Have you had to house break a rescue dog? Then you would know that it requires an abundance of patience and dedication. It is a bigger challenge than house training a puppy because rescue dogs come in all ages and from various backgrounds. They may already be set in their ways, and many of them have never lived in the houses of their owners. Do not lose sight of that when you get frustrated if your rescue dog forgets where to find the potty.
In September, a colleague, Brittney, posted invaluable tips for potty training a puppy. While house breaking adult dogs might be similar, except that they are all grown up, and the circumstances that led to them being in a shelter facility also play a role.
So, before you decide to get a rescue dog, stock up on understanding, patience and strategy. I found some tips that Shelby Semel provided. She is a trainer and canine behavior expert based in New York City. She sums it up by saying that it is very much like training a puppy. You need a schedule for water, food and outings, along with barrels full of patience. (Note that I will refer to him and not her — replace it if you want)
Schedule your rescue dog’s trips to the toilet
To prevent slip-ups, do not wait longer than five to 15 minutes after drinking water or eating, similarly, after a nap or sleep. Furthermore, don’t forget to do the same after games like fetch, a playdate with a furry friend or a training session. Your dog might also need the toilet after bursting into the zoomies. They happen when dogs have so much pent up energy that they cannot contain it. The burst of life can make your dog tear around the room or the garden like someone chased by a swarm of bees. It is quite normal, but note that he might need the loo afterward.
A rescue dog needs close supervision
Until your doggy is housebroken, you can’t trust him. He can have an accident in the blink of an eye. While you may spot the red flags most of the time, if you are occupied or sidetracked, he could slip away and leave you a poopy gift behind the couch in seconds. Shelby suggests you put his leash on and snap it onto your belt. That way, you will feel him tugging at it if you are preoccupied. Telltale signs include sniffing around, circling and pulling to get away from you.
Don’t forget to praise and reward your rescue dog
You don’t only want to teach him to his business outside, but also to go in a specific spot or area. Shower him with praise if he goes in the right place, and give him a special treat as a reward. However, delayed rewards are ineffective. Make sure you have that treat with you and offer it immediately and on the spot.
Using a trigger word might train your dog to do his pooping or peeing on cue. For example, saying the word “potty” only once immediately before he does his business, and do the same every time. If you are consistent and patient, it will make your life a whole lot easier in the long run.
A word of warning — do not walk your dog until he goes potty and then head back home immediately. He will quickly learn that holding it in means longer walks.
Eliminate urine odors inside
It is in a dog’s nature to pee a few drops wherever he picks up a urine odor. To avoid him leaving little puddles in spots where he had accidents before, neutralize it with an enzyme-based pet deodorizer.
Avoid the need to pee during the night
To avoid doggo needing to go potty while you sleep, remove the water bowl at least two hours before you go to bed. However, this should not happen in exceedingly hot weather and if he seems very thirsty. As you proceed with his training, and if your home has a doggy door, the time will come when he can go to the dedicated spot outside even when you sleep.
NEVER discipline your dog after the fact
Regardless of how you feel when discovering a piddle or poop inside the house, DO NOT punish him. Irrespective of whether you witnesses it happening or not. Remember that you rescued your dog, and you might never know all about his life and treatment before his luck turned, and you found him. Punishing him may only encourage him to find somewhere to hide if he needs the toilet. Furthermore, all the trust you have established might be destroyed by one slap or verbal punishment. (I did say you would need barrels of patience.)
What about submissive urination
Most rescue dogs suffer some level of anxiety — justified by the fact that someone abandoned them. Even after lapping up all the love you offer, your rescue dog will always remember the less loving experiences that ultimately landed him at the rescue center. Anxiety, excitement and being submissive are involuntary reactions, shown by piddling. Various situations or actions by you or other family members can conjure up images of neglect and abuse.
Most importantly, he may misunderstand some actions like you reaching out to touch his head might remind him of the hand of somebody else, dishing out physical abuse. Similarly, he could become anxious if human conversations are loud and exciting, not to mention if the talking also includes animated movements. Hovering over him and verbal scolding could cause anxiety. Any of these unintentional actions by his new family or visitors could cause your rescue dog to piddle. The fancy name is submissive urination, and instead of punishing him, shower him with love. Punishment will only increase his anxiety and make the situation worse.
Once again — be patient and understand where he comes from. After all, you rescued him to give him a better life and lots of love, right?