Common Dog Behavior Problems – The Positive Solutions
Why Dogs Do This: Many dogs (especially ones that haven’t been spayed or neutered) will “mark” their domain with a few drops of urine. Inappropriate urination usually stems from a lack of appropriate supervision before the dog has learned about the right location for him to relive himself.
How to Fix It: Spaying or neutering an unfixed dog can REALLY help reduce marking. Relieving himself is intrinsically rewarding for your dog (as it is for humans!), so you’re going to have to make relieving himself in the right spot worth his while. If you succeed in this, your dog will CHOOSE to wait until he can urinate in the “Reward Spot,” instead of just any old location that doesn’t offer the double reward of relief AND food/play/pleased human.
Know the limits of your dog’s bladder – a puppy can hold his bladder for 1 hour for every month of his age (a 2-month-old puppy can hold it for 2 hours) and immediately begin taking him outside on a regular schedule that preempts his bladder’s limit.
What Your Dog Can Do Instead: When your dog successfully urinates outside, reward him with whatever he values most – food, play, pets, all of the above if you can. He will learn that it’s worth his while to urinate outside in your presence. Do this EVERY TIME your dog poops or urinates outside, immediately after your dog goes.
Set your dog up for success by continuous supervision while you are home so you can quickly notice the signs that he needs to be taken outside.
When you need to leave the house, use a dog crate (for more information on crate-training, click here) to limit his access to the house. When confined to an area just large enough for your dog to stand up, turn around, and lie die in (and no larger!) your dog will be MUCH more encouraged to “hold it” until you return to let him out (and let him outside so he can go and be rewarded!)
DO put your dog on a regular feeding schedule, which will make his need to poop much more predictable.
DON’T punish the dog for urinating or marking in the house – it will only encourage your dog to urinate when you’re not supervising him, which makes it harder to show him the appropriate spot.
Watch your dog closely for signs that he’s about to urinate – whining (he might even whine at the door to be let outside!) sniffing, circling, squatting, lifting his leg. If you see any of these behaviors, get his attention nicely (and reward him for it with a treat!), and then take him outside to use the bathroom, where you reward him BIG.
If you’re worried that the dog’s urge to urinate is stronger than your attention-getter, picking the dog up will often stop him from urinating for long enough to get him outside, so he can urinate in the appropriate location.
NEVER leave your dog confined in his crate for longer than his bladder can hold it – a maximum of 8 hours for an adult dog, and no more than 1 hour for every month of your puppy’s age. Even if he does succeed in “holding it,” he’ll be in discomfort and pain – it’s not convenient, it’s inhumane!
DON’T immediately end a walk, bring your dog inside, or stop a fun activity once your dog urinates or poops in the appropriate location. Some dogs will learn to avoid eliminating on a walk because they connect their pooping/urinating with the end of their fun. Unfortunately, because the dog will still need to relieve himself, he’ll be much more likely to do so once you get back inside your home.
ALWAYS accompany the dog when he goes outside to relieve himself – consistency is key, and the sooner/more frequently you reward him following his good elimination behavior, the faster he’ll make the connection that urinating/pooping outside with you is a GOOD THING for him.
More information about housetraining:
Humane Society of the United States
This advice is geared towards housetraining puppies, but most of the advice is great for dogs of any age.