Potty Training Problems

Potty Training Problems

As with any endeavor, there is usually something that doesn't go the way you want it to go. This is true with potty training too. Here are some situations you may run into while getting the process under way:

A Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Puppy
sniffing a wee wee pad (instead of newspapers)

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Dog potty training is one of the areas of dog ownership that is most subject to misunderstanding, confusion and dread and potty training problems do arise. Here are two of the most frequent problems:

  • Submissive / excited urination

  • Scent marking

What Is Submissive Urination?

A submissive urinator is a dog that urinates on the floor and himself and sometimes on you in situations of extreme excitement or stress, such as when you return home after being gone all day.

Why does this happen?

Puppies are the usual candidates for submissive/excited, urination but it’s not uncommon to see adult dogs with the problem too. Usually these are highly sensitive and timid dogs and ones with a history of abuse, and dogs with a history of potty training problems.

Situations when an excited/fearful puppy or dog is likely to urinate:

  • Greeting time after prolonged absence.

  • Play time

  • Arrival of guests.

  • Home arguments. Dogs/puppies are sensitive. (stressful)

  • During a correction; telling him off. (Use positive reinforcement instead)

  • Sudden loud noises. (Thunder, fireworks)

  • Moving furniture, redecorating, home construction projects.

Wee Wee pads DO NOT WORK WELL for male dogs, especially large ones!
This Mastiff is marking and relieving, getting the whole job done at one time.

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What can I do about it?

It’s not difficult to remedy but sometimes dog potty training is not quite enough:

  • First, take him to your vet. Make sure there is no medical reason like diabetes or a bladder problem.

  • Next, if you know there is a situation coming up that will upset the dog, limit his intake of water. Example, if you have guests coming over, remove his water bowl a half hour to hour before they arrive. Don’t forget to put the dish back!

  • When you see your dog after being gone for the day, try to keep him calm. Actually, you can walk in the door and IGNORE him for a few minutes. Remove your coat, pat him on the head and go about your business. Walk away if he gets excited.

  • DO NOT punish your puppy or harshly correct him for this behavior. This is not something he can easily control and he’s not doing it to make you angry!

  • He has a potty training problem. If you catch him in the act of messing on the carpet, jump in with a strict “NO!” or “ACK!” But keep your head, he doesn’t mean to do it.

If your dog urinates out of fear when scolding him for another offense, take the stress to a lesser level. Take the anger out of your voice. Be firm and authoritative but not angry. You’re causing harm. You are dealing with a small, sensitive puppy.

If you get angry the problem will only worsen.

This male German Shepherd is EITHER scent
marking or relieving himself. Hard telling the difference.

What Is Scent marking?

Scent marking is certainly one of the potty training problem. It is where a dog marks his or her territory with urine. This it technically not a dog training problem since it is based on issues of dominance rather than insufficient dog potty training. To potty train dog just takes some time and awareness. Since this is one of the most widespread problems dog owners face, it is included with some practical advice:

Scent marking and house training; how to differentiate between the two…

  • Your dog’s probably scent marking, rather than genuinely relieving himself if:

  • The amount of urine produced is relatively small, and tends to be directed against vertical surfaces such as walls.

  • He’s male, un-neutered, and at least 5 to 6 months old. (Un-neutered dogs are much more territorial than neutered ones.)

  • It makes little difference how often he’s taken outside for toilet breaks.

  • He frequently targets items that are new to the house, new possessions, guest clothing, footwear, etc.

  • You live in a multi-dog household and there is conflict between two or more of the dogs.

  • There may be other un-neutered or un-spayed dogs in the house.

What do you do?

First, spay or neuter your dogs asap. If you do this early enough, like at 6 months old, this often stops marking altogether. However, if the dog has been marking for a long time, he/she may continue to do it out of habit since a pattern has been established.

It’s important to spay/neuter at an early age, (6 months) as you can see!

This is one of the more difficult potty training problems to cope with. Clean wet areas immediately. Use a non-ammonia based cleaner that doesn’t smell like pee. Don’t use vinegar for the same reason. Oxi-Clean mixed with warm water is quite effective. There are other commercial cleaners designed to lift pet stains and odors on the market. You must get ALL of the odor out of the area or the dog will come right back there again.

It is very important to get the ODOR out. A dog will go back to where the odor was.

Dogs tend to re-mark the same places they have used in the past, based on odor. You will want to “redefine” the places that you know he has marked to prevent repeat offending.

This can be accomplished several ways:

  • Feed him next to or on the spot where he's already "marked" or messed but has been cleaned up.

  • Play with him where he has already messed.

  • Groom him there.

  • Put his bed next to the area.

  • Spend time there yourself. Read a book or just sit there and work.

  • If there are dogs in the house that don’t get along, that must be resolved. This is one of the potty training problems that might come up in a house with multiple dogs. Any conflict is probably hierarchical in nature... a power struggle.

This means that all you have to do to stop the tension is pay attention to which dog seems to be more dominant than the other and reinforce this position to assist the dog potty training effort.

Let’s say this differently...

How To Resolve This Conflict:

  • Feed the dominant dog first.

  • Pet him or her first and most.

  • Give him or her a toy before anyone else.

  • Take the dominant dog out to play, leave the other behind.

  • This makes it clear to all dogs (or dog) in the house which dog really is the dominant one and the scent marking by the other dogs in the hierarchy should disappear quickly. The dominance situation has always been one of the major big potty training problems.

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