Be patient with your best friend. It may take them a while but once they learn that when they go to the toilet outside they receive a reward, the process will become much quicker.
The Merck Veterinary Manual
Veterinary Partner: The Canine Behaviour Series
By: Kathy Diamond Davis, Traine